goznet ...

David's diary: September 2006

Oh guess what, another jerk recruiter, who thinks that a job in Cambridge requiring 5+ years ColdFusion is a "decent match". Another one for the numpty blacklist methinks, though I might have to extend to a second page soon.

For the record, I did a bit of ColdFusion for about a week if that, decided I loathed it and vowed to hunt down and subsequently nuke from orbit its warped creator. Of course, now I am a PHP convert through and through, and that can do much the same kinds of thing, but boy does it take a lot less fuss to do so!

We did a bit of gardening last night, clearing the dreaded bindweed once again - is it ever possible to eradicate it? - and mowing the lawn. Yes, mowing the lawn! Great to finally see a bit of lush growth now the worst of the summer heat seems to be over. There are a few bare patches that we put a bit of seed down on but on the whole it seems to have recovered well. Hopefully we won't have to do too much more this year now, though it is rather nice having a garden that's worth looking after, even if we'll never be Percy Throwers! The lie of the land makes it fairly unusual, and I'm not even sure if it would look that good if it was perfectly manicured rather than rough and ready as it is. Out last house had a small garden but its lawn was too small to be worth the faff of having to maintain, so Katy pebbled it over as soon as she could!

Our various newly-acquired shrubs seem to be doing all right, after a slightly wobbly start, and are certainly appreciating a little more rain. There was a slightly amusing moment recently though, after we moved our bird feeders to a different flower-bed. We were aware that the critters were dropping quite a few sunflower seeds, but it was a couple of days after we moved the feeders and tilled the soil to make way for a new shrub that we spotted sunflower seedlings poking their heads up. Must have been just the ticket for them, clearing their patch, turning over the soil and adding a bit of compost for good measure! So we're plucking them out as we spot them. We tried transplanting a few of them but either they didn't like their new location or the birds ate them, so maybe we'll try again in spring and see if we can add some more colour to the garden.

Bah, I never learn, do I? I should know very well by now that if someone says "I am here for the rest of the day", and I go and visit them, they won't be at their desk and no-one will know where they are. Still, at least - thanks to our mugshot board - I now know what the guy supposedly looks like if I should find him on my travels: Mike, the TA psycho off Spaced. Kind of figures, in a way.

Been back to doing pretty much nothing this afternoon, which I guess I had better get used to for the next couple of weeks. I've finished the task I was given yesterday, triple-checking my work for good measure, but my contact for that seems not to be around today so I haven't got an activity code to check my work in against. At least I managed to get a booking code for SAP from someone else, even if SAP itself has been playing hard to get for the last few days... To add to the likelihood of my time here ending with a whimper, my line manager is on leave from half way through next week until after I officially finish, so unless she can conjure up a week and a half's work out of thin air before she goes, I really am going to be thumb-twiddling. Or doing even more gardening!

Back to work, with ten more days in purgatory to go...

Got all excited with my first internal email of the day arriving, but it was a "not read" receipt, from someone just back from leave who I guess deleted swathes of messages deemed not to be interesting. In which case he's right, if uncooperative. Thankfully not too many people have demanded justification for the update, because honestly there isn't any really. Basically it's billed as an "essential update" to our version control system client, to bring it in line with some server changes made a few months back. Yet obviously the old version of said client has been working just fine and indeed lots more people have been reporting serious problems since making the upgrade - so it's actually getting harder for me to justify now there's a reputation for it wrecking people's machines, even though I think most cases are probably just coincidence.

Good weekend though, a nice mixture of work and play. The high point was Graham and Nicola's housewarming party on Saturday night, which was a good chance to catch up with quite a few people we'd not really seen since moving churches, as well as obviously formally welcoming Graham and Nicola into their new home - even if it's only a few weeks until they go off and do their overseas work; see www.granicsa.co.uk for more information about that. Amongst other leisurely activities, we also got out for a nice walk at Frensham yesterday evening and a curry at Sunday lunchtime, but much of the time was taken up doing web work - more or less getting a calendar system up and running in PHP, brushing up my SQL skills in the process. Oh, and researching (no-fly) holidays, of course!

