Thursday, 27 January 2005

Stuff

Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

It's also one month since the tsunami struck - the latest estimate is 280,000 victims.

Four guys (who happen to be British) have finally been freed from Guantanamo Bay after three years captivity. No charges were ever brought against them.

There are twelve people sitting in British prisons, never even charged with any offence, let alone convicted, whom the Government is holding illegally, according to the UK courts.

Makes you think...

Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Weekend Away

Quite a busy week. Managed to survive the week without taking any more time sick, but still have an awesome cough.

Went up to visit my mother at the weekend, all the way up to Liverpool. Long journey up on Friday evening, but we escaped traffic so weren't really held up, as such - its just that she lives 350km away so it was always going to take some time. Drove on the new M6 Toll road for the first time, not that we particularly needed to since it was past 9pm, but it was very good. Almost like driving in France! Stopped at the Service Station there just after 10pm, to find that the Wimpy had just closed. So we ate the "house" food, which was very expensive. Arrived in Liverpool between 11:30 and midnight, after just over 4 hours on the road, and went straight to bed.

For my mum's christmas present, I'd bought some stuff for her computer. She's not overly computer literate, and as well as installing this new kit I set about downloading all the available service packs etc. Over a 56k modem.... So, with one thing and another this computer was basically on the phone all day getting patches. Very agonising, since it was probably only about 50-60MB overall. Makes me appreciate broadband that much more!

Saturday we didn't get up to much. Alice and my mum were "bonding" (for some reason Alice loves it up there). In the afternoon we went to visit my dad, and I showed Alice (a) where I lived when I was a boy, and (b) where I went to school. Quite funny, because as we drew up outside my childhood home we saw our old next-door neighbour, so knocked on her door and said hello. We left that house in 1985, so it is twenty years since I saw her. She's now 84 years old, and doing very well for herself.

On the way back to the "new" house, I drove Alice to Liverpool Airport, so she could see a plane taking off. As luck would have it, we pulled up by the terminal and tere was a plane, taking off. So Alice was happy...
Saturday evening Jacqueline and I went to the cinema to watch The Aviator. We looked at what was on (on a rare night of freedom), and really this film seemed to be the best of a bad bunch. As it happened, Jacqueline did quite like it, but it wasn't my cup of tea at all. Also, we went to a local cinema which, although a member of the Odeon group, looked like it hadn't changed since I had last been there, over 20 years ago. The decor was very shoddy, and they wanted £1.80 for a 500ml bottle of water. Not only this, but they had a "doors open" policy, and obliged everyone to stand outside the cinema until ten minutes before the film was due to start! And it was a freezing cold night. I mean, it was like being back in the 1970s. Fortunately we arrived just a couple of minutes before they opened the doors, so didn't have the chance to get cold. Also, I managed to park right outside the cinema. But really, it was very disappointing and just shows how much the leisure industry has, in general, progressed over the last few years. Incidentally, there were only about fifty people in the cinema - obviously there aren't many other people who will put up with it either. It'll probably be closed down by the next time we visit...

Sunday we did a quick trip out to see my grandma - Alice's great-grandma - who lives in a town towards Wigan. I have to say it is a part of the world which has very little attraction for me, always seems very grey and depressing. Still, we got that trip out of the way, bid our farewells, and started the trip back to the sunny south - via IKEA!

We went to the Ikea in Warrington, which was absolutely manic. It took ages to park, and even then it wasn't in one of the designated spaces. Still, once we got in I found the back door of the restaurant - completely by accident - which meant we bypassed all the queues at the front of the restaurant and were server almost immediately. The highlight of the weekend - meatballs and chips! Mmmmmm...

Fifty pounds and several bags of odds-and-sods later, we were heading south. Again, little traffic, and we were only on the road for about four hours again, even despite Jacqueline missing the turn-off to Salisbury. It really amazes me how Jacqueline manages to get anywhere - she can drive a road 100 times, and on the 101st time can still take a wrong turn. Incredible!

Anyway, back to home Sunday night, and back at the client's Monday morning. Uneventful week thus far.

Monday, 17 January 2005

Sick

Been very quiet since my last entry, took Thursday and Friday off sick with this terrible cough, and consequently had a quiet weekend also.

Had a bit of work done on the car. For the first time I refused the garage's advice to get some work done, the car has just been so expensive over the last few months. Got the shopping from Castle Point on Saturday and by the end of it was absolutely knackered. However, we met up with Simon, Patrick and Christopher yesterday at Serendipity Sams in Romsey, and a good time was had by all. Although I thought the admission and refreshments were quite expensive, the kids stayed for a good two hours so we certainly got our money's worth. Alice's verdict was that it was better than Clownabout (in Salisbury, which is where we usually go to). Afterwards, took Alice to MacDonalds as a treat - all the while Jacqueline was doing a shift at the hospital, poor thing.

