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