goznet ...

David's diary: September 2003

Monday morning, a new month, and I wish I could be bouncily enthusiastic about the day ahead. Still, could be worse; in twelve hours' time it'll all be over.

Quite a bit less than twelve hours' time, in the end. It was better than I expected, but still not brilliant. The main part of the day was taken up with Laura's birthday party, which after the previous evening's experiences, I was most reluctant to go to. However, I had promised to do some shopping and to supply and operate the barbecue so I really had little choice. It didn't get off to a good start, unhelped by my cynicism despite trying to very hard to go with the right attitude, but things settled down a little and on the whole it went smoothly and I think more or less everyone had a good time. I say more or less everyone because there were some who were actively determined to have a bad time of it and succeeded, but they were in a decided minority. Working the barbecue allowed me to keep myself occupied, which I am sure was for the best!

Thankfully though it had all finished by quite early, what with the most of the schools here starting back today, so having helped Sarah sort things out a bit once most people had gone, I was able to head back home in time to give Katy a call before thinking about getting some sleep. Slept like a log too, happily!

Had a good evening this evening. Astronomy is definitely better than kids - well, for the time being at least. Tonight was the first full meeting of the OU Astronomy Club after the summer recess; you will of course recall that we had some less official gatherings last week to mark the Mars "close approach". But tonight we were safely indoors, and enjoyed an excellent lecture on chaos in the solar system, a splendid mixture of history, practical demonstrations and a bit of speculative science for good measure. But like so many things in the field, chaotic as our neck of the woods may well be, we're safe because Mr Lyapunov's theorems predict that the solar system will be essentially stable for longer than the Sun is expected to last. Not to say that the odd meteorite mightn't spoil the day for us - and they're in the news again - but even if humanity gets wiped out, it might not be the end of the world entirely...

That was an interesting evening. First of all I went for what turned out to be quite a long walk, checking out a reasonably pleasant route from here to Willen Lake. Sarah had recently asked how far it was and I wasn't at all sure, and suspected the intermediate parts of Milton Keynes to be rather dull, but then I remembered there's a perfectly good river that only takes a slight detour to reach, and in the end I was there and back in a little over two hours. Too far to go with the kids really, but it might be fun on bikes sometime. Oh, and I met my friend Alan from my old church, which was a nice surprise, and we had a good natter before he decided to walk round only the south lake while I went on to do the whole lot. On arriving back home I scored my lowest diastolic blood pressure yet, although I am a little bit suspicious about 115/60 I have to say.

But then, after having a short chat on the phone with Katy, freshening up and having a bite to eat, it was time to go to our first Open House meeting of the autumn, a social at the Enigma pub in Bletchley - named for hopefully obvious reasons. On arriving, we saw a PA set-up and feared that there was to be a disco or something, but instead they said there would be a quiz. Oh well, that would provide a bit of a distraction for the evening perhaps, and the entry fee was only a pound per bingo-style score sheet. I eventually gave in and agreed to team up with Sarah, and incredibly we won one of the general knowledge rounds and even more amazingly very nearly won the 80's music round. OK, so it was only a couple of quid we got back, not even quite enough to cover our next round of drinks, but it was fun. But it was afterwards that things all started not exactly going to plan, with Simon and me in particular being singled out as a bit good, and by the end of the night we had somehow been talked into perhaps setting up a "B-team" for the pub in the local quiz league. Nothing's been decided yet though, and we've been invited to come along and see what happens at one of these more serious quiz events before committing ourselves. I have to say I am in two minds about it all, and it was certainly not in the least what I had in mind when I went out tonight for a quiet drink with some of my church friends, but it's certainly rather nice to be appreciated like that!

After a late night last night, today's starting suitably slowly. But I really must tackle tidying this flat once again, which will take a couple of hours at a guess. I haven't completely wasted my time this morning, though, having received an email a few days ago with a technical query about a rather ancient Roland drum machine I have - but that I had to search for in my least favourite wardrobe before plugging it in to see what I could do to help the guy. I don't know yet whether my experiments will have solved the technical problems he was experiencing, but here's hoping. Annoyingly though, I was hoping that I might have stumbled across my missing Roland power supply while looking for the drum machine. That's the power supply that my friend Tim - who has now emigrated to Canada - swears blind I didn't lend to him when I loaned him a keyboard a while back, even though I would swear equally blind that I wouldn't have considered doing so without including a suitable power supply, for fairly obvious reasons! Oh well, it's hardly a major crisis thing, but a bit annoying nonetheless.

