Wednesday, March 29, 2006

There is a cherry tree at either end of our road. This morning they were just breaking into blossom; one pink and one white. And this evening I didn’t just leave work in the daylight, but it was still daylight when I got home! Spring is definitely in the air.

So what did I do with the first evening of spring?

Ahem. Well, actually I was on the sofa again; microwave meal, another episode of Bones, more online chat with Russell S and quite a bit more of The Cuckoo’s Egg – which is actually very engrossing reading! It’s pitched just right between a layman’s and a techie’s understanding and between a documentary report and a novel. I’d recommend it to anyone.

And now it’s nearly midnight again, so I should go to bed as I’m still not sleeping well…

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Frantic morning at work. Sid was in late, delayed by a doctor’s appointment about an abscess on his leg, which left me to handle a meeting he’d set up with a security firm. I managed to wing it okay though as it was only a preliminary fact-finding affair. Got embroiled in the ongoing saga of our printer maintenance contract negotiations after that which kept my stress levels up right the way through to lunchtime.

Had lunch with Owen which was a nice decompression though as he usually does most of the talking. Today it was mostly about his new boyfriend – a relationship which seems to be gong reasonably well.

The afternoon was less stressful, but I was still very glad to get away at the end of it.

Spent the evening on the sofa again, having stocked up on microwave meals. Chatted online to John G (in Leeds) and Russell S (in Surrey) in between reading The Cuckoo’s Egg and watching Bones and Battlestar Galactica on Tivo.

Sleep Deprived

I slept dreadfully last night; first I couldn’t get to sleep, when I slept I dreamt (Unusually erotic!) and remembered it (Just unusual.) and then Brett’s alarm went off around 4am so I only really dozed after that.

I skipped Chorus tonight because I was feeling rough and spent the evening on the sofa instead.

And now I’ve just noticed it’s nearly 1am. Damn.

I can’t seriously believe that losing an hour can affect your body clock that badly – it’s not like you suffer from ‘jetlag’ after a weekend in Paris or Madrid! So what’s going on with my biorhythms??

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Fond Farewell

Today started embarrassingly late; after reminding everyone last night to put their clocks forward as British Summer Time started today, we forgot to update ours. Consequently we were an hour late for breakfast – not that anyone thought/bothered to come and give us a knock to see what the delay was! So, after gulping-down breakfast and some rapid packing, we drove over to Helen’s where we were dropping off the parents with some of the rest of the walking group.

Many years ago, we would camp in the grounds of the farmhouse when we came up to the Lakes for our holidays. Nothing much has changed, except perhaps my greater appreciation for the scenery. Helen showed us around the farmhouse again, as she had suffered an electrical fire a couple of years ago and some of the woodwork had been redone and a lot of the interior redecorated.

It’s really like a step back in time; the smell of woodsmoke on the air, rough slate floors, dark oak beams and furniture, low ceilings, an ancient grandfather clock ticking away solemnly in the corner. The farmhouse dates from the early 1690’s, but it seems to have been built around a cabinet which is marked with the date 1688. According to Helen, who’s done the research into the history of the farm, the chest was probably the dowry of the original builder’s wife and the cottage would have been built after they were married as the conjugal home. They probably moved into it from the old barn, which predates the house to Jacobean or possibly Tudor times.

Helen is planning to sell soon though, which is both understandable and a shame. I would love to be able to buy it myself, as I’ve always dreamed of retiring to that kind of a place (suitably rigged-out with high-speed Internet access of course!) but alas, the time is not right and we very likely couldn’t afford either to buy or to maintain it on the salaries we could earn in the area. I expect I won’t be going back to Hollin Root again, so I took some photographs as Helen was showing us round, but alas very few of them were of a publishable quality as the spaces are quite confined.

