Home page
Another year approaches it's
inglorious end.
December 2004

Winter in Catford



Friday 31st January 2004
07.30 GMT

Weather - dry
 Just sixteen and a half hours to go of this year. This time last year I started with -
 "And another years creaks slowly to an end. I wonder what will happen tonight ? Will there be anything good on TV ? Will I celebrate or have an early night ? The answers to these, and other exciting questions, can be read in next years thrilling installment of my life in Catford."
So did it get better or worse ? Overall I think it was worse, or at least it feels like it at the moment.

 Yesterday started full of good intentions. I washed my hair, and had a good shave, ready for some sort of socialising, but it never happened. I felt very low all day and didn't think I would be very good company if I went out for a drink. The idea was to meet up with Iain, Howard, and possibly Kevin in The Herne. I had hoped we could get Ruth along as well so that we could transfer her new, alternate, PC from the boot of Iain's car to her car. I don't know how long that PC will survive in Iain's boot, but he warns me it suffers from condensation as well as getting a good rattling around as he is driving. It is possible that they did meet without me, but I have not heard anything to confirm or deny this.

 I spent much of the day moping around, and I expect I'll be doing the same today. There could be one variation if I can face Tesco's. I could do with some extra provisions, but if the place is full of panic buyers, who can't face the idea of the shop being closed for 24 hours, I will give it a miss. There is another task for today that I ought to try and get done - designing the new look for the January 2005 edition of these pages. I am tempted to revamp my whole website. It will be a big task, a huge task, but I have plenty of time on my hands if I can be bothered to use it.

 My dreams last night, or at least one of them, were spent living in the past. Once again I found myself reliving the closing of an old strowger telephone exchange. I am not sure where it was as it was a sort of hybrid of several places. It suffered the normal death throes of an exchange with bits of it still trying to pass traffic long after all traffic was supposed to be ceased - calls coming in from other exchanges who should have re-routed traffic to the replacement exchange. Eventually it quietens down and the scavengers move in to collect spares or souvenirs. It was a bit of a strange choice of dream as it was a sad moment in a time when life in general seemed to be a lot better.

Thursday 30th December 2004
08.30 GMT

Weather - cold and grey
 First the good news. My NTL phone line started working again by midday yesterday and I was able to do all my internet stuff from here. I had been intending to go along to the internet cafe to work for a couple of hours, and do all my internet stuff there. In fact I went there, but there was no signing of it opening by 10.45 so I came home again. It was supposed to be opening at 10.00. I spent the rest of he day being very lazy. There was more I intended to do, but I felt rather listless. Maybe it was the grey skies in the afternoon, or  maybe something else. I should have been perked up by the walk through the park to the internet cafe. As I did that the sun, although low in the sky, was shining brightly and the world looked great. While walking home again the sky was starting to cloud over, but it was not too bad. During that walk home I came across a curious sight. My eyes were drawn to the top of a small tree by a screech. Sitting in the upper branches of the tree were two mildewy green coloured birds. I am not an expert at identifying birds, but I am sure that they were escaped cage birds. Parrots, perhaps. I have heard of a few areas where there are small colonies of parrots, or parakeets, but it seems as if Catford may have its own now.

 After a rather uneventful day it was nice to get down to the pub for some drinking. It was the usual four of us. Howard had driven all the way direct from Suffolk to be there. I think it was a four pint night, and I rushed home from there to watch a TV programme. BBC2 were showing what may have been the first in a series about classic albums. Last night it was about Motorhead's "Ace Of Spades". It was a really great programme, although I did have trouble following some bits when the guests were too drunk and slurring at high speed. I am now totally inspired to dig out some old Motorhead and have a good head bang in the privacy of my own head.

 All the beer, and the excitement of Motorhead at their best should have inspired some good dreams, but ultimately half of what I remember was very depressing. One good bit of dream was where I was looking at someones web site. It was by a person who doesn't have a web site in reality.I was elated when I was able to bypass a security feature to enable me to look at some pictures. It turned out not to be a real security feature, but an implied one which wasn't really there. The last dream concerned two people whose names I won't mention here. One was from the past, and the other from the present. It would be nice to think that the other would be around into the future. The dream was a sort of warning where the present person changed into the past person. I wasted many years of my life with the person from the past and I find it really depressing to think I could be making the same mistake again. Only the future will tell whether I am being foolish, but in my defence I can say I grabbed a little pleasure now rather than opting for none at all. It was a bad start to the day, and I find myself very uninspired to do anything this morning.

Wednesday 29th December 2004
08.00 GMT

Weather - very slightly misty, but clear sky
 I start the day with my NTL phone line dead. So I have no idea when I will next be able to connect to the internet. It might be later today, or it could be sometime next year ! This is all rather inconvenient ! I may briefly go online via my BT phone line to collect e-mail, but I will not be connected for long enough to do any serious uploads like this diary page. With the great benefit of hindsight I did have an early warning that something was up last night. I was attempting to send an 11 MegaByte file to a an upload server and it kept crashing on me. I suspect that it was the phone line starting to die that was causing it.

 I had been considering the possibility of spending a few hours this morning at the internet cafe where my laughable work placement is. I don't have to go back there until the 4th of January, but by going in for a couple of spare mornings I reckon I can earn a few brownie points to be traded later. With no access to the internet here I reckon it would now be a definitely good idea to go in. It is even possible that I will be able to do my file transferring there, although I think access to the NTL home pages is not allowed unless directly connected via an NTL login.It is a security feature that is good while you have direct access, but bloody irritating if trying to do stuff from, say, and internet cafe.

 Yesterday was another of those days where nothing much seemed to happen, and yet I felt I was very busy all day. Some of the time I spent converting video and editing it. I had a few unexplained crashes while this was going on. After a lot of weighing up the pros and cons of several possibilities for this I came to the conclusion that the PC was overheating. The Windows 2000 machine upstairs was suffering a similar fate last summer until I re-did the heatsink on the processor and beefed up the air flow. That machine now runs as sweet as a nut. The last time I did any serious work on my video editing machine was while the weather was much warmer. It too was suffering from overheating and I used a large fan to help cool it while work progressed. In my naivety I thought this room was cool enough that I would not need any extra cooling at this time of year, but it seems I do. So a forthcoming project will be for me to clean up the inside of that machine. Renew the thermal paste on the processor and try and work out a way of fitting a nice high power fan to keep the air racing through the case. While it is chewing through a huge great file this morning, I am using the same five inch fan that I used to great effect on the machine upstairs. It is suspended over the processor using bits of wire. As soon as I turned it on the processor temperature, which had been steadily rising, dropped by four degrees, and now seems stable. If, in about an hours time, my video file has been succesfully converted I will know that I have found the right solution to my problem.

 In other news, with many thanks to Iain, I will be adding a "comment" link to the bottom of each days entry where you will be able to add some feedback to my scribbles here. It should start with the first entry on January 1st. It won't be totally dynamic as eacxh comment will be screened before use. As yet I have not decided whether to do a seperate comment page, or just add the comments to the bottom of the days entry. I'll probably finally decide after I get the first comment through.

Tuesday 28th December 2004
08.15 GMT
Weather - dry after heavy overnight rain
 At around 02.30 I was woken up by heavy, icy rain hitting my bedroom window. For some time it was raining very hard. This morning the sky looks blue again and the sunshine is lighting up the tops of the chimneys of nearby houses. It is starting to become noticable that the days are slowly getting longer again.

 Being woken up sharply in the middle of the night by the rain has left me with yet more impressions of dreams. I can also remember the theme of what I was dreaming when I woke up just recently. At 02.30 I was having a dream where I was not sure if I was human or an animal. I had had a lot of input yesterday that would have contributed to what I was dreaming. On the subject of whether I was human, or not, I may have been influenced by reading about "Bigfoot" strolling through the North American forests. I was also watching a DVD about pirate radio and that took me back to my days of transmitting from woods. In the dream the landscape I was going across was a patchwork of bits of different sites that we used to transmit from. I remember the scenery more than the actual action. I think I was trying to escape from someone, or trying to split off from someone to get a better chance of escape from an unknown third person. My running around seemed fairly effortless, and yet it was harder work going up hills than down the other side. I didn't seem to be in any panic, although at the same time there was a sense of urgency to find a safe place to either hide, or to leave the immeadiate area. It was true to life in one respect. In those distant days when I was a pirate radio operator in the woods we would usually have some sort of pre-planned escape route from the woods, and if there was a raid by the GPO there was seldom any panic and a sort of professionalism took over as you made an escape.

 My dream this morning, immeadiately before I woke up, was far more down to earth. I was juggling files around on two PC's trying to work out the best strategy to back up old work and free up some disk space. In many ways it was a rehearsal to something I am going to have to do for real very soon. It is a shame that I never reached any conclusions in the dream. On the PC I am using now there is no DVD burner. It is a dual boot machine with both Windows XP and Mandrake Linux on it. The Windows partition is nearly full and Windows is starting to creak through lack of disk space. Most of these files are audio, video or graphic files. Most could be backed up onto DVD disks (there is too much for CD disks) and the original files deleted, but without a DVD burner on the machine it is difficult. I could transfer them over my network to the Windows 2000 machine upstairs. That has a DVD burner, but it is in the DVD-R format and I have very few spare disks for that. My other PC is not connected to the network and has a DVD+R burner in it, and I have plenty of spare disks for that. I may end up taking the removeable hard drive from that machine and connect it with a USB2 adapter to this machine and copy the files that way. I can then put the hard disk back into the original machine and use the DVD burner on there to make my back-ups.

 Yesterday I finally got hold of my copy of Patrick's documentary "Free Radio - the story of clandestine radio in the UK".  There are a few parts that I think could have been done better, or maybe just differently, and using an ultra critical eye I have spotted a few technical mishaps, but overall it is excellent. The main weakness is at the beginning where finding old material for inclusion was very difficult. It was certainly an ego trip to see stuff that I had contributed to it being used, and to see parts where I had participated in the making of it. Having seen the part where I was actually interviewed I think I can safely say that my face is ideally suited to radio (think about it). I would urge anyone who has ever been involved in pirate radio, either as a listener, or direct participant, to consider buying a copy of the DVD. It contains a lot of nostalgia and brings together a lot of stuff you will never have a chance to experience again. It is a proper pressed DVD and there should be no problem playing it on any DVD player. Details of how to buy it can be found here :- http://www.radiokaleidoscope.co.uk That descibes it in better detail and provides a link to Pirate Radio Sales whose address I would write if only I could remember it.