Nothing much else to report. Quite by accident I let the battery on the new phone run out. It obviously needed the rest, since when I plugged it in and turned it on, it found the W/LAN without any problems at all. So, when I'm around home, I can hit the internet through the network. Quite how useful this will turn out to be, I don't know! It's a shame I can't use the W/LAN to do all the synchronisation etc., that would be really useful, but unfortunately it needs a "traditional" bluetooth, it or cable connection. Still, the phone is still a market leader and well worth having.

Must stop writing about phones. Very geeky!

Not much happening in the world. There are claims from CIA operatives that Bush's next target will be Iran, they've staked out the targets and everything. I wonder if that will be the last straw, as far as the "special relationship" Britain supposedly has with the USA? We need a strong leader to stand firm with the rest of the world and to tell Bush that he is wrong. He may choose to ignore us, and militarily there's not a whole lot anyone can do about it, but at least we're standing up for what is right. It is very concerning, to put it mildly, that in parts of the world people who don't even know me would consider me an enemy, all because of the beliefs and fervour of a guy I do not know, I did not vote for (and will not vote for), and who I cannot (at least on my own) remove from office.

On a final, lighthearted, note - have booked tickets for Scooby Doo on stage when it visits Southampton. Alice is thrilled!

Wednesday, 12 January 2005

Coughing to the Coffin

Suffering with my cough at the moment even more so than ever. Last night I even managed to emulate Alice and throw my guts up. Just after everyone had gone to bed, so the noise of me wretching well-and-truly woke the house up. I cannot remember ever having such a tickly cough than it has made me sick before. I cough so violently that I feel I can't breathe. Horrible.

Anyway, now that you've been put off your food...

I got a new all-singing, all-dancing phone yesterday, a kind of belated christmas present. Very functional, it'll probably take the rest of the year to figure out how it works. Quite easy to use, it should make the "mobile office" concept that little bit easier. I spend so much time on trains that it is good to be productive and not to have to lug a laptop around with me. It was fun and games trying to get all my contacts off the old phone onto this one - I used to synchronise quite frequently between phone and pc but haven't for a while (the list doesn't change all that much). Consequently when I tried to last night I had a couple of issues, shall we say, with getting the current contact list off the old phone. Once I did it, it was quite easy to put the contacts on the new phone, although I was trying to use a Windows 2003 laptop and the software only "officially" supports Windows 2000 and XP. The only thing it didn't do was find the wireless LAN, which would be a great asset to have. So, something left to do tonight. Anyway, enough Geektalk!

Had a meeting at the client's today. Everyone wants to use me to do work for them. I suppose I should consider it flattering... I suppose it means they won't be terminating the contract anytime soon!

Monday, 10 January 2005

Brief Update

Back to work with a vengenace. The crowds and train delays this morning were like Christmas had never happened...

I actually returned to work last Wednesday, having still not felt tip-top on Tuesday. Spent last week (and this week so far) coughing like a good-un! Last week very hectic, worked long hours to try to help the client meet some deadlines. With one of the systems (which I built for them) it is as much a matter of pride as anything, but they've also asked me to look at another of their systems (of which I have no knowledge) and really we're in the lap of the gods as to whether I can do what they want within their timeframes. Still, I've told them of this and can do no more. Aside from my personal rush, town was nice and quite and the journeys went ok.

Got an attack of cramp in my leg, in the middle of one night last week. Woke me up and completely disrupted the night's sleep for both of us. I mention it since I cannot remember ever having cramp whilst sleeping with Jacqueline, so this must be the first time for several years.

Got my finances up-uo-date last week. Every account has now been balanced up to year-end. Feels good, and once again I have resolved not to let things lapse again (I hadn't checked my personal account for six months previous). Must make an effort.

As a reward for this went to Hatchards on Friday to browse. Within about 5 minutes I had £75 worth of books in my hands, and all from just one floor. There was just so much interesting material there. I had intended buying something, since I have only one book on the go at the moment . This was a birthday present from Jacqueline, an excellent book containing a history of the Second World War, as told by excerpts from peoples' diaries. All sorts of people, high and low, from a broad section of countries. Very good book, even though I'm not very far into it.

