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David's diary: January 2006

New Year's Eve was pleasantly civilised, spent in the company of Rachel, Mark and Daniel who were spending a few days at Katy's parents' house. So not too late a night, and indeed we didn't even see midnight there before we came home, though we were still awake when Chris Evans belatedly welcomed the new year in. Yes, I know it's a bit sad checking it against our radio-controlled clock, but I'm afraid Mr Evans can't blame that much delay on the "leap second" applied.

The highlight of New Year's Day itself was a contribution lunch at the centre instead of the usual Sunday morning meeting. When we arrived at the appointed time and there was only one other family there we got a bit worried (though not about going hungry) but plenty of others turned up soon enough and a jolly good time was had by all I think. I don't know what the year ahead is going to bring church-wise but we really couldn't have asked for a better way to kick it off!

On the bank-holiday Monday we hooked up with Rachel and co once again, this time having a late brunch (OK, lunch after missing breakfast) in Farnborough, before doing a little bit of window shopping and bracing ourselves for the horrible yet inevitable truth that had to be faced: the return to work today.

So yeah, back to work. What can I really say? Different year, same old...

And now not back to work, for at least a week. I'd rather be there, obviously with some half-decent work to do, but that's not the way it is to be for now.

Not that I take a great deal of interest in such things, but... I see George Galloway is being criticised for taking part in Celebrity Big Brother. He is accused of being a self-interested and attention-seeking celebrity also-ran. Which, umm, makes him different from all the other residents how exactly?

Needless to say, the programme is monopolising the schedules on E4, a channel we've not shown much interest in previously to acquiring our new Freeview box. We've also noticed a lot of programmes and films being repeated; we've realised (as I suspect we quietly guessed all along) that all these extra channels do not actually mean significantly increased viewing choice, merely increased (and occasionally earlier) availability of the same stuff as on the main channels.

Nice quiet Saturday today, which was very much needed, all in all. We wanted to get out, but a quick look through the bedroom window revealed wet snow, so we agreed a trip to the garden centre at Frensham and their famous breakfast would be a suitable morning endeavour. This afternoon we've been tackling some of the puzzles in our weekend paper (not bought at Tesco, which was applying the Henry Ford principle of "any paper you like so long as it's the Telegraph"), watching a very interesting and emotional dramatisation of the life of C.S. Lewis and persuading some of our more troublesome interior doors to shut more positively.

Tea time's rapidly looming now though; szechuan pork stir-fry coming right up!

And a fairly quiet Sunday also. Katy and I popped out for a little while in the afternoon to try and get a friend logged on to his office network via his home broadband router, but soon realised that our "worked first time" success with Katy's similar connection was not the best preparation for yesterday's... So alas we have had to leave our friend still having to physically commute this week, though I've done a little homework for next time we happen to be there. That was quite enough exertion for the day though, and (especially with the problems encountered) it still left me utterly drained, though I know right from the start that I will need to keep gently and carefully pushing myself.

So... Alpha kicks off properly tonight, after our successful dinner at the end of last year. We're expecting about five takers this evening, which isn't quite as many as we'd perhaps hoped for, but it will still be well worth the effort. Katy's one of the discussion group leaders and I am a helper, which means that my job is to sit quietly and actively contribute only when prompted. I had been hoping I might have been given a slightly more active part to play, but perhaps under the circumstances it's not such a bad thing - though I might need a good prodding in the ribs from time to time in order to keep me conscious and alert.

The opening session of Alpha went pretty well in the end. Five people we did not ultimately manage to attract, only two, but they were enthusiastic enough so it made for a productive couple of hours - and there's always the hope we might get a few more next week. Selfishly speaking, Katy and I were delighted that the attendees were the two people we'd started building a relationship with, which was massively encouraging for us. As for me - well I survived the evening in one piece, but then all I had to do was help eat Catherine's yummy food, chat a bit and occasionally contribute a meaningful word or two. I'd not have been able to do a great deal more than that, but was glad to be involved.

