goznet ...

David's diary: January 2003

Well, happy new year, everyone! So far, so good..!

Remarkably, I have practically nothing to say. I've been up about an hour now, I haven't got a hangover at all to speak of, and if the weather brightens up a little bit more I might even be persuaded to go out for a little stroll!

The weather didn't really brighten up much at all, indeed it's quite possibly wetter and gloomier than ever. However, I was blowed if I was going to let such trivial things get in the way doing of what I wanted to do, so I went for my walk anyway. There were loads of people out at Willen Lake, considering the conditions, with the path flooded in lots of places and a continual drizzle from above. Anyway, having barely even got up for the last three days, let alone ventured outside, I'm feeling at least a little bit pleased with myself as this brave new year of 2003 gets off to a decidedly reasonable start!

And the day - and with it the year - got still better! David and Dawn texted me to wish me a happy new year, explaining they were shortly to board a train from London. So guess who volunteered to go and collect them from the railway station here upon their subsequent arrival? A most entertaining evening then ensued, spent listening to old Mike Harding sketches and songs I'd almost completely forgotten from my dim and distant youth. All over now, but we'll be meeting up again tomorrow evening for a meal out somewhere, which should be equally fun. Pretty shattered now, but it's quite late and I have had a really quite productive day for a welcome change, so no complaints! Goodnight!

I guess just after ten o'clock wasn't really particularly early to be phoned on a Thursday morning when I could very easily have been back at work anyway. However, after a night's sleep like the one just gone, I'm very surprised I managed to sound as awake as I did when my letting agents called to sort out an inspection and ask me what I want to do about my contract from next month. I have the choice of continuing on this constraining but secure six-monthly term, or going over to a monthly deal which will offer more flexibility but less security - though the owner would appear to be doing this as a long-term thing so as long as I don't trash the place that shouldn't be an issue. The monthly contract would presumably allow the possibility of a rent hike with a lot less warning, though with the rental sector apparently now in slight decline, that may not be a sensible thing for the owner to try and pull off! Anyway, decent chaps that they are, the letting agents have asked me to give them a call back on Monday when I've had a chance to think about it and can hopefully confirm the inspection appointment for later in the week.

But as for last night, well I struggled rather to get to sleep at all, and when I did, I had all-too-vivid disturbing dreams. When I finally managed to get back to more settled sleep - which I was disinclined even to try to do at one point, still rattled by the earlier dreams - and then the phone rang as I had feared it might, that really freaked me, especially as I didn't realise it was as late as it was. Now a letting agent asking about flat inspections and the finer details of contract renewals may be a pretty scary thing to have to deal with first thing in the morning, but believe you me it was a blessed relief!

Guess I'd better be getting up now though, if only to tackle the mounting pile of washing-up that seems to accumulate so quickly if neglected for a moment!

About two hours later, there's been precious little action on the latter front - but I also need to go shopping sometime in the next 23 hours, approximately, as well as get up in time to go out this evening with David and Dawn. Next port of call will be a nice relaxing bath, I think - then it'll be just as easy to get dressed as to slip my dressing gown on again, right..?

Washing up's done, kitchen's vaguely cleaned, bin bags have been put outside - they're supposedly collecting today, since yesterday was a bank holiday - and I'm even bathed and dressed as intended! Wonders never cease! The world around may well be a downright mess, but in my little microcosm, life is good!

And the evening was very good too, Dawn eventually being the decisive one and suggesting we go to TGI Friday for our meal out - and also being the pecunious one by footing the bill quite unexpectedly but most graciously. We were all pretty stuffed by the end, so it was no problem that my flat was almost devoid of food upon our return here afterwards. Gallons of Earl Grey though, that was the main thing, at least for David and myself, and plenty of jolly good music - particularly trying to choose things that would appeal to Dawn's tastes too!

Oops, it's just turned midnight and I need to be up in fair time tomorrow, so I guess I'd better be calling it a day and heading for bed forthwith!

Yuck, I feel decidedly grim. Possibly a combination of the mountain of fajita accompaniments I was determined not leave yesterday evening, and my subsequent lack of sleep, but definitely mainly the latter. I barely slept a wink until about three or four o'clock for reasons unknown, and needing to get up by soon after nine this morning really wasn't particularly helpful. Thankfully though, arrangements for later today have been postponed for about half an hour, which gives me a little more time to get up slowly, relax in the bath and so on!

Despite that lack of sleep, I feel reasonably fine now, but do not intend to have anything even remotely resembling a late night. This morning once I was up properly I whizzed as best I could round Tesco then went to collect Sarah and Rachael. Then on to collect a rather surprised but thankfully perfectly happy Laura from a friend who Sarah had forgotten she was going to be visiting today, then to the local shop to buy the cheese I'd forgotten earlier, and finally to mine for lunch. Plenty of predictable squabbling over who used the computer and for how long, Rachael of course considering it completely unfair that Laura's sessions should be the same length as hers. But lunch soon became the priority for everyone, and before long it was time to run them all down to Sarah's friend Margaret to go shopping with Christmas money. That was the point at which peace could once again descend upon my little world - but not before we'd popped down to the river near Margaret's to see just how bad the flooding was. But now I'm back home and looking forward to a quiet evening - but of course with yet another mighty stack of washing up to tackle later.

Hmm, the BBC Weather Centre web site has overnight downgraded today's glorious sun to a mere rather pathetic looking cloud. Was supposed to have been making the most of the former forecast this morning by going out for a walk somewhere that's not too flooded. Mind you, the actual view out of my flat window right now is decidedly blue and bright so maybe they were right first time after all!

Oooh, a big cloud just came over, but now everything looks as if it will be sunny again for a while. I guess it's going to be "just one of those days". Hey, I've even got the sun shining onto my hands as I type this - but that's a reflection of how low the sun is at the best of times at this time of year...

