Thursday, 30 December 2004

He's Behind You

Packing a lot into the days at present.

Tuesday, we went over to Wilton and had a relaxing mooch around. Alice came with us, complete with Baby Annabel, pushchair and a couple of glove puppets she got for christmas (Mr Fox and Mr Mole). Quite an expedition! I managed to forget my wallet, so the excursion was on Jacqueline!

Yesterday was my birthday, which was a big deal with a five-year-old in the house. I crept out early to get my hair cut, then upon my return we had the "present opening" ceremony. Yesterday afternoon we went off to Southampton, to see the panto. Peter Pan. Alice loved it and was far better behaved than I thought she'd be. She got into it, shouting away at nasty old Captain Hook (Paul Nicholas). Peter Pan was played by a very cute Children's TV presenter. Some very fit dancers also! Smee was played by Geoff Hughes, who's spent the last 25 years unsuccessfully trying to get rid of the "Eddie Yeats" tag. All in all, brilliant. Capped off with a visit to TGI Fridays, as a birthday treat.

The only dark spot on the horizon was a problem with some smoke coming out of my car. Having just spent an inordinate amount of money getting the thing serviced I was not best pleased, so I've booked it in to be looked at tomorrow.

I've spent all morning doing the finances in preparation for a VAT return which I need to post this afternoon. I also need to get the annual accounts sorted, but the work for these has been mostly done. Personally, I need to work through credit card statements to make sure I've claimed all the business-related expenses of the last few months, and this'll be the big job. Still, I've done as much as I need to for today, and can finish the rest off a little more leisurely.

Have just discovered that the phones have gone on the blink once again, so I think we'll be popping out to the shops later on anyway...

Birthday presents included - a new bath robe from Jacqueline (I knew she'd get one!) and a book about diaries throughout the second world war. Should be fascinating.

Tuesday, 28 December 2004

That time again

Needless to say, lots has happened over the last week.

Alice has been unwell, poor thing. She has a terrible cough and can't seem to cough anything up. Consequently, she ends up vomiting up phlegm, normally about an hour after going to bed. So, lots of dirty bedding. To make matters worse, she's passed the cough on to me - just one of those annoying, tickly things.
I planned Christmas well this year. I mean, Alice was easy since she's been telling us for months what she wants (i.e. everything) so we've been able to buy for her over time. As it was, we had plenty to put in her sack. Jacqueline was a different matter, however. I didn't have a clue what to get for her and hadn't actually bought anything until last Tuesday. I basically surfed the net and came up with a plan of two or three things to buy for her. Then I took a long lunch, headed up to Oxford Street with a list, and got everything sorted. All was well until I got to Hamleys, which was manic and which made me want to quit! Still, Hamleys was the second-to-last stop - on to Fortnums for some christmas treats - mince pies, crackers and christmas pudding. Yummy!

So, all the preparations having been completed, on to Christmas itself. Fortunately, save for the previously-mentioned coughs, we were all in good health this year, and have all enjoyed it immensely.

The first idea was to go, on Christmas Eve, to the "Carols Around the Crib" service at Salisbury Cathedral. Magical, Alice loved it even though she didn't know all the carols. But what an excellent way to start christmas, even though neither Jacqueline and I are religious people. (We contemplated going to Midnight Mass, but Alice is still a little young.)

As always, Alice was so excited she wouldn't sleep. Same as every other child, I guess. But we eventually heard the trademark snoring at about 10:30pm so deemed it safe to bring the presents in (I had disappeared earlier in the evening "to the pub" to get them wrapped). Knackered, we then went to bed almost immediately afterwards. As it happened, she slept right through until about 8:30am the next morning. Bit of a poor show - I remember when I was a kid I would be up at the crack of dawn! Still, Jacqueline and I weren't complaining. On the present front, it's safe to say that both Jacqueline and Alice were satisfied. Even I had some things to open, although I'd had my main present (a fleece) a while ago. Jacqueline's main present was an enormous, snuggly bathrobe. She loves it. Alice's presents ranged from a Fairy Castle, to a Disney Princess airbed, to a Baby Annabel (complete with millions of accessories).

We spent Christmas Day with Jacqueline's sisters, at Susan's house. She certainly fed us well... A nice day all around, and with Alice, Lucy and Solomon around the place it was certainly "christmassy".

As I write now, that was the last time I ventured out of the house! Boxing Day I didn't feel very well, and wasn't much better yesterday. Just a bit of a cold, but best to spend the day in a nice warm house! Same goes for Alice, although she's content to play with all of these new toys. Jacqueline did go out to the sales yesterday, into Southampton, but I'm not sure she got much. She went out early and was back by lunchtime - aparently it became really heaving.

That's about it. We'll go out today, just to make sure we get some fresh air. Very stuffy after you've been indoors for two or three days.

Oh, my mum had a white christmas, by the way.

Monday, 20 December 2004

The state of things

In the news today, a play has been closed down by a mob who didn't happen to agree with the subject matter. I wonder if there were any printed copies of the play? They could have burned them too.

Also, Exeter University has voted to scrap the teaching of Chemistry. citing financial reasons. A great shame. I mean, if they'd have wanted to scrap "Golf Course Management" who'd have cared? But Chemistry really is a core subject. They're also scrapping Music - not quite as core, but every bit as traditional. Seems to be purely tactical, not at all strategic. A pity.

One of the presents Alice received from Robin and Tess was a dvd of Black Beauty, with soundtracks in French and German. Suffice to say I came home tonight to some very Teutonic sounds from her bedroom. Somewhat concerning...

Sunday, 19 December 2004

Old Friends

Just got back from an exhausting but very enjoyable weekend criss-crossing northern France. Spent yesterday in Rouen, which is somewhere we haven't been before. Absolutely beautiful, a city we must definitely return to. Very "christmassy", and of course these old cities are very quaint and charming in their own right. Unlike British town centres, which I think are very similar due to the rise of the high-street chain, French cities have far more character.

Anyway, last night we spent at Deauville. Again, very pretty, but in a "playboy" kind of way. Very wet also! Alice chomped her way through an enormous portion of moules frites!

This morning, off to Amiens, a 2 1/2 hour drive away, to have lunch with our French friends, Isabelle and family. Alice was really excited to see Isabelle's kids, Robin and Tess, once again, and she met their dad, Sylvain, for the first time. Great to see them, such a shame we only had about an hour and a half wit each other. Hopefully will see them all again soon - at the very least we'll see them sometime next summer when we're in France, but it'd be good to see them beforehand.

Finally, another long drive back on ourselves to Le Havre, to catch the afternoon ferry back home.
Did the obligatory supermarket shop, so have stocked up on some of the French products we like, such as coffee, butter etc. Well, the French take some things that much more seriously...

Thursday, 16 December 2004

Almost Too Much...

More good news for civilisation, and bad news for Blunkett and New Labour.

The Court of Appeal today ruled that detaining people without trial is contrary to the human rights laws. About time - these people have been in prison for three years now. Massive vote, too - eight to one. Let's hope the detainees sue the government for millions. Far better to spend my taxes on that than on bombing civilians in Iraq.

Not quite over yet, though, since the new Home Secretary had refused to release them. I'm not sure what the fallout will be if the court says one thing and the government refuses to back down. I guess we'll see...
Even during the darkest Thatcher years we never had tyranny quite this bad.

Found out that I was a little hasty earlier in bemoaning South West Trains. Apparently a bunch of Fathers For Justice activists got onto the line into Waterloo and started climbing gantrys etc. Si Railtrack reduced the speed for safety reasons. Perfectly reasonable, I suppose, in the cold light of day.

As for Fathers For Justice, they're certainly grabbing publicity for their cause, but can they really expect sympathy when all they do is cost thousands of people time and money? Serve them right if these irresponsible buggers killed themselves whilst attempting their stunts, and do they really think people care if they ever see their kids again. Its just not the way to go about things.

Bye, Bye David

Well, possible good news on the civil liberty front, with Blunkett resigning. For all his holier-than-thou nature, it ultimately appears that the guy was as corrupt as the rest of them.

For the record, David,
  • it is wrong to detain people without trial. Doesn't matter where they come from
  • it is wrong to try people without letting them know what evidence there is against them
  • it is wrong to restrict trials by jury
  • it is wrong to sort out passports and visas for your mates, even if you do run the Home Office
  • it is wrong to have leaders of other political parties arrested, no matter how much you dislike what they say
  • it was plain stupid to write an autobiography attacking your allies - god knows there are few enough of them - and to expect to have any future
How nice to wave goodbye to one of the most authoritarian people I have ever come across. Let's hope his successor cares more about upholding the civil rights of the people he was elected to represent.

How stupid Blair must look also, after his steadfast - and foolhardy as it turns out - support. There is so much happening these days that the government/New Labour seems to be in self-destruct mode, just like the Tories were in the nineties. Seven years in power....the equivalent of 1986 with Thatcher. With the exception of Westland, which was '85 I think, it took the Tories far longer to get sick of power.

South West Trains have introduced a new timetable, the old one being almost totally cast aside. So all the train times have changed. Rumor had it that a big reason for this was to aleviate the peak hour "train jams" outside of Waterloo, although they obviously won't say this outright, conscious of the egg-on-face syndrome.
If that was the reason, it hasn't worked. I got the "new" "early" train this morning, leaving 25 minutes earlier than the "old" "regular" train used to (getting up at 5:15am into the bargain!). Unfortunately, the new train arrived at Waterloo at exactly the same time as the old train was scheduled to. So has the journey become 25 minutes longer? Well, er, no, the old train was regularly 25 minutes late too. I know this just shows my lack of vocabulary, but words really do fail me. These people are absolutely fucking useless.

