David's diary: April 2004
Today's been a rather bitty non-day, and I have a horrible suspicion that will be the pattern for my remaining five days here. I've managed to do the first pass of filtering through the software for about ten of the courses I've worked on - with about as many again to go - but I've been pestered by academics and whatnot all day, so have not remotely made the progress I'd have hoped. The only welcome distraction was Sam's Java special interest group gathering this morning, about writing Java midlets for mobile phones - clearly almost entirely not applicable to Open University course development, but at least interesting. Damn, and now one of the academics who is most notorious for sitting on his fat posterior for weeks at a time has just emailed with a serious problem with one of the spreadsheets I've been working on. Damn, damn, damn and bottom. Guess who won't be carrying on with his source code archiving tomorrow at this rate?
Blow this, I'm out of here for today to go home and cry for a little while.
No tears in the end, or not yet anyway. Instead I've phoned Katy - or, rather, phoned her back since she phoned me while I was eating my tea and checking my emails - filled out my Council Tax change of circumstances form, and drafted a letter to Personnel documenting the dastardly way LTS senior management treated me towards the end of last year. Now, all I want to do is bathe and sleep.
Expectation management won the day, going in expecting today to be awful but it only turning out to be fairly bad. I've got the oven experiment off my hands now and the course chair is going to ensure that his colleagues "understand the implications" of my announcement that I am not working on course software after today. Given that today has officially just ended, I can be fairly safe in saying that should be that. I've managed to do a bit more archiving late this afternoon, with just a few more bits of this phase to do on Monday, but I am sure there will be plenty to keep me busy for my final four days next week! I have been persuaded of the merits of having a leaving do on Wednesday, but that was on the understanding it is joint with another colleague who's leaving and another who's moving office. Though today I submitted my formal report on the voluntary redundancy foul-up last year, so I might yet fall out of favour...
I had a phone call earlier from Paul at my letting agents, to say that they have found a new tenant, and that he would like to move in as soon as I vacate my flat. That's a little bit annoying because I had assumed no-one was going to be doing so until at least after my contract was due to expire, and of course I have now notified British Telecom and the council that Sunday the 18th will be the day I go, even though I had thought it somewhat likely I would in fact go a couple of days earlier. Indeed the phone line is not being cancelled until the Monday morning, and I'm blowed if I'm letting anyone else use it while BT could still bill me for it. I think the simplest thing is to say that I would like to have the option to stay until the Sunday, and I'll probably ask BT to bring forward the phone cancellation since I'll still have my mobile.
Right, BT are now cancelling my contract on the Saturday, and say that since I've given ample notice, if I need to change that again it won't be a problem. Thinking about such things further, Katy has already notified her council of when I am making my move, so it really would be simpler for everyone if I stick to "Plan A". But it was wise to change the phone arrangements anyway; you just can't be sure what a new tenant moving in promptly on Sunday or Monday would think upon finding an unexpectedly connected phone line... One of the previous tenants was into hardcore gay porn by mail-order, so a bit of premium rate phone calling at my expense might not be completely out of the question!
Anyway, it's almost six o'clock, so almost time to make my own non-premium-rate phone call - to Katy of course! I'll need to do some sorting and probably some shopping this evening too, so I'd better not be leaving such things too late!
This evening, I have phoned - and been phoned by - Katy, phoned my mum, who's agreed to make our wedding cake, and packed about five sacks full of clothes that I rarely but ever so occasionally wear. And not just suits, and shirts with collars, etc, in case you were wondering... Such things didn't go in the sacks anyway, since I'd rather they didn't get excessively crumpled en route! Now though, I'm enjoying a couple of glasses of elderflower-and-lemon spring water, and will be running my bath and heading for bed very soon indeed!
Now back from my weekend away at Katy's, and only one more "weekend away" before I'll be down there for good - even if I have to do a bit of midweek to-ing and fro-ing once I've earned my parole from the OU at Easter weekend. Yesterday Katy and I did a load of sorting out of stuff, stowing away the things I'd brought down over the last few weekends and moving a few bits of furniture around, as well as going for lunch with Rachel, Mark and Daniel at Millers. Today's been a bit more relaxed, going for a curry buffet in town after church and a stroll along the river. By the time I'd lost another game of Scrabble - with Katy winning 3-0 over the course of the weekend, my wounded pride is afraid to say - it was time Katy had a rest and I hit the road home, so here I am back in Milton Keynes, and at least sort of looking forward to my last four days at work, though hopefully they won't be excessively busy!
