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David's diary: January 2004

I am now back from my Christmas and New Year adventures, but the water's now heated up for a bath - I've had to make do with showers for the last week and a half really! - so for now will just wish all my readers a happy new year!

Right, I'm nice and clean now, though there was only just enough hot water, so I didn't have the long soak and frequent top-up I'd normally enjoy. It's been a pretty busy last few days, but it's been great spending some truly quality time with Katy - and we'd better get used to each other's company hadn't we?!

The journey to Farnham on the Tuesday before Christmas wasn't a good start, however. There had been a major, if apparently non-toxic, chemical spill on the southbound M1, the extent of which only really became clear when the police closed the entire motorway and dumped us hapless motorists in the joyous urban centre that is Luton, with no advice on how to escape. About two hours later, I reached glorious Dunstable - and have never been so glad, believe you me... A full four hours after I'd set out I finally arrived at Katy's - breaking our "record" for the journey - and thankfully I'd been able to warn her of my delay and to have plenty of hugs waiting for me! Not only hugs in the end, but a most timely all-expenses-paid trip to the local Miller's Kitchen - becoming a popular haunt, and by no means a cop-out option with their excellent new menu.

This isn't going to be a blow-by-blow account, if only because frankly I can't remember everything from the last week and a half, but I'll do my best anyhow!

Christmas Eve I'd agreed to take Katy to Frimley Park hospital - made famous recently by the Countess of Wessex of course - to see her ENT consultant about her ongoing illness, and that I duly did. Not that he had anything terribly enlightening to say, unfortunately, and - after popping to see her GP yesterday afternoon - Katy's now waiting for another appointment with the over-subscribed neurologist to see if they can shed any light. Thankfully these problems didn't overshadow our time together and with our respective families too much, though it obviously remained a worry at the back of both of our minds, and Katy did suffer rather more than she let on, it would appear in retrospect.

We spent Christmas Day with Katy's parents, her grandmother, sister Rachel, brother-in-law and nephew. There were a fair few people at church in the morning - perhaps reflecting the number of people not travelling elsewhere this year - and a suitably festive time was enjoyed, with sherry and mince pies afterwards! Lunch back at Katy's parents' was traditional, although tea was far from being so - more of a Chinese finger buffet! - and in between there was plenty of time for exchanging presents, game-playing, the Queen and so on. The only downer of the day was when Rachel, already rather unwell, left her handbag behind, and they had to drive most of the way back to Farnham again to collect it. I don't believe I have ever seen her looking quite so drained.

Boxing Day Katy and I travelled to Hom Green, just outside Ross-on-Wye, where my parents had already been based for a couple of days. The journey was fine, and I still had my maps and instructions from when I was there last year. The weather was pretty foul most of the time we were there, but in those five days - only three whole days really though - we got out for a couple of walks, did a bit of shopping, ate and drank well and played plenty of games. Katy and I visited my sister and family on Saturday, with Katy proving a big hit with the younger girls in particular, as I had fully expected. We also met my sister's friend Chris for the first time, and he seemed to be fitting in very well. On Sunday, Ali, Chris, Pete and his fiancée Kim visited for the morning, with my parents in particular dead chuffed at having all three of their offspring under one roof with happy partners in tow, something that has never happened before!

Katy and I returned to Farnham on Tuesday, when the let on the cottage expired anyway, enjoying a bit of time to ourselves before the fun of New Year's Eve the following day. We were quite glad to have declined going to the "main event" of the evening, which attracted about fifty people apparently, instead opting to go to a gathering of no more than half a dozen or so - and mainly spent flopped out watching The Two Towers extended edition DVD. We'd not expected to make it through to midnight - instead pondering the idea of celebrating with Moscow, or somewhere similar a few time-zones to the east! - so the idea of the DVD was a good one indeed, after my initial hesitancy...

But today it was time for us to part, and to wind down before preparing for our return to work on Monday. Yes, Katy's scheduled to go back also, for the first time in well over a month now. She's not sure how she's going to get on, but the ENT consultant's advice on Christmas Eve was that it's best for her to try and get on with doing things, albeit in moderation. Katy's GP seems to concur, whilst suggesting that Katy negotiates slightly different working arrangements - with the "threat" to her employer that she could very easily be signed off again... I get the impression her employers are a reasonable lot, thankfully!

