goznet ...

David's diary: February 2004

Happily everything did indeed happen in the end, even if it was a day later than initially planned thanks to winter's short sharp visit earlier in the week. After a fairly busy day doing stuff around the flat and towards the marriage preparation questionnaire, late Friday afternoon I drove down to my parents' house. I was shortly joined by my parents and Katy, having met up after my parents had enjoyed the day down in Farnham with Katy's parents. Confused? Well just understand that my parents kindly collected Katy while they were in the area and we all met up at my parents' house, if that makes things easier! The weather was pretty grim even if the snow had cleared, so we didn't do a great deal more than play Scrabble - by candlelight on Saturday night, thanks to a handy power-cut! - natter over the odd bottle of Hardys Crest, discuss a few of the wedding arrangements, call in on my parents' neighbours and get out for a stroll around the village for old time's sake. After a slowish start today - for me at least - we drove down to Farnham, arriving in perfect time for lunch at Pizza Express, before I dropped Katy off, had a cup of Earl Grey and toddled back home myself! Splendid time though, and good for us both to share an unhurried weekend with my parents for the first time since a certain early October one that few will forget in a hurry...

But now I feel like doing nothing more than running myself a nice hot bath - and enjoying as many leisurely top-ups as I like as I soak the weekend away!

That I duly did, and am already almost a quarter of the way through the novel of Kiss The Girls, which I remember seeing the film adaptation of a couple of years ago. Also phoned Katy, Mum and Sarah so feel more or less up to date with the world and its happenings - and, oops, I seem to have missed Xploring Worship this evening; well I hope that those who made it along had a worshipful time, and didn't require surgery on their eardrums afterwards this time.

No top-ups though! Wasn't even tempted...

Monday down. Not too exciting a day at work, with the main highlights being getting a demo of MPEG 1 video up and running - even though the academics are still not sure whether they want a CD-ROM or a DVD, a week after the official QA hand-over date... - and getting a copy of possibly the cheesiest CD single of 1999 for a mere 50p via our intranet for-sale board. And no, it wasn't the hamster-dance one in case you were thinking quite that grim. No, worse than that. In other news, I now have advice on phrasing my notice of resignation, so that will be sitting on Lara's desk upon her return from leave and I can start officially counting down the days and looking for another job! Yay!

Nasty sore throat though. Just hoping a combination of truffles, red wine and anaesthetic throat lozenges will soothe it and help with getting a good night's sleep... Even if it doesn't, the truffles and red wine make it worth trying.

If that's how much my throat hurts even after being anaesthetised, I shudder to think what it would have been like otherwise. Suffice to say that I didn't get a good night's sleep, though probably managed a little more than I realised.

But today, who cares - because I've just handed in my notice! No, I haven't got another job lined up, and no, I don't even really know it is I want to do, but the main thing is that I can now count down the days to getting out of here.

I'll miss the friendship of my colleagues more than anything. I guess it's inevitable to a certain extent, but having been here for over seven years, they have become much more than mere acquaintances. I'll miss the mainly pleasant physical working environment and the favourable holidays and so on. But all that is about to change anyway, so it's a jolly fine time to be on my way.

Yes, everything's changing. I will soon be separated from those friends, as we split into contrived teams and get shoved somewhere over the other side of the campus. The days of proper and relatively private offices are numbered, and pay and conditions are under serious threat. And worst of all, the decline in the nature of the work assigned is set to accelerate. I have no place here.

At the same time, I do feel somewhat driven out given the managemental faffing and downright misinformation over the last couple of months. But realistically I was never going to be doing any differently, so only feel a little cheated - albeit to the tune of several thousand quid, although the money is far from being my prime motivation - rather than completely let down and forced to make a decision that would otherwise have gone against my better judgement.

Today's just gone down the pan big-time. Sooner I'm out of here, the better.

Just for the record, there was a big bang followed by lots of emergency sirens in Milton Keynes this morning. No idea what it was, but there you go...

This morning I am mostly being hassled by annoying academics wanting to arrange meetings, when all I "want" to do is prepare for my appraisal tomorrow - but can't actually locate a copy of the preparation Word template. Of course, that appraisal will be even more of a waste of time than the last one I had, back in 2002, when I was also on the verge of leaving to get married - the difference being that this time my notice has already been handed in and I have almost no achievements worth documenting in the meantime. Hmm, still no joy finding that template, or getting our secretary to forward me a copy. I'd really not have bothered coming in today if I'd known I wasn't going to be able to do this; yes I still feel lousy, but at least being barely able to swallow means my weight's down a bit due to simple inability to get much food or drink down my throat!