Nice quiet day today, but I am going to walk into town in a short while, since I've reserved something to collect from Argos and the doc recommended I keep up my exercise anyway. Nice and bright out; that will do me extra good I'm sure!

Walking into and around town, and back again: 6000 steps. That's good - and no prizes for guessing what one of my Christmas presents was. My blood pressure on getting home: about 160/90. That's not so good, really - though it's more like about 130/70 now. No prizes for guessing what it was I bought at Argos, then...

I was going to say the blood pressure monitor wasn't bad value at under thirty quid for a proper upper-arm one. But then it decided to lock up this morning so I had to remove the batteries and it lost all its readings, so back to Argos it will be going as soon as I can muster the enthusiasm to walk into town again.

Not mustered yet, and the best bit of daylight's now running short. We also need something to eat this evening though, which might be the clincher...

I drove in, in the end. A bit pathetic, but then it is pretty much dark even now. Money back at Argos, no problem - I wasn't interested in a replacement since it was fairly clearly a design fault - and parking fees quickly recouped with Sainsburys reduced-to-clear and multi-buy offers, towards tonight's tea. Not doing so well at keeping my sick leave low-key though, not wishing to worry family; just as I was walking to Sainsburys there was a cheery "hello David!" from the other side of the road - Katy's mum and dad, needless to say...

Today we've been into Farnborough, mainly to get a nice lunch out while our previously-acquired Beefeater vouchers were still valid, but also to see if we could find an alternative blood pressure monitor. The latter was unsuccessful, but we did very nicely with our lunch, and found Shaun of the Dead on DVD for only £3.75 at Smiths plus 75p for a half-price bar of yummy chocolate!

Back at work for three days now, and although it's been pretty tough (and the supply of work to do patchy at best) I've managed to get through OK, and we're now over the hump of the week of course. I had an informal three-month review yesterday afternoon, which was pretty helpful, confirmed that others had very much picked up on my unhappiness, and highlighted the need to keep a close eye on my wellbeing and possible opportunities for alternative project assignments.

But for now, while Katy soaks in the bath I have a pasta bolognaise to cook, and prepare for the hordes arriving for our regular Alpha feedback session.

No, we're not cooking pasta for said hordes, the two are completely unrelated.

The pasta is ours, all ours!

And now the week is done - though we've got a fairly busy weekend coming up, which I hope we don't find ourselves regretting! My week at work was pretty naff altogether, but I got through it without even thinking too seriously about throttling anyone, which is an improvement. It's a tough time again though, coming to the end of a three-month cycle that last did its stuff when I joined the company in October. I need work to get my teeth into, but we have pretty much run out of tasks for this phase - yet it's bound to be manic again soon enough... But enough of that for a couple of days, and we've already been doing nice things like cooking steak and chips, and booking ourselves a short break.

A fairly busy, but definitely nice, weekend. Yesterday was of course Emily's birthday party, and I don't think I've missed one in years. Last year we missed the pass-the-parcel but we arrived (with Kit and George) just in time for that this time, and James was being scrupulously fair in making sure everyone got at least one lolly. Other than that, a mainly chilled party for both of us, not really feeling very sociably energetic but finding enough people willing to talk to us and maybe making a few more friends in the process. Today we've been to church, then out to the Balti Hut for their Sunday lunchtime buffet with a few others, followed by a cold mooch round town, and that's been just about it.

And now over the hump of the week. Something really does need to give with this job though, because I'm clock-watching from the moment I arrive. It's really not healthy to look at my watch and grumble when it's only just gone nine...

Talking of times, in both senses of the word, don't times change with Emily's birthday parties? I remember the day when they ran from eight at night until two in the morning. Now it's more like two in the afternoon until eight at night. And barely an alcoholic drink in sight... Suited us just fine, though!

