Tuesday, 31 May 2005

Exercise

Interesting day. Jacqueline was going to come swimming with us for the first time during the holiday, but we had a row so she decided at the last minute not to. So, Daddy has to take Alice once again. The only thing is, Alice has been to the pool a few times now and knows what she likes to do, etc. Basically, dicking around in the big pool. She won't go on any of the slides, or the outside part, just likes to play in the big pool. Which means that I am constrained to be there also, generally within a few yards of her. So, I get cold and fed up very quickly...

A quick lunch, then dropped Alice off at the Kids Club for her afternoon session, then went straight out on a bike ride, still without bothering to speak to Jacqueline. Excellent ride, a 26km triangle (see the route - basically the roads overlaid in green. Centerparcs is roughly by the red "10" on the D35) - from Centerparcs I headed west along the D35 to Chaumont, then south on the D123 - through some beautiful forests - toward Nouan. Took a left to head eastwards into Lamotte Beuvron, past the autoroute exit along the way. Then back on the D35 to Centerparcs. All told took just over 2 hours, although that did include stops in Chaumont to take some photos, and in Lamotte for something far more important - a cold beer. Really pushed myself toward the end, and arrived back ot the cottage feeling quite sweaty. Only one mishap, when the chain came off completely - I'll have to look at the gear allignment properly, but for today just made sure I got the chain back on.

So, a quick shower then back to the dome to pick Alice up. Her treats continued - a couple of goes on the carousel and a half-hour play in one of those indoor play centres (Clownabout, Serendipity Sams), then a burger for supper at the on-site burger joint. Burger ok, but overpriced as is all the food here. Jacqueline came along for these also.

So now am very weary. Sitting down on the sofa, not sure if I'll move again tonight! Very much Jacqueline's turn to take Alice swimming tonight. Full day tomorrow, going to get the train to Paris to meet up with Isabelle, Robin and Tess.

Early Riser

Orleans yesterday, as mentioned.

We started off by turning left out of Centerparcs (we'd always turned right before) to see where it took us. Fortunately, to Lamotte Beuvron, which was handy since it has a station, and we plan to travel from there tomorrow to go to Paris. On to Orleans.

Since it was a Monday I thought it may be quieter than usual, but we went to mooch rather than to shop, so that wouldn't be a problem. Initiallly quite disappointing. I mean, we found the cathedral and went arount that (Alice loves churches), which was magnificent. It never fails to amaze me the amount of time - lifetimes in some cases - that people spent constructing such beautiful places, spurred on only by their beliefs. The same was true of Mont St Michel. There's faith for you.

However, the rest of Orleans was slightly disappointing. We were looking for someplace to have an ice cream but simply couldn't find anywhere. We were heading back to the car to come back to Centerparcs when we thought, "we'll just head up here along the way", as one does. And we found this beautiful square, the Place du Matroi. Ironically we could have parked there initially, but I passed it by in favour of another car park. Anyway, we easily found a cafe selling ice cream sundaes in this square, plus we found the main shopping area, which we'd missed earlier. Far from being disappointing, it turned out to be excellent.

By the time we got back to the car, therefore, it was somewhat later than intended, so I suggested taking the autoroute back to Centerparcs, via a supermarket. We picked up signs for a Carrefour, which we like (went to a Champion the other day, which wasn't so good), and decided that Carrefour was the way forward.

Unfortunately it meant travelling in exactly the opposite direction to the way we wanted to go for a good fifteen minutes - the signs never tell you that, do they? Still, we got there in the end and bought lots more nice things, not all of which food. We all got nice shampoos/shower gels, for example. French supermarkets really have the edge even on the English when it comes to diversifying.

Homeward bound. Fortunately, although we'd been travelling in the wrong direction to get there, we were still close to the autoroute, just the next exit along. So we were able to get back to Centerparcs very rapidly indeed - especially with Jacqueline driving!! Plus we used the fact that it was changeover day to bring the car right up to the cottage - we'd bought water and the shopping bags were heavy in any case.

Too late, unfortunately, to do much else, so Alice had to forego her evening swim. Instead, we had a nice family meal of pasta and tuna, after which I was fit to drop.

