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The leaves have nearly fallen, and the early morning frosts will be here soon.

autumn leaves in Ladywell Park


Tuesday 30th November 2004
06.10 GMT

Weather - cold and dry
 I feel knackered ! There was a fascinating programme on BBC 4 TV last night about the jet stream. I didn't realise how long the programme was when I started watching it. It did not finish until 23.30, and consequently by the time I had got to bed it was already midnight. Add another 30 minutes for my brain to slow down, and I went to sleep sometime around 00.30. That gave me just five  and a half hours worth of sleep. Hence I am barely awake now.

 Yesterday started fairly slowly. I visited Patricia early in the morning, and Tesco straight after that. Next I sorted out selling some shares. This time it is my BT shares. They are not worth much, about £275 after tax and commision etc, but it should get my bank balance back in the black once it is paid in. Unfortuntately I couldn't be bothered to go and post the documents off in the morning, and forgot in the afternoon. It will be my first priority when I go out this morning.The rest of the morning, and into the early part of the afternoon I was very lazy. I did some reading and listened to a radio show, or two.

 It was mid afternoon when I decided that I ought to tackle the PC I am building for Ruth. It had a weird problem where everytime I opened up the control panel the windows explorer program would crash. I was hoping that re-installing Windows over the top of itself may have cured it. It didn't ! A search on the internet did not offer any help, but it did provide one important clue. All the applets on the control panel take the form of files with a cpl file extension. I had already suspected that the fault was related to the installation of the modem software. Once I combined these two facts a cure was possible. I searched for all files with an extension of cpl. By right clicking them in the search panel it is posible to open them up the same as if they were on the control panel. I found two instances of a file called mca.cpl. One would open up as the  properties editor for the modem, and the other appeared to do nothing. I dragged that latter one into the waste bin and tried again. Control panel still caused a crash. So I renamed the other one as a .bak file and now everything worked just fine. I am at a loss to explain why Windows explorer was getting so upset about that file as it appeared to work fine by itself. So that files now remains inactive. It was only for setting the international options of the modem, and unless the PC is taken abroad it will never need to be changed ever again.

 The final bit of work needed on that PC was to replace a slightly dodgy CDROM drive. The original one had difficulties with some older CDR disks. I have now donated my original CD burner drive to the machine. When I first bought it back in 1997 (?) it cost nearly £200, now a CD burner costs less than £30. It was a bit of a cherished antique, but it was really only gathering dust. Now it may have a chance to earn its living again.

 This afternoon I will contact Ruth and see what she wants to do about getting the PC to her. Perhaps she will pick it up, or maybe we will have to rope Iain in to do a delivery or something. It will be fascinating to find out what antique dinosaur of a PC I will be getting back from Ruth as a swap. I have my suspicions that it may be an old 486 running windows 3.11 ! In which case I am going to have to prepare myself for giving "driving lessons" for the new PC.

 This morning my time is taken up with a session at Focus Vision. I have little idea how I will end up spending the afternoon, but it may well include a long nap ! As an afterthought, just before I hit the save button, I suppose it would be a rather good idea to get Decembers diary page set up ready to fill some details in tomorrow morning.

Monday 29th November 2004
06.15 GMT

Weather - cold and damp
 It's another of those mornings where it seems there is nothing much to say until I get writing and things start coming back to me. After writing that one sentence my mind still seems rather blank.

 Most of yesterday revolves around one single 30 Megabyte file. It took 3 hours to produe it and several more hours to finalise it (it is actually a large audio file). Once fully prepared I attempted to upload it to a remote server. I say attempted because I did not succeeed in doing so. My internet connection times out after 2 hours, and it would have taken nearly 3 hours to upload. The file transfer program I use, Gftp, can resume a broken upload, but I think it needs the cooperation of the server to do so. I managed to upload about 17 Megabytes before the connection was lost. When I attempted to resume the transfer it started from the beginning again.  I think I will be transferring this file via CD-R disk direct to the recipient. In future I think I will be slightly less ambitious.

 All that messing about with that one single file left me little ime to get on with anything else. I had intended to spend a little more time to finish the PC I am cobbling together for Ruth. I hope that I'll be able to finish it today as it is fairly important, but even more important is for me to sell some more of my shares to raise some cash.

Sunday 28th November 2004
07.30 GMT

Weather - rain
 After yesterday's gloomy start things did get a little better. The day seemed to pass fairly quickly, and it seems I had plenty to do.  A large portion of the day was spent in getting a PC built up forRuth. It is now complete, although it still needs some work done on it.  I think it was after installing the modem software that it developed a strange fault. Everytime you go into the windows control panel the explorer program crashes with an unknown fault. I think one way round this is to re-install Windows over the top of itself. Originally I used Windows ME on the machine, but I am thinking it may be better to use Windows 2000 instead. I only had a 4 GB hard disk available, which is rather small, so I did not want to use too much of that space just for Windows itself. That rules out the rather bloated windows XP, but I may get away with Windows 2000 - just ! It would have the advantage that I could set up seperate accounts for Ruth and her daughter with only Ruth having administrator rights. It is a tempting idea, but then there is the worry that some of the hardware may not be well supported by Windows 2000. Perhaps it would be better to just try installing Windows ME over the top of itself and see if that cures the problem.

 As much as I am tempted to press on with the PC building I do have a few other things that I should be getting on with. Some radio recording ought to be very high on my "to do" lists today. In fact after eating, drinking, sleeping and farting it is really my number one priority. I don't actually feel like doing it at the moment. After not going to bed until nearly 02.00 this morning, I am going back to bed for another hour. Once I am up again, washed and dressed, I may feel more enthusiastic about it.

Saturday 27th November 2004
10.15 GMT

Weather - slightly grey and slightly mild
 This time next month all the xmas festivities will be over - if there were any to begin with. All that will be left to totally ignore will be new years eve, and new years day. If I sound a bit down it is because I am. It could be the pain from all the diodes down my left hand side, or it could be some more real things. It has been an enjoyable week with many good things about it but...............

 Over the last four months I have grown incredibly close to Patricia. Far more than I would ever had dared to imagine back in July. In turn I know that she has grown close to me, and yet I know, with only the tiniest room for error, the crushing truth that no matter how close we have become we seem destined never to actually connect. Not only that but.......................

 My finances seem to be very shaky at the moment. I thought that I could possibly ride the month out, but it seems inevitable that I am going to occur some bad bank charges next month. I do have a contingency plan that involves selling some more of my few remaining shares, but I'll never get that done in time now to save me.

 There is one other lttle irritation - spam. I don't want to receive any spam e-mails, but I accept that some is almost inevitable.  In fact I get very little spam, but what I do get is very, very boring ! All I get is mortgage offers while others get exciting drugs offered to them, or bizarre sexual things. No, all I get is boring mortgages. I haven't even had any Nigerians trying to scam me !

 Yesterday seemed like a busy day. Some of it was spent copying a copy protected audio CD. That was a strange experience. I was convinced that the Linux program GRIP would do the job. In the past it has shrugged off many other copy protected CD's, but yesterday it was a Windows program, FreeRip, that came up trumps. Then I spent some time with graphic files. As part of a job application I had to upload scans of my academic certificates to the potential employer. Luckily I had already scanned all my certificates in high resolution so all I had to do was to resave the files at a far lower resolution. I did do some picture scanning though. I am making some pages for another website and I needed to use some photos on it. I was pleased with the reults I obtained from certain photographs that started out as quite poor, but looked reasonably presentable after a lot of processing. A few may be a little over contrasty, but they are perfectly good for what they need to illustrate. (You will be able to view the results of my endeavours here - )

 Today I have two projects on the go. I mentioned both yesterday. They are to prepare a PC for Ruth, and to do some radio stuff. Either, or both, may not get finished today, but I should at least make a good start on them.

Friday 26th November 2004
06.40 GMT

Weather - dark and cold
 It seems to be slightly colder this morning, or maybe it just feels as if it ought to be after feeling the chill when I came out of the pub last night. Yesterday was a bit of a boozy day. The morning was spent at Focus Vision doing pointless job searches. As usual I found nothing new, but I did find another potential job while searching the internet before I let home. Once my session at Focus Vision was over I had the afternoon free.

 I had very little time at home before heading out again in the direction of The Herne. After a few pints I was going to leave again with Ivor. He was off to a doctors appointment and would be able to drop me off in Catford nice and early and still sober. Just as we were leaving Ruth came into the pub and I was talked into staying for another pint, or two. We were later joined by Ruth's kid, Sophie, after she had finished at school. In a strange twist of fate I was once again, for the second time, cast in the role of an imaginary father. This time it was actually rather different. I have never really talked with Sophie before, but I was persuaded to help her with her science homework.

 There had been an idea behind my original plan to leave the pub early. It was so I would be able to go for a drink with Kevin in the evening after he had not been able to make the usual Wednesday night session. In the end we did leave The Herne a lot earlier than I would have predicted, and I was home again by about 18.00 (perhaps a little earlier). By 20.00 I had eaten and prepared myself for another drink. So I phoned Kevin and found that he was on a load of drugs and couldn't really go drinking that night. That was slightly unfortunate because Iain had also planned to meet us. So although I would really have preferred to have an early night I still had to go to the pub. It was a pleasant enough drink, but we may as well have stayed at home. After one pint the Winter Warmer ran out for me, and there was no Strongbow cider for Iain. For the rest of the evening I had to drink ordinary beer, and Iain was grimacing his way through pints of Fosters shandy.