I'd planned on going for a stroll this evening once I had finished talking with Katy on the phone, but then Mum phoned and the darkness fell all too quickly, especially once I had done the hoovering, so it never happened. Never mind - I had a very good walk yesterday evening and I've done a fair amount today anyway so I don't feel too degenerate. And I'm sure I'll get out tomorrow sometime and get at least a couple of nice walks in at the weekend with Katy, amidst the other things we have tentatively planned. Things are still hanging in the air, but hopefully some friend-visiting and some canal-boating will come into it!

Managed my best lie-in of my holiday so far this morning, so it was no surprise that I didn't really do a lot until the afternoon. That was mainly spent going through some "old" emails that I had meant to reply to some time ago, mainly with relation to my WaveCraft sound synthesis software. The main one was from an American guy - who just happens to go to a Vineyard church like I do - and wanted the "API" to the system so he could have it running as a resource on his music server. Now the software is well over seven years old and going nowhere much now really, so I have no qualms about giving out what would once have been sensitive secrets if people ask nicely and the lifetime of the system can be extended a bit. It took a bit of effort to get it all down in writing, but I got there in the end and hopefully he can make good use of it! Then I walked out to Tesco to do my weekly shop - realising that if I didn't I might have to fast for another day, having not eaten anything today before tea-time - and have spent much of the rest of the evening on the phone with Katy, generally chatting, and scheming and plotting our weekend ahead in a little more detail!

Time for a quick bath before Katy gets here? I'd have thought so!

A decidedly mixed - and certainly "interesting" - day. Some ways one I hope always to remember, other ways one I'd be glad to forget. But now I am under instructions to try and get a good night's sleep, so that is what I shall do.

I didn't. I probably dozed a bit during the "small hours", but doubt I managed more than three or four hours of quality sleep, which wasn't remotely enough to get me through today without starting to nod off on several occasions. Katy and I had quite an active day today, too, going out for a walk along the river from near Wolverton before adjourning to the Moghul Palace in Stony Stratford for an excellent buffet Indian lunch. Then up to Stoke Bruerne to exorcise any bad feelings about canals from yesterday before finally coming back here for a game of Scrabble and to synchronise diaries for the next month or so. Katy's gone now, but only in body! Probably just as well because I really am not up for a remotely late night tonight, with far too much sleep to catch up with!

As for yesterday, Katy and I have received an apology for what happened, and I'll leave it at that except to say that going on to visit our friends Richard and Shona for a couple of hours turned out to be just the tonic we needed!

Amidst all the turmoil I said something to Katy yesterday evening that I've not been able to say to anyone for about eighteen months. Indeed, something that I never knew for sure I would be able to say again after some of the things I've been though. The realisation and expression of mutual trust and confidence - that I knew existed but had never perhaps had confirmed so graphically - had an awful lot to do with it, I'm sure. That it took a crisis to bring it to the surface is perhaps a little sad, but maybe that's just the way it was to be. I'm not always the best at speaking my mind, and perhaps it was necessary for me to feel as broken as I did last night to speak the truth to Katy. And now that the truth has been spoken, I have to say a weight is off my chest, and I can truly now contemplate a future instead of dwell on the past. I love Katy.

Woo, slept a bit last night. Unsettled - though not in any particularly bad way - so I don't feel totally refreshed this morning, but could have been a whole lot worse! Nothing much planned for the day, so I can take it easy. There is a worship group "practice" tonight, but I don't think I'll be going.

Ooh, got a questionnaire from the Halifax this morning, with the chance to win a short break for two in Europe. Sounds good. Thankfully it doesn't require the questions to be answered in order to enter, because although disguised as one of those "help us help you better" things, every single question is geared to them sending me some item of junk mail or whatever. Now if they actually sent me a real questionnaire about how they can help me better - like arranging for a financial adviser to visit me, rather than me pay out more than he's likely to save me in order to visit him at a time of my inconvenience, or just letting me sign a box saying "just stick the money where it works best, I'll let you know when my circumstances change" - I might actually play their game. But the holiday would be nice, so perhaps I'll pop the uncompleted form back into the envelope anyway. And have a good moan at Sheldon or whatever his name is next time he phones to ask why I haven't yet forfeited a day's wages - plus car parking - to go and talk to him so he can save me a fiver or two per year, or at least until their next range of incompatible services gets launched in a couple of months' time so we have to go through the whole cycle all over again.

I felt guilty, and went for a brisk walk so I could at least claim to have done something constructive with my day. Just to and round the lake, but I was out for an hour and a half, so it was reasonably healthy. As will be the pizza and garlic bread I plan to have imminently - at least with some salad, anyway...