 Once again, for today, my day is not planned in any shape or form. I have a few ideas (perhaps including backing up computer files !), but basicaly anything could happen. It wasn't planned yesterday that Patrick would come over with my DVD, or that it would end up in The Ram for an initially short drink, but which turned into a longer session because Iain was there after Patrick had left.

Monday 27th December 2004
08.00 GMT
Weather - blue sky and very frosty
 Sometimes it seems impossible to remember dreams even when you make a conscious effort to do so. I woke up at around 02.30 for some reason and I had been dreaming. At the time I thought to myself that I ought to remember that dream as it was sort of interesting. This morning I can remember why I thought it was interesting, but cannot remember the dream itself. The reason I thought it interesting was that somehow I had attributed supernatural, almost godlike, powers to Windows 2000. It had something to do with the way Windows 2000 NTFS file system was able to cope with huge files, and how I had made a mistake and generated a file of infinite size.......or something. I just can't recall the details so I'm afraid it is all a bit of an anti-climax !

 I do remember a few tiny parts of other dreams from later this morning. At most I can recall what seem like 10 second video clips, or possibly just snap shots from dreams. There was one small bit where I was probably outside the house I grew up in the nineteen sixties. It was a bright sunny day and a large lorry full of old tyres was pulling away while a 32" Mitsubishi TV was being lowered from the upstairs window of a house adjacent to what I assume was my house. In another dream I was in a small open topped  car, possibly a go-cart or golf buggy. The driver was my dad although strangely I seemed to be seeing all this from his perspective. In the passenger seat was my mum. I can't recall us actually moving, but we were trying to get through a narrow gap that was partially blocked by a six foot long roll of bubble wrap. Actually it was more like a large roll of twine, but the details are hazy. I can remember one more bit of dream, and this one does have a few seconds of movement in it. I was crossing a quiet main road by using a subway. I was going down a slope parallel with the road to reach the subway itself. At the bottom of the slope was a "landing" with the tunnel under the road to my right. Opposite me was another pathway that was on level ground, and to the left was a small staircase leading up from a park, or garden, like area. For some reason that I cannot fathom out now, I was intrigued by the fact that all the ways leading to the entrance of the tunnel under the road came from different levels. As an incredibly vague ending to that dream I remember going into the tunnel and being amazed by the acoustic effects of the traffic noise comimg from the road surface above. What makes that ending so unsatisfactory is that I cannot remember what the amazing noise was - I know it was amazing, but I cannot hear it in my head now !

 Yesterday turned out to be a very lazy day. When I last wrote I was having another go at installing DeLi Linux. It did install - up to a point, but I was cursed with one of old problems of early Linux attempts - a non working X server. I had a perfectly good command line only installation, but I really wanted a graphical interface. Given enough time and patience I could have tried to manually repair XConfig, but I have given up for now. I reconnected the hard drive with Windows 95 on it, removed the teetering pile of dead, semi dead, and just about working OK CD drives, and put the lid back on. That PC is now residing in a cupboard waiting to be used, or displayed sometime in the future.

 After giving up on the PC I washed and dressed before calling in the local corner shop. I bought acouple of magazines and treated myself to a very naughty Yorkie bar. It was the first time I have had concentrated chocolate in any form for ages. Yorkie bar chocolate is not the best in the world, but it was not bad. I think I am going to do something more chocolately outrageous next year ! I probably spent the whole of the rest of the day flitting between PC, TV and reading. TV was mostly a non event, but I did enjoy the film on Channel Five starring Billy Connolly as "The Man Who Sued God".

 Today I have no idea what I will be doing. One possibility is that I will go over to see Jodie and finish the last few items of furniture building that I have been assisting her with. I'd like to see Ruth as well, although possibly not today. I have a few items that I need to give, of give back her. Mostly I think I will be making up the day as it happens.

 I have come to the conclusion that all this rubbish I write is read by quite a few people. For the new year I will have to try and work out a strategy where you can make comments to my writings like they do in "proper" blogs. As these pages are static, and not active, it will probably just have to be a manual cut-n-paste job from an e-mail address. Maybe Iain would be kind enough to set me up another special e-mail address for such an idea. Until then, and I'll do it now before I forget, may I wish Iain, Steve, Val, Howard, and any other readers a happy new year !

Sunday 26th December 2004
08.30 GMT
Weather - frosty with clear sky
 Yesterday was both good and frustrating. It was good that I went for what turned out to be three pints of Winter Warmer in The Ram. I was joined by Kevin and Howard for that drinking session. It is fairly unusual for me to see anyone on xmas day. Iain would have loved to join us but was tied up with family stuff in North London.

 The frustrating part was self inflicted in a way. I have a spare 500MB hard drive and Ruth's old 66MHz Pentium PC here. I have succesfully loaded a fullly working copy of Windows 95 on the 500MB hard disk that is bolted into the machine, but I wanted to try for something different using the spare hard drive. For several days previously I had been battling with IBM's OS/2 Warp as an operating system. I had to install that from a teetering mound of floppy disks because it would not recognise the CD drive in the machine. Also I could not get it to play ball with the sound card or network card. This story has been ongoing for several days now, but it was only yesterday that I reached the conclusion that the CD drive itself was faulty. I doubt it would have made any difference to the sound card, or network card, problems, but had I been able to install from the CD drive it would have been far less frustrating than the endless changing of floppy disks that I was doing. I don't know how I managed to install Windows 95 so smoothly using that CD drive. It was after I had given up on OS/2 that I decided to try and install Deli Linux. I could not get that to boot from the CD and had to resort to a pair of boot floppies. After a while it started to try and use the CD drive for most of the data, but would always crash alf way through loading all the files. So my next idea was to install Windows NT4. As the install process was more verbose than the other two operating systems I could quickly see that it was the CD drive itself that had been causing all my grief. So I changed the CD drive for one that has a mechanical problem, but does read disks fairly well. NT4 installed easily then, but I could not get the sound card to work. After upgrading to Internet Explorer 5 I was able to control my firewall and "surf the net" with no problems apart from a lack of sound.

 This morning, before I even started the machine I am using to write this, I tried the DeLi Linux installation CD on the better CD drive. It worked ! I managed to set up a corrupt installation of DelI Linux on the 500MB hard disk. I think the installation is corrupt because I was over generous with the amount of packages I asked to be installed - all of them !! Once I have finished here I will start again and be a bit more selective in what I ask to be installed. I doubt this will be the end of the story, but the new beginnings look a little more hopeful than they were.

 It is a beautiful clear morning and the sun is starting to rise over the roof tops. I don't think I will be spending all day playing with computers, but some of it I will. It would be nice to get out into the sunshine if I could think of somewhere to go. Another thing I should be doing is some work up in my workshop. Maybe I will go up there, but it will be freezing cold to start with, so maybe I won't. Tune in tomorrow to find out !

Saturday 25th December 2004
07.30 GMT
Weather - cold and dry
 So I have lived to see another boring xmas day ! I wonder if there will be anything on TV today ?

 Yesterday was not very exciting. It was good to be able to go back to bed for a lie in, although I didn't really get that much extra sleep. A lot of the day was spent playing with computers, or one in particular. I had another go at getting OS/2 Warp to work on Ruth's old PC. No matter what I do I cannot get a network card to be recognised, and I still can't get the sound card to work, nor the CD drive. I spent hours and hours of frustrating mucking around, but now I am probably going to give up. One day I will find an old PC that has the right components for OS/2 to install properly. I am now exploring a different path. I have found a small Linux ditribution called DeLi Linux that claims to be optimised for light weight PC's such as Ruth's old one. In point of fact it is actually optimised for old 486 based PC's so it should run rather well on a 66MHz Pentium 1 processor. It is a 98MB download that ideally I would be doing at the internet cafe, but I am slowly, slowly doing it here. Two thirds of it are done, and the rest will be here in an hour or two (or probably nearer three).

 Today there are several things I ought to do, one thing I want to do, and little else. I ought to do my laundry today. Just because it is xmas day doesn't mean it it is still not a Saturday. I am grossly overdue to go up to my studio for a couple of hours so I ought to do that as well. Finally, I want to go to the pub this lunchtime. I think the pub is open, but I am not sure who will be able to join me there. Iain is stuck on family duties in North London. Howard is keen to go, but there are no buses today. Kevin I have not heard from yet, but I think I can recall that during a drunken chat after throwing out time after a succesful evenings boozing he mentioned that it would be a possible idea subject to family commitments.

 This year I have decided not to waste my money by buying a gigantic Indian takeaway for xmas breakfast/dinner/supper and at least one small meal on boxing day. For the past few years it has worked out well spending £20-£30 on xmas eve for such a gigantic takeaway, but this year it will not be curry for xmas dinner. I think it will be fish fingers if I am feeling lazy, or something more exotic if I can be bothered to do a lot of preparing and cooking.

 Now the sky is getting a lot brighter than when I first started writing, I can see that it should be a nice bright sunny day. The sky looks blue, although the sun is still very low on the eastern horizon. Once my other chores are out the way I may well try and do what I tried to do last year and take some pictures of a fairly empty Catford. Last year it was very dull and grey and my pictures were crap. Some bright sunshine would improve them a lot. I may do that while going to, and from, the pub if the sun does stay out. Apparently there was a 30% chance of snow today, and for that we are going to need some clouds in the sky !

Friday 24th December 2004
06.15 GMT

Weather - dry and almost mild
 There were bits of yesterday that were quite good, but overall it was slightly disappointing. The day got off to a bad start when I had to wait for nearly half an hour for Tesco's to open. There were some people outside who thought that they may open at 07.00, but it was not until 08.30 that they opened.I managed to do all my shopping with 10 minutes to spare before I went out again to Focus Vision. Most of the morning at Focus Vision was fairly pleasant as I just read my new copy of New Scientist. It was as I was leaving when I handed in my time sheets that they really pissed me off. For the six lines of the time sheet representing the mornings and afternoon from Monday to Wednesday I had just entered "Work Placement" in the top line and dittoed the other 5 lines. Apparently this was not good enough. I had to write what I did at the work placement (serving customers) and write that out in full six  times. They also moaned bitterly that I had not submitted the details of my mandatory four job applications a week. There was a simple reason for this - I had not applied for four jobs this week, last week or the week before that because I could not find four jobs to apply for. I left there feeling very pissed off.