Needless to say, the mystery of my recent sleepless nights was - I am pretty sure - caused by too much Earl Grey, too late at night! No Earl Grey yesterday evening, and although my night wasn't too settled, I had no trouble actually getting to sleep. Yes, I've been plied with loads of coffee today round at Sarah's where I've been, but it's all been decaffeinated, so I should be fine - especially with a little help courtesy of Mr Stowell, formerly of Chelsea.

The weather more or less held out, but the sun was so low in the sky there weren't too many sunny patches as we explored the flooded Willen Lake. Rachael was most unkeen to come out but she definitely needed the exercise and fresh air, and eventually decided she'd enjoyed herself. We'd left Margaret and Laura at home at their own request to finish off making lunch, which was ready soon after we got back as hoped. I can't actually remember much about the afternoon other than playing and losing at chess against Margaret and Laura, and then choosing by a highly democratic process - requested by Rachael, but to her ultimately tearful and stroppy dismay - to watch Shrek to pass the time while tea was cooking. That was about all Margaret or I could really bear for one day - and quite possibly a lifetime - so we made our respective exits soon after, and I'm now back home and with the evening to myself! Ah, joy - really!

Not that I plan to have a late night, though.

Crash, bang, wallop.

I guess one day in five isn't so bad, but some repercussions may last longer.

And I now feel more than a bit guilty for having had such a good Christmas, even though it wasn't my fault today's "news" took so long to reach me.

This afternoon got better, though. David was a bit bored now Dawn has headed back to Hali Fax, so I toddled round to his flat to indulge in a little more musical education and reminiscence. More Earl Grey, but it was earlier in the day and I have plenty of opportunity yet for the antidote. Biscuits too, yes lots of biscuits! Of course, checked my email while there and found a message that went some way to apologising for the aforementioned communication void, but still highlights the disaster area that aspect of the church is currently in. Perhaps the sudden demise of a much-loved member of the congregation may be the event that finally convinces them of how poor the communication channels are at present. Well, either that, or it will confirm my departure from them. But anyway, on balance today has been good, and it means I have managed either to visit or be visited by friends every day so far this year. Back to work tomorrow, which will be a bit of a downer possibly - especially having had a sneak peek at my work email inbox a few days ago - but I'll be grateful for the social contact and the daily walk to and from the campus, so it's not all bad!

Finally it was Milton Keynes's turn for a bit of snow this morning, though it's all melted now, and I consequently look rather silly having worn my walking boots into work. So anyway, here I am back at work, and Tim's in too, so it's not lonely in this office. Also had a good long natter with Jenny which rather cancelled out my effort in arriving here before nine for once. Last year's preoccupations definitely took their toll on my productivity here; let's hope 2003 can be altogether better in that regard! Oh, and with the first six month contract on my flat expiring very soon - where has the time gone? - I've just agreed to sign for another six months, so unless someone wants to pay me off substantially to move elsewhere, I'm definitely staying put for the time being!

Oh, disaster! We've not yet been given timesheets to fill in this month. How are we going to cope, let alone the bureaucrats whose existence relies on them!

Monday's almost done with, and it hasn't been a wildly productive day. Still, at least I got my timesheet and monthly progress report for December finished off and submitted, even if it's going to be hard to do the same this month! Oh, and I got an invitation to an anti-Valentine's party in St Albans which I must say I am quite seriously tempted to pop along to - though of course I must be utterly and completely single, which may or may not be the case by then. Did that cause some raising of eyebrows? No, there's nothing too specific in the offing, but I do like to think positively! Cynicism is just so 2002.

Pizza was very good last night - hadn't been with Darren to Pizza Hut out at Westcroft for absolutely ages I don't think, and it was as yummy as ever!

A fortnight off work is a mighty long time, with or without the world turning or everything being mine - though the former looks like it might be happening anyway, and the latter sounds like a lot more hassle than it's worth. But in any case, it means getting back into my project work is proving to be somewhat interesting - I really should have made better notes in December so I knew exactly where I'd got up to before I left! Memories drift back slowly, and I think things are more or less falling into place now, but it does mean I might not be able to get on with the things discussed at this morning's meeting with Jon quite yet! Still, all the talk of hand-feeding reindeer and so on in Scotland was far more appealing - but I guess doesn't pay the rent.

Now that really was a cold evening - but thankfully I was only going as far as the university, for an astronomy club gathering. If I'd realised early enough just how cold it was going to be and how long I would spend defrosting the car - and I never did manage to unlock the driver's side door properly! - I think I'd just have walked back to work. But aside from that, and consequently losing circulation in my fingers a few times, it was a very good evening indeed. Most of the first half was taken up with a talk on the successes and failures of planetary landing craft over the last forty years or so, and after coffee and our regular monthly business, the second half was spent in the new observatory looking at Saturn and the Crab and Orion nebulae. It was decidedly nippy up in the dome, open to the freezing cold, so I was quite grateful to be able to pop downstairs from time to time to fiddle with the planetarium software on the PC!

Satan's arrows still come at me thick and fast, but although a few of them are grazing me, I am learning largely to duck and avoid them. It's not easy, but it's going to be the only way to move forward and put his evil lies behind me.

Trouble is, I need eyes in the back of my head sometimes!

Good grief, where has the morning gone? And I'm taking a half day off today - what with the flat inspection, the electrician visiting to do a safety check on the supplied appliances, and a new contract to sign. I have no idea how long it will all take - especially the safety check - so I thought it would be easiest just to take the whole afternoon off. It's not as if I'm short of leave to take, after all... Just must remember to fill it in on my leave card whenever the powers that be can be bothered to return it to me, under this new and overly bureaucratically inefficient system we've just had thrust upon us.

Oooh, it's really and truly snowing outside! OK, not "really and truly" in the sense of it being a blizzard or anything, but there's definitely white stuff descending from above while I watch. I may yet be glad of my boots after all!

