Sunday, 28 August 2005

Barney

Barney is gone. Jacqueline found him Saturday morning, curled up in one of the sideboard cupboards, of all places. Looking very fed up with himself and feeling rather cold. We took it in turns to fuss the boy, and to keep him warm, but you could tell that the spark was disappearing. A brief trip to the vets later on in the morning confirmed our worst fears. Poor thing.

Of course on top of our own grief, all of this is difficult to convey to a six year old. Alice had wanted to stay with Barn right until the end, but Jacqueline took her out of the surgery into the waiting room, leaving me with the uncomfortable job of giving the boy one last fuss. I think the first she understood was when she saw me coming out of the surgery in tears. She then was in tears too, and I thought she realised what had happened.
We forced ourselves to go out to do the weekly shopping, when Alice just started being Alice. Probably no more boisterous than any other day, but of course neither Jacqueline nor I were in the mood, so she seemed many times worst than she probably was. When we got home, the kids from next door came around to play, and were all very matter-of-fact about things. But then of course, when its not one of your own pets, its just a cat.

Yesterday evening, things finally started to sink in with Alice and she was very tearful. Many, many questions about god and heaven, mixed up with the genuine grief that she'll never get to touch, to fuss, the boy again. In some ways the fact that she's going to a christian school makes it straightforward to put things into terms she has at least heard of, but quite rightly she feels there are questions to ask besides what we say to her. Plus, of course, for me not really believing in this stuff, I find myself putting things in almost clinical terms for her whereas perhaps an evangelist might be more convincing.

Even now, the reason I am awake at 3am is because I've just been woken up by Alice crying. And then you get thinking...

And then over and above Alice, there's the grief you feel yourselves. Certainly for me, since I was the one Barn always used to come to by choice. Of course, he was such a shameless tart that he'd go to anyone for a fuss, I was the one he came looking for first. Very difficult to put it into words. So long, Barney-boy, I'll miss you.

Friday, 26 August 2005

Isnt it Ironic?

Well, lots has been happening lately. Ironic that I blog a lot less when there is lots going on than when not much is happening.

I think the last time I was just looking forward to a weekend on my own. Well, that happened and as expected was very tranquil. I actually got lots done, and it was great not really speaking to anyone from Friday evening until Monday morning. Well, obviously I spoke to Jacqueline and Alice on the phone, and the woman on the checkout, but you know what I mean.

That would have been two weeks ago. Last weekend we headed up to London for a mate's (Hermit) wedding. We came up Saturday lunchtime and spent the afternoon in Kinghtsbridge, including an hour in the Natural History Museum, which Alice seemed to enjoy a lot. Then we headed over to east London, to the hotel where Hermit's reception was.

Interesting experience - the hotel was really quite plush, and was billed as four-star, but the area was absolutely dreadful. Basically sitting amidst a load of waste ground that obviously they thought would be redeveloped but which never really happened. Still, despite this the reception was excellent. For Jacqueline, she seemed quite happy. For me, it was great to catch up with a load of the guys I knew from a previous client. Reminded me how much I enjoyed that role (or at least all bar the final part of it). Alice, however, surpassed us all. Dressed up to the nines in a new party dress and glittery slippers, she basically danced non-stop from 7:30pm to 11:00pm, endearing herself to everyone in the process. In particular the bride, complete with flowing white silk gown, was a massive hit for Alice. They got on like a house on fire. So, Hermit is Indian and his new wife is Polish, so its fair to say there was quite a bit of cross-cultural interaction! Great fun.

We stayed in the hotel overnight, then on Sunday headed off. To make a weekend of it we dumped our stuff at Left Luggage, then went back into central London, over to Covent Garden. Haven't been there for years! Alice loved the street performers, and she found a Disney Store there so we got has a small present. Train, then back in Salisbury for around 5 o'clock.

Been very busy at the clients the last week - plenty of people on holiday so always more to do. Still, have had several cold calls from agents this last week or so regarding new business, and this without me going anywhere near any jobs boards. I must tune in with Jobserve over the weekend to see if I can't get something more architectural rolling.

On the home front, things aren't looking too good for Barney. I think his time might be near. We've hardly seen him for the last few weeks, and when he has appeared (every couple of days or so) he's had a bite to eat and a sip of water, and he's gone back out. And he's really been wailing, too. Continually. Anyway, I got him in last night and he quite contentedly spent the evening on my knee. But he has lost so much weight over the last three weeks or so. We kept him in overnight and this morning I found him sitting in the cat litter. He seemed quite content with everything, but.... This morning Jacqueline said she'd let him out once again after he'd cried to go, but she thinks he's on his last legs. Whether he's eaten something that has finally done for his kidneys, I don't know.

Jacqueline has suggested taking him to the vet's, but I know if we do that then there will be only one outcome. I suppose it will all depend on whether he seems to be in pain or not. If he can stay close to home and eat and drink and rehydrate himself, then all well and good. But when you see how vivacious Maisie is, poor old Barn is like a ghost in comparison.

The sad part of living with animals, I suppose.

Looking forward to the bank holiday, although I'd like to spend some time working and pushing my document scanning project forward.