 The afternoon was a bit of a disappointment as well. I had planned to go to The Herne to give Ruth a copy of the old files from her old hard disk. I knew she would not usually be there until later in the afternoon, but when I phoned her I found that it would be more likely to be around 18.00 before she could get there. In the meantime she gave me a number to ring for someone who wanted a little help with a new PC. I arranged for Iain to collect me at around 16.30 and we headed off to The Herne via the woman who wanted help with her PC. It turned out that she could not wire up her surround sound speakers. It was rather complicated, and I still have no idea why anyone would want 5.1 channel surround sound in a corner of a bedroom. Between the two of us we got every speaker making some sort of noise and got given a voucher (£10) for our first round of drinks.

 As soon as we got to the pub I sent a text message to Ruth to say we were in there. Unfortunately her phone was full of undeleted messages and she never recieved my message. After a few pints I phoned her and I thought she said she was still coming to the pub, but she never turned up before we left. I don't actually know what time we left as everything had become a blur by then. I can't even remember what time I went to bed after I came home. It is surprising that I don't appear to have a hangover this morning. In fact I don't even feel very tired. Nevertheless I am going to take advantage of the fact that I have nothing much to do today and go back to bed in a minute.

Thursday 23rd December 2004
06.20 GMT

Weather - mild, slightly damp, and very windy
 This morning I have to try and be brief while writing this. I am going to attempt to make it to Tesco by 08.00. I am making the assumption that they will be opening then, and that it will be too early for the gigantic crowds of xmas shoppers. It is actually most surprising that I am up this early, and perhaps more amazing that I woke up before my alarm clock went off. I did not get to sleep until some time after 00.30 this morning.

 Yesterday got of to a semi reasonable start by the fact that the earlier heavy rain had reduced to fairly light rain. I was able to get to the internet cafe without getting soaked. The day there went tolerably well. I was left on my own, which now seems inevitable, for a couple of hours, but I was only 10 minutes late getting away at my agreed time. I had been met there by Scott who was returning my old mobile phone that he had borrowed to keep him on the air while his own phone was fixed. After we left there we went to The Fox and Firkin. The pub is a mere shadow of its former self. All the beer engines are now just ornemental as they now just cater for kids who want lager or cocktails. It's all a bit sad. Three quarters through our first pint we were joined by Taz. For the firswt time I managed to capture a picture of her on my phone camera. She was not happy about it, but did relent in the end.
Taz in her first pose
Taz - 2
Taz in her second pose
Scott in the internet cafe

 I had three pints of Stella Artois in The Fox And Firkin before staggering home to get some breakfast/lunch.dinner. For the rest of the afternoon, and into the early evening, I felt totally knackered, but somehow found the energy to go out for my regular Wednesday night drink at The Catford Ram. Last night it was only Iain there with me. Kevin had got stuck on a job he was doing and I have no idea what time he might have finally got home. Howard was in Suffolk and so unavailable. We left quite early into "drinking up time", and I came home to watch my recording of The Bill. It seemed to be a slightly more interesting episode than has been normal of late, but only just. It was 00.30 when I finally turned out the light and headed for sleep.

 Today I spend the morning at Focus Vision. At some point during the afternoon Iain will be picking me up and we will head over to The Herne where I hope to meet Ruth. I have one more xmas present for her (if you count the PC I made as a xmas present).It is nothing spectacular - just a copy of all her work from the old PC's hard disk. From then on, assuming I get my shopping from Tesco's this morning (just 50 minutes to go and I am still not washed and dressed), I can be totally, and completely lazy for the next few days !

Wednesday 22nd December 2004
06.40 GMT

Weather - rain
 At this very moment it is pouring with rain. The idea of walking through the park and getting soaked with ice cold rain does not appeal to me one little bit, and yet if it doesn't stop in the next 2 hours that is what I will have to do. The depressing idea of getting wet is offsaet a little by the fact that today will be my last day at the internet cafe until the new year. At least I think it will be. It does open for a couple of days between xmas and new year, but I am sure that I do not have to work on days that Focus Vision is closed. I will be able to clarify that when I attend Focus Vision tomorrow.

 I guess it is true to say that I am becoming numbed to the tedium of "working" in the internet cafe. I somehow doubt I could ever enjoy working there, but yesterday seemd to pass by fairly quickly aided by the knowledge that today would be the last until after new year. I had two long sessions in the shop on my own that were fairly quiet. The second session went on far longer than it should have. Instead of going home sometime between 15.00 to 15.30, I was finally relieved and able to go home nearer 16.30. By my reckoning I am owed some time and I should be able to leave early this afternoon.

 As it is the 22nd of December I should be saying........................
 Assuming I do get out early this afternoon I think I want to try and do a shopping trip to Tesco's. I really hate Tesco's (or most big shops) at this time of years because they are usually so crowded with people who wander around aimlessly, not knowing what they want, or where to find it, and basically getting in the way of those of us who do know and want to get in and out as quickly as possible.

 Tonight is drinking night. Being a Wednesday I should be meeting Kevin, Iain, and maybe Howard in The Catford Ram for "several" pints of Winter Warmer. That just about sums up my day for today. Alternatively it could be described as mostly boring.

Tuesday 21st December 2004
06.15 GMT

Weather - very cold, but not too frosty
 Yesterday marked the passing of yet another day at the internet cafe. Somehow the day there seemed to pass fairly quickly. Perhaps my mood was boyed up by learning that the place is closed all day on xmas eve and so I get the day off. I have told my boss that I will not be working there while Focus Vision is officially closed over the xmas period, and so I will not be back until 4th January. I am reasonably sure this is correct, and that is good enough for me ! On Thursday I am not scheduled to go to work anyway as I am due in at Focus Vision during the morning for job searching, and handing in my timesheets. So "xmas" come early for me this year.

 After work I went over to do another hour of furniture assembly for Jodie. We are now very much on the home stretch of this furniture assembling. The last item is a very weird bed. It is a convertable single to double bed with drawers in the bottom section. All that remains to do is to assemble the drawers, and assemble a decorative feature that adds to the bed posts. These latter jobs ought to be quick and simple, but I don't know when I'll be doing them. I am not going to do anything tonight, but tomorrow is a possibility. If not tomorrow it could possibly be on Friday, but more likely after xmas.

 In the course of assembling the bed last night I managed to damage myself in several places. First off I seem to have done something to my left hand thumb joint. I was trying to use a screwdriver left handed when it felt as if my humb had been wrenched backwards. It was a searing pain that lasted just a few moments, but left the joint very sore. Even this morning it feels tender. Last night it nearly caused a spectacular accident. I was drinking from a pint glass of water while in bed. I had propped myself up on my right arm and was holding the glass in my left hand. At first everything was OK, but as I tipped the glass towards my mouth, and altered the weight distribution of the glass towards my thumb, the muscles almost went into a spasm. I came very close to dropping a pint of water into my bed. It was only using extreme will power that I was able to get the glass onto my bedside table and set it down without spilling anything. The second piece of damage was, once again, to my left hand. I managed to get a very long splinter in the palm of that hand. It was about half an inch long. To make matters worse the grain of the wood made it barb-like and it would not pull out the way it went in. It was only just under the surface and I had to tear the skin to get it out. That spot is also sore this morning. I also seem to have a very small graze on my right arm, but I can't remember when I did that so I won't blame that on furniture assembly.

 This morning I think I may have come close to having another wet accident in bed. I have been reading a Robert Heinlen book called "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls". In the chapters I was reading last night there is a description of the hero waking up in a hospital bed after being seriously injured. He had been stabbed in the thigh with some sort of weapon that had been liberally doused with various germs and virii. He also had a false lower leg. While in the futuristic hospital the thigh wound is cleaned up and he has a new lower leg grafted on. He first wakes up after being held unconscious for several weeks to help the healing process. He also finds that he has been deliberately, but temporally paralysed from the waist down also to help the healing process, but he still has enough feeling left to know he needs a pee. So he calls a nurse over to ask for a bottle. She tells him that the bed itself will look after it as it is an intelligent hospital bed. He is unable to lift the sheets to see what might be available, but after much persuasion he finally lets go and relieves himself, and is very happy to find that he has not wet the bed. You may wonder what this has to do with me. Well I relived part of that scene as a dream this morning. Luckily a part of my brain knew it was a dream and woke me up before I peed in my own bed. I did need to go the toilet as soon as I was awake so I must thank that bit of my brain for staying awake all night and guarding me against making a fool of myself.

 Today is mostly working at the internet cafe (if you can call it work). After I have finished there I may go to Tesco. Somehow I need to get in a few provisions before xmas, but I hate going in there in the last week before xmas. It gets so crowded and I find that very irritating. Maybe there is a lull in the crowds between (say)16.00 and 17.00, but I think that is rather optimistic. Maybe I'll just go and see what it looks like. If it looks too crowded I'll come home again, and if not I'll do some shopping.

Monday 20th December 2004
07.00 GMT

Weather - thick frost
 It's cold this morning, very cold. The frost was visible on parked cars before I went to bed last night, and is now very thick and crunchy. I am not looking forward to the trudge across the park to get to the internet cafe. Then again I am not looking forward to going there today, or any day, ever again. It feels amazing that I have only been working there a week, It feels a lot longer than that. I suppose it is because I just do not enjoy working there. I am beginning to wonder if I will have to take any job I can get if my recent job applications come to nothing, but any job will not include working in an internet cafe, or hopefully any other kind of shop. It is a bit like going to the dentist. You go because you know you have to, but there is no reason to like going, and every visit brings on the fear that this one may be an unpleasant one.

 I wasted loads of time yesterday playing with Ruth's old computer. As I suggested I might, I did try and load IBM OS/2 Warp as the operating system. I had mixed results. At no time could I access the CD rom drive. So I had to load the entire operating system from floppy disks. That was a hell of a chore as it involved 25 or more disks. Worse still was that several of those disks had to be loaded several times over. Not only could I not get the CD rom drive working, I could not get the sound card or network card installed either. I did find some drivers for the network card, but I could not work out how to install them. My version of OS/2 is version 3, but I know that there were later versions that may have been able to use the drivers I found for the network card. Version 3 of OS/2 is comparable with Windows 3.1, except that it does not rely on sitting on top of DOS, but the user interface is slightly similar. Later versions, and I think the last may have been version 5, are probably more comparable to Windows 95, or 98 and may encompass plug and play. My version certainly does not go looking for any hardware. It has to be explicitly told there is hardware installed. My biggest surprise was that I could not get a single peep out of the sound card. I don't know the exact make and model of it, but it is of the right vintage to be supported. I tried the drivers for several sound cards, but none appeared to do anything.