On other notes, the company that does all my company's web hosting has screwed up, resulting in any emails sent to the entire company over a 24-hour period being lost. "We're sorry", they said. Fortunately we don't get many emails, but it is damaging nevertheless. I only noticed because I hadn't had any emails at all for a day. I think the time has come to start up an internal project to write some kind of diagnostic tool for all this - it simply isn't good enough to find out that something has gone wrong by simply observing the consequences! Might be quite interesting in any case, I'll need to do some low-level work on SMTP and POP protocols. Sad, I know.

It was the anniversary of Saddam's captured a day or two ago. "Celebrated" in Iraq by a bomb or two. Even the interim puppet president is critical of the US and UK now. If they really want to focus on terrorism they should sort out these problems first. If you do, terrorism might just go away...

Friday, 10 December 2004

Chocolate

By a strange twist of fate, last time around I mentioned a Selection Box which we won in the school raffle. I didn't mention that we also bought a chocolate advent calendar last weekend for the sprog.

I arrived home Tuesday night to find that, greedy pig that she is, she had taken the Advent Calendar and eaten every last bit of chocolate in it. It's not as if she didn't know what she was doing - she knew all along that it was wrong, she was just greedy. I was absolutely livid and the Selection Box was confiscated. My intention was never to let the little bugger eat chocolate again, I was so angry.

Just three days later, I found that Jacqueline has let Alice have a bag of Maltesers, completely ignoring my ban. I mean, with christmas coming along we would probably have relaxed things anyway, but just three days later? I sometimes just think things just aren't worth it.

So, I've just given the remnants of the Selection Box to Alice, and watched her scoff it all. I am just going to steer clear of the whole matter. What they do is up to them.

Whilst I'm writing, I suppose I should mention that we went to a nice Thai restaurant last night, and I had an eye test which convinced me, at least, that I need to get some new glasses.

Monday, 6 December 2004

Run up to christmas

Gosh - its been ages since I wrote. Truth is, I've been really busy, and I haven't felt like writing at other times.

Very busy at the client's - had to leave their site early a couple of times recently, so have been spending quite long days there in order to meet some tight deadlines. In fairness, it was me who thought up the deadlines in the first place, so I've only myself to blame!

Gearing up for christmas, last weekend was "Christmas Fayre" weekend, both at school and at the nursery Alice used to attend (all very happy to see her again). We missed the deadline so ended up just buying them all ourselves - £10 worth. Still, at least we won something - a Cadbury's Selection Box!

Have sorted out Alice's presents, nothing for Jacqueline as yet

Monday, 29 November 2004

...continued

Really suffered this morning, due to yesterday's lie in. Didn't feel tired last night at all, and it was gone midnight before I went to bed. And when the alarm went off at 5:45am...

Still, there were a couple of good biography programmes on TV last night. One on Sid James (not sure if the timing was significant), the other on Freddie Mercury. Last week was the (quick calculation...) thirteenth anniversary of his death.

Should say a little more about the Rory Bremner book ("You Are Here"), really, since its not the kind of book I'd typically go for. In reality, although Rory Bremner is the "big name" on the front of the book, he's backed by a couple of guys (John Bird and John Fortune) who are sharp as tacks. Found out about the book from the Radio 4 arts programme which is on after The Archers (Front Row?), in which Bremner was interviewed. He mentioned a couple of "teaser" statistics such as:
  • The Americans have spent over $26 trillion on Defence since the end of the Second World War, which would work out at $26 million per day, since the birth of Christ
while in the UK...
  • the Department of Education and the Cabinet Office each had a committee, which looked into the specific issue of Duplication in Education. Neither knew that the other existed.
Enough said, I had to buy it.

Sunday, 28 November 2004

Gosh, its been a whole week since I wrote anything. Well, in fairness, nothing much has happened.
Been very busy at the client's, I'm doing a new piece of work for them and would really like to get it sorted in time for christmas. But it does at least mean that there's a lot going on. To my detriment, however, I haven't really had the time to look for new work.

Jacqueline had a stall yesterday at a Christmas Fayre in a local village, to sell her crafty things. She actually did quite well out of it I think, and Alice and I tagged along. Given that the village was up in the forest, Alice had a great time since the hall in which the fayre was held pretty much backed onto open countryside. So she made several new friends and was running around like a mad thing. Very dirty, but happily tired out.
Lazy day today, can you believe I had a lie-in until 11 o'clock? In fairness, I was up early yesterday. We headed into Bournemouth to do the weekly shop, then over to the Royal Bath for some afternoone tea. OK, but definitely a lower quality than last time we were there - didn't even come with clotted cream. Pretty awful day, grey and raining. Also quite cold, and dark by 5 o'clock.

Couple of things this week. I was after a song that I thought we had, but couldn't find it. So I joined one of these file-sharing networks. There's a lot said about copyrighted materials on these networks, but it was great to be able to find this song, a vocal version of "Sleigh Bells", which Alice had requested. I did download a couple of others that I used to have on a 12" album, but have never had on CD. Jacqueline was enthralled (she's into music a lot more than me), and again was looking for songs that she'd once had on vinyl but had never had on CD.

Of course, now it has caused a row since there were two or three songs that I had queued to download and Jacqueline deleted them from the list. The row is caused because I dared to say anything, so of course everything is automatically my fault. Forget about not messing with things you don't understand. I sometimes see where Alice ets things from.

On a more "normal" note, got a book by Rory Bremner, who is not someone I normally watch on TV. Very satirical, to be expected, but equally quite concerning with some of the facts that it raises. Not a particularly constructive book, it distains both Blair and the Tories alike, so I suppose from this perspective plays to popular opinion.

Monday, 22 November 2004

Wet Weekend in Weymouth

Quite a lazy weekend, nothing much happening.

Saturday, while we were still in bed, we got a call from Jacqueline's sister Lorraine asking us what we were up to that day. We were thinking of taking the bikes out into the forest, but the weather was sufficiently foul that no-one was particularly keen. Once Lorraine called, we arranged to meet in a "family pub" in Weymouth for lunch. The pub was a bit grotty, but I made sure I ordered something sufficiently bland that it was difficult for them to screw it up. The big bonus was that it had an indoor play-area for the kids. So (in theory at least) we were able to sit down while the kids went mad. Alice and Lucy (Lorraine's elder) loved it, had their faces painted etc. Solomon (the younger) also seemed quite happy, although having just turned 1 he's a little small yet to join in properly. Still, he seemed very amused to look down on me from on top of this climbing frame. Jacqueline's mum was staying with Lorraine, so they were all able to have a natter while I turned off!

Couldn't work out why the pub wanted all my details for the kids to be allowed to go into the play area. They wanted name, address, everything. Possibly its for Health and Safety, but more likely its for marketing purposes. So I gave them some false details, and off the kids went.

After the meal the weather was still foul (I'd have quite fancied a walk otherwise since we were right next to the beach) so we headed off to Lorraine's for a coffee and just to chill out for a couple of hours. Alice gets on really well with Lorraine's kids so she was happy. I had to mess around with Lorraine's computer, which was in quite a sorry state. It was about 7 o'clock by the time we left - just enough time to stop off at Sainsbury's to get something nice for supper, although after the huge lunch a ham sandwich was enough for me.

Alice was terrible Saturday night - too much excitement during the day I guess - very naughty. I ended up smacking her and going to bed very stressed out. Consequently Sunday was a very lazy day, spent mostly tidying the house (which does look very nice now, but for how long). We got an offer to go swimming which I publicly declined, just so that Alice knew exactly why we weren't going. She was better behaved yesterday, which at least implies that she knew she'd done wrong.

Good programme about JFK on last night, of course the anniversary is today. Also, over the weekend was the very first anniversary of my starting the blog. Who'd have thought I'd still be writing after a year? And I've got George Bush to thank for it! Let's see now if I can manage another year.

Friday, 19 November 2004

Fox Hunting

An update on the Hunting ban. Last night the Commons voted to invoke the Parliament Act to push it through. So, the Countryside Alliance are going to court today to challenge the validity of the Act.

Reading the BBC's web site, the Parliament Act came into being in 1911, when Asquith introduced the act to get his budget through. It basically only allows the Lords to block for a certain length of time, after which they must yield. It was amended in 1949 to reduce the length of time. But, in '49, the government had to use the original Act to get the new Act through. So, the 1949 Act was never ratified by the Lords. And that's the basis for the challenge. Seems a bit woolly to me - even if the '49 act is invalid, I don't think they're disputing the validity of the 1911 Act, so at best you're looking at a delay until a ban comes into force.

But as things stand today, the ban will be in force from as soon as February 2005. This could well be Blair's Poll Tax - I bet he is livid with his backbenchers over this. We saw this a decade ago when the Tories became pretty much committed corporate suicide by the acts of some of their backbenchers, I wonder whether we'll see the same here?

One more interesting thing about the 1949 Parliament Act - its only been invoked four times since its introduction, and three of these have been during Blair's tenure. Food for thought...

Have just subscribed to a trial of a French language learning course for intermediates. Apparently you get a news magazine each month, plus lots of bumf on vocabulary etc. We'll see how it goes...

Wednesday, 17 November 2004

Depending on your viewpoint...

Contrary stories in the papers this morning.

All the UK papers are filled with the apparent death of a British-born aid worker in Iraq, who had been held hostage for a few weeks. This woman was married to an Iraqui, and had lived in Iraq for twenty years. So she'd lived through Saddam's regime quite successfully, and only when it was finally toppled did she meet her doom... Anyway, as one can imagine, the British papers are (rightly) united in condemning the murder.

However, I was listening to Today on the way to the station, and they had a review of the day's press from the Arab world. On their front pages was the story of the wounded guy, executed by a US Marine in a mosque in Falluja. Filmed by an ABC camera team. At a time when Bush's policy seems to be to enforce "democracy" on people, whether they want it or not, the Arab press quite rightly makes the point that these crimes are being perpetrated by the world's largest "democracy".