Paul the letting agent and the electrician and his mate have all gone now, a renewed contract has been signed and pretty much all my appliances and so on have fresh little stickers on them. The electrician insisted that the broken fan heater in the bathroom should be replaced, and also says he needs to move the shower circuit to the "protected" side of the mains distribution board. But all that can be done today has been done, and I can relax a little, making the most of the afternoon off work. Methinks I'll flop into the bath for a bit!

Been hit by a wave of sheer exhaustion in the last little while, so what with the atrocious driving conditions out at the moment - and no promise they won't get still worse - I've decided to give Open House a miss tonight. I'm also not at all sure how I'd have coped emotionally this evening, given all that's been going on recently - but that's more of an observation than an excuse, although it would have been made worse by my physical state right now, knowing me!

Bah, was just writing a diary entry and pressed ^W for some reason - and bang, it disappeared, never to be seen again, thank you very much Microsoft for your undocumented keyboard shortcuts. What I was saying though was that I got a very early night last night, and slept pretty much solidly for about ten hours in the end - just as well I didn't go out for the evening, eh? It was quite strange to briefly wake at one point and find it had only just turned eleven! I had some slightly upsetting dreams - not because they were unpleasant in any way, rather because they didn't reflect reality, but perhaps I'm subconsciously preparing myself for the happier times I sense might not be too far ahead!

Finally, my leave card got returned today - and of course I sent it straight back again, in view of the leave I took yesterday afternoon. All that effort, wasted paper and everything else, for the sake of a pitiful half day off! In the meantime, I'm sure they're trying to force me to reduce my daily water consumption from the cooler in the kitchen. Someone has put an ever-so-pretty flowering hyacinth on the windowsill in there, and as soon as I go anywhere remotely near it my eyes and nose start to react adversely, and take ages to recover. I'm sure such things should be banned by international treaty!

Lunch with David - SBJ to most of my readers - was good today, even if one of the kitchen staff did wind me up by pretending my favourite meal from the menu wasn't available. Still, at least that means I'm well enough known there that she remembered, and could get away with it! Another blokey chat, David being a bit of a master at engaging in those - this time about cookers, metaphorically.

But for now, having spent nigh on two hours on the phone - thank you Jo, much appreciated! - it's time to head for bed before I turn into a pumpkin. Apart from making me unattractive, I would also have difficulty getting to work!

It's Friday, thank Crunchie. However, I'm supposed to be at work in fifteen minutes and there are the small matters of getting up, washed, dressed, having breakfast and actually getting there to tackle first... Bye for now, then!

Now that is undeniably cunning... Yesterday morning I'd noticed that the boost flap on my electric storage heater would barely open, even when the control was at the maximum. I was sure it had never been like that before, so since the electrician was due to return soon anyway, I gave the letting agents a call to see if he could add it to the list of things to do. Of course, last night, it was fine, so I dropped them an email to say so, but that I wondered if there was an intermittent fault of some kind. This morning they emailed me back to say they'd spoken with the electrician, and that the coupling from the knob to the flap on the heater goes via a bimetallic strip, so it intentionally doesn't open the flap as much when the bricks inside are at their hottest. All very clever for a device that works entirely mechanically during daylight hours!

Of course, if I'd read the friendly manual, I might have realised this before getting in touch with them, though at no point did it explicitly say that if the flap hardly opens it's because of the rudimentary thermostat.

Coo, that was a interesting email I just had to write! I possibly sense some big changes a-coming, I do. Today's a day that by rights I probably should be more than a little bit depressed, but that's by no means the case. Hooray!

My earlier email was accepted in the spirit intended, which might well mean that this is a day that will have to be logged in the Goznet annals. That is yet to be seen of course, but for the moment the signs are somewhat promising. Meanwhile I have just remembered that Friday night is Tesco night - what a party animal I am, eh - so I guess I'd better be working out what I'm short of!

Duck! Dive! Hop! Dodge! Jump! I can do it, no really I can! Oops, duck!

Saturday morning - still, just about - and trying to decide exactly what to do with my day. It's bright and sunny outside, so I feel I ought to go for a walk round Caldecotte Lake or something while I can - and besides, I have lots to think and pray about as I enjoy the opportunity to clear my mind without all the distractions of day-to-day life. So that's precisely what I shall do!

And, indeed, precisely what I did, and was out for almost two hours in the end, so it was just as well I didn't wait until this afternoon or it would have been dark by the time I was writing this! It was quite amazing seeing the wonders of God's work today, as I had prayed he would open my eyes to see with greater clarity. The seagulls were quite deliberately skating on the ice on the lake, there were more birds than I can ever remember seeing here - and of course not on the part of the lake where they were supposed to be - cormorants perching in the trees on the island like a flock of rooks, and the swans... Yes, loads of swans! Swans who couldn't care less as they smashed through the ice like serene ice-breakers, who have so perfected the art of synchronised flying that they exist as one graceful airborne organism, swans and yet more swans. And I had plenty to talk with God about, and that he brought a relative peace to me about, though there's ever more to burden him with as I become aware of things that I had predicted coming to pass. But today was about sharing of happy times past, present and future, and he's released me to pursue what is to come.

Still alive - just had a very long, hectic day! More tomorrow, I'm sure...

So I suppose I should get this diary up to date with the rest of the weekend's happenings, since I'm not otherwise going to start anything much new this afternoon now! It's been a busy, but quite productive and mainly fun time.

To cut a long story a little shorter than it might have been, I have decided to stick with the Milton Keynes Vineyard for the time being. Things may not be ideal as they stand, but they do say that if you find the perfect church, not to join it - and I am sure whoever coined that had far greater wisdom than I! Yesterday during the talk I felt an overwhelming sense that God wanted me to apologise to and forgive Matt, and God eventually convinced me to do so face to face, rather than by email, which has been our nemesis lately. Matt of course accepted it all in the spirit intended, and a huge burden was lifted. I don't think I'd appreciated even myself just quite how psychologically wounded I was for so much of last year, and with 2003 being the year I am determined to put all that behind me, it was the ideal time to clear the main remaining baggage.