Overall though, despite the difficult circumstances, an excellent time was had by all, and it was great to be able to be with so many of those we love and who will be joining our respective families in somewhat under six months' time now!

2003 - Year of the Katy

By way of a review of the year just finished, I said before you'd be getting edited and updated highlights from that newsletter I sent out, so here goes...

The Chinese seem to have got it into their heads that 2003 was the year of the Ram. Well "baaa" to that, I say - they've got it wrong because it's definitely been the year of the Katy. After the disappointing - no, disastrous - events of early 2002 of which you are probably aware, the year just ended happily turned out much better, and in no small part thanks to the aforementioned lovely young lady, about whom you shall find out much more very shortly, fear not!

Work has had its ups and downs, with new challenges presented by the ongoing restructuring of my department, in terms of new procedures and policies, and the actual software I produce. I recently applied for voluntary redundancy, for reasons I shall explain shortly, but after initial indications were favourable, it now turns out that they valued me too much to progress my application. This has cast a bit of a shadow over the festive season - as has Katy's current and lingering illness - but worse things happen, so I'm not panicking yet!

As for Katy, well I first met her "on the net" at about this time last year. Despite my previous negative experiences I still believed it to be a good way to find a like-minded life partner, especially when I'm a little picky! We first actually met up near Fleet, Hampshire, in mid-February, just after St Hallmark's Day, and things have been progressing very nicely since. Katy is just a little younger than me, lives in the not-excessively-posh part of Farnham in Surrey - you can see her house from the road, let's say - and works as an IT contractor, specialising in computer software for the pharmaceutical industry. She is a member of the Pioneer church in the town, and her friends there have all been most welcoming and supportive over the last few months!

The best news of all though is that on 5 October, Katy and I announced our engagement - with our marriage booked for June 2004, less than six months away! For those who want to know the gory details, read on, otherwise feel free to skip to the next paragraph... I did not go down on one knee, because we were already seated - in a field near some piebald ponies who had to turn away in their embarrassment - having enjoyed a lovely autumn walk out from my parents' house. No negotiation or bribery was necessary, and all parents and immediate family were quickly informed and of course delighted! For the benefit of the girlies reading, Katy's ring is an 18 carat gold half eternity - see, we're not remotely traditionalists - with seven channel-set diamonds. Katy doesn't have big fingers, so it's quite understated, but we quickly agreed it was the one!

As well as a lovely wife I will of course be gaining some extra family, most immediately being Katy's mum and dad, her elder sister Rachel, brother-in-law Mark, little nephew Daniel and of course Grandma! Mum, Dad and Grandma all live reasonably locally to Katy in Farnham, whilst Rachel, Mark and Daniel live a little way away in south-west London. There are a few other family members dotted around the country, but Katy's family grows a lot more than mine as a result of this amalgamation, with the addition of my sister and her children!

Regarding that redundancy, our cunning plan is that we shall start our married life in Farnham, at Katy's current house, with the intention to move to somewhere a little more suitable as a family home within the next year or so. Consequently I plan soon to leave Milton Keynes, after seven or more generally happy years up here - though it will still be quite a wrench and I will miss having my friends so close to hand. I'd hoped that the redundancy would see me off with a handy deposit for our new house, or at least tide me over until I could find a job locally, so when they told me a few weeks back that it was basically "in the bag" I was delighted. But as I said earlier, it turned out that wasn't quite the reality of the situation, and lovely as it is to be appreciated like I clearly am, it is not music to my ears at the present time!

But for the moment we are just enjoying being engaged and spending as much time together as we can. However, as I said, Katy isn't very well at the moment thanks to a virus that just won't go away, so I'm having to do most of the travelling right now. We've just finished a lovely Christmas-time together, spent partly with Katy's family in Farnham and partly at a holiday cottage my parents rented near Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, easy driving distance from Gloucester and near Hereford, where my brother and sister live respectively. Katy didn't have a lot of energy, but the cottage was nice and cosy, and the weather was lousy anyway so none of us felt like doing a great deal outside, but we still had plenty of opportunity for visiting and being visited!

And now, normal service can be resumed...

I'm cold. And missing Katy. Though my own bed will be most welcome!

Katy's mum suggested we could elope - Katy and I, that is, I hasten to add.

Hmm, June 19th at Farnham, or next week at Gretna Green, what do you reckon?