Yet again this morning our security cards have been stuffed - or at least some of them, including mine obviously. Enough of them seem to work that no-one's bothered to implement any "alternative measures" let alone apologise, but there's normally a few people outside patiently twiddling their thumbs waiting for someone to let them in. But it might actually be worth my while waiting, because it's looking like there might actually be some work for me to do - just some boring web stuff, but so long as it's well defined it should be OK. Though the latter is not looking that hopeful, with the implication being that there's going to be a lot of chasing people for content and no-one's actually prepared to pay for my time anyway. So, what are the chances of getting anywhere near an HTML editor in the last few days that I am here? Realistically, seriously...

There's been another flurry of correspondence over this alleged website work, but I really won't be holding my breath. Programme manager types have been emailed to explain that I am available "if required", but given that this is an off-the-shelf content management system, it's pretty likely that any of them who can be bothered to provide content at all will simply add it themselves - so long as they are not scared off by the fifty-page instruction manual only a defence-related company could have ever thought would be a good idea. Besides, I don't even have a login myself on the site yet, so there's precisely jack squat I can actually do to help for the time being. Hey ho, clock's ticking.

Yet another typically bodged roll-out... With a modest fanfare, we have a new Windows terminal server, to lighten the load for internet access. We have been asked to try it out and report back any issues found. Well, email doesn't work and the web doesn't work. SAP does, so I suppose someone might find it useful, but the two main purposes it was commissioned for are completely broken. Yes, I know I have been known occasionally not to test subtle things before declaring them fully working, but this really is a case of it not being even remotely fit for purpose. I wonder who we should be billing for time wasted gamma testing?

Just booked my car in for its third birthday celebrations. Three years old! Next thing I know it'll be starting school, then wanting a tattoo or something.

But even better news is that we've provisionally booked a holiday. Something suitably modest given the likely financial impact of recent decisions, but it's a holiday nonetheless, and we will at least have to go on a boat to get there!

Eight more days to go, and in a short while I have my exit interview. I was promised one of these at the OU but it never happened - probably just as well for those who lied through their teeth to me, so managed to get away with it. The next job, I think the closest thing to an exit interview went along the lines of "would you like to go today?" to which obviously the answer was yes. And the one after that (and the one before this one) it would have been nice even to have had a non-absentee manager to have had an interview with.

I've been able to make a little bit of progress with this intranet website thing, but it's all pretty chaotic for something that someone with their head in the clouds thinks is going public on Monday. Yesterday I was presented with an A3 print-out of the proposed structure, but even that had been scrawled all over and re-arranged, so goodness knows really. I've been trying to be as uncontentious as possible and been getting on with converting some of the content from the old site to work with the new, but even that's potentially fraught, having no idea how current much of the information is, and with there appearing to be quite differing opinions on even simple things like how Word documents etc should be linked. It's actually quite a neat little system we're using, and the site has the potential to be quite good, but not when rushed like this. Oh, and to add to the fun, there's no budget per se for me to be doing this in the first place - not that it bothers me at this late stage in the game, but it's a good indication of how disorganised this place can be.

Right, I've had my exit interview, half an hour earlier than I thought, having screwed up copying the appointment between my external and internal Outlook calendars! All quite fine; as my line manager had assured me, the lady I was talking to was very easy-going, approachable and nonjudgmental - quite unlike certain others I've had the misfortune of talking to recently. Anyway, just a good chance to be open and honest, and certainly a few things I said rang some warning bells, so there may yet be some good to come out of this sorry episode.

