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David's diary: November 2005

So, back at work a couple of days, and today was better than yesterday by virtue of actually being able to do some work for at least part of the day. Tomorrow might be even better, and it will be broken up a little bit with a security briefing after lunch, where I expect I'll be told more than I really want to know about defence classification, the Official Secrets Act, and where to congregate in the event of a fire. Oh, and be photographed for my ID card, which is why I followed Katy's lead and gave myself a haircut this evening.

Third day at work this week, and my thirteenth altogether. Today I finally got to sign the Official Secrets Act and all that stuff, and am the proud owner of a photo-ID card with a picture of me that doesn't look like I'm either half dazed or out trick-or-treating. Been drafted into some other testing, for a somewhat indeterminate length of time, but I am assured this is absolutely, definitely, utterly and unquestionably not a permanent reassignment. There have been vague mutterings of early/late working associated with it - with permanent members of the team working on a shift rota - but nothing direct and to the point, so I'm lying low until or unless I hear otherwise. So all a bit annoying that it took so long to get any work at all, and now I'm being tugged at from multiple directions by people with stuff for me to do. And rather amusing that until I signed that blue sheet of paper this afternoon I probably technically shouldn't even have been in the building... Anyway, was a little bit later than usual getting out this evening, and found more traffic than ever before, but I suspect the combination of the first dark and very wet evening didn't help.

More of the same today, with added politics - and understandable if somewhat amusing whinging that the shift pattern has been suspended but no-one bothered to tell the guys who arrived in the small hours of this morning... Generally OK and didn't drag too much, but still couldn't be home soon enough. I think our boss is keen for us to get back under his leadership, feeling we're not really being put to the best of use at the moment, and I'm inclined to agree! But if we need to do this for a couple more days, I'll cope; it's mindless enough.

Friday was more of the same and fairly bearable, especially helped of course by that last-day-of-the-week feeling. I posted a few bug reports and was generally quite pleased with myself as I hit the road home. As well as Bonfire Night, Saturday was Katy's birthday, and we forewent going to any firework displays to treat ourselves to a banquet at the Bon East. Things had changed a little since we were in there last for our anniversary, in terms of both the furnishings and menus, but it was still top-notch. We also had Katy's mum and dad round for a late breakfast of melon, coffee and croissants, and walked into town to find Katy the cosy new gloves we'd decided on for a birthday present as well as a few more novels to read from the charity shops. Today we've been up to Joshua's thanksgiving service at Sutton Courtenay, followed by a contribution lunch at James and Emily's afterwards. Ceryn was quite right when she'd commented that Joshua is the spitting image of his daddy, and he remained similarly composed throughout today's proceedings! There weren't that many people we knew, but those we did it was good to catch up with, and despite having had a somewhat sleepless night last night we certainly managed to enjoy our day out. But now we're home and it's now dark as well as murky, so time to batten the hatches, shut what's left of the day out and chill for the rest of the evening probably!

Oh, and we looked at Mars on Friday night. Thankfully it was high enough in the sky that as well as being above the smog that blighted previous appearances, there wasn't too much risk of being blinded by fireworks entering the field of view, but we can't say we were hugely impressed to be honest. But still, we saw it. No doubt next year there will be more headlines about it being "the biggest for the next n years", more recycling of the chain emails from a couple of years back when it really was at its best for many millennia, and more artists' impressions of the planet rivalling the Moon for brightness in the sky...

Pretty naff few days at work really. I am still on this testing team, but am still assured it won't be for long - one way or another! Today took the biscuit though, being stuck in the test area an hour and a half after I was intending to go home. I wouldn't have minded if we'd been absorbed in something, but instead we were waiting for a system to be set up so I could do a test that would have taken all of five minutes if that. The system had supposedly been set up this morning, but it blatantly had no users configured and its network connection was shot. So an hour and a half later the poor fellow trying to fix it decided to call it quits until tomorrow, and I finally hit the road home. Thankfully, arriving home to yummy spicy chicken with pasta, that Katy let me garnish with olives and stilton so long as I avoided cross-contamination! I think a good grumble to my project manager will be justified tomorrow; I won't expect any sympathy for working late, but might for having my time wasted.

Oh, by the way, in case it wasn't totally clear, I have not, cannot, and will not, say anything too specific about what I'm doing. I'm not even going to say for which company I'm working, lest anyone put any unexpected pieces together. I expect it would bore you all to even more tears than usual if I did otherwise anyway! If I want to tell people anything more within the scope of what I am allowed, it certainly won't be here. Thank you very much for your cooperation!

So Tony's been humiliated over his wishes to lock up people without charges for three months. Someone at work gets The Sun, and I couldn't help but notice their headline stories for the last couple of days, yesterday's urging Tony to go ahead regardless, and today castigating the Tory leadership contenders for being cautious about us taking another step down the route to a police state. They tagged Davis and Cameron "Dumb and Dumber", obviously not adjectives that could really be attached to the 100,000 brainwashed readers who had responded to their Ba'ath-style one-option poll, or anyone who thinks that means jack.