After we left the parents with Helen, Frank and Margaret we said goodbye to Rosie & Andy and headed straight for the motorway. Brett valiantly did all the driving and we made it home around five o’clock, which gave us a relatively relaxed evening to unpack and for him to re-pack ready for the off to Copenhagen tomorrow.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Walking then Dinner

We got in quite late last night, so I was a fairly gruff animal this morning until breakfast began to seep its way into my system. Once we got sorted though, we had a good day on the hill. There wasn’t much sunshine and the lying snow tended to mess with the exposure levels on my camera so not so many nice shots as last time, but what decent photos there are can be found here.

Mum, Rosie & Andy weren’t up for hillwalking and had a leisurely day showing Andy around the area as this is the first time he’s been to the Lakes.

We were off the hill by late afternoon and had showers and a nap before we were expected in Threlkeld for dinner at the Horse and Farrier. This is part of the biannual ritual of these walks; dinner at the Farrier, a inn which has developed into a bit of a gastropub of late, followed by a sociable singsong. While some of the rest of the group seemed to have problems with the service (which, while leisurely, didn’t seem that bad to me) the food was very good (apart from my tuna which was overdone…) We stayed for a while after dinner as the instruments came out and the folk-singing began, but left a little before eleven as we were both fairly weary.

Tomorrow we’re going over to Helen’s farm in the morning, where our family spent several holidays when I was a teenager. It’s a sixteenth century farmhouse, with even older out-buildings, which I remember fondly and am looking forward to seeing again (assuming of course that Helen doesn’t stay up too late tonight with the singers in Threlkeld!)

Friday, March 24, 2006

View from the Penthouse

Somehow it took us eight hours to get to Keswick today. We set off around 1:30pm as Brett had needed to go to the Danish Embassy for his visa first and had then on to sign the contract for the venue for our concert on April 29th. For reasons too complicated to explain, we ended up travelling through Central London and up the Edgeware Road to the M1 – which, as any Londoner will tell you, is not the fastest way to cross the city by car! Consequently we hit the beginning of the Friday rush-hour at the start of the motorway; we were nose-to-tail for a while and relatively slow moving all the way to Preston.

We eventually made it and had a quick pint in the local pub (some very nice Cumberland Ale!) before checking-in at the B&B. Rosie persuaded us to swap rooms with them as Andy was having difficulty with the stairs (he has a heart problem), so we are up in the attic room. One side benefit of this is that someone nearby has provided open wireless Internet access, something which I never detected while we were staying in the annexe…

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Friends and Relations

For the first time in months, yesterday I left work while it was still light outside. Okay, it was only barely light, but it definitely wasn’t night yet. Since we’re a few days past the Spring Equinox, a rough approximation says I’ve been going home in the dark for six months. No wonder I could do with a break.

Luckily I’m going to have one at the end of next week! I’ve booked my final five days off for the year (our company’s holiday year ends at the start of May, for reasons which I’ve never discovered.) I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere special, although I may take a few days in Edinburgh, as Brett can’t get the time off with me – largely because he’s been taking lots of days of for driving lessons and suchlike. Even so, I think a few days of total laziness and a few days of doing whatever I want to do will probably perk me up a bit.

Had dinner over at Rosie’s last night. In the end Andy’s friend wasn’t there – which is probably just as well, as Rosie hadn’t got the lamb joint in the oven in time for it to be ready for us to eat, so we ended up ordering an Indian, which Brett and I ended up paying for! It was a good Indian though!

We also got a note from Russell E and his partner Ed the other day. We haven’t seen them for a while and it turns out this is because they are gearing up to stand for election to their local council. The note was a request for helpers for their campaign and, although I’m hardly a political activist, I think I may head along and help them to stuff some envelopes and do some catching up.