 Today (and a lot of the weekend) will see me quite busy. I will be popping in to see Patricia before 09.00. After that I really ought to buy some food as the cupboards are almost bare again. Possibly the next task is to prepare a load of electronic copies of my certificates to upload to a job recruiter. After that I have a bit of a choice in the order that I do the next tasks. These include writing a web page or two, setting up a PC for Ruth, and a load of radio programme stuff. Right now I had better go take a shower and get dressed so I can get out early.

Thursday 25th November 2004
06.10 GMT

Weather - dry and mild
 Last night was totally surreal. I did manage to swap sessions at Focus Vision and take the afternoon off to accompany Patricia to the school open day. It was the first time in many a year that I have sat at those small school tables and chairs in a school hall. I had decided to dress for the occasion, and for the first time in something like 10 years I had a tie on. Many of the teachers seemed to assume that I was Patricia's husband, and her kids dad. We had a good giggle about this, but it was only one teacher who learned the truth that I was just a friend and "bodyguard". He sat down with me while Patricia was collecting a cup of coffee and started to tell me how well Emi was doing at school. I had to stop him and tell him to wait until Patricia came back. I suppose that with a bit more front I could have let him tell me all the stuff and relate it back to Patricia later, but my nerve went. I suppose that in a very odd sort of way I did enjoy my 20 minutes of mock fatherhood, but I couldn't help point out that if I were to suffer the pains of fatherhood again I really ought to be enjoying some of the pleasures that go with it (ahem !).

 By the time I saw Patricia onto her bus from her nearest station it was getting fairly late. By the time I got home again I had less than 20 minutes before I had to go out again to meet Iain and Howard in The Ram. I spent that time sending off a quick e-mail to one of Patricia's friends to tell her the evening had gone. With my time up I did not get a chance to change clothes. I think it caused a bit of a stir when I turned up in the pub wearing a shirt and tie. Iain was so astonished that he got his camera phone out and took a picture of me. Four pints of Winter Warmer and I was finally home and able to have my breakfast. Considering that by the time it was cooked it was after midnight I suppose it was really this mornings breakfast, but that means I did not eat a single meal yesterday. Although I will admit I did eat a piece of  cheese that was big enough to make a sandwich (which if I had any bread it would have been used for), and several polo mints during the course of the day, but that is all. After those pints of Winter Warmer I did feel just a little hungry when I came in after the pub.

 Today starts with another session at Focus Vision in the morning. The afternoon gets a little more interesting as I should be able to make it to The Herne and have another boozing session with Iain (again), probably Howard (again), Ivor and maybe Ruth. The whole session will be paid for by the £16 worth of loose change (all 1p and 2p coins !) that I gave to Iain to change to real cash for me. If I survive that intact there is also the possibility of an extra session in The Ram with Kevin later on in the night. I think the chance of that is slim, but it remains a possibility. Once again I am not sure where I will fit a meal into today. I may have some food in The Herne, but the cost of that would cut into my drinking money. Perhaps all this lack of eating will make up for the excesses of the weekend.

Wednesday 24th November 2004
06.15 GMT

Weather - cloudy but dry and mild
 Yesterday morning was dominated by a session at Focus Vision. They seem to have swapped some staff from their Woolwich branch to the Ladywell branch. So there was another "getting to know you" with "getting to motivate you" session, and I had my 4 weekly review. The 4 weekly review was a mere formality, but the other session was an irritation that was admittedly done with the best motives.  I think the lady who tried to motivate me while getting to know me was called Alison, but my memory for names is shocking. She was pleasant enough, and obviously very dedicated to her job, but it was an irritation to have my morning disturbed like that. Although having said that, it was a minor source of amusement as well. The fun started with her making the incorrect assumption that just because I was reading a newspaper I was not seriously looking for work. She asked if I had tried looking for jobs on the internet and I was able to truthfully answer "not for at least 2 hours". I then explained how I get up around 6am and spend some time on the internet looking for work before I even go in to Focus Vision. She was further taken aback by the idea that I had recently been for two job interviews and was waiting the outcome of them. Lastly she started coming out with some psychology mumbo jumbo about how my job seeking was being slowed down because I was angry with my previous employer. I failed to make the connection on that idea. It could be said that I was angry with my last employer, but I would suggest that ridicule is slightly different to anger. Besides which it it only economic necessity that drives me to seek a new job. While I had a surplus of cash I could afford to be highly selective (and relaxed) about finding a new source of income.

 That long chat did force me to reassess my situation, but not in the intended way. I think my brain has finally flipped. By tradition I have never done any homework except on some occasions where a bare necessity was needed to ward off higher forms of punishment. Now though I find that I am relying totally on homework. All the jobs I have found, and applied for, I have found while using my own resources at, or near, home. All my typing is done on this PC I am using now. It is only the fact that I can claim a £50 bonus from Focus Vision if I do get a job while on the course that I would give Focus Vision any credit for helping me. Perhaps that is slightly unfair. They did pay for a second class stamp to post off at least one job application that stands a credible chance of success.

 My next session at Focus Vision is supposed to be this afternoon, but I may change it to this morning. I suspect it will be frowned upon, but I may be able to find a credible excuse for it. I may need to get a train at 15.49 to go to a school open day with Patricia. If I can work out a way that sounds credible of describing it as useful to my job seeking it will be accepted as a valid excuse for changing my session around.

 Apart from the traditional Wednesday night drink with Iain and Howard, but not Kevin for this night, that just about sums up my forthcoming day.

Tuesday 23rd November 2004
06.30 GMT

Weather - mild and dry
 Of all the possible futures that might be coming to me, there is one I had not even remotely considered. I am not even sure if it is a real possibility yet, or just a joke taken out of context. I had suggested to me that I might end up retiring to Argentina in ten years time. It is an intriguing idea that, like a ride on a rollercoaster, is both very scary and very exciting. Would I, or wouldn't I ?  Well anything could happen in ten years time so there is no point in considering it further, but if the offer was seriously there in ten years time I think I would give it some serious consideration.

 Yesterday was quite productive in all the wrong ways. Instead of searching for work (very necessary if I needed to save hard for the next ten years) I spent all the afternoon editing , and cleaning up, some old audio files. The one bit of "productivity" that I could definitely have done without was producing smoke from my media hard drive. I have, or had (!), a 120GB hard drive that has nearly all my audio archives on it. Yesterday afternoon a small plume of smoke rose from it and it died. There is a small, 8 pin, I.C. on the control PCB that has died violently. Fortunately 75% of the data is backed up, and the rest is replaceable with a lot of hard work. There may be a way to recover it all though. I have persuaded Ivor and/or Iain that they need a new hard drive and given them my old one to try and buy an exact duplicate of mine. If they can get one I can borrow the control PCB from it to get my drive going long enough to decant all the data from it before returning the PCB back to its rightful drive. There is also a tiny chance that if I can identify the I.C. that has blown up I may be able to replace it. On my drive the damage means that I cannot read the number of the I.C. Even if I can find a replacement I.C. it may not do any good, I have a suspicion it is a memory chip  which would be useless without the data stored on it, but I think I would still have a go anyway.

 Today I have to waste the morning by going into Focus Vision for some job searching (read as reading old newspapers). During the afternoon I am free again. There are only two thing that spring to mind that I want to do. One is to print a couple of pictures, and the other is to investigate selling some more shares to raise some more beer money.

Monday 22nd November 2004
06.05 GMT

Weather - cold and wet
 This morning it all looks very wet outside. There is not enough light to see if it raining, or if it is just heavy condensation. It is cold as well, but apparently today will be much warmer than the previous few days. My extra blanket kept almost all of my nice and warm during the night, except that I found I had left my left foot outside the duvet and blanket. When I woke up that one foot was freezing !

 I never did get around to experimenting on my Redhat Linux PC as I suggested I might yesterday morning. Instead I spent many hours experimenting with audio file compression on the PC upstairs. I converted a rather large file into several shades of mp3, mp3PRO, ogg, aac, wma, mp4 and rm formats. The best trade between file size and quality was most definitely ogg and mp3PRO. I did turn up some strange anomolies. The rm, or Real Media file ended up sounding good, but it produced a huge file some three times the size of an mp3 or ogg file. At the same time it claimed it would use less bandwidth if streamed over the internet than those smaller files. Now I am aware that an rm stream can contain different bit rates to suit different connection speeds, but my one was specifically encoded to just suit one speed. How then do they claim that that it is possible to squeeze a bigger file down a limited bandwidth connection compared to a smaller file of the same audio duration ?  It will be interesting to see how later encoders for aac files (a format favoured by Apple) perform. The freeware one I downloaded was incredibly slow, and although it did produce a fairly compact file, the audio quality sounded pretty rough. I remember the earlier free mp3 encoders. They too were slow and the results were often disappointing. Perhaps a later generation of aac encoders will manage a better job.

 That is about all there is to say about yesterday. It was a day when not much happened, but it seems to have happened quite fast.

 Today I do not have to go into Focus Vision, or at least I don't think I have to. There is not much planning involved for today, but those plans assume I have a free hand in how I spend my time. At some point I will have to devote some time to searching for more jobs to apply for, but that is just a formality I will try and fit in between other things. I have an application form for a job that is going to need another close read to see if there is any way I can generate enough bullshit to make it even worthwhile sending it in. This particular job uses the word technician in the same way that certain trendy pen pushers think that a workshop is somewhere you go to talk crap instead of actually a place to do work !

