Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year

And so we reach the last day of 2004. Nothing much happened. We did half a day’s work, but there were so few people in the office I decided to let everyone go home at 2pm. I came home and wrote my annual email to all my friends giving them a quick run down of what’s been happening with me this year. Now we’re off out to Robin C’s to bring in the New Year.

Happy New Year to all my readers!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Mother Nature?

Death seems to be everywhere today. Yesterday I spoke to Emma J in Folkestone, who is co-ordinating Saga’s response to the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The company had several groups in the affected areas. Some are already home but there are two passengers still ‘unaccounted for.’ Today I read the first-hand account by one of the BBC’s reporters who had been in a beach-front hotel in Thailand and found it very moving. I can identify with people who were there now. Suddenly it means something to me.

This evening we also heard that Phillip D, our oldest Chorus member, had died. He had been ill for some time and people were very worried when he stopped attending rehearsals without any explanation. Now we finally know why.

Fanatics flying jetliners aren’t what we should be worrying about. Plain old Mother Nature wields many more weapons – both the dramatic and the insidious – against which we prepare no defences or early warnings.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Social Arrangements

Cycled to work today and felt righteous. Cycled home from work and felt feeble. Not much traffic on the roads and less than 20% of the people in the office but Christmas has gotten to me and I felt like I was cycling through treacle on the way home. Ah well.

Work was incredibly quiet. I dealt with the mail backlog before 11am and then had to occupy myself for the rest of the day. In the end I spent a lot of time doing various Chorus and social stuff. Managed to arrange an informal chat tomorrow night (Chorus), our attendance at a New Year’s Eve Party (Social), dinner with Rod & Jess (Social) and a chorus meeting later in the month.

Brett, who is on leave all this week, has spent the day working on his finances. They needed time spent on them, so I’m happy he’s putting in the effort. In honour of my questionable state of fitness, we ordered pizza for dinner.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

And the day after that...

And so I’m lying in bed, with my alarm set for 06:00 and I have to get up and go to work tomorrow. Christmas is over.

That said, though, the holiday has been long enough that I feel I’ve had time off and still had time to get stuff done. I’ve done a lot of work on my website. What had been a basic framework with lots of dead-end links for the last year, is now a reasonably complete guide to me. In fact that’s what I’ve spent most of today doing – adding new bits and pieces to it, mostly new photo galleries, now created in pure HTML rather than some Microsoft proprietary way (as on the old site) which couldn’t be read by half of my friends!

Today was almost entirely spent on the sofa with my laptop – we were both feeling a bit the worse for wear after last night.

We’d invited a few friends over yesterday. It was a pretty informal affair that started after lunch and carried on through the evening. Ping arrived early afternoon and filled us in on his Christmas. We had started teaching him the basics of poker when Dan L (Brett’s former flatmate) arrived so we quit the poker, opened a bottle of wine and caught up with him.

Nick B & John G arrived early evening bringing more wine and shortly thereafter Dan left us to make his dinner date. So the five of us carried on. At some point I put some food on the table – partly Christmas leftovers and partly party nibbles – and we happily ate and drank through until midnight. There was also time for a (somewhat heated!) discussion between Brett and John about Chorus issues, as well as a game of Scrabble and some mulled wine.

The pile of washing up this morning was quite remarkable for such a small gathering, but I think we provided good hospitality.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Boxing Day

Nothing special happening today. Brett cooked us all a lovely brunch this morning. We took a walk around Wimbledon Common afterwards and made a stop at the Fox and Grapes pub halfway around. There were lots of people out today - no doubt with the same idea as us; to work off some of the Christmas excess. That said, I don't feel like I've overindulged this year particularly. I've been fairly restrained in my eating and snacking over Christmas - despite all the chocolate goodies laid out on the table!

There was a lot of talk last night about pets and today, walking on the Common, it really felt like I should have had a dog with me to throw sticks for. It just felt like that kind of moment. Wierd...

When we got back from the Common both Brett and I started work on websites. I'm working on my own one - I bought the domain this time last year and still haven't managed to put anything worthwhile up there. Still, it's looking a bit better now. Brett is working to get the Chorus website relocated and our Internet pipe is very slow uploading it to the new ISP! If I'd thought, I'd have logged in to work and done it through one of the machines there - after all the company has a 10Mb pipe sitting idle at the moment. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas Night

Time flies when you are enjoying yourself and I can't believe eight hours have passed since we left for Nick and John's. We spent a while chatting and drinking, a while eating leftovers and a while playing games and suddenly it was 11:30.