Ironic that people from all sides are making exactly the same points, just with the polarity reversed.
I have been told about a program called "The Power of Nightmares", which aired on BBC2 recently but which I didn't watch. Sounds very interesting. The basic premise is that the likes of Blair and Blunkett, and not least Bush, are playing on peoples' fears of what might happen, however exaggerated these fears may be, and are using this position to push through some pretty draconian laws. I was also sent a transcript of a Blunkett interview in which he seemed to get very flustered and made little sense. The most objective interpretation is that we need more restrictive laws in order to allay peoples' fears, even though they [the government] know that such fears are not based on reality. He mentioned everything from terrorism to ASBOs in this argument. Really did seem flustered, and it really does expose the authoritarian nature they have.

It is things like this that make me think a lot. Without getting into party political viewpoints, I have moved quite a bit over recent years toward the left. There does need to be "socialism" to one degree or another. But at heart I am a liberal - if someone wants to do anything and it doesn't affect me (or anyone else), what right do I (or anyone else) have to tell them they can't do it? And you can apply that philosophy across the board and it remains sound. But I do find these supposedly "Labour" people very paternalistic, legislating for this, that and the other.

Can't let the entry pass without mentioning fox hunting. Just coming up to the end of the parliamentary session, so it's now or never (well, next year) as far as the politicians are concerned. It is obvious that the Commons want a complete ban, but they've entrenched themselves sufficiently firmly that there's talk of using the Parliament Act if the Lords doesn't give them their way. So all of a sudden a piece of what is essentially animal welfare legislation has become very important from a constitutional point of view. I heard also this morning that if it does go through, the Countryside Alliance will challenge the legality of the Parliament Act. Fun and Games - I bet Blair would like to set the hounds on some of his backbenchers for getting him into this mess.

For me, and I guess a lot of people, I don't feel too strongly either way about fox hunting itself. It seems totally alien to me that a right-minded human being would wish to partake in such a "sport", but then by the same token do I think I should have the right to stop them doing it? That's a toughie. But, as I say, this is all now lost and the issue is now a constitutional issue instead - nothing whatever to do with hunting. It's whether the Commons or the Lords are in control. And my opinion on that? Well, it's difficult because I think the Lords is in a state of flux at the moment. The power should lie with the elected, rather than the appointed, representatives. So today, the Commons should hold sway. But who's to say that the second chamber won't be elected at the end of all of this? Even if you conclude that the Commons should dominate going forward, you really need to look at how the process works because invoking the Parliament Act is surely not the best way to go about it.

Fun and Games. Must remember to say what finally happens.

Tuesday, 16 November 2004

Not up to much

Very quiet day. At the client's again, but their database has been down all day so there's a limit to what I can do. They've just asked me to build a pretty major add-on to something I built for them a year or so ago, so there's quite a bit of thinking to be done at present. Keeps me busy, better than there being too little to do.

Have been eBaying a lot lately. Nothing major, but just noticed some gaps in my CD collection, and you can pick up lots of CDs for just a couple of pounds on eBay. Obviously if they become much more expensive than that I need to compare the price to what I'd need to pay for it new.

Some books arrived yesterday - haven't invested in any technical books for a long time - so have plenty of reading material. Also got a web cam, which will be a present for Alice at christmas. God knows what she'll be able to do with it, I've never really taken much interest in them. But she has one at school so maybe she'll have some idea. I know you can get into video messaging etc. but I can't think of anyone else who's got this kind of setup. It's going to sit in the cupboard until Christmas now, so no doubt we'll be able to play with it then.

Monday, 15 November 2004

Awful weather

Absolutely foul day. Popped out of the client's office at 3pm and it was almost dark. Now at 5:15 it is absolutely pitch black. Picked up a small box of chocolates this morning as a treat for the family, but apparently Alice was naughty in school this morning so I'll have to keep her away from them.

Flat Pack Furniture

Pleasant weekend once again.

Saturday, I had to pick my car up (it had been at the garage for a service), so we wandered over to Bournemouth and brunched at Castle Point. We then left Jacqueline's car there and set off to the Purbecks for the day, with the roof down.

Much as I don't like to get into Christmas until December (at least!) I relented this year. I have been looking for a fleece and we happened to spot an outdoor shop in Bournemouth. We parked up, and found the perfect item. Very lightweight and very warm. It was quite expensive, but Jacqueline said that she'd buy it as my christmas present.

We ended up at Durdle Door on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. Quite cold, but we were all well wrapped up. Took loads of photographs (which are a\lready on the Family Album site!), and watched the sun go down over Portland Bill. The wellies got another test in the sea, unfortunately so too did Alice's skirt and tights, when she almost fell over trying to outrun the incoming tide. Back to Castle Point to pick up the other car, and some supper from Marks and Spencer. Alice was happy because we got her favourite, Bangers and Mash. I, on the other hand, had some Cod in Parsley Sauce, on top of a pile of oven chips. Heaven!

Sunday, Jacqueline worked in the morning, and I had a lovely lie in. When I finally did get up, I spent a hour or so updating the Family Album. The last time I'd uploaded photographs was in August, so there were quite a few to put up there. Having done this successfully, and backed up some of the machines (very important!) it was time for a relaxing bath. Lovely, chilled-out morning, even with Alice around! When Jacqueline got home we headed out for lunch and to do the weekly shop, which was uneventful. On arriving home, I finally got my act together to put a flat-pack bedside cabinet together for Alice.

Now, I'm not a fan of anything flat-pack. If you ask me, it's all crap. I'd sooner pay extra for something ready-, and solidly-made. However, yesterday I met the exception to the rule. We'd bought this one from IKEA, and it was quite cheap, although wood as opposed to chipboard. And it went together with absolute minimal effort. No parts missing, no swearing at all. And, when it was done, it looked very good and felt very solid. Very proud of myself. Alice even helped to screw the feet on! It's always a balance with anything for Alice, for she takes care of absolutely nothing, yet we don't want to stuff her room full of rubbish furniture. And with this, we just about got things right.

Yesterday evening we all - cats included - feasted on a roast pheasant dinner. Beautiful, we don't have pheasant very often. Then, settled down to Foyle's War, and settled back for the start of another week.

Friday, 12 November 2004

Armistice Day

Well, I'm ashamed to say that my earlier entry made no mention of the fact that today is Rembrance Day. Nor, in fact, did I consciously observe the 11 o'clock silence. With all of the nonsense going on in Iraq, it is very easy to be anti-war. But in the days of modern technology we have the luxury of being able to see far more of the "big picture" than people could in years gone by. You were pawns in the game, you just accepted what your leaders said, and went off to die. Very sad. We can be anti-war, but we should never forget the sacrifices people made for us. I'll never forget how moved I was when I saw the cemetery at Colleville.

Just watching Question Time on TV. Almost anarchic. They seem to have lots of input from the audience, whose comments are predictable, and are asking the same old questions (Iraq) which are predictable. All very bogged down.

Obviously Arafat came up - what do people think is going to happen. The audience is very anti-Israeli - the Palestinians have lots of sympathy these days. Personally, I can't see anything moving forward in the short term. If there was an alternative to Arafat, we'd know about them already. It'll take some time for someone to emerge out of this mess. I wouldn't be surprised if we're still talking about these things when Alice is my age.
Question about taxation. Tories want lower taxes, fewer services, Labour want higher taxes, more services. Tell me something new. The Labour woman has just told me I'm better off under Tony than I was under the Tories. Rubbish. The Tories need to look out, though, you can't just cut taxes and cut services, because the government has a duty of care to its citizens, but by the same token you need to make sure that your services run efficiently. The Tory guy (Francis Maude) quite rightly says that they reckon they can cut taxes in certain areas, but won't give any definite committments. Of course you can't, how can you say anything definite until you finally get to see the books? Of course he was laughed at by the likes of Alex Salmond, but this was exactly what Blair said in 96-97.

Interesting question about smoking. I think the Scottish parliament has just voted to ban smoking in enclosed public places. The passive smoking argument. One woman in the audience hit the nail on the head - that employers have a duty of care to their employees. Simple as that. So you limit smoking to places where people can't be "by accident". I can see going forward that places to smoke will be licensed in the same way that places to drink are. But the issue goes further than that, and this is where it gets interesting. What about people who continue to smoke? What do you do about their healthcare? Do you say "We won't pay for smoking related illnesses?" But, of course, these people have paid their NI contributions. And what about people who eat themselves into obesity and heart problems? I don't have an answer, but when you think about it it is a deeper issue than it first appears.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918), Canadian Army

We must always remember them, if only to learn for the future.

Thursday, 11 November 2004

Holiday Reality!

Heard on the news overnight that Arafat has died. Quite what will happen hereon will be interesting to observe.

Booked the summer holidays today. Ten days in Centerparcs, with a couple of days either side. Not quite sure what to do on the way down there - stop at a hotel halfway down I guess - but on the return it might be good to spend a couple of days in St Malo. It is a lovely part of the world, and we know an excellent hotel there (Le Grand Hotel des Thermes), and I've only really spent an overnight stop in St Malo before. It would be lovely to spend a little time exploring the Brittany coast. Doubtless the family will be happy.

Ordered a webcam for Alice yesterday. Never bothered with one before, but might be fun to play around with. Also took the opportunity to buy a couple of technical books I'd been promising myself for a time.
Car is in for a service and MOT tomorrow, so if there are no entries beyond this, it's because I've died of shock! On the subject of cars, someone hit Jacqueline the other day. The car was parked and empty at the time, fortunately, so nobody was hurt, but Jacqueline was right by the car so saw the whole thing, and got the woman's details. Should be quite straightforward, since there can't be any question of culpability.

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

Holiday Plans

Starting to think about Summer holidays. I think we'll go over to Centerparcs in the Loire for a week or so.