Yesterday was Palm Sunday, commemorating the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, death inevitably awaiting. The quietly sitting younger children were asked why Jesus arrived on a donkey. Silence reigned after one girl's initial knowledge of the ecclesiastic year, so the question was opened to the remainder of the congregation. The answer obviously was because Jesus didn't have a car. Later, Ted was moaning about drivers with Christian bumper stickers and fish logos not always setting the best example on the road. Ted pondered how we might "Drive Like Jesus Would" - you can imagine the wristbands already - but then conceded that he would of course probably still be on that blasted donkey.
Three days to go - and one of them is almost half gone already!
Yesterday was OK, though I didn't get a huge amount done, thanks to reasonably pointless meetings and so on; hopefully today will turn out to have been at least a little better. I got in a bit late though, having taken a detour via the post office to set up mail forwarding for when I go. I know it's a few days yet, but with Easter weekend in the middle it seemed wise to apply sooner rather than later. Not that I get a great deal of "snail mail", but I can just imagine missing something vital if I don't get things forwarded on to Farnham. Three months should cover it nicely, and £14.30 was a complete bargain!
This evening I would have been going to Astronomy Club, but a) I think I'll be too tired, b) my membership has technically now lapsed and c) they're going to be discussing no doubt highly tedious matters from the recent RAS meeting here. Well, maybe not tedious matters to those deeply interested in some of the less tangible areas of astronomy, but to someone who's still at the pretty pictures stage of interest rather than analysing spectra and boring data, they will be. Astronomy as a hobby is, to me, a hands-on thing; I actually find it rather sad that there are distinguished astronomers in the academic arena who have never - or at least not for a long time - actually gazed at the wonders of the heavens.
But anyway, better get on! Time is running out; let there be no doubt, I should sort things out. Prize of honour alone to anyone spotting who I have taken a bit of a liberty with there. And as I said to Sophia yesterday, "Still..."
Well, one day to go, and much of today I have to admit passed me by in a bit of a haze. Got a fair bit of sorting out done nonetheless - before my leaving do. I'd already been advised there was a "budget", so there might be more than the usual coffee and - if lucky - dull biscuits, but in fact there was an almighty spread of drink and nibbles. Lori's also off tomorrow, to start a new life on the Emerald Isle, so it was actually a do for both of us, and the formal part of the proceedings kicked off with her send-off. Then on to me, with Lara and then Joel somehow managing to find some praises to sing, before presenting me with a card and ninety quid for Katy and me to spend at Debenhams, courtesy of all my colleagues. I had a few notes written down and was invited to speak, so I did so briefly, balancing my mixed feelings about the changes inflicted upon the department with hopes that my colleagues can somehow carry on doing what they are best at. A few of the messages on the card alluded to better jobs elsewhere, and rats' inclinations with regard to sinking ships, but I hope I managed to present a generally optimistic message to those sticking it out.
Anyway, I'm going to get an early night tonight, since I'll need to be up in fair time tomorrow morning in order to take my car in to work. I've managed to avoid doing so since I moved to this flat, but with a trip out to the Olde Swan at lunchtime and expecting to have a few bits and pieces to clear out from the office at the end of the day, it seemed sensible to break with tradition. Car parking on campus is - despite many noble initiatives - becoming more and more difficult, and if I arrive after nine o'clock I really won't stand a chance!
And now it's all over.
I didn't get away from work quite as early as hoped, but that was mainly thanks to making DVDs of all the software I've ever written, for my own benefit, so I wasn't grumbling too much. We got out for lunch at the Olde Swan as planned, though most of us walked in the end, healthily dodging the April showers, and working off at least a few of the profiteroles I splashed out on for everyone.
This evening, by way of further celebration, I've been out with Sarah and the girls for a farewell - well, almost; I expect I'll see them next week sometime - pizza, followed by a glass or two of wine back at the house slumped in front of some tacky TV crime drama, once smaller people had gone to bed. Now back at home and chilling, although it's only my home for a little over a week now...
Good Friday, and an especially good one in my case, all things considered.
Though I have a feeling the immensity of all this is going to catch up with me rather spectacularly, and perhaps not when I expect it.
Perhaps it's just as well I've never really found my home here after all.
My goodness, I've just listened to an entire football match on the radio, in this case Arsenal's somewhat epic victory over Liverpool. Well I never!
Arrived back "home" after the long Easter weekend away, but it feels even less like home than before, as my move becomes increasingly imminent. Not that I feel tremendously enthusiastic about the week ahead, but I know it's going to be worth any hassles encountered, in the pursuit of the future which is finally about to become reality. We've worked out a few more details of the move, and that's helping to make the prospect of these last few days in limbo much more bearable. Amongst other practical things this weekend we've more or less chosen our nice big bed, something else to look forward to in a couple of months' time when things will have settled down to our new version of "normality"!
