Wednesday, 31 May 2006

Big Achievement

Footnote to Wednesday's activities...

Alice rode her bike without stabilizers for the first time today! She just got on, and away she went!

Its that time again...

It's that time of year once again - holidays!

This one started very early last Sunday morning - I set my alarm for 4:30am - ready to get to Portsmouth for the 7 o'clock ferry. This was the "fastcat" service and although smaller than the normal ferries (and therefore the closer proximity of noisy, excited children) it was an excellent journey and we arrived in France a little under four hours later.

Into Caen for long enough for a stroll, then out once again up to the coast at Cabourg for lunch. The only downer at this point was that over lunch Alice was complaining of having a headache. After lunch, then, instead of exploring some more, we headed straight to the hotel I'd booked, the excellent Hotel L'Ecrin in Honfleur. (Jacqueline and I had stayed in this hotel before, our last holiday before Alice arrived (some six weeks later).) Anyway, instead of resting (or indeed allowing us to rest, since we'd all had an early morning), Alice perked up and set about exploring. We went out early for our supper and found a quiet restaurant - fortunate since Alice was awfully behaved. In her defence, she felt groggy once again and was now complaining of how cold she was - a sure sign.

Sure enough, she had Jacqueline up several times in the night and even skipped breakfast the next morning. Jacqueline examined her tonsils which apparently looked very angry indeed. We just about got her up and dressed and settled her into the car, before commencing our long journey southward. Given Alice's state of health, I decided to take the autoroutes wherever possible, but it was still four o'clock before we reached our final destination - Centerparcs once again.

Indeed, this is the first time we have ever taken the same holiday twice. I mean, we've sometimes stayed in the same hotels more than once, but that's generally when we're in transit, and for a single night. This time we have eleven days in La Sologne once again, followed by three nights in Dinard.

Needless to say, Alice perked up dramatically once we arrived at Centerparcs, so much so that we had to go for a swim that evening. I slept in the same room as her Monday night, and she did appear to be on the mend. Tuesday she was fine. My turn next.

I didn't feel at all right on Tuesday - light-headed and achy muscles - so spend most of the day lounging about, much to Alice's frustration. I did book her into the Kids Club in the afternoon, after which Jacqueline treated her to a cocktail in the Experience Factory. Afterwards, I'd perked up enough to suggest a McDonalds, so we headed off to Romorantin for supper. I soon regretted it - I felt awful once again, the burger was sufficiently disgusting that I took only about two bites, and to cap it all, once we returned to Centerparcs (feeling freezing) we had to ride our bikes from the car park to the cottage.

Fortunately I managed to sweat it out last night, and felt far better this morning. Alice and I had to put petrol in the car, after which we went for a swim. Mum had a nice soak in the bath, then while we were swimming she's taken the car to an enormous Leclerc she spotted in Romorantin last night. Ah.....women and shops.....

Friday, 26 May 2006

Drip

Started to become lax once again. Still, not a great deal happening at the moment.

Weather is generally pretty foul - a great deal of rain over the last few weeks, let's hope we have some decent weather for the bank holiday.

Took Monday away from the client's, primarily because Jacqueline was in Yeovil for the day and so Pete's Taxi Services went into operation. But it also gave me the opportunity to catch up on some paperwork, when once again this scanner proved its worth.

Spent a part of Saturday messing around fitting my newest toy, an IP camera, one of these cameras with built-in web server and therefore in theory viewable from any old browser. I basically got hold of the cheapest I could find, £39 on eBay, but unfortunately whilst the camera itself was ok the firmware which came with it was quite poor.

For starters, you can view the image through a browser but only by downloading their ActiveX control. So basically you're restricted to IE only (a shame since Microsoft never released a version of IE for my phone!). Also, it is not possible to do a great deal without this control, since it looks like it takes care of everything and is pretty black-box. So if all you want to do is publish a still image onto a web server every few minutes, forget it. In the end I did get it working after a fashion (see here), but it was a bit of a hack. The Live feed is also viewable here (Username: guest, Password: password), but be warned you'll need to install this control, plus you may have problems if you're behind a firewall.

Saddo!

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Sickness (of a different kind)

I have just watched a program on TV, the American version of The Apprentice, hosted by Martha Stewart.

The two teams had to get concessions from various American celebrities, to be auctioned off later. For example, they got the quarterback of the New York Jets to arrange for the winning bidder to get a special behind-the-scenes tour etc.

The result was that between them, they raised almost $100,000 for a dog charity, with some individual lots going for over $10,000.

Totally sick, given the amount of poverty there is, both in America and caused by America.

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

The Dreaded Lurgy

Quiet. Not much going on.

I had a spate of calls last week about new business, which is quite encouraging. We'll have to see whether anything comes from them.

Turned into quite a lazy weekend, not least because I've felt under the weather since Saturday. Just a cold, but you should see what I'm managing to cough up at the moment!

