Friday, 30 July 2004

New Forest Show

Very tired this morning. We went to the New Forest Show yesterday, very enjoyable and the photos will be appearing in the album as and when... Arrived at about 10:30am, and spent the next couple of hours wandering around. Then we went back to the car to have a very nice picnic in the field. (We went to the Show a couple of years ago and the food was both awful and extortionate, so this time I decided we'd take a picnic instead. So I went to Waitrose the night before and picked up £20-worth of excellent picnic food. Far better and probably cost less too. The smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels went down particularly well!)

After lunch we went back into the Show, and stayed there until about 5:30pm. So we had a good walk around. Also, the weather became cooler (in the morning and over lunch it had been very warm), making it much more comfortable for mooching around. For all that, we didn't actually buy anything much, apart from a birthday present for my mum. For Alice it was a mixed day. There was a fun fair on the showground so she had some rides on them as a treat; but the downside was that she lost a couple of toys she'd accumulated during the day - she just put them down somewhere and forgot about them. She was very upset, but the toys were only tat in any case, and she'll be getting toys galore at her party on Sunday. So I wasn't too sympathetic.

The result of the day was that Alice slept in the car on the way home, and by the time we actually got home had recharged her batteries. Conversely, Jacqueline and I were both fit to drop by the time we got home. I had a kip on the sofa for an hour, although to my credit I did then go out and wash my car. Jacqueline just went to bed. I felt very tired this morning too - obviously not used to that much walking - but I did sleep well last night.

Busy weekend ahead. We've got the annual barbeque on Sunday, so will need to make an effort to tidy the house beforehand, although it's pretty tidy already at the moment. Also, after doing all the preparation work in the bathroom I need to finally fit the panels to make everything look the part. A bit concerned since the floor under the bath hasn't dried, even though we ripped the old bath-side out to let the air in. Having said that we do use the bath a couple of times a day so it could just be a case of sealant no longer sealing. I think we'll need to undo everything before we go on holiday, and check out what it's like when we get back, after a week of disuse.

In the client's office at the moment - could quite easily just shut my eyes...

Must write some more later about the decision to go camping!

Sunday, 25 July 2004

Maillot Jaune

Beautiful, sunny weekend. Been DIYing again – painting the skirting boards in the bathroom and toilet. It’s all been a cheapo patch-up job, what we really need is a new bathroom, but the place does look quite spruced up for a new coat of paint. Also, mowed the lawn (the grass is looking pretty good at present).

Just watched the end of the Tour de France. Beautiful shots of Paris, but not a patch on the 2,111 miles of countryside they passed along the way. Lance Armstrong has just made history by winning his sixth tour. He really deserved it, though. For about three days in the Alps last week, he just destroyed the opposition. On Wednesday they had a time trial up to the top the Alpe d’Huez, only 15.5km although uphill all the way. There were seconds between the riders until Armstrong came along and won by a minute. He’s just that good…

It’s Alice’s birthday next week and we didn’t really know what to get her. So we took her to Toys’R’Us this morning and just said “You’ve got ¾ hour, choose something.” In the end, we came out with a Disney coach-and-horses, a Snow White, a Sleeping Beauty and a Prince. Oh, and a baseball for me! All tat, but Alice is happy. Except that we’ve now hidden them from her so she can’t have them until her birthday.

Wednesday, 21 July 2004

Sleepless Nights

Got a very annoying, tickly cough at the moment. Mostly I'm fine but it does tend to strike me at bedtime, and I've spent the last couple of nights trying not to cough. Monday night I gave up and went into the lounge to sleep on the sofa. Awful night's sleep.

Jac's mum has arrived. She's nice and very easygoing, but there is a change in Jacqueline's behaviour when she's around. Jacqueline's trying to be Mother Hen a little. Also, Alice has been very excited. The last couple of nights, although we've put Alice to bed at her normal time of 8:30, she's still been awake at 11pm. Very annoying. This morning she even woke up early - before my alarm at 5:45am - and came into the room and started talking to us. Basically, she'd wet the bed in the night and then woken up. She didn't want to sleep in a wet bed so she came to see us...

When I finally did get up, at 6, she'd taken her duvet into the lounge and was watching tv. How a child can get by with such a small amount of sleep is beyond me. Probably means she'll be naughty this afternoon, when she gets tired.

New bike rack arrived yesterday. Looks the part but I haven't tried it on the car yet.