This evening though, I've been watching Spirited Away on the DVD that arrived a few days ago. It's one of the only entertainment items still here - along with a couple of CDs and another Michael Connelly book - but was no compromise!
Easter weekend is a funny one in some ways. It is apparently a more "sacred" few days than Christmas as far as the worship of the god of money is concerned, with the Sunday itself being the quietest of the year, retail-wise. I have heard varying explanations, some saying it's the law that most places do not open on Easter Sunday, but others saying that shops must close for a certain number of Sundays each year - and I guess Easter isn't a time for people to want to buy last-minute booze quite as much as at Christmas... Having become so conditioned to shopping on Sundays - not that it's a very old tradition in this country - some people seem somehow offended that they were unable to go and spend money yesterday, but judging by the crowds packing out the DIY and similar stores every day other than Sunday this weekend it was hardly a major hardship, and most people got two extra days off work to more than make up the difference! We had to laugh at me earlier today though, when I asked Katy if the bank would be open so I could top up my ISA; somehow the meaning of "bank holiday" had momentarily passed me by... But I'm not complaining, now am I?!
Aha, I have just looked it up, and the Sunday Trading Act of 1994 decrees that shops of over 280 square metres retail space must close on Easter Sunday, and on Christmas Day when it falls on a Sunday. Smaller shops are not restricted in any way in terms of their opening hours on any day of the week or year.
So there you go.
I wonder how they decided on 280 square metres as the threshold rather than some "rounder" figure? What's the betting that whoever wrote the Act had some kind of vested interest, such that he wanted his local shop to be open all day Sundays for his booze and ciggies but not that evil 281 square-metre Tesco?
Not going to lie awake wondering however, but I am going to go to bed now.
Alexis worked it out, and it wasn't terribly exciting. Obviously the law has its roots in the times of imperial measures, because 280 square metres almost exactly corresponds to 3000 square feet, at least to the nearest round number. Trust me to sniff a conspiracy in every innocuous little thing; it's not as if there aren't some bigger real conspiracies underway in the world, after all!
I caught a bit of 2DTV the other evening. I'd read a lot about it, since the production company is a local one, but since I have no television of my own, I'd never actually seen it. And what a load of tosh it was. Billed as the Spitting Image for the 21st century, it really was dreadful, and only really delivered in terms of being two-dimensional in just about every way. I turned it off in the end, when they suggested that just because Gordon Brown is a Christian, his kid was going to be spending Easter being penitent and watching The Passion of the Christ, rather than getting any Easter eggs. Really, if this is the finest that Milton Keynes can come up with, good riddance to it!
Generally been up too long today, but at least I've been making good use of the time so far. Sarah phoned just after eight this morning, asking a small but rather urgent favour, which was fine by the time I was conscious and able to understand what I'd just grunted agreement to do... So I've been up since, and have been mainly spending the morning packing stuff. Katy and I bought a few plastic tubs yesterday, and they're being very handy. But now lunch is just about ready, so if you'll excuse me while I go munch one of my last meals here!
A bit low this evening, though cheered a fair amount by a good chat with Katy earlier. I think the enormity of everything is beginning to catch up with me, especially since although I have plenty to physically do, my mind is somewhat idle. Still, a week from now, at least the first stage will be complete!
Woke up this morning with a thumping headache, and no apparent cause. Hadn't been drinking last night - apart from lots of water - and although I got to bed quite late I did manage a decent lie-in. Oh well, just not quite the way I'd have liked to have felt going into another busy day of packing things up.
So I crashed into the bath, read a couple more chapters of my Michael Connelly book, and then the doorbell rang. It was Sarah and Laura, who admittedly I had sort of been expecting, after a slightly vague email earlier. They went for a stroll round the block to give me a chance to get dried and decent, and we've just been out for a light lunch at the Kingston Tavern. No, that hasn't really helped me with getting packed in the slightest, but I needed some decent food inside me, and I'll probably do much better this afternoon as a direct result.
I spoke with my letting agents this morning, and although Paul isn't available this weekend to take the flat back off me at the time I wanted - and Bob's away anyway - he said he doesn't need to be present when I leave, so that doesn't really matter and ties me down a bit less as to exactly when I go. I have to say, Paul and Bob have been great agents - very different to most of their kind - and it's nice that at the very last, we can trust each other to that extent.
But now it's time to pack this computer away, and I'm not sure when it's likely to be set up again, so - for the time being - it's "over and out". Byeee!