 Apart from those failures I did have some success. I managed to use IBM's primitive web browser to look at a tiny part of my web site that I had copied to floppy disk. I also was succesful in installing IBM Works which is a comparable package to Microsoft, or Apple Works. In other words a basic word processing/spreadsheet/presentation suite of programs. It is possible that had I installed a printer driver for a generic Epson printer I could have printed from those prorams as well, but I never tried that. Overall it was an interesting waste of time, but I have now returned the original hard disk to the computer and it is back running Windows 95.

 There is little more to say about today. I am back at the dreaded internet cafe for most of the day. When I finish there I may well be going over to Jodie's flat to finish off assembling her new bed.She wanted me to go on Saturday but I felt too rough, and had too many other things to attend to.

Sunday 19th December 2004
09.00 GMT

Weather - bright and dry, but getting cloudier
 It is nice to get up in daylight with a little sunshine peeping around the edges of the curtains. I am not sure how the day will turn out. It does seem to be quite cloudy as I look out of the window now, but it is broken cloud with a few bits of blue still visible. Last night it rained for some time, but the ground seems dry now.

 After Fridays eating and drinking I felt slightly rough yesterday morning. After I had written yesterdays diary entry I went back to bed and managed an hour or two of poor sleep. Having finally washed and dressed my first priority was my laundry. After that I decided to look into Ruth's old PC. I discovered that it used a 66MHz Pentium processor, had 40MB of ram, and a 500MB hard disk. I took the hard disk out and connected it, via a USB adapter, to my Windows 2000 PC upstairs to copy all the files on it. That was succesful apart from two files that Windows said were incorrect (or something). It was all Ruth's data files that were the important bit, and those all succesfully copied across to my hard disk. There is a slight problem with those data files in as much as they were generated with an ancient version of Microsoft Works. Later versions of Microsoft Word will not open them directly, but using the option of "recover text from any file" opens them almost correctly, but they do need a bit of editing to get them perfect.

 The next thing I wanted to do was to make a disk image of the hard disk using PowerQuest Drive Image. My version of Drive Image does not work on Windows 2000 so I tried to do it with the drive back in Ruth's old PC. Drive Image reported the disk as bad, and it would no longer boot. Somehow Windows 2000 had corrupted the contents beyond where Scandisk could correct them. At that point I decided to give up on making the disk image  and went out to buy loads of junk food from Tesco's. That is a slight exageration. I did but some junk food, but mostly it was proper food supplies and another 50 blank (2 x 25) CDs in their ongoing buy one, get one free offer.

 After a large snack I ackled the PC again. Scandisk was starting to repair all the corruption on the hard disk, but it never totally succeeded. I used every trick I know to try and get the disk to boot. If I had succeded then the Windows version of Scandisk may have had more luck in curing the corruption (I had been using the DOS version on a boot disk initially). In the end I had to concede defeat and reformat the whole drive. I first attempted to load Windows 98 onto the blank disk but ran into problems immeadiately. The CD Rom drivers on a Windows 98 boot floppy would not recognise the CD drive in the machine. Fortunately I still have a working Windows 95 boot disk with CD drivers on it. That worked and I could now access the CD to load Windows 98. After a few mishaps I had Windows 98 running, but with a few serious errors. It could not work out the IRQ conflicts. Eventually I scrubbed the disk again and tried loading Windows 95. It worked a treat ! By that time I had taken out the modem and substituted it with a LAN card. In short time I was able to access my network, but with one minor problem. Internet Explorer 4 would not let me connect to my firewall control panel. It is a secure web page and Internet Explorer said it did not recognise the security certificate for it. I tried a few tricks, but had to find and old disk with Internet Explorer 5 on it. After the upgrade I was able to conect and control the firewall.

 A surpring amount of time had passed doing all that. I did have some breaks, particularly during the long process of installing Windows, but it was past midnight by the time I was happy with everything. This morning it booted correctly and I was able to connect to the internet and tune into Live 365 to listen to RFL on the internet. On the first attempt it crashed ! With only 48MB of memory, and a 66MHz processor it is working really hard and it must be using it's resources to the limit. The second attempt worked and I am now listening to internet radio on it succesfully. I am actually impressed that it is able to do this on such a low spec machine. All I have to do now is to try and think what I am going to do with the thing. I have no real use for it here, and most people would turn their nose up at such a lowly machine, although the fact is that for a bit of word processing, or "surfing the net" it is still quite usable. One thing it would be ideal for is running as a firewall. My current firewall is based on a load of old junk cobbled together, and it works rather well.

 There is one other thing I must try before adding the PC to my pile of other museum pieces. It is the right sort of age to match my OS/2 Warp installation CD's. I once managed to install OS/2 Warp on an old machine as an experiment, but it crashes everytime when try it on more modern hardware. That original installation was a brief experiment and I never kept it, but maybe I'll try it again and keep it if it works.

 Today there is little I have to do, but I think I will be spending some time away from PC experiments and go up to my studio and do some recording. Mostly I think I will be fairly lazy.

Saturday 18th December 2004
07.30 GMT

Weather - cold, dry and red sky
 I had a most pleasant time yesterday. It started with a visit to Patricia. She was looking good after a few days of rest, and was dressed up for her staff xmas dinner. It was the first time I have seen her wear a skirt. Usually she is wearing trousers which are probably far better to teach in. Her skirt suited her, and, she has nice legs ! Our time together was all too brief, and there were many interuptions, but it was great seeing her. I now have to be very patient and wait until January 4th to see her again.

 After seeing Patricia I had to go into "work" at the internet cafe. I had agreed with the boss that I would leave soon after 12.30 to get to the xmas dinner I was going to. So I was rather dismayed when he said he had to pop out and would not be long. I have come to realise that whatever time he says he will be out needs to be almost doubled. He did not get back until 13.05, or perhaps even a few minutes later than that. I eventually left there some 40 minutes later than I had intended.

 I haven't mentioned that by the time I left home yesterday it was pouring with rain. When I wrote yesterday it had not actually started, but I got wet walking to see Patricia, and totally soaked while walking between Patricia and work. The most unfortunate aspect of that was that I gained a nasty yellow stain on my clean shirt. It may have been the dye from the tie I was wearing, or maybe something else. It was very annoying as I was trying my best to look slightly smart for the xmas dinner. I managed to sponge much of the stain away, but still some remained.

 After two bus rides I turned up at the Barcelona "resturante y tapas bar" looking slightly dishevelled and with a faint stain on my shirt. I was the last one there, slightly late, but I did not miss that much. Inside I found Ruth, Max, Pat, Paul, Iain, Howard, and our host Ivor who very generously paid 50% of the bill. It was a pleasant meal with lots of bits and pieces to try although I think I would have preferred bigger portions and less choices, but it was not a bad compromise. I have promised that I will take Patricia there when I get my first real pay packet.

 When the meal had finished I went back to Ruth's place to get that pesky computer working. She has a really nice flat with plenty of space in it. There were two problems with the PC. The first was easy to solve. I had left it with the screen resolution set too high for her monitor. Resetting that was a piece of cake. The other problem was more tricky. For some reason the PC kept losing the hard disk. I had seen it happen here twice while I was setting it all up. It appeared then that windows, while crashing, was upsetting the BIOS and a cold reboot would cure the problem until windows did something silly again. In an attempt to cure the problem I changed the IDE ribbon cable and set the hard disk to cable select. So far that seems to have cured the problem and it work perfectly everytime we tried it. I just hope that is a permanent cure. If it fails again I will have no choice but to change the hard disk. Iain has generously donated an old 6.4 GB disk to me for use in such an emergency. The absolute last resort would be to change the motherboard. I do have an identical one here so it would not be a problem just a lot of fuss to do it.

 The last port of call before going home was a session in The Herne with Ruth, Iain and Howard. It must have been 21.30, or later, by the time we left there, and I was feeling quite "tipsy". I had avoided molesting Ruth in her own flat, but as we left the pub there was some serious hugging going on ! When I got home I was feeling very hungry. It was partly the fault of the beer, but the meal at lunchtime was really only a large snack. So I ordered a killer kebab and munched through that while slumped in front of the TV.

 Here are some photos taken recently using my crap Nokia phone........
The entrance to Focus Vision
Entrance to Focus Vision
My boss Philip with a new shop display
My "boss" Philip with new shop display
Ruth in The Herne
Ruth in The Herne
Ruth in her furry coat
Ruth with her furry coat on
Howard in The Herne
Howard in The Herne
Iain in The Herne
Iain after several ciders in The Herne
Paul, Ruth and Iain during xmas dinner
Paul, Ruth and Iain during xmas dinner
Max and Ivor holding his nose
Max and Ivor during xmas dinner

Friday 17th December 2004
06.10 GMT

Weather - cold and damp
 There are several reasons why I am very glad it is Friday. Topping the list is that I will be able to see Patricia this morning. It won't be for long, but it will possibly be the last time until the 4th of January next year. Other reasons include the usual end of the working week and a couple of days off. There is also a xmas dinner to look forward to today.

 Yesterday was not that good. I spent the morning in Focus Vision where I moaned about my work placement, but did not really achieve anything. The afternoon started with a one hour session in the pub opposite the internet cafe where my work placement is. That was sponsored by the boss of the cafe for reasons that I do not fully understand, although I do have some thoughts on the deeper meanings of it.From 13.30 until an unexpectedly late 16.15 I was left in sole charge of the cafe while the boss went to a meeting and did some banking. This was done as a favour to him, and in return I get the afternoon off today so I can go to the xmas dinner with Ivor, his staff, associates, and several other special guests. It is being left in sole charge of the shop that I hate about this work placement. Officially it is not supposed to happen, and it may be stopped now I have let slip to Focus Vision that it is happening. If it is stopped it will cause a great deal of upset because the only reason that the boss wants someone there is to cover for him when he is out on other business. He does not take in enough money to pay for an assistant, and so he abuses the system to get that help for free. For someone who enjoys that line of business it could work out well for them as the boss can be quite accomodating once you know him, but for me it is no enjoyment at all. I make it sound rather terrible, but it is not quite that bad. It is just that I would prefer to be placed somewhere where I could at least utilise some of the talents I really have in a more productive way.

