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Thursday 31st December 2009
09:27 GMT

 Somebody has taken out the 15W lightbulb and put in a 25W lightbulb to light the day today. Of course this still compares badly against that several hundred watts that the average winter day could achieve, and a very long way from the Kilowatts of arc lighting that a summers day might bring, but it is still an improvement over yesterday. Whilst it may be a shade brighter than yesterday, it is still damp and miserable outside. Happily the long term forecast is that the sun should return tomorrow, and may even shine for a few days beyond that.

 Yesterday was an interesting sort of day ! It really started when I walked through the park to meet up with Patricia for a lunchtime drink. I didn't really feel like walking through the damp park, but I did it anyway, and in some ways it wasn't too bad. After leaving the park, and with just a few hundred yards to go, I had a sort of brief dizzy feeling, although dizzy is just a convenient tag to substitute for a word that I don't think exists to describe how I actually felt. The feeling is better described as that sort of feeling you get when your first wake up from a deep sleep, and it takes just an instant as your body re-integrates itself into time and space.

 Maybe a closer analogue is like being very drunk, and having survived that condition many times in the past I just ignored it and carried on walking. I arrived at the pub and hardly had time to order a pint, and sit down, before Patricia arrived. I have to say she looked radiant after having had several days to relax from the stresses of work. After a little while we exchanged some xmas presents. She had bought me a very stereotypical present of some pairs of socks. Which actually are very handy. I gave her something a little better.

 A little while ago Patricia asked me if I could fit a new LCD display into her Samsung digital camera - if she could find one. I agreed to this, but at the time I suggested even with my free work it still may not be an economical repair. I had a look to see if I could find a replacement LCD screen and although I did not dig that deep I only came up with one uncertain possibility. As I feared, after adding on shipping costs, and possible import duty, from the USA, it would save very little money, and then there would be the fiddly job of trying to fit it. So I took a look in Tesco, and armed with a bunch of Tesco Clubcard vouchers I found just one more Samsung camera that was the same as the one I had bought earlier in the year, and I bought it for 10 less than the price marked on the shelf (it became obvious after the fact that it was a clearance item).

 Back in the pub I presented Patricia with her new camera and she was quite stunned, and very happy.
Trish and her new camera
 I had another pint, and after that a surprising amount of hugs took place and I set off home. Even if I still had a slightly faulty body, I still felt very good walking home. Even the damp grey park didn't seem so bad, and in some ways it was quite pleasant walking near the river in the soft light.

 When I got home I felt ravenous, and I ate some fruit to tide me over until it would be time to have dinner a few hours later. After another 30 minutes had passed by I got up from the settee to go and get a drink. It felt very weird when I did that, although once again the weirdness went away with a second or two. After I had sat down again for 10 or 15 minutes I became curious about my blood pressure. Anomalous blood pressure is one thing that doctors blame dizzy spells on, particularly when getting up or sitting down (or something). When I measured my blood pressure I found it was definitely anomalous - it was very much in the region that my doctor always wanted it to be. So obviously, by the doctors criteria I was fit and healthy, but by my recent standards it was on the low side.  Discounting that as a reason for my weird spells I assumed that maybe my blood sugar level was on the point of me being hypoglyceamic. That seemed unlikely considering the high reading I had taken earlier, but  in case it was possible I decided that it was a good excuse to eat something lass bland than I had been eating.

  I had measured my blood sugar level in the morning before going out, and although it was only 75% of the reading I had taken the previous day, it was still 2 points higher than I would like. To enter into the realms of hypoglyceamia it would have to drop a good four points, and that did seem unlikely just from doing a bit over two miles of walking, and even less likely considering I had drunk two pints of fairly strong ale in the middle of that walk. Nevertheless, after stuffing myself with a whole packet of (8) fishfingers, cooked in the oven, and smothered with garlic mayonaisse, I did feel a whole lot better. I am wishing now that I had measured my blood sugar level prior to eating to see if it was exceptionally low, or if fish fingers have some hitherto unknown magical restorative powers.

 I ate those fishfingers as a sort of snack, and they didn't detract me from cooking my main meal of the day. The previous day I had eaten a very low calorie vegetable stew, and that is what I may have had last night were it not for the fact that I had a packet of (fortunately) reduced fat pork sausages in the bottom of the fridge that were almost certainly on or after their use by date. I didn't want to let them go to waste, and so I cooked them, with some leeks, in a curry sauce. I don't think I would like to speculate as to the amount of calories and or sugar in such a meal, nor for the earlier fish fingers, but it couldn't have been all bad. This morning I seem to have lost a pound in weight, and my blood sugar level is a tiny bit lower than it was yesterday morning. So I guess I am winning.

 This morning I am not sure how I feel. I think I feel a tiny bit better than how I would usually feel before setting off to work., but I am not sure if I would get the same big improvement I get after that long journey commuting into work. Even though I don't feel like it, maybe I ought to force myself into a walk around the park and see how I feel afterwards. It could take my mind of the fact that I feel starving right now. Do I feel starving though, or do I just feel like eating something nice because I can't think of anything better to do right now ? It's probably a bit of both.

 It's the last day of the year today (and with a bit of luck, payday). I can't be bothered with such tedium as new year resolutions, but there is one similar thing I ought to do. That is to get back in practice for getting up early in the morning, or more precisely, staying up early in the morning. On most days over this long holiday period I have been up in time to go to work, but after an hour os so I have gone back to bed for several hours. The first thing I have to do is to get back in the habit of getting to bed early, and I ought to start that tonight. It is unlikely anything will happen that will need my attention tonight. So it is just a matter of turning off the my phones so that new year greetings don't wake me up, and then doing my best to get to sleep a lot earlier than I have become accustomed to over the last week.
Wednesday 30th December 2009
09:42 GMT

 It really is a nasty sort of wet, windy, heavily overcast sort of morning ! Maybe I overstated the windy part, but for the rest it may be an understatement. The sun, if it still exists, rose roughly two hours ago, and yet I can barely read the keys on my keyboard with no lights on in the room. I expect it will be like this for the whole day, and then quite possibly tomorrow too.

 I was in a bit of a rush when I wrote yesterday because I had a deadline to meet. One of my other computers was "tuned" into a certain Ebay web page where I was monitoring bids on a genuine HTC Android G1 mobile phone. It was the first time I had ever bid on Ebay to the bitter end, and by getting in my final bid in the last 3 or 4 seconds I won that auction. What's more, I managed to do it at 17 less than my intended maximum bid. All I have to do now is hope that the item arrives, and that it works (although I know it has some minor damage - dog tooth marks !).

 The tenseness of the bidding process left me a little drained, or perhaps left me a little more drained than I had been feeling before the big climax. So I wondered what my blood sugar level really was. I had eaten a little fruit about an hour beforehand, and although the fruit didn't have that much sugar in it, I knew it would cause a small spike in my reading. The reading I took was a fair bit higher than I had imagined, but still below what I would consider the danger mark A Doctor would disagree of course, but some of them seem to prefer their patients to be on the point of hypoglycemia. This is understandable. Like any good business men they prefer not to lose their customers to good health. This morning, after a particularly good day of dieting, my blood sugar level is much closer to how I would like it to be. If I can keep this up for another fortnight it should be safe to go and see the nurse again. It is possible, although unlikely, that in a fortnight my blood pressure level could even be low enough to stop the nurse flapping too much (but once again, I think the nurse would like me to have a blood pressure equivalent to the oil pressure in a badly maintained 30 year old Trabant).

 Although it seems blasphemous to say it, it is probable that some of the afternoon drinks I have had recently that have pushed my blood sugar level up. In the ordinary course of events those beers would only provide the occasional statistical peak, but after eating rather well in the run up to xmas their effect has been more cumulative. So in theory I shouldn't really go out for more beer today, but it is possible I will be doing just that. It could have happened yesterday, but I was too tied up with making sure my bidding on the Ebay auction would win me the phone, so it could happen today that I will be meeting Patricia for lunch. With Patricia it is likely to be only a two pint drink, and I may walk into Lewisham (and back) to do it. It is a bit revolting outside for walking, but I may force myself to do it, and may even go for a walk even if it turns out that I am not seeing Patricia.

 Until then, and then afterwards, I have no idea what I will be doing. In this weather it is very tempting just to turn the heating up and watch TV, but that does make the wait for my only hot meal today seem very long and tedious. I do have a selection of fruit to nibble on, and I have rediscovered the joys of eating raw cabbage again (which I think has even less sugar and calories than fruit). In some respects I am looking forward to getting back to work where there are no opportunities to eat, say, a large cheese sandwich (which I could murder for right now !!). Maybe I will try and do some housework today, or maybe not.........
Tuesday 29th December 2009
12:16 GMT

 Wet and windy are the words that sum up today. The clouds meant that this morning was not so chilly as yesterday, but it is still far from being anywhere near mild. Yesterday did become overcast, but at least it did stay dry.

 For the second day in a row I went out for a very late lunchtime pint yesterday. Jodi came round here, and after she had given me a couple of xmas presents (bottles of beer) we went to the pub for a few hours. Once again I managed to refrain from eating all morning. No, actually I lie. I think I had two bananas during the morning.

 Once I came home from the pub I cooked myself a mostly healthy meal of vegetables, mushrooms, and some skinless and boneless chicken slices in a tomato, garlic, herb and chilli sauce. It was rather nice and rather filling, and yet in theory it was very low in calories. That is basically all I had to eat yesterday.

 I think this more considered diet is already having some positive effects. My blood sugar (which I really ought to measure) should be lower now, and I did feel like I had just a little extra energy when I went out shopping this morning. That didn't last and I do feel a bit weary now. On top of that I have a bit of a headache. It is possible, although it seems unlikely, that my blood sugar level has actually fallen too far. I will get an indication if that is the case because I have just eaten an apple and a pear. If that perks me up then I will know that my blood sugar level had fallen too far. In all probability any positive or negative effects I may be feeling are more related to my blood pressure - which I could also measure if I could be bothered.

 It may just be my imagination, but I think I am feeling slightly better. Maybe that fruit has helped. There is one other factor to be taken into consideration. I slept very badly last night. After several days of having a lot more sleep than I normally get, or maybe even need, I found I was not that tired last night. I did some reading in bed and it was almost midnight when I turned the light out. I expected that I would fall asleep easily because it was so late, but it was one of those occasions where I couldn't relax. No sooner had I found what I thought was a comfortable position I would become aware that something was wrong. The duvet wasn't laying quite right, or there was a hair fallen across my forehead, or my leg was at just slightly the wrong angle, etc. etc. So I tossed and turned until I eventually fell asleep only to wake up again a little while later.