Kind of interesting day today. A friend phoned at about lunchtime, wanting to pick my brains, so to speak. He's just started "seeing" a single mum with a young daughter and seemed to think I might be a fount of good advice... Hmm. Though actually, in the end I think I probably did have some useful tips to share - after all, even bad experiences can be useful so long as lessons are learnt and you can come out wiser as a result. Of course, one of the main lessons I learned the hard way was to steer well clear of such situations, but that was a lesson just for me. Everyone deserves a second chance if they enter with the right attitude, and I wish my friend all the best - with my advice as and when he needs it. And I would wish those second-chancers exactly the same.

I suppose I ought to go to bed now.

A strange day. A strange day indeed.

But one that I can come out of surer than ever that what I am doing is right.

I suppose I ought to go to bed now.

A strange day. A strange day indeed.

But one that I can come out of surer than ever that what I am doing is right.

Hmm, didn't I say exactly the same thing yesterday..?

So, it's Sunday, last day of the holidays for me - and many others, including Katy, who the experts have deemed healthy enough to return to work as planned tomorrow, at least on a trial basis. Looking down and to my right, I observe a depressing heap of clobber brought back from our Christmas break, and that really needs sorting through at some point today. Yes, I can certainly think of somewhat more fulfilling ways to spend a Sunday, but "needs must" sometimes!

All sorted - and the washing machine's happily whirring away now!

Now grudgingly back at work, and straight into our regular Monday Morning Meeting, although at the coffee bar rather than one of the meeting rooms, to reduce the shock-to-the-system factor. Or more likely because Lara hadn't had a chance to book anywhere else. Was quite a strain getting up this morning, especially since I slept poorly thanks to a lot of stress from the weekend, but it's lunchtime imminently, so the day's not dragging too much. If I can't sleep significantly better tonight I'll be very surprised, however!

And now the day's more or less over, and been singularly unproductive. Not that there's a whole lot I can be doing at the moment - really not that likely to come back after the Christmas break and find anyone else has progressed anything, is it? Hey ho, at least I can go home soon and get some proper rest.

Waaah, I'm now feeling like a lifer just refused parole. I really am close to being reduced to tears by this job. All I want to do is some real programming, with proper programming environments. None of this Flash / HTML / spreadsheet nonsense. A month ago I was happy, I was on my way out of here at last, but now my application's "approved" has been crossed out and re-stamped "rejected", and all I have to look forward to is the four walls and effectively barred windows of this office and the attendant increasingly frustrating tedium.

I think I'll go for a little walk in the evening sun before I resort to testing the impact resistance of a 21-inch Iiyama monitor against the human cranium.

At least I have that much freedom.

The day got appreciably better after that, if only thanks to multiple phone calls with Katy, a reasonably good astronomy club gathering - including a fairly interesting lecture on interstellar chemistry and an inside-story update on the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission - and finally a good phone natter with Sarah.

Now it's high time I was heading for bed and seeing if I can manage another reasonable night's sleep...

Oh, and how could I forget playing Mario Kart: Double Dash at Sam's for an hour or so? And even beating him at it a couple of times?! I'm not sure if I could ever bring myself to buy a games console, but I admit that was quite fun...

Good thing I didn't drive my car in to work this morning, or I'd have been swerving to pick up any coloured cubes and spotted mushrooms I happened to notice. As it was, I walked, and didn't jump to collect any coins or rings.

Today's otherwise been pretty tedious, and I hope our first Open House meeting of 2004 can redeem the day this evening. I'd hoped to be able to concentrate on user interaction in the magnetism Flash animation I am helping create, but the academics put a small spanner in the works yesterday by deciding - without consulting us of course - to restructure it, and recording the audio soundtrack accordingly. If I'd carried on with the user interaction I would have had to re-do a lot of it once Sue had carried out the restructure, so instead it's gone back to her for a couple of days. Thankfully I had a few bits and pieces I could be getting on with for the fetch-execute sequence animation, so I've not been twiddling my thumbs all day, but it's been somewhat dull nonetheless, and of course there's been little of the required action from the academics in charge of the other parts of the CD-ROM the Flash animation is for. Well, apart from one who complained before Christmas that a spreadsheet didn't work; I assumed I'd fixed the problem, but it still doesn't work and he belatedly added, "I am Mac based if that makes a difference." I said, "Yes, probably," and have left it at that for the time being. I may dislike it when Flash and spreadsheets become the core of my job, but one thing I definitely do not expect to do is make special effort to help academics who choose to ignore university policy on computing platforms. Diversity in the personal computing market is essential, but unless they want development costs to double or triple - bearing in mind these are the clueless people who allocated 27 hours' of developer time to write five pieces of software - they'll just have to lump it.