We got out the poker set and taught them all Texas Hold'Em. Brett managed to win by bluffing well on a couple of occasions and having a really good hand another time. When we got tired of being beaten by him, we switched to Musical Trivial Pursuit at which both he and I were terrible.

Paul and David were there too and it all felt very comfortable. It's a while since I've socialised in such a relaxed atmosphere.

Christmas Day

A relatively early start this morning to get the duck in the oven in good time, but apart from that a nice relaxed morning. After everyone was showered and dressed we opened our presents.

I received lots of good stuff. Brett topped it off though, by buying me the model Dalek I always eye-up when I’m in Forbidden Planet. In addition he bought me a decent set of poker chips for playing Texas Hold’Em – a game I learned while we were visiting his family in the summer – and a joint present of the Monopoly board game. Rosie bought me the Little Shop of Horrors DVD along with a book on philosophy. The parents bought me the final Lord of the Rings DVDs, along with three other books from my Wish List. Owen bought me the Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy TV series on DVD.

I’d bought Brett a couple of things he’d mentioned he wanted – a hardwearing wallet with a soft leather interior and slots for pretty much anything you might want to carry with you – and a smart leather satchel kind of shoulder bag since he’s always moaning about his roller-blader’s day sack being inconvenient and admiring Ping’s leather satchel.

We sat and played poker for a while, teaching Rosie the game, until it was time to set the table for lunch. I have to say that the meal went very well considering it was the first time I’d done a full roast dinner here. The duck was lovely and the pork, apricot and stilton stuffing gave a piquant twist to the flavour. Brett enjoyed his first taste of Christmas pudding, but felt it was too rich to finish – so I helped him out and had an extra helping of Brandy Cream too!

We settled on the sofa for a while after lunch relaxing and listening to the Carols playing on Classic FM. We’re off to spend the afternoon and evening with a couple of friends, John and Nick, shortly.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Eve

An unhurried start to the day, doing the last minute shopping. We are eating stuffed duck for lunch tomorrow and we needed a decent roasting rack. Rosie and I headed out into Wimbledon for it and other bits and pieces this morning while Brett wrapped my present.

After the shopping came the tidying. The flat has degenerated into a bit of a tip with all the hurried Christmas Card writing and present wrapping that’s been going on over the last week and we wanted it to look a bit smarter for Christmas – particularly since we’ll probably be having friends round on Boxing Day (that’s the 26th to any overseas readers!)

Around about three o’clock I suddenly realised I didn’t have a pan big enough to steam the Christmas pudding in, so did a last-minute rush to Sainsbury’s. Brett cooked a lovely lamb tikka masala for dinner and our Christmas began.

He is planning a video chat with his mum tonight, using his new ‘iSight’ webcam to connect to his mum’s new computer. But we aren’t opening our presents until tomorrow after lunch as none of us fancied staying up late tonight, or getting up early tomorrow.

I suspect that the third set of DVDs of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is under the tree somewhere so tonight, over dinner, we watched the first one, the Fellowship of the Ring, and had fine Scottish shortbread with our coffee, followed by chocolate liqueurs from Fortnum and Mason. Rosie was out watching pantomime with some friends, so it was just the two of us by the light of the tree and the half dozen candles around the room. A lovely start to the festivities.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

More Christmas Shopping

Another day, another show! Well, four shows actually. All went fairly smoothly at Selfridges today. Olly has finished his stint conducting and Charlie has taken over. The songs remained the same though as Charlie (quite correctly I think) believes we’re being paid to provide a good safe, well presented set of songs that we can reel off again and again.

Brett and I had lunch at Carluccio’s with Ping and John W. in between the afternoon and evening shows. Usual Chorus chat though. The realisation that I am going to be the acting Chair of the Membership Committee until the March AGM was not welcome though. I have seen the grief that Brett has been through these last six months chairing one of the other committees and I am not keen on taking my turn.