One thing we did do was to buy Jacqueline's birthday present. Yes, I know we're in the middle of May and her birthday is not until the end of June, but that's married life for you! So, she now has an iPod. I must admit I was a bit sceptical about paying so much for something that does so little, but it is a beautifully crafted little machine. The user interface is so very slick.

Of course having bought the thing the first thing to do was to put some music on it, and to do that we first had to set up iTunes on one of the computers. Both of these turned into quite laborious tasks, first to catalogue and then to copy our entire music collection. Still, I found the synchronise button in iTunes and eventually left everything to copy overnight. Interesting that iTunes reckons we have 13.9 days of music in our collection! I think probably the most difficult task was persuading Jacqueline to let me copy all of our music onto it, even including my awful stuff. I mean, if ever I need to ...er..... borrow it......

The other thing the iPod will take is video, although not the DivX format (which is the format I used to back up all our DVDs to the computer). So we will need to buy some more software at some point to convert from DivX to Apple's MP4 format. Looks like there are several packages out there that will do the job,and indeed I've tried one of them out to see what it is like. I'll need to do some research on which will be best.
And that really was the highlight of the weekend. Sunday was really a non-day, I felt absolutely lousy and never made it out of dressing gown all day. If it hadn't been for Alice winding me up and me almost coughing myself to death when I shouted at her, it really would have been uneventful! Still, in the fullness of time she went out to play, Jacqueline was immersed either in her studying or in playing on the computer, and I had peace and quiet. Eventually got to watch Finding Neverland, which was excellent. I do seem to like lots of what Johnny Depp gets up to - must make sure I get to see the new Pirates of the Carribean movie when it is released.

So feeling awful I struggled to visit the client's yesterday, and don't really feel much better today - the things we do for money...

Monday, 8 May 2006

Wet, Wet, Wet

Woke up this morning to the sound of rain - and lots of it - on the bedroom window.True enough when I looked at the weather station when I got up we'd had almost 5mm.Doesn't seem a lot but it is. In between getting showered and dressed and going out it had risen to almost 7mm. And once I actually started driving to the station I realised just how heavy it was. Whilst this is good for the garden I can't help feeling sorry for Lorraine, who sets off with her kids for Centerparcs today.

Mixed weekend. We got to see the Pink Panther as planned. I thought it was pretty good but was a tad disappointed, and Jacqueline (who I thought would consider it aload of tat) said she really enjoyed it. Alice I think was disappointed - halfway through the film she left to see what was on in the cinema next door! Then later, she asked me when the Pink Panther was going to start - she was obviously expecting the cartoon version. But there were lots of shots of Paris, she saw the Eiffel tower etc. so she is still quite keen to visit in the summer. After the film we stayed at West Quay, where we had an interminable lunch at Frankie and Benny's. Almost 2 hours for a two-course meal, and all the place is is a burger joint. Still, we weren't particularly in a hurry, although we did go and get the weekly shopping afterwards. Last stop of the day was at Hockeys, and we enjoyed some of their excellent burgers for supper, whilst watching Charlie on the computer.

Sunday was designated lazy day, and what a lovely day for a laze it was! Pottered around, had a leisurely bath surrounded by Decleor Alguarome bubble bath, wonderful.

Started to become stressful once Alice was playing out with so-called friends, although they all seem to have a very love-hate relationship. I think in truth a couple of them are crafty little bleeders and they like nothing better than getting Alice into trouble. I drew the line when they (not even with Alice in tow) went into my garage, into my toolbox to try to take the stabilisers off Alice's bike so they could ride it. All without even Alice's permission! I basically countered this by taking Alice and Jacqueline out to tea at the White Hart in Salisbury, although even this was quite disappointing ("Sorry we don't have any cream."). Told Alice she is not to play with those kids any more, but of course she just thinks we're punishing her rather than it being for her own good. Plus I'm only there in the evening, so how strictly Jacqueline will enforce it, I don't know. All unnecessary hassle.

Proved my amazing ability to multitask on Saturday, when I endured a mind-numbingly boring phone call with someone (who shall remain nameless) who has just ordered a new car, and spent 90 minutes telling me about it, going into minute detail. I wouldn't mind, but the car he's buying is just a newer version of the car I already have, so I know quite a lot about them already. Bored, bored, bored. Still, I was playing on the computer at the same time, and also I downloaded the telephone user manual so that next time this guy calls, the phone will ring with a different ringtone so we'll know to let the machine take it. Ah...the appliance of science!

Actually on the same subject I am reminded of a quote from none other than Muhammad Ali, where he said:
A man's wealth is what is in his head, not what is in the bank. What wealth is in the bank, belongs to someone else.

Excellent thought for the day.

Friday, 5 May 2006

TW3

Writing at the end of a week rather than at the start, makes a change.