 One of my first plans for this morning is to visit Patricia. I had an odd unexplained notion that she may have been having a difficult time on Saturday night. I am 99.9% sure that it was my over active imagination, but I want to go and check she is alright anyway. After that I have some shopping to do. I would normally have done that over the weekend, but I did not get round to it. My food stores are very low at the moment. I think I am down to one ready made, frozen, chicken curry and a can of chilli con carne. At some pint I will have to work out how to get a CDR to Iain. The most obvious way is a visit to a pub, but I have spent all my beer money on the curry last Saturday night. I'll have to think of something else.

Sunday 21st November 2004
09.10 GMT

Weather - overcast, damp and cold
 Yesterday mornng I felt cold in bed. It was even worse after I went back to bed after writing yesterdays diary. So I put an extra blanket on my bed. That worked wonders. Last night I felt that the bed was too hot at first, but this morning I woke up feeling as snug as a bug in a rug ! And that is why I am up so late this morning. Although having something stuck on my mind, on infinite replay, did not help me getting to sleep very early.

 I spent most of yesterday afternoon being creative in my studio. What started out as a short project seemed to take ages, but it all finished now and I can relax for the rest of the day. I say I can relax, but I doubt that I will be doing all that much of it. I still have my little project involving Redhat Linux spread all round the room here. My next task on that is to set up BIND which is a local DNS server (I think). If it works as I think it will work I will be able access any of my local web pages just by using a private domain name instead of having to rememeber, and type, an I.P. address.

 Going back to last night (sorry if everything is out of chronlogical order today), after "working" so hard during the afternoon I decided to treat myself to a curry. There is a new, or maybe renamed, resturant that has shoved a menu through my door recently, and I thought I would try them out. They specialise in Sri Lankan cooking. The main dishes are fairly cheap so I guessed that they may be small portions and I ordered two main dishes. One was devilled chicken, and the other mutton raffna. My guess about the size was correct and the devilled chicken made for an excellent starter. Both were rather different to the normal curry house fare. I think the ingredient that was most unusual was probably basil leaves, or some leaves with a similar taste to basil. It all made for a very pleasant meal. Unfortunately I have now spent most of my beer money for the week, but I'm sure I can find some money for Wednesday night.

Saturday 20th November 2004
07.00 GMT

Weather - clear and frosty
 After all my moaning about it yesterday, the job interview actually went well. I was late getting there after I missed my preferred train by one minute, and my last chance train was delayed by seven minutes. Out of courtesy I did phone to say what what happening, and suggested I could be at least 10 minutes late. They were very relaxed about it and told me not to worry about it. I actually bettered my estimate and turned up puffing and panting just five minutes late. It is difficult to tell just how well the interview went from their side, but I enjoyed myself. My interviewer was most pleasant. Although I had hinted at it on my C.V. he seemed to know that Mastercare were just a bunch of cowboys and we talked mainly about my time in BT. The job itself is for an instrument calibration technician. So many of the questions were about physics with an obvious bias towards measurement. I found it very enjoyable to drag up all my schoolboy physics and I was able to provide the correct answers to all the questions with very little prompting. I managed to ascertain that the offered pay is just a starting point, and that there could be opportunities to improve upon it. So I have done a complete about face and I now think I want the job. I will hear nothing for two weeks, and then, if I am lucky, I will be on a very short list for a second final interview.

 I took the long way home after the interview as I thought I might. It was a reasonably fast way of getting home. I am just slightly annoyed that I did not pay more attention to the time it took. I know that I took the 11.50 train from Elmstead Woods to London Bridge. I was considering hanging around there for a little while just to see what trains were about. It didn't seem very interesting so I took the first train back to Catford. As I approached my house I saw my neighbour working on his motorbike and stopped for a chat that probably lasted 10 minutes. Once inside a few minutes were spent changing into my indoor clothes, and possibly a minute or two in the toilet. I then made up a couple of sandwiches. My next time reference came as I switched on the TV and found the 13.00 news just starting. So from Elmstead Woods station to home took, at maximum, 1hr and 10 mins, but realistically under 1 hour. I would hazard a guess that it took something like 15 minutes from leaving the interview to getting on the train at Elmsteads Woods. So even taking the long route home, the journey time is less than that to Morden where my other chance of a job lies. The short route, using a local bus to Grove Park station, may take as little as 30 minutes if all goes to plan.

 Once that interview was out of the way I was free to pursue my own agenda. There was actually very little to it. The only thing of significance was to take my camera along to Patricia to get some fresh pictures to post on her little private message group. The first ones I posted went down very well with her friends in Argentina, and I hope that these go down equally as well. One shows Patricia with her work colleagues Debbie and Maurice, and one, horror of horrors, has me in it !

 I don't have many plans for today beyond the usual Saturday chores, but I may spend some time in my studio. My next immediate move is to check my e-mail and then I am going back to bed. Primarily it is to warm up after sitting down here with no heating on, but I may grab some extra sleep as well.

Friday 19th November 2004
06.45 GMT

Weather - cold and dry
 It seems I told a little lie yesterday. I said it was drying out after overnight rain. It was not !  I got soaked several times yesterday. It rained when I walked across the park to Focus Vision. It rained when I walked home again. It rained when I went to see Patricia. It rained while I escorted her to Catford Bridge railway station, and it rained while I walked home from there via Tesco's. I think it has stopped now. I do not want to turn up for an interview this morning looking like a drowned rat. Yesterday that would have been a certainty. With luck it will stay dry at least until after I have got into the interview. It is too early to tell yet, but the weather forecasters suggested it may have been a partially clear night. I know it did not start out that way as it was raining as I tried to get to sleep last night.It does seem to be getting lighter slightly earlier than I think I would have expected, so maybe most of the cloud has drifted away. It certainly feel cold this morning, and it could have been worse if the sky had cleared earlier in the night. The weather forecasters have suggested that this afternoon will be sunny. That would cheer me up no end.

 In some ways I consider that this mornings job interview to be an inconvenience. It is probably because I am not sure if I even want the job, and I have doubts that I will be able to get enough enthusiasm together for a good interview. The job appears to be poorly paid, and the travelling is slightly awkward considering the location is not that far away. It will almost certainly involve changing from a bus to a train, although it is possible that a change of buses could be an alternative way of getting there. For today I will be taking the route I know, and I'll investigate further if the rather unlikely occasion arises that they offer me a job.

 Once the interview is over I had several thoughts about how I would spend the rest of the day. I will be in possesion of a travelcard so I could go anywhere and do anything. One option could be to go to The Herne. I haven't been there for a long time, but it would be an expensive option. I think it far more likely that I will take the scenic route home via London Bridge, and then just chill out for the afternoon. Another thing against going to The Herne is that I want to be sober, and on time, to visit Patricia. I promised I would tell her how the interview went, and I think she is bringing in some photos for me to see. Besides those two reasons there is also the fact that I want to see her anyway.

 I suppose I had better go and get myself ready for this morning. I have to shower and wash my hair, and then I still have to finish filling out a rather long application form. I have filled out most of it, but there is some info that I need to look up.

Thursday 18th November 2004
07.00 GMT

Weather - drying after overnight rain
 Another late night ! This time I can blame it on going to the pub. I had several pints of the wonderful Winter Warmer, and that was enough to break down any resistance I had to watching The Bill, recorded while I was in the pub, even though I was already overdue for some quality sleep before I had even left the pub. So another passes without my full eight hours of beauty sleep. These past few nights of only six hours sleep (a little less last night) are taking their toll on me. I am feeling slightly low with sporadic short bouts of depression. The recent attacks on smoking and obesity by the governments feel far too personal, and all this enforced job seeking is getting me down. I am being forced to apply for jobs that I do not really want to do, or in places I do not want to work, just to keep my quota of job applications up to the required four a week. Before going in to Focus Vision this morning I will be forced to do some creative thinking to reach my quota for this week. The overall effect of all this is that there are some days when I do not even want a job. To a certain extent that is always true. It is only economic neccesity that forces me to think otherwise, but even that thinking can break down on occasions, and I just feel like being left alone to follow my own desires and pursuits.

 All is not doom and gloom though. There are a few bright spots to be had now and then. My relationship with Patricia seems to be still growing. She has now invited me to join a very close knit internet news group that appears to consist of just her friends and family. I feel most honoured even though I don't really know anything about it yet. I have a strong suspicion that much of it will be conducted in Spanish. That would be tricky ! As I mentioned yesterday, I am learning Spanish in a very slow and informal way. I estimate my vocabulary is now up to 0.0001% of the Spanish language, and my understanding of the grammar, and verb construction to be only lagging behind that by a factor of several hundred. At my current rate of progress I should be able to conduct very short, very simple conversations in Spanish by this time next year. Another year after that I may be able to understand what the other person is saying, and they may be able to understand what it is I am trying to say. This is not easy for me. Some people seem to have a knack of learning a second, or even third or more, languages easily, but not me. I have to admit I am only trying to do it to impress Patricia. In fact it is probably having the opposite effect as I ruthlessly mangle her native language. Luckily she is a patient teacher who is not really expecting results. All the while she is around (which sadly may not be forever - another reason for some deep introspection lately) I will keep plodding on. It is just possible, although at this stage it seems rather unlikely, that I will reach that Eureka stage when a great veil is lifted and suddenly it all makes sense. I have achieved that in the sciences many times, but I can't recall it ever happening in the arts.