There was a slightly amusing email at work today, the latest in a long line of messages regarding our half-hearted maintenance company. The previous one was regarding a dripping tap that was "supposed to do that". Today's was regarding a complaint raised by a number of people that the office is too cold. Their explanation was that it's because it's cold outside - umm, isn't that the kind of scenario that controllable heating is designed for? - and above the legal limit anyway, so quit whining etc. Someone noted that in fact the temperature the maintenance company reported was in fact five degrees above the limit, and suggested we'd better not tell anyone lest they turn the heating down even more to save money, though someone else commented that their work area was only half a degree above the limit and we wouldn't save money if they all had to go home!

Dilemma on the car radio on the way in to work this morning: James Blunt on Heart, and the Pussycat Dolls on the Eagle. I suppose I could have turned the radio off altogether, but it keeps me sane on my journeys y'see. I think I will have to listen to Classic FM rather more, though it'll probably be Pachelbel Month or something knowing my luck, and the adverts incredibly manage to be even more irritating than those on the aforementioned stations... Though if they don't have the Ocado Man (who always seems to have plenty more to say, alas, the lying toe-rag) that could yet redeem them.

Another Thursday gone, another week on its way out. Haven't been able to achieve much the last few days, trying in vain to understand and "debug" some software written about eight years ago by someone who has no doubt long since moved on. It works, but is not tolerant of corrupt data, and there is a scenario in which it can be presented with such data. I would have thought it would be better to work out why the data was getting corrupted in the first place, but apparently everything's going to change soon anyway so it's been deemed easier just to make the software more tolerant of imperfect conditions.

So we took off for the weekend, as planned. Katy dropped me off at work on Friday morning, and picked me up at five o'clock so we could head straight up to the Hilton just outside Newbury. Katy had worked her usual magic and found us a very good deal for two nights bed and breakfast plus an evening meal on the first night, and that worked out very nicely in conjunction with unlimited use of the on-site health club facilities. We could quite easily get used to a morning routine of slowly surfacing for a three course breakfast, perusing the newspaper delivered to our door, then an hour in the pool, jacuzzi and steam room - but suspect our colleagues might take exception to our not arriving at work by noon, even if we could personally cope with that particular hardship!

We only got our free evening meal on the Friday so had to find our own food on Saturday evening. We'd been into Newbury during the afternoon and found quite a few candidate restaurants - as well as a rather alarming number of barbers, for some quite bizarre and random reason - but when we returned in the evening all the Italian eateries were packed full. However this phenomenon didn't seem to extend to the more ethnic establishments and we found a nice little Indian restaurant which served our needs just fine. Clearly Newbury is a town of pizza eating hair-care obsessives. It's also a rather picturesque little town, once away from the cookie-cutter high street with its alternate mobile phone shops. We'd been briefly in the summer for Mike's set at the festival fringe and were pleasantly surprised that the infamous bypass had been built not to avoid it but to enhance it. The developments alongside the Kennet and Avon Canal were particularly tasteful and as often is the case when canals run through towns and cities provided a remarkably peaceful contrast from the hustle and bustle.

But back to work we go tomorrow. And sadly not at noon, after our breakfast extravaganza, Times and spa; more likely a hurried shower and bowl of cereal.

So back to work with a bump, and really pretty exhausted with Alpha yet to go this evening - though we're going to be at least one of our two guests down, so not quite sure how that's going to pan out. I didn't sleep quite as well as I might have hoped last night, having spent much of the afternoon helping move a load of stuff out of Katy's grandma's flat and really feeling quite shattered, but at least I seem to be getting back into a pattern of at least unsettled sleep rather than lying awake for hours on end.

I'm going to be shoved on to a slightly different project for a few days, but it's not looking like the significant break I really needed and I think will only be temporary in any case. We've just been reminded once again of the confidentiality of the projects we're working on, so although I have very deliberately never said anything more than I am allowed, I'm going to be playing it even more safe from here on, so will say no more on the matter. It's really not remotely interesting in any case!

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