This morning, have checked the bank account. Our French account is really good, in that card purchases get deferred until the end of the month. Of course, it is the end of the month today so I hit their web site to make sure I had enough funds in the current account. Turns out that all my purchases are going to go through at the end of June, not May. So I'll earn another month's interest leaving the money in the savings account. I'm sure it'll only earn pennies interest, but it is nice nevertheless that they have a product that works this way. My English account is theoretically deferred debit, but in practise they take the card total into account when determining whether to accept or to decline transactions, so it might as well be real-time.

Which reminds me, must phone them to see if my invoice has been paid yet...

Not sure what we'll get up to today. A swim this morning for sure, but first I can feel a whirlpool bath coming on!

Monday, 30 May 2005

Monday..... have to force myself to think of the day since all days kind of blend together here.

The last 24 hours have been quite grey and cold - it even rained overnight - although the sun is shining once again now. The days are settling into a kind-of routine. Pre about 9am I have the place to myself - Jacqueline lies in and Alice it still asleep. The previous two mornings I've gone out on my bike but because of the inclement weather this morning I didn't bother. I had a Turkish Bath then just cycled to the bins to drop off some empty bottles, and to the dome to get some morning bread.

From about 9 until 10 is breakfast, then from 10 until lunch we've gone to the dome so that Alice can swim. Lunch is around 12 until 2, then from 2..... well, the routine kind of dies there. But we do generally squeeze in another visit to the dome at the end of the day. Yesterday we stayed until almost closing time (9) and it was excellent - very quiet.

Yesterday afternoon we drove across country to Cheverny, the weather just about held for our visit. The countryside here is either forest or agricultural. Believe it or not, asparagus seems to be the thing! Cheverny was lovely - no connection at all with the "royal" chateaux like Chambord and Chenonceau. Just seems to be a magnificent house whose hard-up owners decided to open their doors to the public. But beautiful nevertheless, pre-revolutionary France really boasted some beautiful architecture, furniture etc. Just a shame it lay in the hands of sufficiently few people that they felt the need to revolt!

Anyway, after Cheverny we went for a drive (although raining by now) and checked out Romorantin. We didn't stop, since of course it was Sunday. Quite an unspectacular little town, although we did sneak a MacDonalds for supper there! Just about digested it when we got back for our swim.

Been following the French news a little. They voted quite significantly against the proposed EU constitution. Something like 56-44, with a 70% turnout. In fact, it looks like they've done some quite sophisticated information gathering around the vote, able to determine which geographic areas voted for/against, also looks like some data on professions - blue collar, white collar etc. Geograhically, only Paris, Bretagne and the Pays de la Loire voted "for", the whole rest of the country "against". Places like Picardie, Pas de Calais were very strongly against - I wonder whether that had anything to with immigration!!!

Also, there have been riots in, of all places, Perpignan. Cars wrecked. I did pick up a paper (Liberation) today so must have a read later to find out why. I'm sure it must be more than a referendum!

Well, just finished lunch now so time for a little siesta, I think. Alice is safely out feeding the ducks. The plan for the rest of the day is a visit to Orleans. Also we need to find a supermarket some place to replenish our supplies.

Booked Alice into Kids Club tomorrow afternoon, and for a pony ride Thursday. Did I mention I saw a red squirrel on my walk yesterday? First time I've seen a red one since my childhood, on holiday in Wales.

Sunday, 29 May 2005

Settling In

Yesterday went to plan. Very hot, pedalled arount the lake for half an hour, absolutely tiring. Jacqueline and I got to paddle, while Alice got to enjoy the view. She later said it was boring, ungrateful little...

After the pedalos we took Alice to the merry-go-round, then on to the indoor play area, while we had a drink - never was a beer longer or colder!

A little break, then back to the pool for an evening session. We found the "outside" part of the pool, exactly like Longleat. Brilliant once again, although Alice was a little scared of the outside part. We met mum - who in the meantime had tried out the cottage's Turkish Bath - at 7:30pm, ready for a "Mahgreb Buffet" in one of the restaurants. Unfortunately the restaurant in question had been booked out to a private party, so we settled for pizza instead. During the meal, there were two definite votes (and neither from me!) to come back again next year.