Well I was finally directed to a copy of the template - a Word form, yuk - and have more or less completed it, though it's obviously somewhat lacking in the future plans department. My favourite responses I have provided so far are:

4. Which parts of your current job do you:-

(a) most enjoy?

Producing software the students are going to enjoy using and benefit from, making good use of technology in an imaginative and forward-thinking way.

(b) least enjoy?

The day-to-day reality of 4(a).

Sad but ultimately true.

In better news though, I have the thermal resistivity oven! Here, on my desk! So much for all the petty bureaucracy that was preventing me from having it here previously; the bloke who actually made the kit it saw no reason why it should be so horribly unsafe to have in my office and plugged into my machine, so here it is! I guess I should make the most of it before anyone complains...

Pity it won't bake cakes though, only five bits of metal and semiconductor.

I didn't make it along to tonight's Open House social; to be honest I felt even worse than I did a week ago, when I didn't go either. But again I used my time productively, finishing off the marriage preparation questionnaire, and am just waiting for confirmation from Michael on whether he would prefer that I post or email my responses. Also baked - and demolished - another loaf of rice bread. My appetite and ability to eat thankfully seem to be returning now - I think laying off the anaesthetic throat lozenges during the daytime may be helping with that, allowing me actually to feel myself swallowing properly even if it hurts - though I guess that means the end of my short spell of "weight loss"... Anyway, I'm going to head for beddie-byes now, so goodnight my dear readers.

It's been a busy but mostly productive day today. I had my "annual" appraisal this morning with Lara, albeit the first for two years - and, as was the case at that time, overshadowed by my impending departure. Of course, I didn't actually leave last time in the end, and this time I've handed in my notice, but the overall atmosphere wasn't a great deal different. It was a positive experience, though, as I always try to make my appraisals. Matters of pay and so on are not allowed to be raised, and for many people that's the final straw for making appraisals worthwhile, but I try hard to see beyond that. As it is, we've agreed a few modest objectives to see me through my last three months, and they're not all of a mere "marking time" nature, which is good. Lara hadn't realised until reading my preparatory notes that I was quite so unhappy from day to day, but considers the issues raised to be fairly representative of the feelings of software designers at the university, so thinks they're worth escalating and acting upon before everyone decides to leave, and that it's worth seeing what can be done to invest in the future while I'm still around and able to impart from my experience. Well I am now one of their longest serving employees now that most of the "old guard" have taken early retirement!

The rest of today I mainly worked on the oven experiment software, successfully getting the main functional core working in Java. I had a bit of a scare when the interface started returning wildly variable temperature readings - anything up to 4000 degrees centigrade or higher! - but, in true Windows form, it was nothing that a timely reboot couldn't rectify... So I was thankfully able to press on with actually reading the resistances of the five materials as the temperature rises, and although it's not yet plotting the necessary graphs within the software, I can paste the raw data into Excel and do it there, with perfectly convincing results. This will probably be about the last substantial piece of software I write for the university, but it should be a nice one to go out with, and one that many students should benefit from over the years. It's a great shame that the course this is for budgeted so poorly, naively believing that we could produce five pieces of software in under a week. Yes, of course that was always going to be a nonsense, but it did mean that the specifications and so on came through months later than we'd have had them ideally, so if this oven software does turn out as well as I hope it will, it's sadly likely to be the exception, not the rule, for this particular course. But never mind, eh?

In other news today, I have solved the mystery of the very loud explosion heard yesterday morning. Thankfully not a terrorist attack or a plane crash, but gas cylinders exploding at a food factory about a mile away. Mercifully no-one was injured, but it seems that the premises hadn't been evacuated at the time, and it took sixty fire-fighters two hours to bring the ensuing blaze under control.

Oh, and I wasn't going to tempt fate earlier by rejoicing that my sore throat had almost gone, but that really does seem to be the case, so rejoice anyway!

Today has generally been pretty lousy, with the only saving graces being having had a good natter on the phone with Katy this evening, bumping into quite a few friends in Tesco, and having chocolate. No, work today was thoroughly grim, thanks to things I'd not been told the whole story about, and I can now enjoy my weekend in the expectation of a meeting about it first thing Monday morning.