 This morning is another session at Focus Vision searching for jobs. In other words, another three hours of my dwindling life will be spent bored out of my skull reading old newspapers in a futile effort to look for jobs that do not exist. This afternoon is all my own. I will mentally prepare for another job interview on Friday morning. This job sounds as if it might be interesting, but is very poorly paid and in an awkward location to get to by public transport from here. I do not have that much enthusiasm for the job, although if offered it I am more or less forced to take it. Even then I may still keep looking for a better job. I am still rather pinning my hopes on the Linux computer based job in Morden where I had the interview a week ago. The travelling for that is simple, and should be fairly reliable, even though it is quite a distance to travel.

 At this point I think it is time to go and do my creative thinking for my job search records that have to be handed in today. I have about an hour to search for three job, write application letters and get them in the post. I also have to have a shower and get dressed in that hour. I wonder if I'll make it ?

Wednesday 17th November 2004
06.05 GMT

Weather - cold and dark
 Ideally I should have liked to have an extra hour in bed this morning. I stayed up a bit too late watching a fascinating documentary about the early efforts of the British space race. I already knew some of the history of our efforts to get a decent space launcher, but it was nice to see a very comprehensive view of it. I wonder what we might have achieved by today if the government had not lost its nerve in the past. It does seem a tradegy that we pulled out just as all the money spent, and all the research carried out, was starting to pay dividends. The very last thing done was the very successful launching of a small satelite using the Black Arrow launch vehicle. According to the documentary this was done just a year, or two, before small satelite launches became big business. It would not have been so bad if the project had been merely mothballed instead of totally shut down. The reason it was shut down was, of course, money. It was perceived as too expensive even though the budget for it was microscopic compared with the money being spent by NASA.

 Yesterday morning was spent at Focus Vision. Mostly it was boring, but I did finally see someone who, whilst being slightly irritating, did seem to know what he was taling about. Amongst other things we discussed my two interviews I had last Thursday. I expressed my surprise that after what appeared to be a succsessful interview I had a very contradictory report about it from one person at Focus Vision. At the interview itself I was told that my knowledge and experience seemed quite good, a fact backed up by similar praise during the afternoon interview for an almost identical type of work, while the feedback I got was that I was not considered good enough. At that first interview I was told that there was not enough work on to give me a work placement. This sounded quite plausible to me. As it was to be only a work placement there was no competition as such, no wages were involved, and if I did turn out to be unsuitable I could just be sent back to Focus Vision at the drop of a hat. The chap I was talking to yesterday is going to look into it. He claims to know the person who interviewed me on Thursday and will attempt to find the definitive truth about it.

 Yesterday afternoon was spent relaxing and listening to more old radio recordings. I am slowly catching up with all the stuff sitting on the hard drive waiting to be listened to. Later on in the afternoon I went for my Spanish lessons. My vocabulary is now up to a competent 2 year old. If I can carry on seeing Patricia for the next twenty years I may even be able to order a pint of beer in fluent Spanish. I am absolutely hopeless at languages. It's hard enough just speaking English when my native language is gibberish ! Having said that, I do sometimes surprise myself. Some of the Spanish I learnt at school (probably about three words !) is coming back to me, and on very rare occasions I do recognise individual words when Spanish is being spoken (even if I don't know what they mean). One huge difficulty that I don't know if I will ever overcome is attempting to pronouce Spanish with something like a Spanish accent. I suspect in the odd moment when I throw caution to the wind and try and say something it comes out sounding like Spanish spoken by a Russian with a sore throat. I am not even sure why I am bothering. Except that it feels nice to be able to say "buenos manaña mi señora favorito", which I hope translates to "good morning my favourite lady" because I sent an e-mail starting with those words last night.

 Today I have the morning to myself, and this afternoon I am back at Focus Vision. This morning I need to visit the building society. It is next door to where Patricia works so I may pay her a surprise visit. Later on in the morning I have a fairly long application form to fill in prior to the next job interview on Friday morning. Once that is out of the way, and I have done a little job searching, I will be able to put my feet up until it is time to head off to Focus Vision. This evening it is Wednesday night in The Catford Ram as usual.

Tuesday 16th November 2004
06.10 GMT

Weather - cold
 So, those crazy bastards are really going to do it - ban smoking in pubs. Now I am really beginning to hate Osama Bin Laden, and all those other weird terrorist people. Thanks to them security is so tight that I stand no chance of exploding my dirty bomb in, or under, the House Of Commons. The 50 Lbs of Plutonium, carefully scraped off the trees around Windscale, and 20 tons of carefully selected old dog ends will now have to go to waste. Perhaps I should become a suicide smoker and stand outside Westminster, when the wind is in the right direction, and chain smoke until they all die of secondary smoke inhalation.

 I didn't really do much yesterday. Some considerable amount of time was spent trying to find out how to enable setting zero length passwords for Redhat Linux 9. I say a considerable amount of time in so much as it was wasted time. After a lot of research on the internet, and many experiments, I have had to give up and admit I can't do it. I suppose it was not a complete waste of time as I did learn a few more things about the inner workings of Linux. As far as I can make out, the file that contains the rules for passwords is rewritten whenever Redhat starts up. Presumably it is coded directly into the kernel as a special Redhat modification.

 Some time was passed in tidying up, and listening to, some of my radio shows recorded from BBC 7. I deleted the two part Midwich Cuckoos as I already have that archived. Listened to yesterdays Goon Show, and a dealt with a few other shows. One show that was recorded on Sunday was an episode of Much Binding In The Marsh from 1953. It was hailed as a bit of a classic, but for me it was an interesting insight into the roots of later shows. One of its stars was Kenneth Horne. He went on to star in Beyond Our Ken which followed much the same format, but with more emphasis on him as a central character. In turn, Beyond Our Ken, changed into Round The Horne - still roughly following the same format, but now more innovative (and risqué). The programme I heard of the greatest significance was a dramatisation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy. Lasting a whole hour, this is being broadcast in the 18.00 hr slot on Sundays. Last Sunday (14th Nov) was the first of an unknown amount of episodes.

 Today sees me spending the morning, most likely bored out of my skull, at Focus Vision where I should be conducting some sort of intensive job search. I have already found a couple more jobs to apply for. They are not my first choice of job, but jobs I could do. More importantly it gets Focus Vision off my back for another day. A similar type of job that I applied for a week or two ago has brought some results in as much as I got a call to attend an interview this coming Friday. I am not sure if I have the original job advert here to find out exactly what I have applied for. I may have to retrieve it from Focus Vision. As I recall it was for a fairly poorly paid instrument technician.

 This afternoon I am free again. I have no real plans for then, but I do have a few things I ought to be getting on with. One thing is for sure it will not involve money. I have had to tighten my belt a lot recently (as the saying goes) to eke out my dwindling money supply.

Monday 15th November 2004
06.15 GMT

Weather - cold, but no frost
 With no frost this morning it must be warmer than yesterday morning. It doesn;'t feel like it !!!! I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like ice. I had partly uncovered myself while having a bad dream about chasing a small mutant monkey away from beneath the U bend of the toilet. Or at least I think that was what I was dreaming about. It's not my usual sort of dream material. Later in the night my dreams reflected what had been going on during the day. I was dreaming about servers, IP addresses, domain names, Linux configuration, and other computer related stuff.

 Almost all of yesterday afternoon and evening I was experimenting with a fresh installation of Red Hat Linux 9. Most of my Linux experience has been gained using Mandrake Linux and it was interesting to compare the two. It seems that Mandrake has more thorough configuration tools, although they are prone to making mistakes in my experience. Red Hat Linux has simplified the configuration tools. They seem to work better than Mandrake's version, but any fine tuning has to be done by hand editing configuration files. I think I would prefer a compromise between the two.

 The installation of Red Hat went very smoothly, and I had a working system with a minimum of fuss. At this point I ran into my first problem. I could not find a was of altering the login rules. As it is only an experimental installation I want to be able to log myself in without using a password, but by default a password of a minimum of six characters is required. Mandrake provides a graphical editor to change these rules, but it looks as if the only way I will be able to achieve this on Red Hat is to try and find where those rules are kept and manualy edit the file.

 One of the aims of this experiment was to play with servers, and in particular the Apache web server. Without refering to any documentation (which I don't have anyway) I managed to get Apache up and running and serving copies of my website across my home network. There is still a lot of tweaking to do, but I'm off to a good start. I also learned how to set up the dchp server in my Smoothwall firewall box to allocate a fixed I.P. address to my various machines. ( I could set the machines themselves to a fixed I.P. address, but this method was a little simpler). Further aims, for the future, include setting up a DNS server for my local network, and an ftp server. The last aim will be to attach a modem to the box and see if I can run it like a micro nano scale ISP. It will be some achievement to get all that working, and I think I have a long and frustrating time up ahead, but it will still be a valuable learning experience even if I do not manage to finish it all.

 Today I do not have to go into Focus Vision as I am on external job searches all day. It will be tempting to play with the Red Hat box all day, but there are other priorities. I have found another job to apply for, and I'll be looking for others. I am still rather hoping that the job I was interviewed for last week will be offered to me, but I suppose I have to keep all my options open.

