Tuesday, 29 March 2005

Easter Monday

Productive last day's holiday. Yesterday, went to the Easter Egg Hunt in Downton in the morning, with Alice and Grandma. Alice, needless to say, found many eggs, and I'm proud to say I helped the cause by finding six eggs for her. (These eggs are the really tiny ones, about an inch in length. They scatter them all over the place and the kids go out and find them. They give the toddlers a head start so everything generally ends up fairly distributed.)

Afterwards, we walked along the riverbank and I took some photos - it's about the first time I'd got the camera out this year. The river still looks quite wintry, although in the meadows some flowers - daffodils especially - are starting to bloom. For lunch I heated up some boeuf bourgignon that I made on Easter Sunday, and we polished that off along with a big plate of chips!

In the afternoon we headed into Romsey, to treat Alice to a play at Serendipity Sams, which was amazingly quiet. So much so, that as we went in they told us that they were going to close early because it was so quiet. So an hour and a half suddenly became three-quarters of an hour. Still, there were only two other kids to share the place with, so Alice ran riot. I even managed to join her and we played together, climbing about. Great fun - and very tiring!

Thereon to the big B&Q in Southampton - I bought a hedge trimmer from there last year, and in the process of getting the thing fired up after the winter, I appear to have lost some of the nuts and bolts which attach the engine to the body. A real pain in the neck. At each of the four corners of the engine, there is a spring, bolted at both ends, to ensure everything hangs together correctly. To ensure a grip, square nuts were used.

Anyway, I went to B&Q to get some replacements, but could I find them? These places may turn over millions but it is a real shame we don't have such places as ironmongers any more. I eventually saw something on Screwfix which looked as though it may do the trick, but since it was described as a "roofing bolt" I'll have my doubts until the stuff actually arrives! It really is galling to have a hundred-and-fifty pound piece of equipment put out of action for the lack of a couple of penny nuts and bolts!

On into London this morning, to visit the clients. I have all the bank statements today to go through and prepare the VAT return on the way home. Lovely job, although it should be quite cheap this time since I have most of last year's expenses to take into account.

Sunday, 27 March 2005

Jim Callaghan

Heard yesterday evening, by the way, that Jim Callaghan had died. He was in his nineties, and apparently his wife of 67 years, Audrey, had died just eleven days earlier. I don't remember Callaghan as a politician, but history shows him to be an honorable man who tried to work in the interests of the country.

Slightly perverse to hear Blair's tribute to him - just a shame the guy didn't inherit any of Callaghan's values to go with it.

Easter Bunnies

Seem to have survived Easter.

My mother has been staying with us since Thursday, and without wanting to speak too soon (she's here for another week yet) things are going well. We're normally well and truly fed up with each other by now, but she doesn't seem to have been as bad this time.

Of course, she still comes out with her twaddle. Today, at lunchtime, we were driving in the car and I happened to mention to everyone to look out for pheasants. My mother chirped up that we wouldn't find any at that time of day, since they only come out at certain times. (I didn't bother asking where she expected them to "come out" from!) Anyway, I was grateful when, just a couple of minutes later, we saw a brace standing by the side of the road. But she seems to have "old biddy itis" - very negative about absolutely everything, often with no first hand experience of the thing in question.

But still... Good Friday we went to Hockey's farm, who were having an open day. Good fun, saw lots of animals though not really many more than usual. Nice to get out though, and glorious weather. I then drove into the forest where we stopped for an afternoon drink at the High Corner Inn, one of our favourite forest watering holes. Of course, Alice liked it because not only did she get her favourite drink (J2O) but she also got to play on the climbing frames for half an hour.

Yesterday, we just headed into Salisbury for breakfast at David Browns, and got some stuff for the bikes - new brake blocks for Alice's bike and new tyres for mine. Got home and fitted everything. Also spent some time in the garden - the grass got its first cut of the year and the lawns look much the better for it.
Today, Easter Sunday, I didn't expect many places to be open so we headed into Southampton and as a special traet for Alice, went over to Leisure World to see the new Winnie the Pooh movie. She seemed to like it, although I think it was aimed at kids younger than her. Not as good as The Magic Roundabout, which we saw six-or-so weeks ago. Still, she had her popcorn and drink so was quite happy.

Tomorrow, we have an Easter Egg hunt. I've never been to it before, Jacqueline normally takes Alice. But I think I'm expected to tomorrow. Also, I've got a load of bills I need to pay by the end of March, so need to set up all the instructions tomorrow. And a VAT return.... Loads of fun!

Thursday, 24 March 2005

Demotivated

Been ages since I wrote. I did start writing something on Monday but got interrupted...