 It is hard to predict how much time will be left after this afternoons xmas dinner (and drinking session), but if there is some time left I want to fix Ruth's new computer. I feel most guilty that it is not working properly after I presented it to her. The more significant thing at the moment is that her monitor cannot handle the resolution that I left the screen setting on. It is, presumably, a really old monitor and incapable of displaying a 800x600 screen. Ultimately I think I had better clean up one of my spare monitors and get that to her somehow, but in the interim I need to go into safe mode and drop the screen down to 600x480. That will be a temporary solution to that problem, but it also looks as if there is another problem with the hard disk. It happened to me once while I was setting it all up. It is as if the computer is failing to see the hard disk. There could be several reasons for that. It may be the hard disk itself, but it could be as simple as a dodgy IDE lead, or the disastrous situation that the motherboard is faulty. All these problems can be solved, and solved in Ruth's house, but it is one of those rare occasions when being able to drive and having a car boot full of spares would be most useful.

Thursday 16th December 2004
07.05 GMT

Weather - cold and damp
 There is not too much to tell about yesterday. I went to "work",  came home again, and then went to the pub in the evening. Work was a little less exciting than the day before, and I was not left on my own again. Today will be slightly different. This morning I am due in to Focus Vision for a morning of job searching, and to hand in my timesheets. In the afternoon I am supposed to be doing an external job search, but in fact I will be at the internet cafe minding it for a couple of hours. This is all unofficial and Focus Vision will blow their collective tops if they are reading this. I am not getting paid anything to mind the shop this afternoon, but will get the equivalent amount of hours off on Friday afternoon. It actually works out quite well as I am invited to the Media Services for Education xmas dinner on Friday afternoon. I don't think I will be able to get there early enough to eat, but I'll certainly join in the drinking afterwards.

 When I came in from the pub last night I sat down to watch the recording I had made of The Bill. I really don't know why I bother to watch it these days (I know I have said this before). It has descended into the mire of the lowest form of soap opera. It inspired a dream that I can remember a sufficient amount to describe. Some of the inspiration for the dream probably dates back to when I discovered where the location of the fictional Sun Hill police station is in Morden - just round the corner from where I had a job interview. In this dream I was working in the same building controlling internet access. At the time they were filming a special story involving some sort of retirement party, or something similar, and they had assembled many members of the old cast to play guest spots. Much of dream involved trying to get to speak to these old cast members to find out if they were as disappointed with how the series was going as I was. I don't recall actually getting to speak to anybody as they were either too busy or were the other side of locked doors, or through windows  - it could have been either. Maybe it would be more accurate to say I could see them through glass, but could not get to them.

 I'll be quite glad when today is over. Tomorrow morning will be my first, and last, opportunity to see Patricia before she disappears for xmas. She has been off work all this week but goes in for just the one day before the company closes down until the 4th of January. I miss her a lot after just 6 days, and the 4th of January next year seems a long way off. It is not impossible that I might see her before then, but it feels unlikely.

Wednesday 15th December 2004
06.10 GMT

Weather - cold and dry (rain later ?)
 Yesterday was not boring in the same sense that the day before was. During the afternoon things started moving a lot. There were many customers who came into the internet cafe where I am doing my work placement. Unfortunately the boss was out for several hours leaving me in charge of the shop. That I didn't like ! It was made worse by a group of five youths who I wanted to keep a special eye on. One of them, or perhaps one of their friends, was responsible for stealing a bag there some time ago. I really wanted to pop outside for a fag but didn't dare leave them alone in the shop. In the end it all passed without incident except that I had to turn several people away who wanted things that I do not yet know how to do - like topping up a mobile phone.

 After "work" I thought I still had enough energy to go over to Jodie and carry on assembling her Ikea furniture. In the hour I was there we made good progress, but once on the train home again I began to feel rather knackered. By the time I had done a few things here and cooked my dinner I was ready to slump in front of the TV for several hours. It wasn't quite as bad as that as I did do some other stuff in between watching TV. Later in the evening I began to feel reasonably OK again. I went up to bed at 22.00 not feeling all that sleepy so I read until 23.00. Once I had turned the light out I fell asleep within seconds. Unusually I woke at around 02.30 and went for a pee. I was not desperate for one so I am not sure what it was that woke me up.

 This morning I want to pop into Focus Vision to pick up some timesheets before going on the the internet cafe. It is on my way with no detours, and it won't make me more than a few minutes late. Yesterday I was waiting outside the shop for five minutes before it opened so I can't see there is any rush. On past experience (two days !) my timekeeping is far better than the shop owners.

 After "work" today I will go straight home and relax prior to a night at the pub with Kevin, Iain, and Howard. Having missed last week through lack of finances I shall be looking forward to it. My money is still tight, but I have been frugal enough lately to warrant spending some money tonight.

Tuesday 14th December 2004
06.35 GMT

Weather - cold and dry
 It was cold yesterday, very cold ! I started my workplacement at the internet cafe yesterday. I was there on time, but the owner did not turn up until I had waited outside in the freezing cold for nearly half an hour ! It gets worse - there was no heating until early in the afternoon. By then I was beginnning to feel chilled through to the bone. It was not until I was home and had eaten a hot meal that I felt the last of the chill dissipate. As I predicted there is not much going on at the shop. I am really only there to cover for the odd times that the owner is out doing other stuff.

 There is at least one plus point to being there. I am free to use the internet as I like and I have already downloaded the first two CD's of Fedora Core 3 Linux. There are two more CD's to download and then I'll see what else is available. I am not sure if I'll be going there for a second week, but I'll decide nearer the time.
The internet cafe shop counter
The counter at the internet cafe

 Not much happened after I got home yesterday. I had a hot meal and slowly thawed out while watching TV and doing some reading. I also listened to an episode of The Goon Show that was waiting for me on the hard disk of the PC upstairs. I went to bed fairly early, about 22.00, but kept awake reading until gone 23.30. Shortly before I woke up I had a disturbing dream. I was in my house, except it was not like this house. In the dream it was a 3, or 4, storey town house. Suddenly everything started shaking like there was an earthquake. I looked out the window and it was pouring with rain. I couldn't work out if it was an optical illusion, but it looked as if the house was sliding down the hill, or it may have just been the effect of the rain water gushing down the road. For some reason all I could see out the window was the road which was flooded. I had no other perspective to judge whether the house was moving and the flood waters stationary, or vice versa. The shaking was, in real life, probably an early morning train going by with wheel flats. I am not sure if that dream continued, or another started, but I decided to go to the pub. Outside the rain had stopped. In fact there was no real evidence that it had even rained. I was in the pub in no time and sat down with a glass of beer.I was at a table with people I knew, but I don't know who they were. One of the people was a woman who may have been Polish (or from somewhere similar). She was not that good looking but I was intrigued by the fact she was wearing a very thin and supple leather shirt. (do such things exist ?). I wanted to touch and feel it, but I did not know her well enough. Then I laid down across two chairs because I was feeling tired. I closed my eyes to rest them and the next thing I knew was that my alarm was going off and it was time to wake up for real. At least I assume it was for real. It is possible that as I sit here writing this it is still part of a very detailed dream.

 After the fiasco of waiting outside in the cold yesterday my times have changed. I will now be "working" from 09.30 to 15.30. That is a little annoying as I was hoping to get away from there as early as possible. As it is I have arranged to forego my lunch hour to get away earlier. Six hours in one shift is not bad, and as I am wasting my time for much of the day anyway it seems senseless to waste even more having a dinner break. A swig of diet coke and a fag is quite enough for lunch.

 After "work" I may go over to continue helping Jodie put together her furniture. After work, on Wednesday, I may sound out Ivor and Iain about the possibility of meeting for a quick pint in the Ladywell Tavern which is opposite the shop. I think 15.30 will probably be too early for them so I might compromise on the Railway Telegraph in Forest Hill. There is a direct bus to there, but the pub opposite would be more convenient. I am almost forgetting that I will be in The Ram on Wednesday night with Iain anyway. Maybe I'll forget about an after work drink until Friday afternoon.

Monday 13th December 2004
06.15 GMT

Weather - cold and overcast
 It's yet another cold grey morning. It is still some time until sunrise so it is difficult to desribe the sky, but it feels as if it will be grey all day. There is no frost, and there does not appear to be any mist, but it will still be unexciting to walk through the park this morning. Actually some fog or mist would make the walk a bit more interesting.

 Yesterday morning I had predicted that I would been going over to Jodie to continue assembling her furniture. It didn't happen. I phoned her up only to find that she had a hangover after a very late night/early morning clubbing session, and did not want to go out. It looks as if I am going to have to suffer the inconvenience of going over there after work one night this week.

 With no furniture assembling going on I had to amuse myself in alternate ways. I listened to 3 radio shows that have been sitting on the hard drive of the upstairs PC all week.I went to Tesco, and I did some battery charging. That last bit requires some explanation. I decided to test out some of my old mobile phones and charge their batteries up after months, or perhaps years, of neglect. The batteries on my old Nokia 2410 phone were totally flat and resisting a charge. This is not surprising. The last time I actualy used that phone the batteries were in very poor shape, and it was that which inspired ne to move onto a newer phone. By using brute force and ignorance I was able to force some charge into the batteries (I have 3 of them), and at least one may be good enough for about 7 or 8 hours of service - tiny by todays standards ! While I was at it I also charged up the battery in my Kenwood MiniDisk player as that has not been used in ages, and I also started to charge a couple of lead acid batteries that I have hanging around the place. That, together with some reading, some TV, and far too much eating, pretty well describes my day. Listed like that makes it sound rather boring, but it seemed to go quickly enough.

 Today I start my rather bizzare work placement - hence the mentions of work earlier. It is work, but not as we know it. Most significantly I do not get paid for it. It is meant to be a practice run for a real job, or at least that is what the powers that be tell me about it. I will obviously be able to say more about it once the first day is over, but in basic terms it is working in an internet cafe. The job is described as an I.T. job - except that I doubt there will be much I.T. involved in it. Or at least not in the way that I look at at it. By some descriptions I.T. can be little more than beng able to use Microsoft Word and Outlook Express. In other words just some basic office tasks. There could be some opportunities to repair (or break) the cafes network, but for the most part it looks as if my prime task is to look after the shop. Shop work, and n particular working in the front of a shop, is one of the last jobs I would really consider as a career. I think I would last it after professional sperm donor if I had to choose. Still, it should be an interesting experience, and we have agreed that I will probably only be doing it for a week at most. It is possible that it could turn out OK, but for the moment I am highly pessimistic about it. Having said that, I can foresee that there could be at least one useful point about being there. Provided there are CD burning facilities I can make use of the high speed downloads to gather a few Linux distribution ISO images. However, having seen the crud that passes for PCs at the place I am not too sure that CD burning is possible there. In another 2 hours I will start to learn the truth about it.