 There was one other factor that was relevant to my bad sleep, and that was my guts. You may recall I had several pints of ale, and a very large helping of sprouts the day before. During the afternoon the ongoing effects of that did cause me some discomfort. Later on, fortunately after I had left the pub, and was safely home and on my own, the sheer horror of it all was revealed. Not only were my "emissions" damaging the ozone layer, but they were causing the wallpaper to peel off the wall ! The worst of this was over before I went to bed, but the after effects did rumble on a bit.

 So here's a tip for any terrorists wanting to bring down an airliner in flight. Forget all your silly exploding shoes, and inflammable clothes. Just consume a whole bag of Tesco frozen sprouts. Then instead of just a few pints of ale drink about 8 pints of Guiness. If you get your timing right you can probably take out the entire east coast of America, but please do it over America and not here. We get enough shit from our politicians, and we don't want any more thank you.
Monday 28th December 2009
09:11 GMT

 It is a bright crisp morning. Most of the clouds are high and streaky in appearance, although there are a few slightly thicker ones a bit lower in the sky. It seems unlikely to rain, but based on the strength of my prediction of possible rain yesterday, maybe rain is likely.

 Yesterday remained dry, and there was a fair bit of sunshine. In the afternoon the sky was more hazy, but as the sun set the sky seemed to clear, and it started feeling cold very quickly.

 At about 11 am yesterday I went out to get some shopping. I hadn't gone more than halfway to the shops before I became aware of a wet stickyness in the vicinity of the carbuncle I was suffering from. As I hinted yesterday, some of the nastiness had come out the previous evening, and as I walked to the shops a lot more came out. It was somewhat unpleasant, and had I realised just how much had soaked through to the outside of my trousers, it would have been highly embarrasing.

 Despite the unpleasantness, I did my shopping and bought loads of healthy fruit and vegetables from Tesco. In fact everything, apart from a jar of curry sauce, that I bought was very low in both sugar and fat. The curry sauce was water based, and so it scored well for absence of fat, but inexplicably it did seem to contain sugar. I don't think there is much sugar in it, but I do wonder why it had any sugar at all.

 My lunchtime pint with Kevin was not exactly at lunchtime, and wasn't just a couple of pints. We met at 2 pm, and apart from a small break for Kevin to do some shopping in Tesco, we carried on drinking until 6 pm. I think the grand total was 4 pints and one slightly smaller bottle of Chinese brewed lager that went by the slightly predicable name of "Lucky Lager". It was quite nice with a hint of rice being used as an adjunct to the usual barley malt. The most distinguishing thing about this lager was the bottle in came in. The glass bottle is heavily embossed with some sort of design featuring a Budhha.

 When we left the pub I didn't really feel drunk at all. That was a little surprising considering all I had eaten up to that point in the day was one small apple. The beer also did little to buffer me from cold. It was cool when we entered the pub, but with the sun having set for a couple of hours, the night chill felt really cold. It didn't help much that I was also feeling starving hungry by then as well.

 I made very sprightly progess as I made my way home to a large potato I had left baking in the oven. The potato was a little well done when I got home (2 hours later than I had originally predicted). Apart from being a little shrunken it was still OK, and I stuffed it with the last of some georgeous Mexican cheese that I had. As an accompaniment I had some sprouts I had prepared earlier. They were no ordinary sprouts, but sprouts cooked in chicken stock and chestnut puree.

 I am not sure many calories, or how much sugar the chestnut puree added to the otherwise healthy sprouts, but it did make a rather pleasant dish. I expect that compared to the large wedge of cheese in the potato, the chestnut puree was mild by comparison. I did eat rather a large portion of sprouts, far larger than would traditionally accompany a meal, and sprouts do have a certain reputation for adding a certain something to the digestive process. Combined with beer it could be a lethal combination - lethal for planet Earth that is. It is possible that I might have to open a couple of windows later today !

 When I first went out yesterday I felt rather strange, and I am sure that it was caused by mild blood poisoning. After the incident with the unpleasant underwear, and stains on my trousers, I did start to feel a bit better. This morning, with most of the swelling gone, I think I feel a lot better, but maybe not perfect yet. The area where the carbuncle was is no longer painful, but is still tender, and occasionally there is a bit more stuff seeping out. Overall I think it is over, and now I just have to wait for it to heal properly. I am still periodically slapping on some antiseptic ointment to help the process along. To further the healing process I will try and continue to eat less overall, and for what I do eat to be very low in sugar content. From the way I feel starving now, it is obvious to me that I did well in only eating what I did yesterday.

 It is hard doing this while I am at home, and there is still stuff in the freezer, and cupboard that I really should avoid. I did buy a lot of fruit yesterday, and in theory I will only be eating that until this evening when I shall have a hot meal of mainly vegetables. It would be easier if I were to go out today, but I don't really feel going any further than WH Smiths where I think I might buy a couple of magazines to read a bit later.

 Tomorrow I will be going out at least as far as Lewisham. In the course of writing this I have finally heard from Patricia. It seems she did get back when she said she would on the 23rd, and my worries that she had been sleeping on an airport floor while all the planes were grounded was totally wrong. She just hadn't got around to answering my text message. We have made rather vague plans to meet in Lewisham tomorrow. So I'll see what happens then.
Sunday 27th December 2009
08:55 GMT

 I think this morning is a little cooler than yesterday morning. The sky was partially clear last night, and I was expecting some frost. There was no frost, but I did feel shivery when I woke up this morning, although that could be due to maters unrelated to the weather. Just prior to writing this the sun was shining. I can still see some blue patches of sky, but a grey murk seems to have descended and blotted out the sun. I think there is the possibility of rain today.

 Yesterday was mostly grey, but there were one or two sunny spells. Unfortunately I left it too late when I went out for a walk. During that walk it was mostly overcast, and the sun only made one brief feeble attempt to shine. I did have some intentions to go for an extra long walk, but my enthusiasm evaporated soon after I started out. Normally I have to push myself a bit to go out, but once out I start to enjoy it. Yesterday that didn't happen, and it was an effort to try and enjoy any of it.

 I more or less followed the same route I did the previous day, but this time I didn't hang around annoying squirrels, and staring at birds in the trees. I did find time to stop and take one photo.
Broken Tree
 The picture shows a broken tree, but fails to show the scale of things. I guess this tree must have come down in a storm several years ago. It was a very mature tree, and the diameter of the trunk was somewhere in the order of  2 - 3 feet, and yet it has splintered like matchwood. (I did take a close up, but it was too out of focus, or otherwise blurred, to show here). For comparison I should have taken a picture of a nearby tree of the same type, and probably the same size. That tree was slanted over at an alarming angle, and I can foresee that coming to the same end in some future storm.

 All the wildlife in the surrounding area must love that broken tree. It is probably swarming with bugs in the warmer months, and still provides shelter even in the winter months. I was surprised just how much shelter it does provide.
The last remains of the recent snow and frost
 The white areas in the picture above are not some sort of exotic fungus, but probably the very last remains of the snow and frost we have had recently.

 It felt good to finish my walk and get back home, and in the warm again. I wanted to try and not eat until the evening, but as well as tired I was also very hungry. So having only survided until 2 pm I put the remnants of my huge Indian takeaway into the oven, and once it was piping hot I ate it. After that I went back to bed. I had already had a rather decent amount of sleep the night before, and yet I still managed to fall asleep for at least an hour.

 It was not really suffering from any lack of sleep, but the fatigue did seem to run quite deep. It is all related to problems with my blood sugar level. It is not particularly high, but it has been on some occasions, and that has caused knock-on effects in the form of a very large boil/zit/carbuncle/abcess that does cause some discomfort when sitting in certain ways. It is possible that I am suffering from some sort of mild blood poisoning, and that would account for me waking up sweaty, and yet feeling shivery this morning. There are, or course, two things I ought to measure - my blood sugar level and my temperature - but so far I have resisted the temptation (or just couldn't be bothered) because I have had some indication that things are on the mend again. Hopefully, when I go and have a very hot shower after finishing writing, a bit of rather painful squeezing will reveal further evidence that I am on the mend.

 After my extra sleep yesterday afternoon I think I did feel a bit better, but I wasn't inclined to do anything much more taxing than watching TV and video. I did see a couple of good(ish) TV programmes, and I watched the two episodes of Star Trek - The New Voyages that I mentioned yesterday. The storyline of those two episodes was very good, but I feel it could have been squeezed into one episode if some of the padding were edited out.

 I can't actually remember the time I went to bed last night. I didn't want to go too early in case I couldn't sleep after all the sleep I had had earlier, and yet I did feel like I wanted to get to bed as soon as possible. I think I sort of compromised by going to bed at around 9 pm. My fears about not getting to sleep were unfounded. I fell asleep very easily, although I did wake up several times in the night. As usual I got up around 5 am to feed Smudge, and let her out in the garden for about an hour. With no work until the holidays are over my routine is as flexible as I like, but today is just like any other day for Smudge, and she has her breakfast at 5 am, and needs to dig a hole in the garden soon after.

 This morning I am not sure how I feel. I guess I am still under the weather a bit, but my painful area seems slightly less painful (as the events of yesterday evening suggested they should be). Ideally I ought to attempt to not eat too much today, but there is a problem with that. All being well I will be meeting Kevin for a few pints lunchtime. It is almost certain.................no, it is certain that I will be drinking Winter Warmer (assuming it is available), and that will a) get me drunk, b) give me the munchies, and c) being a sweet beer, provide far too much sugar for my body to deal with. However sacrifices have to be made, and while there is Winter Warmer available it has to be drunk !
Saturday 26th December 2009
09:56 GMT

 It is a bit damp this morning. We seem to be getting intermittent showers of drizzle, but I don't think anything heavier has fallen. I haven't actually been outside yet this morning, but I get the impression it is a lot milder than recent mornings. Once again I haven't seen a weather forecast, so I have no idea what the rest of the day is forecast to be like. It could remain grey and drizzly all day, or the weak, watery sun could break through like it did yesterday.

 Yesterday was probably the best xmas day I have had in quite a few years. It probably helped that it didn't seem like xmas, and I treated it more as an ordinary bank holiday. Apart from a few xmas cards along the mantelpiece I didn't bother with any decorations, or with my artificial xmas tree. The one concession I did make was to have a special dinner, and to buy my gigantic curry on xmas eve.