It'll be more expensive than this year's holiday, but looking back over the August blog entries tends to suggest that we'll need to pay more to get something decent! Les Hauts de Bruyeres, I think it is called. We've been to Centerparcs at Longleat for a long weekend, and it was excellent. So much to do there, Alice loved it and would like it even more now that she's older. Plus, if we go there for 10 days or so, there'll be sufficient time to go off-site - there's an awful lot of places in the Loire valley worth visiting. That'll keep Jacqueline and myself happy (we don't want an entirely child-oriented itinerary). Finally, of course, the fact that it is in France gives me the opportunity to practise the language, which is rare these days. We'll need to book a ferry crossing - don't want the hassle of driving to Dover and then from Calais - so it will be like holidays of old. I'm going to enquire about going during termtime, since it is so much cheaper, and places tend to be far less packed. Hope the school don't mind.

Alice, by the way, is also starting French lessons, at an after-school club. For somebody who doesn't even like the fact that she has to sit still at school, and put her hand up before she speaks, this will be interesting...
In the news, there is lots of fighting in Iraq. Emlyn Hughes, the ex-footballer, died yesterday. I remember him because he was the Liverpool captain in the late 70s, just at the time that I was becoming aware of football, and Liverpool were winning everything in sight. It was the fact that Liverpool were winning everything that prompted me to start supporting Everton. See? Always been a bit of a rebel, right from the word go! Fortunately, football no longer causes me the anguish it once did, having stopped taking serious interest a long time ago.

Last Saturday, a train was derailed when it hit a car which had been parked on a level crossing. The consensus appears to be that the driver of the car had committed suicide. Unfortunately, his actions left seven people dead. How considerate of him... Finally, Arafat is still hanging in there, although there's lots of smoke and mirrors as to his exact condition. I don't think anyone seriously expects him to return home alive.

Tuesday, 9 November 2004

Relaxing Weekend

Had a good, relaxing weekend. Friday, went to a bonfire party at the house of someone Jacqueline knew a couple of years ago, but kind of lost touch with. It was a "bring your own" party, and quite a few people turned up, so there were lots of smallish fireworks. OK, but too many really. All the kids had become fed up long before the supply was exhausted. However, there was an excellent barbeque and a huge bonfire, so we were well fed and warm. Alice enjoyed herself immensely, making instant friends. She spent most of her time in the kids' bedroom, playing "dressing up".

Saturday, had a nice, lazy day. Even managed a lie in. Jacqueline went over to Bournemouth in the morning to show some people around the flat - which is, happily, now let. I stayed in with Alice and we just bummed around. Went into Salisbury for lunch and a little shopping, then back home in good time for the Downton Scouts firework display, in the village. Better than Helen's, but not as good as last weekend. To be expected, really, but good fun.

Sunday, we had to go over to Bournemouth once again for Jacqueline to pick up some stuff she'd left over there. Afterwards, having nothing better to do, we went out past Christchurch to Mudeford, stopping at a garden centre along the way. We all bought new wellies, and found a pretty, "christmassy" tree. At Mudeford, we had an excellent walk along the beach, paddling, of course, in our new wellies. Took some photographs - when I picked the camera up I realised that there were photos on there from September, must update the album soon! - although it was quite misty. As it got darker we could just about see the red light of the Needles lighthouse, about 8 miles away, but we couldn't see the Isle of Wight coast at all. All in all, lovely. We'd all love to live somewhere near the sea, and the beaches from the Forest westwards are absolutely beautiful, its just a question of the daily commute to town.

Anyway, excellent day.

Back to London yesterday, and spent the day with the client. Really must keep on the lookout for some new business. Clients, as ever, are nice, but the work is just so bland. Oh, to get back into building systems instead of worrying about such-and-such a line of code. I do look back sometimes at what I was doing three of four years ago and wonder whether that was the highlight of the career, and everything will just go downhill from there. It certainly feels like it. Still, it's at times like this that I just need to put my "consultants" hat on, knuckle down, be professional, and reflect that every month I'm with the clients I own that much more of my house!
On the reading front, have now completed The Three Musketeers and started on Robinson Crusoe. Got a shock when I opened the bag containing the book - a wounded mouse had obviously scuttled into there, on the run from the Barn no doubt, and the bag had become the creature's final resting place. The only thing was, this was some time ago... So, the book is very whiffy, to say the least. However, A Tale (Tail?) of Two Cities is in even worse condition - that one had to be placed in a draughty location to air somewhat!

Friday, 5 November 2004

More deaths

Doom and Gloom in the news. Three British soldiers have been killed in Iraq, which is on all the front pages. Their regiment has only just moved up into central Iraq. What a pointless effort this is!

Funnily enough, somebody sent me a couple of interesting quotes yesterday:

"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

"By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell -- and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed."

To many people these quotes accurately reflect what we're being told by our leaders about things like Iraq, and the "War on Terror". Guess which eminent people came out with these? Well, the first was Herman Goering, at his trial in 1946, and the second was Hitler himself, in Mein Kampf.

The point I am making is that British soldiers are being killed, yet at the same time it is possible to sympathise with the "insurgents" themselves. They simply want to kick an occupying force out of their country. Were the French Resistance wrong?

In another development, it looks like Arafat is on his way out. No time for the man after he squandered the peace talks a couple of years ago. It is one thing to lead a rebellion, quite another to lead a state.

Wednesday, 3 November 2004

US Elections #2

Well, the US election result is now in. Kerry has conceded.

What I find really staggering is that Bush, who is nothing more than a Neanderthal, persuaded 58 million Americans to vote for him. Maybe I have this view because I am European, but Bush has no sense of history, and his handling of foreign affairs is that of a bull in a china shop. Not just simplistic, but overtly isolationist. It wouldn't surprise me to see the US ostracised because of this, and I would heartily cheer my own government were they to turn more toward our neighbours across the English Channel, rather than facing west across the Atlantic. And, as I say, this isn't just one mad bastard any more, he's carrying almost 60 million of his countrymen with him.

They elected Bush on the "war on terrorism" ticket. By "terrorism", read "someone who is militarily opposed to the US", which appears to be the new definition. Time will tell, I suppose, as to whether this approach is valid, but I don't believe you can militarily "beat" these people. The IRA were never defeated, remember, they were simply convinced that there was a better way forward.

A sad, sad, day.

US Elections

Alarm went off 15 minutes ago, and the news is exclusively the US elections.

Looks like there has been a huge turnout, the polls are still open in some places hours after they should have closed.

Bush looks to have it, although its very close. Very sad.

We put Star Wars on dvd the other night - it feels like we've got the Empire vs the Rebels all over again.

Sunday, 31 October 2004

Fireworks!

Still on the subject of music, we were in the car yesterday when "Light my fire" came onto the radio. It was a cover version, sung by a woman (well, I did say I was ignorant of pop music).

Anyway, Alice was obviously listening intently to the words of the song, and then attempted to dissect its meaning. Needless to say, Alice's interpretation involved, not least, a baby and a fire. And of course, as we all know, it is very dangerous for babies to light fires, so the woman was naughty for asking. Hilarious.

Actually, I'm lying in bed writing this (the clocks went back last night and it feels like time to get up, even though its only time to turn over and go back to sleep), and Alice has just woken up. She's in her bed having a deep, meaningful conversation (one assumes) with one of her dolls.

Yesterday quite good. Full of cold at the moment, but went over to put the finishing touches to Jacqueline's flat. Each time we go there now, we think "Right, this is the last time". And it never is. Yesterday, we went to B&Q to get some odds and sods to fix a couple of tiles back onto the backroom wall, and to put a watertight seal around the side of the bath. (The bathroom has caused no end of problems over the years with water seeping through to the downstairs flat.) This was easy enough, but we also needed to get a runner for a sliding door. (The door into the lounge is a sliding door.) 50p tops. And could we? Instead, we had to buy a complete replacement mechanism, at a cost of £15. Then, as I was putting this on (typical self-assembly story) one of the bolts to attach the door to the runner was the wrong size. In the pack there was one M6 bolt (the correct size) and one M8 bolt (too big). So we couldn't even finish that job. Plus, Jacqueline took some pictures over to the flat, and although she brought a hammer and picture hooks, she'd left behind the tape measure.. So there's still a couple of things to do, shall we say. Still, its sufficiently little that Jacqueline should be able to sort it.

Yesterday evening, Fordingbridge Rotary Club put on an excellent firework display at Godshill. Really good, about twenty minutes worth, plus an enormous bonfire. And there were a couple of fairground rides there, so Alice was very excited. They actually let her in for free, but we more than made up for it with the other money. So we had one happy child on our hands - as I think I've written previously she does love fireworks. We also have two further displays over the next week. Friday, we have a "home" display, Jacqueline having bumped into someone she knew when Alice was a toddler a couple of weeks ago, and we got an invite to their Bonfire Night barbeque. Must buy some fireworks for that one. Then, next Saturday, the Downton Scouts have their annual Firework display, which is normally pretty good.

Must go now, I appear to have become a cat magnet.

Friday, 29 October 2004

Cost of War

Must also mention a web site I found. www.costofwar.com. If anything puts Iraq into perspective, its this!


Cost of the War in Iraq
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To see more details, click here.

There can be only one

Nothing much on tv tonight so put a DVD on - Highlander. Hard to believe the film is 20 years old. Some excellent musinc in it from Queen, too.

Tired by the time it ended so have come to bed in order to chill, and to update the blog.

In a kind of sentmental mood - a year or so ago I ripped our CD collection into MP3s - a real fag at the time since we must have a couple of hundred albums all told. I seem to remember it took something like a month of doing a few at a time to get everything onto the computer. By the time I'd finished I'd copied 20GB of music. Anyway....