Sunday 14th November 2004
07.30 GMT

Weather - Frosty
 The weather forecasters seem to have got it right. This morning the skies are clear and there is frost on the cars outside. At least I think it is frost. It could be a heavy dew. Without going outside to get a closer look I can't be 100% sure. What I do know is that when I opened the door to let Nelly out the cold air rolled in and across my feet, and it felt very numbing and artic lke.

 Yesterday did have some lazy aspects to it. UK Gold were showing some really ancient, black and white, episodes of Steptoe And Son. I had to sit down and watch a few of those. There was also a film on Channel Five called Tomorrow Man that I watched early in the evening. However I did carry out all my chores. I did the shopping (but forgot the washing powder so I will have to get that today). I did most of my laundry (using the very last of the washing powder), and I did take a very long look at the G3 MAC power supply. Without some further information I think that power supply has reached the end of its life. It has blown up in the most electrically destructive way.  It needs a blanket change of parts, but some bits are not easily identifiable as they do not seem to have recognisable part numbers. The control I.C. seems to have a custom part number, although it is probably something better known by a more usual part number if only I knew what it was. I think the best options are either to find a replacement supply, maybe second hand, or bodge a standard PC supply to fit it. I have already taken steps to identify the connections needed, but I am missing information on two wires. There are legends on the PCB that identify most wires, but some are covered by hard resin (Araldite I think) and it is exceedingly difficult to remove that without removing the printed legends with it. My one hope is that there is some information printed on the motherboard - which is not here.

 I had far more luck when I attempted the repair of an old PC power supply. I thought it may be useful in case it could possibly power the G3 MAC at some point. This power supply had not died violently, and it seems it was just a transistor on a small sub board that must have died in its sleep. That sub board generates the standby supply which is only a couple of Watts, or even less. The only suitable replacement transistor I could find lying around my workshop was originally specified for a TV power supply of a couple of hundred Watts. It is a little bigger than the, it would be truer to say it is a lot bigger than the original. It is now leading such a light life that it will still probably be working when the sun turns into a red giant many millions of years from now.

 I have an idea for today that I may get round to doing. It is to install a Linux distribution onto one of my spare PC's and see if I can get an Apache web server set up and working. This has no practical application, but it could be a useful educational exercise for me if I do get the job over in Morden. Ideally, to match their usual distribution, I should base it on SuSe Linux, but I am not sure if I have a full copy of that lying around. I do have something, but I think it is only a live evaluation version that cannot be installed. I may instead opt for Fedora Core 2 which is sufficiently close to the incredibly common Red Hat Linux used on many web servers. On the other hand I might watch TV and listen to the radio, but I do feel that old urge to do some sort of experimentation.

Saturday 13th November 2004
08.15 GMT

Weather - clear and almost frosty
 The sky seems very clear this morning, and the sun is just about peeping over the tops of the nearby houses. I saw a weather forecast suggesting that tomorrow morning we might have the first frost. It certainly feels very cold this morning, and probably not far short of frost. So another clear night will probably be all that is required for the temperature to dip below zero.

 I've had a bit of a lie in this morning. I didn't really get any extra sleep because I went to bed fairly late last night. I feel sort of groggy at the moment after waking up rather suddenly from a dream that was heading off into an unpleasant direction. I was in my ex-doctors surgery, for some reason that I can't remember, and he was telling me that part of the treatment (for what ?) was to circumcise me. Now that is a tricky idea at the best of times, but when he tells me he has no anaesthetic and starts cleaning up an instrument that looks suspiciously like a pair of garden secaturs, it is time to wake up fast !!! I can recall lots of little dreamlets that I had during the night. None of them seem to have a beginning or end, and the bits I remember only seem to last a few seconds. A few of them have some common bits that could be edited together to make some sort of story line, and some feature a few of the same people. Actually, as I do my best to recall some of these people, I really only come up with the same person twice. That person was definitely Patricia except that on both occasions she had long blond hair like Imogen used to have so many years ago. In one instance we were both sitting on the top deck of a bus when several people I know got on. In the other instance I was wandering around my old school trying to conceal a fag I was smoking. The only way I could dispose of it was to go into the toilets and use some water from a washbasin to put it out so I could safely put it in a waste bin. I had just put the fag out when Patricia came in and said she had been looking all over the place trying to find me. The final bit of dream I remember was very surreal. I was outside my house doing something that needed a little concentration. It may have been doing up a shoelace, but I am not sure. All I know is that I was oblivious to the world around me as I did whatever it was. As I looked up a man (or a woman) walked by wearing an old style ambulance uniform. I saw what looked like snow on the eppalettes (spelling ?) of the uniform. So I looked around and saw that it was snowing, and about an inch of snow had fallen while I was doing whatever I was doing.

 Those dreams followed a day that was mostly dull with just one or two exceptions. The first exception was using a program called adult directions. This was at Focus Visions as part of my intensive activity programme. The name Adult Directions would probably come up with many hits if entered into Google, but in this particular case it is a program that is supposed to help you find jobs that suit your temperament and skills. I have to admit that it did actually name some of the things that I want to do already, and some that I have thought about, but it also came up with a few weird suggestions. In some cases this was down to the writers not having enough imagination. As an example, by answering the question about driving and ticking the box that I can't drive, it did eliminate jobs where driving was obviously needed. It did not eliminate jobs like Geology Technician where, as stated in their own job description, you may have to go out an collect samples. Some of those samples may be adjacent to The Mid Kent Line to Hayes, but probably many are in the middle of nowhere. Do they want me to go on hiking trips across the Yorkshire Moors ??? Among the more unusual suggestions for jobs were "Plastics Processing Machine Setter" (what ??), "Glassmaker", and "Watch And Clock Repairer" (with my eyes ???). The other exception to a dull day was seeing Patricia.

 Today could be fairly lazy in some respects. I have to do the usual Saturday tasks of laundry and shopping, but after that my only other important task is to try not to forget that I have power supply to try and repair. It is out of Ivor and Iain's G3 MAC. So it is bound to be a little weird. Apparently it first sulked and then went bang - very loudly ! The prognosis is not good. Once a switch mode power supply has gone bang like that many parts could be damaged. With no circuit diagram to work from it may be almost impossible to repair. One possible alternative is to try and fit in the PCB from a standard PC power supply into the casing of the MAC one. It is a shame that my workshop is going to be freezing at this time of year so I will have to try and warm it up before going in there.

Friday 12th November 2004
06.50 GMT

Weather - cold and grey
 Yesterday started off bright and fine. It was really very pleasant for a November morning. I set off for my first interview, my hangover ringing in my head, giving myself plenty of time to get there. I found it was even closer than I had imagined it to be. I was there 15 minutes before the appointed time and found the place locked up with the shutters in place. This slightly worried me and it did occur to me that I might be at the wrong address. Ten minutes before my appointment a car pulled up and its occupants, a man and a woman, proceeded to open the place up. I gave them five minutes to get their coats off before ringing at the front door.

 The company is run by a husband and wife team, and it was the husband who showed me in and conducted the interview. We talked about this and that. Some technical and some just filling in time. Interestingly, during the whole interview, I was probably being filmed by a Kodak camera being used as a web cam. I can't be sure that it was actually on, but I did not let it bother me. At the end of the interview the truth came out - they are not sure if they have enough work to actually use someone on a job placement. My interpretation was that they had been dumped on by Focus Vision who made the assumption that because they had been used once, they would be happy to be used every time. It was also done in extreme haste. My interviewer had not even had a chance to read my C.V. before I got there.

 With interview one out of the way I decided to take the scenic route home. To make life simple I needed to buy a one day Travelcard for interview two and went to Forest Hill railway station to buy it. ( The first journey of the day was made too early to use a one day Travelcard). I went home via London Bridge where I could do 20 minutes of train spotting while waiting for the next Hayes service to take me home again. It was nice to see a smattering of slam door trains still in service. All with comfortable seats and nice sturdy construction unlike the new plastic trains that are replacing them.

 At home I had a couple of hours to kill before setting out to interview two. I was beginning to feel a bit tired after a late and boozy night. In the end I had a snooze and predictably woke up feeling really groggy. I was still feeling rather groggy when I set off for interview two. I gave myself plenty of time to get there (there being Morden). It is a simple journey, but deceptively long. The first stage was my old journey to work before the dreaded move to Erith - a train to Elmers End. I then changed to the Croydon Tramlink for the 40 minute trip to Morden Road tram stop. It took a little time, and one false start, to orientate myself before plunging into the intensely industrial area where my interview was to take place. From there it was a fairly short walk to my final destination which was practically next door to the fictional Sun Hill police station as used for the filming of The Bill. I had often wondered where it was. It is easily recognised, and the powerful lights simulating sunlight on some external windows were a bit of a giveaway.

 I had allowed a lot of time to get there, and much of it was needed, but I actually got there 20 to 25 minutes early. I waited around outside until I was bored before announcing myself ast the front door still 15 minutes early. I was quite impressed with what I saw of the set up. It is hard to describe the atmosphere there, but it was a very positive one. It was both relaxed and yet still business like. I got the impression they work hard and play hard. The two sides of that are best illustrated by the awards proudly displayed on the walls, and the full drum kit set up in the sales office. I think I could very much at home there.

 The interview itself was very pleasant. There were no funny or tricky questions of the sort we are warned about and I was more than happy to just be myself. I was set two logic puzzles to solve. The first was very easy. It was to guess a number between 1 and 100. There is a name for the process I used which is probably something like a binary search. I did find my mental arithmetic slightly foggy and resorted to a scrap of paper, but I got there using the shortest route possible. The second test I sort of failed because I had the right solution but failed to realise it. The trap I fell into was wanting to verify my result after finding the correct solution. That might sound a bit cryptic, but it would take too long to explain what it was all about.