Sunday 12th December 2004
12.00 GMT

Weather - dull and cold
 I am sitting here with wet hair and almost shivering. There did not appear to be any frost this morning, but it is still pretty cold. I have had a long lay in after being up unto the early hours of the morning playing on the (this !) computer. I didn't achieve much for all those long hours, but it was entertaining anyway.

 Yesterday seems like a blur. I am not sure what I did for most of the morning, and much of the afternoon. I had intended to do some reading, and I did some some, but only a few magazine articles. Lee brought me round a new donation to my piles of junk. If I can get it working it will no longer be junk, but a much prized possesion. It is a 19 inch Liyama computer monitor. It has a fault on it at the moment, but it may be fixable for little outlay. I did give it a brief look at yesterday and discovered one dry joint. When I fired it up after resoldering that it went bang. I think it was the EHT flashing over, but I am not sure. I was working on it on the living room floor which is not the best place to try and do repairs. For the moment I am leaving it alone until I have prepared some space to have another go at it. I suspect that the flashover was around the CRT final anode nipple. This has in excess of 25 thousand volts on it nad needs careful handling. The voltage is "sealed" in by a rubber seal which is slightly damaged. Originally there was silicon rubber acting as an extra gasket. The problem I face is that once it is resealed I wont be able to do much work on the circuitry as the leads are too short. It poses an interesting dilemna that may take a long time to solve.

 The one thing I did yesterday that is worth a mention was to meet Scott in the local Weatherspoons pub. I had to give hime some things I had obtained for him to use as a xmas present. While in the pub I had two pints of De Koninck Ambrere ale which is brewed in Belgium. It was rather delicious ! I had inteneded to stay for only one pint, but I just had to have another !

 Today, or at least this afternoon, I think I will be going over to Jodie's flat to continue assembling the Ikea furniture I started last Monday. I want to leave there before the (almost) adjacent Tescos closes at 16.00. So it will mean some hard work to try and get it all done by then.

Saturday 11th December 2004
07.15 GMT

Weather - Thick frost !!!!
 It was a long day yesterday, or at least it felt it. I was up at 06.00 thinking I would be spending the day with Ivor, but that never worked out He phoned me at 07.30 to say he was stuck in horrendous traffic after one of the roads had been shut following an accident. So we decided to call it a day. That left plan "B".

 Plan "B" started with an early morning visit to Patricia where I gave her the xmas presents I had bought her. I would have liked to see her reaction when she opened them, but she is sticking to tradition and will not open them until xmas day.

 The next bit of plan "B", or in fact the rest of it, was to go out "trainspotting" with Kevin. Over the last year, perhaps a little longer in some cases, there have been several new types of trains introduced into service and we wanted to try them out. Over on our local line, The Mid Kent Line to Hayes, South East trains are slowly introducing the class 376 train. This is an inner suburban, high density train. So far there are only a few of them in service, but with some advance knowledge we were able to predict when one would be in service and managed to catch it from Catford Bridge to London Bridge. It was not specially good, but not bad. The best you can say about it was that so far it  was clean and unvandalised.

 From London Bridge we travelled to East Croydon in the declassified 1st class compartment of a 4CIG slam door unit. That was the best ride of the day. It was warm, comfortable and the ride quality was good as well. From East Croydon we took a train to Clapham Junction. This was on one of the relatively new class 377 units. That was unpleasant becuase it was packed and we had to stand all the way.

 Once at Clapham Junction we were able to see our main quarry. Southwest Trains have introduced two new trains both made by Siemens in Germany, and both carry the general name of Desiro. There is the class 444 train that is meant for long distance journeys, and the class 450 train for outer suburban work (see picture below - left). By sheer coincidence we were at Clapham Junction to see a steam train go through. This was a special excursion using the Orient Express Pullman carriages, and hauled by steam train "Taw Valley" disguised as "Ottery St Marys". It carried the Golden Arrow  headboard (see picture below - right) which was a bit inappropriate as the Golden Arrow was for the fast boat trains between Charing Cross and Dover.

 In short time we managed to get a class 450 train to Surbiton station (and back again). These are nice trains. The ride is smooth and the seating seems reasonably comfortable. On the negative side the air conditioning is a little loud, although it is only when it stops and starts do you realise how quiet it would be without it. Also the door opening/closing "buzzers" are very high pitched, and very  ear shattering loud if you stand in the wrong place.

 There then followed several trips back and forth between Clapham Junction and Waterloo trying to get a ride on a class 444 unit. There are few of these that stop at Clapham Junction, and as we were only travelling on zone 1 - 6 travelcards our only option would have been to travel between there and Waterloo. The next stop away from London would have been Woking - far outside zone 6 ! We did see one call at a platform where we were not expecting it to call. If we had run we may possibly have caught it, but reluctantly we decided to let it go in the hope that another would turn up. After several trips using a variety of stock (classes 159, 458 and 4CEP) we gave up and headed towards Victoria Station where we hoped to see the steam train come back to terminate at platform 2.

 When we got to Victoria there was no one about with cameras as there had been at Clapham Junction, and we thought that we may have received the wrong information about where the steam train was to terminate. In fact we got it right, and after waiting little more than 5 minutes it rolled in. One possible reason why there was not a throng of photographers was because it was so dark by then. Several pictures I took were just blurs, but I did get a couple of half reasonable shots while it was stationery at the buffer stops.

 Our route home was via Bromley South and we travelled in the declassified 1st class section of  4CEP 1697. It was a very packed train and just outside Victoria someone pulled the communication cord and the train came to a stop for 5 minutes. At Bromley South there was a 15 minute wait for a very dirty and vandalised class 465 "Networker" train to take us back to Catford station.

 Next stop was The Ram for two pints of Winter Warmer. I was pretty thirsty as I had not had anything to drink since 09.30 and it was now 18.00 (approx). The Winter Warmer went down a treat and did its job well. By the time we had got to the pub we were freezing. I forgot to mention that there was no heating on that last train. Not only was I feeling a little thirsty, I was hungry as well. I had not eaten for something like 19 hours and the beer did go to my head a little. After we left the pub and headed off to our own home I had several ideas about eating. Many of these involved expensive takeaways, but I noticed that Tesco's was still open. All that remained on the hot chicken counter had half price stickers on it so I grabbed some hot barbecued chicken quarters and a few other sundry items (all mostly at reduced prices) and finally got home to have a cheap mini feast.

 Today I will be mostly relaxing, but I may have a quick drink with Taz and Scott around lunchtime. It is now beginning to look as if it could be a brighter day than yesterday, but most of the day I will be staying in either reading or catching up with some of the radio recordings made from BBC 7 during the week.
Siemens Desiro train 450071 at Surbiton

The Golden Arrow at Clapham Junction

Friday 10th December 2004
06.10 GMT

Weather - dry and cold
 Yesterday was an interesting sort of day. The work placement interview was a doddle. Although it is supposed to be an I.T. basd job I suspect there will actually be very little real I.T. involved. At least some of my duties will involve minding the shop and dealing with the very few customers they actually get.I am not all that happy with it, but I will go along with it for the first week to see how I feel about it then.

 It was yesterday evening that was most challenging. I accompanied Patricia along to her son's school prize day. So I was able to meet her son for the first time, and I met her sister and kids as well. I had little chance to actually speak to any of them, but that was just as well as I had little to say anyway.
Pictured on the right is Emi with one of his certificates (being held up by Patricia)and the book tokens he won. The evening started with some of the school musicians playing several pieces. Most were rather dull and boring, and all were a bit rough round the edges. There were a pair of kids playing "blues guitar" who were not too bad. I even recognised that they were playing an instrumental version of "I Shot The Sherrif". If they had been accompanied by a half decent singer it may have been almost passable. Next was a very long speech by the headmaster which lasted twice the allocated amount of time. Then came the prize giving itself. The final "indignity" was a prayer by the priest attached to the school. I don't think I have mentioned that the school is a Catholic school where religion is taken very seriously. It is the first time I have been blessed by a Catholic priest. I can't say I feel any better for the experience, and it has not changed my views on religion in any way, although perhaps it has reinforced them. I don't like it, but each to their own.

 Coming home we just missed the train at Battersea Park station so we caught a bus to the Elephant and Castle and went our own different ways.
Emi with certificate
I headed to the mainline station and the rest changed buses to Peckham. It was a little worrying navigating all the subways at Elephant and Castle, but apart from a couple of panhandlers sleeping rough, there were no threatening people down there. I reached the sation with just one minute to run up all the stairs to catch the next train back to Catford. I was amazed that I was able to run up the stairs. I was puffing and panting, short on breath, but it felt like my legs still had plenty of power in them. I reached the plaform just as the train was opening its doors. Another 30 seconds later and I would have been doomed to wait another 30 minutes for the next train. Not waiting for the train at Battersea Park, and getting the bus, was a very good idea. If I had waited I would have reached Peckham Rye, where I would have changed trains, some 3 minutes later than the train I was actually on had passed through the station. That would have made for another almost 30 minute wait for the next one. It was a pretty full day as I did not get home until almost 22.00.

 Today I have, as I write this, some 20 minutes to get wshed and dressed before Ivor picks me up to spend a day in the warmth of his office, and an opportunity for a quick drink at lunchtime. I will also get to hear all the gossip from the meeting last night that I missed in favour of accompanying Patricia. I had better get a move on !

Thursday 9th December 2004
06.05 GMT

Weather - cold and dry again
 In some ways yesterday was an excellent day. I received the cheque for the shares I sold much earlier than I had anticipated. It is now posted off to my bank and I'll be back in the black very soon. On the strength of that I paid my mobile phone bill, and hopefully that should be working again very soon (perhaps it is already). Another achievment yesterday was to finish, and post, a application form for a job at the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification). It was possibly the most searching application form I have had to fill in, and required a lot of research to find out exact details of my employment history. It could be an interesting job if I get it, but I believe competition will be very stiff. It is the only job advert that I have ever responded to that specifically says they will not be able to answer all applications, and that anyone who does not get a reply by mid January should assume they have not been chosen.

 Yesterday afternoon was spent at Focus Vision. It is the afternoon sessions that I resent most, and yet Wednesday afternoons always seem very quiet and peaceful. I spent a lot of the afternoon reading through a science and technology supplememnt from The Guardian newspaper. It was not exactly thrilling, cutting edge, stuff, but a pleasant read anyway. After Focus Vision it was a brief stop at home before going on to visit Patricia.