Pizza and garlic bread were more scrummy than healthy, perhaps. Though the accompanying salad was good, and I've been munching cherry tomatoes on and off during the day, which can't be too bad for me surely? Had a good natter on the phone with Katy this evening, and the sentiments we expressed over the weekend are holding true, which is good and not in the least bit surprising - at least when I'm rational about it all anyway! Pondering a longish bath followed by an early night right now, though. Better go run the former, I guess.

Slept quite well, and certainly needed it. No breakfast yet this morning, but going out to Westcroft in a few minutes to have buffet pizza with Darren for the first time in years - literally, at least in the buffet regard anyway - so am merely saving tummy space! The Pizza Hut there used to run an extra buffet on a Monday evening, which was the origin of our going out on Mondays as a bit of a tradition, but a couple of years back they fell in line with nationwide company policy and started serving the buffet only at weekday lunchtimes. Our tradition stuck for a long time, nevertheless, but has lapsed a lot over the last year or so. Today though, with us both off work, we can regress a little!

Pizza - and somewhat healthier breadsticks and salad - consumed, respective lives caught up with, and those of us without dodgy feet went for a good walk round Furzton Lake that might have just about worked off that last slice of pizza... Now back at home, and feeling really quite exhausted once again.

Blood pressure's high though, even despite that walk. In fact, it's the highest it's been for almost a month. I think I should heed such signs.

In fact I'm generally not very well today I don't think. I feel hot when I should feel cold, cold when I should feel hot, and my throat ached even before I spent an hour on the phone with Katy and then with my dad. So looking on the bright side, perhaps my heightened blood pressure is just another symptom of that rather than anything more concerning, but I'm no expert in these things.

Feeling much better today! My body temperature and my throat seem reasonably normal and my blood pressure has stabilised to something sensible again. I should be fine for going out for a walk with Sarah later, as provisionally agreed a couple of days ago, though the weather looks unusually iffy now!

Funny old day today, but it's over now and I feel justifiably shattered. In the end I went round to Sarah's a bit earlier to give some moral and practical support with the housework, and in other regards too it turned out. Then we went out shopping for a few bits and pieces, not the least of which was a tape for her answering machine, but the machine turned out to be faulty so it's now in my possession to see if I can work out what's wrong with it! It was bought from a charity shop so there's no guarantee or anything. All very annoying, and the tape cost a bit more than I was anticipating. But by then it had started raining and our plans to go for a walk started looking a bit tenuous, but having collected Rachael from school we decided we'd go anyway, and it was good to get some fresh air and Rachael had the excitement of going birdwatching with her binoculars so tantrums were thankfully minimal. But not an entirely easy time, and things became quite awkward back at Sarah's afterwards, with Laura having friends round and getting over-excited at Rachael's expense, and me feeling utterly powerless to support Sarah as she tried to lay down the law. No, they're not my kids, and ultimately not my problem - thank goodness - but I hate feeling useless, and I did this evening. But thankfully I wasn't staying for tea this time - chicken in black bean sauce was a decidedly more tempting proposition than pasta and tomato sauce - so was able to make my escape. Open House was good, the first one of the new term, and Shona and I were in charge of leading worship, with Richard needing to work late. The "main event" though was Jam's testimony which was very interesting and challenging, though it went on quite a long time so we didn't really get a chance to do anything more. Now though I am relaxing with a glass of wine and suspecting I ought to go to bed soon, although apart from tinkering with answering machines I don't think I've got a great deal happening tomorrow. Unlike Friday, but that's another day!

Well hopefully I have now repaired Sarah's answering machine. There's still a remaining issue with it having excessive amnesia upon disconnecting the mains, but I wonder if there is just a capacitor or something that needs to get well charged because I think it was a bit better the last time I power-cycled it. Anyway, the original problem was that the mechanical clutch that determines the tape direction and engages the head was jammed. That explained why it was so difficult to get the tape in and out, and why it refused to rewind. Having manually dislodged the mechanism and added a few spots of light oil, everything seems much happier - and if it goes wrong again, I'll know what to do about it!

Today's my brother's birthday. His fiancée is currently in hospital recovering from major surgery, though apparently things are going quite well, even if it's likely to be a long haul. It's also of course the second anniversary of the terrorist atrocities in America, but most people seem to have forgotten about them now. Perhaps in a few years' time my brother can reclaim his birthday!

So far so good regarding the answering machine's earlier amnesia, by the way...

However, there is a slightly disturbing "fluttering" sound when a message has been played back a couple of times. It perhaps has a more noticeable effect on the outgoing message, since that by necessity is played repeatedly - although the degradation appears to tail off such that it doesn't continue to worsen indefinitely, so it may well be something that Sarah will be able to tolerate.

