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David's diary: January 2009

Clean slate here, which must mean a new month ... oh, and in fact a new year! Happy new year! May 2009 turn out to be decidedly less rubbish than 2008.

We saw the new year in back at home (braving the cold to watch a few fireworks) but only after arriving home at 11.55 having spent the afternoon and evening at Darren and Ceryn's, meeting new baby Daniel for the first time, and generally having a civilised time with a fish and chips supper washed down with only a little bit of grown-ups' fizzy pop.

Friday, and (bar the weekend) last day of the Christmas and new year break. Today we really didn't feel like doing a great deal, but waffles and Nutella sufficiently perked us up to give Butser Hill a try - somewhere we'd seen signposted on the way down to Portsmouth etc, and that others have spoken highly of, but that we'd never been ourselves. So we parked at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park and had a pre-lunch stroll in the woods there, before finding their café was closed until next weekend. With only a bag of crisps and a cereal bar to share between us, we wandered up Butser Hill nonetheless, in some vain hope there might be a snack van or something to appease a not inconsiderable number of slightly aggrieved walkers, but there was nothing but a slow trudge to a (to be honest) rather average view, especially with visibility not so great. Still, it was good to get out in the fresh air, and maybe one day we will try again with a few more supplies - and anyway, our hunger by the time we got back to the car gave us a good excuse to stop off at Bordon Tesco on the way home for sausage baps and coffee. We arrived home to near fridge-like temperatures indoors, and it had warmed up very little when we just about heard the doorbell ring over Mario, and it was Ali from the church popping round to see how Katy was doing. Hopefully she doesn't think we always have the house that cold!

Sunday evening, as you can see from the time-stamp above, and we have just "de-Christmased" as the technical term seems to be. Back up in the loft go our artificial tree, our baubles and our new and successful LED lights. Down come the cards, with any new addresses therein duly noted. And now... really just an overwhelming sense of anticlimax. Not that it was a bad Christmas season by any means, but the reality of the new year is now biting at our heels, and I can't say it fills me with a great deal of joy right now. Still, back in dream-world, at least we had a good buffet curry out with Ian, Jo and Meryl after church today, and a nice Wiizza party with them and a few others last night. It just all seems so long ago and unreachable now.

And so, back to work - kicking off by giving our desktop PC a good spring cleaning, well at least once I'd done an hour of actual paid work. As with when we overhauled Katy's parents' PC, spring cleaning means backing everything up to external hard disk using Knoppix, reinstalling Windows, copying back only the data we actually want, and re-installing exactly the applications we need. Needless to say, even with Firewire at our disposal, I'm still very much on stage one of the above, and I'm stuck using the laptop for some time yet! Might have helped if Knoppix hadn't locked solid half way through the first transfer attempt, then arbitrarily decided to mount the external hard disk as read-only when I let it have another stab, but I guess even operating systems without Bill Gates' questionable touch have their quirks...

Inevitably, on to day two of the system re-install, though hopefully there's not much more to be done now, with me typing this as several gigabytes of documents, CVS repositories and whatnot come colour come back off the external hard disk and on to the freshly formatted and oh so fast C drive. One slight scare a little while ago when Windows suddenly decided that the hardware had signficantly changed (needless to say, it hadn't) and momentarily accused me of being tantamount to an evil pirate, but hopefully that's only one WGA "life" down, and by the time my "lives" are expended during any future reinstallations I will be ready to give Bill the boot for good.

Another freezing day, with the temperature indoors struggling to be bearable even with the heating on full whack. Hopefully it might have warmed up a bit more by the time Meryl gets here, knowing how she feels the cold! Home group starts up again later, and it will be interesting to see how many people have made it their new year's resolution to come along a bit more frequently, after a very patchy last term... We've hopefully got a few new faces too, so the group is definitely taking on a fresh shape since we took on heading it up last autumn.

Just finished reading The Shack, a book everyone seems to be ranting and/or raving about at the moment. We picked it up for next to nothing with our newspaper at Smiths a couple of weeks ago. Definitely worth reading - but only with an open mind, because it will seriously challenge any preconceptions you might have about God. Some of those challenges may be revelatory; others may be decidedly uncomfortable. Others both, probably. Ultimately, the only real disappointment is... no, I won't say, but by the end, you will probably guess.