While I’m thinking politics, I saw this article the other day. It appears that Alan B’Stard has crossed the floor and is now a New Labour MP! That says it all about our beloved Prime Minister’s standing in the country…

Anyway, time for bed. We’re off to the Lakes tomorrow, along with my sister and Andy, joining us on the weekend jaunt for the first time. Sid, my boss, is also in the area over the weekend so we’re going to see if we can meet up for the top nosh on Saturday night.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Madcap Recap

Another busy week at work. Nothing spectacular to report though; just more backup problems, more meetings. Oh, and someone in Edinburgh going to add another connection to the network and inadvertently disconnecting the rest of the office while she was at it!

Chorus on Monday was fun; no choreography, but good music. Scott L seems to have gotten over his huff and Jamie P came and chatted to us during the break. Am missing seeing John and Rich though; John is off in India with work and Rich is at home getting over a minor operation.

Brett passed his driving test today (Yeay!) which means he can share the driving when we go up to the Lake District this weekend. We’re off to my sister’s tonight so she can cook us dinner and introduce us to one of Andy’s friends (for reasons which aren’t entirely clear…)

Saw a frightening article on the BBC yesterday about the schemes that Estate Agents get up to to wring the most money out of their clients: Sobering reading/watching when you are about to step into the Housing Market! I’d say that we’re going to steer clear of Foxtons, except I imagine that the same kind of practices will go on in any of the major high-street agencies. We’ll just have to be doubly-certain of what we want and what we want to spend before we actually set foot out there! Oh, and have no scruples about double-crossing even the most charming of Estate Agents…

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I Joined an All-Girl Band

It was another one of those Chorus days. I got up and REALLY did not want to go to the all-day rehearsal. In the shower I was pretty much convinced that I was going to drop out of this show and have a break for a season. But then I went along anyway and I was sitting next to Jerry H who, for all that he looks like a total bully-boy, is such a gentle sweety and with a great sense of humour that I couldn’t stay grumpy.

Today was a choreography rehearsal too and Stuart, as ever, was hugely entertaining as he taught us his moves. Our rehearsals are inevitably peppered with innuendo, but today’s was especially well-seasoned in that regard. My personal favourite had to be the instruction to the Tenor sections to “go down and stay down on the Baritones’ do-do’s.” Priceless and, in context, totally proper!

By the time we got home this evening we were totally exhausted but very upbeat.

On a separate note, if you shared my childish pleasure at receiving a model of K-9 yesterday, you can see a photograph of him here.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


And so the calendar has clicked around again and I have clocked-up another year. No great revelations as to the meaning of life; it’s just another day.

Having said that, it was a lovely peaceful day; Brett did everything he could to make me feel special; let me sleep as long as I wanted, made me coffee, brought me lunch, cooked me dinner and watched whatever TV I wanted to watch. He also wrote the sweetest message in my birthday card. I spent this morning watching more episodes of Long Way Round. After lunch I gave my bike a wash down (which it desperately needed) and in the process confirmed that my back wheel is slightly buckled, so I dropped it into the Wimbledon Bike Shop for repair. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading (currently The Nonborn King) and then this evening we watched The Last Emperor.

I received several Happy Birthday messages through the day; the first from Owen (who seems to take perverse pleasure in sending such things at the stroke of midnight – presumably forgetting that some people leave their phone on overnight), Scott and Rich C. There were also an email from Ping and a phonecall from my mother.

Lots of presents, of course, and the one I seem most fond of is actually the smallest; a desperately cute die-cast model of K9 bought for me by my sister. It’s only five centimetres long, but I love it.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Another Day of Dining-Out

Another fairly good day at work; after the recent weeks of ‘firefighting’ I’ve been able to get back to doing some ‘fire-prevention’ work and planning some of the important-but-not-urgent work that we want to do. At lunchtime Sid and I were being treated to a meal by one of our suppliers, partly to seal a new deal with us and partly to apologise for some confusion with them over the last few weeks. We went down to Tas on the The Cut and ate Turkish – which was by no means a small meal! I struggled to stay awake through the rest of the afternoon

This evening also involved eating out: It being Kevin and Chris’ last night in town and the night before my birthday we’d organised a bit of a meal by way of celebration/farewell. It was a family affair, just us, the boys and Rosie and Andy. We ate at Claridges’ Reading Room. There had been some question about the venue; Chris was worried about the formality and Brett was unhappy with some condescending service we’d had last time. However by the time we considered trying a different venue, we were all too busy to choose one and book it, plus I kind of like Deco grandeur and couldn’t believe that the service we’d had was the normal standard of a five-star hotel.