Been and done my shopping since I'm not likely to get another chance until Sunday or even Monday, possibly... Pondered going out to our local "broadband action group" gathering at a nearby pub, but figured I'm not that desperate. Quite happy having a quiet evening in and an early night since I need to be up in quite good time tomorrow morning, and I am sure there will be other chances should I suddenly find that I crave illegally downloaded music. Tea was mature Stilton, rye crackers and Shiraz in the end. It's a good thing that the theory that cheese induces nightmares is now officially urban myth. Apparently if anything it actually promotes more relaxed sleep! Mmm... Cheese, Gromit!

Just a pity it makes me fat.

Something's got out of sync somehow, because I've just spent a weekend with Katy and it's only Saturday night! Hmm, maybe it was something to do with me going down to Farnham on Friday morning for a change... Back home now though, and it's been a good couple of days, despite one or two technical hitches.

First technical hitch - and feel free to point and laugh, we would have done - was getting hopelessly lost at the tail end of a walk near the Frensham Ponds on Friday afternoon, and arriving back at the National Trust car park after it had been locked up for the night. It took us some effort to get through to the warden on my mobile, and his initial reaction was "tough!" before he realised there must be a funny story to hear and he gave in and - with his colleague - came to let us out. Turned out there had been a fire so they'd not gone home; just as well, or we might have been a bit stuck... We gave them a few quid to go and buy a well-earned drink - especially given their earlier real emergency - and everyone left smiling and we didn't have any nightmares as a result!

Second technical hitch was Katy winning rather comprehensively at Scrabble this evening. I'm not sure I've ever had the humiliation of losing by well over two hundred points before, but there's a first time for everything I guess. Still, we had a rematch that I won by the slimmest of margins thanks to a judicious choice of a lower-scoring final move that used all my remaining letters instead of scoring more but leaving Katy the opportunity to use her last letter which turned out to be an "F" and would have clinched her second victory of the day. So I lost rather badly on aggregate but at least had some small degree of self esteem restored, and I love Katy anyway, so I won't hold it against her... Her winning, that is. Anything else is subject to negotiation and/or decency.

But other than that, all very pleasant! Our walk on Friday was good otherwise, all very picturesque, and - admittedly thanks in part to our final navigational mishap - earned us a very yummy Sainsbury's "Chinese take-away" supper. Today we've been simultaneously celebrating Katy's dad's birthday and her sister and brother-in-law's wedding anniversary, with a meal at the local Miller's Kitchen pub, and jolly good that was too, with top notch service into the bargain. Daniel enjoyed a healthy run around afterwards at the play area at the pub, and after that some of us went for a short stroll to work off some small part of our feast. Back at home, as well as those games of Scrabble, we watched The Talented Mr Ripley, which Katy had recorded the other evening, which was quite a good film, once it became clear it wasn't supposed to be a comedy after all.

Back home now though, and it's likely to be at least a fortnight until I see Katy again, but I think we're realising more and more that it may be time very soon to see about improving that situation, by whatever means necessary!

Sunday's started well but doesn't look like it's going to continue in the same vein. Nothing untoward, just plans falling through and nothing to take their place. Church this morning was good - first one back after the summer break, and a few welcome changes since we last met. Meant getting up at eight o'clock though since I was on the set-up team, but at least I can rest a bit now, so maybe it's not such a bad thing I now have nothing much planned this afternoon.

And then Katy phoned, and my afternoon became markedly happier! Going to go out for a stroll in a short while; I suppose I ought to get dressed first.

Had a good stroll, almost but not quite getting lost - and this time with no car to worry about getting back to before it got locked in...

Today's been OK, but nothing special. Trimmed my hair, topped up with groceries at Tesco - which meant I got a walk in too - and Sarah popped in a few minutes ago to amongst other things collect her repaired answering machine, but with Laura and Rachael at each others' throats as usual she couldn't stop for long.

Still, it's tea-time now and I'm planning on having a chicken caesar salad. That and a phone-call this evening should make my day finish on a better note!

Oh, not that it's terribly exciting, but I forgot to mention I bought myself some new binoculars today. Readers may remember that I bought Rachael a pair for her birthday earlier this year, and that for the modest asking price they weren't too bad. So when I found the next model up going for under a fiver, it was difficult for me to say no. Yes, I have a nice pair of Pentax binoculars already, but quite often I find myself out and about and wishing I'd brought them, so these little Praktica ones can live in the boot of my car if I can find any space amongst the existing clutter... Tesco are still selling the model I bought for Rachael, just on a different aisle, with more ostentatious packaging, and a price three times higher than mine. So, if tempted, search for the ones in the understated small blue cardboard boxes, not the big blister packs, and get more magnification and larger objective sizes into the bargain!