 My special dinner was the South African boerwors peri peri sausage. While I waited for it to cook in the oven I went out for a walk in the park. It was cold out there, cold enough to get my unprotected hands tingling, but to my amazement the sun did come out, and the sky turned blue while I was walking around. My basic aim for the walk was to annoy the squirrels by throwing monkey nuts at them. That didn't really work. I saw quite a few squirrels, but they all looked remarkably well fed, and mostly ignored my nuts.

 That wasn't that surprising. There are still the remnants of autumn nuts and seeds on the trees, and it won't be until early summer when the squirrels get really hungry. One squirrel did take one nut, and posed for me while I took a shaky picture of it.
squirrel eating a nut
 It was while waiting to take this picture, and a few others, that I took my gloves off and allowed my hands to get frozen. One other picture I took is worth showing here. For years there have been wild parrots living in the park, but they are usually difficult to see, and even harder to photograph. Prior to yesterday the best views of the parrots were more often as streaks of green as seemed to fly from tree to tree at high speed. With leaves on the trees they are practically camouflaged when roosting in the trees, and seem to sit high up in the tallest trees. Yesterday I had an almost clear line of sight to one parrot almost above my head, and despite the risk of getting an eyeful of something unpleasant I managed to get this one not good, but recognisable, picture of one of the Ladywell parrots.
A Ladywell parrot

 After my walk I came home with my hands almost numb, and I was rather surprised when I saw a clock and realised that I had been out for almost an hour. My dinner had been cooking for a little longer than I intended, but no damage was done. I ate my special sausage with just some salad (part of my Indian takeaway, and getting slightly limp) and a rather generous amount of garlic mayonaisse. I was expecting the sausage to be quite hot from the peri peri in it, but it was very mild. I am not sure what other spices may have gone into it, but overall it was rather delicious. One strange thing was that it seemed a lot more filling than it's size would suggest. It was quite big, but I often eat far bigger meals and still feel the desire to nibble afterwards.

 It wasn't until a lot later in the evening that I got the munchies again, and that was no bad thing. I haven't checked, but I am sure my blood sugar level is very high at the moment, and I am suffering in one specific way that is most probably due to my high blood sugar level. I really should have curbed my enthusiasm for nibbles last night, but at least I didn't seem to consume anything which had any obvious sugar content (such as the two packets of liquer chocolates that reamin unopened in my cupboard). I don't know if I will succeed, but I am going to try and avoid eating today until this evening. It is possible, although unlikely, that this could be the start of some sort of diet, although the likelyhood of drinking a few pints with Kevin, tomorrow lunchtime, will undo any good I can do today.

 I have had a very lazy morning. I got up a little after 5 am to attend to Smudge's needs (and my own), and then after an hour or so I went back to bed. I didn't think I would go back to sleep, and initially I just lay in bed letting my imagination run wild. A couple of times I seemed to doze off for short periods, and then it seems I really did fall asleep. I had a couple of dreams that seemed to feature carpet as some sort of specific feature. I can't think of anything that would inspire me to dream about carpets. In the first dream it was a very large offcut of electric blue carpet that I was trying to find a place to store. You could say that the second dream was actually about the absence of carpet rather than carpet itself. In the dream I was in bed asleep and being woken up by Smudge who was frantically scratching at my bedroom door. I woke up, got out of bed, and opened the door. In her efforts to get into my bedroom, Smudge had managed to scratch and drag most of the carpet out of the hallway outside my bedroom. As I frantically tried to pull some clothes on so I could go downstairs and let Smudge out into the garden I woke up for real, and it took a few instants for me to realise I was back in the real world (I assume).

 I was amazed to find it was gone 9.30 am when I (really) woke up. Since then I had done little more than sit here typing, although I did take a couple of breaks, but it is now 10:51 and the sun appears to be shining. I think what I ought to do is to have a shower and wash my hair, and then go out for a walk in the sunshine (probably after allowing enough time for my hair to get mostly dry). I guess I'll start off walking in the park, but maybe if I feel enthusiastic I may wander a little further - perahps I'll tackle the very steep hill up to the standing stones (or stone circle) of Lewisham.

 After my walk I think it will be time to sit down in front of the TV. It is possible, but not that likely, there could be something interesting to watch on broadcast TV, but if not then I am looking forward to some new Start Trek adventures. After a very long wait (6 months ?) there is a new "Star Trek - The New Voyages" episode available that I have downloaded. It is the second part of a story called Fire & Ice, and I think I will have to watch the first episode again to remember what it was all about. I have no idea what I will do for the rest of the day.
Friday 25th December 2009
09:04 GMT

 The phenomena known as Xmas day has started grey and damp instead of crisp and white. Every last trace of ice has now disappeared, but it is still rather cool outside. Instead of snow we have intermittent drizzle. Actually, the last weather forecast I saw, over a day ago, suggested that today would be bright and cold. So the weather has not lived up to preconceived expectations or forecasts. From the look of the sky the intermittent drizzle could continue for a long time yet - maybe for the entire day.

 Yesterday was drier, but it was still mostly overcast. I was looking forward to going home from work in daylight yesterday, but I ended up going home even later than usual. This was not due to any Scrooge like behaviour from my boss, but because I joined a couple of my workmates for a drink after we left work a little after 1 pm.

 By the time I had drunk 4 pints of lager it was getting dark, and by the time I had done a little bit of guided shopping it was definitely dark. My guide for my shopping was my South African workmate. He wanted to buy some special sort of spice for a xmas barbecue he was having, and I thought I would tag along with him for some expert advice in the shop.

 The shop we first headed for specialised in South Africa provisions. That shop was shut, but the local Londis "mini mart" also has a small range of South African produce. My workmate found some spice that presumably satisfied his requirements, and then he explained in the briefest of terms what some of the South African stuff was. I decided to buy some South African sausage which in his brief terms was described as "a sausage" and "yeah, their tasty". If I could be bothered to go to the kitchen, and open the bag where the sausage is defrosting, I could give you the name of this sausage in a way that might even come close to reality. Instead I will rely partly on drunken memory and partly upon imagination. I think it was called something like "broedeworks peri peri". I know the peri peri bit is correct, but the first word could be 75% fantasy. Basically, as far as I can make out, it is a rather large beef sausage seasoned with hot peri peri chillies. It is going to be my xmas dinner for today.

 Having a large hot (spicy) and hot (out of the oven) sausage for xmas dinner is a bit of a radical departure from my tradition of having a curry for dinner. Last night, soon after I got home from work (and the pub) I managed to curtail my extreme hunger and order a huge Indian takeaway. By a tradition that goes back several years, I have curry for xmas eve dinner, and then more for xmas dinner. What I ate last night was rather excellent, and I still have plenty left over for another 1.5 meals. I have already eaten more of the takeaway for breakfast (the paapadoms and a naan bread), and I look forward to a bit more for supper. With the South African sausage taking the place of dinner today, I should, if I am careful have enough Indian takeaway left for breakfast tomorrow morning.

 On Wednesday night, at around 7 pm, I was startled to receive my new mobile phone. This was the phone that suggested used Google's Android operating system. While there could have been a possibility that was true, I was only too aware that it was unlikely. Having now got the phone it is obvious that it uses a very clever replica of the Android system. Considering that the Android operating system is open source, and hence free, and that only a relatively small amount of (rather skilled) work is needed to adapt it to the phones actaul hardware, I find it surprising that the Chinese, who made my phone, should go to the trouble of writing software that looks like Android.

 I have to admit that it looks quite authentic, but it is a shame that it doesn't work authentically. As a phone it all works perfectly, but the "smart" features, Google mail, and web browsing etc, do leave something to be desired. I think I am very happy with having spent 95 for a completely no-strings-attached, simfree, mobile phone, but because it does not give some of the features I want I think that I am going to have to find a genuine Android phone. Maybe this desire is strengthened by having had a taster of what's possible from the Chinese phone even if that doesn't work quite the way it should (or I think it should). For anyone else who wants to buy a cheap phone they can pop in a sim card, and just make/recieve calls, send/recieve txt messages, and maybe take the odd photo, I would recommend one of these Chinese phones. Maybe I wouldn't recommend mine though. There is a more basic model, without the "smart" features, that only costs 65, and that has to be a bargain (at least I think it is) without the doubts of buying a second hand phone.

 I was hoping to hear from Patricia yesterday, or maybe even on Wednesday night. She had gone to Italy for a few days, and was supposed to be returning on Wednesday sometime. So ar I have heard nothing. There could be two equally possible reasons for this. The first is that she is still in Italy because of all the airport closures, and other delays brought on by the recent bad weather. The second is that she has forgotten to contact me. I often suspect that unless I periodically remind her of my existince I disappear from her world view. Hopefully it is the latter rather than her having to sleep on an airport floor for the last couple of days.

 I am wondering if today will be a bit of a boring day. I have only a few things planned for today. One is to go for a walk in the park, and maybe feed the squirrels. I have already taken one short walk in the park, but that was before sunrise. It was nice to be in the very quiet fresh air, but too early for squirrels, and it would have been a bit better if I had wrapped up a little warmer. My next task will be to hang up some washing that should be finishing in the washing machine very soon. After that I ought to write a couple of thank you emails for a couple of the xmas cards I received. After that I could go and feed the squirrels, do some washing up, or even do some gardening, but I might just slump down in front of the TV, or maybe even go and have a snooze.
Wednesday 23rd December 2009
08:28 GMT

 There was a thin mist rising above the cemetary as my train pulled into Earlsfield station this morning. I was running about 10 minutes late, and that was just enough to see the early glow of the rising sun as it neared the horizon, and that added a certain unearthlyness to the rising mist.

 As I left work yesterday the sun had set, but there was still a glow on the western horizon that stayed alight until my train was in the vicinity of Vauxhall. The reason for this was that the sky was totally clear, and as a result the temperature had dropped below zero before I had even left work. It made the remains of the ice and snow increadibly hard and crunchy, and it was very easy to walk on. However, the road leading from the business village, past the council flats, had not been gritted, and was covered in black ice. I often walk part of the way down the road itself because it is a lot easier than walking on the uneven, and unlevel, pavement. I didn't dare try that last night because it felt more slippery than an eel coated in KY jelly.