Rosie had warned me they would be somewhat late, so Brett and I sat and ordered aperitifs with Kevin and Chris. They’d brought me a present and a couple of birthday cards. The present was a well-chosen book from my Amazon wishlist; The Cuckoo’s Egg which will be next on my reading list when I’ve finished the current re-visitation of Julian May’s Saga of the Exiles. Rosie and Andy weren’t actually that late in the end and we went on to order.

In the end I think it went very well. Our waiter did make a minor cock-up with the drinks at first, but otherwise service was smooth and fairly discreet. The food was just as good as I remember it (I had the Quail & Foie Gras Terrine, steak and then a soft rhubarb tartlet served with iced Bramley apple purée) as before it was beautifully presented and, although the portions look meagre, I came away feeling quite contentedly full without being over-stuffed.

Kevin and Chris had spent the day visiting the National Portrait Gallery and doing yet more shopping (I still find it hard to comprehend why someone from the States would come to the UK to shop for any but the most ‘British’ items!) There was talk of going home and what they had (and hadn’t) missed about home while away and about future holidays. They seem to have enjoyed themselves though. Andy is heading up to Leeds tomorrow with a truck full of equipment for what sounds like some company’s annual party.

We didn’t stay too late in the end. Rosie gave us a lift to Wimbledon, which was a nice way to round off the evening, saving us a long, dull and probably chilly tube/train ride. We were entertained along the way by the dozens of people staggering around the streets, drunk and wearing silly Guinness hats with green, shamrock brims; it looks like St. Patrick’s Day has done for Guinness what St. Valentine’s Day did for greeting card manufacturers…

Salmonella Excretion in Joy-Riding Pigs

A couple of asides that brightened my morning today;

First this article on the BBC showing how the desire to increase bicycle use hasn’t quite yet achieved the level of ‘joined-up’ thinking it needs. (A quick hat-tip to Slightly Lost for pointing me in the direction of the article.)

Secondly, this article, also on the BBC, about the Ig-Nobel awards for serious scientific papers that have made people laugh as well as think. Personally I can’t believe that anyone can write a paper called ‘The effect of Country Music on Suicide’ without having their tongue firmly in their cheek, but then I’m not into that particular branch of science… ‘An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep Over Various Surfaces’ anyone?



Thursday, March 16, 2006

Entertaining Americans

A very social day today; had lunch with Chris C as the brothers were off doing a show together. The Mulberry Bush wasn’t quite up to its usual standard as my Thai fishcakes starter and the goat’s cheese and spinach pie main course were both over cooked. He bemoaned the fact that there are no decent shopping opportunities left in Central London; Oxford Street is now largely chain stores and cheap tourist-tat souvenir shops and he wants stuff for Carter that doesn’t come from Baby Gap (which he could buy back in the States!)

Work was pretty productive. I finally nailed down a problem with some email accounts in Santiago, got the backups working in San Juan again and finally started making serious plans for a major re-jig in the Comms Room here in London; something which has been outstanding for months now.

This evening we were meeting Curtis for dinner as he is in town for a few days visiting friends. I’d booked the Laughing Gravy on Blackfriars Road again – we ate there the last time he was in town. Rod & Jess were already there when Brett and I arrived. Jess seems well recovered from her recent operation, has lost a lot of weight and, on the whole, looked very well. They had brought me an early birthday present too! Lovely!

Curtis arrived shortly after seven, somewhat flustered having rushed from dealing with a plumbing emergency at his hotel. He too is looking very well. He’s recently spent a week in Costa Rica and had lots of stories to tell about the beauty of the island. He also has promised to put pictures online, so I shall look forward to those.

