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David's diary: August 2007

We went to the seaside yesterday! Yes, I know Thursday is an odd day to do so, but Katy had worked a slightly different week this week due to training pressures, so... Anyway, we decided to steer clear of the major tourist spots, likely to be too busy and too expensive to park at, and had an explore around Pagham Harbour, the most easterly of the natural harbours on the Solent. Not particularly scenic (I was wondering what the 1, 2, 3 etc on our map referred to before realising they were of course spot-heights!) but lots of birds to observe, and the outbound walk was especially "interesting". We really weren't sure how high the tide would come, suspecting that where we were walking (despite often being damp, slippery and smelly) was seldom properly underwater, but by the time we retraced our steps (as was always the plan) we were glad we'd arranged it such that there was an alternative route because the water was lapping up even to the higher causeways! The BBC's local weather forecast was as inaccurate as ever, with their wall-to-wall sunshine in fact translating to persistent rain as we ate our picnic lunch on the shingle beach at Pagham, and it was muggy and cloudy all day otherwise. Still, it was good to get out and see yet another previously unexplored part of our nearest coastline, and it's nice to think that the weekend is just about here now!

Quite a busy Saturday, in fact... We had the last of our fortnightly breakfasts at Simon and Becki's until after the summer holidays (for some!), kicking off the day with bacon butties, toast and of course exceedingly good company as ever. Then off to Newlands Corner near Guildford to meet with Rachel, Mark and Daniel for lunch - but just as well we checked the travel news just as we left for there, because not only was the latest foot-and-mouth outbreak slap bang in the middle of our proposed route, the eastbound A31 very near the affected farm was closed (and likely to remain closed all day) after an accident. So we took an altogether more scenic route and were only a quarter of an hour late meeting up in the end. All very idyllic up at Newlands Corner as usual, the perfect destination for a not too energetic sunny day, with ample free parking, good value hot snacks and beautiful views to the south. Quite tired now though - must have been all that running around kite-flying and generally keeping Daniel entertained - so will be glad to batten the hatches and generally shut the world out for the rest of the day.

As we suspected, the 5½-hour road closure was very much linked with the disease outbreak. The BBC report that the accident had involved a van hitting a deer, and in line with the post-2001 policy of not leaving anything to chance, Defra decreed that the road would have to be disinfected, the deer safely removed and the van itself quarantined.

The plot thickens regarding this outbreak...

Today it's been far too hot to be anything except fairly lazy, but we got out for a walk in the woods this afternoon as it mercifully cooled off by a couple of degrees. Cycling would have been unbearable, and in any case I've pulled a muscle or something in my left arm which would have made things doubly uncomfortable on the bikes... We also popped into Lidl on the way back from church, hoping to pick up one of their bike pumps supposedly in stock this weekend, but alas nowhere to be seen, but we stocked up on a few other bits while were there and will duly be having gammon and pineapple for tea.

Katy had her "usual" Wednesday off for once, so I made sure I didn't work too hard - but still got a fair bit done in any case, now bringing this software I am working on up to about the same point at which I decided I needed to rewrite it - so that's good news!

Anyway, we got out for a bike ride yesterday afternoon, approximately following a 10-mile route we'd done a few weeks back, involving roads and muddy tracks. The news reports that some farmers have taken the law into their own hands and unilaterally decided to close footpaths and bridleways in the light of the foot-and-mouth outbreak certainly turned out to be true, with unofficial signs up all over the place, but thankfully not affecting us too much yesterday. Still, it's something to watch out for with any walks or rides we might have planned for the time being. My bike's picked up a slight knocking sound in the front suspension fork, which is a bit annoying, but it's almost time for us to book the bikes in for their initial service, so I can get the cycle shop mechanic to look into that.