 I think, or at least I hope, I came away leaving a good impression of myself. I was told that it would be very likely I would be called back for a final deciding interview after a week or so. I wonder what I can pull out of the hat before then to give a better impression ? I expect all my job centre advisers and trainers would recommend jumping up and down, foaming at the mouth, and waving a screwdriver above my head while shouting "let me at the work", but I don't that is my style somehow. I think all I can do is be myself and hope that I come across as an easy going, easy to get on with person with sufficient knowledge to get on with the job. There have been few jobs over the last year that I felt I could do fairly easily, but very few that I feel I could positively enjoy. This could be one, and I think I would be happy enough to trade some of the extra travelling time that it would mean for the chance to work there.

 I came home feeling very alert with all my earlier tiredness gone. Even the fact that I missed the connection at Elmers End seemed not to dampen my spirits. My timing there was very unfortunate. There is a hole in the service pattern where they revert from rush hour timings to normal timings. It used to cause me much annoyance if I was late getting to the station during the days when I was working there. It was sometime around 7pm when the adrenaline ran out and I felt absolutely knackered. All I could do was to slump down in front of the TV and wait for The Bill to come on.

 Today will be very simple, but also very annoying. I am not due in to Focus Vision until the afternoon session. So this morning I have a couple of reports to write up and then I kick my heels until 3 hours of utter boredom searching for more jobs in out of date crumpled old newspapers. Or at least that is how it is supposed to be. I do have a secret weapon. I have an, as yet, unread copy of this weeks New Scientist. It does have jobs in the back pages so it is legitimate reading material as far as I can see. I am going to read it anyway so I might as well read it this afternoon.

Thursday 11th November 2004
06.00 GMT

Weather - cold
 Today is a fairly special, and important day. So I went the pub last night as I usually do on a Wednesday night. I did have a plan for last night, but it failed. Plan A was to have a couple of pints and come home early. The fallback plan was Plan B which involved having the usual amount of beer, and not getting to bed until midnight. (For normal Wednesday nights Plan B is actually Plan A). Confused yet ? You should be ! Today I have two interviews for work and I am sitting here after not enough sleep, and with a hangover, and my guts feel awful.

 To start from the beginning..... I went into Focus Vision yesterday afternoon and was told what my work placement was going to be. It is not a forgone conclusion that I will get it, and this morning I have to attend an interview before the company will accept me. I was stunned when I found the compant they are trying to place me with is only in Forest Hill. That is so easy to get to. I had imagined they would take full advantage of the fact that the maximum travelling time expected is 90 minutes each way. The company itself manufactures computers, and my job description says computer repair. It could be an interesting diversion, and there is a slim chance that it could end with a permanent job offer.

 Skipping back even earlier in the day , where incidentally the sun came out some 30 minutes after I was moaning about it being so gloomy, I found another job that I was interested in applying for. It was a computer manufacturing company wanting someone with Linux experience. They are based in Morden which is reasonably accessible by Tramlink from Elmers End station (which in turn is only 9 minutes on the train from Catford Bridge station). The job information said that first contact was to be made by phone where there would be a short interview with 5 or 6 technical questions to answer. I first tried giving them a ring late in the morning, but the man I wanted was not available. So we now skip forward again to when I came home from Focus Vision. I rang again and got through OK. One of the requirements was to have had some experience on server hardware. So I started off by apologising if I was wasting the mans time and stating that I have never had the opportunity to get my hands on any server hardware, but that I had been using Linux here, at home, for the last three years, and was that any interest to him ? He thanked me for my frankness and said yes he was still interested. So we had a little chat about computers and he was impressed enough to want me to go for a proper interview this afternoon at 16.00.

 So I have two interviews in the space of one day. The first is a sort of formality and I am not expecting any problems there. The second is more important, and potentially tricky. I am in the unhappy position of knowing so much about Linux that I also know that there is so much I do not know about it. It is a strange fact, and one that may be only relevant to technical stuff, that the broader your horizons the further away the horizon seems. I'm not sure if that makes any sense. I sort of made that up on the spur of the moment, but perhaps it does illustrate the dilemna I feel. If I do get accepted for the job it will be quite exciting. Not only will I be earning some money again, but it will be a golden opportunity to fill in some of the spaces in my Linux knowledge, and presumably with other more knowledgable people who I can tap for information and share my thoughts with. The downside is that the pleasure of learning will be diluted by the tedium of having to do work. I tried working once, for about 29 years actually, and I can't say I really like the idea of it !

Wednesday 10th November 2004
06.00 GMT

Weather - dark and cold
 It feels very cold this morning. Last night it was raining, but that seems to have stopped now. The last few days have been very overcast, and I would not be surprised if today was very similar. It would be nice to get a little sunshine to relieve the gloominess.

esterday was another fairly non eventful sort of day. My morning was spent reading the papers looking for a potential job, but mostly just trying to amuse myself. I did learn that Focus Vision have identified a possible job placement for me. I never really thought they would come up with anything, or at least anything that was remotely relevant to what I can do. If it does happen it will be for a small firm of computer manufacturers/assemblers. Prior to starting that they will have to approve my C.V. and I will have to pass an interview. It's just like a real job except that it is only for 3 days a week, and I do not get paid for it. At the end of the allocated time there is no guarantee that it might end in a real job. It is still my biggest fear that this placement will be out beyond the end of nowhere. The Job Centre guidelines suggest that 90 minutes of travel per direction, per day are quite acceptable travelling times. To me that is a recipe for insanity. It might be acceptable for those travelling in their own personal metal cocoons, but 90 minutes on a rush hour train and/or bus would leave me crawling up the walls !!!! It is possible I will hear the truth about this job placement this afternoon.

y afternoon yesterday was spent very much similar to the day before. I did some eating and some radio listening. I heard two episodes of a sci-fi play called Voyage. I think I have heard it before, and I am sure I have read the book by Stephen Baxter. It is still very enjoyable, and I can't remember the ending, so I will be looking forward to hearing more episodes (already on my PC hard drive) at the first opportunity I can get.

t around 16.30 I popped in to see Patricia. I had heard she was feeling a bit unhappy so I decided she needed something to cheer her up. For want of any better idea I took her in some chocolate in the form of a packet of Jaffa Cakes. It might not have been much, and maybe the effect was short lived, but it did perk her up a bit. I should be seeing her again tonight and there is the possibility of a quick drink after she finishes work.

oday I do not have to go into Focus Vision until the afternoon, but this morning I need to go into the Job Centre to renew my New Deal photocard. With the possibilty of this job placement coming up I will need that card for the cheap fares to places that probably do not even exist on maps yet. Another little task this morning is to write to the Metropolitan Police to remind them of their equal opprtunities obligations, and to get them to offer me a technical job. I know that not having a driving licence, and being able to drive, does not strictly fall within the laws of equal opportunities, but it is the spirit that counts. Their employees are supposed to reflect the local population that they serve -  a certain percentage of different racial groups, disabilities etc. I see no reason why they should not have to employ a certain percentage of non drivers that also reflects the population they serve. Of course this is a bit of a joke. I will not even mention equal opportunities, but will just be enquiring to see if they do have anything on offer. It would be nice to work under "civil service" rules again, as I was when working for BT, but mostly it is just another quasi-job application to keep my quota up for the tyrants at Focus Vision.

have already mentioned he possibility of a short drink with Patricia tonight, but being a Wednesday I should be having a far longer drink with Kevin and Iain, and I think Howard is back in London and may join us tonight. The Winter Warmer is now back on in The Ram so a cheerful night is guaranteed for all !

Tuesday 9th November 2004
06.00 GMT

Weather - cold and cloudy
 It happened again ! At around 03.00 I woke up convinced it was time to get up. There was a subtle difference this time. I had been dreaming about doing job searches. I can't recall any more detail other than that I was looking in a newspaper. This must have been enough to warp my brain into thinking I should be up and ready to go for another boring morning session at Focus Vision Ltd where I have been attending my Intensive Activity Programme. It is perhaps fortunate that from now on it will only be half days. Until the unlikely chance that they find me a worthwhile job placement the time is suppose to be spent doing nothing but searching for jobs. How we are supposed to do that when only allocated a maximum of one hour of computer time (includes time for writing any application letters), and a bunch of out-of-date newspapers is left to the imagination. Suffice to say that it is very, very boring indeed !

 I started yesterday feeling rather poorly with a headache, muscular pains, and a bad case of lethargy. All classic symptoms of the 'flu. My sore throat had gone by then, but my throat was still rather tickly and lead to multiple explosive coughing fits. By the afternoon I was feeling very tired, but many of the other symptoms had reduced to mere annoyances.  Then I was given a magic hug and suddenly I felt wonderful. I was alert and pain free. In some ways it was too good as I did not feel sleepy enough to get to sleep sufficiently early to fit in my full eight hours sleep. So this morning I think I will be yawning a bit. Other than that I do not feel too bad.