After the evening show Brett and I went separate ways as we both had shopping to do. Neither of us can think of what to buy the other. I did however find a list that Brett had given me some time ago of things he might like so I bought him a shoulder sack and a new wallet. Probably spent more than I should have but they were both from Selfridges so will be very good quality and hopefully last him a while.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Dinner with Bruce

Another good few hours at Selfridges followed by an excellent lunch in their Staff Canteen. Less successful afternoon wandering Oxford Street in search of Christmas presents for each other. We did finally organise the makings of Christmas dinner though - although we have enough food for five - so that was a bonus.

Were supposed to be having dinner with Rod & Jess tonight but Jess has the ‘flu so it was called off. Bruce (one of the other guests) came round and cooked dinner at our place instead and we reminisced and talked Star Trek and Chorus for most of the evening.

Pretty tired now – suspect I might be coming down with a cold.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Sing-along shopping

Cycled to work this morning which felt good – albeit cold. Temperature was about 3 Celsius (37 Fahrenheit) so quite bracing. I was hardly in work for any time at all before it was time to get changed and make my way to Selfridges for my first stint at singing there.

The Chorus is doing twenty concerts this week, each about 25 minutes long, in the big atrium of the Selfridges building on Oxford Street. Each day there are two concerts at 1pm and 2pm and then a further two at 6pm and 7pm. Today was my first day doing them and I only did the two at lunchtime. It was good fun and we drew an audience. I’m scheduled to sing again tomorrow lunchtime and at all four shows on Thursday.

When I got back to the office things were so quiet I decided to use up three days of my remaining holiday allowance and take the rest of the week off. That means I have the next seven days off; the remaining three days of this week, the weekend and the two Bank Holidays in lieu of Christmas and Boxing day on Monday and Tuesday. Suddenly it feels like Christmas is here.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Back to Reality

And so it was back to work this morning and the horribly embarassing realisation that I had forgotten to load the backup tapes on Friday night, so the job hadn't run. In a fine proof of Murphy's Law somebody wanted some files restored and we had to admit that we couldn't. It was not a good moment. The only good side was that realising this can happen means we've but some automatic checking into the process now, so hopefully it shouldn't be too much of a problem if it happens again.

Apart from that the day went smoothly. Had lunch with John M who had been at the show on Saturday but hadn't stayed for drinks. He and his companion had enjoyed themselves and he was full of congratulations and compliments.

Came home feeling a bit under the weather, but seem to have improved after a good meal and some relaxation. Singing at Selfridges tomorrow.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Well the concert was a blast. I seem to say this about every major concert I’ve done with the Chorus, but each time we do better than the last one. We had a very short ‘tech’ rehearsal as we couldn’t get access to the venue until 1pm. For a group that’s normally so relaxed and chatty, throughout the time we spent sound-checking and blocking moves on stage – which is tedious work – the whole Chorus was incredibly focussed and professional-feeling. It felt good. The tech-run overran so we had a very short break between the rehearsal and our call for the show so it felt like virtually going from one into the next. No time to worry – but also no time to relax.

The show itself was formidable. Personally I felt I performed very well – all the small errors that I hadn’t seemed able to ditch in rehearsal I overcame on the night. There were some minor scrapes where things went wrong but no major wrecks and we got such an ovation at the end of the show!

After the show I was on my usual adrenaline-high. Even the beer didn’t dampen it for several hours. I did plenty of mingling with fellow chorus members and their friends and we all basked in the mutual congratulations and compliments and the warm glow of team-spirit when you know you’ve pulled it off with finesse. Even though it was raining outside as we finally made our way home I was humming Christmas tunes all the way.

Everyone was a bit peckish on the way home so we stopped en route from the station to home to pick up some fish and chips – possibly it’s my northern upbringing but there’s something wonderfully tasty and satisfying about well-battered fish and chip-shop chips drenched in salt and vinegar.

This morning I was still feeling good but I was also feeling lazy. We had said that we’d have brunch in Wimbledon Village but I had to be virtually forced out of bed. Once I was up though, I was hungry and soon saw the appeal of mushroom crêpes and a basket of French pastries at Café Rouge.

After brunch Rosie set off for Oxford to spend the day with a friend while Brett and I accompanied my parents into Central London to do some last minute shopping before catching the train home. Ping called as we were on our way and was at a loose-end, so he met us in town and ended up giving my parents a guided tour of Piccadilly, Chinatown and Soho which was all to the good as it meant I could just follow along without having to think or plan too much.