That was the main news of the weekend, so to speak, but the rest was pretty good too. Saturday night was one of the regular DVD nights round at Jam and Simon's house, this time watching Bend it like Beckham, the black-comedy story of an Indian girl determined to make it as a professional footballer despite the inevitable resistance from her traditional Sikh family. It was a film Sarah and Claire very much wanted to watch, so when they asked if they could have a lift home afterwards if I was going, it finally convinced me I should - and the film was, as all there agreed, absolutely splendid. It's certainly one I would like to buy myself now, and - as I had understood to be the case - isn't really about football, let alone David Beckham. We started watching it quite late, and by the time I'd stopped for a coffee having dropped Sarah and Claire off, and checked my emails when I got home, it was well into the small hours of Sunday morning and I had to be up in good time to go to church!

Consequently I wasn't really in the best of states of mind for church, and went in with possibly my most negative attitude ever. But I came out comparatively beaming, and treated Sarah, Laura and Rachael to lunch at the nearby Pizza Hut. When I dropped them off, they insisted I stayed for tea, and needless to say it was well into the evening before I finally made my way home. We were all pretty tired - some showing it more than others, not least me! - so we were generally quite happy to put our feet up and watch trashy films for most of the time. Miss Congeniality wasn't bad, and was about as good as I remembered it having been when I saw it in the cinema, but Ace Ventura in particular was grim in the extreme and I can understand why so many people loathe Jim Carrey.

So that was just about it, in the end. Perhaps not the most active of weekends after my bracing Saturday morning walk, but at least I felt I'd done something and not been completely useless, so could justify being weary this morning!

I was so weary by last night that when I was talking to my mum on the phone, I remarked at how glad I was that the weekend was here. Yesterday was Monday. This morning I felt so tired it was making me queasy, and then to make things worse, at a joyous meeting with Jon my professional fate until the summer was sealed. Thankfully I feel a bit better now and will last the afternoon - and feel morally entitled to go out to the pub tonight with Rob and the others!

Well today is proving to be supremely unproductive, for reasons not of my own doing in particular - so not because I'm hung over from last night, which isn't the case anyway! Rather, because our main departmental network file-server is on the blink and is consequently expected to be "up and down all day" while an engineer investigates it. Trouble is, the stuff I'm working on urgently at the moment is on said file-server, so access to my files is sporadic at best. Also - as was the case the other day when this problem first arose - for some reason Windows XP takes an absolute age to open new windows, file dialogues etc, even if they're nothing directly to do with the troublesome server. As a result, it's being simply impossible to do anything much today and I am seriously tempted to go home. Every minute wasted will go on my timesheet, anyway!

As for last night - well it was pretty much a record turn-out, with Rob, Tim, Matthew, Jeremy, Simon and myself making it along in the end, and having a decidedly good time. Next time we really do intend to make it to one of the central Wetherspoon pubs, even if it means hiring a taxi to do so. Then we could hope for even better attendance, hopefully appealing to colleagues other than our currently primarily south-eastern Milton Keynes contingent.

This evening I will be going to Open House at Jam and Si's for the first time this year. I feel much better in every way than I did this time last week, and have agreed to bring along some savoury nibbles and also help lead the worship alongside Annette, so there's no getting out now! It was such a huge relief to talk with Matt last Sunday and lay some issues to rest hopefully for good now, so I can feel positive about things like helping out this evening.

Right, that yo-yo of a file-server seems at least momentarily to have perked up, sufficiently that I can actually load and edit one of my project files, so I can get on with that for the moment! I'm sure I'll be back later though...

Things actually remained reasonably settled thereafter, actually, so I managed to get a good part of the installation script written for the CD-ROM that's supposed to be being handed over for testing in less than a week now. Open House went fine, once I'd been to Tesco to get crisps, dips and strawberries! The worship wasn't technically brilliant, but then I think we were all a little rusty, so it wasn't bad either, considering. Late finish, though, so I really ought to be heading off to bed rather than writing diary entries right now!

Erk, I don't feel well... Didn't sleep too brilliantly last night either, for much the same reason - almost certainly down to undercooked rice at tea-time.

I'm still in considerable discomfort, and if I feel like this come tomorrow morning I'm not going to martyr myself at work, deadlines or no deadlines. But for a happy three quarters of an hour this evening I was able largely to forget about all that - and the same will happen tomorrow evening if necessary! Well, in fact, even if it's unnecessary, but I think you knew what I meant - right?

Ah, feeling much better this morning after a decidedly early night. No pain at all now - though it wasn't my most pleasant night ever - so that should be that little episode over and done with, silly me! I seem to have picked up a bit of a sniffle from somewhere though, which is a little annoying before a busy weekend, but I've dosed myself up with vitamin C, so hopefully it won't come to much. Anyway, I feel perfectly fine to go to work, so guess I'd best be going!

Still perfectly fine, and I seem to have nipped those early signs of a cold in the bud by the looks of things. Just an hour to go, then I can head off home! Quite a busy weekend coming up though, what with an important phone-call to make this evening, Emily's party in Cambridge to go to tomorrow - and I need to go shopping before then, even if Tesco doesn't sell adult-size Bagpuss suits - and café church on Sunday morning if I'm home and vaguely conscious by then!

Saturday morning, and as is customary, all attempts at a lie-in failed, though I'm not rushing to get up properly either, and plan on enjoying a long bath in a short while. I'm sure Tesco will be bearable when I do get up though, having forfeited my usual Friday evening shopping opportunity by spending nigh-on two hours on the phone instead! My stomach ache returned at one point during the night, but again is perfectly fine now. I hope this doesn't become too much of a recurrent thing, because I value what settled sleep I can get!