Ooh, postman's just been, and dropped my copy of the Afrocelts' Seed through the door. Yes, it's been out a few months now, but I wasn't aware of the fact until a few days ago. So much kudos to play.com for perhaps their quickest ever delivery especially considering there was a weekend in the way. As for the album, it's pleasant enough listening but doesn't seem to offer anything radically new over their previous three releases - as the Afro Celt Sound System - so I wonder if they are running out of ideas a bit now? And there's only a couple more weeks to wait for Dido's new album - hip hip hooray! - and if her current single White Flag is anything to go by, it's going to be top stuff, especially with the increased creative input from her brother Rollo.

Just been out for a walk, but I'm going to have to go out again in a little while - though not rushing since it is incredibly hot out at the moment and I need a little while to recover! Part of my rationale for going out just now was to try out my new binoculars, but they're faulty so my second outing will be one back to Tesco to try and swap them for another pair. There's something in the left tube that's loose and frequently obstructs vision and possibly even degrades the focus. I guess that's the hidden price to pay with the cheapest stuff, namely next to non-existent QC - though having worked with IBM computer kit in the past I know all too well it can blight supposedly prestige equipment too... I didn't see the kingfisher that one chap said was lurking around by Caldecotte Lake, but I did solve the mystery of the digital display on the side of Tesco's Fenny Lock distribution centre; I had assumed it to be a temperature read-out, even though the figures were somewhat unlikely, but it is in fact instructions to lorry drivers, telling them which loading dock to go to as they wait in the bays. A bit like the collection waiting area display in Argos, but on a bigger scale and less sophisticated. Not really very exciting, I know..!

No problem swapping the binoculars at Tesco, and not even any paperwork to fill out for once. I gave the new ones a good shake and nothing untoward appeared in the tubes, so hopefully that will be the end of that particular episode.

This evening I've been to the cinema with my colleagues Sam and Tim, watching Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi - or Spirited Away as it is loosely translated here. It's the first time I've seen any Japanese anime in the cinema, although Sam has lent me quite a number of DVDs over the years, a few of which impressed me, but most of which didn't. Spirited Away definitely fell in to the former category, happily to say, even if its plot was downright bizarre and perhaps lost something in the cultural transfer. But it was beautifully animated from start to finish, with Chihiro's character being especially well observed - and with "Lilo" as her English dub voice actress, most distinctively. We weren't sure if it's quite worth its current 43rd rank on IMDb's all-time top 250, but it was certainly as good as any animation I've seen, and if some of the other characters hadn't been so exaggerated it might have been possible completely to lose oneself in the "other world" of it all. Catch it if you can, I say.

Mmm, cheese. Shropshire Blue, to be precise, back in stock at Tesco after a brief spell of absence. Accompanied not with a glass of fine wine but with the equally fine dulcet tones of the Afro Celt Sound System's back catalogue, as I try and determine whether the CD that arrived yesterday is in fact their best yet. It's hard to say for sure so far, but it's definitely up there with the best of them, after a few listens over the last twenty-four hours... The blue cheese is definitely sublime too, an excellent new find by Tesco's buyers!

Doorbell rang a little while ago, and a young black lady was standing there. Now, I should have realised that since she was unaccompanied she wasn't likely to be a Jehovah's Witness. Instead she was looking for her sister's bag, which they had accidentally left on top of their car as they drove off somewhere, and which contained her sister's Ghanaian passport. Credit card, mobile phone and money were expendable but not the passport, which is her lifeline in Ghana far more than a British one is here. Needless to say, her sister was distraught. I helped doing a bit of door-knocking to see if anyone round here had spotted it but then it became clear an eye-witness had seen the bag on top of the car a good while after it had pulled away so it really could be anywhere. We had a look on the roadside all the way up to the grid road, to no avail. The police have been informed and their mother is trying to contact the embassy, but in the meantime all they can really hope is that whoever may have picked it up is an honest and reliable person. Thankfully we do have some in Milton Keynes.

I'm a bit fed up tonight, and seem to be hitting the bottle - or, rather, the wine box - again. Open House was kind of OK, but just hacked me off in lots of little ways that I can't quite put my finger on - and it hurts even more in a way when it's people I love and respect doing the hacking off in question, albeit unknowingly. And made even worse by the knowledge that Katy's away and out of the country for a few days as from tomorrow. Yes, we plan to stay in contact by some means, but it's not easy knowing I'm not going to see her properly for a week and a half - and even then things may end up being a bit rushed. So overall, really not happy, and I can feel a bad weekend coming up.

Somewhat better this morning, thankfully, helped in part by Katy giving me a slightly surprise phone call before she left for the airport, having woken up early and got all her packing done well ahead of time. Still not great though!