We started off at Fortnum and Mason’s store where my dad wanted to get some good chocolate liqueurs. Brett and I joined in the fun, picking up a box for ourselves as well as a fine Christmas pudding and a selection of chocolate biscuits. Then we wandered on past all the smart shops and into Chinatown where Ping treated us to egg-custard tarts before we went for Coffee in Soho. He got along famously with my parents and a good time was had by all.

Brett wanted to go home by the Comic Book shop in Putney so we took separate trains. I had a lovely moment as I walked along the platform to the front of the train for Wimbledon. An unusual moment of quiet fell as I reached the end of the platform. The sun was shining on me from a clear sky, I was carrying bags of fine food home for us to enjoy over Christmas and I felt very contented with my life. I think its important to enjoy moments like that – where you remember all the good things you have and remember that it hasn’t always been like that and for many people it still isn’t. I have the man I love, a fine home, a stable job and we’re looking forward to a cosy Christmas together eating and drinking lots of fine vittles. Life is good. Wassail!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Before the show

It's strange how excited I feel this morning. I don't normally get stage fright or nerves before a performance but today I'm like a child on Christmas Eve. Must try and calm down to avoid burning out before the show!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Final Rehearsal

OK so I didn't blog yesterday. I didn't do anything much yesterday. I overslept and then there were protesters on a signal gantry delaying trains, so I was an hour late for work. The highlight of the day was seeing the article in the Independent newspaper about the Chorus. The journalist has been at the rehearsal on Monday and wrote a nice fluff piece. I copied it from a hard-copy I bought and pinned it up in the kitchen at work.

I intended to come home and Brett and I could do some rehearsing but he didn't get back until late, by which time I'd given up on the idea and was reading a lovely romantic story I'd found on the web. Rosie's bloke has cancelled on her and Linda discovered she was double-booked for Saturday night, so it looks like I'll have to sell-on her two extra tickets.

Today was much the same except I got to work on time and the day ended with a final rehearsal. It actually went pretty well - a whole pile better than Monday night's wobbly affair. I think we're going into tomorrow with confidence.

The parents got into town a little after ten, so we arranged to meet up on the way home. It's now gone midnight and we're all off to bed

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


It's been a busy week so far and, as they say, "it ain't over yet!" Straight from work up to rehearsal on Monday where we stuttered through a rehearsal of the numbers with the band. Charlie (our Musical Director) gave us his 'come on guys, get with it' speech but he didn't really need to. We all realised I think that we were still in need of polishing. I expect there will be a lot rehearsal CDs playing this week. We have a full run through on Friday. If we are still stuttering then, that's when I'll begin to panic!

Tuesday was similar but with a different Chorus panic. It was the night of the monthly Membership Committee meeting. I sit on the committee in various capacities and am currently drafting them a set of Election Procedures as well as redrafting a very weak Code of Conduct into a more useful document. For reasons of election timing we need to get the Election Procedures ratified before the end of the month. I thought this was all under control until tonight when the Committee decided at the last minute they want to put in several major modifications. I think I've managed to get everyone to agree to leave these as amendments to the policy after the first set of elections though, so I can leave them until Christmas and concentrate on learning my stuff for Saturday.

Another issue at the meeting was an 'almost' Code of Conduct issue against Ping in relation to the work he's developed that the Chorus is performing next year. In the end the hot air and hyperbole that had preceded the meeting had evaporated when we actually came to discuss the issue so it turned into a non-event which was a relief all-round I think.

Today (Wednesday) Brett is doing a rehearsal with one of the Small Groups and I am at home blogging, laundering and writing Christmas cards. (If you don't end up receiving one from us please don't take it personally. We are both miserable at planning ahead for stuff like this.)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Old friends & Christmas Shopping

Brett cooked pancakes for breakfast and I love him for it. For lunch, though, we were meeting up with a couple of old friends. Richard H, Jim G and John M with whom we did a fair amount of cycling last year. We ate at a Japanese restaurant called Satsuma in Soho before heading on to a nearby patisserie for dessert and coffee. Rich has recently bought a house with his boyfriend Neil (with whom he was just getting together as Brett and I coupled-up!) Jim is still working hard arranging conferences and racking up airmiles like he's stockpiling. John is likewise travelling lots and I was feeling rather wistful at being the one stuck in the desk job when I used to fly the world.