Saturday morning - well just about, I've not had lunch yet in any case - and getting up slowly. True to form though, the postman arrived and woke me up at the crack of dawn, as he so often does on Saturdays even if not during the rest of the week. But, unlike my spam and bogus delivery-failure filled email inbox, he came bearing only goodies - namely a postcard from Katy, even though she's not on holiday, and a receipt for the deposit on our honeymoon hideaway! I have to say, these small signs lifted me quite significantly, because I am struggling at the moment somewhat - Katy's continuing illness being a big part of that course, but not the whole story - and these missives came as timely and encouraging reminders of what I really have now and what is yet to come.

The day outside looks most unwelcoming, and I am glad to be safely tucked away in the warm here, though I do need to take a trip out to the post-box at some point before too long! Otherwise, I think a little tidying and hoovering is in order, and perhaps starting another book, having just finished Kiss the Girls as I soaked in my Saturday morning bath. Altogether a most interesting story, though I am not entirely sure who is really the most depraved - the "Casanova" and "Gentleman Caller" characters portrayed, James Patterson for dreaming up them and their exploits, or me for utterly enjoying it from start to finish...

"A little tidying and hoovering" eventually turned into a seven-hour marathon spring-clean, although I'd have to admit the improvement is not immediately visible. I didn't even get to do the hoovering in the end, but never mind! But Katy said it was OK if I just set myself a reasonable target and rewarded myself with a glass or two of wine, so that's exactly as it's turned out...

Sunday's been a long but generally rewarding day. Of course I'd rather have been elsewhere, but all told, this was a fair substitute, and certain parts really were simply supposed to have been the way they were. More tomorrow, maybe, when I'm not immediately contemplating going to bed...

Monday's ended up a long day too, but thankfully not too difficult a one to make it through, contrary to expectations. I went home on Friday under most unsatisfactory circumstances at work, that rather overshadowed the weekend for me, but I hatched a decidedly cunning plan as I walked the mile to the campus this morning and I should come out of this modestly heroically. Well, with a reasonably good reference off Lara anyway, as her little trouble-shooter.

As for yesterday, well the morning church meeting was most interesting in its own way, with a delegation from the Vineyard in Farnham of all places. Their leader was speaking about the Holy Spirit, but there were opportunities for him and his "gang" to pray for and offer prophetic words to us, both corporately and individually. The leader himself picked me out - despite making a good attempt to hide - and had what at the time seemed a bit odd but was in fact a most encouraging word to share, on the matter of pastorship or even eldership. I don't do either - and don't feel particularly cut out for either - right now, but they are things that I have touched on in the past and that got cut short by circumstances beyond my immediate control. So coming at the present time of considerable uncertainty about what the future brings - apart from knowing it'll be good - the mere possibility of such restoration and going on to do great and worthwhile things in the community with Katy is really encouraging!

The rest of the day was OK, though I seemed to end up in charge of one, the other or both of Laura and Rachael for much of the time, with Sarah not really fit for going to church in the morning, and needing a sleep in the afternoon. But some of us at least got out for a healthy stroll - and with no complaints for once - and I introduced Sarah to the delights of Memento in the evening once the girls had gone to bed, although I think it was a bit baffling for her!

Today might have been somewhat more productive had it not been interrupted by a tedious meeting for most of the afternoon where we were told precisely nothing. But apart from that, I was only writing HTML, so not too sure which was worse. We've got another silly meeting next Monday morning, some kind of team-building thing, but it's up the other end of town, and I am not insured to drive my car for business purposes and will almost certainly be far too busy, so methinks I will risk it and politely decline the "invitation". It's pretty much irrelevant anyway given my departure in under two months, and I'd only heckle all morning.

Today was a bit like yesterday, only minus the pointless meeting, which meant that I actually got quite a bit done. Still dull HTML and Javascript, but it pays the rent for a couple more months, which is the main thing right now. I broke the news to my favourite academic that I'm going, and she was of course terribly disappointed, but I've assured her I will get her software finished before I say my farewells. Tomorrow I will be going back to programming Flash, which I obviously despise even more than the HTML and Javascript, particularly because when I last touched the code, I was scratching my head over why it was reporting syntax errors in a bit of code that appeared blank when I went to edit it... But then as far as this CD-ROM is concerned - and it really and truly will now be a CD-ROM, despite a few scares - that will be it, and I can get cracking properly on the software for the residential school itself. You see, the CD-ROM is going out to the residential school students to prime them for what's to come; it covers a couple of actual teaching concepts but mainly comprises video about what it's like studying at an Open University residential school. Now clearly, the latter is something that could valuably be produced on a course-nonspecific basis, but the funding model now in place actively discourages preemptive reuse unless several dozen bureaucratic hoops are jumped through, but such stupid constraints need not be my concern for much longer!