The PC's very happy, and very fast, for now - and it's got pretty much everything loaded that we need. It boots up to fully usable in about a minute, and shuts down in about 15 seconds. Frankly amazed Windows updates didn't clog it up again, so just need to keep it that way!

Home group yesterday evening was pretty good, and we had our best numbers for some time. New faces, yes - though not the ones we might have been expecting, so that's even more people into the mix. Exciting times lie ahead for all, hopefully!

Confounding all the cynics, the PC's still lightning fast, and long may it stay so. Today I've been starting work in earnest on a new site for one of my key clients. Not too much of a brief, but got text, graphics and a request to make it a bit fancy within the limited time-scale allotted - and so far, so good... Anyway, Katy's been out and bought us some supermarket "take-away" which is just about cooked up, so just a flying visit for now!

Had quite a busy last couple of days, but for quite different reasons. Yesterday we had a few people round for lunch after church, including a lovely couple and their youngsters not long off the plane from South Africa as they make a fresh start here; we first met them at home group last week. We cooked up chicken and beef wraps with trimmings, and it all went down quite happily! Katy was worn out by the evening, but I mustered enough energy to go out to the first of our church's new "Upper Room" sessions at Café Rouge. Not the best coffee it would have to be said, but plenty of meat to chew on as we discussed servanthood.

Today, I had a significant and quite productive meeting at North Camp. I will hopefully very soon be starting work on a new website for a major defence estates contractor, so consequently this morning I met the team most directly involved at their offices, to get a feel for the organisation and what they want from the site. If this comes off (and there's no reason why it shouldn't) it will be quite a significant step forward for me in terms of being a relatively neutral and commercial client, and should open other doors. They're still not a completely "cold" client, but I guess that's the way word-of-mouth business promotion goes really!

Meanwhile, this morning Katy noted there was a fox in the back garden - just sitting there bolt upright, as a cat might. We see plenty of foxes here, but mostly running across the garden or street in the twilight. But this one seemed perfectly at home, and we soon realised its mate was happily lounging behind one of our shrubs. Not remotely concerned about being watched, even by the yapping dog a couple of doors down. This afternoon at least one of them is still there, curled up like a cat at the fireside. We've heard it said before that foxes are more feline than canine in nature, and this twosome definitely seem to bear that out!

The foxes have gone for the moment, but now I am watching with some amusement a couple of workmen trying to clear a heap of tarmac from the road. It's been a bit of a long running saga, which involved two shoddy bits of workmanship in restoring the pavement after some essential BT work. Finally the pavement itself is in order, but there's a spoil-heap of solidified tarmac removed after the last botched attempt. A lorry came a couple of days ago, and its mechanical claw thing made little headway, though it was entertaining watching the lorry heave from side to side as it tried. Anyway, two men are now taking to the heap with pick-axes, and slowly seem to be getting somewhere. We just hope they don't make too much mess of the road underneath!

The workmen managed to break up the heap a bit, but gave up after half an hour. Goodness only knows what they will try next... Meanwhile, mildly lamenting the fact that I hadn't had any "cold" clients, what do you know, this afternoon I got a call from just such a person. OK, he's not the first, but this one's looking like it's got real potential to actually go somewhere! I'm meeting him tomorrow morning; this week could prove to be somewhat pivotal for the business.

A bit of an odds-and-ends day today, finishing up a few bits needing to be got out of the way before I go into overdrive in proposal/quote mode. Katy's been up in London today for the first time in quite a while, and I'll need to go and collect her from the station any minute now. Home group this evening, with an emphasis on worship; after last week's somewhat huge attendance, and with a handful more newcomers hoped for, I wonder how many we'll get tonight?

Another early start today with Katy up in London again for the second time in just over a week. I've got one of those quotes finished and sent off, with the client emailing yesterday evening to confirm receipt and that he would be getting back to me soon, and I'll be putting the finishing touches to the other quote later this morning hopefully. The day is but young...

So, churchy stuff, yeah... Well home group last week ended up being a pretty nice comfortable number - enough to get a good atmosphere, but not so many as to stifle discussions. It doesn't always strike that balance, but last week was one of the times it did. This week was a bit different, being the first of an optional programme of monthly all-group meetings, doing some slightly deeper bible study. If our group doesn't like it, we can opt out, but hopefully we'll give it a fair crack - though sadly only a couple of others from our lot were able to make it in the end, so opinions will be somewhat thin on the ground for now! In between last Wednesday and this Wednesday, we were on Sunday set-up, which was more stressful than it should have been, thanks to miscommunications - but the less said about that for now, the better, methinks.