After lunch (well about 4pm actually) we parted from the guys to do a little Christmas shopping. Brett has some photographs he wants to frame for his parents as Christmas presents and they'll need to go in the post soon. In the end we visited Habitat, Heals and then every major department store on Oxford Street before finally settling on decent frames. I swear I'm doing the rest of my Christmas shopping on the Internet!

Notting Hill

Had an all-day rehearsal today. Things are going well. I wasn't as wobbly as I thought I would be. I seem to have most of the words and tune in my head - even most of the choreography. We heard today that we are going to sell out the venue. There are only eighteen seats left and they are all singles, scattered around the auditorium.

After the rehearsal we came home. We were supposed to be going to a housewarming party at one of Brett's colleagues tonight but I really didn't feel up to it. I just wanted a night in being geeky and away from people. Brett went on his own. I stayed at home and tweaked my website. I'm looking for quick ways to get it knocked into shape before Christmas. Ended up re-reading the travel journal I wrote (in longhand) of my cruise with Peter around the Mediterranean in 1999 while watching 'Notting Hill.' It was just what the doctor ordered.

Watching 'Flatliners' now while waiting for Brett to get home.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Company Christmas Party

Spent today at a conference centre near Marble Arch for our ‘Company Conference’ – a day when staff get to comment on the next Five-Year Strategy draft. It was actually quite a productive day both for the company and for me: as the strategy was being presented I think my subconscious was at work and all through the day ideas kept popping into my head for things that we need to look at from an IT perspective.

Once the Conference was over, we headed on to our Company Christmas party, held this year in Bermondsey near London Bridge. I’d bought a ticket for Brett and we were both dressed up in our finest (perhaps I should say squeezed into our finest as I’ve put on a lot of weight since I was measured for that kilt!) It was a fairly standard dinner/dance affair but we didn’t stay long. I’m not really close to any of my work colleagues socially and we didn’t want to get drunk as we have an all-day rehearsal tomorrow. Ho hum. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Biscuit decisions

The most exciting thing that happened at work today was a discussion about what kind of biscuits we should buy. I cycled to and from work, so am feeling fairly good about myself. Less so about the extra sausage and two mince pies I had with dinner.

It's the company Christmas party tomorrow night so I've just ironed my dress shirt, polished my ghillie brogues and am about to pack up the rest of the Highland rig ready to take to work tomorrow.

Along the way today I was pointed at a rather neat photo-sharing site called flickr. I've just uploaded a picture of me for my profile and will try and upload a few more to illustrate my blog in the days to come.

Evening alone

Just me at home last night. Brett was rehearsing and Rosie was out somewhere. It felt like a bit of a wasted evening. I spent it all working on redrafting the Chorus Election Procedures again, after I received feedback about the language from one of the Steering Committee during the day. I should really have been learning my words or practising my tuning ready for the concert in a week.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Cosy evening

Dinner this evening was pleasant. Subdued lighting, a bottle of Rioja and just the two of us. All very romantic. Degenerated with dessert though as we started talking Chorus stuff and both ended up with our laptops on the sofa.

What a thoroughly modern, thoroughly sad couple we are.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Quiet day

Work was quiet today, especially in the afternoon, so I ended up doing as much work on the Chorus Election Procedures as I did on paid work. Chorus rehearsal this evening was a bit fraught. I think the music team are feeling (or at least trying to impart) the proximity of the gig. This is an important event for us and we have to be good. Olly (the Assistant Musical Director) announced that he's leaving us to concentrate on his PGCE.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Christmas has come. Early.

Sunday mornings should be lazy and this one almost qualified. Had a coffee and a brief wander around the National Gallery with TrickyD (a friend from Out) but even though we hadn't seen each other in a year there wasn't much news. Brett and Rowan went shopping while I was out and picked up the first of the Christmas goodies. A bit too heavy on the chocolate - shouldn't have let my sister go without me!

This evening after much cajoling Rosie started putting up the Christmas decorations. Brett said that back home they decorate the week after Thanksgiving but didn't seem too bothered. I would rather have left it for another week because you get Christmas rammed down your throat everywhere else you go. I think it detracts from the specialness of it all if you have the place decorated for a whole two months. Anyway, I eventually bowed to the inevitable since Brett and I wanted to do the decorating together and it was clear that, if we didn't join in, it was going to happen without either of us.

Bah! Humbug!