goznet ...

David's diary: March 2003

Ooh, it's over a day since I last wrote in these pages, and a day that takes us out of February and into March, no less. And it's St David's Day, as Katy reminded me when we chatted a little while ago, even if she didn't spot the immediate connection of sorts! Today's been pretty lazy all told, and I needed it for sure. My sleep wasn't brilliantly settled, but much better than the previous night's, and I did indeed manage a modest lie-in. I've not been out today, but intend to go to Tesco shortly for my weekly shop, which will be the sum total of my major activity for the day, all being well. As for tomorrow, well hopefully I'll have regained my energy to a large extent by then, because there's some vague idea of going for an afternoon stroll with Margaret, Sarah and no doubt at least one of the girls - and even if that plan doesn't come to fruition I may well go out anyway. I had the opportunity of going up to London for the day tomorrow with Katy and her sister, brother-in-law and nephew, but we agreed that in my current not-yet-entirely-recovered state it might be overdoing things a little and not present me at my best, and there should be plenty more opportunities if things carry on as well as they've started!

Well I've now done the Tesco bit pretty successfully - including swapping that so-called long-life light bulb that blew the other day after six months rather than six years - and can consequently relax a little before another unhurried start tomorrow! One thing I must get used to though, is that if I must insist on going late night shopping - and it is a most pleasant time of day to do so - it does mean that it's generally later than I think by the time I get home again! That being the case, I really ought to be heading for bed in a moment!

Sunday morning, and why exactly am I up so early?

Sunday afternoon, and why exactly haven't I actually got dressed yet?

No news yet regarding that proposed afternoon stroll, so I think I'll brace myself and get ready to go out to Willen Lake for a walk anyway - and perhaps meet up with the others there if they decide at the last minute to do anything similar. I'd much rather be in London though, to be honest. Hey ho!

I went for my walk, and was glad to get out, but I didn't receive any last minute phone-calls so was happy to enjoy it by myself - but not as much as I'd probably have enjoyed London, but let's not dwell on that subject any longer! At times it was actually quite hard, seeing so many happy families out and about, but I suspect that under the surface they weren't all they seemed, and perhaps it's a sign that my time mightn't be too far off now anyway?

As I did the other day, I'm composing this diary entry on my sister's shiny new PC, which I think is now just about ready to be boxed up for delivery later in the week. Although I've yet to conclude the saga of my new monitor - so won't be collapsing the packaging for that quite yet - I will be very glad to free up the space in my flat and return it to some kind of normality!

My sister's PC is all boxed up and ready to roll, and I've made a checklist of everything that's supposed to be there, down to the very last set-up poster and installation CD-ROM. Five boxes in all, which will fill the back of my car to the brim I am quite sure. One thing I couldn't find in my sorting out of stuff this afternoon - but that doesn't matter as far as my sister's system is concerned - is the DVI cable that I am sure came with my new monitor. All very odd, since I'd had no reason even to take it out of the box, but I can't find it anywhere now, nonetheless. Not going to lose sleep over that yet though!

Talking of my monitor, I tried installing the supplied "pivot" driver for it today, which allows me to use the screen in portrait mode rather than the usual landscape mode. It works, and I'm actually using it like that at the moment just for a change, and I'm quite surprised how much difference the driver makes considering how "square" I considered the aspect ratio to be when the screen is in landscape mode. The only pains are that the mode-switching is manual - so it's easy to get in a knot if the wrong option is selected, with the mouse moving the wrong way etc - and that DirectX is not fully supported, rendering DVD playback effectively impossible and screen updating a bit jerky sometimes.

Meanwhile, Sarah phoned a short while ago to apologise for the lack of anything organised for this afternoon. Was just one of those days, but we've agreed to meet for coffee and a natter tomorrow morning, so the world should get put to rights soon enough anyway! For now though, it's time to relax a little...

Anyway, Katy has been talked to - no, not like that, she's not been naughty! - and I've had my supper, so now I'm off to bed without further ado. OK, so this wasn't the best Sunday ever, by quite a margin, but it ended decidedly well!

Right, it's Monday morning, and I'm up bright and early considering there's very little I strictly have to do today. But I am going out shortly for that coffee with Sarah as planned, and she phoned earlier to ask if we could meet at the Woolworths café, which suits me fine - especially if they are still doing breakfasts at ten o'clock! Anyway, better get a move on - catch you later!

Hardly the perfect relaxing start to my holiday I had perhaps hoped for, having received a lovely crack across my windscreen while driving back from meeting up in the city centre - thank you very much Mr Lorry, though I know you couldn't help it. Needless to say, I can't get anything done about it before I am due to go away, since Silver Shield's "triage" means they don't consider it urgent because it doesn't particularly compromise security. Fair enough, but a little annoying coming at this time - though I've booked them in to fix it while I am at my sister's and have given them her address. So I'll just have to make sure I am around on the afternoon they have said they will call, and not plan to go anywhere for five hours after they do so! Expensive coffee and breakfast, eh?

Coffee and breakfast was otherwise very civilised, and decidedly good value - especially when the toast gets thrown in for free. The lady definitely wasn't counting the "five" items properly as she served them out, either. Sarah had already got herself a coffee when I arrived, but was very happy to have another one, and having devoured that lot and had a good old natter about everything under the sun - yes, including Katy - we quickly popped into Burtons for me to get a couple of pairs of jeans. My current jeans are all wearing through where it's really a good idea that they don't, so I made the most of being up in the city centre where I could easily get identical replacements - well, apart from the embarrassing holes, that is! In the end Burtons didn't actually have the exact same style in the colours I wanted, so I had to make Sarah wait a little longer than intended while I tried on a different style, but she was happily reading her mediaeval murder mystery novel in the mall outside, so never mind!

Anyway, apart from packing my personal things and a few odds and sods food-wise and otherwise, I'm basically ready to go tomorrow. Mum just reminded me on the phone that I really ought to take some A4 paper for them to get started with - ever practical, considering that's something I'd not even remotely thought of! Thankfully I'll be in no big rush tomorrow, barring any more emergencies, of course, so I should have plenty of time to get myself ready, load everything up and do the usual "pre-flight checks", as it's one of the longer journeys my car will get to do this year I'm sure! I don't know where Ali has in mind for me to sleep - she's recently acquired a caravan for accommodation purposes, but I'm not sure if it's really habitable quite yet, but for the sake of a couple of nights I'll be very happy to get anywhere vaguely comfortable and where I won't necessarily get pounced upon by small children at unearthly hours of the morning. I'll be taking my sleeping bag and a couple of blankets, anyway!

But now it's probably about time I was heading for bed, and at least trying to get some semblance of a good night's sleep before what I am sure will - despite all my best intentions - be a busy day tomorrow. I've tackled the washing up and done some hoovering this evening, so general domestic things are reasonably under control and shouldn't need any further attention to speak of tomorrow. So goodnight, God bless, and depending on various factors I may or may not be able to converse via these pages later in the week, but do have a good one everyone! Of course, after all that, I'll probably add another diary entry before I leave tomorrow, but in the highly unlikely event that I don't, that will have to do!

Well I'm back home now - physically, at least. I'm not too sure where my mind is though. In a windswept layby off the A40 somewhere, perhaps? Very tired though, and heading for bed imminently, and hoping for a lie-in tomorrow - when maybe my mind will have caught up and I can report back on the last few days?

