Monday, 30 January 2006

Holidays

Lovely walk over to the client's this morning. Although the weather was very dull, I decided to walk by the Eye, across Westminster Bridge and past Parliament through St James's Park. Just before I went through the park I happened to catch some army band or other (the guys with those enormous fur hats!) playing along and marching out of Horseguards. Certainly helped me to keep up a rhythm!

Past St James's Palace, and down one of the side streets they were repairing the road and the street smelled of tar. Now, tar has a special memory for me. Probably one of my earliest memories, that is my first day at school, aged 4 and a bit. They'd just finished re-laying the playground, I think.

Quite a pleasant weekend, we went over to Bath on Saturday, just for a change. It was quite strange because there was a rugby match on, so we were walking through the shops and could hear periodically the roar of the crowd. I didn't end up buying anything (probably just as well) although Jacqueline and Alice found a teddy bear shop.... We got the train, which Alice enjoyed immensely.

Also on Saturday I booked the summer holiday. For the first time, we've booked to do basically exactly the same as what we've done in a previous year. So, we're off to Centerparcs in La Sologne once again, to be followed by a four-day stay up in Dinard. We did have to rethink, however, since the grade of cottage we wanted was no longer available. Last year was excellent since the cottage had two bedrooms, each en-suite (one with 2-person jacuzzi, the other with a steam bath). We had satellite tv and a maid service. This year we'll have to make do with somewhat less... The cottage is the same size I think, but without any of the "frills". Of course, the holiday was that much cheaper as a result - I saved around 25% - but that's not really the point. On the positive side, I keep telling myself that the "plus" with Centerparcs was not so much the accommodation as the whole environment, which of course we will still have. I just hope we don't find it not-as-good as last year and are therefore disappointed.

Still, I am looking forward to paying a visit(s) to La Grenouillere once again!

Note for future reference - book Centerparcs before christmas!

Sunday, we didn't really have a lot to do. Did the weekly shop - doing our best to fill the new fridge! The weather was sufficiently pleasant for Alice to go out on her bike - she's mostly riding on stabilisers still, but I'm trying to wean her off a little at a time.

Not a great deal else going on - its just that time of year, really.

On the business front, I'm looking at whether it will be viable to start building and selling computers. It appears to be something of a niche market, at least for the type of computer I'm looking to build. Waiting for parts at the minute.

Sunday, 22 January 2006

Work, work, work

Again, I've left it a couple of weeks since the last entry, so time for an update.

Not a lot going on, really. Not long got up, looks like a beautiful day outside although still below zero right now, and Alice installed watching "The Secret Garden" on the new TV.

New TV is very impressive - thanks Toshiba. You never realise how bad something is until it gets fixed, do you? Our old TV, I bought when we moved into the house, was all state-of-the-art and fashionable at the time. A not-so-sleek black number. However when I removed it from the lounge last week I realised just how much it weighed - at least double the newer, larger tv. Also because it was black it was effectively a light-sink, although we never realised it until this new, grey/glass tv arrived. And now that corner of the room is light once more!

So I wired up the Playstation so Alice could play her Karaoke game, and now we're sorted. I think the only thing left to buy is a couple of prayer mats for Jacqueline and Alice, to place in front of the thing.
The replacement fridge arrives next week - just in the nick of time since the old fridge has an awful pool of smelly water coming out from it this morning! Got to try to move some stuff around in the kitchen today to make sure it'll fit in.

Been out shopping the last couple of weekends, but apart from that life has just been work, work, work. Probably just as well given the title of the previous blog entry! Last Friday I stayed home to be the school taxi - Jacqueline had a study day for her course - but spent much of the day catching up with the company accounts. Believe you me, travelling to clients is easy by comparison! Really need to get things sorted since the year-end was a few months ago now...

Aside from this, life at the current client's is quite bearable at the moment. They've asked me to deliver a brand new system and have given me pretty much a free hand in how to do it. Gave a presentation to a couple of middle-managers last week and they seem to quite like the approach. Still too embryonic to take further just yet, but useful to have people on board.