Bruce and Rosie were both late, arriving within five minutes of each other from their respective pre-dinner appointments but it just meant we’d that much longer to catch up with Rod and Jess and Curtis.

He is planning a bit of a round the world trip with his mum in the autumn and wants to bring her to London so hopefully we’ll see him again soon – and I’ll get to meet his mother after fifteen years of hearing about her.

Bruce was at the far end of the table, so I didn’t get to talk to him really until we were on the train home and even then it was mostly wine and restaurants talk. He’s looking forward to a Diplomacy day, as are Rod and Jess, so we must get around to finally organising it!

Monday, March 13, 2006

There's Nowt as Queer as Folk

On Monday morning I had a rather rude awakening; a totally unexpected (and I would say uncalled for) email from Scott L, saying how he hadn’t enjoyed the evening because of something Ping had said and going on to attack Ping’s character and finally also criticising our choice of friends.

Initially I was quite gobsmacked, as Scott hadn’t said anything during the evening, although he had left early after having been very quiet. Brett didn’t recall Ping saying anything that might cause offence either so I resolved to talk to him at Chorus in the evening.

Kevin had wanted to come along to watch us rehearse, so he spent the evening sitting at the front of the hall, listening when we sang, but mostly doing logic puzzles. He actually looked like he was taking notes and my fellow Choristers were quite curious about who he was and what he might be doing. (My evil streak came to the fore and I said nothing and let them sweat.)

I’d been a bit worried that he wouldn’t really get a sense of our sound, as tonight we were starting three new songs, but it turned out that we had done a couple of them before and lots of people remembered enough that we got into it fairly quickly. In the end he was quite complimentary about how we sounded.

Scott was rather standoffish during the tea break and even when I approached him his manner said that he didn’t want to be talking to me. Apparently Ping had brought up the openness of his relationship with his boyfriend in front of my sister and Andy (who spend plenty of time with our gay friends and really aren’t that easily shocked!) and (allegedly) implied he was a slut (for which the Chorus has actually given him an award!) and then went on to expand on his views of Ping’s character.

I have to say during the day, my feelings had shifted from the initial upset that one of our friends had been so unhappy as our guest, to one of bemusement at why Brett and I seemed to be taking the brunt of a tiff between Scott and Ping. I came away from the conversation disappointed, angry and even a touch hurt myself I think.

Any decision to put the incident out of my mind though couldn’t last as, after the rehearsal, Brett and I accompanied Kevin back to his hotel, meeting Chris and Ping at the tube station en route (they had been occupying themselves around town while we rehearsed) to have a drink together. We ordered (hugely overpriced) drinks and (very tasty) (and hugely overpriced) club sandwiches and chatted for a while in the bijou bar, done up to resemble someone’s vision of an English Country Squire’s place; lots of studded green leather, dark wood panelling and oil paintings of men with horses.

I don’t actually recall much of what we talked about – they made nice daiquiris (that for once didn’t come with strawberry syrup by default!) so I enjoyed those while waiting for my food. Kevin declared his Club Sandwich to be the best he’d ever had. When the Scott issue came up though, Ping was horrified that he had given offence and Kevin and Chris seemed equally as bemused by it as Brett and me. Totally bizarre. We touched on shows a little and the fact that Kevin has never been to Paris but Chris has and refuses to go back (I’d suggested Paris would make a nice day trip for them, but apparently not…)

At the end of it all, Kevin signed for the drinks and donated towards a taxi home for Brett and I, which was incredibly generous of him and made our return journey much faster and more comfortable. I do hope he doesn’t regret it when he remembers the Dollar/Sterling exchange rate though…

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Dinner for Kevin & Chris

What started off as ‘having a bit of a tidy-up’ turned into a weekend of Spring Cleaning.