This morning, after the totally clear night, there was a very severe frost, and many surfaces were quite slippery, and once again the approach road to the business centre looked more like an ice rink. I am not sure what the weather forecast for today is, but I would guess it will remain dry with a fair bit of cool wintery sunshine.

 I am rather glad that the winter solstice has now passed, and the days are getting longer again. I think it will be another month before I can look forward to some of my commute being in daylight, but at least it is something to look forward to.

 What I am not happy about was my journey home last night. I left work a few minutes later than usual, but made my way to Earlsfield station in good time. From there I had only a minute, or so wait for a train to Waterloo. Once at Waterloo everything went wrong. Southeastern trains were still running their "modified Saturday service", and I was dismayed to see that the next Catford Bridage bound train was due in just under half the time it takes to walk to the platform. With no hope of getting that train I was forced to endure a 30 minute wait for the next one.

 I couldn't believe it when the train turned up with just 4 carriages (as had been the case in the morning). All the seats had already been taken, and people were standing up. It was a bit of a scrum getting on the train, and then I realised that not only was the train not big enough for all the regular commuters, but it was very seriously not big enough for all the parents of the kids who had been to see Santa somewhere. Of course most of them had pushchairs, and that added to the crush and confusion. At London Bridge things got very heated between one parent (with his little darling in it's pushchair) and mostly everybody who tried to squeeze on the train. It was only when we got to Catford Bridge, after a very unpleasant journey, that I realised that somehow there were actually two push chairs cramming up the space in the doorway. It was a huge relief to get off that train.

 The trains seemed back to normal this morning, or at least on Southeastern "Metro" services. I noticed that there were still some long delays, or even cancellations, on trains going to the coastal areas. South West trains, who run services from Waterloo are generally more reliable than Southeastern trains, but even they had a couple of delayed or cancelled trains this morning. That was the cause of me running about 10 minutes late this morning.
Tuesday 22nd December 2009
12:05 GMT

 A lot of snow fell yesterday evening. During the heaviest snowfall there was even a flash of lightning, and a clap of thunder. Apparently it is not that rare to get thunder and lightning during heavy snowfall, although I can only recall it happening once before, and that was during the snow at the begiining of the year.

 The snow that fell was only just cold enough to be called snow instead of sleet, but it did a very good job at completely covering the road and paths. By this morning, with temperatures just a bit above freezing, a lot of it had melted leaving a nasty looking slush behind. Although my hiking shoes have no grip on sheet ice, they did provide plenty of grip in the slush snow, and I was able to walk to the station without any noticeable slipping.

 It was lucky that I checked the train services before I left home to come to work. I think I might have suspected there could be a Saturday service running, but the news from Southeastern's web site was that it was a modified Saturday service - modified because of the bad weather. Originally I was aiming for the 07:04 train, but the website informed me that it was due 8 minutes earlier at 06:56 (which was it's traditional time before the timetable changed on the 13th of this month). Had I not checked I would have only got a few hundred feet from the house before I saw the train I wanted already on it's way to Ladywell, and then onto towards London.

 When my train arrived it arrived on time, but some clown had decided that it only needed to be 4 carriages long instead of 10. Part of the modified service was that there were no direct trains to Cannon St this morning, and any passengers for there would need to change at London Bridge. It is possible, if not probable, that there was a proportion of people who were not going to work today, but a lot of us were, and some of those people would have got the earlier Cannon Street train if it was running. If my train had been an eight car train it would have had just enough capacity for a comfortable journey up to London with just a handful of standing passengers. A six car train would have been fairly packed, but my 4 car train was close to bursting at the seams !

 In complete contrast, my train from Waterloo to Earlsfield was less than a quarter full. South West trains who run the services out of Waterloo seemed to be running a perfectly normal service with the usual 8 coach trains, and no delays or cancellations (or so it seemed).

 As usual, or now seems usual, there was far less snow at Earlsfield than there was at Catford. Now, halfway through the day, most of the snow had gone in Earlsfield, but it is still hand numbing cold outside, and I would not be surprised if there was still snow somewhere to be seen in Catford when I get home tonight.

 I spent a fair amount of time this morning looking for a new mobile phone. I was provoked into doing this by hearing glowing reports about the Google Android G1 phone. I have been considering the pros and cons of a "smart phone" for some time now, and this morning I decided I would have to do something about it. I didn't want to be tied into a long contract, and yet I didn't want to pay hundreds of pounds for a non contract phone. The answer came from Ebay. There is a company selling imported phones from China that are superficially very similar to more upmarket phones here, but are considerably cheaper. You can view the phone, it's specs, and the "buy now" price here.  While it's "special" features may not exactly match the genuine article, it's other features appear to be more than a match for the phone I am using at the moment. All I hope now is that it gets delivered to home while I am actually at home during the xmas break. Most web based orders I get sent to here at work, but for the phone order that didn't seem to be possible.
Monday 21st December 2009
10:44 GMT

 The last three mornings (that includes this morning) have been freezing cold and dry. The snow that fell on Thursday night, and then again on Friday night, has still not disappeared in places where it has been in the shade, or has been compacted into solid ice. A change is on it's way though. The weather forecast suggests that rain is on it's way, and will be coming up from the south coast where it is very (extremely !) marginally warmer.

 Saturday and Sunday were both rather bright sunny days, but that bright sunshine carried little heat with it. Where it did shine onto the snow, that snow slowly sublimated away. Today we will have to wait for the rain to wash away the ice and snow. After a bright start it is now getting quite overcast. There are no obvious, or discrete, clouds, but the entire sky seems to have changed from blue to light grey. If the temperature drops below zero tonight it could turn the whole of London into one vast skating rink after a heavy downfall of rain during the evening. Apparently this won't happen, and the temperature will be just above freezing in the morning.

 Last Friday was the day of the works xmas dinner/party. This year I was not feeling ill like last year, and I was able to enjoy being there. It was not terribly exciting, but I did manage to get reasonably drunk, and that helped things a bit.
Xmas party at work
 You might get the impression from the picture above that everybody was having a miserable time, but I think it is just my knack of taking a picture at the wrong time, plus everybody is concentrating on eating. I have to say the food was rather good, and if I could have felt comfortable about the idea of my long journey home with a full gut I could easily have eaten far more than I did.

 Some booze was provided by the company, but it was not that wonderful. The champagne was not bad considering that I don't really like champagne. There were two types of bottled ale available. One was ok in the blandest sort of way, and the other I didn't really care for. Two of the guys contributed their own booze to the occasion. From our storeman came a bottle of stuff from his native Hungary. I think the closest description of it would be Apricot Schnapps, and it was very nice.

 The other booze was a Vodka from one of our Polish workers. This vodka was falvoured with Bison Grass (or was it buffaloe grass ?). It gave it a sort of grassy taste, and was rather pleasant. Apparently it was recommended to drink it with apple juice. I tried that and it was revolting !  Although it made the tongue tingle, I still think it was best taken neat, although some ice would have been a good addition.

 I am not sure what time I left the party. It was not early as I thought might happen, but it was not that late. Maybe it was around 5 pm, just an hour after I would normally leave work. By the time I arrived back in Catford I was feeling cold and hungry, and being slightly drunk I just had to buy some fried chicken and chips. I eventually went to bed feeling quite stuffed, and maybe ever so slightly queasy.

 On Saturday morning I awoke with a hangover. It wasn't the serious "hammers in the head" hangover, but more of the sort where it feels like your brain is wearing a sock. I am not sure if having something important to do clears the head a lot quicker, but I had nothing to do, and the feeling stayed with me until at least lunchtime. About the only thing I did during the morning was to do two shopping trips. One was to Tesco, and the other was to the 99p shop. In the latter I bought enough calories to keep an army on it's feet until sometime in mid January. Hopefully I will have some of those goodies left to tide me over the xmas period. My shopping in Tesco was a bit more utilitarian. With a rather large bag of baking potatoes, and 4 two litre bottles of Diet Coke, I had little spare capacity to carry more than a small assortment of smaller items.

 I did very little else for the rest of Saturday. In fact I am not sure exactly how all the time passed. What I do know is that a vague plan I had to clear up the living room came to nothing. There was also stuff I meant to do with my computers, and in particular moving my new computer into it's proper place. That too came to nothing.

 Yesterday morning I was slightly more active. I was due a visit from Aleemah, and I managed to do some tidying up in advance of her visit. It was a little odd disorientating seeing Aleemah on a Sunday, and more so knowing that I had the next day (today) off work. It was like a Saturday, but many shops were closed, and the TV programmes were all different !

 Today time seems to be flying by. I got up at my usual time for a weekday, as if I was going to work, but after an hour I went back to bed again. I did think I could do with a little more sleep, but I wasn't expecting to get over two hours extra. Than again I made no special effort to get to bed on time last night, and it may have gone 10 pm before I was in bed.

 Since getting up for the second time I have washed my hair, shaved and showered, and answered an email. Answering the email took a lot of time because I had to do a lot of web searching to find some answers first. With that done I sat down to start writing this, and now it is getting on for midday.

 The next thing I must do is some more shopping. Today I will have to lug home a load of catfood, and even more Diet Coke as well as whatever I feel I can carry home. From now on the shops get increasingly unfriendly, or useable (or something) as more and more people try to crowd into them for their xmas provisions. In previous years I have left it too late to do any shopping, and have had to rely on whatever is in the freezer, and a gigantic Indian takeaway to feed myself, and Smudge, over the xmas shutdown, but maybe this year will be different. If I can get enough today I should not have to go to the shops again until after xmas when I will be able to have a good rummage through all the stuff that Tesco will (hopefully) be selling at knockdown prices. Usually they have special xmas packaged booze at very reduced prices, and special xmas cheese boards are usually a good bargain too (as well as being very fattening !).
Friday 18th December 2009
08:30 GMT

 It snowed rather heavily in the night, but seemed to have stopped sometime in the early hours of the morning. When I set off for work there was about three quarters of an inch of snow on the ground, but it was already melting. When I arrived at Earlsfield I was very surprised to see no sign that it had snowed there at all. Now I am safely in work it looks like it is starting to snow here (maybe again). I think the weather forecasters did warn that the snow would come in two waves, and maybe it is the second wave starting now. This mornings Metro newspaper went further by saying that there could be more snow tomorrow, but didn't really make clear what part of the country they were talking about. The last I heard about London was that tomorrow would probably be very cold, and possibly wet, but no snow.