In the end I decided to go to Safeway rather than Tesco - a trek across to the west side of town rather than just a couple of blocks - because I hoped they might still have something in stock from their specials a couple of weeks ago that I'd eyed up as a possible birthday present for Rachael. They didn't in the end, alas, so it was a bit of a wasted journey, but it did mean I got some slightly different food in for the next week, and Safeway offer discounted petrol when you spend over a tenner, so I recouped a fair chunk of my extra mileage costs! Still a little miffed not to have been able to get Rachael's present - though mainly annoyed with myself for not acting earlier - but I expect I'll have a quick look round the Central Milton Keynes shops tomorrow since all being well I'll be up there for café church in the morning anyway.

Bit delayed leaving for Cambridge, owing to unavoidable and unexpected business that has cropped up for David, who I've offered a lift to. Hopefully we'll be on our way in the next few minutes though, and I'll be all set whenever he is!

Just been hit by a wave of tiredness, so I think will go and have a lie down for a couple of hours. I've been invited out for tea later, though I wouldn't be surprised if that gets cancelled, due to others being equally exhausted! Café church this morning was a bit down on numbers due to various people being off on the Vineyard skiing holiday at the moment, but it was still a good time to catch up with old friends properly and meet new ones. I took Sarah and the girls for a McDonalds lunch afterwards, dropped them back at home, then drove back up to the centre to try again to buy Rachael's present - a DDR-style dance mat that would plug straight into a television. The good news was that I found the model I wanted, but the bad news was that they wanted about twice as much as Safeway. Still worse, it was utter rubbish - but at least that means I can be quietly relieved not to have found one yesterday, when I wouldn't have had the opportunity to test it properly. They had one out at one store today, and it was truly grim, clearly designed by someone who had barely even seen a real DDR machine out of the corner of their eye, let alone used one. The music was positively anaemic, and the moves had no pattern or logic to them and were not even in time with the beat - or what you could hear of it. They're selling like hot cakes on the strength of the real thing, but I can imagine there will have been an awful lot of disappointed children this Christmas!

As for last night, well neither David nor I were really up for a late night out, but we were both glad to have gone along to Emily's party, and meet many friends old and new. All Emily's friends are lovely, so a most pleasant time was had by everyone, but we'd previously agreed to leave at about midnight, which we duly did. The drive home was murky, and there were a fair few idiots out on the road, but it was straightforward enough and we got back to Milton Keynes soon after one o'clock. Shame I couldn't have a lie-in today though!

Can't rest though, not too sure why. I think it's just because it's the wrong time of day. Should be going out in a little over an hour now anyway, so it's barely worth trying again, really! I'm sure there's things I can be doing...

Tea did happen - a yummy risotto of sorts. Then jigsawing into the night!

Hooray, the Central Milton Keynes searchlight I wrote about here in December is no more! In an unusually democratic decision, the shopping centre management have just announced that over three quarters of those replying to their request for comments were not keen on the searchlight, and have consequently decided not to switch it on again but instead investigate other promotional strategies.

Thanks to Roger here I have managed to blag a computer mouse for my friend Sarah. OK, so it's a pretty old and yellowing non-wheel Microsoft mouse, but since it came to my attention that Sarah had one mouse between two computers, it's got to be a bit of an improvement, and could save some arguments this evening as she blitzes the write-up of another assignment. However, she's just phoned to say there's a power cut, so it may all be a little moot anyway!

The power was restored about an hour later, but Sarah really didn't feel too much like studying anyway, so that aspect of the evening didn't happen in the end - and I can't say I'm too sorry, given how late we've sometimes run in the past. Instead I was largely able to let Sarah put her feet up for the evening, by coordinating the washing-up with Laura and trying to keep Rachael roughly upstairs once she'd been put to bed nice and early after tea. With everyone very tired, there was a late finish for no-one once we'd done a little bit more jigsaw, and I'll be off to bed almost as soon as I've finished writing this!

I managed to keep to my intent and got to bed at about eleven last night and slept fairly well. Jon seems not to be around this morning, so we've missed our weekly meeting for the moment. That's a bit of a pain actually, since there's software due to be handed over tomorrow and I need a bit of input from him before I can cut the CD-R. Anyway, instead I ended up chatting with Tom in the office next door, finding great amusement that his - currently absent - office-mate George has a Buffy the Vampire Slayer mouse-mat. You would have to know George to appreciate quite how funny that is, so take my word for it, OK?

The disadvantage of a morning that whizzes by barely unnoticed is that if the momentum can't be maintained, the afternoon can have a tendency to drag - and that's certainly being the case today. Anyway, tonight I'm finally off to see The Two Towers, with Sam and Tim. They've seen it already independently, but are both keen to go again, and we agreed before Christmas that we would make tonight's trip. It'll be a bit of a late finish, since the only viable choices are showings at 6.15 and 7.40, and we went for the latter. We really wanted the opportunity for some tea at home first, and Tim wants to go swimming, but it shouldn't be too bad. Must just remember to heed the advice a number of people have given, not to have too much to drink before going in to the cinema!

It was long. Very long. But, I have to say, really rather not bad at all, after all that! That's The Two Towers I'm talking about, of course. Quite happy to wait another year for the final episode, though - these are films to experience and savour, but not ones I would rush to see again and again. Unlike Tim and Sam, clearly, but to each their own, I guess.

Oh, I meant to say, when those decidedly yummy part-baked pizzas say to "cook from frozen", believe me, they mean it. They cook perfectly OK when defrosted, but getting them out of the packet and on to a baking tray in one piece is an art I expect never to perfect. Top marks to Safeway for the best supermarket pizza yet, though! Must head to bed now though or I'll never get up tomorrow.

Not that some people would care, but if that's the case, why don't they let go?