Being objective for a moment, this place is very pricey. Last night's meal was almost €50, £35, say, and Alice only had a starter and a kid's dessert. OK, Jacqueline and I had proper ice cream desserts (Cafe Liegois and Poire Belle Helene respectively), but even so... Plus, there is a kid's toy/clotihng boutique here which stocks only designer things. Alice saw a lovely puppy toy there bit the price was a massive €29. So of course, you have to say "no".

Anyway, back to happy things, Alice and I walked over to see the fallow deer after supper, which was a good way to end the day. I just wish we could entice her onto her bike for once. Still, by walking we saw lots of rabbits scurrying across the roads, even a little mouse doing whatever mice do at twilight. Lovely - this place must be animal heaven.

This morning I was up early while the house slept. I showered and was out for 7am, as the rest of Centerparcs slept. Really good to go around the place when it is deserted. Today is also very good weather so great photography weather - I took about 60 photos this morning, none of which had people anywhere. Plus, the sun was rising above the trees so got some good "foresty" snaps. Ended up at the dome, which again was deserted, so took lots of interior photos, again unpoluted with people. Finished off just after eight getting a couple of baguettes and cycling back to the cottage for some breakfast on the patio.

Rest of cottage still asleep.

When everyone finally awoke, they were pleasantly surprised with (a, Jacqueline) a pot of freshly-brewed coffee, and (b, Alice) a yummy tarte au citron Thereon, the story of the morning has taken place at the dome - for Alice and I at least. A nice 2-hour swim, during which time Jacqueline went on another bike ride.
This afternoon the plan is to head over to Cheverny - more photographs I am sure!

Oh, forgot to mention phoned Isabelle last night and plan to meet up in Paris Wednesday. Alice will be excited to see Robin and Tess once again.

Saturday, 28 May 2005

Discovery Time

Alice was so excited she eventually went to bed at 11 last night! I think its fair to say we all slept well, Alice particularly - she didn't wake up until gone 9:30am. For me, I woke up quite early and was off exploring on my bike by 8:15, had a 45 minute ride. I found a deer park and a kids' play area, both quite a way off the beaten track.

Once Alice had surfaced we ventured into the dome for the first time. Beautiful, a lovely swimming pool. Alice was at home straight away and it was great to be swimming around all these palm trees etc. Plus, of course, the weather is beautiful again today so the dome was sunny, bright and warm. Alice found some sand pits and a kiddies slide - I found a deck chair! Then, we headed back into the main pool just as the wave machine was starting...

Probably one of the best swimming pools we've ever been to, although I'm not sure whether it is as good as the Centerparcs at Longleat (which we visited a few years ago when Alice was very small).

Keep hinting to Alice to go out on her bike, but she hasn't bitten yet... She has no confidence at the moment .
This afternoon - well, we'll have a bit of a break first. Then, off to see the farm (which is by the merry-go-round), and if all goes to plan we'll get a pedalo on the lake outside.

Friday, 27 May 2005

Holiday!!!

Well, the last couple of days has been somewhat busy.

Wednesday, I left the client's early, to get back to Salisbury in time to pick Alice up from school. Jacqueline too arrived home early, and at 6:30 we left for Portsmouth - to catch the ferry to St Malo! Yes, it was the start of the summer holidays.

I had been a little concerned about how we'd fare with the weather (the weather had been awful in Britain for the last few days), but I needn't have worried.- after a crossing which was absolutely calm, we arrived in Saint Malo in bright sunshine, and that has been the story of the holiday so far. Yesterday, then, we must have landed at St Malo at about 8:30am, and we headed straight to the Mont St Michel - I really like it there and I wanted Alice to see it. True to form, she loved it. We walked right to the church at the top, although Alice said her favourite was a little chapel partway up, where she lit a candle and said a prayer. Obviously going to a christian school is having an effect!