Last week also had Friday off, again because of a study day, had also arranged for the tv to be delivered. Fortunately, this arrived early on, so I still had most of the day (although it was lunchtime before I'd put the floor-stand together). Took the opportunity of a quiet day to head over to West Quay and to get myself some shoes I'd seen over christmas. Again, just in time, my lovely Italian nubuck shoes which had lasted around 5 years and withstood everything I could throw at them have finally given up the ghost. Let's just say if I ever wear them again I should make sure it is dry first!! Seriously, would love to get another pair (the make was ValleVerde) but doubt I could justify another trip back to Rome to justify it!

Not a great deal more to report for now, might think of some more to write later...

Monday, 9 January 2006

Spend, spend, spend

Quite a fruitful weekend, if fruitful means spending money. Finally ordered the new fridge and tv, much to Jacqueline's relief. The fridge is quite basic - until we get a new kitchen we don't have enough room for the type of fridge I really want - whilst the tv is one of these flat-panel things. Again, nowhere near top of the range, but should keep the family goggle-eyed (and satisfied) for the next couple of years. Interesting to note that the TV cost half as much again as the tv I bought when we first moved into the house. It is a complete myth that technology gets cheaper - sure it gets more advanced, but not cheaper.

Felt a little messed around on Saturday, when I drove over to Eastleigh to pick up a parcel from UPS, only to be told that they didn't have it. Furious, I phoned their call centre when they told me that after I'd called to arrange collection, they'd tried to deliver it again and had left it next door. In fairness I suppose the guy thought he was doing me a favour by saving me the journey, and he did leave a card to say what he'd done. Only problem was, we didn't see the card.... Anyway, the package itself contained new batteries for both of the company UPSs (uninterruptible power supplies) - I picked them up on eBay for a third of the cost of the UPS manufacturer - same brand too. A doddle to fit - as easy as changing a battery - and should also stop them from periodically bleating that they need new batteries.

Did the weekly shop at Morrisons. They may be good value but their customer service is awful! I waited about 5 minutes to get served at their butcher counter before finally giving up. This despite the fact that there were three guys behind the counter and they weren't serving anyone else. Cutting and packing meat, they behaved as if I wasn't there. Very infuriating to be ignored like that. Recovered sufficiently to take the christmas tree to get shredded later in the afternoon. I must admit I do feel slightly eco-unfriendly each year when someone hacks down a ten- or twelve-year-old tree just so that I can stick it in a bucket in my lounge for a couple of weeks. At least it has now been shredded and will be recycled into something useful.

Sunday was a lazy day indeed. Jacqueline had a lie in and Alice was happily watching tv, so I started a game of Civilisation IV. Three hours later Jacqueline had to prise me off the seat and into the shower, to go look for a new rug. Although we didn't find a rug, we did find our way into Salisbury, where we took lunch cum afternoon tea at the White Hart. As always, the food was splendid - ham sandwiches to die for - and the atmosphere was so laid back that we happily spent the rest of the afternoon in front of the fire there. We were sufficiently full that we didn't even need any supper - just as well since in my rage at Morrisons we left having bought almost no meat!

Had a couple of emails from a most unusual source. Once the Weather Station seemed to be up and working, I contacted the guy who runs the village web site, just to say "Hey, here's this weather data, you can incorporate it into your site if you like". Well, he did, and even more surprisingly people have started hitting the page. Even had a few emails. Of course I do still wonder just how accurate the thing is - the temperature seems spot on but I'm not so sure about the rain gauge and, of course, still remember the 150km/h winds! Well, Ok, that one may have been user (or at least software) error! And I thought when it was misty, that meant 100% humidity - still, I'll keep reading my book and I'm sure all will become clear!!?

Wonder if I'll get to finish my Civilisation game tonight?

Thursday, 5 January 2006

Cost of Living

Getting back into the swing of things. Ironically, as if Christmas wasn't enough, I've got to fork out some more money - the fridge and freezer are very much running on their last legs, so must be replaced quite urgently, and the tv is showing signs of age (sometimes taking 20 minutes to get an initial picture isn't very good). Fun, fun, fun... Money, money, money...