OK, so I'm sure many people haven't had any choice but to have been up for hours already this Saturday morning, but it feels a bit unnatural for me - though I couldn't sleep any more so decided I may as well just get up at a leisurely pace and hope I've got the energy when I may well need it later!

But anyway, what of these last few days? Well the journey over to Ali's on Tuesday afternoon was straightforward enough - I didn't even get lost - and the crack in my windscreen presented no problems, though I was glad it was going to be seen to. Apart from unloading the various computer boxes from my car, we didn't do anything more in that regard, and it was lovely just to spend some quality time with my sister and family, without too many other distractions.

Wednesday, Ali and I set up the computer as planned, with me mainly guiding and Ali doing the actual plugging in, since she needs to be modestly familiar with it - even with the help of the excellent set-up poster supplied, and the undoubted assistance of Holly and Jed in particular. We temporarily "plumbed" it onto the internet via my unmetered dial-up account and my spare telephone extension cable, but they're going to sort out something more permanent very soon in both regards. The location of the computer isn't ideal at the moment for various reasons, but there wasn't a lot of choice in the matter really. With all but Raf at school, it was a good opportunity to take Ali through some of the basics of using the computer, though it was a lot for her to take in and I am not a particularly good teacher when it comes to starting from absolutely no assumed prior knowledge. So in many ways it was more a case of showing her what the computer could do, so she can be inspired to learn through practice.

In the afternoon we went to pick up the younger children from school, which was expected to be a fairly quick and easy manoeuvre but that turned out to take rather longer! We were just about to leave the school when a car came rather fast and wide round a steep corner in the car park, and ploughed into the back of another car, just about to reverse out. It was only after the crash that we noticed that apart from a somewhat traumatised dog on the back seat, the first car was empty, and it seems that whoever had parked it had lazily decided the handbrake was just for show - a common failing I have noticed over the years in various scenarios and with various drivers. Thankfully no-one was hurt - it could have been so much worse, especially given the number of children around - but hopefully some valuable lessons have been learned, though I doubt it...

When we arrived home, Holly had already got back from college and was happily doing assignment research on the computer without any prompting, though we quickly switched over to my unmetered internet account once I realised she was using the local-rate one! Needless to say, that was the calm before the storm.

I just hope that the computer will prove to be a little bit of a novelty with the younger ones, because it was bought primarily with Holly and Jed's needs in mind, and their use will need to take priority. Holly is actually quite adept at seeking out computers at college, in the library and at friends' houses, but it's not an ideal - or always terribly cheap - way of doing things, so having facilities easily to hand at home will be a boon. Unlike Holly, Jed is rather inclined to give up rather if faced with hurdles like that, though, so it is the hope that having an easily accessible computer will encourage him in his schoolwork. There is the complication that Jed lives with his dad so won't get more than a couple of hours' access a day, so his use must take priority if it's for homework, and those are of course the least convenient couple of hours in terms of "compatibility" with the younger children in the family. None of the younger children have any requirement to present their schoolwork via the computer, but obviously its colourful graphics and fun sounds are an attraction to them nonetheless. The Waldorf school philosophy indeed would tend to actively discourage such things, but at the same time they have to live in the real world. I just felt quite despondent about the whole thing, witnessing seemingly endless squabbling, children asking if they could use the computer when they probably should have been in bed, and so on, and Ali's words of reassurance weren't always quite enough. I guess I've seen the same kinds of issues before, with half the number of children involved, and know they don't necessarily go away overnight. I am sure there will be at least some element of initial novelty to it all, but Ali will have to be quite strict in enforcing whatever kind of rota may be necessary to ensure the most constructive use.

Thursday I didn't really get to see a lot of Ali, with her out for much of the day, and it was also when the man called to replace my cracked windscreen. He had originally been coming on Wednesday, then there was a problem sourcing the glass needed, so it was delayed until Thursday morning. But the man phoned me first thing on Thursday to check if the afternoon would be all right, because they were short-staffed. That was fine, and he ended up arriving rather sooner than expected. He did a generally good job, but unfortunately didn't replace the windscreen wipers quite properly and consequently the new windscreen has - thanks to the rain that chucked it down all the way home yesterday - already got marked. It's probably nothing to get too worried about, but I will mention it on the warranty registration feedback card because they might cover it.

More arguments about the computer in the evening, of course, and all attempts at a dinner-table moratorium failed miserably. Perhaps in retrospect it wasn't a good idea to have connected the computer up to the internet immediately, because it's given them all a taste that they might find hard to shake - Spider Solitaire is one thing, designing a Barbie doll quite another. Of course, I couldn't leave them with my unmetered connection details; they can be used from anywhere in the UK, but only from one location at a time. So until they sort something else out they will be paying at least a penny a minute for their access, and I hope that is made very clear to those who understand. The little ones need and want supervision when using the computer anyway, so I guess that so long as Ali can face the initial tantrums and tears, "no" may be enough.

When I got up on Friday I didn't really know how the day was going to work out. I was intending to head home during the day at some point, so I made sure I was up in time to see all the children off to school. As it turned out, Ali needed to go out fairly early in the morning to view a possible replacement minibus, so it worked out best that I left when she did. As I said, it was a pretty foul journey all the way home, and I had to stop a couple of times to sort out my poorly-fitted windscreen wipers - hence my mention yesterday of windswept A40 laybys! I came home via Bletchley though, to grab a late lunch at Burger King, and more importantly to get some new windscreen wipers at Halfords. The old ones were on their way out and would have needed replacing anyway, but the problems experienced on the journey home made that all the more urgent!

Yesterday evening was quite busy too. Sarah had phoned while I was at Burger King earlier, guessing I might well have been back in town by then, and asking if I'd like to come for tea later on - an offer which was gratefully accepted. Then, back at home, I phoned Gareth, who had been having some problems with his email. I'd changed the configuration so that he could send and receive it directly from his domain rather than using forwarding to an ISP account, but I couldn't easily explain how to set up Outlook to use the new settings. So I agreed that since I was going out that way for tea anyway I would pop in and sort it out "on site" so to speak - though since configuration changes on the domain can take several hours to go through, I'm just hoping it all worked! One good turn deserved another, though, and Gareth kindly helped me fit the new windscreen wipers, during a rare sunnier spell yesterday afternoon!

That all done, round the corner I went to Sarah's for tea and to help with some of the housework. I have to say, difficult as Laura and Rachael can be from time to time, it all seemed much simpler than the last few days at Ali's. Not that Ali's children are so much worse, it's just the sheer number of them... That said, Laura had her friend Jessica round for tea, which was a most welcome calming influence, Jessica not being at all afraid to tell Laura when she's being out of order! She seemed, appearance and personality-wise, not entirely unlike how I would imagine another certain Jessica I know being like in four years' time. Rachael was actually quite good for the evening, probably because Laura and Jessica were busying themselves, so there was much less opportunity for sibling conflict. Weather permitting, I should be taking Rachael out for a little while this afternoon - it worked well last time, and Sarah will well do with the break, considering it a treat not only for Rachael but herself too!