Today's ended up pretty degenerate, truth be told. I've done a reasonable amount of programming, but not a whole lot else. Had a potentially tricky phone call to deal with this evening, but that was OK in the end. Oh, and Katy did a rare thing and sent me a text message - we prefer talking, us Luddites - just to confirm that she'd safely arrived in Prague albeit after a delayed flight. And now it's late, and I ought to be contemplating going to bed I guess.

I slept badly, but I didn't really even want to sleep, so I was simply bored as much as anything. But I got to sleep in the end, and had a good lie-in. More programming this morning, but no more messages from Katy yet. Going to go out to Tesco in a short while, but will take the car so that I can go via Stoneacre to quiz them about their latest announced deal on a possible replacement car.

And a couple of hours later I was signing on the line, with a shiny new Seat Ibiza hopefully being delivered in the next few days. It turned out that the deal I'd spotted in the paper didn't include the exact model I wanted, but my salesman pulled a few strings and managed to secure it for me anyway, so I'm getting a five-door 1.4S for the same price as a five-door 1.2. That's a saving of a thousand pounds on the list price, which will make a big dent in the usual depreciation for simply driving a new car off the forecourt, and they're giving me the best part of a thousand pounds for my old car too, which is about right according to Parker's. I texted Katy to announce I'd done the dreaded deed, and she replied to say she loved me! Can't think of many women who'd have had that kind of reaction - but then I guess we're not yet married, with a hefty mortgage to pay and small people to clothe and feed and so on.

Woo, just got an email from Katy in Karlovy Vary, since she managed to find a free internet connection at her hotel - albeit the slowest in the world it would seem. I've no idea if or when she will be able to use it again but it will do no harm to send Katy a message back, if only to remind her I love her!

I emailed Katy, and got both an email and a text message back! Now if that's not a good return on an investment I really don't know what is... Not the best of evenings otherwise, but not the worst either, and full of hope anyway!

That was about the worst night's sleep I can remember, and I feel pretty grim this morning as a result. But I'm gritting my teeth and going to church anyway - it's just at the café today, so nothing too arduous! - but not before I've had a bacon sandwich with lashings of HP sauce as a much needed pick-me-up!

Somehow I made it through the day without keeling over. Resting when I could probably helped a lot, and I actually felt better as the day went on. Church was a bit mad, although I was only there for about an hour in the end. I had suggested Sarah and the girls might come for lunch, but we'd made no plans so in the end I gave them a lift home - OK, a slight simplification, but near enough - and then took Rachael out for the afternoon so Sarah could get some desperately needed rest. Rachael and Laura had been dreadful at church, but Rachael on her own was of course fine and I thought I'd managed to convince her of the merits of improved behaviour - at Sarah's request I should add. But come this evening, all seemed to have gone to pot, though I just hope that some small part of what we discussed might be remembered and acted upon, especially given that there are now definite financial incentives for both Rachael and Laura to knuckle down, and that I obviously intend fully to support. I got a break for about an hour though when my brother unexpectedly phoned, and it was good to have a decent natter - even if Rachael was blatantly ignoring all we had discussed about interrupting - and Katy sent a text message or two to keep me busy. Can't wait for her to be back in the country though! Not long...

Anyway, for now, going to see if I can sleep better. Will be a miracle if I don't, frankly. And that's one miracle I certainly won't be hoping for!

Thankfully miracles don't always happen. I still feel like I have about six hours' sleep deficit, but I am sure I can have recovered that soon. No call from Stoneacre yet regarding my car, but hopefully will know soon so that I can schedule a trip to the Halifax to sort out payment etc. It's raining out - and given that I have no bold plans to do anything much today, that's just fine!

Needless to say, just as I finished writing that, Cathal from Stoneacre called, just to confirm my details for the free insurance. Still no news regarding the delivery date, but that may well simply be because their computer system was down this morning and is only slowly coming back up. Still, one step closer...

Katy's on a boat in Prague, whereas I am sitting at home recovering from another poor night's sleep and waiting for another phone call from Stoneacre. Guess where I would rather be, under the circumstances. It's a tough one...

Stoneacre never did call, and I couldn't quite make it to Prague. But Katy's just texted - from the airport, I guess - to say she's expecting to be home in about three quarters of an hour anyway, whereupon little else may matter.