Pity the day went right down the toilet after that. This intranet website thing might be the last thing I do here, but it's feeling like the last thing I'll ever do right now. I know one shouldn't normally expect the best work during one's notice period, but this really is taking the mick. Katy strongly felt I shouldn't come in today at all, being not in the right state of mind, and she was absolutely right - but unfortunately if I hadn't come in today, it would've been no different tomorrow, or Monday or whatever, and I would rather not burn those bridges that still remain serviceable. My current state of mind is not remotely because I am ill, it's because the work here is inherently stupid, and that's not going to suddenly change overnight. I think a good part of the problem is that my line manager quite innocently emailed all the programme managers asking if they had anything I could do before I left, and now they're having a vindictive field day. Then to make it worse, while I was meeting with the bloke I am vaguely liaising with (well, who's dumped the work on me because he's too busy with other things) for this web thing, the bloke in charge of the serial numbers visited, believing he could demand I spend my last few days in purgatory doing the same old thing all over again for another of our buildings. Sadly it wouldn't have been professional to tell him where he could stick that idea, but the first bloke then put his foot in it by repeating this myth that the website is launching on Monday (ho ho ho) so I would be able to spend my last week working for the other bloke, if you follow? Seriously, with every passing day, I feel more and more like hunting down and hideously mutilating whoever it was who got me into this predicament. So anyway, in about half an hour I am apparently going to get some support as I allegedly go around asking people for content for this stinking crock of a site (that's launching on Monday, remember) - even though I don't know the people, what they do, or what it is that we actually want from them, but hey that's just a detail, isn't it?

Not showing any signs of getting any better - in fact it's looking like it's getting worse, and I'm pretty sure they will start pointing fingers soon. All I wanted when I joined this cowboy outfit last year was to be able to get my head down and enjoy a quiet existence doing worthwhile uncontentious work. It would be nice if they could at least grant me my wish for the last week I'm here.

On the bright side, at least we've called off going round asking unknown people for unknown information - for the moment anyway. I think I managed to convince my immediate colleagues for this that it was a pointless exercise when even those few people who had a slight clue what we were after were determined to turn this into yet another talking shop rather than actually do anything, like. Until I hear otherwise, I'll just carry on doing a bad job of copying outdated information into an unsuitably-structured website. I can cope with that, and at the moment that is frankly all that matters to me. I suggested the other day that the IT world is 80% politics. Someone else reckoned it was more like 90%, but I'm now of the opinion that it's 99% with the other 1% severely endangered.

Trying to get this intrawebrubbishything done is like shovelling snow when it's snowing. I feel I'm making reasonable progress through converting old stuff to work with the new, but keep hitting on obstacles - some technical, some very much human - that no-one really has the time or authority to sort out. For example, in the name of ensuring that we get things up and running as quickly as possible, the powers that be have locked down access to the content system so that I can't actually publish anything any more. And apparently the idiot in charge of the whole thing (who seems to believe the web "just happens" - what the hell is someone like that doing being a manager in an IT company?) is more adamant than ever that it's being launched in its completeness on Monday, not just with placeholders for real content, and there's no prizes for guessing how many double amputees' fingers it would take to count the number of submissions we've had so far. And I know exactly who's going to be the scapegoat...

In work uncharacteristically bright and early this morning. Katy had to go to a meeting in Harrow for the first time in quite a while, so she was up early to avoid the worst the M25 traffic, and I thought I may as well get going too. Depending how conscientious I am feeling by this afternoon, I can either make up for having sloped off a little prematurely on Wednesday, or just leave early today too. So, plodding on with converting content from the old site to work with the new one, and it's not proving too bad while I can keep my head below the level where the shouting's going on. But anyway, it's Friday today, so it's very nearly the weekend - and this one promises to be quite fun, so I have that to look forward to even if the next few hours may be a bit of a struggle.

It's like rats leaving a sinking ship! Two people off to new pastures today, two more (including me) next Friday, several more at some point soon to be confirmed - and they're just the ones I know about! Regardless of what anyone may or may not individually have said at their exit interviews, it can't have gone unnoticed just how many people have called time on the company recently. There's a physical office move next weekend, but who's going to be left?!

It's not so much "abandon hope all ye who enter here" as "abandon ship, anyone who's left... oh and turn out the light please". Hope is obviously still alive and kicking, just not finding its fulfillment within these diseased walls.