As for "other things" - well, Katy, I mean... I guess Katy has had to play second fiddle a little bit over the last few days, but she's accepted that Ali and family have had to take priority. Nonetheless we have chatted on the phone for at least a few minutes most evenings, and we made up for any lost time in that regard last night. Tomorrow I plan to drive down to Farnham for a Thai lunch with Katy, and taking things from there depending on the weather and our inclination. That will mean me missing church in the morning - and for some reason it's our Open House group's turn to set up again, something having gone wrong on the rota - but I'd already warned that I may well not be around, and that's definite now! So I'll be leaving here mid-morning, and just hoping the journey is a little more straightforward than my last one down that way...

Of course, my sister Ali has been all very interested to hear about Katy, how I met her and so on, but - like pretty much everyone else - being very tactful about it. Ali knows pretty much what I had to go through last year, and since she's having difficult times herself she knows not to go making assumptions or to jump the gun. Ali always has been a good source of encouragement tempered with realism and common sense, whilst being one of the best listeners I know, and I value her wisdom and imperfect experience more and more as time goes on.

Katy is very different to almost anyone else I've met or certainly "gone out" with. It's hard to explain, and I'm not into the comparisons game so am not going to be drawn on whether Katy is or isn't more outgoing than X, prettier than Y, or smarter than Z. Everyone is different and has their own strengths and merits, and I'd never have got involved with anyone I did in the past if they didn't have a lot of strengths and merits. But Katy just seems somehow different - and it's a difference I really appreciate, a much-needed shot in the arm, having got a bit stuck in a rut with my expectations of the form my next break might take. It's still very early days, but I feel good about it.

This afternoon and evening went well, finding time for all I wanted and needed to do. I was just about to get ready to go out to collect Rachael for her walk or whatever when her sister Claire texted to say they were all at McDonalds and could I go and collect them from there. That I duly did and after a cuppa and chat took an initially rather unwilling Rachael out for a while. Needless to say that unwillingness didn't last more than a couple of minutes once we were out and I managed to disguise my being quite lost as "exploring". I'd happily curtailed my initial plans, though, for the sake of keeping Rachael content and consequently giving Sarah as much of a break as I could. So our "walk" ended up with Rachael spending half an hour at a rather exciting - at least to an eight-year-old - playground in Willen, and then another twenty minutes at the one in Springfield. But at least she was happy, even if she did end up with a decidedly damp bottom from the soaking wet slide at the latter and was swiftly transferred into pyjamas upon her return home! Tea was chicken, vegetables and gravy, which went down very nicely indeed. Then I sat with Rachael for a few minutes to play with an EastEnders dressing-up game on the web, during which time Katy phoned on my mobile, which was the cause of a little confusion and good natured embarrassment - and I was very glad Rachael didn't mention to her anything that she'd said to me last night, but let's not go into that just now! Needless to say, a good chat with Katy was out of the question at that point, so I waited until a little later - once I'd put Rachael to bed and while I was downloading RealPlayer so that Sarah could listen to the radio on the computer - to give her a call back. I still couldn't give Katy my undivided attention, with things to do on the computer and Rachael to check up on, but we managed to confirm approximate arrangements for tomorrow - though I've just looked at my watch and realised it's technically later today, so I'd better get to bed now!

Night night!

Eek, got to go out in half an hour! Guess I'd better get dressed, otherwise Katy might be in for a bit of a shock in a couple of hours' time... Methinks breakfast is going to bite the dust though - but that will mean all the more appetite for lunch later, and I've not had a proper Thai meal for years!

This isn't going to be a long entry, because I really must be heading for bed - especially since tomorrow will see the first of our new and dreaded technology team Monday Morning Meetings at work. "Mmm", acronymically speaking - I think not. But today's been really most pleasant, finding Katy's house without any trouble at all, going for a most delicious Thai lunch at a local pub whose name currently escapes me, then for a healthy stroll around Frensham Great Pond and finally a not-too-hasty sit down and a cuppa before it was time to hit the road home. Oddly, the journey back was slower than the one down there, but I know from experience that Sunday evenings are generally quite busy on the roads near London with all the suits with weekday apartments or hotel rooms pouring back into the capital while it's relatively quiet. Still, I was back soon after nine anyway, a perfectly civilised time - and an hour later, it's time for bed!

The Monday Morning Meeting perhaps wasn't quite as bad as it might have been - indeed it's probably been the highlight of the day so far. There was a healthy amount of cynicism around, especially with regard to one of the more notorious courses I am involved with at the moment. And as expected, it wasn't too long, with our project manager Lara having another regular meeting only an hour after ours. But now we're half way through the afternoon and this "being back at work" lark is taking its toll on me after an early start this morning. OK, so it was no earlier than I got up on several mornings last week while I was at Ali's, but there was no compulsion to do so then really. Oh, and I had nothing in the flat for breakfast this morning - no bread, and the milk's out of date now - so it really was never going to be the best of starts. Needless to say, I plan a trip to Tesco this evening, but thankfully I have one ready meal left in the freezer - chicken in black-bean sauce, no less - so I don't have to dash there before tea! I must also phone Katy at some point of course, but I really don't anticipate a wild evening of distractions from what needs to be done...

Remind me never to leave it until Monday night to go to Tesco - they had almost nothing in as far as fresh produce was concerned! Thankfully my local One-stop convenience store had plenty of milk in, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. However, it did mean I was a bit later than intended phoning Katy back after she called me while I was in Tesco, delayed still further by my deciding it was a good time to give Silver Shield a call having confirmed it was their bad fitting of my windscreen wipers that had damaged my new windscreen. They have promised my local depot will give me a call tomorrow, and hopefully we can arrive at some agreement with regard to either repairing or replacing it. But for now, it's time for me to dive into the bath and to head for my cosy bed!

Today's not being a wildly fascinating day either, but some things no longer particularly surprise. I received my promised phone call from Silver Shield who say they will visit Thursday morning to see what they can do about the damage to my windscreen, and Lara has said I can work from home that morning if I would rather not take it as leave. Having said that, we also discussed the small matter of my outstanding leave entitlement, and she's asked me to ponder moving over to a four-day week for a while. I have to say that sounds quite an attractive idea though I would need to work out which day would be the best to take off as a regular thing - Friday would be hot favourite I think! I really need a proper break from it all for a bit, but the way courses are panning out and getting delayed, even if I could spare the time, it would be next to impossible to schedule it to do anything particularly fruitful with it, so the shortened week option may end up being quite an attractive alternative.

I also had quite a useful meeting with Jon this morning, which we were hoping some members of a new course's team would have come along to, but that aspect has now been postponed until Thursday afternoon. Consequently the main focus this morning was upon the continuing nightmare of a technology course that we have a production meeting for this afternoon, and for which the QA hand-over has been delayed by yet another week thanks to academic dithering. This is one of the modest handful of courses with troublesome spreadsheets - but just because we have now overcome the earlier technical difficulties with Excel and StarOffice's interoperability doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet, thanks to one particular academic's well-meant yet most obstructive persistence. All I can say is that I'm very glad both Jon and Lara should be at this afternoon's production meeting, because I've simply lost track of quite what's happening - and barely care any more - so won't even begin to be able to argue our case.

Oh why is nothing ever as simple as it should be? It's sadly not enough to be able to begin trusting the fairer sex in matters anything more than strictly platonic once again, after so long. I need also to be able to begin to trust myself again too, to have the renewed self-confidence and determination to make the best of my present somewhat promising situation rather than sink into a sea of cynicism. I literally thank God that Katy does understand a good deal of where I'm coming from, but I still feel pretty awful that she's having to be such a guinea-pig for my recovery and to put up with my dramatic mood swings and so on. I really want it to work out - and for the best reasons, I think - but I sometimes feel just so useless. I'm going to go to bed now. Goodnight.