 Having seen the almost blizzard like conditions in the middle of the night I naturally dressed up in my very wet weather gear. In the end I didn't need any protection from anything falling from the sky, but it was very useful at keeping the biting wind at bay. I wore my hiking shoes again, and sure enough they did feel very firm when walking on the slushy snow. I would have thought they would have provided a reasonable amount of grip when walking on sheet ice, but it seems not. The end of platform D at Waterloo East had been left untreated when I alighted from the train, and as I got off the train I immeadiately went apex over base. It did look like some salt had been put down, but closer examination, and I did get unusually close to it, showed it to be a few random scatterings of snow over a sheet of ice. Fortunately nothing was hurt but my pride, and a couple of small puncture marks in my over trousers.

 Today is our works xmas party/dinner. Once again it is being held in the canteen rather than at a restaurant as was the case for my first two xmas's working for this company. Being in the canteen is not so wonderful, but at least this year I am well. Last year I felt horrible, and after a few small nibbles I returned to work. Oddly enough I feel I enjoyed myself more doing battle with some repairs rather than socialising. I came away from work feeling rather satisfied. I am not sure what will be happening this year. It is possible that it will be a great time and I will stay late, or it will quicly grow tedious. In which case I may slip away early.
Thursday 17th December 2009
07:54 GMT

 There was no frost this morning, and I find that a bit surprising considering that I could see the starts when I left home to come to work. About 50% of the sky was cloudy, but that still left 50% of the sky open to let all the warmth radiate out into the galaxy. Maybe it was a lot cloudier earlier on in the night.

 It certainly became cloudy yesterday, and those clouds dropped snow on us ! It didn't happen until all the very last traces of the morning frost had melted, and that left the ground too warm for the snow to settle in any significant way. Yet some snow did manage to settle.
The first snow of the winter
 The picture above shows some of the snow on an old log on the river bank of the River Wandle as it flows through the park behind where I work. It may not be much snow, but the worst is yet to come.

 The snow stopped falling by approximately 3pm yesterday, and after that there was just some sporadic cold drizzle. That drizzle did it's best to eliminate all signs of the snow, but in Catford there may have been more snow, and on the way between the station and home there were several places where there was a very slippery sheen of slush on the pavement.

 The shoes I was wearing yesterday have very little tread (assuming you can describe the sole of a shoe in the same way as you can describe a car tyre). They are not worn out, like an old tyre, but were designed that way - which seems odd for a so called sports shoe where lots of grip would surely be useful. On a wet floor they can sometimes lose a bit of traction, but on the slippery slush it felt like I could go apex over base at any moment. Today I have put my hiking shoes on. They have soles like a good car tyre, and should provide plenty of traction in the event of more slippery surfaces happening.

 It seems there is a very good chance of more slippery surfaces. At about the time the snow left off yesterday, it may resume today. There is the potential that I will be going home from work in driving snow, but it could happen a lot later. The time it starts is of less significance than the forecast that there will be a lot of snow on the ground tomorrow morning. Of course the railway companies have had plenty of warning about this, and Southeastern Trains in particular, will presumably be taking precautionery measures to make sure that the trains are running perfectly by the middle of next month ! I am wondering if I will ever be able to get to our works xmas party tomorrow.

 It was rather cold yesterday evening, and it seemed to take ages to get my living room warm. The back room was particularly chilly, and made worse by leaving the back door open for Smudge to decide to go out, and then to decide to come back in again. By 7.30 pm it seemed that I had seen all I wanted to see on TV and went into the back room to play with my new computer. It felt too cold to do too much, and I ended up in my nice warm bed just before 8 pm. I deliberately left the heater on low in the back room when I went to bed, and it was not too bad in there this morning.

 Once I was in bed I fell asleep a lot quicker than I thought I would, and I probably slept for eight and half hours before I got up. I guess I must have been needing that sleep. I did dream a lot, but only one bit of dream is worth mentioning for it's (possible) amusement value.

 Once upon a time there was a Monty Python sketch where everytime a customer in a department store said the word mattress the salesman had to sing a verse of "Jerusalem". My dream had some similarities. It was based on the real fact that many of our production staff here at work are devout christians, and in fact many of them go to the same happy, clappy church. Now to get to the dream itself ! In it, I somehow discovered that if you recited the first line of the lords prayer (Our father, who art in heaven etc.) in a loud voice, the production staff would immeadiately stop working and continue to recite the rest of the prayer. Great fun ensued with me, and maybe some others, rushing into the production area at random times and starting them off.

  I must have one more dig at the new version of Thunderbird, the email client. One of the few things I did on the computer last night was to dig a bit further into the configuration files and get it to look, and behave more like the Thunderbird I know and love. I still can find and explanation, or cure, for it wanting to display one of my email accounts twice, but I guess I can live with that. My final conclusion yesterday was to make some sort of dubious comparison between Thunderbird and a pencil. I have now come up with a better one.

 Imagine Thunderbird was a supermarket trolley. In version three of the trolley they have added sat nav, turn indicators, air con, and a stereo system when all anybody wanted then to do was to make it steer straight. Thunderbird is just a tool, and tools do not need bells and whistles, they just need to work !
Wednesday 16th December 2009
07:52 GMT

 The weather forecasts for this morning were spot on ! It is perishing cold, and the while the stars twinkle in the sky, the frost twinkles on the ground. At least that was how the world looked when I first stepped out of the house to come to work this morning.  Now the stars can't be seen because, with the clear sky, it is getting light earlier than yesterday, but it is still very, very cold outside.

 If the forecast remains correct we will be getting some snow soon, but sadly that will turn to rain later on. Whatever does fall may well turn to solid ice overnight, and chaos will ensue tomorrow morning. Apparently there could be snow again tomorrow. At this rate a white xmas is starting to sound feasible. The one day where a lot of snow would be undesirable would be this coming Friday. That is when our work xmas party is, and if more than a millimetre of snow falls the country will come to a grinding halt, and no one will be able to get here (including me). Once Friday is out of the way then the more snow the better !

 My new PC, with it's installation of PCLinuxOS, is not all sweetness and light as I wrote yesterday. One minor problem has cropped up, and in some respects it could be my fault, but mostly it is not. Had I been paying attention, and had I known in advance of the consequences, I would not have allowed the update to Thunderbird, the email client, to go ahead.  The update took Thunderbird from version 2 to version 3, and in version three they have tried to be clever and add all sorts of bells and whistles to an already rather good email client. Maybe what they have done to it really is "more productive" and "more intuitive", but basically they have ruined what was a simple, easy to use, easy to understand, application that had a very specific purpose - namely to download email, to present a list of downloaded emails, display selected emails, and to compose new emails.

 Next time you buy a pencil make sure it is not designed by Thunderbird. If it is you will have to select which end (or side !) the lead points out of, what colour it is, use the built in compass to see which way north is, tune in to Radio 2 using the built in radio to check the shipping forecast, all before you can use it to do what pencils do best - to write stuff !

 I have managed to get Thunderbird 3 to look like Thunderbird 2 now, but for some strange reason it is insisting that I have two identical email accounts and insists on displaying them both even though they are just one account. It could be caused by the escalation of a bug (or local file corruption) that made one of my email accounts refuse to remember to stay open (all sections showing - inbox, outbox, etc) after closing Thunderbird and restarting it. - typically the next morning.

 I really should look on the brightside of all this. For the umpteenth time I have managed to transfer my whole email archive from one machine to another (or between fresh installations on the same machine), and have done it without losing anything. Since ditching Outlook Express, and moving from Windows to Linux, I have an unbroken archive of emails going back to October 2003, and a rather patchy selection going back a couple of years before that. Is that useful ? Well if I ever get into the blackmail business I am sure I could find something useful. If that's not a good enough reason then we could always fall back on Paranoid Plods "useful for terrorist purposes" line of reasoning  - that covers anything from toilet paper to semtex, and probably includes pictures taken of Alpha Centauri by the Hubble space telescope, and pictures of anything of military value such as flowers and trees.

 I forgot to mention this yesterday (or was it the day before ?). Actually the exact day is not important, but one night I saw a bit of a film on the Freeview channel "Film 4" that appealed to me. The film was called "The Way Ahead" and starred several well know English (and Scottish !) actors such as David Niven and John Laurie (Fraser from Dad's Army) and many other well known faces from black and white English films and TV. Having only managed to see a short portion of the film I wanted to see it all. So I did a google search and arrived at this web page - http://www.archive.org/details/The_Way_Ahead_1944 .The film was made in 1944, actually during the second world war, and is now out of copyright (or it's copyright has been abandoned). So it is now freely, and legally downloadable. A search of the archive.org website reveals lots of other movies that are freely downloadable, and includes, for those who like their movies on the excessively blood thirsty side, the complete, uncut, "video nasty", The Driller Killer !
Tuesday 15th December 2009
08:03 GMT

 This morning does not seem all that different to yesterday morning. It is cold, but there is no frost. It is very cloudy, but there is no rain. I wonder if the rest of today will be like yesterday ?  During the morning the cloud broke up, and we did see a few sunny spells. Then the sky got cloudier again. By early afternoon I was seriously wondering if it was going to snow. The cloud looked very thick and heavy, but with that slight (real or imagined) green tinge that is often associated with snow clouds. It didn't snow, nor was there any sleet, but at around 3.30 there was a sprinkling of light rain. It had also got prematurely dark outside. Sunset was not far away, and when every minute of daylight is precious, those thick clouds stole at least 30 minutes of daylight.

 I managed to lug home my new, ex-dumpster, PC last night. Initially I didn't plan to do anything with it, but curiosity took over, and I opened it up, and fitted an alternative hard disk. Once that had been fitted it seemed pointless not trying out Linux on it. With a 3 GHz processor, 800 MHz front side bus, 1 GB of ram, a SATA hard disk and DVD burner, I expected it to be rather good. I wasn't disappointed. At least not after a bit of a bum start. I tried an install of Kubuntu on it, and it was crap !

 It was not the performance of the PC that was crap, but the performance of Kubuntu, or perhaps more specifically the KDE 4 desktop. I am not a great fan of the fourth iteration of KDE, and even version three had some dubious qualities when run at the default settings. KDE 4 has these strange plasma widgets that I don't understand, and that is offputting, but it was specifically the behaviour of the KDE package manager that sealed Kubuntu's fate on my new PC. Basically it kept crashing, and even when it didn't crash I found it infuriating to use. In between crashes I am not even sure I managed to find how to find new stuff to install.