More mutton dressed as lamb from British Telecom today, I see.

Confirmation (as we'd heard rumoured) that 0845 and 0870 numbers can now be called as part of inclusive bundles. Good news, yes - except that companies are increasingly moving on to 0844 and 0871 numbers, which aren't included in the deal, and not many companies operate at evenings and weekends anyway. So pretty pointless for us.

They're changing Family and Friends, to skew it exclusively towards calling mobiles and international numbers. So you have to spend £££ to save your pennies, rather than economise on everyday calling. Gee thanks - for nothing.

And finally they're hiking the line rental again...

How long was it we tied ourselves in for?

Oh, but there are still no alternatives we would actually trust to provide a basic service.

Sunday evening, and we've not managed to make it out today, other than my brief pop-out to Sainsbury's to make sure the fridge didn't remain completely empty. We had been planning on going into Aldershot for a curry feast with Ian and Jo after church, but it really wasn't going to happen, so they came to us in the end and we cooked up a suitable replacement banquet. No idea if we're going to get out to the evening meeting tonight either; I'm feeling rather head-achy and even what little we've done today has taken its toll. Perhaps we'll have a bite of tea shortly and then see how we're feeling, but I'm not particularly optimistic.

My faith in humanity has been restored - well slightly, anyway. In the somewhat dazed state I was in when I went shopping yesterday, I asked for (and paid for) cash-back but hadn't noticed that the cashier forgot her side of the deal, leaving me £20 out of pocket with no evidence of the mistake having been made. Sadly, I thought of this last thing yesterday, so wasn't looking forward to the best night's sleep as I fretted over it. Then I remembered last week's Bible Mining session, part of which was about giving our anxieties up to God, and within seconds of praying he had reminded me that the Sainsbury's in town had compensated me with a thoroughly unwarranted £50 when their door attacked me, so pragmatically speaking I was more than even, and that really put my mind at rest. Consequently I slept as reasonably as usual - which is not really very well at all, but much better than it could have been. Anyway, this morning I gave the store a call and they said to come back as soon as possible with ID and they would sort it out, which they did without raising an eyebrow. So thank you Sainsbury's, and thank you God!

And that wasn't to be the end of the story of the £20 in question. Just as we were eating ice cream with Meryl yesterday evening, the door-bell rang - the letting agent for the house next door to introduce our new neighbour to us, shattered after a thousand-mile drive in a Luton van from Spain. Said van wasn't packed very conveniently for extracting essentials like a bed, so we loaned him an inflatable mattress and sleeping bag, then he asked very nicely if we could lend him some cash for a curry in exchange for a generous €50 security - and that was where the infamous £20 came into play! We were off out to home group only a little while later, and he wanted a lift into town for said curry, so that worked out well. Then, in a classic case of "don't ask, don't get", he told me when I saw him earlier today that he managed to blag free delivery with his curry. Why did he need free delivery? Because he had little idea of how to find his way home, and cadged a lift courtesy of the Darjeeling take-away!

Meanwhile today, I'm just waiting for a phone call from the man's wife, needing to be shown the way from the railway station where she's picking up a hire car. Not quite sure when that's going to be, and I'm also expecting a call from Katy at some point who's been up at an exhibition in Olympia for the day and may need a lift.

Isn't this the kind of thing that neighbours do - when they're not arguing over hedges and noisy parties, anyway? It would have been so easy to carry on eating our ice cream...

In other news, work's up and down. Unfortunately the cold client I had a meeting with a couple of weeks ago has decided not to go ahead as proposed, and has been steered by his advisor to another design agency with experience in his field. But the meeting I'd had the day before seems to be yielding fruit, with a follow-up scheduled for next week when they want to bash out a few nitty gritty design details, so that one really is looking like it will move ahead very soon. And I had a tele-conference this morning with an existing client moving into a slightly different area and needing some web work done as a result, so it's far from all doom and gloom.

Today I've been revisiting Diary 4 for the first time in blinking ages. It's not been quite as successful as I'd hoped, so I've not been pumping great resources into it, but I had a query yesterday evening from a paying customer with regards to event repetition, and I had to rather embarrassedly reply that it wasn't yet possible. But today it is, yay!

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