Another productive day today, getting most of the Flash thing finished - but not all of it, as I'd hoped, since Sue needed it back to make a few changes to the graphics before she goes on leave for a week. But I usefully spent the last couple of hours of the day "turning inside-out" the HTML for the CD-ROM navigation scheme, since it was getting frustrating making even slight tweaks to it with the structure it had previously. Nigel treated us all to an email grumbling about the lack of response and enthusiasm regarding Monday morning's team-building session in Stony Stratford, emphasising that he didn't consider it optional, using the word "team" at least half a dozen times per sentence, and generally strengthening my resolve that I'm not going to waste my time and theirs going to the stupid thing. If they really want people to go, they would be organising transport and running it at a sane time of day, rather than try and cajole people into breaking the law and waste over five grand doing so.

So far so good, today also. There's nothing like knowing you're getting out of a place to persuade you can actually stand it if it's only going to be for a few more weeks. Not that it always works like that, and I am sure I will have my moments - hopefully not too many times a day - but I'll make the most of it while I can... This morning I finally finished my Flash contribution, although I can't rule out that it might bounce back for a few tweaks, depending on what Sue makes of the last few things I reckoned were in her court to fix. So we really are pretty much there now with the CD-ROM, bar getting the final MPEG video through from Sound and Vision. Time to return to the oven experiment software now, methinks, although it would probably be a good opportunity to take stock of how the software for this course is looking in general; I know there's at least one more application needing writing, but I need to check!

Sad to hear that it's very likely that this year's Cropredy folk festival will be the last, after the break-up of Dave and Christine Pegg's marriage. Dave is the bass-player with Fairport Convention, and Christine very much coordinates their annual reunion festival. Separated, it's not really very clear how the latter can continue, and the future of the band wouldn't appear to be much more secure. But I have to say that although the circumstances are sad, it is perhaps the right time to draw things to a close. I've been to the festival a few times, and have albums by the band going back well over three decades, and neither the festival nor Fairport are quite what they used to be. New acts - normally by far the best thing about Cropredy - will miss the high profile outlet, but there are other festivals, and the scene will continue to thrive. R.I.P. Cropredy and probably Fairport too, but let's look to the future, eh?

Early night coming up tonight, and hopefully a better night's sleep than last night's lousy one. Up especially bright and early tomorrow to go to Katy's, because we've got the first session of our marriage preparation course in the morning. It may sound a rather contrived thing to be doing, but it's pretty common in Christian circles, and is a really good idea in terms of getting people thinking and talking about important but surmountable issues that may never have previously occurred to them! Otherwise this evening I've been and done my weekly shop, and also packed a few less-often-used but slightly bulky things of mine to take to Katy's as the first stage of moving, a routine which I suspect I'll repeat to some extent on a few more weekends I make the journey!

So although tomorrow may have a bit of a relationship theme going on, it's not going to be a Valentine's Day celebration, and we're not lamenting that in the least - and indeed have made a pact not to get each other anything for it. We have something far more important to us at least to celebrate on Sunday, as I am sure anyone with any grasp of how this diary works will easily be able to confirm! Anyway, it's time I was heading to bed, with an anaesthetic throat lozenge or two to hopefully knock me out and give me that good night's sleep!

Sunday again, and back at home, having left Katy's not too late given that the weather was looking a little on the threatening side, though it was fine in the end. We had our first marriage prep session yesterday morning as planned - with Michael and Geraldine apologising profusely for dragging us apart after not much more than twenty minutes together, because the first session is done on a man-to-man and woman-to-woman basis as a follow-up to the questionnaire completed a few days previously. So Michael treated me to a coffee at the garden centre just outside Farnham, whilst Geraldine took Katy to a bistro in the town centre, and it was good to flesh out a few of the more interesting topics raised on the questionnaire. Katy and I then went for a light lunch at the Miller's Kitchen, dropped in on Simon and Becki - albeit with the slightly vested interest of meeting young Malachi for the first time for me, all very sweet even if he was on "vibrate alert" setting when I held him - and popped into Sainsburys to get some supper for later. Couple of games of Scrabble, and watched Attack of the Clones - which Katy hadn't seen before - while we supped on Cabernet Sauvignon and munched sweet chilli beef, egg rice and dim-sung. Tired by then after my very early start, so we called it a day soon after!