Open House was good tonight, though a little bit different with Simon having been in London rather unexpectedly today which meant Jam ran the show, so to speak. It was an altogether pretty relaxed evening as a result, but that was fine, allowing a welcome opportunity to get to know each other better. Simon arrived back home just in time for the prayers for each other we always try to find time for at the end of our gatherings. Everyone was pretty shattered though, so for once we actually finished more or less on time, with most people getting away promptly, but I really ought to be heading for bed soon, hadn't I?

No talk of cookers at this week's regular midweek pavilion lunch with David, but instead discussion concentrated on football pools results, metaphorically speaking. You know - home wins, away wins, no-score draws, possible jackpots and all that. Not matches postponed, though. Well, that and trying to hatch some kind of plan for attending Alex and Catherine's housewarming on Saturday. It's proving to be a little more complicated to coordinate than I'd expected, but I'm sure it will all work out in the end, and be lots of fun for all!

Other than that, today's been pretty productive at work, completing no less than two handovers to QA of CD-ROMs I've been working on. Nothing terribly exciting, I must admit, but it's still satisfying to get things like that out of the way. Strictly, actually, neither was a true handover, since there is still a little work to be done - by others mainly - on content for both discs, but hopefully I've managed to finalise the installers and so on which was the biggest headache for me right now. I wonder what I'll do tomorrow, now?!

Nonetheless compelling curiously but, indeed film strange very a. Simon and Jam from borrowed DVD rental-ex an on, evening this Memento watched I.

Having read some of the user reviews on IMDb this morning, I'm going to have to go back and watch Memento again, to fill in a few of the gaps. My own memory clearly isn't up to much either, as I was trying to place Guy Pearce's name and face. Of course, ashamed as I am, now that it all comes back to me from my own distant past, he was Mike from Neighbours. How could I have forgotten that?!

This afternoon I have mainly spent trying out the all-new timesheet database system, to be rolled out in anger in just over a week. We never used to have to keep a detailed record of hours spent on different project at all, but with our new management comes a love of useless figures, so it was decreed last summer that we would have to change our ways. For the last few months we've been filling out an Excel spreadsheet template, which is unsophisticated but easy to use, but today the long awaited Access database has been released. All pretty ugly - and doesn't allow useful things like copying and pasting, or deleting more than one item at once - but it seems to work all right. I'll just have to make sure I properly log all additional time spent updating it...

Busy evening! So far I have:-

  • Burnt a pizza and garlic bread - but still ate them, of course
  • Dissolved in the bath - or would have, given a few more minutes
  • Collected Dawn from the railway station with David
  • Been to Tesco and done my weekly shop
  • Sorted out a present and so on for Alex and Catherine
  • Keeled over and decided I'm not doing anything more tonight!

Well, obviously apart from write this nonsense, but you know what I mean...

Has anyone else noticed how the telephone is twice as loud when you're asleep? Probably just as well, not only to wake me up in the first place, but to make quite certain I am thoroughly awake with no remaining vestige of sleep by the time I get to it! That said, there were obviously still tell-tale signs I had been slumbering only seconds earlier, but I wasn't going to accept any apology from Becca, it being half past ten and high time I was getting up anyway!

But anyway, that means this evening is pretty much finalised now. David, Dawn and I can make our way to Alex and Catherine's party pretty much whenever we want to really. Becca is going to visit a friend in Wendover first and will phone from Stoke Mandeville railway station sometime after we're due to arrive in Aylesbury, so I or someone can collect her from there. Then I can duck out for a little while to drop her home later if no-one else is going that way at a sensible time, but none of us particularly wants a late night out, so we might simply make that the end of our evening's participation, and go en masse.

Should be good fun though, and I have more or less nothing else to do today, which means I can take things nice and easily until we leave. But I'm not going back to bed, tempting as that may be. Perhaps I'll watch Memento again?

Or on the other hand, perhaps not. Instead I decided it would be a great time to start getting back into some semblance of an exercise regime, so dug out the rowing machine that had been buried in my wardrobe here since I moved - and that I hadn't used for a fair while even before then. I put on a short CD - Fairport Convention's Unhalfbricking, if you must know - and set to work. But then I realised that a metal peg that holds the thing together was missing, so spent the entire length of the CD trying and failing to find it. I fashioned a temporary repair with a couple of tent-pegs, started the CD again and managed about half an hour of fairly decent exercise before Darren phoned. At which point I blew it all and went out to the Tawny Owl with him for a steak and chips lunch and a pint. In mitigation, I'd have had that anyway, exercise or no exercise, so I'm sure I still came out of it better than I would have done. But now it's only a little while before I'm due to leave for Aylesbury with David and Dawn, so I'm not going to get an awful lot more done now, am I?

Dawn's not too well today, apparently, and it's by no means certain whether she'll be in a fit state to go out this evening at all, but for the moment at least David says he's still keen to go, to represent them both. We've put things back for an hour though, consequently, so as not to be out too late this evening - and in the hope Dawn might recover a little - but I still need to make a move in the next few minutes anyway. So bye-bye for now, diary readers!

Such noble thoughts came to nought, however, arriving back in Milton Keynes just a shade before midnight - hopefully Dawn had long been asleep anyway, indeed being in no fit state to go out. It was a good evening for those of us who did go, though, meeting again with various lovely folk I hadn't seen since Alex and Catherine's wedding, and of course a load more. Gifts seemed to go down well, quite coincidentally choosing exactly the same wine - even the vintage - as they'd carefully selected for their wedding, to accompany a nice serving dish. Or at least I thought it was nice anyway! Becca had in the end arrived rather earlier than expected, so I played no part in collecting her, but David and I dropped her off home later as promised and we stopped for a "quick cup of tea" with my parents next door. We still had another hour on the road to get back to Milton Keynes, so bid our farewells and drove off into the night. After last weekend's experience too, Saturday nights seem to be popular with the lower order of car-driving pondlife, only narrowly avoiding getting taken out by a couple of speeding idiots on the outskirts of Wing.