 The trouble with being on this course, even if yesterday was just a half day, is that nothing really happened. I got up. Walked across the park. Sat reading the papers for 3 hours. Walked back home again. Had a small snack. Read a little. Listened to a an episode of The Goon Show. Had a snooze. Went out to say hello to Patricia. Received magic hug. Went home. Had dinner. Watched a bit of TV. Went to bed. Read a little more. Finished reading. Turned light off. Some time later finally managed to get to sleep. Apart from a little bit towards the end it was a very bland sort of day. Unfortunately today is likely to be very similar, but without the pleasure of seeing Patricia (although that may happen).

Monday 8th November 2004
06.10 GMT

Weather - dark, dry and cold
 After just two mornings of getting up late my internal body clock is insisting that I am up far too early. Yet I have had nearly a full eight hours sleep. My sleep was interupted three times during the night, but I doubt that was enough to leave me feeling so knackered now. The first time I woke up was at 00.42 when I was convinced it was time to get up. The second time was at 03.48 when I had to go to the toilet. The third, and final, time was 05.18 when the phone rang. It was a wrong number. I will probably fully wake up once I have had a shower and got dressed.

 An alternative explanation to my tiredness is that I am ill. I have been feeling pretty rough for a few days now. After this time I don't think I can still blame it on alcohol poisoning from last Thursday night. The most obvious external sign that I am ill is the occasionally hacking cough I have. It is a dry, tickly throat, sort of cough and can catch me at any time. I am just very glad that I only have to go in for the morning session of my "Intensive Activity Programme" course.The afternoon is an external job search that I may spend partly on the internet, and partly dozing, in the warmth of my own home. Although I must make sure I am fully wide awake to go and see Patricia at around 16.30.

 Yesterday seemed to pass by very quickly. I made some progress listening to some of the backlog of radio recordings made during the previous fortnight. There are still many to go. In fcat there are two complete series I have not listened two. One is a radio play of Bram Stokers Dracula (almost an exact reading from the original book I believe), and the other is a story called A Patchwork Planet. It is a shame that one of the stories I listened to yesterday was actually a repeat. It was called Omega by Mike Walker. It may have been a waste of time relistening to a story that I first heard less than 12 months ago, but it was still enjoyable.

 There was one other little diversion that I tried yesterday. Thanks to Steve, and swap that got me the PCMCIA Lan card for my laptop, I tried listening to some internet radio on the laptop while relaxing on the settee in the front room. It will never beat real broadcast radio, but was an interesting compromise.

Sunday 7th November 2004
08.00 GMT

Weather - dry
 Yesterday was very painful, but after a reasonable nights sleep I am feeling far better. The principal pain was in the neck muscles radiating down to the shoulder blades. It was agony to turn my neck to the left, and nearly as bad if I turned to the right. Just getting into, and out of, a chair could bring on some spasms of pain. As it has got better (but not best) so quickly I am wondering if it was a whiplash injury from when I fell over on Thursday night/Friday morning. Or maybe it could be the result of a viarl infection like 'flu. I am not really sure which can subside so quickly. My other two sources of pain, my seared throat and stubbed/broken big toe, are also feeling far, far better this morning. One explanation is that I have overslept and it is not Sunday but sometime in the middle of the week. Fortunately the PC seems to agree with what my brain tells me, and it is Sunday.

 It turned out that I did have a fairly lazy day. I did do the two essenial things that I mentioned - laundry and shopping - but while in Tesco I noticed the most recent edition of New Scientist. So I spent quite a lot of time reading that. All my possible aspirations to do some audio editing came to nothing, but I did do a few other things on the PC upstairs. I have a DVD disk whose contents are, shall we say, rather sexy. Unfortunately it is badly damaged and from time to time, over the last year or so, it comes to the top of the pile of assorted disks lying about near the PC and I have another go at trying to extract some data from it. I have a program that will attempt to extract data from a disk sector by sector, and most importantly will give up on unreadable sectors, after attemting to read them several times, and carry on to the next without stopping. It puts a tremendous strain on the optical drive to do this as it can keep reading for literally hours at a time trying to get the maximum data from a disk. I have been reluctant to do this for too long, but yesterday I decided to hook up a spare DVD reader drive to the PC and just let it carry on until the bitter end. Four or five hours later it had finished and I had about 75% of the data. It was enough to try and edit the data together and reburn it as a new DVD. I was succesful at the vision, but the sound has disappeared. It is probably a casualty of treating a .VOB file as if it was a .MPG file. Some other day I will have another go at working with those extracted files.

 I think it will become a priority today to try and catch up with all the radio recording that I was thinking of listening to yesterday. As I always add five minutes to the end of the recording schedule I have an awful lot of useless five minutes cluttering up my hard drive. Once I have edited the recording that five minutes (or most of it) will be discarded and I will gain some of my precious disk space back.It will be a great relief sometime around xmas, if my estimates are correct, and I will finally have every episode of Round The Horne recorded and ready to archive on a recordable DVD (or two). That will liberate a huge chunk of disk space.

 So it looks as if today will mostly be spent listening to the radio or watching TV. Now do I add a little beer into the equation, or have I had enough booze for a little while ? Maybe I'll just stick to Diet Coke !

Saturday 6th November 2004
08.00 GMT

Weather - no sun, but bright and cold
 I fully intend to have a very lazy day today. One of the first things I intend to do now that Nelly has been fed, and once I finish writing this, is to go back to bed. I should have had an early night last night but I got a little carried away doing some research on streaming audio over the internet. It was approximately 00.30 before I was in bed. I was fast asleep having dreams about audio streaming within 15 seconds of my head hitting the pillow.

 This morning my throat is still sore after being seared with digestive acid on Thursday night/Friday morning, but it is slowly healing. I think it is possible that whatever I did to my little toe has actually broken it. It too may be less sore than yesterday but it does feel strangely lumpy as if there could be a broken bone. I am not going to investigate further as it is too painful. Some of the lumps could be legacies of previous times when I have stubbed it badly.

 There are two tasks I do have to do today regardless of how lazy I want to be. One is the laundry, and the other is to go and buy some food. After a week of being stuck in "school" my cupboards are practically bare. Even Nelly is close to running out of food. With those tasks done I think I will be spending some time, maybe several hours, listening to all the radio recordings made during the week that are sitting patiently on the hard disk. Once they are attended to there is still loads of Iain's vinyl LP to digital rips that need cleaning/editing/splitting and filing. This is starting to sound like I will not be having a lazy day after all. I think I may be hearing from Taz today, and she will possibly want to meet up. That could make my day even more busy. For now though, I will be checking my e-mail and grabbing another hour in bed.

Friday 5th November 2004
11.50 GMT

Weather - still grey, but no rain
  It is now 4 hours since I first woke up and my throat is still very sore. My stomach feels slightly tender as well. I also feel very tired and almost wobbly. I am probably starting to sober up now, but first thing this morning I was still definitely drunk. I am beginning to get a bit worried that this afternoon I will be suffering from a massive hangover at a time when I definitely don't want one.

 I took a few pictures with the camera phone last night. They are not very good. It was partially the poor light in the pub, but mostly that the camera resolution is so bad. With a bit of enhancement they look like this.....
John BrocksIvorPam

 From left to right, John, Ivor and Pam.
07.45 GMT

Weather - dry, overcast
 Yesterday was fun. I'll skip over most of the day as that was just more of the training course that I love to moan about. The day really started with Ivor and Iain knocking on my door ready to take me to Barming for our bi-monthly drink with all the old mates from years back. There were rather less people in attendance than usual, and it may be that I forgot to send out enough reminders of the date, or people were saving themselves up for the next one a fortnight (and a bit) before xmas.

 After the pub several of us were invited back to Johns house which is very local to the pub. In fact it was only Iain and myself who went there. I was liberally plied with drink as we discussed old times. I think we got through at least half a bottle of Jack Daniels. This was very pleasant, but a total disaster on an almost empty stomach. I managed something I haven't done in ages. I threw up. Not once, but several times. Two of those times were on a motorway hard shoulder ! When Iain finally dropped me home I had to get a dishcloth and plenty of Dettox to wipe down his car window and most of the inside of the door panel where I could not quite control myself. I hope I managed a reasonable job of cleaning and disinfecting those wayward splashes. Everything was a bit of a blur at the time so I could not really see what I was doing. Perhaps one saving grace was that most of it was little more than pure alcohol and not diced carrots. Once inside my home I managed to fall over at least once. I can remember doing it, but I cannot remember where. I have two grazed knees to remind me of it. Provided I did not leave any unpleasant souvenirs in Iain's car, the worst thing about it is that all that stomach acid has severly burnt the back of my throat. I thnk I probably went to bed without cleaning my teeth as I woke up with a terrible taste in my mouth.

 It is surprising that I not in pain with a hangover this morning. Maybe that will kick in later, but for now I do not feel too bad. I could easily be washed and dressed to attend my course if I had needed to get there this morning, but we are not expected back in class until 13.30 today. This morning I will be doing external job searches. i.e. I will spend some time on the PC searching the internet for jobs. I might also grab another hours worth of sleep. I have no idea at all what time I finally rolled into bed last night. I expect it was not much earlier than 01.00, and it could have been later than that. I am pretty certain I went to sleep almost instantly. I have the vaguest of recollection of my alarm going off at 06.00, but it was Nelly who woke me up in the end. I think my next task is to have some breakfast and hopefully get rid of some of the nasty taste in my mouth.

Thursday 4th November 2004
06.00 GMT

Weather - cold and dry (some dew)
 Yesterday started with a sunny morning once the sun was fully up. It stayed sunny for quite some time, and even when some clouds did appear they were light. So during daylight it was very mild, but late in the evening it did start to get rather chilly and everything was covered with dew by the time I came home from the pub at 23.00.