Monday, back to work, and for the last week here thank goodness. Two colleagues (one of which I knew well) got their send-off on Friday, with a presentation and all that. I have no idea what extent of ceremony my departure will justify; to be honest hopefully nothing, though a written apology from the powers that be would be nice and worth a lot more to me than anything material they could offer. You see, I just feel I never really have worked here. Yes, I've commuted more or less every day for the last year and occasionally even been able to contribute effort, but I've never felt even the faintest sense of belonging, of feeling my contribution was actually really worth anything, and certainly the last few bits of work I've had I suspect have been more for my sake than the company's - which is all very thoughtful, but I loathe being a charity case.

But anyway, I was thankfully able to switch off from all that for the weekend, and I had the pleasant surprise when I got home Friday of finding an interview invitation in my home email. Quite a sociable weekend all in all, so reasonably tiring: Meryl came round for Chinese takeaway on Friday evening, then we had all of Katy's side of the family round on Saturday morning to celebrate her dad's birthday with a hearty brunch for seven, and on Sunday after church we had lunch in Aldershot (yes, it does have some decent places to eat!) with Jo. Other than that, mainly fairly chilled, which was what we both needed...

There is apparently a documented condition that deludes people into thinking they can sing, and it affects an appreciable percentage of those taking part in the growing crop of talent competitions on television. I can only assume that there is an equivalent for visual design: Now I'm not claiming that the logo I designed in about ten minutes was a work of art, but I was rather surprised to hear that it's "great", when it's clearly been positioned completely wrongly on the website in question, with no urgency to correct it. On the bright side, my wish not to have my name associated with the site has so far been respected; I may be going soon anyway, but even though the site is certainly looking a bit better than it was, I don't want to be remembered for anything to do with it!

Latest news about that interview, scheduled for next Monday, is that they have contacted me again to apologise that it's actually only a telephone interview rather than one at their offices. The second interview, if required, would be in person. Hmm, never had a telephone interview before, and a little voice in me wonders if I've been singled out in any way, given that one would hope the person doing the contacting would have known the usual procedure. Not sure how to approach this - though it's still a promising looking opportunity that on the basis of what I've read so far I'm up to scratch for, and could even enjoy.

Oh for heaven's sake... There's about three of us currently plugging content in to this website. Last week someone on high decreed that all content should go through just one of us for actual publishing. In an ideal world, fair enough, except that the one person in question really wasn't going to have time to properly proof-read submissions etc, so we agreed we would take a slightly less rigorous approach to blitz the initial site content - in order that they could release the damned thing today as they've been bleating. But of course now the quality group people have raised concerns about "unauthorised" content getting on to the site. Bit flipping late for them to stick their oar in, isn't it? I really should have realised by now in this rotten institution that if I am able, unusually, to get my head down and actually quietly get on with things, someone won't like it. I've a mind to wait until they are about to announce the launch and then responsibly withdraw all the content I've provided... Muahaha.

Some of the correspondence that I have now been made aware of makes my blood boil. All I'm trying to do is be helpful and proactive. The best way of making sure I'm going down the desired route is to answer my queries, not hold them as cases in point of how little I know. Why can't others sometimes follow my lead? I try to show a "can do" attitude, others merely an "I'll ask you but won't let you" one. Not many people here have actively been gits over the last year, but there are a few, and I will remember you should I ever come across you again.

Oh great, I've got the information through for my telephone interview. That's supposedly going to be the best part of an hour, and any second interview they call me for would be two and a half hours! - including a short presentation on "a subject of [my] choice, with particular reference to [my] current or recent work". Can I spin out logging serial numbers for that long, d'ya reckon? OK, I think I might find something more interesting to talk about, but I seriously doubt I can get too enthusiastic about anything they might consider "recent".

Tuesday morning, and four days to go. Someone castigated me the other day for counting down, but it's not really that surprising is it? All quiet so far, and needless to say there is no evidence the new intranet site was really launched yesterday, so all that rush, panic and back-stabbing was for nothing. Though I do get a sense of perhaps being in the eye of the storm: it's calm, too calm...