Did I mention I'd written a Su Doku solver? Well, I have and am currently testing it (very lethargically). I'll put it onto the site once I've tested a hundred or so puzzles. But it highlights that the problem of actually creating the puzzles is far more interesting, so maybe that's the next step?

Thursday, 11 August 2005

Peace

Well, Thursday is here and I'm looking forward to a weekend "off" - Jacqueline and Alice are headed over to Jacqueline's mum's today for the weekend, which means I have a weekend of peace and tranquility ahead. And more gardening, I hope.

My mother flew home Tuesday, having first gone into Southampton to pick up the bag she'd mislaid from John Lewis's Lost Property section. Despite her flight down being around two hours late, the return flight was only fifteen minutes late, so maybe flying is not such a bad option after all.

Spent most of yesterday "ticking over" at the clients, only to be faced with a major problem late in the afternoon. Left their site at around 8pm and was not home until gone 10pm. Still, it is all money.

Did I mention I was in the process of replacing a shredder that had gone wrong? I was less than pleased because when I investigated exactly what had gone wrong with it, it was simply a case that one of the plastic cogs in the gear mechanism had got a broken tooth. Fine, I though, Pennies to replace. Unfortunately, even though these machines can cost hundreds of pounds, it is not possible to service them. Fellowes (the manufacturer) basically said that they'd replace it if it was under warranty (it wasn't), otherwise tough luck. The machines get shipped as complete units from China, and that's all there was to it. Anyway, I need a shredder so the choice basically became to get a cheap machine, so I wouldn't care if things went wrong, or to get a more beefy machine which might last longer. I decided on the latter (just this once), and we'll see how long the thing lasts. Because this is seen more as a Departmental shredder it comes with a two-year warranty as opposed to the standard one-year warranty.

Oh, and did I mention that I'd got a colour laser printer for the office? Basically got fed up of mediocre results from the old inkjet. Looks good so far - to be honest I don't do a lot of printing but when I do, its for invoices etc. so I can't really be sending out smudged and discoloured inkjet pages. And they have become so cheap...
So, that'll be some purchases to claim on the VAT return next time around. That'll be the first time for a couple of years!

Football season has started, so there will be something to veg out on in front of the tv once again!

Monday, 8 August 2005

Friction

Testing time at home over the weekend. Went out for a rare beer with Jacqueline on Friday night, leaving my mum to look after Alice. We ended up quite a way away at the Bell in Brook, which was quite nice. Must go there for a meal at some point. Anyway, I was told about the events of the day.

Jacqueline and my mum had been over to Southampton once more, where my mother had a senile moment and lost one of her shopping bags, left in the John Lewis cafe. Jacqueline wouldn't have minded so much except that my mother had insisted on paying for some stuff for Alice, which was also in the bag. So my mother's loss put her to an inconvenience also. She says she really lost patience when my mum started crying. Fair enough I suppose, I know from experience that it is not unknown for my mother to turn on the waterworks in order to get the "sympathy vote".

Saturday, we went over to Castle Point after a lazy morning. A big Sainsbury's shop, plus a general walk around. Alice has had a growing spurt lately so visited H&M, always good value for kids' clothes. Also, we saw some lovely, glittery party shoes in Next, which will be ideal for the wedding we're going to in a few weeks.

Whilst we were in Next, Alice fell in love with a pair of nice-looking boots. There was no way I was going to buy them for her, given that they are full-on Winter boots, we're in the middle of August, and they cost £33, but I said that if she wanted to use her birthday money she was welcome to get them herself. I was very surprised when she readily agreed. I think she wore them for the whole weekend afterwards...

After from the Sainsbury's shop, we went home since Jacqueline wasn't feeling 100%. However, we did bring back a load of picnic stuff for Sunday.

The next day, however, hopes for a picnic were dashed. As soon as we got to discussing where to go, Alice decided upon a particular place in the forest, close to a river where she could paddle. Jacqueline basically wanted to go anywhere but this place. They bickered like this for some time - my mother taking refuge in the garden - until I finally said, "I hate this. I'm going to do some gardening and will see you at suppertime.". And off I went. Not long after this, Jacqueline and Alice went out together, to have their picnic. They didn't even invite my mother. Very unimpressed.

Anyway, I did a couple of hours gardening (we now have a load of garden waste about the volume of a car in the driveway!) and clearing, by which time I was hot and ready for some refreshment. So, I took my mother over to Burley for afternoon tea. Lovely.

On vaguely speaking terms with everybody since, but I am not particularly happy. Fortunately my mother is flying home tomorrow, which should ease the situation. I think basically that 12 days is too long for her to stay in a house the size of ours.

Plus, Jacqueline and Alice are going over to Jacqueline's mum's next weekend which means I will have some peace and some time to myself.

Wednesday, 3 August 2005

The Morning After...

We survived Alice's birthday intact. I left the client's earlier than usual to get back to Salisbury for 6:30pm, then we all met up at one of these Brewers Fayre family pubs. Meal was cheap and cheerful, while Alice (in between Bangers and Mash and Ice Cream) played in the large play area. Turns out she got quite a few good presents in the end, and of course was very happy about it all.