 I didn't waste any time in totally removing Kubuntu from my PC, and was going to use Linux Mint 7 instead. I rather like Linux Mint 7, but I couldn't find the installation disk amongst the clutter on my desk. What I did find was PCLinuxOS 2009-1, and I gave that a go. It was wonderful ! It installed very quickly, and it's pre-configured desktop was KDE 3, and I was able to install all my favourite applications with just a few mouse clicks. I even went as far as transferring my Thunderbird email client from what is now my ex- main PC, and I also transferred all my Firefox bookmarks over too. This new machine, after just a few hours work, is now my main PC, and I was using it productively before getting to bed last night (just slightly late).

 I still have some work to do on the new PC, but it is only trivial things like adjusting a few bits of the desktop to just that exact shade of violet that is so pleasing to my eye, and transferring most of my files from the old PC. Some of the files on the old PC I will only be transferring to my server, and some I may even delete (but that might be an unneccassarily drastic step - as is trying to spell unnecc*=-""` - brainlock ! Dammit,  you know what I mean !).

 Yesterday morning I caught the 07:04 train that has been retimed from 06:54 in the previous timetable. It was a class 465 "Networker" train with high density seating, but quite comfortable seats. Annoyingly, it now seems to pull into platform D at Waterloo East. Previously it used platform B - the one with the handy gents toilets on it.

 Last night I caught the 16:23 train that has been retimed from the 16:29 train. It was my prefered train, and both it, and myself were very reliable at getting to platform C at Waterloo East on time. Now it is running 6 minutes earlier I may have to rush a bit more to catch it, and they haven't made it any easier by changing it to platform A, and therefore adding a few extra seconds to the walk to the platform. Happily I was on the platform in plenty of time to catch it last night. I was a bit disappointed that the service is now provided by a class 376 "Metro" train. These have less seats per carriage, but the train is longer. The worst aspect is that the seats are actually twice as uncomfortable as the already uncomfortable seats of a South West Trains class 455 train. This service no longer stops at Lewisham, but strangely enough that does not seem to save any time. Having left Waterloo East 6 minutes earlier, I was only  6 minutes early arriving at Catford Bridge.

 This morning I tested out the 06:33 service that originally was the 06:29.  It too used a class 376 train with it's rock hard seats, and like the later train also pulled into platform D at Waterloo East. This morning I would definitely have felt a lot more comfortable if the train had used platform B, and I had been able to access the gents toilets in seconds rather than minutes. Fortunately there was no emergency, but it is going to be inconvenient if it was more of an emergency, and it is a very, very long walk to the gents on the mainline station !
Monday 14th December 2009
08:27 GMT

 I think a crisp frosty morning would have been nice this morning despite the pain. Instead it is just very cool, and the sky is all grey and nasty looking. I think some forecasts suggest that the cloud may break up to give a little sunshine, but to me it looks like it will rain soon.

 The weather is, apparently, going to turn much colder from about midweek. However I read this in The Metro this morning, and believing that the forecasts in The Metro are no more accurate than random chance, it could actually be that we are heading for a heatwave.One thing is for certain though, it is now only a week away from when the days finally start getting longer again. This morning marked the new timetable for my train services. The last train I can catch to get into work before 8 am was the 06:54. This has now been recheduled to 07:04, and yet even running ten minutes later does not effect the fact that my entire commute, to and from work, is done in darkness - although it was trying to get light as I walked from the station to work. Maybe if the sky was clear I would have classified it as light.

 The new train timetables have a more interesting aspect when it's time to go home. My favourite train from Waterloo East was the 16:29. This now runs earlier at 16:23, and will get me home just that little bit earlier too. (I am not sure, but I think it now misses out Lewisham and arrives at Catford even earlier than the 6 minutes gained at Waterloo East). Getting to Waterloo East for 16:23 will be a frantic rush, but it should be possible. The good thing is that if I do miss that train the next one is at 16:40. Under the previous timetable, if I missed the 16:29 I had a soul destroying wait to 16:55 before the next train.

 Maybe tonight I will be able to test out the new early train home, but maybe I won't. It is possible that I will be meeting the man whose laptop I have repaired. I am not sure which night it will be, but I do know it will be at Waterloo at 16:15 - and that's going to delay me enough to miss the 16:23. Still, it will be a good chance to test out the 16:40 service.

 Last night I thought a miracle had happened. As my shirts dried out it seemed as if the foul stench imparted by the Lenor fabric conditioner, that I mentioned yesterday, had worn off, and there even seemed to be a hint of a more pleasant smell below. I think it was just my nose had become overloaded by the stench, and had shut down it's stench receptors, because this morning the smell is just as bad. I came out from my morning shower, dried myself, and grabbed one of my freshly washed shirts. It smelt like someone had been chewing it along with cherry menthol cough sweets. I suppose, if pressed, I would have to admit that cherry menthol cough sweets is not an exact measure of the smell, but it is the closest I can come to. All I hope now is that other people do not find it as objectional as I do. There is some hope for that. Lenor must be selling the stuff by the thousands of gallons, and somebody must be buying it or it would disappear off the shelves.
Sunday 13th December 2009
12:36 GMT

 To my surprise, yesterday, and as far as we have got today, has been mostly sunny. It wasn't even exceptionally cold yesterday, although you could hardly describe it as warm. Today is very similar. At least I think it is - I haven't actually been outside to check.  There are quite a few clouds in the sky as I write, and some of them do look a little heavy, but there is also plenty of blue sky between them. As well as being surprised about the sunshine, I am also surprised that there didn't apear to be any frost this morning, nor yesterday morning.

 I did hear from Aleemah that last Friday when the fog was forecast, it was very foggy in North London even if it wasn't foggy in South London - or the bits of South London I travelled through.

 Yesterday, after Aleemah had gone home, I tried to use the restore CD for the laptop I am performing maintenance on for Aleemah's friend. I had got fed up with trying to clean the heavily corrupted, and infested, original installation of Windows, and concluded that a brand new fresh installation was, or should have been, the simple solution. It is possible that the CD that I was given with the laptop was for a different model of laptop, or something, but I could not get it to work at all. The same was true of the recovery partition I found on the hard disk. I used gParted to make the partition unhidden and/or bootable, but nothing would work. The one thing I didn't do was to research the correct usage online. It was easier to just install Windows XP home from one of my own disks. There is a minor problem with this in that I think it would be safer to turn off automatic updates when I return the laptop because the new serial number does not accurately match that as printed on the authenticity sticker on the underside of the laptop !

 At the moment I am just waiting for every update possible (except one) to complete before announcing the job is done. After that I can get on with something else. Although as yet I haven't got a clue what that something else is.........no, I tell a lie. I do know what my next little task is. I am currently downloading a copy of Slax - a live, bootable, lightweight Linux distribution. Once that has finished downloading I shall burn it to a CD, and that will be going back with the laptop for use in emergencies. No matter what might happen on the hard drive (which might be nearing the end of it's life), the owner will still be able to boot up from the CD and do some work.

 While I was shopping yesterday I bought a bottle of Lenor fabric conditioner. It was either "spring awakening" or "fresh air" flavour. I can't remember which, and it may have had a totally different name anyway. What's more, I can't be bothered to go to the kitchen to check. What I do know is that having tried it I am desperately hoping that the stench it has imparted to my shirts disappears, or at the very least is severly attenuated by the time they are dry, and I am ready to wear them. If the stench is as strong when I come to wear those shirts then I completely understand if you want to move to a seat further away on the train from me ! This particular stench is best described by letting you imagine the smell of someone who has been ill in bed for several days, hasn't washed in that time, and has been using copious quantities of medications containing menthol, eucalyptus, and other smelly stuff used in such medications. Maybe it is also similar to the breath of someone who has a bad "Tunes Cherry and Menthol" habit. You can experience this stench yourself by requesting a free sample, but I have no idea what flavour they are sending out. As I post the link it looks as if it will be Mango and Orange flavour, although why anybody would want to wear a shirt that smells as if they have spilt the morning juice down it is a mystery to me. In future I think I'll stick to Tesco's own brand fabric conditioner.

 One other thing before I leave the subject of Lenor. If you click on the link for Lenor above, and then click on the products themselves, at the time of writing, and using Firefox, it takes you to a blank page. It's almost as if they themselves are embarrased about the terrible pongs they have forced into a bottle !
Friday 11th December 2009
08:35 GMT

 The weather forecasters said we would either have frost and/or fog this morning. We had neither, although I did see a few mildly misty areas. While it may not have been quite cold enough for frost, it was still very nippy outside, and it was a pleasure to get on a warm train. Although that pleasure had to wait until part 2 of my commute into work. There was no obvious heating on in my SouthEastern train from Catford Bridge.

 Yesterday was rather a fine day. We had the pleasure of a lot of sunshine, and although it was still cold enough to make my hands feel a bit tingly, it felt really nice when I went for a short walk in the park during my lunchbreak. The sun seemed to bring out the joy (or was it fighting spirit ?) in the birds too. There is an old cabinet with mirrored doors dumped by the skip here at work. Those mirrors were causing all sorts of excitement to a pair of wagtails for much of the morning. One in particular, possibly the male if the pair were of opposite sexes, would spend several moment studying his rival before leaping up, and with a flurry of beating wings, attack his own image in the mirror. I did try to catch some of this on my moile phone's camera, but I couldn't get close enough to film any more that a distant tiny blur on the picture.

 One other thing was dumped by the skip yesterday, and it was rather good ! It was dumped by the cleaners who were cleaning out a recently vacated office or workshop.It was a rather modern PC in good working order (if you can say that any PC with Vista installed could ever be in good working order !). It features a 3 GHz Pentium D processor, 1 GB of ram, a 160 GB hard disk, and the usual network and sound. By name it is a Compag Presario. One additional nice feature, although it is very common on modern PCs, is front panel connectors for USB, sound, and slots for various memory cards. It is far better than any PC I currently own, and once I have managed to lug it it home it will take pride of place amongst my collection.

 Last night I met Iain (and one other) for a quick drink in The Ram. They were actually late getting there, and I stayed there with them as I drank my last half pint, out of my self imposed maximum of two pints . After that I went into Tesco and bought some shopping, and then went straight home.

 After two nights of getting to bed late I decided I was not going to even turn on the laptop I have been working on. At 7.30 I took New Scientist up to bed with me. I nearly got carried away reading it, but I came to my senses at 8.30 and turned off the light. I think I was fast asleep, having a few rather good dreams, before my head even hit the pillow.