The upshot of all of this is that I can blog and listen to music at the same time. In a kind of reflective mood tonight. Following of from Highlander, I put on Queen's (or rather Freddie Mercury's) Those were the days of our Lives. Then Buddy Holls (True Love Ways) and John Lennon (Love). Excellent songs. A little sombre, though, so I've just livened things up with some Housemartins and Pulp. Is it just me, or were the Housemartins absolutely brilliant? A complete breath of fresh air!

That reminds me. One of these days I will compile a CD with my favourite all-time songs. I can probably list many of them here, they're in the order I remember them rather than my No. 1, 2, 3 etc.
  • Louis Armstrong - Moon River (although this probably is No 1)
  • Bob Marley - Give Thanks
  • Aswad - African Children Part 2
  • Cyndi Lauper - True Colors
  • Buddy Holly - True Love Ways
  • Freddie Mercury - Those Were The Days of Our Lives, maybe Who Wants To Live Forever too
  • Beach Boys - Warmth of the Sun
  • Charles Trenet - La Mer (...maybe)
  • The Beatles - The Fool on the Hill (...maybe)
  • Abba - Happy New Year (...maybe)
  • Marvin Gaye - Abraham, Martin and John
There we are. Not an exhaustive list, but easily enough for an album!

Probably no coincidence that most of these songs come from artists I'd describe as my favourites also. Certainly Satch, and the big reggae influence from my college years. Ironically I rever really liked Queen as a contemporary band, it's only really since Freddie Mercury was ailing that I realised what an enormous talent he was. Cyndi Lauper too - excellent talent. I must say The Beatles and Abba are one of the bands I like more than most, but they tend to be more of a really high standard across the board rather than having one or two blistering hits. I'd also include the Housemartins / Beautiful South in that category.

Marvin Gaye was another example of a tragedy, along with the likes of Buddy Holly and John Lennon, plus of course Freddie Mercury. It's a reminder of how human we all are.

Of course, from all of this you'll have gathered that I don't have much of an idea about popular music. Sorry, but I like what I like and am not really sufficiently interested in the subject to keep up with new bands and so on. I did buy a Kylie album a couple of christmasses ago, though. The music was for Alice, the cover photos for me! Jacqueline's much more interested in bands'n'stuff than I am.

Whoever thought I'd be documenting my musical tastes at 11 o'clock on a Friday night. And I haven't even talked about the classical music I like.

Thursday, 28 October 2004

Nothing better to do

Am sitting on the train having just completed a letter and with a few minutes to spare, so thought I'd update the blog. The days are getting shorter, and the weather in general is becoming stormier. Typical autumn weather, the time of year when hibernation seems to be a good option.Alice has been on half-term all week, and spent the whole day at an after-school club yesterday. She seems to really like it there, and I think it is good that she's amongst older kids - heaven knows, they might have some influence on her!

Came across another interesting blog site yesterday, which I found from The Register. This woman is a trolly dolly who keeps a blog, and on that blog she published pictures of herself posing in her uniform. The airline she works for found out, and.... she's now been suspended and is very famous! Must have a read at some point. Also found out that the George W Bush website has been reconfigured to only accept web requests from within the USA. I suppose they've been subject to Denial of Service attacks - as a chap from my client's said, he'd do that if he had nothing better to do. Fair enough I suppose. Very representative, though, of the type of insular attitude the guy has. The US has lost so much credibility with the rest of the world over the last four years. Let's hope they can tear the site down soon in any case after he loses the election.

Tuesday, 26 October 2004

Contracts mostly

Well, a couple of things lately. Spoke at length to a potential client last week. In the end it was a mutual "no", but there was certain aspects of the opportunity that seemed attractive. In the end, however, what they were really looking for was an employee rather than a consultant, and one has to be so careful of the tax situation nowadays. The Inland Revenue recently won what I think will be a landmark case where the court effectively set aside the contracts and accepted, hook, line and sinker, the client's view of the relationship as the "reality". And that decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal. So when it comes to IR35 I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the contract I sign is largely irrelevant, the only relevant point is the buy-in of the client to a relationship that is outside of the rules. It is difficult, since the clients last week were very obviously uncomfortable with even fielding those questions. But it did enable me to make my decision on them before I'd even left their office. A shame, simce of course it would have been more lucrative than the present arrangement.

Speaking of the present arrangement, I thought it was crunch time for a while today. The contract runs out on Friday and whilst we have verbally agreed terms noting has yet been signed. However, as I've previously mentioned one of my goals here was to drop the agent out of the arrangement, and I believe that a new law allows me to do this. However the agency in question are still calling for blood, and I thought for a while that the client were effectively going to come down on the side of the agent by saying that I had to settle with the agent or they would withdraw the offer. And, of course, the only way of settling in such a short period of time would be to pay them some compensation. Fortunately, things did not come to that, and the client is going out of their way it appears to remain neutral. But it did cross my mind just to walk come Friday to avoid the hassle - there are certainly many contracts out there at the moment, and there's lots of equity in the house, although again the tax situation may well become an issue.

Am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I want to get out of this business altogether, and am spending a lot of time thinking about political things. What I believe in etc. The key thing at the moment is that my thoughts are somewhat unstructured, and I'm actually concluding that it would be a valuable exercise to run, in effect, a design project to bottom out the "first principles" involved. I think I'm going to try to find some reading material also. I've never considered myself a socialist per-se, but it might be interesting to see if the perspective strikes any chords. Plus, it might be good to find out about e.g. MacMillan, in other words Conservatism, but very wet Conservatism.

Heard today that John Peel had died. Nobody can believe it.

Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Inactivity

Once again its been a few days since the last entry, but hey...

Nothing yet sorted on the contract front, although I am going to meet some potential clients tomorrow. Been set up by an agent - wonder how it'll get screwed up this time? Seriously, nt sure even if the role is for me, but its only a few minutes away from the current client so it can't hurt. Ironically a couple of decent-sounding architecture contracts have come onto Jobserve today, but they're probably a week too late for the timing to work.

Had an interesting time at the clients today. Met their CEO for the first time - a very switched-on guy. He was talking about the future business direction of their company (not quite sure why the wanted a consultant there, but there you go), and it was fascinating stuff.

Missed Tony Benn's book signing at Hatchards, which was sometime last week. Was going to buy a copy today, but didn't get out of the office for lunch. Maybe tomorrow... Not even sure what the exact subject matter is, but its bound to be interesting. On the subject of "interesting", I had nothing to read this morning so bought a copy of The Times at the station. It was actually a pretty good read. I'm not normally one for newspapers but might try this again.

Friday, 15 October 2004

Eventful Week

Things are a-happening on the business front. Ruptions the other day when I announced to the current agency that I was going to use the new regulations to drop them, and was in the future thinking of pitching directly to the client. They argued this, of course, (their MD came across as very angry!) but I'm nice and solid from the legal side and judging by what was said it doesn't look like they're overly familiar with the law. I believe they even tried to get the client to come down on their side (i.e. "the only way we'll allow you to have a contract to us is if its through your agency"), but the only reason I embarked on this course was because the client had already said they were entirely neutral over it, so I can't imagine that's a viable option. The only thing to be on the lookout for is late payment from now on - if these people are sufficiently hacked off they may start playing silly-buggers with invoices, so I'll need to be prepared for that. But at least I have a good solicitor who's now familiar with the case, and any action I took would be on the very solid ground of the existing contract. Fun. Fun. Fun. But they I could never have expected them just to back down, since I probably make them over £10k per year all told.

Still looking for a phone - the one I wanted wasn't in stock anywhere. I wonder why? Withdrawn following problems? You never know, the reviews I read weren't particularly good. Difficult, though, to find an alternative, although there might be a Panasonic phone that fits the requirements.

On the subject, wouldn't be averse to upgrading the mobile phones soon either. Both Jacqueline and myself are using Ericssons, which seem to discharge at a fair rate of knots. Even despite a new battery in each. They do seem a bit flimsy too - I'm forever having to "reboot" mine. I think we might try Nokia next time - there's a new phone out in the new year which looks good. I used to use Motorola but they were particularly bad just as soon as you want to connect them to anything. I had a USB cable to connect my Motorola phone to my laptop, and when it stopped working the only advice they could offer was to reinstall Windows. As if... At least Ericssons have a good choice of connectivity - cable, ir and bluetooth.

Busy weekend planned. Got to get my haircut tomorrow, then over to Jacqueline's flat to finish laying the lino in her bathroom. Sunday we've got a trip to Ikea planned, again to kit out her flat. That'll be a long day, since our nearest Ikea is Bristol, and last time we went there it took a good couple of hours to get there. Still, what can you do?

Monday, 11 October 2004

Our Day Out

I know, I know. It's been ages. I went through a phase where I was blogging quite frequently, but this definitely seem to have tailed off.

Well, work has livened up. My contract with the current clients is coming to an end at the end of the month, and they have asked to renew. Despite the fact that the work I do for them doesn't exactly turn me on, right now they're the only show in town so it won't hurt to renew with them. I'm going to try to get rid of the middleman, though, so have had to pay for a solicitor to look into this. When I speak to a guy who can charge £230 per hour, I know I made the wrong career choice. I was all set to study Law too, at Bristol Poly (as it was then). What a damn fool idea it was to end up in Cardiff studying Physics. Still, I do know a guy who was a solicitor and ended up jacking it all in out of boredom. I suppose you end up working for some provincial law firm, doing conveyancing or something equally mind-numbing, and it must get to you eventually. Criminal Law must be a turn-on, and personally I find contracts quite fascinating. After all, at £230 an hour it pays to make use of these guys as infrequently as possible!

Have taken steps to move the company up a couple of notches. I've taken a vitrual address in the City. Basically they sit there and forward your mail, and forward your phone calls. Doesn't mean anything much but it does allow me to separate out "home" and "office" that little bit more. This can be quite difficult, given that n common with many self-employed people my home doubles up as my office. Plus, if ever I do need to hold meetings in the City, I can rent office space from these people at quite a reasonable rate.