This morning was a bit different at Katy's church, with the core of the meeting being a talk - though more of a workshop - by apostolic overseer Christine, about gifts of the spirit, and really quite challenging. Katy and I also made a bit of an announcement about our plans - since not everyone necessarily knew - and were prayed for corporately, but we also received some more individual ministry afterwards from Christine which was most interesting, highlighting a possible spiritual reason for Katy's ongoing and inexplicable illness, though not something I should share here really. Put it this way, Christine was so definite and sudden with her diagnosis that it took all present aback somewhat, so I really do believe there was something in it even if the exact nature is unknown and may well be supposed to remain so. Afterwards we drove into town for our anniversary lunch; we eventually decided against returning to the pub at Fleet as we'd once contemplated, because it wasn't particularly great, and it would have meant a lot more driving for me. So we visited Pizza Piazza once again, took a look at wedding rings in the nearby jeweller, had a final game of Scrabble back at Katy's house - which Katy won, salvaging some pride for the weekend - and then I hit the road back here, which is precisely where I am now.

Quiet but productive day today - not going on the silly team-building session this morning meant I actually got some peace from the usual incessant phone calls and consequently managed to get quite a lot done. In fact, this oven software is pretty much there, exporting spreadsheet files perfectly happily, and plotting a nice graph itself. A bit of tidying up round the edges to do I am sure, but the hard work's certainly done. Anyway, I'd better maintain this momentum while I can, hadn't I? So bye for now, but catch you later probably...

A slightly duller day by virtue of being mainly HTML and CSS hacking rather than programming in Java, but still pretty productive, and interrupted only by a production meeting this morning. Production meetings are on their way out, albeit in rather a "the production meeting is dead, long live the production meeting" style, given that the main difference is that we will be running them rather than the course managers. Though their format will change a little bit since the current formula is that people who you would swear blind never talk to each other outside of such meetings agree to push back dates on the schedule and generally make excuses for having been over-optimistic, and there's some suggestion that the new ones will actually be geared towards getting things done and agreed. Well, that's the hope anyway. Not that I expect anything much will happen before I leave at Easter, but never mind eh? Anyway, the day is very nearly over and done with, and I have nothing much planned for this evening other than probably talking with Katy, having a bath, reading some more of my book and hopefully getting started on updating my CV somewhat!

Other things accomplished to a variable degree, but my CV is definitely looking decidedly better. Now off to bed, with a few more chapters of that book...

One more chapter, in the end - far too tired for any more. Today's being pretty dull really, and I am quietly despairing about a CD-ROM I have been asked to make. The course teams "wants PHP" on it, whatever that means in practice... Well, at least it might justify it being a CD-ROM rather than a floppy disk - given that the other requested content runs to only just over a megabyte - but PHP in isolation isn't remotely useful and I surely hope they aren't planning to ask students to set up Apache webservers on their home PCs. Lara understood my sarcasm when she said it's being delivered as a 24-volume gold-plated DVD box-set, but I can see this turning into yet another farce. Reason number 251 of many more than that why I'm very glad to be going soon.

Open House was quite good this evening, with the highlights being one of our newest members Bob sharing his powerful testimony, and a really good time of prayer and ministry afterwards. Oh, and a nice glass of Simon's homebrew! But off to bed now, in the hope of having plenty of energy tomorrow evening for a concert at the Stables for which Emily has kindly negotiated a ticket for me! Martyn Joseph and Steve Knightley, playing each other's songs - should be very interesting indeed, and it will be good to see James again and meet Andy and Kath now that they're down in Milton Keynes, even if I'm on my way out now...

Got up somewhat unwillingly this morning, but hey, only seven weeks to go now and I'll be out of this pit. Had a brief look at online job adverts for the Farnham area and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of stuff on offer - and with pleasantly surprising salaries in the main. I do worry about my level of skills development having spent the last seven years in an academic rather than commercial environment, but updating my CV the other evening suggested that I'm nowhere near as useless as I'd feared. I can - and will - get a good job!