Today was slightly better, with a meeting this afternoon seeing a little bit more direction to the Flash animation, and a sense that the end is in sight - if only with regard to that particular project... Spent the evening round at Sarah's, which was a pleasantly stress-free time for once - Sarah had said that I might want a "get out clause", but it turned out that after tea Laura went to stay the night at her friend's house and Rachael was good as at least 9-carat gold and toddled off to bed with barely a fuss! They'd received a basic DVD player for Christmas which I'd said I'd set up for them, and happily it really was simply a case of plugging in the SCART lead and sticking in a disc. So the rest of the evening went in the company of Pete Postlethwaite OBE and the rest of the Brassed Off cast - well, had to be better than the Jim Carrey option. Of course I got my priorities right and managed to fit in a half-decent phone call with Katy, where we discussed a little bit more of the nitty gritty detail of our wedding ceremony. Not long until it'll be a mere five months to go!

Bah, today I have been mainly wondering why the hell I ever agreed to do Flash. Mind you, could be worse, I could be using QuestionMark - and in fact unless I step up my efforts to escape this place, it looks increasingly like I might... Highlights of the day so far have been a nice - if cold - stroll with Sam, Tim and Rob at lunchtime, and earlier spotting a very glum-looking Colin Pillinger as he walked past the front of my block. Well, he was smiling in some sense of the word, but you could tell it was extremely forced... Poor guy - clearly it was a massive gamble pushing himself under the spotlight like he did, though on the bright side I guess it might mean we don't now lose him to somewhere else.

Right, well at least for a couple of days I don't have to concern myself with the finer details of Macromedia's insanity. This evening's been a little more rushed than intended, with Sarah asking if I could get her a couple of things while I was out shopping, but I'm back home now, have managed a couple of phone calls with the lovely Katy and might now finally get to finish watching my DVD of Minority Report, on the third - or is it the fourth?! - time of asking... At least I can have a good lie-in tomorrow morning and have precisely nothing planned for the rest of the day! Yes, Katy and I are having another "weekend off", but with Katy still not too well, me feeling quite tired after my week back at work, and slightly grander plans for next weekend, I think we'll cope!

Saturday morning, and given that I don't seem to be able to get back to sleep and have a proper lie-in for once, I might as well do something useful. No, not surf the net, silly - I've hopefully now all but booked our honeymoon!

I was about to make the most of the remaining daylight and go for a walk. But then Darren phoned and we went for a late lunch instead. And I also got rid of something he's going to sell for me on eBay. Oh, and then - although it was by then of course dark - I finally went for my walk. And put my car through the car-wash, after a particularly ill bird paid it a visit a couple of days ago by the looks of things. What an exciting life I lead?! Oh, and I've spoken to Katy a few times already today; that's substantially more exciting, isn't it?

Since then, I have mostly been watching my Gladiator DVD. I definitely enjoyed it a lot more second time round, and its 149 minutes didn't drag in the least. Still haven't worked out exactly which of the woods near Katy's house they used for filming the opening battle scenes, so that will justify further viewing...

A (mainly) nice day - but I'd rather have been with Katy. Roll on next weekend!

However, in one of the slightly more surreal moments this afternoon, I was able to explain the rules of darts to my friend's eight-year-old daughter. Nothing like a bit of applied maths to keep the little darlings out of mischief, eh?

Should I move on to the off-side rule next time? With or without pepper-pots?

But I'd still have rather been with Katy!

She'd at least have been able to subtract 13 from 53. On a good day, at least.

Not that I'll feel terribly put out if I go through the entire remainder of my life without once having "a game of arrows" with Katy, I should of course add!

This evening has been somewhat more productive than the rest of the day. Not least because I've been plotting the finer details of my Escape from Milton Keynes - I believe there's a John Carpenter film being made as I speak - rather than trying and generally miserably failing to get actions working in Flash.

But now I've had enough of that for the evening and am going to have a nice long bath and go to bed. So goodnight, everyone - see you tomorrow I'm sure!