Last week and a bit has been quite hectic. I have been developing a new version of an application I delivered to the client, and that was released onto their live system a week ago. On the whole it has gone really well, although there have been some teething problems with it. To add to that, they've asked me to get involved in some of their other projects, which themselves have deadlines. So I've been rushing around like a mad thing. It's great for the company, unfortunately the work is dull, dull, dull...

Last weekend was quite quiet, although the weather had really turned "springy" so we actually rode to the next village on Saturday, which was gloriously sunny. The back road to the village is currently closed - they're plumbing in a new house half a mile down the road - so there was no traffic at all. This massive exertion was Alice's idea, in fact. Unfortunately she managed to fall off her bike at least twice (not got the hang of the brakes yet!), and got really spooked when we got close to the village, and had to ride on a road where there was traffic (albeit light). Still, the mile or so was covered in just over an hour (!) and we arrived just in time to get some ice cream from the village shop. It was obvious that Alice wasn't going to make it back home, so after the ice cream I sped off back home, and put the cycle rack on the car. I went and picked Alice up, while Jacqueline then rode home. We all had sore bums on Sunday!

Sunday was very quiet, Jacqueline was working a shift. Thereon, it's just been work, work, work. But it is Thursday lunchtime now, I'm here at the clients until 3 o'clock and then it's a four-day break for Easter. Plus, my mum's coming to visit, which Alice is certainly looking forward to. Hopefully get a couple of coveted lies-in!

Must hit the local bike shop on Saturday - I noticed the tyres on my bike are a bit perished. Still, the bike is about five years old (it's my comfort bike as opposed to the racer), and I've only ever done small bits of maintainance on it, so I can't complain. Also, I need to stock up on a couple of innertubes each for Jacqueline, Alice and myself, in preparation for our Centerparcs trip. Must draw up the shopping list...
Also need to get out in the garden this weekend. I almost got there last weekend, but not quite. The lawn has been a-growing over the winter. Could also do with clearing out the garage a little... Never a dull moment, except at work!!

Monday, 14 March 2005

Quiet Weekend

Nice weekend. Went over to the High Corner Inn, out in the Forest, for lunch. Followed by a visit to Hockeys farm shop and a mooch around Ringwood. Chilled out evening - we watched the Sky Premiere, which was called Bad Boys 2 (Will Smith), which was quite entertaining. Very Schwartzenegger-esque.

Sunday met up with Simon and his kids at Serendipity Sams. Alice had a play for about two and a half hours while I chatted with Simon. He's obviously got time on his hands at the moment so has been looking into share dealing, amongst other things. I dabbled a couple of years ago in this (when I had some spare cash - a long time ago now!), but couldn't get a buzz out of it and lost interest. I just ended up buying some shares that I still have today. His conclusion - which sounds about right to me - is that in order to make a lot of money you need to start with a lot of money. In other words, sink your money into safe investments rather than "get rich quick" schemes. Hard to go wrong...

Anyway, on to MacDonalds for supper, and back home.

Felt quite tired this morning, but the cats woke me up in the night. And thought on this morning about all the things I didn't do over the weekend. Better do them tonight. But they mostly involve paying money to people so a good idea to put them off for as long as possible!

Friday, 11 March 2005

The Bells

Wedding anniversary today. Immediately noticed a problem with the Fast Facts page, which should have gone up from 5 to 6. Traced it to putting the wrong wedding date onto the page. Hmmm, typical man. Still, at least I turned up on the day. Thinking about it some more, I think the anniversary might even have been yesterday. Totally rubbish at these things.

Had an interesting meeting last night regarding some potential new business. We'll see whether anything comes of it...

Just heard Dave Allen had died. I remember him as a kid, so have the impression of him being quite old, but he was only 68.

Tony is having a rough ride getting his his new anti-terror legislation through the Lords. They had an all-night sitting last night. Good to see that at least some people are able to stand up to them.

Wednesday, 9 March 2005

Update

Interesting last few days.

Saw an excellent game of football last night - Chelsea vs Barcelona. A real cup tie! Chelsea must have really come sprinting out of the blocks, going 3-0 up in 19 minutes. Then Barcelona pulled two goals back before half-time (Ronaldinho scored a cracker), to put them ahead on away goals. Finally Chelsea sneaked a winner with about fifteen minutes to go, followed by relentless Barca pressure. I don't really follow football these days but it is a pleasure to watch a really good game.

Been reading quite a bit with Alice, although it is very frustrating since a lot of it just seems to bounce off. We'll read a word, and she'll eventually know it. Then, we'll turn the page and see the same word, and we have to start over. It could be that I read with her just before bedtime and that she is tired, I don't know.
More work coming along from the current clients, which is good, at least from a business perspective. Shame it is dull, but then that is the nature of the beast with these guys, so the only way to cure that will be to find new clients. Still, am currently working on an internal project (hush, hush) which will, er, make dull days more entertaining, courtesy of the www. Shall say no more.