Took those tests on Sunday night. Wasn't quite sure what to expect but they turned out to be pure code syntax tests. I always do badly in that kind of test since I've never placed a great emphasis on learning syntax (or even a language) for its own sake. As I see it, software development is nothing more than a means to an end (where the "end" is either solving a business problem, or enabling a business improvement). I don't get particularly excited about the means in itself. Obviously this particular client was looking for people who did.
Still, as I said the other day, whilst its never complimentary to "fail" something, I'm fortunate enough to have worked with several people whose ability is second-to-none, and they've left me in no doubt as to whether they think I'm any good or not.

Sunday, 18 July 2004

Busy Weekend


Well, another weekend over. Been quite a successful one. Started off on Saturday when the post arrived, complete with a cheque to settle an insurance claim which has been ongoing since December 2002. This woman ran into the back of me - on my birthday at that - so there was no question of fault. My car got repaired OK, and I got a replacement car. But the day after the accident I needed to get the car checked out, to make sure it was actually safe to drive. Consequently I lost a day of work. I lost two other days, firstly when I dropped my car off to be fixed and again when I picked it up. Unfortunately the nearest approved repairer for my make of car was in Christchurch, Dorset, completely the opposite direction to the clients', in London. So I claimed for three days lost income. It was a bit fuzzy since it was actually the company that lost the income, not me personally, although I would ultimately have lost income because the profits would have been that much less and my resulting dividend would have been that much less...

But basically, after 18 months of stalling, the woman's insurance has coughed up. I feel like I've won something, although all I've really done is recover money I effectively spent out all that time ago.

We went over to Bournemouth and had a nice breakfast, partly with the aim of getting some wood and paint to sort the bathroom out. Unfortunately the wood-cutting service in B&Q was out of order, so we settled just for paint and I ended up having to go over to Southampton later on. Still, got everything there, including a new toy (more below). Have mostly completed the bathroom now, save for a panel covering the side of the bath - we got under there and everythig was a little damp so it's probably best to leave it to air for a week or so. Jacqueline was sufficiently impressed that she reckons I could do a new bathroom for us if I really wanted to. I don't mind doing little things but I must admit I am a little hesitant getting into big jobs because I don't want to screw things up. But things do generally turn out all right.

So that's sorted, will do the finishing touches next weekend. The new toy? Well, I was so impressed by the petrol lawnmower I decided to get a petrol hedge trimmer also. Haven't even got it out of its box yet, but I'm sure it'll get some use in time to come.

Today, we did an early shop and tidied the house in preparation firstly for an old friend coming over for a barbeque, secondly for Jacqueline's mum, who arrives tomorrow for a week. Paul came over with new girlfriend Becky in tow, who was really nice. Alice certainly took a shine to her, looks like Paul has too. Absolutely great to see Paul again after about 4 years - seemed like yesterday which I guess is the mark of a good friendship. But I really must keep in touch better.

After Paul and Becky left Alice wanted to go for a walk so we went down to the river. Took some photos which will hit the site eventually, but haven't had time today. Then back to continue tidying. I use the spare bedroom as an office which means that there is generally lots of paper around the place. So it got sorted, but I haven't had time to file it. Must do that tomorrow night...

Last thing that has happened was that I just sat two online tests for a prospective contract. First time I've done such a thing, and of course I am convinced I have failed. But then I do tend to be somewhat self-critical, I always find that I have a far lower opinion of the quality of my work than those around me. The thing that keeps me positive is the fact that I've had several clients, and all were impressed with the quality of the services I've performed. Still, I guess my attitude does guard against arrogance.

And at the end of the day, for all passing a couple of tests may open up some new business opportunities, failing them just closes off those opportunities. It doesn't harm the business already coming in. So it's not as if it's majorly important, after all. Will keep the log posted.

Wednesday, 14 July 2004

Bastille Day Update

Life is ticking over. Had fun and games over the weekend fixing a leak to the outflow pipe underneath the bathroom sink. Very fiddly, but looks like its sorted now. In the process I also found a leak in the tap, however (but only a small one). So you can imagine, I'm stuck in this very confined space trying to fit all these pipes together... Not pleasant.

Bill Clinton is in town, which is far more agreeable than when Bush came to stay. He was doing a book-signing at Waterstones on Piccadilly, just a stones throw from where my current clients are based, so I went over to take a look but there were tremendous queues. He's been staying at the Ritz and just after I arrived at the clients' this morning someone came in to say they'd just bumped into him as he was leaving for someplace. Also, he did a brief Radio 4 interview this morning. Sounded very spur-of-the-moment, but this guy is very quick-witted and so obviously switched on, he came across very well. Also, he was very candid. Unbelievable that America gave this guy such a hard time while he was in office - I mean, in the grand scheme of things just how petty was all this Lewinsky rubbish? So he asked her to lie - so what, it's no more than any guy having an affair would do. It just wasn't important.