Katy's still showing little if any sign of improvement health-wise, but today has otherwise been a decidedly better day in pretty much every regard. Amongst today's accomplishments, between the two of us:

  • Booking the register office for our low-key "legal" marriage in June
  • Making appointments at our respective register offices to give notice of marriage
  • Confirming the booking of our honeymoon, bar about two nights

And, somewhat less interestingly, and not particularly involving Katy...

  • Actually getting things dragging and dropping properly in Flash

Well I thought that all made today a reasonably good day, anyway!

Time to head home now though!

It's not that late, but after a reasonably busy day, I really think I could do with heading for bed. Hey, this previously uncharted territory is exciting to explore - and indeed it's even more uncharted than I realised before, but that is most definitely history now. Just as it's most definitely bedtime, indeed!

It's snowing!

Need I say more?

Didn't settle though. Shame. One of the benefits of walking to/from work...

Apart from the fun of the snow, which was of course all too short-lived, today has mostly been spent getting more drag-and-drop functionality into the Flash animation I'm working on. I sincerely hope I never have to develop in Flash ever again; aside from boasting a decidedly suboptimal development environment - I pity anyone who has to use it on anything smaller than the 21" screen I am blessed with - it is also entirely unsuited to collaborative working, due to the entire project being bundled up in one file. Thankfully Sue - the graphic designer I have been working with on this - been either otherwise occupied or off work altogether for the last couple of days so I've been able to take hold of the baton, but under any other circumstances it would have been an utter nightmare. And of course we're not remotely finished, so there's time yet...

Otherwise, I presented Lara and Nigel with my initial musings regarding getting out of here. My proposal has so far met with silence, and I am not terribly optimistic about them going for it anyway, but I've given them until the end of next week to at least sit down with me over a coffee and discuss it in detail. In summary, I am proposing a home-working arrangement, which will enable me to move to Farnham at Easter whilst allowing the university to keep me on their books, so in theory at least, everyone comes out happy and they save a wedge of money into the bargain. Of course, it goes against just about every principle of the new structures put into place here over the last couple of years - from the political such as clamping down on working from home, to the technical such as firewalling of all major network resources - but it all depends how genuine Nigel was being when he said he didn't want me to go. Was it just that they didn't want to pay me off to leave, or that I really am a valuable asset worth hanging on to? The outcome of this episode should reveal a great deal...

Without having commented on it per se, Nigel is attempting to convene a meeting next week for us to discuss the proposal I forwarded to him and Lara yesterday. I guess that's a start. Anyway, I can stop worrying about that for a few days now because today's my last day at work this week - since tomorrow morning I'm going to the register office in Bletchley to serve my notice of marriage, and in the afternoon I'm finally going to see Return of the King with Katy!

Hello, I'm still here! Even if I haven't been all the time in between...

The price to pay for having enjoyed such a good weekend with Katy is that I'm not feeling remotely great this evening, to the extent that if I'm feeling no better by the morning I very much doubt whether I'll be making it in to work. Perhaps walking out to Tesco wasn't too great an idea but I felt grim even before that, and anticipated that the fresh air would clear some cobwebs...

The weekend was good, though, going down to visit Katy on Friday, once I'd been and served my half of our notice of marriage at the Bletchley register office. That was pretty painless, and Katy had forewarned me of some of the trickier questions I would be asked, having had to phone me rather urgently on Thursday! The M25 roadworks were nowhere near as bad as feared, so I made good time down to Farnham, and we managed to book to see a slightly earlier showing of Return of the King than we'd initially planned - and just as well because I'm not sure either of us would have quite lasted out any later in pretty much any way... We had enough energy to demolish a steak meal each - as well as desserts - at the nearby Beefeater, but that totally finished both of us off for the day.

Saturday we got out for a reasonable stroll at Frensham, before doing a little shopping back in Farnham - including replacing my poorly watch battery - and then had Geraldine and Michael around for a cuppa and to discuss the marriage preparation course we've agreed to do over the next few months. I promised I wouldn't dwell too much on then utterly thrashing Katy at Scrabble, so I won't, though from a "cooperative play" point of view we did thoroughly annihilate our previous best combined score. Tea was a most yummy lamb roast round at Katy's parents, followed by more games, and a chilly but - apart from the possible after-effects today - healthy walk to deliver Katy safely back at her house.