I'm not always too good at putting things into words quite as intended. When I referred in the entry above to my being able to begin trusting women again, I meant that was something I am genuinely finally being able to do now, not just something I forlornly hope for. Sorry for any confusion in that matter!

Today is being OK, though for a number of reasons I've not got done everything I might have liked to so far. Not least due to being waylaid by my colleague Will, finally back at work on a part-time basis after an accident at home early in the year, and inevitably with a lot to catch up with him about. For now though, I had better get on with some groundwork to pave the way for another likely nightmare project I'll be doing later in the year. How very exciting.

For one reason or another I really have had enough today. Almost nothing has gone even remotely to plan. I sincerely hope that tonight's Open House will be as good as Simon is anticipating it will be, because I really don't feel much like going and will be sorely disappointed if it doesn't meet expectations...

Open House was good in the end, I am pleased to say - the main highlights being a most moving and thought-provoking testimony from one of our newest members, and a really good and open time of prayer afterwards. Consequently I wasn't home until gone eleven o'clock last night I don't think, and now I'd really better get to work. Except of course all that really means is getting a CD-R out of my bag and logging on to my email, since I'm working from home this morning - or at least until such time as the windscreen man has been and gone!

Well that was a singularly unproductive morning, spent mainly watching a full surface scan progress bar and the juggling blobs of a defragmentation of my C drive. That's right, the spreadsheets from hell that I brought home with me inflicted their unique brand of evil on to my own computer. Consequently I've not been able to do anything with them that I had intended, merely spend three hours patching up the damage. Oh, and I have a muscular pain under my left shoulder that's caused me to yelp in agony a fair few times in the process, so it's really not been a pleasant time today by any stretch of the imagination. The only redeeming feature of the morning so far has been Mr Silver Shield's visit - which was of course why I was working from home in the first place! He agreed without any convincing at all to replace the windscreen that frankly looked like it had been attacked with a load of sandpaper, the misfitted wiper had done so much damage. Anyway, better dash now, because I've agreed to go for lunch with David, and I'm kind of in the wrong place for that right now!

Now back at work, with a few minutes to spare before a meeting that promises to be somewhat interesting in at least the Chinese sense of the word. This is the meeting that got postponed from Tuesday morning, since when we have received a list of the stuff that the course team want on their CD-ROM. Sadly said list is not exactly grounded in reality, but neither Jon nor I have much clue how to tackle the issues contained. Perhaps in a couple of hours everything will be somewhat clearer, but I have to say I am not particularly optimistic.

Now that really is curious. I wondered where that aforementioned pain in my left shoulder had come from all of a sudden, and wondered if it was some kind of sympathetic thing - I know such things can and do happen. Hmm, and now I gather that a certain someone from my past is suffering from the exact same thing. Make of that what you will - but if it is something supernatural, whose pain is the real pain? Now there's something to think about, eh?

Otherwise, this evening I've been watching The Blues Brothers on DVD, and had clean forgotten what a very good film it was. I guess when I last watched it I really didn't appreciate all too many facets of the plot and the music, but it definitely gets better as one gets older. No time tonight to watch the Blues Brothers 2000 sequel, but I have a horrible feeling I might be a little disappointed when I do so, so I'm not exactly hurrying. Besides, it's bedtime.

Well just in case my pain was sympathetic and supernatural, I've prayed for the other person involved, difficult though that certainly was. Of course, it was mainly in the hope my pain will now go away and I can get a good night's sleep, but also because if God gives us these things it is for a reason...

Hmm, I'm not approaching this with quite the right attitude, am I? Close, but no cigar. God's telling me to pray a heck of a lot more, so I guess I should.

Or perhaps we are both feeling sympathetic pain for someone else yet again?

Or maybe it's all just a coincidence. Still, prayer does no harm.

I can't make up my mind about today. Is it good, is it bad? Do I care? Hmm, maybe I have made my mind up after all..? Normally the end of the week and the onset of the weekend would be a massive relief, but I'm not sure it is this time. Oh, and my shoulder still hurts, and made a lovely creaking noise when I tried moving it a little while ago - but I'm beyond caring about that either.

Perhaps it's the time of the month - assuming blokes are allowed such things too? Or perhaps because it's two days to go until an anniversary of an event I wish I'd never been talked into in the first place - in which case I really wouldn't recommend even trying to speak to me on Sunday. Or perhaps it's something else entirely, a sheer accumulation of everything going on right now.

So, it's sunny Saturday morning, perhaps the last Saturday morning of relative normality for a while, judging by international developments - but more on that depressing situation in a moment. My sentiments from yesterday still stand, but it is still a relief that the week is over, all things taken into account.

An interesting diversion came yesterday afternoon with a presentation being made to my colleague Fiona, who is now off work for a couple of weeks to get married and go on honeymoon - wisely rearranged from their original planned destination of Turkey... All potentially a little poignant for those of us who might have been in the late stages of preparation for such things ourselves, but in the end I could be very happy for Fiona as she undoubtedly does the right thing, and be reminded of my gladness that I was able to be released.

A little earlier in the afternoon I had received a slightly urgent phone call from Sarah on behalf of Margaret, who was having computer troubles. Now, after a long and often frustrating week with computers at work, by rights it should have been the last thing I would want to spend my Friday evening doing, but having had a bite to eat and a half-way decent chat with Katy, I went round to Margaret's to see what had gone wrong. The understanding was actually that if I really didn't feel like sorting it out we could just veg out and natter; I did need the latter to an extent, so we ended up doing both in the end, and consequently it was pretty late by the time I was home. Happily to say, the computer problems seem to have been resolved, with Margaret never having been more delighted to hear the squawking of a successfully connecting modem!

The only downer of the evening was possibly identifying another problem with my car - namely not being at all sure whether my reversing lights are working. I've not been able to confirm one way or the other, but it would seem rather odd if both had failed simultaneously - though I had something not entirely different happen with the brake lights on my Metro, so stranger things can and do happen. I was just rather surprised not to notice any illumination as I backed out of the quite dark lane leading to Margaret's house, but I may have been imagining things, and will seek a second opinion from an external observer later today before deciding what - if anything, obviously! - to do about it.

As for today, I'm enjoying a gentle start to the day, but have been booked up for later to take Rachael out for a little while as has become a semi-regular occurrence. Rachael enjoys the individual attention and relative novelty, Laura appreciates not being pestered by her little sister, Sarah gets much needed relief from Rachael for a couple of hours, and I don't mind having a good excuse to get out in the fresh air - so everyone wins. My only concerns are that it shouldn't become an assumed fixture - that wouldn't be healthy for anyone involved - and that Laura shouldn't feel she's getting a raw deal, but she's getting older and more independent at quite a rapid rate, so I doubt it.

I am finding myself ever more conscious that every time I see my friends could well be the last time before we're at war, with all the uncertainties that this war in particular will bring if it does - as seems pretty much certain - happen. The BBC recently ran an article on how to calm children's fears about war, particularly focusing on reassuring them that it'll all be happening a long way away, with us here in the United Kingdom not being at personal risk. Reassuring as it may be for worried youngsters, it doesn't do much to allay my own fears, as I look beyond my immediate personal safety - though even that may not be quite as secure as I would like to think, especially given hypocritical American plans to use banned chemical or even nuclear weapons themselves with the possibility of escalation that could lead to goodness knows what.