 Today should be an interesting day. Normally I would be in Focus Vision all morning, but this morning I have an interview for a job placement. This is not for a real job, but part of the course by Focus Vision. In effect it is slave labour as it is unpaid. The job itself is supposed to be I.T.based in an internet café. If it turns out that they want me to make, or clear away and wash up, tea of coffee based substances I will just walk out. I won't mind sweeping the floors, or scrubbing the toilets, but I won't touch tea cups ! Th interview is at 10.30. After that I will pop into Focus Vision to hand in my time sheets, and then I ought to head into the Lewisham shopping centre where I have some business to transact (of an xmas present buying kind).

 It is late in the afternoon, and into the evening, that things get a little odd. I should be going to an old pirates meeting at Barming that I arranged, but instead I am off to a school prize giving ceremony. It is a little unfortunate that the dates have clashed like this, but I have to set priorities, and the school has won. It is Patricia's son, Emi, that I am going to see being awarded his two prizes for good behaviour, and for getting the only GCSE in his year for Leisure and Tourism. The latter is a strange sounding subject, but I gather it is a sort of twist on the subject that I knew better as Geography. This will be the first time I will have met Emi who Patricia jokingly calls my son ! It is not impossible, though I suspect unlikely, that one day he could be my (step)son. I will also be meeting Patricia's sister and her two kids and partner. So it will be a big(ish) family get together of a kind that I don't honestly like that much - especially as an almost outsider. Then again, at any family get together, even my own family, I feel almost like an outsider for some unexplained reason. I guess I am too used to being independant.

Wednesday 8th December 2004
06.50 GMT

Weather - dry and cold
 The weather lately has been rather monotonous. For something like the last week it has been very grey and overcast. I think the sun has broken through for a few odd minutes on one or two days, but mostly it has just been very grey. I don't mind the cold as it is expected at this time of year, but a bit of sunshine to break the monotony would be nice. I suppose I should be thankful that it has remained dry. There is nothing worse than having to go out in icy rain. Some snow would be OK though.

 Yesterday was a fairly good day apart from one small minor point.......no two points ! It started off with a brief visit to see Patricia before I went off to Focus Vision. They have found me another possible work placement at an internet café. I have no idea what they expect me to do there, but I will find out during an interview tomorrow morning.

 Once I had finished at Focus Vision I was supposed to go over to Jodie to continue assembling her Ikea flat-pack furniture. Unfortunately I had already made plans to meet Taz in Lewisham for a quick drink. As is often the case this went on a little longer than anticipated and I stayed in there for two pints (the second being generously bought by Taz). After an hour in the pub she dragged me off around the shops in Lewisham to show me a few places where I could buy a present for someone. She also gave me some inspiration about the present itself. By the time we split up and went our seperate ways it was too late to go to Jodie, and I was also feeling a bit weary and foot sore. I feel a little guilty about not going as I have had the pocket money for it up front (minor bad point number 1). It looks as if I won't be able to finish the work until Sunday now, although Friday might be a possibility.

 Back at home I felt really rather knackered and, after the two pints of beer, hungry as well. I didn't want to eat too much, or at all really, but I compromised with two plain slices of bread with a squirt of tomato ketchup on them. I had an hour to kill before I went to see Patricia again. So I had a flick around the TV channels and found something interesting on, I think, the Discovery channel. I then promptly fell asleep!  I woke up slightly late and feeling terrible. Once I was walking round the corner to see Patricia I felt much better again. It turned out to be a good idea that I was late because she was still working hard when I turned up. When she had finished work I walked her to the bus stop and the second bad thing of the day happened. Her bus was there instantly and I didn't get a chance to give her a quick cuddle and a kiss goodbye.

 I don't really know where the rest of the evening went after that. Some time was taken up cooking, and I did fill in the most difficult part of a job application - the supporting statements. I watched a couple of short TV programs and then went to bed to do some reading.

 This morning I was woken up at 05.30 by Nelly who was demanding her breakfast. That was half an hour before my alarm was due to go off and rather irritating. So I fed her, reset my alarm to 07.00, and tried to go back to sleep. I did manage some very light sleep, but not much. I can recall I had one very mixed up dream during the night. I was sitting at a table while Mike was receiving compensation for cutting his leg badly while geeting into, or maybe out off, a rowing boat during a company recreation exercise. I thought he was pulling a fast one as I was sure I remembered it as Phil who had cut his leg, but Mike had offered a pair of blood stained trousers as proof of his injury. That is a short desription of the dream. All through I though there was something wrong. At the time it was because I thought Mike was making a false claim, and that it was Phil who should be claiming. It was not until I woke up that I realised what was troubling me. Mike and Phil do not know each other as they worked for different companies. Phil used to work in BT with me, and Mike was the senior engineer at Mastercare.

 Today I do not have to go to Focus Vision until this afternoon. So my plan is to visit Patricia. Go to Tesco, and then finish the application form that I started yesterday. After that I think I will just be lazy for an hour, although I will probably be doing a job search to try and fill my quota of 4 job applications a week as required by Focus Vision. So far I have none because the application form I am filling in was recorded as an application last week.

Tuesday 7th December 2004
06.05 GMT

Weather - cold and dry
 It's another morning where it is cold and dry. Yesterday was almost mild, but it feels colder this morning. There may have been a touch of frost during the night. A car parked almost outside the front of my house looks damps with condensation, or it may be melted frost.

 I spent most of yesterday morning waiting for a visit from a council official to check on my council tax benefit. It worries me that they know something that I don't. Apparently now I have been visited at home my claim can continue, with no form filling, for  ten years. I was expecting some grumpy old git to do the visit, but it turned out to be a fairly pleasant, 30 something, young woman with a slight lisp. I got my "revenge" for the inconvenience of waiting in all morning by overloading her with information about my finances. I started off with my two joke items. These being my two old Post Office savings books. One has 5p in it, and the other 15/- (or 75p in decimal money). I assume these accounts are still open, and the council do want to know everything about my finances.

 My afternoon was spent assembling some flat-pack furniture for Jodie at her new flat. I met her, and her mum, outside Tesco's in Elmers End. I had already been told that I would get a couple of "drinking vouchers" for doing the work, but I was surprised when her mum thrust £30 in my hand. Half of that was short lived when it turned out that Jodie did not have any tools to put the furniture together. The last time I assembled some Ikea made furniture it only needed an Allen Key to put it together, and one came with the kit. This time was rather different and we had to take a longish walk to a shop almost next door to where I worked at Mastercare. I bought a set of screwdrivers and a small hammer. These I presented to Jodie as her xmas present. It was not the sort of thing she would normally enjoy as a xmas present, but they will probably end up being more useful in the long term than some shiny, but otherwise useless, something or another.

 It took a long time just to assemble one chest of drawers, but with 6 drawers to assemble as well as the shell, there was a lot to assemble. I think we made good time, but I was too late to get back to Catford to visit Patricia before she went home. It looks as if this afternoon I will be back there tackling a wardrobe. I think there may be less pieces in the wardrobe so it may assemble a lot quicker than the chest of drawers. At least this time we have all the tools and do not have to waste time going out shopping for them. If there is any time left there is also a bed to assemble, but today I definitely want to get away in time to visit Patricia.

Monday 6th December 2004
06.00 GMT

Weather - still cold and dry
 The poverty game is still going well. I have managed to make one 2l bottle of diet coke last 3 days now instead of half a day, and one packet of fags last two days instead of half a day. It is possible that I have actually smoked more fags this last weekend, but by far the vast majority of them have been horrible roll-ups. Yesterdays food was a bit more lavish than Saturday. I had a stew of cheap  white fish, tinned new potatoes and peas. As an added luxury I also had two slices of bread.

 There is little to report about yesterday. I spent the morning, and a little of the afternoon doing audio stuff on the upstairs PC, and the rest of the afternoon doing some electronic stuff.It is rather strange that I apparently have little to show for all that, and yet it seems I had little spare time to do anything else. I did elect to go to bed at 21.00, but spent the next two hours in bed reading.

 Part of today is planned and the rest I'll be making up as I go along. I want to make a quick visit to Patricia, but I have to be back home before 09.00 to wait for some people from the council to come round and check all my council tax benefit details. They are scheduled to arrive any time between 09.00 and 13.00. If I am unlucky they will not be arriving until almost 13.00 and I'll be waiting around twiddling my thumbs all morning. Once they have gone I have several choices. Possibly the most appealing is to go and help Jodie make up some flat pack furniture in her new flat. That idea is appealing because she claims her mum might give me some beer money for doing it. Under any normal circumstances I would refuse any money for helping out like that, but these are not normal circumstances. Anything offered will be gratefully received.

Sunday 5th December 2004
07.10 GMT

Weather - cold and dry
 To cope with my serious cash flow situation I have been partially emulating scrooge. Yesterday went fairly well. I had thought about not eating , but that seemed to go too far. Besides which, I did go to meet my ex-workmates in the pub yesterday, and after a couple of beers the idea of no food at all rapidly evaporated. It had been my intention to just pop into the pub and say hello while distributing some xmas cards. I only too £1.50 with me to avoid the temptation to buy beer. That money was purely for fares, and a bit spare. In fact it was just the loose change I had lying around without touching the £13 in notes and pound coins that is my budget for the next fortnight. To save a bit I went to the pub on the bus. It is a very tedious journey, but with my New Deal photocard only cost 40p. My intended short visit to the pub turned out a lot longer than that. I had a pint of beer thrust upon me almost before I had sat down, and another bought for me before that one was even finshed. It was only two pints, but I didn't fancy that long tortuous journey home on a bus so I went home on the train.

 I was home again by about 17.30 and I managed to hang on until 20.00 before I decided I just had to have some breakfast. That was 4 slices of toast and a tin of baked beans - student fodder ! I'm not sure what I will be eating today, but it is liable to involve a pair of kippers if they are not already past their use by date. Of course all this bragging about economy measures is really rather boring, but by making a virtue out of it I can cope with it far more easily. Besides which a smaller intake of food can only do me some good. This is dieting by stealth !

 I am also trying to economise on my intake of fags. Nicotine cravings are far worse than hunger pains so my economies here are considerably less. Although I have managed to cut down a little. It is probably another good reason to curtail all my drinking appointments. Beer and fags just go so well together, and by avoiding the former I can make huge economies on the latter. Another way of cutting down on fags it to try and spend more time with Patricia. Somehow I seem to have naturally developed the knack of not smoking (much) when I am with her. The most amount of time I am with her tends to be no more than 90 minutes, and I can survive that whole time with very few cravings (of the nicotine kind). Once I have waved goodbye to her I am usually desperate for a fag. I think there is an opportunity coming up when I will be able to spend several hours with her. Maybe I will be asking for a hug everytime I need a fag and see if I can get by that way.