We had my parents visiting for the weekend, which is always a nice thing to have happen! When we last went up to see them, we dealt with a few problems on their computer but determined that it really needed some extra memory, so having ordered another 256MB from Crucial they came down with the base unit (and their bikes) and we fitted said memory (and went for a healthy cycle ride by the canal). We'd actually been planning the bike ride bit for a while, but it all came together nicely, with good weather for getting out and the postman finally delivering the memory about two minutes before Mum and Dad were due to leave the computer at home... Darned industrial action - well at least it had some impact this time, pragmatically speaking, so something might get done about the root causes! As when we upgraded Katy's parents' PC, it took a couple of attempts to get the memory working and not throwing up occasional errors with Memtest86, but all seemed to be well in the end, and working perceptibly faster. Ironically, this means that once again my parents have more memory in their PC (640MB) than we have in ours (512MB), but although ours gets used more continually, we would have to admit that the specific tasks theirs get put to are actually more intensive. The cycle ride was good, though the recent weather meant the nettles had had a field day which meant we had to concentrate a bit too much on deciding whether to get stung or soaked in the canal, but there were enough clear bits that we all enjoyed ourselves, and we found some nice lanes round Odiham too. That was Friday afternoon, and on Saturday we walked into town to get our papers and a few more bits from the bike shop. Later we tried to go to some local marshes Mum knew to be good for pond-dipping (one of her current hobbies!) but we discovered it was right by the farm linked with the original foot-and-mouth outbreak and needless to say all open land round there had been cordoned off, with police presence. So we went back to the Devil's Jumps and The Flashes, to which we had first been introduced by my parents at Christmas and of course been back many times since, and it was typically lovely there. In the evening we went round to Katy's parents' house for drinks and copious nibbles, which was good especially since illness (we seem to remember!) got in the way of us doing that last time my parents came down and it was good for everyone to catch up at long last.

My parents headed off and did their own thing yesterday (cycling down to Selborne, no less) before coming back to pick up their stuff and wend their way homewards. In the meantime we went along to the open air church service at Frensham Great Pond, but alas the glorious weather of the last two days had decided enough was enough and gave way to persistent light rain. Everyone lasted out for the service itself with a combination of the gazebo, waterproofs, brollies and the British stuff upper lip, but people seemed to vote with their feet regarding the planned picnic afterwards... We had parked a little way away (unwilling to pay £2.50!) so had a reasonable walk back to the car and needless to say the sun was shining again by the time we got there. Anyway, before we abandoned, we agreed we would go round to a friend's house and have our picnic there, and the revived weather meant we could eat outdoors which was nice. A few people were going to stay and watch a film but after three busy days we were really pretty wiped out, and it was nice to get home and catch my parents before they left properly anyway.

In the evening, we lay out in the back garden on our picnic blanket and watched the skies for about half an hour. We spotted I'd guess probably about a dozen Perseid meteors - not too spectacular, but certainly the best conditions for a long time. I happened to wake up at 3am, the supposed best time for viewing, and poked my head out of the window for a few minutes, but saw precisely nothing of interest - so glad we hadn't made any special plans! Going by some of the comments emailed in to the BBC this morning, it seems that despite their enthusiastic reporting even after the event, our experience was pretty typical.

This morning I've been taking a break from my usual weekday working routine, taking my nephew Daniel to the park for a little while. He's staying with Katy's mum and dad for a few days but they needed to go to a funeral this morning and I agreed I would keep him amused while they were out. So we drove up to Farnham park and kicked around a football for a while before walking down to the kids' assault course, slide and swings. Lots of energy but good fun, and I think Daniel was at least a little bit worn out by the time we needed to head back - he declined a last kick-around, after all!

A slightly more normal last couple of days, though - although Katy's parents' car has been suspiciously parked outside our house for the last hour or so, so we suspect we may get a visitation if we're around when they (and presumably Daniel) get back from wherever they are... This morning I've been doing some nice paid work, getting a client's web stats into better shape, and this afternoon I expect I'll be working on some of the last few substantial bits of my own ongoing project before it goes into its initial testing phase. But now... lunchtime!

Well we went out for lunch (at the Country Market café, which we would thoroughly recommend, along with its adjoining shops) and the car was still here when we got back home. All very mysterious, until finally - about five hours after we noticed the car - a small gaggle of familiar faces walked up the road and to our front door, having been down to Winchester for the day on the bus. They'd been planning on parking in Bentley, but then realised their bus fares would be much cheaper from Surrey, hence hurriedly deciding to park here instead - and seeing the curtains closed decided to leave us be until they got back!

Traffic news is weird! We popped out for a little while this afternoon, and the traffic news on the radio was full of a developing incident on the A331, involving (as time went on) a crashed vehicle, a blocked lane, police, etc etc. We went by the scene both outbound and returning - and there was absolutely zip. We can only imagine it was some wind-up merchant feeding the tale to the traffic new people, perhaps to keep his route home from work clear... On the other hand, the very real two mile tailback on the A31 didn't even get a mention, but had thankfully subsided a little bit by the time we had to tackle it on the way home!