Books bought on Friday include - a biography of Rommel, a biography of Napoleon, a wine touring book of Bordeaux, a book of the U-Boat war, and finally (a bit of nostalgia) a book on Quantum Physics. Believe it or not I used to be very, very hot at this in my college days and I am frequently dismayed when I think of how much information I have dropped along the way. Sure, I know a lot more about other areas these days, but I was very fond of my Physics knowledge. We'll see just how I get on with the book, anyway, and whether I need to go back to Hatchards next week for an A-level Maths book!

I must put some Amazon links to these books in, when I get back home.

Thinking of taking a holiday up to the Western Islands of Scotland. We already have one holiday booked this year, so the cost may well be prohibitive, but we'll cost it out in any case...

Monday, 3 January 2005

Last Day of Leisure

The previous entry turned out to be the high-point of the day. By midday I felt very rough indeed and basically spent the day doped up lying on the sofa.

Yesterday was better. Lorraine came around, kids in tow, and we cooked a lovely Sunday lunch. The kids were good fun - Lucy spent most of the time out of sight, knocking around with Alice. The boy was fascinated by the computer, because I played one of Alice's old albums for him, the wonders of MP3. He loves Barney the Dinosaur (fortunately Alice never went through such a phase since I think Barney would have driven us mad!), so asked for it to be played over and over...

Interesting to see the contrast between Solomon (especially) and Alice. Alice has always been very wilful and independent, we were always more used to her wanting to get away from us rather than clinging to us. Not so with Solomon, who clings to Lorraine at every opportunity. There's a 4½ year age difference between them, but I'm sure its not my memory playing tricks, Alice was never so clingy. Still, I suppose all kids are different, and he isn't 2 yet. I'm just glad ours is quite independent. Also, Lorraine does seems to be a little more protective than I'd be, but of course everyone will raise their kids slightly differently. Plus Jacqueline and I have always been two adults bringing up one child, whereas Lorraine is basically one adult bringing up two children. Must change your perspective a bit...

Enjoying my last day off work today, although Jacqueline has been attempting to rush me around. She tried this Christmas Day and over the New Year, and I feel I have to resist it. Despite having a cold over the break, it really has been rather relaxing to get up in the morning and to have nothing particular to do that day. There are precious few opportunities during the year to be able to say that, and I want to make the most of them.So poor old Jacqueline will have to wait.... Fortunately, Alice has no sense of urgency, ever, and while this can sometimes be a pain it does mean she's very much on my side under these circumstances!

Saturday, 1 January 2005

Happy New Year

Well, a very quiet introduction to the year - we stayed in and had a quiet evening in front of the TV. That is, except for the fact that there was absolutely nothing on TV. Jacqueline played Civilisation then had a bath, I alternated between watching a film called Goodfellas (which might have been good but I wasn't really in the mood) and sinking American ships in a U-Boat simulation. Sad, I know...

Alice at least livened things up for us, since she woke around midnight and was very unsettled. Poor thing is full of cold at the moment. I ended up having to lie with her for ages, but she's a restless thing. I ended up creeping to my own bed at something past one, shivering. Consequently, I feel awful this morning too! It's just this cold thing that's going around.

Went out to the garage yesterday to have them look over the car. Fortunately, the diagnosis is that it's a fairly innocuous oil leak, but I've booked it in in a couple of weeks to get it sorted. Went over to Castle Point (Alice in tow) for breakfast, where we got a couple of essential provisions and had a quick look in the sales. Got this gorgeous white (?) bath robe for Alice, reduced to only £7. It was amazing to see lots of collection boxes out for the tsunami (they were collecting at the Panto also). People must really have raised millions for it, it shows how generous people can be in times of adversity. I must admit that being off work, I do tend not to follow the news as closely, but the tsunami was unavoidable. A a hundred and fifty thousand killed, according to the UN reckon, and probably a good many tourists in that number too. 150,000? Can one even imagine that many people? And each one with a family.... Tragic

Jacqueline was working yesterday morning, when we went to Castle Point, but we met up in the afternoon and went over to Fordingbridge for a walk along the river. I took the camera and got some lovely photos. Typical English countryside in winter.

This morning I was up and around from around 8am, despite the disturbed night (no doubt I'll suffer for it later ), I turned on the TV to find that The Great Escape was on. Excellent stuff - a "real" film for christmas! Updated the company's web site - I have a copyright notice on there and had to change 2004 into 2005. For some silly reason for the last 9 years I've always done it manually each year. Well, today I finally got around to hacking some code to change it automatically. Put all this together with the Barn lying peacefully on my lap, and it leaves me full of optimism for the new year! Not sure what we'll get up to today - it'd be nice to get out for a walk somewhere, but we'll have to see how everyone feels after last night's adventures.