Katy was back ahead of schedule and phoned on the dot of nine thirty, and a good chat ensued about all that had happened both here and in Karlovy Vary. Needless to say Katy was very tired after a long day and her flight home, so our conversation was limited to about an hour, but I was pretty tired too. However, putting my bin bags out for tomorrow morning's collection, I noticed that the boot of my neighbour's car was wide open. I figured she was unloading things, but when it was still open an hour later and there were no lights on in the house and I couldn't get any response, I thought I'd better phone the police - especially since there was a disturbance there the other evening that both the police and a glazier had to attend to. I'm reluctant to go to bed yet in case they need to contact me again, but I'm not going to last much longer!

Right, all resolved next door - police came, and managed to get my neighbour's attention where I had failed, and she had just been absent-minded. However she was pretty shaken, thinking in her half-asleep state that it was a repeat of the events the other evening, but was obviously relieved when it wasn't... At least I can go to bed now without worrying about being woken up myself!

And blimey did I sleep well. Not totally solidly - that would be most out of character - but pretty much so, for about nine hours. Nothing much of note has happened yet this morning, and the next hour is going to be spent in the bath, so I hope nothing much does during that time either! Bye for now, dear readers!

Went for a nice walk up to Willen Lake - bumping into Jon en route - and had a good chat with a still-very-tired Katy. Those were, without a doubt, the best bits of today. I shall be polite about the rest and refrain from comment.

Slept well again, but was woken by the phone - though in my dazed state I very nearly opened the door instead! - with my friend Sarah calling to be collected from hospital since she couldn't get in touch with the person who was supposed to have been collecting her. That was not a problem though, and I'm back home now, needless to say. Just got some paperwork through from Seat Insurance for me to confirm, but of course it's loaded with factual errors and finally asks me how I wish to pay - this is of course supposed to be free insurance, as in gratis, zilch, zero pounds. Still, if I have to contact them anyway, I may as well add Katy as a named driver while I'm at it, so I'm just waiting on a reply from her with regard to some of the details that I don't know from memory!

Now I seem to be remote technical support bod for the day, using my advanced mind-reading skills to effortlessly troubleshoot people's computers suffering everything from virus infections to malfunctioning internet connections. Or, rather, not, as the case may be. And I can't decide whether to phone my Seat dealer, Seat insurance, go and visit the former, or just curl up and forget I ever wanted this stupid car in the first place and lose my deposit. Mind you, I could definitely do with the "curling up" bit right now; I have neither the state of mind nor the energy to be doing any of this stuff at the moment.

Conveniently went for a walk up near the Seat dealer, and just happened to pop in on the way. Turns out that everything is in order, just taking a bit longer than expected. The errors on the insurance documents are important but are not delaying the arrival of the car, since the Seat dealer has the cover note so the car has in fact been taxed already. The fact that I have been "billed" for the cover is an error I can safely ignore; apparently Seat Insurance have been sending these letters out recently and they're not at all sure why. So I don't now need to rush to correct the insurance details though obviously I should do so sooner rather than later. The car itself is due to arrive about the middle of next week and should be ready for collection by the weekend. That's a bit longer than I'd hoped, but no real problem, and at least I know for sure what the outstanding balance is now, so I can go to the building society and sort out payment while I'm still off work and with plenty of time to spare!

Today's been surprisingly busy. Well at least as lazy days go. More or less got the insurance sorted out for the car now, though the guy was supposed to have phoned me back late this afternoon to confirm something or other that I didn't quite understand why he had to, and he didn't. But I am assuming for the moment that everything is in order and that Katy is duly added to the policy, even if a few details may need clarifying. Also walked up to Tesco to do my main weekly shop, and narrowly avoided quite a downpour. I bought a couple of DVDs I'd wanted for a while - namely Brassed Off and East Is East - which had found their way into Tesco's bargain bin in some style, amongst my more mundane and mostly more essential groceries. This evening I've had good chats on the phone with both Katy and Mum, but now I'm contemplating bed! Not quite sure yet what's happening tomorrow. Sarah's "nimby" neighbour has again complained about the stuff piling up outside her house that it turns out the council have no knowledge of, despite numerous phone calls and emails to ask them to come and collect, so I suspect a trip to the dump will be requested at some point, but more than that I really don't know. For now though, goodnight!

Didn't sleep very well last night, but it certainly wasn't my worst night's sleep in the last week. But it meant I'm being somewhat leisurely in getting up this morning - and I should feel guilty since Katy's been out since about 7.30, an unearthly hour for a Saturday morning, but on the bright side it was still half an hour's lie-in on a weekday for her... My services have now been formally requested for taking stuff to the dump this afternoon, but while a wash-load finishes - looks like the forecast is wrong again, and it should be a good "drying day" - I'm going to go and collapse into the bath for a bit.