"Under and in!"
Well, I assume that's the opposite of "over and out"?
Back in business, anyway, eighty miles away from the concrete cows...
So I'm now an official inhabitant of Farnham, and have thrown Katy out of her own home - though only for a couple of months, almost to the day, and she is spending a fair bit of time round here anyway of course! This works out to be the best arrangement for many reasons, some of which you may guess, others of which you might not. Anyway, busy daytimes mean early bedtimes, so goodnight!
Another busy day, with the main triumphs being that we have a bed on order and have successfully booked the first couple of nights of our honeymoon; the rest of the holiday was booked ages ago, but there was no way we were going to get to our destination in one evening... Oh, and while Katy rested this afternoon I toddled into town and sorted out change of address stuff at the NatWest and Halifax and popped into one of the agencies I'd spoken with on the phone before and who'd asked that I called in when I was down properly. I also had a look at the DVD players at Currys, since we need to get one soon, though I am still about as undecided about that as I was beforehand! Now just chilling awhile...
Busy morning for us both, but loads more things completed - and some rather more quickly than we could ever have expected! In particular, wedding-wise, we have our rings - as in "in our possession", not even on order! It turned out that Hinds in Farnborough had just what we wanted in stock, and at even sweeter prices than we had anticipated. After all that fun, Katy's resting now, and I'm investigating and following up a few more work opportunities via the web.
Not that the latter turned out to be terribly productive, with Nokia having forgotten about me, and Sony having about the worst web CV system I have ever had the misfortune to use - its crowning glory being when it proudly announced that everything was editable apart from my previous employment history, which was the bit they cocked up most, requiring exactly the editing they disallowed. But this evening we've been out for a good curry at the Darjeeling with Katy's colleagues Graham and Jeremy, so I could put all that aside for a few hours. By the time we'd been for a not-very-swift half afterwards, it was time for Katy to head back to where she's staying, and I'll be off to bed very soon too!
Not quite such a busy day today, but we still managed to get the insert for our wedding invitations completed and duplicated, so the invitations themselves should be ready to roll pretty much as soon as Mel gets the "blanks" to us. This evening we've been watching Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and I think it went down quite well with Katy! Early night tonight though, because we've got to be up and about in good time tomorrow for Katy's MRI scan up at Frimley.
Still alive, don't worry - just that this semi-married life I seem to have fallen into means a good deal of living beyond the glow of a Windows terminal.
Katy's scan yesterday went well enough, although they weren't not allowed - or even able - to say anything at the time, so we'll have to wait until the next consultant's appointment to see if it yields any answers to the increasingly pressing questions. Katy needed a reward for being such a good girl at the hospital, so we hit the Beefeater restaurant in nearby Farnborough and had healthy salads and nowhere-near-so-healthy desserts - the latter indulgence made up for by a short though not entirely successful stroll not by the canal. In the evening we had "cell" - Katy's church's equivalent to Open House, and not because it's a prison, although we spent a good deal of time talking about such things as it happens - and that was my first time to a normal meeting, though it was mainly spent chatting which actually worked rather well in terms of getting to know everyone. After all, it's going to be pretty important!
Today's main event has been fitting a new shower, with the help of Katy's dad - well, OK, he basically did it while I learned the basics of plumbing! The old shower packed up a fair while ago, and the first one they tried to fit failed dramatically and had to be taken back to the shop, but this one thankfully seems to work fine, and I now know all about olives, pipe cutting and other such wonderful things. This afternoon I popped into town to see what resources the library had to help me in my job-hunting - the answer, sod all - and to do a little essential shopping ahead of our forthcoming jaunt oop norf. And this evening I introduced Katy to the pleasures of Japanese anime, needless to say by way of Spirited Away, and I think it went down well - and Katy did a little better than me at following the plot on her first watching! I walked Katy back to Juliet's a little while ago, and will soon call it a day myself methinks.
I want to have a bath, though first I have a bath to clean - this morning's fun and games drilling, chipping and plastering have made it really messy, and I really wouldn't want to come out of it dirtier than I went in, now would I?!
Today was a gloriously sunny day, probably the warmest of the year so far, at least as far as Saturdays go. We'd arranged to go for lunch at Katy's mum and dad's, but agreed in the end to defer it until the evening so as to make the most of the day. OK so in the end we didn't really go out until the afternoon, having spent a short while failing at the crosswords in the Times, but we had a good stroll around the Alice Holt Forest - including ice cream and a Coke at the visitors' centre which conveniently coincided with the approximate half-way point... Lots of people had obviously had much the same idea as us, but it was nowhere near as seething as we suspect Frensham Ponds would have been today!