Every day, the messages being sent out by the United States and United Kingdom in particular seem to get more confused and more worrying, with the only common thread being that they are determined that war will happen - even if the outcome of such a war becomes less and less determinate. Headline news this morning was the summit in the Azores which almost every British commentator has referred to as a council of war, with the "and finally" item being that the Iraqi administration has handed over what is claimed to be documentation of the destruction of their previously-unaccounted weapons of mass destruction. Of course this submission has been condemned as "too late" by the USA-UK-Spanish axis more interested in pursuing an illegal war than disarming Iraq and really making the world a safer place for everyone. I could go on about the dodgy pretexts, downright lies and corruption on the so-called "righteous" side of the war-to-come, but they are too lengthy and depressing to waste time sharing when far greater people than I have done so without any effect on policy.

Of course, technically war has already started - indeed it never really stopped from over a decade ago. But a few days ago US and UK air attacks on the Iraqi no-fly zones - established with no UN mandate, don't forget - were stepped up to hit general military targets rather than "merely" those presenting an active threat to the jets or the ethnic minorities nominally being protected by the patrols. Confusion reigned in the Axis regimes, with the US and UK unable to agree on what had changed, but of course flatly denying the war had started, when the evidence on the ground was quite to the contrary. This morning, it has been announced that the United States have been pounding targets with their B1-B long range carpet-bombers; if annihilating one's enemy without a specific threat doesn't count as an act of outright war, I have no idea what does.

All this really is contributing to my current depression I believe. If it was somehow avoidable, it would be more cheering, but there seems no way out of it now - as if there ever was, really. Within a couple of weeks, thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children could well be dead, with thousands more earmarked for murder. As a citizen of a representative democracy, no matter how many pointless demonstrations or whatever one gets involved with, it is impossible to wash one's hands of responsibility for the evil that is surely to come. I voted for Tony Blair, thinking he was the best thing that had happened to Britain for about as long as I could remember. I voted for a likely corrupt premeditating murderer, and my own hands will inevitably be bloodied.

But enough of that - it's high time I was getting up properly, maybe nipping out to make a rare Saturday daytime shopping trip, and generally getting on!

Today's been OK in the end, but I'm quite glad it came to a fairly early end, and I can consequently head off to bed very shortly now I've had a good natter with Katy - we spoke briefly earlier, but it wasn't really possible to have an extended chat! I did indeed do my shopping at Tesco earlier today, and was surprised how bearable it was. The last time I'd been on a Saturday daytime I think was in the run-up to Christmas, when it was utterly horrendous, but today I had no trouble parking, stock levels were high, I barely had to wait at the checkout and there was no-one breathing down my neck as I packed my groceries. That said, I don't intend to make a habit of going at such a peak time, but I had no idea when I was going to arrive home this evening and wanted to leave tomorrow free - and definitely wasn't going to go on a Monday night again!

Anyway, once I'd unloaded my shopping I went to collect Rachael as promised, and was a little surprised to see Margaret's car there. I knew she had planned to pop in later, but not so early. It turned out she'd had a bit of a tough morning and wanted to get out and have some fresh air but wasn't keen to do so alone, so Sarah had suggested she could come out with Rachael and me. That was fine by me, and Margaret was quite happy to go out to the Three Locks as I had intended, for a most pleasant stroll by the canal and a quick drink at the pub. Rachael was quite excited to be able to help with the lock gates for a passing narrowboat, and I think generally had a whale of a time. We stopped off at a park near Margaret's house on the way back, then back to Sarah's for tea, but - as I said - no late nights for anyone, least of all the grown-ups concerned!

So, it's that anniversary. I've observed that it's here, so I cannot exactly ignore it - but I can do my best not to be consumed by it. Need to save that energy for about a month's time, though I am pleased to say I couldn't actually remember the precise date off the top of my head... Well, actually, I'd rather I don't get consumed by it then either, to tell the truth. But anyway, the best therapy for me right now is just to keep busy, have lots of distractions, lots of true friends around me and so on. Consequently I don't think I've ever been as enthusiastic about going to church as I am this morning, and I hope my tentative plans for the rest of the day manage to carry through successfully.

So far so good, with surviving today. Café church this morning was fine, with plenty of people along, then returned here via Sainsburys for lunch with Sarah, Laura and Rachael, for the first time in quite a few weeks. Then out for a quick stroll to let certain youngsters lose some excess energy - which worked absolutely perfectly, with blissful silence all the way while dropping them off back at home afterwards, and Rachael half falling asleep! That done, I went for a walk on my own around Caldecotte Lake, to make the most of the unusually glorious weather, and now here I am back at home with the day's events probably come to a close. So, as I'd hoped, I have managed to keep my chin up today by making sure I spent as much of it as possible in the company of real friends, and now I'm pretty shattered anyway and can happily veg out with a DVD or two!

So far this evening is going to plan, having had a bite to eat - with not much appetite after such a yummy lunch, if I do say so myself - and having watched Blues Brothers 2000 on DVD. Complete load of nonsense, and an insult to the original, but it passed the time and the soundtrack was of course pretty good.

Now, without further ado, it's bedtime - and aaarrggh, it's the Monday Morning Meeting tomorrow, of course. And I was doing so well up until now...

You know, I have no idea how long the feeling will last - let's be optimistic however - but I really do feel I've woken up today as a changed and released individual. All I need is a bit of energy, and the world had better look out, because I feel like making up for lost time! But all this doesn't change the fact that I need to get ready for work, indeed today will see the second of our new Monday Morning Meetings, so I'd better get a move on without further ado.

OK, let me be quite clear, "making up for lost time" most emphatically does not mean I'm getting married in a month's time. Just thought that needed adding just in case anyone got carried away with speculation - or Katy got worried! I had a very sweet email from Jill this morning though, who was one of only a few people I'd directly told about the supposed significance of this weekend just gone, hoping that all was well. I've yet to reply, but of course I will be able to confirm that to be the case, and that I now feel ready to live again properly with renewed gusto. It's not to say all my worries have been swept away, but I definitely feel much better now this emotional landmark has passed.

Today's otherwise been a so-so day, with what Mark describes as my Excelphobia rearing its head again this afternoon as I had one last look at a couple of spreadsheets before I make a hopefully final CD-R tomorrow morning. I think they're OK now, which is why I'm taking a breather for a few minutes! This morning's meeting was again actually reasonably good, and with very little for most of us to say, it was over in record time. The other notable thing today was getting a slightly panicked phone-call from my sister, getting in a knot trying to set up unmetered internet access, but we got there in the end, and apart from fine-tuning her email I think everything is now working perfectly!

Hey, all being well, I've finally seen the back of Block 2 of this particularly troublesome Technology course I've been largely concentrating on lately. There are two more blocks to go, but their software components are expected to be minimal so there shouldn't be a lot of work involved. Consequently, I'm really and truly "over the hump" with this course's software, even if there's not much promise of anything a whole lot more inspirational for the foreseeable future. I said "all being well", because one of the academics has a proven track record of being obstructive and argumentative; his motivation may be honourable, but the end result isn't at all helpful. Hopefully the fact that in the release notes for this final version I made it clear that only bug fixes would be resolved should be enough to lay this particular CD-ROM to well-deserved rest.