Quiet week. Was very tired early on in the week, despite quite a lazy weekend last time around. Tentative plan for tomorrow is to go over to Southampton to see The Pink Panther at 11am - we'll see whether Alice wants to come over too.

Jacqueline has just opened an ISA account with the Portman, and in doing so took her passport as id, whereupon the nice lady at Portman pointed out that it had expired! Not good news, with our holiday looming! So she scurried off to the Post Office and got all the forms, so hopefully it will all be sorted. In reality, there's ample time before we go on holiday so unless something goes very seriously wrong..... But it is a godsend that she went to open this account because otherwise we'd probably have found out on the way to the ferry!

It has started feeling summery this week for the first time. We had a maximim temperature of over 24 degrees yesterday. Strange, the highest daily temperature seems to be occurring at 4:30 - 5pm, I'd have thought it would be earlier...

On to news, yesterday was local election day, and Tony suffered heavy losses as predicted. We didn't have an election, not that it would have made any difference because our names have now dropped off the register due to years of ignoring their forms. Still, on the plus side it means no-one will ask me to do Jury Service.
Anyway, as a result of the elections Bliar hashad an instant reshuffle, firing Charles Clarke (Home Secretary) who has really suffered in the headlines over the last few weeks. Purely and simply seems to be incompetence - not acting when made aware of issues, etc., not that I feel in any way sorry for him since he proved his illiberal credentials by continuing Blunkett's nasty work. Certainly Clarke was pushed. Straw (Foreign Secretary) has gone too, although I can't help feeling that he must have decided to jump - he keeps his nose clean and is fiercely loyal to Bliar, both of which would I have thought guarantee him his job given the quality of the people waiting in the wings. So now the Home Secretary is John Reid and the Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, both of whom come across as completely lightweight. Beckett has hashed about in Defra and if I'm not mistaken I think I read somewhere (could have been Galloway's autobiog) that Reid started out in life as a Communist Party apparachnik. But I could be wrong...

Can't help thinking that it has taken Bliar only nine years to run out of talent, took the Tories nineteen years. But then if I'd have been elected as a Labour MP in '97 and found myself having to toe the line on tuition fees, foundation hospitals and schools, Iraq, not to mention all the illiberal bumbling which did for Blunkett and has now done for Clarke, I think it must have been so demoralising..... I think the good people would have made alternate plans, leaving of course the politicoes behind.

Wednesday, 3 May 2006

Quiet May Day

Meant to post something over the weekend but....well...you, know....

Took Friday out from the client's, main reason was to be able to drop Alice off and pick her up, but also managed to get some useful work done too. Good to have a break since the client's office was manic last week - on two nights I wasn't home until after 9pm. Alice had been invited to a disco birthday party after school, so I was the taxi for the evening.

Saturday was a busy day. Lorraine came over, complete with kids, and we all went out to the Cuckoo Fair in nearby Downton for the day. The small park in Downton was taken over by fairground-style rides, so everyone had fun. Even Solomon seemed happy, although largely confined to his pushchair because his leg isn't up to strength yet. Lucy proved to be a bit of a daredevil, opting to go on the highest and fastest rides, although by proper fairground standards the rides were quite tame. Apart from the obligatory burger for lunch, followed by an ice cream to follow, that was about it - the stalls tend to be full of tat but it is a nice event nevertheless. We were all a little exhausted by the time we got home, so we just put the tv on to let the kids watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for a bit. As Lorraine finally left, around 6:30ish, she had two very sleepy kids on her hands.

Sunday was the designated "rest day" for the weekend. We got to the supermarket first-thing, and that was really the only plan for the day. Alice had to do her homework, as she normally does on Sundays, but this time was a classic. There were nine pictures on a sheet of A4, each one depicting a stage of sending a letter to someone. So, the first picture was of someone writing the letter, then later on there was a picture of someone posting the letter, and so on... The actual "task" was for Alice to write a sentence under each of the pictures denoting the progress. Nine sentences. Two hours. Unbelievable. Even with the neighbours playing outside, and telling her that she could go play with them once she was finished, didn't have an effect.

Once - eventually - the homework was done, Alice was allowed to play out for the rest of the day. However she hadn't finished being mischievous. At the end of the day we were horrified to find that she'd flooded the bathroom whilst having a bath.

The plan Monday was originally to go over to Wookey Hole and see the caves there, but following Alice's adventures I really felt that she shouldn't get a treat, so we stayed home. The only thing was that all she did was play out all day, so she had great fun in any case. For me, I did at least manage to mow the lawn and to do some shredding, but apart from that it was quiet. We made tentative plans to go into Southampton to see The Pink Panther, but Jacqueline didn't feel too well so that plan got scuppered too.

Yesterday I felt very tired. Not sure why given the inactivity of the previous days, but was very relieved once the train arrived back in Salisbury and I could head home for a quiet night.