Oh, roll on half-past five and roll on this evening's fab concert. Today has reminded me exactly why I hate working in bureaucratic and bloated institutions such as this one. The video came through from Sound and Vision late yesterday, and it's pretty good but not quite perfect. Sadly the limited imperfections are sufficient to render it completely unusable, and the guy who did it seems reluctant to pursue what I - in my mere software designer ignorance - proposed as a feasible way around them. But that's the way things happen round here. We don't compress MPEG in-house, we have to book Sound and Vision's services long in advance to do it, even though us designers are the ones who understand what we actually need and take the flak when it doesn't work. I've now had more than enough of this stinking project and wish I was leaving tomorrow. I take pride in doing a good job and hate having to concede defeat, but this will have been the second project of mine in the past year that's died at the final hurdle thanks to our undue bureaucracy and a poor decision made by me in good faith. Of course it's not officially dead yet - silence abounds from all I have emailed - but word on the street is that it's merely nailed to the perch.

Totally fabby evening as expected, and the perfect antidote to an otherwise mightily depressing and distressing day. Only thing wrong was not having Katy there, but everyone asked after her and I got a chance to speak to her on the phone before James and Emily arrived - in time for a good natter and a burger out - so she was there in spirit I'm sure. Nice to meet Andy and Kath properly too, and of course had a few other friends to say hello to; I never know quite who to expect to see when I go to the Stables, but there's always a handful! Anyway, it's late now and I'll need my wits about me tomorrow morning when I make my formal protestation about the debacle of this CD-ROM - especially given that the last email I received at work this evening basically confirmed that I'd been led up the garden path and forced to make a decision on dud premises. So I guess I'd better stop this Faith, Folk & Anarchy live CD - recorded at the Stables, no less, a couple of years ago - for now and duly head for bed.

Not my best day ever at work, but I stated my case about the wretched CD-ROM and the misrepresented video clips, and it's the weekend now so I am frankly beyond caring for a couple of days. Had a meeting with Gareth this evening about his website, a couple of phone calls with Katy of course, and my weekly trip to Tesco. Nothing else planned now except to chill out for a while!

Rather dismayed to see a piece in our local free rag here, following up a feature last week by a lass who went a big step up from the lonely-hearts column and got a full-blown advert and feature published about her. Certainly a pretty enough girl, and she attracted over seventy replies apparently. So far so good - and I approve of taking extreme measures if necessary, and they frequently are, if choosy - but the following quote rather summed things up:

All were bowled over by [her] petite good looks. "Wow! How can you have been single for five years?" was a common question.

How shallow can blokes get? Having spent a couple of years in total probably perusing dating websites and so on, I can assure you there are some physically absolutely stunning girlies out there, but who have such an attitude problem I really do doubt they'll ever find true love. Now I'm not saying for a moment that our aforementioned desperate young lady is a grade-one bitch, but it is a sad reflection on all too many "fellas" these days that they don't see beyond a person's looks, or the likelihood of them being good in bed. I'm just so glad I have never had to lower myself to going "on the pull", and that God has duly provided me with some lovely-in-every-way companions over the years, including the especially lovely one I am going to marry in almost exactly four months.

Gah, just had to get that out of my system, OK?

Not quite the quiet day I had planned, but not too hectic either. I got done a fair bit towards Gareth's site this afternoon, pretty much completing the stuff for one new act and doing a fair chunk of what was needed for another. But then I got a phone-call from Sarah's daughter Claire, visiting Milton Keynes for the weekend, inviting me over for tea, and who would I be to decline home-made chicken fajitas? So I ended up spending the evening there, and we watched a couple of films, which was about all anyone had the energy and inclination to do. Now back at home of course, and thinking I'll read the final chapter or so of Angels Flight and head for bed, hopefully getting a better night's sleep than of late for one reason and another. Busy day coming up tomorrow, y'see...

Ah, slight change of plan for today. As in, I now really don't have a clue what's happening, apart from "something", "sometime". Oh well! Shame a proper lie-in couldn't be part of the deal now; some things never quite change...