Anyway, there's not much longer to go today until I can head home. Hopefully I'll get a chance to chat with Katy this evening, before I head out for a beer with Rich. He says he's got what might be a prophetic word for me, and could do with a night out anyway, so why not... I had a bit of a headache earlier, but that seems to have gone away now, so hopefully I can enjoy this evening - I could certainly do with a relaxed evening out too! - and make the most of what Rich has to say. I have to remember that a true word will come from God and not from Rich, but they're both people I've come to trust more than ever over recent months - and whatever it is God wants to tell me, and that Rich feels it is right that he relays to me, I am sure it's going to be worth listening to.

And so, on that distant desert stage, the scene is set for war. As we speak, brave pilots are probably being briefed on their first sorties, by all accounts now expected to take place on Friday. Diplomacy and common sense have failed. There is no point dredging up the past now, because the decisions have now been made, and the only hope now is that history shall judge these warmongers for what they are. Yes, there is still a chance to avoid conflict, but the Axis deliberately chose to repeat a demand Saddam Hussein had already categorically rejected, as the linchpin of their clearly doomed ultimatum. They could have demanded immediate full disarmament and disclosure - as massive progress had been made towards in the last months, and might have been possible even within the same timescale - but instead chose the impossible and already-rejected option. The threat of war may well have helped get to the point where Saddam made his recent substantial concessions, but now he has no motivation at all to comply further, taking it as read that he won't leave Iraq. The only logical conclusion is that the Axis never really wanted him to disarm at all, that all these (obstructed) inspections, (edited) dossiers, (faked) intelligence and everything else were just a smokescreen to provide a shaky legitimacy to unspeakable evil perpetrated in the name of these wonderful western values of freedom and democracy. With a liberal splash of imperialism, of course.

Now this evening the BBC are reporting that even if Saddam Hussein leaves Iraq to comply with the Axis's demands, Iraq will still be attacked anyway. Really, what is the point in Saddam doing anything at all to cooperate? He knows his time is up - but if he's going to go out, he might as well do so in style now.

Hmm, well my trip out to the Proud Perch with Rich yesterday evening ended up being "merely" a social affair, and he said his word for me could wait until another time. That side of things wasn't exactly helped by running a bit later than expected, and soon being joined by Shona and a German friend staying with them. But it was good to get out and to share quality time with friends, though obviously I couldn't have too much to drink seeing as I was doing the driving!

Considering everything else going on in the world, I've actually had a good day today. Work has been both interesting and productive - something I have to say really doesn't happen that often. I've mainly spent it effectively customising Internet Explorer, to make it more suitable for use as a generic application launch platform - specifically to get rid of all the dire warning messages it floods the user with should they dare to click on a perfectly safe executable file link. Then I created a sample launcher "site" to make use of the features I had included, which wasn't quite as interesting, but still rewarding because it proved that what I was doing was potentially useful and therefore worthy of putting a few more days' effort into. There are still a fair few tricky bits to tackle - such as handling potentially varying CD-ROM drive letters - but I'm up for a challenge when the end product is actually going to be useful. I'd forgotten quite how ugly and cobbled-together a language C++ was though!

As for everything else today, well we hear that the war "proper" has started this evening, after weeks of build-up and intensifying non-combative military action. I have said quite enough on the few rights and innumerable wrongs of all this, but one thing I haven't expressed is my total support for the brave men and women out there - on both sides of the conflict. Some would consider American and British forces complicit in the undoubted crime being committed, but now is not the time to be finger-pointing in this way. Instead I simply hope and pray that they can do what needs to be done as quickly, efficiently and humanely as they possibly can, to get this unfortunate chapter over and done with, and return home to their families where they belong. No soldier can be surprised to be called into action sometime in their career, but they can only hope to be fighting a just war when they do so; it's not their fault that their honourable intention was hijacked by Bush and Blair's warmongering.

Today's OK, carrying on where I left off yesterday, really, as far as this web browser thing is concerned. I've now managed to make the software redirect to a specifiable CD-ROM drive for certain resources if need be, and generally behave in a nicely generic manner. There's still a fair bit of stuff to be done behind the scenes I'm sure - such as detecting when a required CD-ROM is not inserted, and so on. However, as a proof of concept I think it's basically there now, and Jon's looking forward to having a good look at it on Monday to determine whether it's as suitable for the intended task as I hope it will be!

What about everything else in my life? I spent yesterday evening at home, but had plenty to do, so it was hardly relaxing. In particular, I updated Gareth's Top Dog website as he had requested, and pulled together what proof of identity I will need when I visit Lloyds Bank tomorrow to sort out my being a signatory to the church account. I'm also going to need to visit the Halifax and the post office to sort out various things. Katy is arriving later in the day and will be staying overnight at a friend's house, so I'll need to do my main food shopping tonight, especially since I'm going to be cooking tomorrow evening!

Thank Crunchie it's Friday. And three minutes 'til hometime on Friday, come to that. Although this week has ended quite positively, it's still a major relief!

This evening I've mainly spent on the phone to Katy and doing my shopping at Tesco. Now I'm enjoying a lovely glass of white wine, and will soon head for bed - via a bath, methinks - with a busy day coming up tomorrow as you know! I'm looking forward to it though - especially the latter part, needless to say!

Thank you Mr Postman for rousing me from my early Saturday morning slumbers. I had been genuinely hoping for a CD I'd ordered earlier in the week; instead you dropped over five hundred pounds' worth of bills on my doormat - though it wasn't your fault I know, not wishing to shoot the messenger...

But it's time I was getting up now anyway, with this busy day ahead!

OK, I've been to and am now back from the city centre, my three missions fully accomplished. Lloyds tried admirably hard not to process the signatory change form, being based in cramped temporary accommodation while their main branch is refurbished, with staff who hadn't got much of a clue what to do with it, and a distinctly elusive photocopier. We got there in the end though, and the other bits I needed to do - namely re-taxing my car and topping up my ISA before the imminent end of this tax year - went smoothly enough although the Halifax have talked me into having another savings review, deeming that a year and a half is far too long since my last one. Surely if banks and building societies simply offered the best rates they could on a sensible range of accounts, it would be a lot simpler for everyone? Instead they continually introduce new and even more complicated accounts, obviously trying to compete with the mobile phone companies for the Most Needlessly Complex Product Range Of The Year award.

But anyway, all that's dealt with for the moment, and I have a few hours before Katy is due to arrive, during which time I shall make at least a reasonable attempt to tidy and clean this flat a bit. It's not too bad actually - having blitzed it last weekend - but there's always room for improvement, and there's rather more washing up accumulated than I would really like to be the case!

Despite sleeping long and well last night, I'm still rather struggling to stay awake today - I guess simply a reflection on quite a busy, though thankfully not too rushed, weekend just gone. Everything went pretty much to plan from start to finish, with the weather remaining glorious throughout so we were able to spend plenty of time out and about enjoying the spring sunshine!

Katy arrived a little earlier than expected on Saturday afternoon after a very straightforward journey, and wanting to stretch her legs after that, we took a stroll around the block before I prepared tea for us both. Katy had asked before if I might cook my famous and popular chicken and pasta, so not wishing to disappoint, that was exactly what I decided to do, although with a few extra ingredients that some of its usual recipients would turn their small noses up at. No room for dessert though, and I still have a mound of pasta I ought to do something with this evening if I'm going to do anything with it at all.