A bit before one o'clock Sarah phoned, asking if I'd already been and gone because all the stuff for the dump had gone - including the garden refuse that the council had flatly refused to collect at all. Ooh, nice dual use of the word "refuse" in that sentence! But no, I'd not, so clearly the council had had a fit of conscience and done it anyway - whether due to Sarah's taking up their offer of making a complaint or due to the council getting an earful from her neighbour we may never know. But Sarah still had plenty of lunch going spare so I went round anyway, and took Rachael - who had been quite naughty - out for a couple of hours to give Sarah a break. It's a bit difficult because it's quite a treat for Rachael, but in some ways when she's behaving the worst Sarah needs the break the most, so I have to be quite careful not to be seen as rewarding bad behaviour. So I made sure that I spent a few minutes at least being very clear and non-negotiable about my expectations for her behaviour upon our return to Sarah's, and by and large she did keep to her side of the bargain, happily to say. Laura on the other hand... No, let's not go there.

Anyway, I ought to head for bed soon because I need to be up in good time to go and visit Katy for the day. She's been up in Burton today at a 24/7 prayer conference, but we got a short chance to chat this evening and make tentative arrangements for tomorrow, and we certainly plan to make the most of the day!

Katy will hopefully be pleased to hear that I have been reliably informed once again that I will make an excellent dad one day. Katy I am equally sure will make at least as excellent a mum. I wouldn't like to be so presumptive as to suggest that we might be an excellent dad and even more excellent mum to the same offspring, but you never know! When I said to my mum on the phone last night that I thought things between Katy and me might well be "developing", I have to say there wasn't much of her usual air of caution in her response...

And we've had a jolly good day together today. I got to Farnham shortly after eleven and decided I needed some fresh air so parked at Katy's and took a brisk stroll along to the church, arriving about half way through the sermon, which was all about openness with our friends, sharing burdens and so on, and we had an interesting small-group discussion afterwards. Met a few new friends after, which was nice - it's always good when my sometimes somewhat mediocre life can be inspirational and encouraging to others! Then off for lunch at Caffé Uno, which was a decidedly excellent choice - especially for those of us choosing the Anatra Linguine, "tender pieces of marinated duck with baby corn and mixed peppers in a soy and ginger sauce". That was followed by a brief food shop at Sainsburys, a healthy walk in the nearby countryside, yummy tea and a couple of games of Scrabble - both of which I won, though far too narrowly to make up for Katy's aggregate lead over the last few weeks I have to admit. But then it was time to part, although with the hope that next weekend up here might be just as good in its own - but undoubtedly different - way. And perhaps this parting thing mightn't go on too much longer, given today's dicussions, although there is still much to discuss and to pray about - but I get a distinct feeling that new territory is definitely being trodden by both of us here, and that it's a journey that we'd like to expore together. I can sense that it may not always be easy and unanimous, but that we will both grow through travelling it, and that the destination will make it worth it. Much prayer ahead though, for sure!

Suppose I ought to go to the "city centre" and get a building society draft for the new car, as well as juggle around my finances in general. Oh, and perhaps try and sort out another long-standing bit of business it really was high time I was laying to rest. Yes, plenty to do, so I'd better get a move on, I guess!

Building society draft sorted and savings generally shifted around to their benefit, but that "unfinished business" remains so for the moment, alas. I think may have to abandon all principle and use the dreaded eBay. Oh, but I also bought myself some new shoes, so it wasn't an entirely dull trip out.

Oops, I've overrun my monthly on-line time allocation for dial-up access. Just as well I have some other "homework" to be doing before the counters get reset tomorrow night! I guess it was somewhat inevitable given my time off work, and with only the odd night spent away from home in the end... Well, bye for now!

Busy day today, and I very nearly forgot about tea as a result! If I'd been confident the chicken would keep a bit longer I might have simply gone with the flow, but cooking up a late-night caesar salad wasn't the most tremendous hardship I have ever had to face. As I said, today's been pretty hectic, and it was perhaps just as well I decided I'd get into practice for my return to work tomorrow by getting up fairly bright and early - not at all swayed by Mr Postman bringing copies for both Katy and me of Dido's excellent new album... He also brought further insurance paperwork, but it was still all wrong, such as having Katy as being 23 and inexperienced, hence lousy excesses and so on. I tried and failed to fax them with corrections, so recorded delivery post had to do - and hopefully it won't get caught up in tomorrow's postal strike. But on a better car-related note, Cathal phoned this evening to say my new car's in and will be ready to collect tomorrow evening, so I spent a while clearing out my Accent and deciding what clobber I really need to keep in the Ibiza! Then out for a stroll around the block, and about my tenth listen to Life for rent, which is at least as good as Dido's debut album, bringing me up to around about now, when I should be thinking about getting an early night I suppose...

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