On then to Rennes for lunch, although by now it had become rather hot, so we didn't do a great deal of walking. Enough for Jacqueline to find a Galeries Lafayette, and for me to find a bookshop (my French atlas is way out of date, as is my Michelin Guide, so I had to make amends). Seriously, I could not recommend the Guide Rouge more highly - especially in France - when it comes to finding hotels and restaurants which are, simply, a cut above.

Point in question was the hotel of last night, called I think the Hotel Jardin des Arts in Chateau-Gontier. Chosen for no reason other than it was on our path and was recommended by the Guide, we stayed in an extremely spacious room, had a gastronomic dinner on a terrace overlooking the Mayenne, it is safe to say that we were pleasantly surprised. A beautiful building, even the striking colour scheme seemed to work (our bedroom was green and orange, the restaurant was red and blue!) Had a good chat with the proprietor, who was a great chap. Very into technology - computers (Macs) in each bedroom, complete with loads of music and films via the network. Geeky though it might be, I couldn't leave without telling him how much I appreciated it. (We ourselves have all our CDs stored electronically, some 20gb worth.)

After a leisurely breakfast we headed further into the heart of France, stopping for lunch at a place called Chateau Renault. Salad for the grown-ups, pizza for the enfant, and everyone happy. I should probably mention at this point that we brought the bikes over with us - the first time seriously using the bike rack we bought last year. Very impressed, although with some of the noises coming from the back of the car is did give cause for concern on occasion! But it seems all my worries were unfounded, the bikes didn't move an inch.

On returning from lunch, the thermometer in the car said 41 degrees - we had parked in the sunlight, but even so... The termperaure came down somewhat as we got on the road, but remained comfortably in the mid-thirties . Absolutely shoots down the arguments that you need to go in August to get the good weather.
Anyway, on to Blois, and a supermarket to stock up on some groceries. And we promptly got lost! A straightforward goal, you might think - to cross the Loire. Hardly difficult to find, the river is easily a few hundred metres wide! It didn't help that I was driving and expecting Jacqueline to had some idea about the direction. Anyway, we eventually found a sign for Orleans, which despite being on the wrong side of the river was vaguely in the right direction. So, I made kind of an executive decision and took the road. Stopped a few minutes later to verify my choice, and we looked good on the map. There was another bridge across the river just a couple of villages out of Blois, which we took instead. From there, it was half an hour of driving through beautiful forest and picturesque villages (la Sologne) before we got to our eventual destination - Center Parcs!

Arrived in mid afternoon, still hot, hotter still once I'd unloaded the car, so I was quite tired but Alice, of course, had lots of energy. So, we went for a walk to the dome to check things out, although we didn't swim yet today. After a refreshing bath in the whirlpool, Jacqueline took Alice out for a further exploration while I stayed in (or rather sat out on the patio overlooking one of the lakes) and chilled out. Some peace for half an hour at least - unfortunately then the gruesome twosome returned to destroy the peace. Alice is now being very piggish, wanting to eat everything in sight (it is past 10 o'clock), and Jacqueline has just turned the TV up to some incredible volume. Time to go, will update further soon.

Summary - very impressed so far!

Monday, 23 May 2005

Woke up this morning, only to find something strange on the radio. Ignored it (well, I was half asleep), turned the alarm off and headed into the shower. Then, when I got into the car to go to the station, there was a programme on about Dizzy Gillespie rather than the usual Today programme. Something definitely not quite right! As it happened, I was driving to the station when the 7 o'clock news came on, and the top item was that BBC journalists were on a 24-hour strike. All became clear, except I wasn't sure why it was OK to have a newsreader, but not a news programme. Some things in this world are just beyond comprehension. Must check the Beebs website later - wonder if all the pages will be blanked out 'til tomorrow?

Had a mixed weekend. Finished laying the floor in the loft Saturday, then escorted Jacqueline over the Hedge End, because she "needed some new clothes". Did not manage to get to the glaziers to get the pane of glass sorted, but it is an internal pane anyway so it is not critical. Sunday, managed to get the lawn cut in between quite heavy downpours. Also, we had a lot of washing cluttering up the place, so I took my turn at some ironing in front of some Spanish football on TV. Very exciting...