After tea it was time to head round to Simon and Jam's house in Bletchley to watch Signs on DVD - briefly popping in on the way to see Margaret, at whose house Katy was to spend the night. The film was reasonably good - all very interesting, but seemed to be making a point without ever really being clear exactly what it was - but above all the evening offered a perfect opportunity for Katy to meet and get to know a few of my friends in a totally relaxed environment. We didn't leave Simon and Jam's too late though, not wishing to disturb Margaret, and needing to be up in good time on Sunday morning anyway.

So Sunday I was up bright and early, leaving in good time in order to have a chance to pick Katy up from Margaret's with a little more than the briefest of flying visits, and still arrive at Denbigh School soon after nine in order to set up and play in the worship band. It wasn't exactly ideal for Katy, with most people there so early being quite occupied in setting things up and so on for the meeting in a little over an hour's time, but I got the impression quite a few people were able to spare the time to chat with her anyway, which was good. The meeting itself went fairly well, and certainly the worship was a success - and I'm not just saying that, because it's not always the case.

Then, not feeling like Indian or Chinese for lunch - a bit of a pity given that Sunday is probably the best day for good value oriental food in Milton Keynes - we decided to go to Ask, which was a perfectly good alternative, and with Katy having recently slightly relaxed her diet forbidding dairy and wheat products, pizza went down very happily indeed as an occasional treat! Ask pizzas are not big, but the quality is exceptional and the value for money pretty reasonable, so theirs is a restaurant I am always very happy to go to if not ravenous.

That did demand some exercise, though, but with the weather as gorgeous as it was, that was no great hardship. Finding somewhere to park at Willen Lake proved to be a bit of a challenge, but we found a space in the end, and of course the lake-side path was just as crowded! It must have been the warmest day of the year so far, because it seemed like about half of Milton Keynes was there... Amazingly though, we didn't bump into anyone I knew while we were out, although we were thwarted at the last, finding Nigel and Kristina from my old church parking up just a couple of spaces down from us when we got back to the car. It was just so lovely out, so being in no great hurry we went round both of the lakes there, with the particular attraction that the more distant northern lake was likely to be a little less heaving with people!

Katy had pondered going to a late afternoon meeting back in Farnham, but had already submitted her contribution so wasn't particularly fussed about getting home too early - though didn't want to leave too late, knowing how busy the motorways get on Sunday evenings with all the suits piling back into London for the week. But that left enough time to watch another DVD, this time going for Monsters, Inc., which I'd not watched for a while and Katy had never seen. Not quite as scary as Signs, it has to be said, but that's no real surprise, is it?

But by then it was about time Katy was on her way home, and she didn't manage to completely avoid the traffic, the section of the M25 around Heathrow being particularly busy. Altogether though, it was a lovely weekend in every way, and a great opportunity for Katy to meet some of my key friends up here and for us to spend some quality time together without ever feeling over-pressured. As far as the friend-meeting bit was concerned, there are still a fair few to go - including Sarah and family, in due course - and some of those Katy has met I would quite like her to get to know better, but there's no hurry and I know from my own experience what it's like to be bombarded with too many new faces in too short a period of time! As for when we get to meet next, I'm not sure - and we still don't know where this is going in the longer term - but every time we get together, I feel increasingly happy with what God's given me right now.

Considering how tired I spent most of the day being yesterday, I really didn't sleep at all well last night, so am not expecting today to be much - if any - better. Yesterday evening was quite good though, with Darren phoning me just as I was working out what to have for tea - having found Saturday evening's pasta to be just a little unappetising two days later - solving the problem by suggesting we went out for a pizza. OK, so that's two pizzas in two days, but apart from the name, you can't get more different than Ask and Pizza Hut - and it was a few weeks since we'd last done so, with lots of news to catch up on!

Katy phoned while we were out, but I agreed to phone her back once I was home again, and thankfully we weren't late finishing at Pizza Hut, so I was able to catch her before she headed off to bed. I felt very tired myself by then but had a hunch at that point that sleep might not be very easy to attain, so flopped down in front of Starship Troopers, which Tim had lent me on DVD. Not the best film ever, though I had seen it before a couple of times so knew it wasn't too atrocious, and it did help me get to sleep I think - even though I had to get up half way through to turn over - yes, turn over! - the disc...

I feel I've hit a point of no return this week, one of those times it's lucky there are no lethal objects easily to hand in this office. It's not the past; it's the present and the future that are just getting to me - a feeling of utter hopelessness and helplessness, of being in too deep and unable to swim. Just one of those days where absolutely nothing has gone to plan, and that I cannot see as being just a one-off with better things just round the corner because there aren't, and there won't be for the foreseeable future. And the trouble is, although come 5.30 of an evening I have necessarily become pretty good at "switching off" from work stuff for the evening, days like this leave me so drained and miserable that there's simply no way I can enjoy my own time. I can sense myself heading for a major crash this week, and I'm in freefall.

And to cap it all, I've had the evening from hell and am right ready just to say "stuff it" to everything, and go and become a monk or something.

I'm not sure what Katy would think if I removed any more hair from my head than nature has already done, so perhaps that's not the best idea right now. This evening has ended on a slightly higher note, thanks to the powerful combination of Katy, Mum, Dido and a reasonable quantity of wine, all of whom and which are lovely in their own special ways. Off to bed imminently though, nonetheless, and I won't be too sorry to consign today to the dustbin of forgotten history.

Today started a bit better, but it's rapidly heading for the u-bend already.

A lunchtime walk improved things somewhat, but I practically had to be dragged out on it. But now it's back to the grind, with - yes, you guessed it - more faffing with spreadsheets to be done. I am a programmer. Please remember that when I stuff the next spreadsheet I see down its original developer's throat.

I currently have a sticky label on the main display area of my monitor, with an arrow on it. It indicates the width of an 800-by-600 pixel window. Part of my earlier fun and games was trying to cram a sprawling Excel spreadsheet into such a constrained area, and I got fed up with people asking why I was running my lovely 22" screen at such a hideous resolution, as if it was by choice. Of course, it all went a bit Pete Tong when I tried to convert the spreadsheet in question into StarOffice format, but I really am somewhat beyond caring now.

Perhaps I can relax at least a little this evening - because I certainly need it, even though I only spent a couple of hours at work today in the end.

Let's go back to yesterday evening for the moment, though, which was way more hectic than it ever should have been. On Tuesday evening I had tried to tackle the church accounts thus far, but had been so depressed by the whole thing that I couldn't do everything that I wanted, so I had to cram finishing that off into yesterday evening along with Open House. It was hardly a surprise that I needed so much praying for at the end of the gathering, with the only reason I didn't follow yesterday down the u-bend was because there was too much stuck down there already... And I still had those church accounts to finish upon my return home, when all I wanted to do was head to bed as soon as possible.

So it wasn't a lot of fun having to be up at seven o'clock this morning, in order to be round at Sarah's before eight to take Laura up to a hospital appointment in Northampton. It all went fine, thankfully, and I think they saw Laura a little ahead of schedule which was just as well since we were quite early having allowed time for heavy traffic which never really materialised. Consequently we were back in Milton Keynes long before I needed to return to work, so I suggested we spent the time usefully in clearing Sarah's garden of a load of branches, clippings and whatnot after a recent overhaul. That meant stopping to get some sacks from Tesco and then making a couple of trips to the dump later, by which time it really was time I was heading to work. However the day was just way too glorious to hurry, so we nipped over the road to the shop and bought a few lunch bits and had a picnic in the garden. If I'd had Lara's number to hand I might well have phoned to say I wouldn't be at work at all, but there was stuff I needed to do, so I did gently toddle in after that.