Aaargh, what a morning, especially... The original plan was that I would take Sarah and the girls to church, then nip out half way through to run Claire to Milton Keynes's dive - even by Milton Keynes standards - of a coach station. But then it turned out Claire had been ill overnight and wasn't going to go to church, which made things somewhat more complicated. But finally she decided she did want to go, which admittedly made things a little easier, except that she wanted Sarah to accompany her to the coach station, so we had to check that it was OK to leave Laura and Rachael in Sunday School. That was fine, so off we went at 11.30, but then we discovered there had been an accident on the M1 and the coach was going to arrive about twenty minutes late, and we really needed to be back at the church sooner than that would allow... So we agreed I'd leave Sarah and Claire at the coach station, go back to collect Laura and Rachael - which thankfully no-one questioned, but I am sure was technically totally against the rules, having no written authorisation - and then return to collect Sarah, by which time Claire would hopefully be on her way. All worked out in the end, but driving across Milton Keynes four times in one morning wasn't my idea of fun and none of us really made the most of the meeting!

Thankfully the rest of the day was more relaxed, between going for a chilly but healthy walk at Willen Lake and watching a couple of DVDs. Not to forget munching cheese, biscuits and a chicken roast - oh and helping avert World War III a couple of times I guess; such things one learns to take in one's stride.

World War III also at least temporarily averted at work today, regarding this ongoing video problem. Lara doesn't really understand the technical issues - and isn't pretending to, I should add - so I've agreed to take a little time out to write a layperson's summary of what's happened, when and why, before a few of us meet early this afternoon to discuss project progress in general. I think there is a way out of this mess, but nothing that won't be uncomfortable for someone or other in some way or other. Ultimately though, the quality of an informed decision is limited by the accuracy of the information provided, and this is far from the first time in the last couple of months I have been let down in this fashion. Thankfully the other decision I don't regret making.

We might have arrived at a workable solution for the video, but I am still deeply uncomfortable with the idea and will be quite happy to have a couple of days of relative peace at work thanks to the AUT strike - yes, I know, but I'm not a union member, even if I sometimes wish I was. Thankfully Lara seems to be keeping her cool over the video matter, so I can still hope for a positive reference from her when I leave this hell-hole, but it didn't help that she unexpectedly dragged the main academic involved along to our meeting this afternoon, who without exactly saying as much was fairly clearly trying to point the finger of blame as much as actually help solve the problem. But anyway, despite all the meetings getting in the way today, some progress was made, even if the destination is still shrouded in the fog of uncertainty.

This evening's been a bit of a wash-out. I felt utterly drained after today - and yesterday probably catching up with me a bit - and managed only a fairly brief chat on the phone with Katy before collapsing into the bath and starting to read The Lion's Game which she lent me when I was down last. So far so good with she latter, and I am sure I shall read a few more chapters before my day is totally done with. But I really am not going to last a great deal longer!

Strike? What strike? Well this corridor is bustling enough, though I have no idea who most of the people are, or what unions they might be affiliated with. All I know about them is that they spend more time in the kitchen making coffee than in their offices. One particularly dim one was shrieking her surprise that there were queues at the entrances due to picket lines, saying she'd never thought about that - despite a memo going round warning of it - and was glad she'd left home in good time. Like, duh... Of course, I walked in as usual and avoided the main entrances, so breezed my way into the office without any problem at all. Was quite funny seeing the gridlock on the V10 and H9 however!

Will be interesting to see who's at lunch though. My office-mates Sam and Tim are obviously both on strike, but I've seen a few colleagues around, so perhaps I'll get a bit of company. Anyway, I will duly find out in a few minutes!

Just Spencer in the end, and there were only about a dozen other people in the refectory. If tomorrow's going to be like today I'm not sure I'll bother coming in. I've made precisely zero progress today because I'm unsurprisingly not getting the support I need from any of my colleagues. To cap it all, the last person to work on the Flash has royally screwed up one of the bits that I took most effort to get working properly, and I don't know how to fix it. Damn this place; I really do want to leave on a high note, but everything seems to be conspiring towards me just saying stuff this for a laugh and walking out, even though I know that would be professional suicide. Excuse me while I weep.

Back at home now, had pizza, and don't care any more. Tomorrow is another day.

And I have only just over six weeks until I can wave it all goodbye.