I'm not yet exactly sure what's happening this morning. Sarah phoned while we were out last night explaining that for one reason or another she didn't feel fit to go to church this morning, but wondering if I could take Laura anyway. Someone else had suggested I took Rachael too, but I wasn't at all sure I'd be able to cope with both of them at once. However, Laura at that point didn't even know of that plan, and is inclined to be a little fickle in any case, so I'm half expecting another phone call to either cancel that request or to maybe take Rachael instead if I feel up to the task. But they live pretty much on the way to Shenley, so it will make little or no difference to me in practice, but in her current condition it could well make a world of difference to Sarah to have a break from one or the other of them for a couple of hours at least.

But one way or another I'd better be getting up, dressed and breakfasted!

There's rather more I could easily say, but in the interest of my sole official resolution for 2003 I'm not going to. But I will just share that I am happy, and happy that others I care about are happy - as was, is, and always will be my motivation. I've had a good fun day too, on the whole, and there was a most welcome - if understandably brief, under the circumstances - email waiting for me upon my return home late this evening. Life is good. Eyes ever forward.

Oh yes, before I forget, I found the proper securing peg thing for my rowing machine. I had an idea I'd seen it very recently, and about the only place I hadn't searched was the boot of my car. Lo and behold, there it was! So now I have precisely no excuse not to use the rowing machine regularly - frequency yet to be decided, however. Please feel free to check up on me at any time to see how I'm doing! I'm not seriously overweight - though I'm not sure whether I'm heavier or lighter than when the doc said so - just a little untoned, and hopefully a modest regime can get that back under some semblance of control.

As for yesterday, well Laura did want to go to church as Sarah had hoped, and was waiting outside upon my arrival to collect her. She seemed pretty happy, and emerged from the children's work at the end of the meeting face-painted as a panda with cardboard ears to match. I phoned Sarah and she was still feeling pretty rotten and not at all like eating, so I offered to collect Rachael and take the girls out to McDonalds for lunch. I agreed I was mad, but they were both as good as gold - except of course when it was time to leave the play area there, but I'm not sure they were that different to any other children there!

Quite where the rest of the day vanished to I'm not quite sure, but I vaguely recall hoovering Sarah's lounge, helping with more jigsaw, eating pizza - yeah, umm, what was I saying about the rowing machine again? - and generally offering what moral support I could along the way, with plenty needed. As I discussed recently with someone I know will be reading this very soon, I don't really have that many hobbies as such, or at least not ones I could definitively list. Rather, my hobbies are whatever activities I can enjoy sharing my time with my friends in doing, and that's much more important to me than what I do exactly!

Eek, big sister's just texted me to say the kids are hassling her to get them a computer - and I'd promised to help in choosing one at the very least. Guess I'd better get my thinking cap on, though Evesham have most kindly just doubled the specification on their most basic budget system, at no extra cost, so the decision could well end up being a no-brainer.

My legs hurt. It funny how it took them well over a day to react to Saturday's exercise, but they're definitely paying the price now. However, "no pain, no gain", the well-known saying goes, and within reason it just means unaccustomed muscles are seeing some action. My stomach is also paying the price a little, having had a Weight Watchers barbecue chicken meal for tea - it was tasty enough, though I'm not sure I approve of the slaughtering of quite such young birds to create breasts as tiny as those... Still, it can only help reduce weight as part of a calorie-controlled diet, and all those usual disclaimers, so this was only a try-out really - though I did specifically go for slightly healthier options than usual at lunch too, so I might be on to something here.

All that pain was forgotten for two hours on the phone this evening, though - it's just amazing how quickly and how naturally the time passes when you find yourself chatting with someone you can relate with better anyone else you can remember! Church, work, school-days, outlook on life, food... Yes, food, especially food, though that did make my stomach rumble a little I must say. God only knows - literally - what the future holds, but if this is one small step towards it being brighter, I'll be quite happy to take some bolder ones!

Oh, and as a result of an earlier phone call, I now have the go-ahead to order a computer for my sister and family, which I intend to do on Wednesday. I had quite a long chat with my mum about the wisdom of this venture, but we were in broad agreement that it was the right thing to do. The availability of such a well specified machine for such a good price from a dealer we both trust, just seemed to confirm our feelings, and I can order it with as much confidence as I could ever really hope to muster! I was a little disturbed by the cost of the telephone technical support for Evesham's budget range, but I know I'm very likely to be the first port of call if my sister has any questions or problems, so it shouldn't matter too much in practice. Will be glad to get it ordered, and be able to relax in the knowledge that the decision's been made, though!

Oh, I now have another very good reason for keeping a diary on-line - it makes people happy! What nobler cause could one possibly support than that?

I'm not at all sure how this new-fangled healthier eating regime of mine is going to proceed, but my body isn't terribly happy thus far. I gather that the early days of any new diet can be amongst the hardest as the body adjusts to its changed intake, so perhaps I shouldn't get too disheartened quite yet. I had to cop out and go and get an afternoon snack from the shop, but I went for a packet of Jordans low-fat corn crisps, which hopefully won't have been too bad as such things go. For lunch today I had a hummus and roasted vegetable sandwich, with an apple-flavoured cereal bar for "dessert", which all seemed a little insubstantial to me. But I'll see how I go - what more can I do?

Yesterday evening was decidedly busy, but good fun, and I know Mark's expecting an account of sorts... First of all, a few more phone calls between Mum and me, finalising a few details regarding the computer for my sister. I'm not sure whether to order it this evening as I'd intended, or to hold off until my friend who's an assistant manager at Evesham is around next - it's always nice to deal with people you know, after all! Hoping he'll text me today at some point, otherwise I'll probably just go tonight anyway and hope for the best.