Sunday was a less hectic day, with church in the morning - including perusing some of the options Mel is pondering in her capacity as designer of our wedding invitations - followed by a Thai lunch at one of our favourite pubs, the Golden Fleece at Elstead, and a short stroll out along the river Wey from the nearby Waverley Abbey. I quite wanted to get home before it was too dark, but then decided I'd drop in to see my parents on the way, and of course not only got a little lost going cross country, but got somewhat waylaid there and was plied with cheese and biscuits once I'd resolved the inevitable computer problems.

Altogether though, it just feels that despite the hurdles being dumped in our path - Katy's illness and my bosses' dithering in particular - our plans are fleshing out and becoming more tangible every day. Yes, the hurdles are a big irritation, and are not to be underestimated, but hurdles are to be jumped, not to be defeated by. With our venue, caterers and honeymoon booked, and all the legal formalities possible at this time completed, we are both lifted up, and those hurdles don't have to look half as daunting as they did not so long ago!

Right, I've had a bath, my skin feels dry, tight and painful, and my head is doing the butterfly stroke. Will be a pity if I miss work tomorrow, given the fair progress I made today with flashing LEDs from the 82C55 interface that finally arrived the other day, but I refuse point blank to be a martyr.

Slept very badly and dreamed frustratingly, but felt a bit better this morning than I did last night, so I did make it into work, and I'm surviving so far.

Just been having a chat with Ian about video formats and whatnot. The course I am working on that includes the magnetism Flash animation amongst other things, continues to lurch this way and that as the QA deadline rapidly looms. The latest development is that they're not even sure whether they want a DVD or a CD-ROM now. I had been pushing all along for it to be on CD-ROM, given that there was not remotely enough content to justify the capacity of a DVD, but they insisted they wanted a DVD - but with a VHS tape and a CD-ROM available as options for those unable to use DVD... All a bit of a mess really, but as a result of my discussion with Ian, I am fairly happy about the quality of video we can fit on the CD-ROM, and the course team didn't seem too bothered as to whether their beloved DVD would play on a stand-alone DVD player anyway, so in my mind there really is no argument now. Well, apart from that they have been telling prospective students they need a DVD drive in their computer, but why then are they offering VHS tape and CD-ROM alternatives?! It's an utter mess!

Well, I made it through to the end of the day at work, and have nothing much planned for this evening other than phoning Katy again, soaking in the bath and hoping for a better night's sleep ahead... Today's main triumph was getting the 82C55 interface working from Java, made a little more difficult than it need have been due to C++Builder's arbitrary mangling or not of export names. But I now have a Java application with two buttons that flash the status light on the interface and strobe the A0 output respectively, and that monitors and displays the status of the B0 input. Sounds all very unexciting, I know, but it's going to be the basis of all that is to come with this particular piece of software - just more complex combinations of the same, basically! - and I'm dead chuffed to have got it working anyway, so there. I also finally received the tape of the video content they want on the CD-ROM, DVD, punched card or whatever their latest media plan is, and was a little alarmed when the label said it ran to fifty minutes, somewhat more than the ten to twenty previously advised. However it was more like 27 minutes in the end, which I think we will be able to cope with, and Ian showed me how good even low-bitrate MPEG1 video can be, so I'm not too worried about the slight underestimation. It would be good to get a final decision on the media choice though, especially given that the official QA hand-over date is less than a week away now... Hey ho!

Felt much better today thankfully, and even made it along to Open House at Jam and Simon's, which I was by no means sure I'd be doing not so long ago...

Got a fair bit more of the oven software done at work today, to the point where I probably need the actual oven itself in order to proceed further. Sadly this is not an oven to bake anything interesting in - though I am tempted to include some "Easter eggs" in the software - but merely to "cook" five materials and measure their electrical resistance as the temperature increases. Tomorrow I have my meeting with Lara and Nigel, having given them my home-working draft proposal the other day. I doubt they'll go for it, but in many ways they'd be silly not to given that I am leaving Milton Keynes in a few months whether they like it or not, and there are projects I am working on that others undoubtedly won't be able to take over for the foreseeable future. Of course it may be that they want to negotiate something entirely different with me on the basis of my leaving, and I will try hard to be open-minded if that is the case.