After the washing-up and laundry, there was a series of odd-jobs that have been waiting around for a while that finally got done this weekend: For a while the house stank of warm vinegar, as I de-scaled water jugs, shower-heads and everything else in sight. I even contemplated cleaning up the crystal chandelier in the dining room (which SO badly needs it!) but in the end ran out of time. On the whole, a very productive weekend. All of this was primarily so that the house would be in top form for dinner on Sunday night.

Although we’ve lived here for nearly two years now, I don’t think we’ve ever properly hosted friends for dinner. We’ve had parties and laid out a buffet, we’ve even ordered take-out with friends, but never a sit-down at the table with napkins and silverware. The opportunity had my closeted ‘Bree Van de Kamp’ side elbowing its way to the fore as I tried to resist the urge to put on a big showpiece event!

In the end I stuck to the simple menu that Brett and I had planned. I made huge volumes of chilli and rice (although I really misjudged the amount of chilli powder and ended up with a tasty meat and bean stew) and had some rhubarb crumble and custard lined-up for dessert. I couldn’t resist throwing in a cheese course at the end, though, as it’s so easy to do…

Kevin and Chris arrived around five which meant we got a bit of a chance to chat to them before everyone else turned up in dribs and drabs closer to seven. Ping arrived first and hit it off immediately. Scott was next, but was rather quiet throughout the evening and I can’t tell whether he was feeling left out or whether that is just his nature in groups. Rosie and Andy completed the set and seemed to hold their own pretty well.

After dinner we sat down to a game of Trivial Pursuits which was quite closely fought and rounded off the evening nicely. Everyone departed shortly thereafter to make sure they got their trains and Brett and I headed straight to bed feeling that a good evening had been had by all.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Dan's Party

Dan’s party on Saturday night proved an enjoyable affair! His flat is a lovely size and recently refurbished I think (so we spent a fair amount of time appreciating all that.) The party was nominally for the Chorus’ Bass section. Brett got invited along as a former roommate of Dan’s and a former Bass and, as his partner, I rated an invitation too. On the whole we had a very nice evening. Brett did get cornered for a while by Martin K who wanted to talk Chorus politics, but I got to circulate and chatted to David M and met Jamie P and Marcus C-S and their respective boyfriends for the first time which was all very pleasant. Brett did manage to do the rounds as well though. In Dan's terribly organised fashion though, everything wound up around 11:30 and we wended our weary (and slightly sozzled) way home to bed.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Server Quotas and Hostly Duties

Well, what a week it’s been!

We seem to have exhausted our year’s quota of server failures in the first twelve weeks. The server in our San Juan office failed over the weekend, so about a third of my week has been spent on that – and it looks like a portion of the weekend too will be spent checking in on the restore process which is currently running.

As failures go, this one was a fairly regular one; a hard disk had expired and, thanks to Dell’s nanny-like pre-configuration of hardware, the server had been built with a single overlarge disk volume, rather than a smaller fault-tolerant one. Grrr. That’s why we usually build our own servers.

Wednesday was a bad day too. The server which supports two of our UK Project Offices (one of which is only a few weeks away from its final report!) died in a most peculiar fashion on Wednesday morning. This server did have a fault tolerant disk configuration, so Murphy’s Law required it to suffer from severe data corruption on its system partition. Strangely the corruption seemed to persist through several reinstalls of the Operating System on both halves of the fault-tolerant set of disks. In the end we got two new disks out of stock and started again. It was a somewhat longer recovery than I would have liked, but we got there in the end. Fortunately none of the project data on the server suffered from the corruption, which was a great relief.

Evenings have been few and far between this week. Monday was of course Chorus and it went fairly well. I think perhaps I am slowly coming around to this season’s repertoire… but then we start another tranche of new music next week: All pretty hectic.