Alice is taking time to get back into the groove, though. She expects to stay up late and we end up really shouting at each other, lovely and stressful at 10 o'clock at night.

Jacqueline got stopped yesterday for running a red light. She is seething and I can entirely empathise with her because of when they stopped me for speeding. Motorists are such easy targets - far easier for them to justify their existence by fining motorists for trivial offences than chasing around after burglars, say.

Tuesday, 3 January 2006

Back to Work

Finally back to normal following the Christmas break. This year I'd told the clients that I wouldn't be available, which meant relaxing days at home, although I did spend about a day sorting through paperwork. Still need to find another day from somewhere to finish things off.

So, where were we? Well, Christmas was on a Sunday this year, which meant that rather than finishing work on Christmas Eve, I finished on the 23rd. Good to have Christmas Eve at home, and in fact we wandered into Salisbury for a burger, followed by a visit to the cathedral for the Family carol service. Alice seemed to like it and, like last year, it basically just heralded christmas. Off home, complete of course with the excitement of Santa's impending visit. Of course, we tried to get Alice to go to sleep, but....

Eventually, of course, she dropped off and Santa duly arrived with her presents. One of the best aspects of being a parent is when they wake up on Christmas morning - "Hey, you two, Father Christmas has been!" This year Alice got a variety of presents including an MP3 player, a Karaoke game for the Playstation, and a fairy castle of some description. Oh, and a Cinderella dress (more below!). Jacqueline received some headphones for her MP3, plus the Civilization IV game, and I got my weather station (which of course I got back in October).

First time out of the house was the Tuesday, when I took Alice over to Basingstoke to go ice skating. She'd never been before, I hadn't been for fifteen years (and I was only mediocre back then), so all in all a recipe for disaster. But quite enjoyable - I got around the rink once, while Alice was "resting", and Alice overcame her fears sufficiently to at least go half a lap around the rink. holding onto the side all the time. Will we go back there? Well, I would like to but it will all depend on Alice.

Wednesday, Jacqueline was back at work and Alice was booked into the play scheme, so I had the day to catch up on paperwork. Same again on Thursday, my birthday, except that Jacqueline was only working until 2pm. Jacqueline and Alice had only an hour or so at home before we left for Salisbury once again - Jacqueline took us out for a lovely Thai meal (birthday treat), and we went on to Salisbury Playhouse to see the panto - Cinderella.

Excellent time, we all enjoyed it - Alice, of course, was in her dress so loved it. Also, we were close to the front so when they threw sweets etc. we caught a couple. Last year we had seats at the Mayflower, Southampton, and although they offered the best view in the house, Alice was disappointed because we were too far away from the "action". I guess for a play it doesn't matter too much, but for something interactive such as a panto... Still, we learned our lesson this year.

Friday we headed over to West Quay in Southampton. What is normally a half-hour journey took 90 minutes. Did not buy anything in the sales either. Nuff said.

Saturday into Salisbury again, to catch the midday post (VAT return!). Also needed to renew my car tax, a whopping £170 now. A brief trip to nearby Waitrose simply to replenish some stocks, and away home. Stopped off at a DIY place on the way home to get a six-inch-square garden tile, and as a result I finally have a "strategic" fix for the problem with the Rain Collector on the weather station (which kept on blowing over in high winds) - it is now tethered to a brick!!

Quiet day again on New Year's Day - Jacqueline took Alice into Southampton to see The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, while I cooked dinner (a maginficent leg of lamb) and played Jacqueline's new Civ IV on the computer. Then yesterday, met up with Simon and co for an exchange of presents and for a nice long walk in the forest, followed by lunch at the High Corner inn.

On the office front, the batteries for both of the UPS units are showing as needing replacing. Not surprising that they have given out at the same time since they were bought at the same time. Plus, the units themselves insist on bleeping periodically just to remind me - very annoying. Have ordered some new batteries, let's hope they arrive sooner rather than later.