Happy 25th birthday, compact discs!

You're alive and kicking, and your many 12cm offspring have plenty of life in them yet as well.

Maplin, or at least their Farnborough branch, have taken a big step downhill. We wanted some AAA NiMH batteries, and happily they were able to oblige, but it was even worse than shopping in a Dixons. In the ten minutes I was in there, about half a dozen clueless sales assistants asked if I could help them they could help me, including aggressively trying to push a "portable" 300GB hard disk that the whippersnapper in question didn't even realise wasn't portable. It reminded me of those irritating PC World adverts where the spotty teenager says "it's got 20 megapixels and only costs 50p, that's got to be a bargain!" Traditionally, Maplin used to be staffed in a hands-off manner by enthusiasts, who would stand back until you wanted help but then were happy to actually provide it. Not now, alas. And no, I don't want free vouchers I can get off the web, or to pay even a pound for a catalogue that is a blatant waste of paper given that it's all on the website. At least they didn't try to flog me a USB turntable, but then on the other hand I was only in there for ten minutes, remember...

Now Wednesday, and Katy's regular day off, though alas she had to take a day off sick on Monday for the first time in over a year - but thankfully had recovered enough to work from home yesterday morning. We had the nice distraction yesterday afternoon of cooking up a yummy chicken salad for our friends Helen and Matthew, and getting the opportunity to meet new arrival to this world Lucy when we delivered said food. Very sweet when not screaming her head off, and bright and alert for her age - yes, one like her would do quite nicely thanks.

Today we took the bikes in for their free service, and all seems to be in order. They checked the front suspension on mine, that had developed a slightly irritating knock on rebound, but it's apparently nothing to worry about, and I don't think it's quite as bad as it was when I first noticed it in any case. I made sure I took it over some vicious kerbs in an effort to shake some sense into the fork, and I think it partly worked! The weather just about held out for cycling home, but as usual the BBC got it wrong, and it's really been pretty wet since. Not sure what that means with regard to our planned meeting in the park again this evening; hopefully we can, but the pub might beckon sooner than envisaged...

We did indeed find ourselves ensconced at the Slug & Lettuce from 8pm, with the rain lashing down outside all the while. It did ease off later, so we vindicated ourselves with a little bit of prayer around the town before we all headed home. Well, "all" constituting Susy, Katy and me in the end, but it was good nonetheless!

Hmm, so PlusNet have stuffed up their email again, this time incorrectly "black-holing" as spam 10% of a stuck mail queue of unspecified size but perhaps representing the best part of a day's traffic... Hopefully won't have affected my in-laws too much, but hard to tell given that there will be precisely no evidence left. Just so glad we don't use the ISP for anything more than our connection, which on the whole works great! Sure, 1&1's email service is sometimes a little rough round the edges, and has had one or two more serious "episodes" in recent times, but PlusNet's does seem decidedly amateurish in comparison.

What's this?! After a lousy summer defying all prior definitions of lousiness, the bank holiday weekend is currently forecast to feature wall-to-wall sunshine! Surely this can't be true? Well given yesterday's performance by the BBC, probably sadly not, but we can always hope. And we've just engaged a plan to make the most of it!

And said plan happened, pretty much exactly as... umm... planned! All is quiet now, but we had Darren, Ceryn and the girls down for the afternoon, with the centrepiece of the day (in between a barbecue lunch actually outdoors in the sunshine, and a genteel cream tea) being hiring a rowing boat on the Basingstoke Canal for an hour. We're always trying to find ways to make these visits a bit different, and that went down a treat - and perhaps inspired further aquatic endeavours for all concerned. Later being volunteered to change a particularly minging nappy wasn't perhaps as fun, but such are life skills to be acquired at some point or another!

It's been a fairly quiet week otherwise, I guess. We had Alastair and Alison from the church round for tea and biccies yesterday afternoon, to talk over a few ideas we had for being useful people and not risk becoming just another couple of bums on seats. Then in the evening we met with Dayle for a pray and a drink, but that really is just about it. We had been planning to have some other friends round tomorrow evening, but that's had to be put off for a couple of weeks, which is a shame, but I think we might be pretty tired by then and glad of a quieter evening anyway. The weekend's looking quite busy to make up for that, so never mind!

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