More business, this time from the VAT people. Have finally paid them their fine, the only pleasure is that I have wound a couple of them up along the way - I paid at the final hurdle before the summons. I was actually in two minds whether to make the cheque out to "H M Thieving Bastards" or something. It really gets my goat. And the problem with it all is that what they have done is perfectly legal. Whilst I'd love to think in terms of "revenge", its just not possible for this to happen without, basically, going on the fiddle. So you just have to bite your lip and keep looking forward.

Had a very enjoyable day today. Jacqueline had a study day at the hospital (something about strokes) and Alice had the day off while her teachers had a training day (funny, don't remember them from when I was a kid). So I volunteered to take the day off to look after her, and Alice and I went to Paultons. Very good. We were lucky with the weather (a bit fresh but bright enough) and there was hardly anyone in the place. We must have gone n every ride at least twice, there were no queues whatsoever. I must admit, though, as Alice gradually loses her fear of these rides, I'm getting less and less keen on them. Old age???

Also been spending time at Jacqueline's flat. Unfortunately she hasn't sold the thing, it just looks too shoddy on the outside. So, she's doing it up and is going to rent it out for a while longer. She's having new windows put in professionally, but the onus is basically on us to tart up the interior. So she's been painting and I've spent a day ripping up a tatty bathroom old carpet to replace it with some lino. Quite a daunting job but quite straightforward once I'd got into it. I've prepared the floor but unfortunately ran out of time, so actually cutting the lino to size will be a job for next weekend. Plus she's talking of an Ikea trip to kit the place out, although quite why she needs to do this is beyond me.

Friday the phones decided to pack up at home. Not quite true - they will work as long as the handsets are within a yard or so of the base unit. Great, for a cordless phone system. Still, it was probably three or four years old so I suppose all good things come to an end. Only problem is, not quite sure what to replace it with. There are a couple of high-end phones on the market but all appear to have flaws. I think I'll end up just going to John Lewis and buying the latest version of the phone that's just packed up (the phone I had was a 1st-generation Philips Zenia, they're now up to the Zenia 300, but its got a couple of quite poor reviews on Amazon) and making sure I keep the receipt!

Ah well, its been a long day and I'm well and truly knackered. The last thing I feel like dong is working in the morning! Night, Night.

Monday, 27 September 2004

Been a while since I wrote anything, but been quite busy with work. Nothing really new happening, just quite a bit to do at present. Never heard anything back about that new business I mentioned previously. That's the third this year that has gone belly up.

More grief, this time from the VAT people. The appeal to them about their fine failed. Not really surprising - there are hardly any acceptable grounds of appeal. Jacqueline thinks I should pay them, and the money is in th bank, but out of principle I'm going to let this go to court. I know I will lose in the end, but otherwise I will be seen as a soft target. It is possible for me to take the case to a second round of appeal, and I'm waiting to find out more on that. I'll make them earn their bloody money. (On top of all that, I have to fill out the regular return this week.)

Alice is well-and-truly back at school. She seems happy, but as the youngest person in her class we do worry about her lack of maturity compared to the other kids. The school wrote us to say that there was a vacancy for a parent-governor. Sounded quite interesting, but the thought of people having to vote for you is somehow distasteful.

Last weekend quite good. We went to Castle Point yesterday to stock up on some winter clothes for Alice. The least interested party in all this, of course, was Alice, although once we got home she was quick enough to put some of them on! Jacqueline was working, so it was just Alice and I. Spent some time pottering around the garden - everything will turn autumnal soon, but we're not quite there yet. I was going to do some general chopping back (chance to finally use this new trimmer), but I don't think it is time yet.

Must try to make time to seek out new business this week. Last week I didn't even try to find anything.

Thursday, 16 September 2004

After the flurry of excitement

Frustratingly quiet week. No news on the client front, so obviously nothing has come of last week's meet. Not even a phone call from the agent to say that the client weren't going to pursue things. Useless.
Very quiet with the current client. It looks like a wannabe project manager has hogged me for his project, when in reality there isn't a great deal to do on it. Consequently the client is generally running around complaining about lack of resources, and I'm very quiet. Still, I've mentioned this to the guy's bosses so can do no more. Still, being quite lightly loaded does allow me some time to hunt out new clients (and catch up with web logs!), so I can't complain too much.

Finished reading the Count of Monte Cristo, definitely recommended. On a whim I bought another Dumas, The Three Musketeers, except I bought the original French version. I tried reading it on the trian home but of course I read French far more slowly than I read English, so progress was rather painful. So have now settled into the last of my planned summer reads, Bill Clinton's autobio. Quite good, but I'm only thirty of forty pages in so far.

Back to the business front, I got a reply from the VAT people. I think I wrote about a month ago that they'd decided to give the company a punitive fine. Can't remember whether I mentioned that I sent a snotty appeal letter back to them, but I did. The letter of yesterday said that they'd rejected the appeal. So, now I'll just sit back and wait for the court order requiring me to pay. I'm not going to make things easy for them.

Jacqueline still hasn't sold her flat and is getting stressed out about it. It could do with getting a fair amount of work done on it, so the trick will be to do the bare minimum in order to make it sell. She tried with "do nothing" and that approach hasn't worked! It's quite a lot to outlay, but of course it is chicken feed when compared with what she'll finally sell the flat for.

Thursday, 9 September 2004

Five Card Stud

Fun and games with a potential client at the moment. Went to meet them - I quite liked them and I got the impression that I blew them away in the interview. It really is a pleasure to talk to people when things go that well. However, as far as I was aware, before they even saw my cv they knew what I proposed charging them, so they knew what the fees would be before they even met me.

So, this morning, an offer of work comes in, but at a substantially lower rate than I'd quoted for. Now, when I go to Tesco's I don't attempt to barter down the price of a pint of milk, so I immediately said "No".

So one of two things is happening. Ostensibly, the client is simply trying to squeeze me in the hope that I'll jump for the lower rate. Or it could be that the agency (there's always an agency!) actually put me forward at a lower rate in the first place, just to get me through the client's door at all. And then they'd hope that I'd take the lower rate for the same reason.

One never knows in this business. I've known this happen a lot to other consultants (many scare stories) but I've always been quite fortunate in this respect. The beauty about working in the financial services sector is that the clients generally play it dead straight about fees - if you quote a rate and it is accepted, then that's what it is and there's no messing about. So normally the fees side of things is agreed with minimal fuss. Obviously things don't work the same way in other sectors, although in fairness it could be the agent trying to pull a fast one.

Obviously, even if things fall through, it is very encouraging to have positive feedback, and to know that you have skills that are attractive to clients. We'll wait and see.

Monday, 6 September 2004

Sunny Weekend

A good weekend. Saturday Jacqueline's sister Lorraine came over, complete with new man, and everyone met up at the park in Fordingbridge for a picnic. Weather very pleasant, and spent a lot of time wading in the river! We ended up buying far too much food, so supper Saturday and breakfast Sunday involved scoffing the remnants.

Yesterday, drove over to the Chichester area. We've talked tentatively of moving, and I thought it might be quite a good area to move to. Ideally, a village location not far from the sea. Of course, it was beautiful weather so the roads were thick with traffic headed for the beaches, however once we got off the beaten track onto some unclassified roads we soon found some nice villages. But I don't think we'll find anywhere right by the sea. Wherever we went by the sea, there were lots of houses, and to be honest I'd happily live as far away from other people as possible - we visited a "village" called East Wittering (right on the shore) and this "village" was several times bigger than Downton. That having been said, Jacqueline would be happy to be within a couple of miles of the sea, so we may find something a little inland. Had both lunch and supper out yesterday, so we treated ourselves a little.

I looked at the train times today and the travel time from that part of the world into London is roughly the same as currently. One of the things that Jacqueline would like is for me to be at home more, but I don't seriously think that's going to happen if we end up anywhere by the sea. Havant is probably best at 1h10 (and into Waterloo to boot), Brighton is the same kind of time, although into Victoria (not as good). Anything in between the two just increases from that. Plus, I'd like this to be a "strategic" move, i.e. we buy a house that should do us for twenty years or so, so it'd involve quite a hefty mortgage to do all of this.

Possibility of some new business - am meeting potential clients on Wednesday - but its not a business area I'm used to, and already they've made noises about the rate I'd require. As always, I remain cautious but open.
You never know, I may be able to offer exactly what they're looking for and it might be the start of a wonderful relationship! Well, it might!

Wednesday, 1 September 2004

Books

While I think on, some of the books I tasked myself with reading recently.

The book I read whilst on holiday was excellent - all about the white slaves taken by the Barbary corsairs off the coast of Morocco. It was called White Gold, and was ostensibly about a guy called Thomas Pellow, although realistically it just made heavy use of this chap's account to describe the whole situation. Very compelling. The Corsairs even led raiding parties to Devon, Cornwall and even the USA to gather slaves. The empire Moulay Ismail ruled sounds fascinating - I'd love to read Pellow's original account at some point.

So, I finished this just after I got back from Cornwall. Book Two was actually the same sort of theme, called Life among the Pirates - very interesting stuff. This had been sitting on the shelf for a while - I picked it up as part of a 3 for 2 offer at Waterstones - so I'd resolved to read it too whilst on holiday. Did manage to read it, last week.

Book Three was going to be Bill Clinton's Autobiography. However, whilst in Salisbury at the weekend we went into one of those cheap book shops and, as well as picking up a load of stuff for Alice (Scooby Doo colouring books, The Wind in the Willows etc.) at knock-down prices, I also picked up a lovely, leather-bound copy of The Count of Monte Cristo for just £2. I picked it up (all 850 pages) and it really is a classic. Very difficult to put down. Sorry Bill, you'll just have to wait!

Book Four for the holiday was an FT book about Investments. I work quite closely with the technical side in this area, so it's both useful and interesting to know some of the business side too. I've actually had this book six months or so, and pick it up from time to time, but it would be good to actually finish it although I was surprised at how much I already knew.