 Today I might spend a couple of hours in my studio, or I might spend a couple of hours in my workshop. Maybe I'll do both and do a third thing as well. The third thing is to possibly try and do a good demonstration piece of my prowess in using Paint Shop Pro. On Friday, while I was with Ivor at work, I was teaching the professional how to use the clone brush to remove an item of jewelery from a photograph. Although I am lousy as an artist, I have learned a lot about electronically manipulating pictures to remove defects, or just to tart them up a bit. Maybe there is some money to be made in offering my services to do just that. I can't conceive of it being a full time profession, but a few quid here, and a few quid there for occasional commisions would help to buy a few beers now and then.

Saturday 4th December 2004
06.30 GMT

Weather - cold and dry
 Yesterday was not too bad. I spent the day with Ivor at work. I did a few chores and got free beer and a sandwich at lunchtime ! Ruth got her "new" PC and I got more beer for that. It was when I got home that things started to go wrong. There was a letter from my bank telling me that a direct debit had failed and I was going to be stung for more bank charges. Then when I tried to use my mobile phone I found that had been cut off for, presumably, non payment. Now that does seem a little premature as I am only 7 days late paying the bill. I think it is some kind of cock-up. Last month I had a reminder letter from the company warning me my phone would be cut off even though I had paid the bill. This has happened since I have been paying the bill by electronic funds transfer. They do not seem to realise that the bill has been paid by this method. All it took was a single call to sort it all out, but it will be tricky this time as I am waiting for a cheque to be paid into my bank account to get that back in the black before I can pay the mobile bill. It seems my finances are in a bit of a mess at the moment and I am going to have to cancel all my drinking appointments for the rest of the month (and maybe for some time into the new year).

 The problem with cancelling drinking appointments starts with today. It is the first Saturday of the month and after missing it for the last 3 times I have had two of my ex work colleagues contact me about our monthly meetings. I think I am going to have to make an appearance, but I think it will be a very quick, and probably dry, visit. I'll just hand out some xmas cards and go home again. After that, the next headache is this coming Thursday. That is when the next old pirates meeting takes place. As the organiser I ought to be there, but last time I relied heavily on charity and it would be unfair to do so again. I don't know what I am going to do about it.

 So today I will be spending a little time writing out some xmas cards (fortunately I have plenty left over from previous years). I will do a quick trip to Elmers End to hand them out. I will probably spend a couple of hours in my studio, and maybe a couple of hours in my workshop designing a gadget for Ivor which he has offered money for.

Friday 3rd December 2004
06.00 GMT

Weather - very cold and clear
 I am surprised that there does not appear to be a frost this morning. It feels icy cold at the moment. This morning I have to be up and dressed very early. Ivor is picking me up as early as 07.30 this morning, and I am going to spend the day at work with him. It is an interesting diversion that will prevent me spending some money I don't have, and may be worth a few free beers. Originally I was going to buy a Travelcard and spend a day out with Kevin sampling some of the new breeds of trains that are now running around the London rail network. It would have been a fairly cheap day out, but still have used up some of my dwindling money supplies. Of course spending the day with Ivor will inevitably involve one, or more, visits to a pub, but I hope to earn some free beer by doing a few odd jobs for him.

 Later on I hope to meet up with Ruth to give her the "new" PC that I have built up for her. Five years ago (maybe a little more) it would have been worth around £800 when new, but now it is little more than a collection of odd leftovers. I have put in an old TV card and my original CD burner to enhance the spec on it. It is not too bad a spec even now. It uses a 300MHz Intel Celeron processor with 192MB of RAM. For internet and office type work it does not seem to be noticably slower than my 1.4GHz Athlon PC. It might get noticably slower if she were to do a lot of mpeg encoding, but for her needs it should be pretty good. I am swapping it for her old PC and some more free beer. I am curious as to what her old PC actually is. I have my suspicions that it could be an old 486 running Windows 3.1, but it may have anything between DOS and Windows 95 on it. Hopefully it will be Windows 95 as the learning curve for mastering Windows ME, and all the other software I have loaded on it may be rather steep for her. It may well be that Sophie (her kid) will be able to handle it better than Ruth can. I think I heard mention that Sophie has had some use of a PC at school so she will be partially familiar with modern versions of Windows.

 It is probably time I had a shower and got dressed now.

Thursday 2nd December 2004
06.05 GMT

Weather - cold and dry
 I only managed one drinking session yesterday. It was the second one with Kevin. Iain and Howard that went ahead. The first one with Patricia and her workmates was called off when a couple of people from other offices could not make it.It would have been nice to go, and yet in two ways it was convenient that I did not go. It saved me a little money, and the second session was a five pinter. Five pints of Winter Warmer is probably enough for any evening. It may be that I am still a little drunk, but as yet I do not have a hangover. My guts are a little bloated though, and I had to get up earlier than my alarm was set to go to the toilet.

 It seems as if I have another potential job possibility. I was rung yesterday afternoon by some job agency (whose name I did not catch) asking if I was interested in a 3 month contract working for a company in Epsom, Surrey.The job is for testing and inspecting (and maybe repair) of PCB's used in the aeronautical industry. If anything happens it could be very fast. Apparently the company wants someone NOW ! They will be studying my C.V. today and if they like it I could start very soon. Apparently it may not even need a job interview. I wasn't too sure about having to get to Epsom, but I had an idea I could get there from Forest Hill station. I did mention this when I was first phoned. An hour later the chap phoned me back and said he had checked on the www.nationalrail.co.uk website and found it was a straightforward journey lasting as little as 35 minutes. In fact it could be a little less than that. During that second call I asked if the company was within walking distance of the station. He checked a map and found that it was little more than 5 minutes walk from Ewell station which is one stop closer than Epsom. If it goes through in the haste that has been suggested I could be offered the chance to start as soon as Monday. In fact that could be a little too soon as I would have to spend some time at the job centre going through the signing off paperwork. It will also be a bit of a shame that as it is only a short contract, rather than a permanent job, I will not be eligible for all, possibly any, of the benefits that could come my way. Nevertheless if it is offered I will jump at it. I need some wages, and I need them fast !

 This morning sees me back for a morning session at Focus Vision (possibly going in via Patricia). Then in the afternoon I should be going to The Herne. There are some complications there. Iain is not at work today and he has Ruth's new PC in the boot of his car. One of the reasons of going to The Herne was to hand over the PC to Ruth. Iain will be seeing Ivor early this morning so he could give the PC to him to bring to he pub, but it gets more complicated. Ruth tends to get to the pub at about the time Ivor leaves it. Iain will be going to the pub, but not until about 17.00. The complication is that potentially I would have to spend a long time in the pub with very few resources to keep me in beer or company. I haven't made a very good job of explaing the timings involved in all this, but in my imagination I can just about picture what will be going on, and when, and it leaves me in a bit of a quandary as to how to plan my movements.I think some phone calls will be needed to try and coordinate a plan of action.

 Right now I am somewhat relieved to realise what the semi loud crash I heard 45 minutes ago was. I was just about to sit on the toilet, still half dazed with sleep, when I heard a crashing sound. By the time I had come to my senses it was over and I have been puzzling about it ever since. I wasn't sure if it had come from within the house, outside the house, or perhaps a little way from the house. I brief check revealed nothing amiss inside the house, and a brief look outisde the house showed that the fences were still standing and the roof appeared to be still on the house. Until just a moment ago I had assumed the noise may have been from a fox jumping over the fence, or something similar. A few moments ago I realised a more plausible explanation. Today is dustbin day and while I have been typing this paragraph the dustmen have gone clattering, and crashing by the front of the house. 45 minutes ago they were probably doing a road at the back of the house.

Wednesday 1st December 2004
07.10 GMT

Weather - cold and dry
 Sometimes life plays unexpected tricks on you. After several late nights I decided that I would try and get to bed early, and that I would turn off my alarm clock as I do not have to be in at Focus Vision until this afternoon. I did get to bed by about 22.30, but I did read in bed for 40 minutes at least. So it was not that much of an early night, but an improvement on recent nights. I was expecting to sleep through to, maybe, 08.00. It didn't happen ! By some sort of perversity I woke up at 05.30 - a full 30 minutes before my alarm would have gone off had it been set. Once awake I had no choice but to get up and go to the toilet. Once my business in there was finished I went back to bed and fell asleep fairly quickly. I awoke again at 07.00 and decided that I would really get up. I don't think I can blame it on Nelly for waking up then. I can't recall her meowing for her breakfast so I assume I must have had sufficient sleep. I am not sure if it feels that way, but I do feel less blurry eyed than yesterday morning.

 All last night the sky was very clear so I was expecting a thick frost this morning but there is none. The sky is now looking grey. I can't tell if it is because the sun is not really up yet, or whether it is cloud or a high mist. Yesterday there was a lot of bright, if rather cool, sunshine. It lifted the spirits after the gloom of the previous days.

 My last hour in bed produced some interesting dreams. It seems I have remembered hardly any dreaming lately, but I can recall, and describe at least a part of a dream from this morning. Much of what I can recall is rather blurry except for one little bit. This one dream (or maybe several small ones that blend together) was set in the London Underground. I can't recall doing any actual travelling, but I was obviously in different stations at different times.There were lots of tunnels involved which I am sure Freud would comment on ! The one thing that sticks in my mind is that I had this gizmo like a small, hand held, portable computer. By holding it over the stations on a map of the Underground (presumably a special map) it would enable you to view the departure screens at that particular location. I discovered that the pictures were actually CCTV images of the real departure screen and that it would also pick up the pictures from any CCTV camera on the underground system. I thought it a great way to see if any unusual trains were running on the system. The last I remember of that dream was trying to figure out away of recording the pictures from the device.

 This morning I have a couple of job applications to type out. I must also go out and buy Nelly some more "crunchies" as she seems to have gotten through the last small packet rather quickly. Other than that I do not think I have any plans for this morning. As I have mentioned this afternoon is another boring session at Focus Vision. It will be early evening before the day gets interesting. At 17.30 I am due to meet Patricia in a local pub for the official unofficial works xmas drink. I believe that they will be having an official xmas meal with the bosses in a fortnights time, but this is just a drink for the workers. From all my visits I know the staff at Catford very well, and there will be at least two other people from another branch who I have met at least once before. Once again I feel very honoured that Patricia should invite me along.  We will only be in the pub for about an hour so I will have plenty of time before going out again for the night session with Kevin, Iain and Howard.

Copyright - Bill Kelsey 2004