Three and a half days to go, after not much of a morning in fairness. Everyone on the ground (as distinct from those with their heads in the clouds, there being no middle altitude) seems to be getting exasperated and indeed downright annoyed at the radio silence and lack of leadership regarding this website. People just want to do their job, to get on and produce content, and to launch the website, but the universal theme seems to be a one-way process of being told to do something, but not how we should, with the "leaders" not remotely cooperating, merely pointing fingers and making lots of noise when we go wrong.

It might be a bit easier if we actually believed in the website as it has been conceived. As someone who's been in the business for over ten years now, I am a passionate believer that good websites are defined by their usage, that it doesn't matter how much content they boast or how pretty they are if potential users won't find them useful or easily navigable. As is stands, the site has been designed around the company's structure rather than what people actually need to know, and processes have (pointedly) been explicitly excluded. Where useful day-to-day information exists at all it is buried deep. The old website certainly was a visual mess, but at least it contained what we needed to know.

Small wonder we have the number of public disasters we do when we can't even do things properly within. Those three and a half days can't pass too quickly now.

A few days ago, when things were looking terminally grim at work, I pondered whether I might just get away with taking the last few days off sick, in the knowledge that if I timed it right I wouldn't need a doctor's note. I hasten to add that to my memory I have never ever taken time off sick unnecessarily, so this was quite an extreme thought. But obviously at that time I didn't realise I was going to get sick anyway (perhaps not surprisingly considering how low I've been beaten) and consequently I am off work today in any case. Feeling pretty lousy, all round, and will probably head back to bed any minute now.

Back at work today, Thursday, with just two days to go now. Needless to say, almost exactly nothing that I am aware of happened in my absence. Not that I am suggesting for a moment that the world stands still when I'm not here, simply that nothing ever really happens anyway, and my absence makes no difference.

Feeling quite a bit better this morning, happily to say, although the office air-conditioning is still faulty as it was earlier in the week, so I may well spontaneously combust at some point while my body struggles to regulate its temperature even without physically roasting at the same time. Hot, hot, hot...

Someone has at last reported the faulty air-con to our maintenance people, and a new generator is apparently being delivered this afternoon - remember, we are already colossally exceeding our mains power rating for the building, so it's not just a case of the cleaner having unplugged the cooling unit... But this is pretty poor form given that people have been complaining about it all week!

Anyway, off out for my lunchtime walk in a few minutes, when I can cool down for a while before re-entering this furnace for my last afternoon but one.

It's around about Gas Mark 3 in here, and still worse upstairs apparently, so maybe I won't go visit anyone there. The heat hit me like a brick wall when I got in from my lunchtime walk, and it seems to be the most common discussion theme round here at the moment. Just been told there is to be a presentation for me tomorrow afternoon, so I guess I'd better stay for that, especially since it's one of my immediate colleagues doing the honours - I wondered who they might ask, and truly Andy's one of the few people who really knows what I've been doing and how things have been for at least the nine months I've had this desk. Someone else pointed out that someone's attacked our mugshot board with a marker pen and put a cross through everyone who's left since it was compiled earlier in the year, and it really makes somewhat sobering reading. Though given the extent of my influence while I've been here, it feels more like my photo should just fade away like Marty's family in Back to the Future.

My last day, finally. Generally in a state of chaos round here because a lot of people are moving desks over the weekend anyway; in fact the only difference with me is that most of my junk's going in the bin rather than crates. Although things cannot remotely be described as having worked out here, it inevitably has been a huge chunk of my life over the last year, and it will be weird not to see my colleagues again and so on. In a couple of hours' time I will get to see how much they're going to miss me; I'm not fussed, but am still intrigued.

Well my leaving presentation's been and gone, though (true to form, as Katy noted) it was delayed by half an hour. Nice card and nice goodies, and about a dozen people eventually turned up. All my paperwork is now either in the bin or passed on to relevant parties, so barring any last-minute requests to do with the intranet site, I think that's it basically. I need to arrange handing over of my security passes etc, but I guess that is left as late as possible. No response to my request for someone to do something about the 400MB of data I was passed yesterday that really needs archiving somewhere, so I expect that will bite the dust when my PC gets reimaged sometime in the next few days. But you know what? In an hour and a half (at the very most) I really won't care.