So there we have it. Being a bit of a bookworm at the moment!

Life at home has calmed down since Monday's debacle, so all is once again well with the world.

Monday, 30 August 2004

August Bank Holiday

Pretty disastrous bank holiday weekend.

Didn't do much on Saturday, on the grounds that there were always Sunday and Monday...

Sunday, was ready to do the weekly shop at about 11 o'clock, but Jacqueline (who has worked Saturday and was due to work Sunday) said she was still tired, and could she have another half hour lying down. Two and a half hours later... So we didn't get as far as the shops. However, later in the afternoon Alice and I did meet up with Simon and Patrick, for a swim. Went on to a child-friendly pub where we had a not-bad evening meal, and everyone was happy.

Today the sun was shining so we went over to Marwell. Unfortunately lots of other people had the same idea. Had to queue to get in, although once we were in it was pretty good. Until lunch. Again, we had to queue for lunch and Alice and queues just don't mix. They had a burger kiosk and a seating area, so Jacqueline queued for the burgers while I secured a table. After a fair old wait, in which Alice flitted continually between the two of us (in addition to going to the toliet about 3 times), Jacqueline arrived at the table with the food. Alice promptly spilt her drink - one of these fizzy, syrupy pop things - all over me, soaking my t-shirt and shorts. So there ended the day at Marwell - there was no way I was going to continue walking around in sticky, soaked clothes, so we ended up driving straight home. What a waste of fifty quid, which I can ill afford at the moment in any case. Very angry. Plus, of course, we'd tentatively planned to eat out (given that there was no food in the house) and of course all this came to nothing. So supper tonight was a somewhat frugal affair.

To cap it all Alice's childminder has just phoned to see if Alice wants to go out for the day tomorrow. Guess where to? You guessed it, Marwell. So she'll get to see everything whereas I just get a soaking. Currently very anti children. Plus, of course, I get the feeling that Jacqueline thinks I ruined the day by refusing to walk around the place in soaking clothes. It always seems to be the two of them versus me.

Friday, 27 August 2004

Later that week...

Well, its obvious what the difference is between holiday and non-holiday - time available to write diary entries!


Haven't really got up to much this week, catching up with everything. Been sorting the holiday photos - just completed it tonight having done a stint pretty much every night. 186 in total will get published in the album.
Weather has been very changeable this week, pretty much the same as last week.

More work on the horizon, hopefully. Also, thinking of booking a week away over half term, over to the a gite in the Vendee. We'll see what happens, since it's roughly the time when the current contract is up for renewal. Its likely that the clients will want to renew, but its best not to take things for granted. It'd be nice to get away to France in the autumn though.

Monday, 23 August 2004

Back to Normal

Back into the routine. Spent a pleasant day yesterday chilling out. Amidst beautiful weather, went for a walk into the Forest, (Highland Water, by Boldrewood). Wow! As an aside, Multimap actually gives maps to OS detail - very impressive, there was no way I'd have remembered the name otherwise!

Thereon spent the day in "end of holiday" mood - we went over to Burley for a cream tea, then having driven home I made a barbeque of fillet steak as a rare (nowadays) treat. We just about missed the rain.
Picked the cats up yesterday and spent most of the evening with the Barn wedged, limpet-like, on my knee, watching "As Good As It Gets" (excellent film, got it already on dvd but what the hey?)

Stormy night, cats restless. Barney caught something and from the crunching sound it sounded like he was having a feast, bones and all. I'm glad I left this morning before I got to see what he'd left on the floor! Alarm went off at an incredible 5:45am, the holiday was definitely over and the routine had resumed.

Rain all the way into London, and most of the day since. Went into St James's Square at lunch (during a bright spell) to finish off my book (this is still Book 1 of 4, if you've read the holiday entries). Unfortunately was rudely interrupted by a rain shower, so must wait until the journey home tonight.

Saturday, 21 August 2004

Home at Last

Home at last.

The meal last night was excellent, a traditional old fish and chip restaurant. Then back for one more visit to the nearby Carbis Bay. We avoided the hotel this time, though, and just headed for the beach. It must have been 10pm, and the sea was black apart from the white surf. Tried to take a couple of photos but not sure how they'll come out (haven't downloaded them yet).

This morning we got up early and packed without hassle. Then, disaster struck. As Jacqueline was taking some rubbish to the bin, she managed to get stung by one of the million wasps in this place. So she's been uncomfortable all day, not to mention highly vengeful!

Having left early (well, before the 10am deadline) we heard reports of traffic build-up on the radio so we headed off to the Lost Garden of Heligan. Another garden, what can I say? We can stroll, I can snap, Alice can run around like a mad thing - perfect! Fortunately the route we took today was quiet (the gardens were quite close to St Austell, which took an hour today but two hours the other day), so we had a couple of pleasant hours walking around. Not quite sure where the time went but we decided to head into St Austell for lunch after the gardens, not least to get some of the nice pasties for supper! As it was, we visited the cafe we went to the other day (The Thin End, I think), and the Pastie shop. Again excellent, and the people in both places were so nice (and very gorgeous, but we won't go into that!). Funny really since St Austell in itself is nothing spectacular.

Anyway, at around 3 o'clock we were finally ready to head back East, having hopefully missed the traffic. Just like going down there, we were again fortunate, didn't hit any traffic and arrived home at about 7pm (including a half-hour ice cream stop at Exeter). Because of Jacqueline's sting I ended up driving all the way, and consequently am struggling to keep my eyes open now. It won't be long before I drop off, I reckon.

Friday, 20 August 2004

Pleasant Surprise

Another largely successful day, thus far.

Because of the rain we weren't in any great hurry to leave this morning, as it was we didn't get out until almost 1pm. Off to the Poldark Mine, an old tin mine which does guided tours. This was one of the main things I wanted to do in Cornwall. We spent about an hour underground - excellent but rather wet at its deepest points. I was quite surprised that they know so little about the mine - they don't know when exactly it closed (although they reckon about 1880), or even the full extent of the mine. But it was entertaining stuff, and the guide certainly seemed to convey his own interest in digging around in deep holes! On the surface, there was a wood turner and we picked up a couple of lovely pieces of woodwork (a vase and, er, "an ornament").

On to Truro, although it was 4pm by the time we got there so we just had time for a bite to eat and a brief walk around. Alice had an enormous ice cream sundae - strawberry and cornish ice cream, plus clotted cream. Interestingly, she also made a bee-line for the cathedral, so we took in a quick tour. In St Pastel she did the same thing, so maybe we're rearing a religious child.

My mother incurred my wrath in Truro. We always shout at Alice because she can't leave things alone. If she sees something, she has to touch it or affect it in some way. She can't just leave things be. Typical of children, you might say. Except my mother (who has just passed sixty) is just the same. We were back at the car, and loading things into the boot. Now, we've had this car for over five years so I'm quite familiar with the dimensions of it. Except this time I bent down to put something in the boot and - Bang! I caught my head right on the corner of the hatchback. The reason? My mother had decided that rather than just let the hatch extend to its full height, she'd hold it. Consequently it was a foot or so lower than usual and I didn't notice it. A small thing maybe, but it bloody hurt! She can't just let things happen naturally, she has to affect them in some way.
On the same note I should just add that it has been funny seeing her with Alice all week. Alice likes to be free, my mother likes to control. Immovable object, unstoppable force. The upshot is that Alice has spend a lot of the week not speaking to my mother - who doesn't understand why. Amazing when you consider that Alice is only five.

Just writing this briefly this evening - we've decided to go out and get some fish and chips tonight, so I'm making the most of the half hour before we go out. Worthwhile to write a summary of the holiday:
  • Books read 1 (almost) of 4) . Not very good but four was very optimistic. And a lot of free time has been spent either diarising or organising the photographs (must have taken about 300 since we arrived)
  • Television Watched - none - exactly to plan. The tv has been on sometimes, but it's been a background thing.
  • Diary - this'll be the fourth entry of the holiday, which isn't bad, don't you think?
  • Wasps killed - seven or eight. The one thing about the Holiday Village is that it also appears to be a major wasp habitat. Thank you, Raid - since our Tesco's run Monday you've made our lives a whole lot better!
Home tomorrow - just when we're getting into the swing of things. We're talking about one final visit on the way home tomorrow - will let you know what happens from the comfort of my own office!

Improvement

An interesting last couple of days. An improvement, no doubt.

Wednesday started off typically. We decided to visit the Eden Project, and because of traffic jams it took us 2 hours to get there. I looked on Autoroute and the distance is 40 miles...

Still, that was just about the low-point. Eden itself was excellent. The weather was generally good, we had one extremely sudden and heavy downpour just as we were making our way out, but apart from that it was lovely. Plus, of course, we spent most of out time in the biomes. We visited the humid area first - fascinating to see all of the plants we take for granted. Alice was particularly enthralled by the banana, coconut and pineapple trees. For me, I never realised that pineapples grew from the ground. So there you go... But it was very hot and humid so by the end my clothing (quite heavy clothes, prepared for the worst after the day before) was quite uncomfortable.

After a spot of (expensive - £20 for sandwiches and a drink for four) lunch, we headed for the dry, temperate zone. This zone was far more to my liking. As soon as we walked in they had olive trees so it felt a little like southern France. Because this zone was drier, I was more willing to take photographs, so was snapping away. Following an ice cream treat, we explored outside whilst making out way vaguely to the entrance. We had lovely, bright weather until this downpour hit us.