 I must make a few comments to people in my dreams (in case they are real characters in the 14th dimension, and read the hypergalactic version of this blog). To the woman who may be someone I haven't seen in real life for far too many years - Was it black ski pants, or black track suit bottoms you were wearing ? They were wonderfully soft, and you buttocks were totally wonderful. It's a shame you wouldn't let me do that in real life. To the two young women in another dream - "mounting" in this case refers to soldering an electronic component onto a printed circuit board. SMD LED actually stands for Surface Mounted Device, Light Emitting Diode, and has nothing to do with leading someone to a S&M dungeon. I liked your nice shiny clothes, and your kind offer was very appreciated, and although I am intrigued, I don't think pain is really my scene !
Thursday 10th December 2009
08:35 GMT

 I am surprised there was no frost this morning. The sky was totally clear when I left home in the dark, or was as far as I could make out, but the ground was wet from some earlier rain, and I guess the sky didn't clear in time for the temperature to drop below zero. In fact it was another fairly mild morning, and with lots of sunshine forecast for today, the temperature should rise to 11 C. That's not particularly warm, but it is apparently a few degrees above the average for this time of the year.

 Yesterday stayed dry, and I reckon the temperature did hit the forecast 13 C as promised by the weather forecasters. I would like to tell you what they predict for tomorrow, but I seemed to get distracted during two weather forecasts on TV last night. I think they are forecasting some frosty and/or foggy mornings in the near future. If today does remain fairly clear, and the skies stay clear overnight I reckon we could get a very thick frost in the morning.

 The reason I was distracted from the weather forecasts last night was because I was playing with Aleemah' s friend's laptop again. Once again it kept me up a lot later than is good for me, but I think I made some good progress last night. I had to resort to editing the registry to make the start up smoother, and when I decided I just had to stop and go to bed it was operating quite well. However I have have spent so long on this that I am wondering why I didn't just do a fresh installation of Windows. I have backed up all the data so I won't lose anything there, but a reformat would mean that quite a lot of applications would disappear into the after life. I am not sure how many, if indeed any at all, are really wanted. I think the applications that the user really wants I would have been installing from fresh anyway (Open Office, VLC player, Firefox, etc). Maybe tonight, or maybe tomorrow night I think I might take a deep breath and run the Packard Bell "system recovery" CD. I assume that it will reformat the hard drive, and restore everything back to factory condition - which would actually be a good starting point unless it installs too much total utter crap such as an out of date (and very ineffective), so called, security suite.

 I think I fancy a couple of pints of Winter Warmer on the way home from work. I wonder if Iain is free tonight ? After a couple of pints, and no more, I will have some dinner, and it is even possible I will go straight to bed. After not getting to bed until after 9 pm again  last night, and then waking up at 4.30 this morning, I reckon it could actually be a good if I could get to sleep before 8 pm tonight (maybe even 7.30).
Wednesday 9th December 2009
08:19 GMT

 Once again I found the ground was very wet when I set out to come to work, but I didn't meet any rain on the way here, and I suspect it will be a dry day today. Even Smudge must have forecast that today wouldn't be that bad. She ate half her breakfast, and then declared she was going out for the day to catch a takeaway. Apparently the temperature should get up to 13 C today, and that's almost, but not quite, warm ! With a bit of weak watery sunshine today I think it is quite probable that it will get that "warm". It was quite mild as I made my way to work, and so things can only get better.

 I feel like I had a great lack of sleep last night. I don't feel too bad right now, but later on I can foresee myself slumped over the keyboard fast asleep. I did doze off a couple of times yesterday, and there is a good reason why things will be worse today.

 Last night, on my way home from work, I picked up the laptop that belongs to a friend of Aleemah's. It was the one I was supposed to collect last Friday. There is no real rush for me to "refresh" it, but I wasn't home all that long before curiosity got the better of me. I found lots of things to do to improve it's performance. Among these were removing 64 bits of malware, and 6 viruses, deleting loads of crap files, installing Windows XP service pack 2, and adding another 256 MB to the meagre amount of memory originally installed. Many theorists say that Windows XP needs 1 GB of ram to breathe properly, but this nasty Packard Bell laptop, almost certainly sold by those bounders at PC World, only had a quarter (256 MB) of that fitted. It was fortunate that I had a compatible stick of memory to install into the machine.

 I ended up getting to bed 90 minutes later than the time I usually like to go to bed, and maybe after dozing off at my computer here at work yesterday, I should have gone to bed an hour earlier than that ! However, when I did finally put down the laptop and headed off to bed, the laptop was beginning to perform quite well. This morning the battery that had appeared to be totally dead seemed to have some life left in it. I had assumed, probably wrongly in this case, that the battery had been charged to death after the laptop had been on nothing but mains power for all it's life. Now I think it may have just over-discharged after the laptop had apparently not been used for something like 3 years. Maybe tonight I will see just how long the laptop can run on battery power, but tonight I must not get carried away, and get myself into bed, and maybe even fast asleep, by 8 pm. Then I might just get a little extra sleep on top of the 8 hours I need to stay bright and beautiful (!).
Tuesday 8th December 2009
 07:52 GMT

 Sunrise is in just one minute, but as I walked from Earlsfield station to work, about half an hour ago, the sky had got sufficiently light to see that although there was a lot of cloud, it was well broken up into small clumps.It seems feasible that there could be some sunshine today, and that could turn a "not very cold" morning into a mild sort of day. Apparently it is only forecast to be around 9 or 10 C today, but if the already light wind drops even further it may actually feel slightly warm standing in direct sunlight.

 Yesterday stayed fairly grey with a few light showers until around 3.30 pm. Then night time didn't wait for the sun to set at just before 4 pm, it went ahead and day became night before I had even left work. As I walked to the station it poured down. The ironic thing was that I had my cagoule and over trousers in my bag, but I was wearing my warmest coat, and that is too bulky to stuff into my bag, and too bulky to wear the cagoule over the top of it. So I got a little (!) wet, but at least I was heading in the right direction for a towel and dry clothes.

 In fact I didn't need a towel and dry clothes (although I changed anyway once I was home). The warm train from Earlsfield dried me off quite effectively, and the heaviest rain had stopped by the time I got to Waterloo. Back in Catford there was just a bit of intermittent light drizzle as I walked from the station to home via Tesco.

 It was possible that I was lucky to get home when I did. When I arrived at Earlsfield station there were no lighting on the platforms, and it was already very gloomy. Under such conditions I have known stations to close for safety reasons. It has happened to me once before when Catford Bridge station closed because of a lighting fault. The train driver warned us of this, and suggested we alight at Ladywell station and use local buses to Catford, or in my case to walk through the gloomy park that lies alongside the railway for about 2/3rds the distance between Ladywell and Catford Bridge stations.

 When I got home last night I took the bull by the horns and upgraded XBMC on my Xbox. Happily the upgrade went without a hitch, and it was definitely worth doing. Amongst a few minor improvements was one BIG one. In the earlier version of XBMC you had to write out the address to a shared folder on a server longhand using the on screen keyboard - which was a pain to do. This new version let's you just browse your way to the wanted destination. It is so much quicker and easier !

 Yesterday I stuck my hand in my pocket and ordered a remote control for the Xbox. At the same time I also ordered an adaptor to allow ordinary USB peripherals to be plugged in, and also an adaptor to allow a standard keyboard and mouse to be plugged in. All these items were quite cheap, but I ordered them via an Amazon external seller, and that means I got stitched up for multiple postage and packing. In a way it's a bit of a scam. Each item has the postage and packing listed by it, and that is pretty fair, but what is not fair is that you get charged that P&P for each individual item even though they will come in just one package. Two of my items are very small and light, and one is bigger and heavier. Putting in the USB adaptor, which is very small and very light, in with the remote control would add mere pennies to the price of the postage, or possibly none at all. I seem to recall that the USB adaptor was something like 1.96, and the P&P was 4 (or something stupid). I think a moaning letter to Amazon is forming in my head right now !
Monday 7th December 2009
 09:33 GMT

 It's very wet outside, and yet since leaving the house this morning I have not personally experienced any rain. The sky is fairly thick with clouds so there is a good chance that we will see more rain today. It is almost mild enough to go outside in a long sleeve shirt for a fag break, but it is also cool enough to irritate my lower back pain when I do !

 Although the agony has passed, my back is still aching in varying degrees. The most persistent area of ache is now the small of my back, but even that can disappear when I am seated comfortably. The area around my hips can still get a bit achey under certain conditions, but thankfully, even under the most severe conditions of that the pain no longer radiates into my genitals ! One development is that some pain now radiates upwards towards my armpits (but only gets about halfway there). While all this may sound quite bad, it is actually complete luxury compared to a fortnight ago.

 My Xbox, and my server that supports it, is now set up rather nicely, and I am very pleased with it. Yesterday afternoon I watched my first movie on it almost successfully. The "almost" was because I need to do a little fine tuning of the picture ratio to match my TV. The movie I watched showed everyone as just a little taller than is natural. It was subtle, and after a while my brain tuned the distortion out.

 I have had some suggestions for improving my Xbox experience. One suggestion is to upgrade to the latest release of XBMC software. I have now downloaded it ready to use, but I am slightly wary of disturbing a perfectly functional set-up. However that wariness may be overridden by the possibility of some new features, and may even be essential to realise the other suggestion. That suggestion is to replace the game controller by an infra red remote control for everyday usage. I can't recall seeing anything about remote controls in the settings of XBMC, and maybe it is only new versions that support it. I have now ordered a remote control, and a couple of adapters that plug into Microsoft's proprietry USB sockets. One adapter provides a standard USB socket, and the other allows the use of a standard PS/2 keyboard and mouse. These two latter items could be very handy while "tinkering under the bonnet" of XBMC.

 Some evening this week I may take a deep breath and install the updated XBMC. Hopefully it will "just work", although it is quite possible that I will have to delete some files. Yesterday I conjectured that XBMC makes a database of the media files available to it from an external server. It seems my conjecture was correct, and it is those databases that will probably have to be deleted, and then rebuilt when the new software is installed. One small hurdle to doing the installation is that, as far as I can tell without actually trying, when I try to connect (via ftp) to the Xbox from my desktop PC it appears that I only have read access. No doubt I can sort that out, but it is one additional hurdle to overcome.