I timed it just right getting in to work though, arriving seconds after a phone call from my least favourite academic - and I was rather cross that he had been hassling my colleagues Tim and Sam earlier in the day. Yes, in this case I had made a slight mistake, in not sending him the very latest copy of his infernal spreadsheets, but given that the last lot took a week to reach him he probably wouldn't have got them yet even if I had. I am sure he won't be happy with the latest spreadsheets as emailed to him, but he's impossible to please - and if he says they are unsatisfactory I will agree and offer to redevelop them as proper applications in Java. He'll really love that, I am sure. Ooh, evil me.

But anyway, now I'm home and have basically nothing to do, and that's great - really! It's just a shame Katy is out for most of this evening, but perhaps she'll be home at a reasonable hour and we can catch up later. It's been really encouraging hearing people's feedback from last weekend, when Katy made her extended visit. OK, so at the end of the day only what Katy and I think really matters, but everyone I've talked to has been really positive about it all and that really helps reassure me as I currently am - and knowing my history, I don't think these people would be sharing what they did if they didn't really mean it. Other positive tell-tale signs have appeared during this week, indicating Katy to be someone who will allow me to have "off days" from time to time - unlike some in the past who expected me to be a perfect pillar of strength 24/7 - and I quite often need that understanding right now!

Oh, I should point out to anyone concerned about the multiple gouges to my arms, they were not the result of any kind of self-harm attempt, but simply some nasty sharp thorns amongst the stuff taken to the dump this afternoon - not that I noticed too much at the time... Life's not that bad, you know!

Loads of messages from Least Favourite Academic in my email inbox this morning, but I'm quietly ignoring them for the time being - as is Jon, my colleague and most direct overseer on this stuff, I'm pleased to say. Needless to say, my prophetic skills are improving, because the emails in question were indeed finding continued fault with stuff that as far as I know has now all but gone out of the door and to which any further changes will have to be made over my lifeless body. Or at least my notice of resignation, more realistically.

Mind you, he's found a contender for his title of Least Favourite Academic in the form of one of his colleagues writing another technology course, who seems determined to sidestep our department and in particular quality assurance as much as he can. If you can imagine the relationship between George Bush and the United Nations right now, you would just about have this bloke's attitude to a tee. I can appreciate his frustration at not always being able to get his wicked way, but the manner in which he has decided to resolve it is all wrong.

But anyway, the weekend is three quarters of an hour away, so who cares?

Hooray, it is indeed now the weekend - and about flippin' time too, it has to be said. This is one week I will - on the whole - forget as quickly as I can! Nothing much on the agenda tonight, except for the obligatory trip to Tesco, and I am sure a lovely relaxed chat on the phone with Katy at some point...

Tesco trip: done, and they had everything I wanted in stock, unusually!
Phone call to Katy: done - though she phoned me first, admittedly!
Card and well-wishing messages to Ben: done and posted - brrr, it was cold out!
Going to bed: about to be done very shortly indeed...

Grrr, awake far too early for a Saturday, once again. Not helped in the least by the postman taking ages to noisily deliver one crumpled letter for a long departed previous tenant. Then three emails in my inbox - and all three of them were malicious "worms", and old ones at that... Clearly nothing changes.

Think I'll go back to bed for a bit now.

Up and about now - or pretty much - having had a suitably restful morning! Had some brunch of sorts, and will be off to Sarah's shortly to collect Rachael for a healthy afternoon out somewhere. I'm not yet quite sure where we'll go, but at least the weather seems reasonable still - if not a patch on the balmy days we've had for the last week - so hopefully we can be out long enough to provide Sarah with the undisturbed rest she so desperately needs right now.

Well that wasn't a terribly good evening, it has to be said. Sarah sometimes suggests that by the time I have children of my own I will be an excellent and experienced parent, but after evenings like this one I could very easily be put off the idea for life. The afternoon went well enough, with Rachael wanting to go to the canal again - which was fine by me - and she mostly behaved herself. Laura however was jealous, even though I am sure she wouldn't have appreciated the same kind of attention as Rachael was getting, and upon our return, things became uglier and uglier, with the all too common "always" and "never" words being bandied around increasingly tearfully. Thankfully we didn't have to take Rachael to casualty with a pair of hairdressing scissors embedded in her neck, but it was a close-run thing - though thankfully apologies seemed to have been offered and accepted by the time I left. Rather distressing to all, though.

I can't say I'm especially looking forward to going back tomorrow evening for tea, but I had promised, and Sarah is most insistent that my input does help.

It's eleven o'clock on Sunday morning, so I'm feeling a bit degenerate having not yet got up properly - and Katy no doubt being at church by now. But on the other hand I could protest it's really only ten o'clock, thanks to the change to BST in the small hours of this morning. However, it's a lovely sunny day, and having not managed quite as much of a walk yesterday as I would really have liked, perhaps I'll get a move on now and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts!

Went out for my walk as planned, and what a lovely day it has been - so much for the warm spell ending this weekend! OK, so yesterday wasn't as sunny, but today's been glorious again. The only downer is that I think the hayfever season has now started, so it's just as well I bought some Beconase on Friday! Anyway, I decided to do something a little different for my walk, following my walking-to-work route, but going round the north side of the university instead of going into the office of course, and then following the river to Caldecotte Lake, round there and back home. About two hours altogether, and the sun shone all the way. But now it's time to trim my hair - it's got annoying again all too quickly - have a bath and psych myself up for going back to Sarah's later.

Before this morning's technology team meeting I asked Lara if she'd had a good weekend, and she wasn't sure; it had passed by barely noticed. I can certainly relate to that, not really believing I'm back at work already either. Not to say that it wasn't a reasonably busy and productive weekend, but where was the much needed "R and R" in that? Still, yesterday afternoon and evening round at Sarah's turned out to be OK, helped immensely by talking to Katy no less than three times during the course of the day, surely an all-time record?! Compared with Saturday there was a definite peace in the household. It wasn't perfect, but it was a marked improvement nonetheless and not to be underestimated.

But now that's all over anyway, and hopefully I can now get on with the Java microprocessor simulation I intend to focus on for the next few weeks. But although I hope, I'm not that hopeful, with previous string-measuring projects still lurking and their impossible-to-please academics snapping at my heels. But they've had a more than ample opportunity, and not made the best of it; it's someone else's turn now, so tough. Well, that's the theory anyway. The practice will probably be that I'll simply have to work triple hard for the next month and do my head in even more than it's been already, thanks to them.

Talking to Katy on the phone this evening, she was a little curious about the Iraq Body Count banner that appeared on my website today. She wasn't being at all critical, though it is perhaps a little morbid - but war's like that, isn't it? Just because it's out of sight doesn't mean it should be out of mind too, but despite wall-to-wall television coverage - mainly speculation really - it largely remains so. I will continue to support our brave and loyal troops and pilots in what they have been commanded to do, but let's not forget the true and totally involuntary victims of this utter tragedy, with at least 453 known to have been "liberated" already at the time of writing this.

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