Thursday, 25 March 2004

First mouse of the year today.

Spring has definitely arrived.

Might have some good news on the business front. Will report it later, if anything comes of it.

Tuesday, 23 March 2004

Maisie

Maisie came and demanded a major fuss this morning. Normally, a cat requiring a fuss is not exactly newsworthy, but Maisie is a very independent little thing who almost never wants attention. It's unheard of, for example, for her to come and sit on anyone's knee of an evening.

But this morning, she got me just as I'd finished in the shower. From starting off by rubbing against my legs as I was drying off, she decided to jump onto my shoulders. I don't know if this is typical of cats (I've not experienced this before) but this is Maisie's specialty. And she spent the next five minutes roaming across to each shoulder, getting a fuss along the way, and rubbing herself against the short hair at the back of my head. Very nice... She can be an affectionate little thing when she wants to be, and she's just so mega-cute its unbelievable.

Unfortunately pleasurable as this experience was, it turned me from "on time" into "late". So getting out of the house became a rush. Still, what price a cat's happiness?

Staying with felines, I spotted a book on my visit to Amazon yesterday that I think I'll have to get hold of. In the early-90s I was checking out a book shop in Oxford, where I was then living, and I came across a book by a guy called Peter Gethers. This guy is a scriptwriter by profession, but the book wasn't about him, it was about his cat. Suffice it to say he went from cat hater to cat lover, with many adventures in between. In summary, an excellent read. The Cat who went to Paris. About 5 years later, after I'd just met Jacqueline, I found, completely by accident, that Gethers had written another book about his cat (Norton). Gethers (a New Yorker) upped sticks and went to live in Provence for a year or so. Not a bad thing for a human to do, let along a cat! Not quite as good as the first but a good read nevertheless. Then, when I visited Amazon yesterday (I haven't been to amazon.com for years, I normally go to amazon.co.uk), a recommendation appeared for a third book, which tells the story of the remainder of Norton's life. I'll just have to get it... If you're interested, the third book can be found here. I'm sure you could quickly get to the other books from this link too.

Budget

The Chancellor's Budget has increased my tax liability by about £2,000 per year straight away, and has not done anything to unblur the uncertainty that my company will get investigated by the Inland Revenue regarding NI payments. Thanks Gordon, I'll remember you next year.

Catchup

Well, its been a couple of weeks since I wrote anything, and a few things have happened, so here goes...
First of all I must admit to having found a far better blog site than my own. Belle de Jour is the diary of a London-based call-girl. I found out about the site from an article in the Standard. This woman's been doing a blog for about 6 months and there seems to be quite frenzied activity by some parts of the media to find her true identity. The Belle de Jour pseudonym comes from the late 60s film of the same name, starring Catherine Deneuve, which I must admit I didn't like much. Having said that, I do enjoy French films in general, probably my favourite film being Le Bonheur est dans le Pre (The Good Life is in the meadow - speaks for itself really, very funny), plus anything with Jean Reno in it. Anyway, this Belle de Jour comes across as quite typical, apart from her line of work. Seems quite nice, and must be very attractive too, since she claims people have stopped her in the street to tell her how beautiful she is. Certainly, no-one has ever done that to me (and if I've ever said it to anyone, I would have been far too drunk to remember it now!)

We paid a visit to Chichester last Saturday, just for a change of scenery. We all like it there (it's about 40 miles from home). I think if we ever move to our ideal location (somewhere by the sea, and commutable into Waterloo), it'd have to be in that general area. But in truth, you have to go a long way to beat where we are currently, right by the New Forest. There is an excellent chocolate shop in Chichester called Montezumas, so we just had to shop there. Took some Chilli Chocolate in to a clients (several chocoholics there!) to their obvious appreciation.

The family has gone bike mad. First Jacqueline got herself a new bike, her old one being sufficiently rusty it wouldn't actually move. Then (in an effort to try to get more exercise) I started going on weekend rides and promptly decided I needed to get a better bike. So I found a good racing bike quite cheaply on eBay. There has been so little free time at weekends lately that I've hardly had the chance to take the bike out yet, although that hasn't stopped me from spending as much again on new parts for the thing. Anyway, at the end of it all I'll have a good knowledge of how bikes work (there's an excellent book by Lennard Zinn), and a top racing bike to boot. (Top speed so far has been 42kph - wow!) I just got this hi-tech gadget from the USA (the dollar is very cheap at the moment) which combines a heart rate monitor with a cycle computer. You go for your ride and this thing tells you everything. What's more, you can download the data to a PC. Obviously this thing is really aimed at serious trainers, not people like me who just plod around, but its good fun. Also in a bit to get fitter, I've also been using the treader in the garage quite a bit. Then finally on the subject of bikes, we've just bought Alice a new bike (again on eBay) - she's been growing and the bike we got for her 3rd birthday (now almost 2 years ago) is painfully small for her. Next step, the car carrier, and when the weather breaks we can head over into the Forest and do some serious riding.

On the subject of the weather, spring is definitely in the air. It's starting to be light in the mornings when I go out, and although its still very wet there's lots of growing starting to take place. It's hard to beat the English countryside in the summer.

Heard of an interesting book yesterday on the radio. A guy called Richard Clarke was a security advisor through four presidents - Reagan onwards - and has finally quit his post (presumably over Iraq/911, and Bush's bumbling policies) and blown the whistle. He's basically saying that Bush had an obsession with Iraq from Day 1, to the extent that on 9/11 the immediate reaction was to bomb Saddam in retaliation. Of course, this is what many people have always believed in any case, it's just a shame that the British administration couldn't see through it (or considered that they could make capital out of it). Anyway, it sounds like a juicy read, and I couldn't resist ordering it, so we'll have to wait a few weeks for it to arrive.

Also, I've just finished a book by Stephen Ambrose (author of Band of Brothers) telling the story of Custer and Crazy Horse. I wouldn't doubt if Ambrose's account of things isn't the most accurate around, but it must be fairly accurate. Its a sterling example of the true incompetence of military leaders. One looks at Iraq and wonders whether they ever learned anything... I'm sure military history must be an interesting thing to study, but I can't help thinking that if would just repeatedly highlight rank stupidity.

A final mention to Len, who's getting married next week. Good luck, mate.

Sunday, 7 March 2004

Haven't been up to much lately. We had an old friend of mine visit from France a few weeks ago, she has two kids, the younger the same age as Alice, so Alice was happy. We ended up doing a lot, given that they only visited for 3 days. Things like Farmer Giles' Farmstead, Moors Valley, the New Forest and Bournemouth. Unfortunately, because they had to be on the Eurostar leaving Waterloo at 8am on a Sunday, I had to drive up to London because no trains were scheduled to arrive in Londo that early. All of which meant gettign up at 5am on the day in question! But on the plus side, it was a beautiful morning and we had sufficient time to do a hasty tour of the sights of London before arriving at Waterloo.

Aside fron that, we've booked another brief trip to France. Getting the night boat across one night, only to get the night boat back the next night. It's a long day in France, but we do have a good time. And because we're home quite quickly we can incorporate a supermarket shop into things, so can live on French food for the next week. Well, we like it...

Been trying to get a bit fitter lately. I got myself a new (second-hand) bike not long ago. This thing's a serious racing beastie, which is far superior to my actual standard of bike riding - it flatters me a lot! So now its a case of reading a lot about it, manuals etc., and of working out what changes I'd like to make to the setup to make it more appropriate for me. So its a learning experience, but good fun. And on that subject, Jacqueline's just arrived back from her fitness class so it's time for me to get pedalling. I don't much get the chance save for weekends...