Arsenal won the FA Cup at the weekend. I didn't bother watching it, but did catch some highlights on Sunday. It looked like Man Utd completely outplayed them, although it was goalless right through to the penalty shoot-out. It is the first time the competition has ever been determined on penalties.

Friday, 20 May 2005

Man about Town

Getting ready for the weekend. Alice seems a lot better, but was awake last night complaining that things hurt. Poor thing.

Weekend will be spent finishing off the floor in the loft, I did some measuring earlier in the week so that should be straightforward, I can cut the stuff before I lift it up there, also the fact that I'm dealing with smaller boards will make them easier to get up into the loft in the first place. Once they're up there, its really just a case of banging some nails in.

Also, did I say I'd managed to break a window in the garage? Well, its true. I need to sort that really. I phoned up a glazier who wants to charge me £10 for the glass, plus £35 for fitting it. So I think I'll buy some putty and see how it goes!!

Was thinking of taking the family over to Exbury Gardens tomorrow, although the forecast isn't good, so I think we'll need to play it by ear.

The news is positively full of George Galloway at the moment. He was in Washington earlier on in the week to testify to this senate committee. Most (US) commentators were surprised at how adversarial he was, and certainly they thought that the senators were surprised. I think one commentator said that he "won by a knockout". I heard that the senators accused him of being "evasive", but I watched his testimony on the web and I think that this is clearly not the case. The one answer he evaded was whether he thought it was wrong for one his charity's benefactors to be involved in oil dealings with Iraq, and frankly this issue is immaterial to whether or not he personally gained from Iraqui oil. As Galloway himself said, they really have nothing on him.
Then, guess who was on Question Time last night? Yes, the man himself. Of course the question came up about his trip to Washington, and he seemed to have a lot of support from within the audience. Also on the panel was a nameless minister, who put the government's case most unconvincingly. In fairness, there were five panelists roughly split four against one, but she didn't fight her corner well. Possibly, as someone at the client's mentioned today, these people all have one eye on the Labour leadership, and are slowly but surely distancing themselves from Blair. A great shame that Galloway did/could not remain within the Labour Party, he'd have been a very credible alternative to Blair. Still, as was the case with Ken Livingstone, maybe he'll be welcomed back into the fold one day, although he was very forthright last night in calling Blair a war criminal. it is difficult to see it happening presently, although I think that the Labour Party must shift toward the left at some point.

My Orwell books arrived the other day - I now have a stock of about ten books to read.

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Full Weekend

Life with Alice is slowly but surely getting back to normal. She's still not quite right, and is still whining a lot, but at least she's now started sleeping through the night once more. Very naughty last night, she went to bed without pyjama pants on, consequently woke up a few hours later having wet the bed. You can't really be angry when they wet the bed, but she should have known better than to leave her pyjama pants off. So, she got to sleep on a towel, and Jacqueline will need to clean up the mess.

Weekend went rather well. I went to the timber yard and got eight pieces of chipboard for the loft. I laid four of them (quite straightforward, the only issue was actually getting them through the opening into the loft), and everything looks a lot better up there. There is still a bit to go, but I didn't want to get into cutting things into shape at that time, so I stopped at the four pieces. Next weekend, I need to cut another two pieces up, to get them to fit around the edges. Then I need to work out where to put the last two pieces!

Anyway, once I had the loft floor down, it was time to get down to "real" business, and I laid a network cable for the first time. In fact, I laid two cables and have subsequently found that only one of them works, so there's a task for an upcoming weekend... But although I've now bought all the cable/tools etc, I doubt I'll do it too regularly. I think the safe bet is to use ready-made cable where possible - I've found that working with Cat5 cable is very fiddly, and I doubt you can match the build quality of factory-made cables. The only reason I did my own wiring at the weekend was because I was going between two junction boxes, I didn't just need a cable.

Last week I picked up an Intel switch very cheaply on eBay, and this arrived yesterday, so yesterday evening I put the final touches to the "new" network. Basically, all that I have done is to double-up the single access point into two access points, and rather than sitting in the middle of the loft they now sit at either end. Everywhere has good coverage now. The two access points are joined to this new switch, which in turn is linked to the existing backbone via the new network connection. Easy as that! And now I know about MDI and MDI-X ports! More useless rubbish...