It was probably around 6pm by the time we'd left the place, so on the way back I decided to head for The Lizard. Of all the parts of Cornwall I've seen (and let's face it, this is only the second time I've spent a week here), the Lizard is my favourite. The last time we visited (in October 2000) by pure good luck we stayed just a couple of miles from The Lizard, so we visited there a couple of times. This time, again, it was excellent. Because we hit traffic once again (and because I took a rather inventive route out of Eden) it must have been around 7pm by the time we got there, just in time to watch the sun disappear behind the cliffs. This visit, however, Alice and I went all the way down to the boathouse at the foot of the cliff. It was all the more spectacular since the sea was quite rough, and we narrowly avoided being soaked as the spray came crashing over the sea wall. Very beautiful - the smell of salt in the air was amazing - but at the same time quite scary. By the time we headed back up the cliff, we got the added bonus of seeing the light from the Lizard Lighthouse (Alice has developed a "thing" about Lighthouses). Of course it was quite late by now so, in typical tourist fashion, we stopped off for a MacDonald's on the way home. Even Grandma was happy!

Yesterday was even better. One of the things that I'd noticed when we arrived in the Holiday Village was a sign for a nearby farm park, Cheney Mill. This was not just your average farm - this one boasted snakes, lizards and spiders as well as cattle, pigs and goats. Alice was fascinated. So, we headed over there yesterday morning and explored. I should add that we had beautiful weather yesterday too. Anyway, this park was excellent. Plenty of animals to keep Alice occupied, and we had good old walk. Ironically, Alice's fear got the better of her and although she get "up close and personal" with a lizard (some kind of dragon) she left before the chap showed us the snake and the spider. So we had to be content with looking at them in their glass display cabinets. In the same room, we saw some giant cockroaches, which must have been 2 inches long, from eastern Africa, and an absolutely enormous (yet very lethargic) python, who we were told, when uncurled, stretched a massive 16 feet. Apparently the python had been fed a meal of a cockerel two weeks ago and hadn't moved from that position since. It had also been known to stalk little children when it was hungry (fortunately with a big piece of glass in between it and the kids), and the chap said that pythons had been known to move at up to 120 mph when striking for prey.

Fascinating stuff. Not to mention the cows (lovely Jerseys and "delicious" - in more than one sense - Aberdeen Anguses), goats, pigs, chickens and donkey and deer.

Thereon to Hayle for a spot of lunch. Jacqueline's eagle eyes had spotted a "famous pasty shop" from the day before, so we partook. Our verdict? Ok, but not as good as some we'd bought in St Austell a couple of days ago.

After lunch we headed over to a place called Trebah Gardens, close to Falmouth. Surprisingly enough, a garden. Beautiful setting - from a house high on high ground, the garden slopes down a couple of hundred or so feet to a cove on the Helford Estuary, with garden all the way. Specialties were hydrangea bushes (in bloom and lovely), and giant rhubarb. Excellent time, rounding off at just-about closing time with an ice cream each in the cafe.

Since the weather was still holding, we then trekked over to the nearby beach at Maenporth, where we let Alice scamper round for half an hour or so, during which time she became completely soaked and covered in sand. Still, she enjoyed herself, and she's had precious little opportunity to play on the beach this week.
With the weather still holding, we headed back to the chalet and to supper. However, no sooner was supper over than we were out once again, this time to watch the firework display at Land's End. More by luck than judgment we headed over there and I though we'd just catch the sunset. Then we encountered the dreaded camper van on the road, a fifteen minute journey became a thirty minute journey, and sunset came and went as we were still traveling. Still, I snapped a couple of photos of the cliffs and the lighthouse, albeit at dusk rather than at sunset. Alice must have been completely drained after such a long day, but she still asked if she could have a turn on the (Scooby Doo) Bouncy Castle there. I had to ask her to stop after a couple of minutes, though, since she was quite obviously flaking out. Undimmed, we then perched ourselves on a rock on the cliff top in preparation for the display. And what a display! A spectacular display lasting about fifteen minutes, we watched as in front of us the sky exploded into colour, whilst to our side we saw daylight turn into moonlight, and the lighthouses light up the horizon.

Back to the chalet for about 10:15pm, all of worn out after such a long day, Alice pleading for a MacDonald's on the way home ("My tummy's rumbling"). Still, I didn't give in and surprisingly enough she's still alive this morning. No chance of starvation for our daughter!

Weather overnight has certainly turned. Woke up to that oh-so-familiar thud of raindrops hitting the roof. So I'm not sure what we'll end up doing today, although I do know the first task ("Daddy, can we go for a swim?"). It'll be a relief to get home and have a rest!

Tuesday, 17 August 2004

Wash Out

Awful Day. Started off Ok, we decided to go into St. Ives only a couple of miles away. There's a public bus service from the holiday village, so we thought this would be better that trying to find somewhere to park (which we found impossible the other day). So we took the bus and arrived in St Ives. Thereon the day went downhill. There were so many people it was unbelievable. Then the heavens opened (and it is still pouring with rain seven hours later). For all it was raining it was still quite warm, so we carried on walking around. But the amount of people...

I'd looked up a couple of restaurants in the Michelin guide, in the hope of having a decent lunch, but when we found one of these it was full. We resolved that the best thing we could do was to get out of there. However, we'd made one important mistake - I knew the buses ran every hour, but we hadn't checked the timetable to work out when! In the end the answer was presented to us five minutes later when we saw the bus heading for the holiday village go past.

We found a little coffee shop and had a light lunch, and I promised Alice that we'd go down to the beach. However by now the heavens had well and truly opened, and when we ventured outside we rapidly became getting soaked. Fortunately Jacqueline saw a little "beachy" shop and got a couple of banana-coloured ponchos to keep the rain off (Grandma already had a kagoul and we'd brought Alice's raincoat with us). We then made our way back to find the return bus stop, although this was very well hidden and I was afraid we'd miss the thing since the next bus was now five minutes overdue. Plus, my mother and Alice were dithering. If Alice were just with us we'd have dragged her along, but of course her Grandma has to do everything that much slower...

Anyway, I walked up the road and we did eventually see the bus stop, and only a couple of minutes after getting there the bus came. And went. Without stopping. It was a tiny minibus and even though we were at only the second stop on the route, the bus was already full. You can imagine my mood by this time. Anyway, Jacqueline had seen a taxi rank, which I readily agreed to (the only other alternative being an hour's wait for the next bus). Even there, we had to join the end of a rather long queue, and were standing - still in the pouring rain - for at least another half hour waiting for a taxi. Anyway, eventually our turn came and we got back to the chalet. Travel costs for the day were £6 for the bus tickets (the return portions of course going unused), plus £10 for the taxi. Altogether a rather expensive alternative to a couple of litres of petrol and a couple of pounds parking. And a soaking to boot.

We consoled ourselves by drying off and immediately heading off - sans Grandma, who again had decided not to join in - back to the hotel in Carbis Bay (I think it is called, rather surprisingly the Carbis Bay Hotel) for afternoon tea. Finally, an enjoyable part to the day. The hotel has a lovely conservatory overlooking the sea, and it is a very relaxing experience. We found the place on Sunday and it really has been the most enjoyable part of the holiday thus far.

We even got a slight improvement in the weather, so much so that we (Alice and I - Jacqueline had the sense to stay in the car) walked down to the nearby beach for a paddle. No sooner did we get there than the rain started up again, but Alice of course didn't mind so we stayed in the beach for about fifteen minutes, until it was simply too wet to continue. We eventually made it back to the chalet - me without any footwear and Alice stark naked!

This entry is probably a very boring read. However there is a reason for this detail. Basically, if ever we're mad enough to consider coming to Cornwall again, we'll just need to read this to restore some sanity. Actually that's not true - I'd happily come to a nice hotel sometime like January, or something. But the place should definitely be avoided anytime "in season". As things stand I'm watching torrential rain fall, and it's mid-August. We've already decided that we'll go to France again next year - far more civilised. Also the holiday village continues to be unimpressive - I don't think this was a particularly cheap holiday and is certainly poor value for money. It would have been far better to pay the extra and go to CenterParcs.

On other things, have received a couple of hassling emails from the agency my company is currently working through. I think I might have outstayed my welcome with them, but then if some new business comes along I'll be able to take the opportunity to blow them into touch too. On the plus side, the accountant reckons we may be able to barter with Customs and Excise in order to get this fine reduced.

I've just about had enough of running my business. If anyone reads this and is looking to take on a good technical architect with almost fifteen years' commercial experience, drop me an email to pete@hurford.me.uk. It's just too much like hard work any more.

So far so good

Still on holiday, and enjoying a rare quiet morning since Alice is still asleep. We must really have worn her out yesterday.

The plan yesterday was to visit the Eden Project, although we needed to do a little shopping first since we arrived (somewhat mysteriously) in Cornwall minus Alice's swimsuits. Our best guess is that she'd maybe unpacked them before we left, although she denies this. Anyway, we headed for St Austell to do the shopping. By the time we got there it was lunchtime so we stopped in a lovely little cafe. By the time we were actually ready to move on it was 2:30pm, and we decided that maybe we should devote a little more time, on another day, to Eden. So, we headed south, originally the intention being to visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan, but we eventually decided on visiting Mevagissy instead. Charming little fishing village, although Alice was disappointed not to find a beach there..

I should add that throughout this time the weather was quite bright, although not exactly glorious sunshine all day. It was some surprise, therefore, when we got back in the car to hear about flash flooding in northern Cornwall! True enough, as we headed back to St Ives we encountered some really heavy rain. The idea had been to drive back along the coast and to find some semblance of a sandy beach for Alice, even though it was getting quite late now. As it was, the rain stopped and the weather cleared and we did find a beach for her, although it was only fifteen minutes or so before the rain started again. Still, it was very beautiful and I did manage one or two nice photos.

Supper last night was cornish pasties from a baker's in St Austell. Unanimous approval.

Today we're staying local, in the hope of visiting the fireworks at Land's End this evening. It'll be a late night for us - have been waking early and sleeping early thus far, but Alice loves fireworks, and we'll get to see the lighthouses in action too.