Tuesday was fine up until about 4pm, when the fragile peace of my day was shattered by Steve B pushing a personal agenda through the Chorus’ mailing list. We’d had words about this previously (basically he’d been allowing unnecessary messages through to the main Chorus mailing list; something which I have been trying to stop for a long time now) so to have him do the same thing again, so soon after our previous run-in left me incandescent. As it happened, there was a meeting of the Steering Committee that night so I promptly stomped off to that to get them to reiterate the policy, which they duly did, and I went home mollified.

Wednesday night was yet another rehearsal, but because of the second server disaster I managed to miss half of it in fear of my job. When I arrived though, I bumped into Alistair W who had heard about a travel blog I wrote of the Chorus’ trip to North America in 2004 from his lawyer who had come across it while googling Alistair’s name. He didn’t seem too phased by it, more just surprised that my blog rated so highly in the Google results [Google actually own Blogger, I believe] Still, I was rather grateful that I give my friends some shade of anonymity on this blog…

Thursday evening was spent at home, luxuriating in being able to sit on a sofa and also celebrating the recovery of the Project Office server: We had dessert as well as dinner and then spent some time talking around the house-buying concept. I am still up for doing it sooner rather than later, but I think Brett is beginning to accept we can’t do it soon enough to complete within the life of our current lease, so we’ll have to extend by about six months.

Tonight is probably going to be spent being housewifely. Kevin & Chris (Brett’s brother and his partner) are in London on vacation from tomorrow. I suspect they want a fairly independent holiday as it’s their first away from the duties of parenting a toddler, but we have planned to see them at least a couple of times during their stay. The first is for dinner at our place on Sunday, so I am getting all house-proud and planning menus and thinking about all the little spring-cleaning jobs I’ve been putting off for months. I’m not sure why I’m having this sudden attack of domesticity – I am normally a fairly standard male of the species in this respect. Maybe I want to impress the family and this is the first chance I’ve had on my home territory. Hmm… maybe time to go see a shrink and get my subconscious reamed!

We may end up sitting in each other’s laps too; Ping wanted to meet Kevin and Chris, so he was invited, we thought it might be nice to invite Rosie & Andy as well (being my sibling and all) and then we added Scott to make up the numbers of Americans in case we end up playing Trivial Pursuit after dinner… but really there isn’t space in the dining room to seat eight for dinner. Tragedy! (Brett is already mentally rearranging the furniture.)

I may just collapse from exhaustion come Monday morning but, hey, my hostly duty will have been well and truly done.

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kit Kat

I need a holiday.

When I find myself tired and with a short fuse all the time, I know it’s time to take a break.

…Now, when can I fit it in?


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sitting On A Train

So here I sit, almost exactly an hour out from London, twiddling my thumbs.

After my experience on the way up with a shortage of seats (I got one, but many people didn’t) I decided to avoid the issue on the way down and paid the small upgrade fee for ‘Weekend First.’ It turns out it was wasted money; Virgin Trains don’t have WiFi at all – let alone free WiFi in First Class – nor do they have a restaurant car or at-seat service from the buffet. My walk down to get a coffee from the ‘onboard shop’ also revealed that there were spare seats in Standard Class, so I could have saved myself £15 and still had a comfortable (if crowded) ride home.

Ah well.

It’s amazing how many people have laptops these days; there seems to be one on virtually every other table on this train – and those that don’t have laptops are all plumbed-in to their iPods or mini DVD-players.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Introverted Saturday

Lazy day today; Got up late to a very picturesque snowy morning. Got the PC Support that I’m ostensibly here to do over with (well, okay it took me until about 4pm, but I also rolled-in a little bit of work time too) and have spent the rest of the evening reading. (Currently four-fifths of the way through a nostalgic reading of The Belgariad.)

Am feeling somewhat slug-like this evening, having eaten several filling home-cooked meals and then slathered some mince pies in double cream for supper but, hey, isn’t that what coming home to mom and dad is all about??

The parents have invited friends around for brunch tomorrow morning though (it seems we started a fashion during my last visit!), so it looks like I am going to have to be a little bit social after all. Hmm.