Still, in a world where his presidency was sandwiched between the Bushes, and in a world where Ronald Reagan (who died a month or so ago) is remembered fondly for tripling America's debt, Clinton is bound to go down in history, at least, as one of the greats.

Shame he seems to have brought terrible weather with him. Nothing but rain thus far, and its mid July.
Work-wise, am finally starting to think about a new project, an internet-based "reminder" application. (You type in some event and it'll either send you an email to remind you, or an SMS message.) I've got the domain names and, not sure which to use yet but not really important at the moment. Typical early days of project - have yet to really get my teeth into it.

Been following the Tour de France - most remarkable thing so far has been the weather (awful), a relief in fact since a couple of months ago we talked about going over to Brittany to see the Tour over the weekend (would have been last weekend). It didn't come off - the new work which would have paid for it fell through - but the weather was so bad I'm glad we stayed home. Been quite good thus far, though, since they've been travelling across the flatlands of northern France and Belgium, so it's really been good for the sprinters. Today they've got a massive 160-mile stage (6-7 hours cycling), then on Friday they're into the Pyrenees, where I expect the leaderboard will start to take shape. Lance Armstrong is positioned well, looks like he could well make it a sixth. Only sad thing is that David Duffield has either retired or been dropped from Eurosport. A shame since he was an excellent commentator and absolutely mad as the proverbial hatstand. Now they've got a guy called Mike Smith - nowhere near as good. Fortunately Sean Kelly is still there, so adds at least some knowledge/experience of cycling.

The boy continues to live, sleep and eat. He'll never be as active as he was, but let's hope he's got a few more years left in him.

Monday, 5 July 2004

The Whole Story

The previous entry should probably have had some explanation to go with... Last week, when we left the story of the Barn, we was off his food and we weren't sure what would happen. Fortunately by last Sunday he had started pecking at some food. He does seem to like food in gravy - licks off the gravy and leaves the meat! Anyway, once he started eating over the next couple of days he got more and more back to normal. So his health seems to be returning. As I wrote this culminated in him catching a mouse on Saturday morning, then proceeding to eat part of it in front of us in the bedroom. Gross.

Pretty bad Sunday. We went to Tesco's first thing, started arguing with Jacqueline, and the day pretty much continued that way. We've had better days.

Alice will be pleased with me tonight, however. For Valentines, I think, I got Jacqueline a box set of '80s hits, one of which was Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights". Alice just lovs it, although we put our hands over our ears when she decides to join in. Anyway, I wandered past HMV to find that they had a sale on, and got her Greatest Hits album, "The Whole Story". So now Alice can wail away to any one of a dozen Kate Bush songs (I'm sure she'll like Baboushka). Also managed to find a couple of my "dead" albums in there (i.e. cds that won't play any more). Whoever said that CDs last forever was lying - especially when you keep them in your car!!

Saturday, 3 July 2004


Life seems to be returning to normal for the boy. He caught his first mouse today since he'd been ill. Very proud he was too. The only thing out of the ordinary was that he actually ate some of it (yuk!) where before he only ever used to play with them. Still, maybe he was just hungry...

Went to Alice's school fair this afternoon. Very much sunshine and showers. Alice and the other kids in the Reception year did a country dancing display for us, and Alice joined in well. She does like music a lot, although the reports I tend to hear from the school tend to say that she doesn't join in particularly well. But she did today.

I should mention that my mother retired yesterday. I spoke to her last hight and again today, she's very much on a high since the people in her work treated her very nicely. But then she has spent her whole working life with the same company (John Lewis). I did ask her what plans she had, and she said she needed to clean the house. There's ambition for you!

Saw Love Actually on tv tonight. A very "nice" film, a bit samey (Four Weddings, Notting Hill) but pleasant enough. A good film for a rainy Sunday afternoon - except that tonight was Saturday night and I think it stopped raining a while ago. After it finished I flicked through the channels and found Highlander was on. Now, there's a film and a half. But I can't watch it any more without getting sad about Freddie Mercury. What a talent. I don't subscribe to the "fan" culture, but that guy had such a huge talent yet at the same time seemed so vulnerable. It wasn't even the music with Queen - I was never particularly interested in them at the time - it was just the magnitude of talent that one person had. Kenny Everett, too. It can be a cruel world...