Elsewhere in the world, George Galloway is in the news at the moment. He's been accused of profiteering from Iraq by some US senate committee - the charge is that the old Iraqui regime basically gave him oil as a bribe for supporting them. Seems very fishy, very political, I have to wonder whether these allegations would have come to light had he not beaten Oona King in the election. It wouldn't surprise me if Tony and George got together and conjured up a bit of spin on this one. Galloway himself has gone over to Washington D.C. to refute the allegations - good for him. (Also, of course, one should remember that the Telegraph not long ago lost a libel action to Galloway with this self same claim, although the US Senate claims to have different evidence.)

For me, I have just completed reading Galloway's book, I'm not the only one, which rants a little but which comes straight from the heart. I haven't been so impressed by a piece of political writing since I read Tony Benn's work, and Benn and Galloway are quite similar politically. Plus, I find myself generally agreeing with him - he's really not the only one!

On books, I've got an excellent stock to read over the summer - a biog of Jim Callaghan , plus a book, Free Radical, with some of Tony Benn's writings in it. To add to that, I've just ordered from Amazon George Orwell's complete works. Not to mention I'm still plodding through The Hitchhiker's series.

Believe it or not, I heard this morning that the manager of Everton (my boyhood team), David Moyes, has won the Manager of the Year award, for having guided Everton to fourth place in the Premier League. How he managed it, I just don't know, since the few times I saw them play they were absolutely awful. They even lost 7-0 at Arsenal last week. I guess that, aside from the top three teams who were quite some way ahead, Everton were just on a par with the other teams. I always tend to look for their result first, and don't really take notice of other teams' results. Probably a Liverpool or Bolton fan (the teams that finished fifth and sixth) would look at their team's results and think that they were eratic too. Still, nice to see them doing well, although they won't get a penny from me! Believe it or not when I used to go and stand behind the goal on Gwladys Street, it cost me something like £1.50 to get in. I had a season ticket for three years and remember that costing in the region of £30 - £40. I bet I'd pay ten times that for the same view these days. And I got to feast on legends like Neville Southall, Peter Reid, Andy Gray, Trevor Steven, Kevin Sheedy etc. etc. Even Gary Lineker for a year. OK, I was heavily into it...

Friday, 13 May 2005

Let's hope we've turned the corner with Alice. Last night she seemed quite well, good-humoured, and had a bath with me. Then, despite her objections, we made her sleep in her own bed and again, despite strenuous protests, we made her take a dose of Calpol, and a dose of Ibuprofen before bed. The result was a quick story, then asleep five minutes afterwards and for the whole night.

The only disappointing thing is that we have to bully her so much to get her to do these things.

This morning, however, she did wake up quite early (6-ish) and was grizzly once again, so she's still not quite right. We still kept her off school today, but hopefully the worst is past. We've got no plans for Sunday so hopefully if she's feeling well enough we can go out somewhere.

Thursday, 12 May 2005

More woes

Alice was as bad as ever last night, I remember going to sleep in my own bed, having to get up to comfort her, going back to bed, being woken up again (at about 3am) to go and sleep in her bed when she came in to sleep with mum.

Feel absolutely buggered, it has been almost two solid weeks now.

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

Poorly Alice

Alice is still suffering - Jacqueline took her to the doctor's yetsreday and the doctor is now happy that it isn't mumps. Apparently the conversation went something like, "Well, I'm not too sure what it is, probably a viral infection of some kind, but at any rate it doesn't look serious". And that was it. Alice was sent home, and in fairness she spent most of yesterday as if nothing was wrong with her.

Last night, however, was a replay of the last week - Alice in agony with her arm, now also her neck. We tried to get her to sleep in her own bed (for the first time in a week) but it all got abandoned at half past one, when she went to sleep with mum, and I ended up in Alice's bed again.