 I am starting to acclimatise myself to this stupid course I am on. I don't think I will actually be able to end up enjoying it in quite the same way as I did the last one. Then again there is no lovely Patricia at this course. I seem to be setting myself up as class comedien. It's not something that comes to me all that naturally, but I do seem to have raised a few laughs. Mostly it just helps to pass some of the time, and relieve the stress. The only way I can look at this course in a positive light is that it is still helping my physical well being (plenty of walking and very light eating), even though it is probably damaging me psychologically.

 Once I had got home, from the course, I cleaned myself up and changed some clothes, and rushed out again to meet Patricia to take her for a quick drink in Lewisham. I had a very pleasant time, but could have kicked myself for never getting round to mentioning to her how beautiful and radiant she looked now that her face is not twisted in pain from her bad tooth. There just never seemed to be time to mention it before the drink ended and we went our separate ways. In a fit of bravado I decided to walk back from the pub. That brought my walking total to about 5.5 times the distance from here to the course for the day. The next thing on my agenda was to have some breakfast (unless you count the one polo mint eaten during the day as breakfast). I had a fairly low fat, and low calorie meal of some liver, one onion, one tomato, and one stock cube. This was not even fried but boiled (actually poached might be a better way of putting it).

 With little time for that food to settle down I was out again to meet Iain in The Ram. I did not notice it at first even though Kevin had forewarned me, but they had Winter Warmer on again. My first pint was just ordinary bitter, but the two subsequent pints were Winter Warmer - very delicious, very enjoyable. I did have an idea that I might leave the pub before closing time, or even to leave the pub as soon as last orders were called. It did not happen. We did leave the pub  very soon after 23.00, but then had a bit more chat outside. I finally got home at about 23.30 and was in bed 5 minutes after that. Five minutes after that I think I was asleep.

 I feel reasonably OK this morning, but I doubt it will be so good tomorrow morning. Tonight it is off to Barming for our bi-monthly "old comrades" drink. I doubt I will get away from there before 23.20 and it is a long drive back. On past form it will be close to 01.00 before I get to bed. I will probably be going into the course on Friday feeling totally knackered and badly hung over. I just hope they take pity on us and allow us to leave early.

Wednesday 3rd November 2004
06.00 GMT

Weather - cold and dry
 Yesterday was not too bad a day. The morning was spent in class relearning about analysing job adverts to see what employers are after. As per last time it was for fairly bland jobs that I did not really care for, or understand. There is one common thread running through all these courses that are designed to get people back to work. They all take a very narrow view of how people get jobs. What I am trying to say is that there is no recognition that some job areas, and particularly those in engineering and sciences, may have a different criteria to office based jobs. Unfortunately those who teach us have usually little experience outside of administrative work. I know for a fact that some of the advice given would have disqualified engineers applying to replace those of us who left Mastercare a few years back. I was privileged to "assist" the Senior Engineer when he was looking through C.V.'s to select engineers for interview so I have had first hand experience of being on "the other side of the table". I will admit that some of the advice we are given is relevant, but for those of us who have worked a long time in certain industries it would be nice to be acknowledged that we probably know more about what is important to those particular industries than the tutors.

 In the afternoon I skipped class to hand deliver a job application to a company that recycles/refurbishes PC's, TV's, and other audio and video products. They are at least partially, if not wholly, funded by Southwark Council. It was one of the few jobs I have applied for that would have fitted me like a glove. Most of the electronic stuff I use at home is, in effect, recycled. I still have a working spare TV here that was rescued from a skip, and many of my PC's are built from bits that may have otherwise been thrown away. Unfortunately I missed the closing date for applications by one day and I am very unlikely to be considered, although it is not impossible. It would be a challenging experience working at that place. It is in a very grim area located near to Elephant and Castle. It took a lot of time to find the place as it is tucked away on a large, very concrete, estate. Another challenge would be that had I got the job I would be the only white face working there. Incidentally my absence from class was recorded as official, and I did get a note from the company to confirm I actually visited there.

 After escaping from those grim concrete structures alive, I jumped on a bus that took me straight to The Herne. I was too late to meet Ivor and Iain, although they both turned up again a little later. First in the pub was Ruth. 30 minutes later Ivor turned up followed by Paul, and lastly Iain. It was a pleasant, but slightly overlong session. I did get drunk fairly easily as I had not eaten a single thing all day. That was only a problem whe I go home as I was ravenous and could not help eating more than I intended. It still added up to a lot less than I could have had if I had been in all day, but still more than I had planned for. For the first few hours my mind was still fairly numb, but by 9pm, when I started off to bed, my brain woke up and would not stop talking to me. It felt like quite a long time before I finally got to sleep. This was ridiculous considering that an hour earlier I had been almost falling asleep in my chair.

 Today will be spent in the classroom until around 16.30. It would be nice if we get away earlier as I am booked for a drink with Patricia after work. Later in the evening it will Wednesday in The Ram as usual, or almost usual as it looks as if Kevin will not be there. I don't think Howard is in London so he won't be there either. I may have to disappoint Iain by leaving at, or maybe even slightly before closing time tonight. With another late night coming up tomorrow I will be needing all the beauty sleep I can get tonight.

Tuesday 2nd November 2004
06.05 GMT

Weather - cold and raining
 My new course is starting out as bad as I feared it could be. Yesterday was boring in the extreme, and it may get even worse. It is an odd paradox that this course is supposed to help me find a new job, and yet it may actually be working against me. I have found a job that I would really like to do, but in theory the closing date for applications was last Saturday. If I had a free hand I would have hand delivered my application yesterday afternoon, but instead I was stuck in a smelly classroom all day. I am going to officially request that I am let out to deliver the application this afternoon. Whether they will agree seems unlikely, and if they don't I am very tempted to go for an unauthorised absence.

 On the plus side of this course is that I will soon be fit and healthy if I carry on the way I did yesterday. It is about a 15 minute walk to the course (possibly 12 if I rush), and I covered that journey 4 times yesterday because I came home during the lunch break. As well as the walking my food intake was considerably less than when I am at home. In fact all I ate yesterday was two small packets of peanuts, one polo, and a small Tesco's ready made chicken curry. I would usually have two of the curries to make a decent sized meal similar in size to what you would expect from an Indian takeaway. I can't honestly say I feel any better after one day. It would be more true to say that I feel starving right now. Even so I doubt I will be eating until tonight.

 There isn't much more news, or events, to recount now. I did manage to visit Patricia on my way home last night. She was really happy and cheerful to see me, and it was a delight to see her out of pain following her visit to the dentist last Friday. She suggests we go for a drink after work on Wednesday. Once I finally got home my time was spent cooking, eating, watching a small amount of television, writing a job application, and then finally to bed at 21.30 in time for a good nights sleep before getting up at 06.00 this morning.

Monday 1st November
06.15 GMT

Weather - autumnal
 Last night it was Bob's 50th birthday party. I didn't get to say it last night, so Happy birthday Bob ! I did get along to the opening of the party but did not stay for very long - about 30 minutes. I had an appalling headache. It had come and gone for most of the afternoon, but by the evening it was really pounding. I've still got the remnant of it even now. It's probably a combination of high blood pressure and eyestrain, but it could be encephalitus, cancer, syphilis, voodoo, or those pesky aliens again. It was probably made worse by the stress of being with a few people who I didn't want to be with. On top of that was the desire for an early night to get ready for todays early start so that I can prepare for the start of the latest course to help me back to work beginning in just about three hours time.

 Coming home from the party was an interesting experience. The first leg of the journey was a train to Bromley South. Once there I checked the departure boards for train onward to Catford. I was most surprised to see that there was a train to Catford Bridge station. Trains from Bromley South to Catford Bridge are extremely rare. In fact since a timetable change a year or two ago there are normally none at all. The train I got was a special service, probably as a result of engineering work, and it's first stop was to be Catford Bridge. Sadly it was not a fast service as I was hoping it migt be. It crawled along until Shortlands station where it had to stop until the signals cleared. From there to New Beckenham it was a little faster, and once beyond New Beckenham it was full speed ahead to Catford Bridge. It's a pity it was dark and I could not see a thing outside the windows. I have travelled that route a few times before so I knew where we were going, but I would still have liked to see it again.  That minor bit of trainspotting probably inspired the only bit of dream I can remember with any clarity. I was at a station that had some similarity to Lewes station when a train went through bound for Charing Cross. It was a slam door train, probably a VEP, and it was painted a most beautiful bronze and green colour. The green was the traditional Southern Region green, and the bronze was incredibly shiny like polished metal. I think, but my memory for even such important detail as this is rather hazy, that it was the windows that were picked out in bronze.

 So this course starts this morning and goes on for thirteen weeks. The ideal idea is that I will never finish the course because it will result in me starting a new job before then. I am not so sure, but I'm game to go along with them. It will be intriguing to find out what magical means they use to search for jobs that I am not already doing. For these next thirteen weeks my life will be changed quite a lot. Already I find that many days are not long enough for all my personal projects, and now a whole chunk of the day will be missing. It will mean no afternoon drinks at The Herne, and the chances of finishing all the audio remastering for Iain before xmas is now looking slim. It is possible that I will enjoy some of this course, but I expect there will be times when I am bored out of my skull.

Copyright - Bill 2004