Got to pay for the summer holiday in the next few days. Megabucks, but what the hey?

Friday, 4 March 2005

At Last

There was light snow all the way into Salisbury this morning, which has become heavier the farther east we've travelled. We're now (Woking) travelling through a veritable blizzard! Wonder what I'll get home to this evening?
Feel extremely rough this morning but do not want to lose another day's consulting fees.

Maisie very affectionate this morning. She seems to have picked up the habit of jumping onto my neck as I get out of the shower. She loves it when I stroke her with my hairbrush (combing my hair is now a two-handed job!) and seems to like the smell of the conditioner I'm using, since she always starts licking my hair. Unfortunately, being a cat, she doesn't realise that I need to be out of the house in five minutes flat!

Thursday, 3 March 2005

Ill

Just seen a programme on TV - Dispatches - about all the scams operated by the Traffic Wardens. While a few years ago this all used to be the Police's responsibility, and one assumes less revenue-driven, many local councils now employ private contractors to issue tickets. Some councils even have revenue clauses in their contracts.

Totally abhorent. Clear examples of scenarios where privatisation is wrong. You bring the private contractor in and the focus shifts from keeping the roads clear, in this case, to generating revenue.

The programme put secret cameras (a) with a bunch of Traffic Wardens in Southwark, (b) inside the Congestion Charge HQ, and (c) inside the appeals department for some council up by Manchester. In all three cases they were unhelpful, and that is I think the mildest language possible, to the public. A guy who has never even owned the car in question gets bailiffs at his door because the Congestion Charge people reckon he owes them money. All common sense is dropped for the sake of procedures. Very crooked indeed.
Brings to mind a good article I found, of all places, the Telegraph. About a pensioner called Robert de Crittenden, who is challenging the issuing of fines without some prior court case. Here. Good luck to him, very interesting stuff.

For me, I have felt awful for the last 24 hours. Just cold symptoms, nothing serious. Came back from London last might and was shivering like nobody's business, felt terribly cold. Slept badly, since I woke halfway through the night drenched in cold sweat (well, I had gone to bed fully clothed!). So, it was the easiest thing in the world to turn over when the alarm went off this morning. I felt a little guilty because I can't really afford to lose the money, but I did feel achy. The annoting thing is that I still feel the same now, and I really must go into London tomorrow. Normally these things are 24-hour bugs, so let's hope I feel better in the morning.

Nighty, night.

Tuesday, 1 March 2005

Been quite busy. The cold came back with a vengeance last week, noticed things starting to happen on Wednesday, felt awful of Thursday and simply could not face the trip to London Friday. Emailed the clients, and they were happy for me to work on a document from the comfort of my own office. It is a shame that there is such little scope for me to do work for them outside of their office. Documents are fine since everyone has Word and Visio, but when they need me to work on their systems I kinda need to be close to those systems. I know they allow some employees to do work from home, logging in remotely, but I wouldn't be comfortable with that. For a start it would mean borrowing their kit, so there would be issues surrounding insurance etc.. Plus it would mean hooking this kit up through my own office's LAN, which again is a turn off.

Anyway, felt knackered Friday afternoon so gace up, but Jacqueline wanted to take advantage of me being around to work a shift at the hospital. She needs the cash at the moment, since her tenants have done a bunk, so I couldn't really refuse. But it meant that I had to pick Alice up from school and drop her off at her after-school club. She was made-up to see me. Still feeling poorly, I dropped her off and, rather than go home, drove around in the car with the heater on full blast. Seems to have done the trick!

Saturday, Jacqueline was working once again so as a treat I took Alice to the cinema for the very first time. Not sure what she enjoyed the most - the film itself (The Magic Roundabout) or the enormous tub of popcorn that went with it! - but she definitely wants to go back.

Sunday, however, was work day. Had to go to Homebase to get some stuff for the plumbing in the bathroom. My attempt to patch the overflow leak on the bath had failed miserably using just sealant, so I basically replaced the complete mechanism, including a decent section of the waste pipe itself. A pain to do (a) because it was such a confined space (my hand got ripped to shreds trying to work in this tiny recess), and (b) because the pipework in our bathroom is unpredictable. Basically, all the bath fittings are actually sink fittings. Had I understood this from the word "go" I could have done something about it, but I ended up making two visits to Homebase and hacking a solution together. Still, it looks to be watertight so I guess I can count it as a success!

Started a game of Civilisation over the weekend. Don't play it much any more for an obvious reason - was playing the game last night and it was a quarter past one when I got to bed! Still, I have survived the day despite my meagre 4½ hours sleep. Looking forward to playing a little tonight, although not for nearly so long!