Even this morning, Alice was very clingy (by the time I got up she'd moved to the lounge sofa), and of course she wanted me to stay with her rather than to go to work. I think if I were a perm employee of someone that's probably what I'd have done. But of course the downside of being a consultant is that if I don't turn up, I don't get a pay cheque. So I just have to live with the guilt feelings instead...I suppose it is all part of parenting.
The agenda for the weekend is becoming clear. Go down to the timber merchants early Saturday morning, to get some chipboard for the loft. At about £6 per sheet, I'll probably get 8 sheets to start with. Then, to try to lay them in the loft. Finally, to install some network points up there (the boxes and the tool arrived yesterday).

Hopefully, should not take too long to get all this done. Quite looking forward to it, since it would be a whole lot more useful than what I'm doing with the clients at the moment. But then, of course, it turns into an expensive operation if we're talking about lost consultancy fees.

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

The New Dawn

Quite a fruitful weekend. We now have a new wireless network, although for some reason the old access point flatly refused to work with any of the new kit. So that's basically been discarded, which is a shame since my plan was to use both access points, one at each end of the house, to try to eliminate any blackspots. That's still the plan, but it means buying another access point - eBay here we go!

Still, the actual task I needed to fulfill - putting power sockets into the loft - was achieved very easily. Because of Alice, who's still sleeping very poorly (more below), I was up very early Saturday and actually got to B&Q for 7:15am! And back home in time to take everyone to breakfast at David Brown's. Once I got back, it only took a couple of hours to get everything sorted, and it all worked first-time.

As I spent a lot of time up in the loft, the fact that I spent so much time crawling between joists really did for my knees, to the point where I've pretty much decided to lay some boards. I did some research, talked to a chap, and can get away with chipboard. So it should be quite cheap. I think I'll buy a couple of pieces at the weekend to see how I get on. Again, should be easy enough to lay.

The other thing I need to do in the loft is to put some permanent network connections up there. To date, I've just run a long cable up there, but I think I'll install some wall sockets between the two ends of the loft and the garage (which is where all the wired network stuff is). Again, should be a doddle, although I'm waiting for a network tool to arrive from China (eBay again, very cheap!) before I can complete this.

Sunday, Alice was her worst yet. Until then, she'd been poorly at night, but during the day you'd never have thought there was anything wrong with her. Sunday, she was just plain grizzly. Despite feeling unwell, she still insisted on going to Serendipity Sams, as we'd earlier arranged. When we got there, however, she spent most of her time lying on one of the sofas. Again, she insisted going to MacDonalds for lunch, when she'd have been better just going home. When we finally did get home, she crashed on the sofa where she remained for the rest of the day. Yesterday, I urged Jacqueline to call the doctor, basically to ask if he was sure this was just "growing pains" (we obviously kept Alice off school). I mean, this has been over a week... Anyway, the doctor saw Alice again yesterday evening and the diagnosis is now......mumps! She's going back this morning so he can make sure. So now she's contagious! Seriously, she's now going to be off school for a couple of weeks. I suppose, looking at this cynically, that her timing is good since she should be better by the time we go on holiday.

Of course the fact that is is mumps may mean uncomfortable questions for Jacqueline regarding MMR. In her job, Jacqueline often has to advise people to have the MMR jab (that is what the Department of Health's guidelines are), but when it comes to our own child I very much wanted to opt out, and so Alice never had the triple vaccine. There was so much flying around about the safety of MMR at the time when all this was relevant to Alice, that I was not keen on the autism risk. I just can't buy into the patronising argument "take our advice, we know better than you", which seems to be a stock medical-profession argument. To suggest that I'd be unable to comprehend a factual argument really insults my intelligence. Even now, I think the jury is still out on MMR.

With all of this going on, we didn't get to go shopping at the weekend, so I popped into Waitrose last night. £115 later..... Must remember to get Jacqueline to do the shop next time!

In other events, Blair is obviously starting as he means to go on. Good news for David Blunkett. The man, who may be remembered by some as the guy who fiddled his parliamentary expenses, or possibly for being the guy who fast-tracked a visa for his girlfriend's nanny, maybe for being allowed to live in a government house while no longer a member of the government, perhaps even more generally for his illiberal stance in wanting to lock up anyone to whom he took a dislike, has now taken on the portfolio of Work and Pensions. Millions of pensioners across the country must be quaking in their shoes, wondering what the man is going to meddle with next. And if that is not all, Blair has promoted one of his (unelected) cronies into a job as a Minister of Education, making things "proper" by enobling the guy along the way.