Anyway, it's about time I was thinking about bed, and perhaps reading a little more of the novel of Chocolat, which I started the other day having picked it up in the sale at Smiths in Farnham a couple of weeks ago. So far, so good!

The answer to my wondering of just how much I am valued at work came abruptly but ultimately as expected. I am not. Well, they insist they will miss me, my experience and expertise, but not enough to justify bending any of their rules even a little. "If we let you, everyone will want to." A fair point, but I offered my proposal just as much for them as for myself. Part of me tells me I should now be drawing up a formal complaint about having been led up the garden path regarding my redundancy allegedly being pretty much done and dusted, and them now clearly having barely an ounce of consideration given a fair chance. But another part says just go, and go with dignity and grace. Go without hard feelings. Go without burning bridges. Go in faith. Without making any rash promises, they said they will put me on the freelance register and that I would be given due consideration for any relevant project work. I guess that's a fair compromise, and I would have the absolute right to tell them where to stick a good many of the less wonderful projects I've been working on were they to come back my way - though of course when I find another job it may well, whether contractually or practically, preclude freelance work anyway, so it all may be somewhat moot. Our meeting was civil and friendly, in their favour, and at least I now know where I stand. When I started at the Open University way back in September 1996, my since-retired colleague John impressed upon me from his own experience that I shouldn't stay more than two years. I've outdone that by five and a half, so it really is time just to go, to go in faith, and to go with excitement of what's undoubtedly in store for me as my life moves ahead.

My pack of Roquefort led a short but happy life, as Katy would say. I did at least devour it with the help of rice cakes, so it wasn't totally unhealthy.

I'm feeling a bit rougher again today, though not too bad, mainly an annoyingly tickly cough. Perhaps it's just as well that I have nothing definite planned for this weekend, although I obviously hope to make it along to Emily's party tomorrow evening. Sadly that will be without Katy, since she is in no fit state to make her way up here, but I have her permission to party so I needn't feel guilty - and besides, quite soon we will all be living in the same area!

Done my shopping this evening, and bought a few bits and pieces for tomorrow night, so I have no choice but to go now! Today's been OK, but not really got a great deal of work done. Highlights have been talking with Katy a couple of times this evening, and going to a presentation this afternoon by my colleague Jon about a Lego-based robotics course he's been producing the software for.

Time I was running a bath and preparing for a nice lie-in tomorrow though, now!

Saturday, and still got that tickly cough, but feel just fine otherwise so am going to go for a little walk and pop into the chemist and see if I can get something to look after that. Then work out what, if anything, I can do for the film-character fancy dress theme for Emily's party this evening! I hate fancy-dress parties to be honest, but I seem to recall from previous years that Emily's quite forgiving of those opting not to fully enter into the spirit. I will try though. Hmm, got one idea just now that might work if all else fails!

Good party, nice people as usual, "Agent Elrond" well received. Need sleep...

'Night!

Reasonably good day today; World War III averted on a few occasions anyway, so at least some level of achievement. Back to work tomorrow, but only for a four-day week, all being well! Must remember to book Friday off, though...

Really not a good day today. Not having lost half a night's sleep - and got a headache into the bargain - from my coughing might have helped salvage it. As it is, I feel motivated and physically able to do more or less exactly nothing.

Got home from work and crashed straight into the bath - well, admittedly having taken a few minutes first in order to run it. Then, gently soaking myself, and reading the novel of Chocolat, found myself craving the truffles I gave Emily on Saturday along with her "magic" insects and dinosaurs. Sadly nothing quite like the former in the flat - only some plain chocolate, which wouldn't quite do the honours - but I did have some rice-bread mix. But not any more. Indeed I barely have any of the resultant comfort-food bread now, it's so delicious - and hopefully nice and healthy, given my current avoidance of wheat products...

And now it's all gone. And with perfect timing, given that this last slice is almost cold! Let's just hope for a better night's sleep in a little while...

Another day, another entry. The highlight of today was going to the "process mapping" thing - for want of a better term - which was basically the aftermath of an exercise in finding out how we do things at the moment. Of course, this should have been done two or three years ago, before the seagulls came in and did what seagulls do, but better late than never I guess. Generally feeling pretty damn low at the moment, still unwell and feeling generally aggrieved at the way I've been treated over the last couple of months. Just felt today that I wanted the next five months to have gone, to be with Katy, to have started my new life - whatever form that might take! - and to be done with this nonsense once and for all. I definitely feel in "leaving mode" now; I'm conscientious enough that I want to leave things in an orderly state, but... a.s.a.p., OK?