And now, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, indeed I do not care. All a bit of an anticlimax in the end, but no hitches, apart from not being able to once again sign the Official Secrets Act (as I was advised would be necessary on leaving) because security never got their act in order. Not that I would blab about anything sensitive any more (i.e. at all) than I did while I was there, of course. Anyway, today we've celebrated with a good fry-up courtesy of Aldershot Tesco (much improved from their wobbliness in not so distant times) and done a bit more work out in the garden, clearing some beds and planting some bulbs. Just chilling this afternoon really, with a fairly busy evening ahead of us!

So last night we went to what might be described as a dinner dance, in aid of a charity running a Romanian orphanage. Perhaps that's a slightly ostentatious description but there was a sit-down meal and a bar, there was good quality live music and dancing, and it was quite fun. We didn't stay too late though, and we suspect we might have missed the best of the evening, but we were pretty tired and we've got another fairly busy day today, from which we're taking a short breather! This morning was Graham and Nicola's send-off from what was our old church here - they're off to Africa in only a few days now - followed by a nice contribution lunch, and tonight we're seeing Becki, Simon and Mali for a scrummy lasagne together and no doubt a little of the flowing red stuff.

Bored, unsurprisingly... But I have my telephone interview in a little over an hour's time and have typed up some notes scrawled after we got home last night.

When the company in question first invited me for an interview, it was to be a proper face-to-face one. Then they changed their mind and advised me it was to be a telephone one. In the end, they couldn't be bothered to call me at all.

Not a very good start, I wouldn't say. Even my current employers did better...

Oh, in case anyone's curious about the above, I am being strictly correct when I refer to my current employers. I've had my last day at the office, and am now on a week's leave - by my own choice. My one month's notice expires on Friday.

There was a suitably grovelling reply in my email today, so I've agreed to let them try again tomorrow morning. My car's been celebrating its third birthday this morning - getting two new front tyres as a special present - and while we were waiting for all that to be done, we went out for a pretty decent walk from Newlands Corner, on the other side of Guildford. I think it was last summer we were there last and declared then that we must return sometime, and today was a lovely cool but sunny day. Perfect walking conditions, for one of the more undulating bits of local terrain - the latter making our well-stuffed hot bacon rolls and coffees upon our return to the car park particularly well earned!

Last night we went out to the Shepherd and Flock (no, not a Christian pub, for those who missed Pete's observation last time round) for drinkies with Cate - and I think I might be mildly regretting the rather nice stout that in fairness I did have the sense to stop at half a pint of... A good evening, nonetheless.

So, this morning, I'll let this prospective employer have another go at phoning me at the re-arranged time, and hopefully it will turn out to have been worth the hassle. This time around I can be a little more relaxed, now having my interviewer's name for a start, and knowing they're still a little red-faced!

It went quite well, I think. I couldn't answer all the questions, but I don't think I was expected to. I hope I came across as a decent, open and interesting person - and I hope that's truthful! Not sure when I'll hear back as to whether they want me for a second interview, but hopefully before too long. Worth the hassle of the other day, anyway, and we were talking for an hour in the end, so he obviously wasn't anxious to get me off the line and talk to someone better.

I walked into town, for the sake of getting the Times for 20p. And then it was 15p! All that walking for the sake of spending 15 miserly pence! Bargain. Oh, I stopped to have a look at the art exhibition at the church on the way back, and was frankly a bit underwhelmed. Certainly not as extensive, and arguably not as imaginative, as the one in spring last year. The 15p paper lasted much longer.

We've spent a good deal of today in Aldershot, no really. A bit of window shopping, a bit of real shopping, and a lot of Italian dining with Kit.

We just went out for a late evening walk. It was almost starlit when we left the house. By the time we got back it was doing a good impression of the tail end of a tropical storm: ridiculously warm and humid, with massive raindrops and lightning. I guess it's Hurricane Gordon we have to thank for all that!