As re-arranged, this evening we had al-fresco pizza with Katy's mum and dad and sat down for a while and thrashed out some pressing matters of wedding planning - but thankfully there were no significant areas of disagreement, and everyone is now happy about everything we've decided thus far. And we have no plans to surprise anyone with ritual slaughters or anything like that - well, so long as any children on the invitation list largely behave themselves, anyway. Somehow I won the game of Scrabble we rounded the evening off with, and then it was time for Katy to try and repeat her good night's sleep she enjoyed last night, and for me to return to my new home and ponder doing much the same myself.
Been a bit of a hectic Sunday, but we've called it a day for today now and tonight's definitely not going to be a late night for me! Well, probably not.
Katy and I got roped into "welcome" at church this morning, which generally meant pretending not still to be half asleep while greeting people and trying to recognise who's a visitor and who's not, and who's been going in and out all morning and really doesn't want yet another beautiful pink notice-sheet. We had a good time of prayer towards the end of the meeting, and there was a bit of a sense of breakthrough that we must now do our best to capitalise upon.
After church there was a "wider leaders" lunch hosted by Catherine and Glenn. Now, let me be quite clear, I am not a leader - and indeed the church is quite insistent that Katy and I not be pushed into formal roles too quickly - and nor was anyone there remotely wide, well apart from me obviously. But although Katy does not currently have a specific job she is still seen as being part of the team, and it was thought a good idea that I came along to get a bit of a crash course in how the church functions. Besides, there was pizza, wine and strawberry pavlova, and it would have been criminal to let that go to waste.
Mel had earlier handed over the completed wedding invitations she had done her top notch design job on, so having dropped off Katy's dad and Nick, we spent the rest of the afternoon addressing and stamping envelopes, folding up the inserts we got printed the other day, and writing the cards themselves. Self adhesive stamps are cool, but it would be great if nice envelopes used the same technology, wouldn't it? So about fifty invitations will be winging their way off tomorrow morning, and Katy's mum will be mightily relieved I am quite sure!
It was later than we realised by the time we'd finished all that, been to the post box, hand-delivered one of the invitations, and had a bite of tea, so we didn't quite finish watching Wag The Dog which we'd recorded last night, but that can wait until tomorrow I'm sure. At least the BBC actually broadcast it this time, having cancelled it thanks to the golf last time they tried...
It's not been my best day so far down here, but at least I made myself useful this morning by going on a mercy mission to Argos for our friend Sarah, which hopefully saved the day for her little boy's birthday! After depressing myself with the various job websites, we took in a short stroll around a nearby lake - not so different to Milton Keynes, y'see? - and this evening I've taught Katy how to play Tantrix and I am sure she'll be consistently beating me very soon!
Right, let's try and make today a slightly better day...
It was - well, for me at least, and we did get a fair bit more stuff done.
And the two prizes for the first people to reply - both positively, no less - from Katy's and my halves of the invitation list, respectively, go to... Our friends here Nick and Sarah, and my former (as of six hours ago) colleague Tim!
Yes, that's right, as of yesterday evening I am no longer in the employment of the Open University. The last couple of weeks have been paid leave, I got my last salary paid in last Friday which included some unused leave, and my P45 arrived in the post a few days ago. So I am now unemployed, for the first time in about twelve years! Working backwards, that's the total of seven and a half years at the OU, a year with Last Unicorn, three years getting my degree, and a few months with a cowboy computer company in High Wycombe. Maybe I deserve at least a little rest now after all? On the other hand, life goes on, and I don't want to be stuck here all day, so I do need to find something else, and reasonably smartish. But at least I am in a position where I don't have to take the first shelf-stacking job that comes my way, and I know that's a level of picking and choosing not everyone has available, and I count my blessings!
Anyway, today we've mainly been shopping at Sainsbury's, while our cleaner did the rounds of the house. She called a fortnight ago, but we really were right in the middle of moving my stuff in, and she graciously agreed to defer until her next appointment which was today. Yes, it's a little luxury, I know, but why not? This evening we're running a friend to the airport, and then going straight on to a church meeting about various pressing issues, so that will be quite enough for the day methinks, what with more busy days coming up soon!
The rush-hour run to Heathrow was fine, though we got a bit lost coming back. Katy was rightly keen that we avoided the M4, even though that is the official way to get to Terminal One, but of course the exit signposting isn't quite so helpful for people trying to find the A3113 again. But we still arrived back in Farnham a few minutes before the church meeting started, so all was well!