Did a little more rowing-machine exercise while my tea was cooking, so by then could just about justify a pizza and the usual accompaniments. Then with a few minutes to spare before going to the pub, I decided I'd take the opportunity to make another quick phone-call in a vaguely southerly direction - though of course "quick" and "phone-call" are not really words that can generally be used together when I'm involved. Not that I minded in the least in this case, of course! But others were getting hungry by then, and I needed to go out anyway!

So then it was off to the Barge, to meet up with my old housemate Mark and friends, Mark being back from the United Arab Emirates for a few days as part of his mid-academic year break. Apparently I am expected to recall all those present at the pub, so let's try: Mark, Matt, Briony, David from Northampton, Gareth, Paul, Martin, Phil, Andy and me of course. I'm sure I don't need to go into any more detail than that, but it was a good night out and a most welcome opportunity to catch up with all too many people I've not seen for ages!

After an evening out when I almost keeled over on Jam and Simon's sofa, I now feel really quite ill. Hopefully a fair night's sleep can follow now, but I'm by no means confident about that. There's only one way to find out, though!

Sadly I didn't sleep at all well, feel really quite rough in ways I won't go into here, am struggling to stay awake at all and have almost precisely zero appetite. Consequently now that I've emailed work to say there really is very little chance I'll make it in today, I'm going back to bed.

Not that I could get back to sleep, so I decided to have a nice long lavender enriched bath instead. It didn't feel as good as my bath last night, but was still most pleasant and relaxing. I've managed to eat some toast now, but my appetite still really isn't too wonderful - though I'm hoping I might muster the enthusiasm for a pizza later. I did eventually get that text message I was hoping for yesterday, and it means that all being well I'll be going shopping for my sister's computer this evening. I'm also pondering getting myself a better monitor, in which case my sister can have my current 17" one which is in tip-top condition, but I'm a little suspicious about the advertised price for the one I want, given that it's about £100 less than what anyone else wants!

Do you ever find it annoying when people from "outside" - who just happen to have read all the books and know all the long words - think they know in minute and indisputable detail everything about what you do, what you believe, what your motivations in life are, and so on? They cannot accept it's merely their own, possibly ill-reached, opinion. Oh, it's just me, is it? It doesn't offend me though, because frankly I just find it rather pathetic that some people get kicks out of that kind of thing, but it does sadden me nevertheless.

If this snow gets any worse, there's going to be a blizzard! So long as it's safe to go out in a couple of hours, though, I'm not too bothered!

Right, that's me done for today, and I think at the end of it all, I feel a little bit better than I did this morning. Whether I'll be fit for work tomorrow will remain to be seen, but for the moment the prognosis is good.

Taking the afternoon nice and easy, I finally got round to watching Memento again, to try and make some more sense of it all, and I basically succeeded. In fact I can't honestly imagine why I didn't understand it more first time round, but perhaps I was too preoccupied with the unusual format of the film to follow what was going on. But either way I'm happy now that I've sussed what was going on and why, so I can duly give the DVD back to Jam and Simon now!

The pizza didn't quite work out as planned. I cooked it up for tea, but could barely eat it, so have a fair slice to warm up tomorrow evening maybe. It's very rare for me to be defeated by pizza, so something's definitely not quite right with me at the moment, though as I said, I feel better now than earlier.

However, it was just as well I gave up on the pizza when I did, because I only just got into town in time in the end, especially while I dithered again in choosing the computer and accessories for my sister - and Evesham's ordering system was playing up a bit into the bargain. But anyway, the deed is done, and hopefully I'll be able to collect the computer in about a fortnight's time. I did indeed succumb to that vague notion I mentioned earlier of upgrading my own monitor - I just hope I don't end up regretting it for any reason, but I guess I can sell the new one on quite easily if I seriously dislike it.

Having done that I thought I'd toddle into the main bit of the shopping centre and use some of my gift tokens from both this Christmas just gone and the one before. However, impulsive me decided to give a special someone a phone-call while I sat outside HMV, so by the time I'd chosen a couple of DVDs there, all the shops were pulling down their shutters for the night and I'll have to wait a little longer to spend the rest, and also to get a present for Rachael.

Now I'm back home and have battened the hatches against the threateningly wintry looking conditions outside. Little if any snow so far, but it really wouldn't surprise me if I wake up to a slightly different view from the window, and with the wind as it is, it can't be anything but a bitterly cold night!

Right, I feel well enough for work today, and the rest of my body is behaving well enough for work today. So I guess that means I really ought to pull my finger out, get washed, get dressed, get breakfasted and actually get to work!

After a good enough start to the day, and a reasonable appetite at lunchtime, I now feel completely awful again, and my body is behaving in (lack of) sympathy again... Hopefully it'll be just a minor glitch in my recovery, but I'd rather it wasn't quite this way going into a potentially fairly busy weekend.

An open letter to all those people trying to persuade me to ballot-stuff votes for the Song for Europe competition being promoted by Radio 2:-

Please don't send me any more requests to vote for any particular Song for Europe entry, and especially not to cast multiple votes. If you actually give a hoot about the competition as a whole - and of course most people don't these days - you would advocate actually listening to the candidate songs on offer, and voting for the best. It's arguable whether "best" in this context actually means the most artistically meritorious song, or the most likely to win favour with the broad spectrum of European judges' musical tastes. But it certainly shouldn't just mean the song whose writer or performer has the most friends-of-friends willing to sell their soul without even having listened to what they're voting for. Thank you.

Anyway, looks like it's too late now, because both songs I'd been nagged about have failed to make it through to the last four. Thankfully the one I voted for did, however, but I am not going to say which it was.

Eight o'clock and it's my bedtime. Very rarely has that happened since I was about ten. But considering that I almost fell asleep in the bath just now and clean forgot what day it was, even, I think bed is more important than Tesco.

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