Friday, March 03, 2006

To Buy or not To Buy

So here we are; Friday night again. Too much to do and too little time to do it in. The second half of the week was no less fulfilling than the first; I continued to struggle against intransigent backup software/hardware/media in Rav’s absence, while being virtually hounded by one of our suppliers, wanting our response to a proposal they’ve made to outsource some of our hardware.

It was all rounded off in appropriate style by a conversation with my boss where he finally really came to grips with the dire straits we are in with this backup business. I suspect we will be moving into a higher gear on Monday…

Away from work, my mind has been more on seeking accommodation for when our lease runs out in May. Somewhere along the line over the last couple of weeks, I seem to have come around to the idea that we might just be able to afford to buy a house, rather than rent for another six or twelve months. I am a bit of a Johnny-come-lately to this idea, as Brett has been espousing it for months, and even now I think it’s going to be a big stretch but the simple fact is that property isn’t getting any cheaper. The question in the housing market these days is of the second order, not the first; it’s not whether prices are going up or down, it’s about whether the rate of price increase is going up or down!

Even as I write this, though, I’m having second thoughts. Contemplating the amount of committed time both this month and next month, when are we going to have time to organise a last-minute house purchase? We are leaving it very late and I’m not sure I want to choose a house to buy just because we have to meet a deadline; that seems to be rather putting the cart before the horse…

Anyway, as I’m at my parent’s place this weekend, I suppose I’ll have some time to contemplate the decision before possibly plunging into the preliminaries of conveyancing next week.

Incidentally, I’ve finally seen some benefit out of this unseasonably cold weather we’ve been having; it had snowed just enough around Wigan and St. Helens this afternoon to make it all Christmas-card pretty, without making trouble on the roads. It was a lovely drive from the station to the parents’

Right, off to bed now, as it’s getting late and I am well tired after this week!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

To Leeds and Back

Monday at work was frustrating; two of the team were off sick, so I spent a decent proportion of my day answering helpdesk calls. A lot of the rest of the day was spent looking at backups in our Leeds office. Rav had been up there on Friday to install an additional tape drive into the backup library so that we can run two jobs at once. Over the weekend though, all of the backup jobs had failed reporting errors with the tape transport robot. There is currently a problem too with the system that duplicates our head-office data to servers in Leeds which requires a bit of it to be restored from backup so, as Rav was one of those off sick, it fell to me to book passage to the frozen north to fix the problem.

As it turned out, the robot problem was easy enough to solve; the drive hadn’t been settled quite properly in its slot and the resulting difference (barely a millimetre!) was enough to upset the tape grabber. That was quickly fixed. It took me a further three or four very frustrating hours to get both of the drives showing as online and working reliably though. Despite the much vaunted plug-and-play abilities of modern computer Operating Systems, including Windows Server, seemingly they still aren’t able to allow you to change the settings on a SCSI* device without then needing to reboot the whole computer to get it to recognise the change. It’s ridiculous. That was the main source of frustration; every time I tried something new, I had to go through a cycle of telling the office that their server was going to be rebooted, waiting fifteen minutes so they could save their work, downing the server and then checking all of the services when it came back up. Very intrusive to the users. Not an ideal way to work at all. Surely it should be possible to just reboot the affected component of the system, rather than the whole system! (If there are any SCSI experts out there who can tell me how to do this, I would be SO grateful.)

Other than that, not a lot has been happening; Chorus on Monday night was fine. I cycled there and back for the first time and that all went very smoothly thanks to Tomtom. An upside of going to Leeds yesterday is that I don’t have to spend an even longer day in Edinburgh today to switch them over to a new, faster Internet connection; Sid is going to do that instead. Hmm… and that’s it. Time to go to work now.

* SCSI is the name for a way of connecting devices to server computers if they need to move a lot of data very quickly, like disk drives, tape drives and scanners. It’s quite an old technology but is still standard in most server devices.