My mother has decided to go adventuring, and got me to print off about seven bus timetables for her last night. We're in quite a remote remote location, but there is a bus stop about a mile away which has several buses each day into Salisbury. Aside from that, a walk of probably 2-3 miles will get to the main A338, where one can pick up buses southbound, to Fordingbridge, Ringwood or Bournemouth. But basically, the bus isn't an option where we live. Except if you're my mother....

On reflection, it would have been good to take some time out to spend with her, but unfortunately the finances don't allow that at the moment - as it is, I'm working for the tax man already this month.

Tuesday, 2 August 2005

Grandparents and Birthdays

Well, lots has happened in the last week or so, mainly surrounding Alice.

Last Thursday, my mum arrived. She flew down to us for the first time. Flying promised to be so much easier than getting the train, but in the end her flight was delayed by two hours (thanks, flybe!) so it kind of evened itself out. My mother did have the forethought to contact us when she know the plane was an hour and a half late, but then for some reason turned her phone off. I tried to contact her to tell her, "Call us as you're about to board", but the message didn't get through. Consequently Alice and I drove to Southampton to pick her up, and we still had an hour to sit around waiting. The best laid plans...

Still, we hit the weekend and headed over to Southampton. We had a look in West Quay to a dress for Alice - we've been invited to a wedding in a few weeks' time - and found a bargain in the sale in Next. Then, to the main purpose of the visit - Alice's birthday. Basically, she's told us for some time that she'd like to go back to the "big toy shop we went to last year", Toys'R'Us in Southampton. So, we went... This time, however, I was a little more constrained than last year - we'd already spent about £150 on a party this year. So, I set the limit at £25 and let her explore. Fortunately, it took her about ten minutes before settling on the toys she wanted (both dolls, surely destined to be broken by the weekend).

As a special treat, and a big surprise, we went to the Leisure World complex in Southampton, ostensibly for an ice cream. But once we were there I told Alice we were going to go into the cinema part to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Very happy - only that same morning she'd watched the original Willy Wonka film on the tv. I have to say, an excellent film. True to the story, but at the same time with some very Burton-esque parts. Five stars from me, and afterwards Alice just kept on saying Thank You all evening.
Even more excitement on Sunday. In the morning I attempted to cut back the magnolia tree in the garden, and cut back the lower two-thirds only to realise that the top of the tree was very much beyond my reach. Still, I did what I could. Tree looks very funny now, though. Looks like its got a Mohecan! So, have ordered some telescopic loppers (at what seems a great expense), which will hopefully arrive in time for me to finish the job next weekend.

Sunday afternoon, we went over to Kidzone, where we'd booked Alice's birthday party. Excellent fun. About fifteen kids there, mostly from Alice's class but also from a couple of other clubs that she goes to. I got heavily involved with things, having as much fun with the kids as possible. I'd never have believed that angelic six-year-old girls could be so violent. When I went outside they chased me and tried to pull my socks off. Then, they tried to pull my trousers down. Several of them took every opportunity to jump on me whenever possible, and one even took to pinching my bum!

It was quite funny, though, because you could see how some of them would start by attacking me and end up by the end of the party defending me against the others. I'm sure a psychologist could explain it!

All the kids appeared to have fun, although a couple of them didn't arrive until the party was more than half over, as the kids were finishing their meals. Even then, the elder of them arrived in tears. Fortunately the staf didn't give us any trouble about preparing extra meals for them, and they soon got into the swing of things.
Overall impression - great fun, one of the perks of being a Dad. Of the place - the play area was excellent, but the food was very sparse. (I suppose you could defend them by saying that the food was mainly just so they could have a little break during the play.) Jacqueline's mate Kerry brought her three-year-old daughter to the party, also her eight-month-old baby. She went into the play area with the baby, and consequently we got charges for the baby, which I thought was very cheap. I mean, at eight months old a baby can hardly be said to be using the equipment. Would we do it again? Maybe.

Sent everyone home with Scooby Doo lucky bags, which seemed to go down very well.

Sunday evening - knackered! The only grief was from Alice, who got a strop on because we wouldn't allow her to open all her presents until her birthday. We allowed her to open one (of the Toys'R'Us presents) on Saturday, and one following the party on Sunday, and said that the rest had to wait. Seems eminently reasonable to me...

So, last night Alice went to bed very excited. We finished the Famous Five book we'd been reading, and I left her to dream about finally being six!

This morning, just before I left for work, Jacqueline and I went into her bedroom and woke her up by singing "Happy Birthday" to her. Of course, she was awake like a shot, and realised that the time had come. And that's when I scarpered!

This evening, have suggested a meal out. Alice likes our local Indian, but I'll need to check with Jacqueline whether they have anything on their menu that would suit my mum (who claims to be allergic to absolutely everything, and would never touch Indian food in any case because it is "spicy").

On the subject of my mum, am not sick of her just yet, but it has only been five days. Let's see what things are like next week!

Car alarm went off a couple of times yesterday evening. But of a pain, could not find any rational explanation.