So... last day with my company, and happy to be at home for it, as I have been for the last week. Pay appeared in my bank account yesterday, and looked like about what I would have been expecting, but hopefully my payslip and of course my P45 will arrive soon. Interestingly, when I had to mention to my interviewer on Wednesday that I had handed in my notice and that today was my last day, it wasn't the bombshell I had feared it might be - or if it was, he didn't let on. Rather, it was a case of "Oh, so you could start in a fortnight?" It's one of those weird things; conventional wisdom says that potential employers like to see candidates who are happy in their current work, but if that was really the case, why would they be job-hunting? I guess there are still people out there who only care about the money and would be prepared to throw in a perfectly good job for the sake of being able to afford the bigger BMW, but I don't think I'm too unusual in that not remotely being my prime motivation. I am hopeful that this new company realises and values that, but I'll have to wait and see!

Oh, it's a few days since I've written in here isn't it? Been a bit busy with various things, not least simply enjoying not having my silly job any more - if that makes oblique sense? Yesterday after church we tried to have our Sunday lunch at our favourite local Indian restaurant but they were rather offish and unwelcoming, so instead we tried out the Darjeeling, newly refitted and really rather good, even if they are still learning how to operate a Sunday buffet! Today after a nice afternoon walk from Tilford we just missed closing time at the Frensham Garden Centre coffee shop, so instead tried out the Bridge, also newly refurbished and being run as a Christian café. We didn't know quite what to expect but it was good, and we were a little surprised it wasn't cheesy at all - well, until we noted the bible verse at the bottom of our till receipt...

Another gap of a few days, but this time it's because we've been on holiday, staying at Shanklin on the Isle of Wight. We could just about describe it as a "golfing holiday", having played a round every day: on the putting green and crazy golf at Shanklin, the crazy golf at Alum Bay and the pitch-and-putt at Ryde. But more than anything it was a chance just to get away from it all for a few days, for me to properly wind down after finishing at work and for Katy to have a break before she tries stepping up her hours somewhat next week.

Our hotel was simple but effective, and had a small but quite luxurious indoor pool. We ate there on our first evening, but lovely though the food was, the menu was a bit limited so we toddled into town the other two nights: fantastic Thai cuisine on Wednesday evening and more pizza than either of us could eat on Thursday. As far as things we did were concerned, other than whacking small white balls around varying terrain... On Wednesday we walked the coastal path to Sandown and back. Thursday we had a day looking around the Needles, Alum Bay and Yarmouth. And on Friday, after looking round Shanklin's famous chine (next door to our hotel!) we used Ryde as a stopping off point on the way back to the ferry. As so often seems to be the case, the forecast was reasonably lousy for a good part of the time we were there but turned out fine in the end: we got drizzled on for the last two holes of pitch-and-putt, and it was wet as we then ate our lunch, but that really was the extent of the daytime bad weather!

Oh, and yes, we did see a red squirrel, at Ryde. It didn't look especially red to us, but it was definitely a squirrel, it had above-averagely tufty ears, and there are (officially at least) no grey ones on the island. So...

Anyway, here we are, back in Farnham town again, and although not brimming with energy we do at least feel like we've had a proper break - and the first one in far too long due to a combination of circumstances, some of them unavoidable.

Plenty of post to sift through - and of course 250-odd emails, mostly junk - including a reply from the company I had the telephone interview with the other day. That alas was a rejection, which I am a little disappointed at getting so early in the process, having thought I would be a fair candidate for a second interview, but I always said I needed time to think about where I go next so perhaps it is just as well that the first opportunity to raise its head turned out not to be. On the bright side, at least unlike the previous two proper interviews I'd had, they bothered to actually reply with their decision, so I think they should be good for trying to seek a bit more detailed feedback.

But it's the weekend now, and we're still on holiday really, so that'll do!

However, regarding squirrels, we note in today's paper that there are fears that a grey one has been seen on the island - though another report I've just read said that it was near Freshwater, in the west, so nowhere near Ryde.

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