Damn this. I'm trying to write my resignation letter, but am torn about what to say. I'm not going to raise any formal complaint about my treatment at this point, it's just exactly when I want to leave and so on that's the problem. I am technically on three-month notice, so cannot really request to leave any earlier than the end of April, although I can trade holiday off against that and would not in fact aim to work after Easter. But I don't want to blow my chances of getting another job before 28 April; I'd assume that any reputable employer would require that I had fully left this job before allowing me to start... Of course, the university may well let me go sooner than that anyway, but then that messes up all my calculations about outstanding holiday and so on. What to say, what to do... And it's their fault I'm in this flipping mess. Perhaps I should wait until Lara's back in tomorrow, but then that's another day gone, and another day longer they can hold me over their barrel.

I just hate it here now. Loathe it. Detest it. I want to cry, I really do.

It's the knowledge that they knowingly messed me around and led me on a wild goose chase that's the worst bit of it - and knew that it would be me that got left with the tough decisions, uncertainty and insecurity, not them. Believe you me, this really does leave me in a wonderful frame of mind to neatly wrap up all my projects over the next few weeks. Hate it, loathe it, detest it.

In better news though, we've all just been sent home because of the snow!

So instead I went back to Sam's flat and we played F-Zero GX for a couple of hours. Snow's stopped now, but there's no chance of it thawing, and my initial elation - and amusement at happily strolling past the traffic jams - is now tempered by having just received a text message from my mum to say that it's looking very doubtful whether our coordinated plans for tomorrow will happen. If they don't, that will just about finish me off for the moment - they're all that's really been keeping me going through all the hassles at work lately.

Some people have been deliberately undermining me and my confidence lately, others have been doing so through sheer thoughtlessness, others perhaps even unknowingly, and others completely unavoidably but still doing so anyway. I really don't feel like I have an awful lot of will left to carry on fighting now, like it would be easier just to let the world carry on collapsing around me and pick up the pieces afterwards if I'm still around to do so. But at the same time - as Katy says - the last thing I want to do now is to get stressed, so perhaps I really should just let the entropy of my life take its course for a little while and stop worrying too much about it. It's a tough call though.

But at least I have Katy, and at least Katy understands and accepts that I am not able to be a pillar of strength all the time, and indeed that sometimes I can go pretty low down indeed. But with Katy herself still so ill, I must try to be a bit stronger; it would do no good to drain each other to destruction!

Oops, we thought we may have got home before Tim did last night, and we weren't wrong. As it turned out, he spent ages sat in the car-park, not even able to get on to the university ring-road, before returning to the office for a couple more hours - no doubt against health and safety regulations, but probably safer than sitting stranded in a car! He finally left at about seven o'clock, and the three miles or so home took an hour. The snow is thawing a little today, but not exactly hurrying about it, and the plans for today have indeed been called off. However, there's a hope we might try again tomorrow, so all is not entirely lost and I may get to see everyone I wanted to this weekend after all!

Sue from my team arrived home in Bicester at gone eleven last night, whilst Sophia didn't get back to Biggleswade until long after midnight. Rather them than me, that's all I can say... I suspect Sam and I really were amongst the first home yesterday evening! All that chaos for the sake of about an inch of snow on what were generally fairly well-prepared roads - makes you wonder quite what would have happened had we had the kind of winter weather I remember from my rural childhood?! Anyway, the advice from Estates today is to leave early, and in any case before it gets dark; yesterday's advice was a massive foul-up, encouraging everyone to leave simultaneously, which was never going to succeed!

I'm not in tomorrow anyway, and the weekend's promising to be somewhat milder, so I am sure everything will be back to normal by the time I am next at work...

Right, I guess I should be heading for bed. I don't have to be up particularly early in the morning, but I suspect I might get a phone call or two before ten, so it might be good to be likely to be half awake by then. This evening I've been getting started on "my" half of the marriage preparation questionnaire that Geraldine and Michael gave us the other week in advance of the sessions we will be undertaking over the coming months. Some of the questions are pretty easy, but others are far from being so, and others may look like they have an obvious answer but actually go rather deeper. I'll have to spend a fair while longer on it yet, but perhaps that's something I can usefully do tomorrow!

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