Today was actually quite good, with the highlight being discovering how to make a DVD. Another skill I can put on my CV, anyway - although I understand the company that made our system has recently been bought and killed off by Apple, so there won't be any new installations now. But this does mean that things are looking vaguely hopeful for that wretched project, even if we've still to decide exactly what to do for the CD-ROM swap-out option for those users who couldn't read the requirement for a DVD-ROM drive. We might go for the entire video content at low quality, or just twenty minutes of it at high quality, but I'm focussing on the DVD right now, thank you very much. I'm sure we're well over the 25 hours allocated to this project now. Tenfold or more. Idiots.

Anyway, I have decided that tomorrow will be my last day this week, so phbbbbt!

And thankfully the latter wasn't contested. If it had been, it'd have hastened the writing of my letter to Personnel detailing exactly how I've been treated over the last few months. I'll let those responsible keep a couple more months of their excessive salaries, being a kind and considerate person like that.

Ah well, last day of my week almost done with. Got a bit more of the DVD done - mainly plugging in different menu graphics, taking into account the overscan on most domestic televisions, because some of the options were disappearing off the sides of the screen yesterday. Getting there... But I still have that wretched CD-ROM swap-out version to worry about. But any such worrying can wait until Monday now, because I'm out of here imminently, am looking forward to a good weekend, and really no longer give a stuff about anything much else. And come Monday I'll have less than six weeks to go! Rejoice and be happy!

Whoah, that felt like a long weekend - which may well have been because it was, rather. Back now though, and I have no plans to do anything much more today!

The general Friday agenda involved me driving down to Farnham in the afternoon, us enjoying a belated Shrove Tuesday crispy aromatic duck style, tackling Hong Kong harbour, albeit only in 1500-piece jigsaw form - not that we finished it, I hasten to add - and then going to a social night with Katy's house-group that mainly involved getting utterly shattered but having great fun playing EyeToy games on the PlayStation. And some of us being very silly with Maltesers. OK, just me, let's be brutally honest. We both loved the EyeToy games though; if we ever acquire a PlayStation, I can see us having to get one of those too!

Saturday we had an unhurried start before we hit the metropolis that is Fleet, to grab some lunch and look at wedding rings for both of us, and suits for me. We didn't quite get round to ordering rings - or a suit, but more on that in just a moment, OK? - although Katy's now decided what she wants to adorn her finger. I on the other hand am totally unused to wearing jewellery other than a watch, so we are still not exactly sure what to get for me, though it's looking likely I will go for something reasonably slim and in white gold. There was a church meeting we could have gone to in the evening, but we decided instead to do more jigsaw and play Scrabble - and I won't let on who came out the better from our record-smashing combined score of 880. We do swap blanks though, I should add, in case anyone fears we're walking talking dictionaries.

This morning, Friday seemed quite a long time ago, and it seemed an even longer time ago by the time I drove home, because it was. But today's been a really good day, going to church in the morning and discovering that God does indeed have a purpose for all of us - even if we're atheists - before heading into Aldershot to meet up with those lovely people Kit and George. Going straight to their flat was a dead loss, because they were sat in a nearby café, but we tracked them down soon enough and we all toddled along to the local oriental buffet to stuff our four happy faces and talk wedding plans, photography and whatnot. We finished off with a quick tour of the shops in Aldershot, and I seem to have left with my wallet a couple of hundred quid lighter but a nice new suit, shirt and tie to show for it - and a big thank you to Kit and George for their welcome opinions. That's both our outfits now pretty much sorted!

Anyway, yes, now I'm back home in Milton Keynes, but it'll be a journey I won't have to do for a great deal longer, and I took a few more bits and pieces down this weekend - not that you'd really notice looking at the flat here. But now it's time for a bit of light supper, a bath and perhaps even an earlyish night?

Oh, and we all looked at beds too! Couldn't fit one in the back of my car, so we didn't buy anything this time. Was funny finding one that Kit would have needed a ladder for, though! Actually, all a bit expensive, but fun things to think about, and it prompted some interesting discussion between the four of us... Nice having friends who can appreciate different viewpoints, isn't it?

Oh, and how on earth could I have forgotten Saturday afternoon, and our being visited by Rachel, Mark and Daniel? Hmm, maybe we did cram a bit more into this weekend than we realised we were doing... That was a nice enough, though somewhat intensive hour and a half, primarily thanks to one already somewhat lively three-year-old, further helped in the bouncing-off-the-walls stakes by cake... Daniel did appreciate his aeroplane I made for him out of Mega Bloks, but I declined to make a submarine even though I was 99% sure it would "work".

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