On a serious note, one can live with Blunkett. He's obviously a sharp chap who has learned to play the system. Much as it it distasteful that the chap is given another chance at holding high office, it doesn't really call "the system" into question. There are plenty of examples - on both sides - of disgraced politicoes making comebacks. However, this idea of prime minister's patronage really does grate (even if, again, it is a tool used by both sides). It highlights the need for reform in this area. I don't even have a problem, per-se, with the guy being unelected. But the fact that he will be allowed to sit in the Lords for the rest of his life, on the strength of a job he'll hold for just the next year or two, is plain wrong.

Friday, 6 May 2005

Five More Years

Well, it is now May 6th, the day after the General Election. Blair has been re-elected with a much-reduced majority. Pangs of '92 about it all (which was pretty much how I thought it would be). Looks like Blair's majority will be 60-something, which means he'll have to start listening to the Parliamentary Party for the first time. And not all of them are "New Labour" disciples, so it could be that controversial measures such as ID cards get scrapped, if it looks like there's going to be a rebellion over it. Or, of course, if it all gets too rocky, he could always hang up his boots, which he has said he's going to do anyway during this term.

Locally, we're in the Salisbury constituency, which has always been true blue. Nevertheless, I voted Liberal, the only issue for me being Iraq, where neither of the main parties' stances are acceptable to me.

Unfortunately for me it made not a hoot of difference - not only was the Tory chap re-elected but he was re-elected with an increased majority. If anything, it shows that my views on the importance of Iraq are in a definite minority.

Elsewhere nationally, the Liberals picked up some seats against Labour but not against the Tories, so I think they'll end up with around ten more seats. But mainly it seems the Tories picked up some Labour seats (although obviously not enough). Best result of the night was in east London, where George Galloway beat the incumbent Labour minister to take the seat. Purely on the Iraq issue. Good for him, I say. He was slurred by the "New Labour" hierarchy, just as Ken Livingstone was before him, and has gone on to show that people of integrity can win against the party machines.

Howard has announced today that he will stand down "sooner rather than later". But who will replace him? Quite simply there are no shining stars on the horizon. Even if there were, these people would surely be mindful of the way in which IDS was deposed. He should hang on for a couple of years and use the time to develop some alternatives. I don't think the Tories will gain power while they have remnants of '97 in some of their top roles, he's got to bring new blood through.

On to other things, last weekend went basically to plan, with the exception of a visit to A&E. Alice has been sleeping terribly badly for the last week, complaining of pains in one arm. I resorted to A&E simply so we could reassure ourselves that the arm wasn't broken. But she had such degree of mobility that they didn't even X-ray her - during the night she was obviously in pain but during the day she seemed fine. So all the hospital did was give her a dose of Calpol. As an update on this, she did not improve so Jacqueline took her to the doctors a couple of days later, and upon hearing the symptoms the doctor immediately diagnosed "growing pains" (which I didn't think were real but which obviously are!). Right symptons, right age, it all fits. Only problem is, there's no solution other than to dope her up with pain killers until it goes away. So, we're all short of sleep at the moment...

Took the plunge and decided to upgrade the network - I had most but not all of the required hardware sitting around the place already, lying in its box. The pain was installing the new wireless access point in the loft - the current one uses "power over ethernet", in other words the box gets its power from the Cat5 cable which connects it to the wired LAN. So, there's no need to stick a plug in the loft, basically. However, the new one doesn't have this, so now I *am* going to have to stick a plug in the loft! Unless, of course, there's one there already that I haven't noticed (quite possible!). So, that's going to be the main task of the weekend. I'm also thinking of getting a wireless print server too, which might make life a little easier (the printer is currently dependent on a computer being turned on). I think I'm getting quite adept at spending small amounts of money in order to squeeze as much out of what I've got as possible.