Meanwhile of course, John Tulloch, the gentleman whose bloodied image appeared alongside the first of those headlines has complained about being used. "Not in my name, Tony", he said would have been his preferred headline, rather than "Tell Tony he's right" as The Sun opted. Silly newspaper for putting such words into the mouth of a professor of media studies of all people. In today's Times was a full list of the serially dissenting Labour MPs, these so-called traitors and ne'er-do-wells. Needless to say, it included many I respect the most.

Today's been a reasonably relaxing day after a fairly hectic week just about completed my first month back at work. We were supposed to have been meeting Rachel, Mark and Daniel for lunch, but they "phoned in sick" this morning while I was out getting a slow puncture sorted out, so we've put that off until another time to be arranged. And since they were supposed also to have been paying Katy's grandma a visit, we decided we'd take their place and call in on her for a little while instead. We went out for lunch anyway having a nice meal back at the pub near Fleet where we first met up what seems a positive age ago now - the day after St Valentine's Day in 2003, indeed. A short stroll around Fleet Pond and a stock-up at Tesco later and we were back home, though with utter traffic chaos today thanks to the amount of roadworks going on, nothing happened that quickly in the getting from A to B stakes it has to be said...

Today's not been too bad I suppose. The marking of Remembrance Sunday was a bit half-hearted this morning, but was better than many times in the past, in all fairness. It just seems something that the non-denominational churches don't do, which is a pity because I think it's important. Our country is far from perfect, indeed things often seem downright wrong, but there is no doubt that we would be in a far worse state (pun fully intended) had lives not been lain down to protect the values I suspect even the most anti-establishment amongst us hold dear and even take for granted. But I guess that we marked it at all was something, and an undoubted improvement on past years in past churches.

We went out for lunch afterwards, and there seemed a higher than average proportion of besuited "old timers" eating out today, so I suspect quite a few people had been out parading or whatever happens on Remembrance Sunday. But we still managed to get a table in Pizza Express as we'd been hoping, and enjoyed excellent service. Small wonder that the Pizza Piazza a few doors up bit the dust; great though the food was, they simply couldn't cope with even moderate volumes of trade. We had a quick leg stretch round town afterwards, with our best buy being a nice big non-stick roasting tin and carving set from Robert Dyas for a penny under a fiver. We arrived home just in time for Susanna to pay us a visit, though she didn't bring her kittens with her which was a slight disappointment - but we did give her a mouse, albeit of the optical computer kind, not one that said kittens might enjoy. And now, Katy's out at a planning meeting for the forthcoming Old People's Christmas party, with instructions to volunteer me to help with the proposed quiz there. Getting hungry though...

Perhaps my dullest day at work yet, thanks to the combination of one project being frozen and its replacement not yet being ready for developers to be set loose on it. So I just had to aimlessly read anything remotely relevant, and quickly found my eyes glazing over again. Still, got out at lunchtime and found what should be some really nice port at a bargain price, as well as a few other slightly more boring essentials. Curious, while walking there, to see what looked like a civilian light aircraft being escorted by four military-looking helicopters. I expect it had a totally innocent explanation, but there you go! This evening we had rump steak, chips and cheesy garlic mushrooms. It's so much more fun now it's worth cooking up something more than ready meals and pizza!

Though on the bright side, work-wise, Katy's just reminded me that while soaking in the bath this evening I've earned 15 quid for being on call.

Now on call for my third evening. Just another dozen-ish to go, plus weekends. I don't expect to be called out, but it does strictly limit my activities. Another pretty dull day today in limbo-land, but hey, it's almost the end of the week, and things should liven up a bit again thereafter. Oh, and today I finally got my internet access approved, though I can't actually use it for the time being because of further security things needing to be done, and by the time I can, I probably won't have a computer or a desk to use it from... Joy.

Monday, back at work, and actually not too bad a day. One of my colleagues is on leave from the middle of December and he seems to be the main fount of knowledge on a particular matter. So guess who's going to be his protégé for the next couple of weeks... Anyway, we started getting me up to speed on that this morning, and I spent most of the afternoon writing up my notes and doing a little poking around myself to fill in the inevitable gaps. The upshot was that for the first time in quite a few days, today didn't drag too much, though of course all things are relative - and in this case relative to some dire days!

The weekend should have been relaxing, but wasn't really, mainly thanks to simple lack of sleep. I'd been getting into better sleep patterns lately, but all that went to pot for the last couple of nights - and having to be up and about extra bright and early to drop Katy off at Farnham station this morning really didn't help in the least... So it was just as well we didn't do anything too adventurous this weekend, just a few bits of shopping really - for various things including a replacement roasting tin (the one we got before wouldn't fit in the oven!), a nice new fleece jumper for me, a telephone and a blender.

We were a little disturbed to see Aldershot Tesco's latest venture though. On the face of it, it looked good: a self-service till, where you scan your own stuff, sort of like the scanning gun things other supermarkets have, but at a till. That was until it came to time to pay, when it accepted our card without a signature, PIN or any other authentication whatsoever. So much for all the noise and effort bringing in Chip-and-PIN if the supermarkets are going to make retrograde steps like this one - especially given that the store is a known haunt of card fraudsters. I think this may warrant some further investigation.

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