 It is surprising how like a rat a small smoky coloured antistatic bag, with a short piece of wire sticking out of it, looks when seen with peripheral vision as it falls off a pile of old computer stuff. I was sitting at my other monitor and keyboard in the back room, doing some stuff on my server, when out of the corner of my eye I saw what I thought was a rat fall, or leap, from a stack of old computer stuff. In a sort of controlled panic I grabbed Smudge (much to her disgust) from the other room and "threw" her amongst the clutter under the table where I assumed the rat had landed. Smudge hardly stopped to investigate and came straight out giving me one of those "what the hell are you doing ?" sort of looks before going back in the other room to continue her sleep. Having seen Smudge torture to death (or more commonly just maim) a couple of rodents in the past, I am sure she would have reacted quite positively if there was really any "wildlife" under that table. So I stopped and had a good think. Then the answer came to me. As little as 30 minutes earier I had been delving through a pile of CDs. In amongst them was this smoky coloured antistatic bag with a bit of paper, and a short audio cable in it. I could think of a better place to keep it so to keep it handy I just popped it onto a pile of stuff while I continued to rummage through the CDs. I had placed it in quite a precarious position, and it had slid off the top of the pile. When I finally looked under the table, there amongst all the "rubble" (as someone might call it) was the anti-static bag with the the audio cable poking out of it like a tail. It was some relief to solve that mystery. Having once had a small mouse infestation I did not want to go through all that again !
Sunday 6th December 2009
 11:19 GMT

 The weather today does not really know what it wants to do. As I write this the sun is pouring in through the front windows, but there has also been plenty of rain, and the general forecast for today is for rain. It is relatively mild out - not that I have been outside to test it. Smudge reckons it's OK outside provided great drops of water don't fall on her, and when they do it's time for a graceful (sort of) retreat.

 There were quite a few showers yesterday, but also many dry periods. A few of those drier periods did see some sunshine, but probably no more than we have had today so far. I think it was also a lot cooler out.

 Friday night did not happen exactly as I thought it would. It was shortly before leaving work that I got a call from Aleemah's friend whose laptop I was due to collect to give it some extreme maintenance. He told me he hadn't allowed for some some street maintemance in his area, and it was causing massive traffic hold ups. There was no way he waas going to get to Waterloo in time, and gracefully suggested that we tried again, possibly on next Tuesday night.

 It was very handy not having to collect that laptop. During the morning I was finally presented with the Xbox that I had been promised a week or two ago. It, together with the connecting leads and a pair of controllers, was quite bulky, and I had to do some serious stuffing to get it into my back pack along with some of the other crap I had with me. I think that was probably the heaviest load I have ever lugged home in that back pack.

 One I arrived home I felt a bit tired, and initially I felt reluctant to get the Xbox out to have a play with it. Of course curiosity overcame that tiredness after sitting down for 30 minutes, and I extracted the box from my back pack and started to wire everything up.

 I was fortunate that the hard part, namely installing XBMC (X-box media centre) had already been done sometime in the past. All I had to do was to try and work out how to drive it. It took a little while to work out how to do the basic stuff using the game controller to control everything, but even now, some 36 hours later (or something) there are a few things I still have to do randomly until the functions of all the buttons sink in.

 It is a bit of a pain typing in things like file paths using the up/down/left/right and select buttons, but I managed to put in the paths to my server for all my music files, and was soon able to play music. One thing I could not work out how to do was to listen to an internet radio station - namely Radio Caroline. I tried putting in the full path to their server (http://sc1.radiocaroline.net:5560) as if it were the a file path, but it didn't work. It was only this morning that I recalled reading somewhere that a Winamp (or similar) playlist file (i.e. foo.m3u) would work. So I copied the saved Radio Caroline playlist file from my ancient laptop to my server, and I was rewarded by hearing Radio Caroline form the Xbox.

 Today I think I will probably be spending a fair amount of time trying to sort out some of the video files on my server. I get the impression that the Xbox tries to make some sort of database of files it is trying to play from my server, and in some cases I have an awful lot of them. With a very large directory to read it takes XBMC an age to find them all, and subsequently display them all. So I need a less haphazard filing system on my server for video files.
Friday 4th December 2009
 07:58 GMT

 The sky was at least 75% clear when I left home to come to work. The clouds I could see where very thin, and almost transparent. I could see the bright, almost full, moon quite sharply through some clouds. I am guessing the sky did not clear early enough in the night for the temperature to drop low enough for a good frost. I think just a few cars had some patchy frost on them. The rest just had dew.

 So with the clear sky, today should be a bright, cheery sort of day, although it is going to stay quite chilly. If the wind stays light, or even better, if the day turns out to be calm, it may feel nicer outside than yesterday despite the lower air temperature.

 Tomorrow rain is set to return, but the temperature could get as high as 12 C. That's one of those intermediate temperatures where I find it hard to imagine if it will feel cold, chilly, or cool. It all depends on other factors I guess. 12 C on a bright, calm day would probably feel close to pleasant, but with howling gales, and torrential rain it would be pure misery !

 I wrote quite a lot yesterday, mainly about trains, and yet there was one interesting thing I forgot to write about. That was about another dream I had. What was novel about this dream was that I dreamt about my dad. I can't recall ever dreaming about my dad before, although I probably have sometime in the forgotten past. Quite why I should suddenly have a dream about him 40 years after he died is something of a mystery. Now over 24 hours have passed since I had that dream I can only recall what I was thinking after the dream rather than the dream itself - or in other words, what I was probably going to write about it. Perhaps the second weirdest thing after the weirdness of even dreaming about my dad was how the dream was set in an almost mirror image of reality. The dream took place in Forest Hill, and most of the "action" took place in the road outside my dad's old shop. In real life, if I wanted to go to the sweetshop I had a choice of crossing the main road and going to the left, or crossing a side road to the left and walking straight on. Only the shop on the other side of the main road sold " a half ounce of Old Holborn" (rolling tobacco) that I would often fetch for my dad. In the dream everything was reversed. The tobacco shop was on the same side of the road, but on the right, and the other sweet shop was to the right across the side road. I have a very (exceedingly !) vague memory that I might have found this mirroring of reality a bit confusing in the dream, but that confusion may have happened later when I was trying to remember the dream in the morning.

 Tonight I know exactly what I will be doing first, it is what I will be doing after that that remains a mystery. On my way home I am meeting a friend of Aleemah's at Waterloo station to collect his laptop that needs some maintenance. Hopefully he will be on time, and will not attempt to natter too much because I would still like to get the 16:29 train home. Having got back to Catford I could go for a couple of pints of beer. That would be nice, but I will be lugging a heavy laptop around, and I will be very keen to find out just how bad a shape the laptop is in. So I am very undecided as to what to do. Maybe I'll get a call from Iain who will lure me into the pub, or maybe not.
Thursday 3rd December 2009
 08:20 GMT

 There was a fair amount of rain overnight judging by the puddles, but although the sky is very overcast, it didn't rain while I was travelling to work. It is possible that there will be more rain today, and it will stay mild until, perhaps, the evening. The sky is forecast to clear overnight, and tomorrow morning it is forecast we will wake up to another frost.

 Yesterday did get very wet for an hour or two. I had to put on my cagoule, fortunately carried in my back pack, when I went outside for a fag a couple of times. At one point in the afternoon I thought I would have to dress up in my overtrousers and cagoule as I went home from work. The sky seemed almost black, but by the time I was ready to leave the rain had all but stopped, and I just wore my normal jacket for the journey home.

 Getting home last night was not straightforward thanks to a fault with the doors on the first train I caught. Perhaps my suspicions should have been aroused by the fact that the train I caught at Earlsfield was an earlier one than I normally get, but I caught it because it had turned up late after being delayed earlier. We left Earlsfield quite normally, but at Clapham Junction, the next stop down the line, we waited and waited. It was possibly 15 minutes later before we heard an announcement from the guard telling us there was a fault on one of the dorrs, and that they had to take the train out of service.

 It was recommended that everyone go to platform 3 or 4 for trains to Waterloo. From platform 9 that is rather a long walk, and by the time anyone had walked that distance the next train would probably have arrived at platform 9. Having reached the time when I had no hope of getting my 16:29 train from Waterloo East, I took a more relaxed attitude and decided to go to platform 7 instead.

 It is from platform 7 that the long distance trains make one last stop before going straight to Waterloo. I had hoped that I might get a class 159 diesel-electric train because I haven't been on one of those for ages. The first train was actually a class 444 electric train, and although not as "exciting" I hadn't been on one of those for ages either. To add just a little bit more novelty to my journey home there was a plaform alteration announced just a minute before my train was due to arrive. Happily it was just to platform 8, and that is just a few steps way on the other side of the island platform.

 One curious thing about platform 8, apart from the fact that I have never got on, or got off a train at that platform before, is that the track is set for trains to run through it at speed, and because it is on a sharp curve the track is heavily banked. The upshot of that very long sentence is that the train leans away from the platform, and the doorways are about two foot higher than the platform edge, and there is a rather large gap too. I am quite surprised that "health and safety" allow them to use it for passengers. I was lucky that my sore back, and other sore bits, is sufficiently well healed that I had no problem doing the miniature mountaineering involved in getting on the train. Others may be less fortunate.

 The rest of my journey home went without major incident, but it did end up as being quite painful. I had to get the 16:55 train from Waterloo East to Catford Bridge, and that train is always fuller than the 16:29. I had on my back pack, and that does take up a bit of room. With no double seats left I opted to stand up for the ride home. It is usually no great trouble doing that, but last night I found the top of my right leg became very painful towards the end of the ride. I haven't suffered that particular pain since the days I used to wait for ages for a bus outside Forest Hill telephone exchange back in something like 1981. It was a great relief to get off that train, and start walking. Even then it felt like my thigh was burning for the first couple of minutes.

 This morning I suffered no great agonies. My back was a little stiff when I first got out of bed, but it eased up a lot before I had even had a hot shower, and by the time I reached the station I was fine. At least I was fine as far as my recent back/groin/hips problem was concerned, but my whole commute seemed like hard work. I really had to push myself to cross the link between Waterloo East and Waterloo mainline stations at a reasonable speed. When it came to the walk from Earlsfield station to work I took it a bit easier than normal, and yet I still arrived feeling like I had walked double the distance. Perhaps it's the weather, or maybe it's something else, but I hope things improve soon.
Wednesday 2nd December 2009
 08:05 GMT

 This morning is like a typical April morning, except that it is not April, but the second of December. It is fairly mild outside, but it is also very wet. Perhaps one thing that distinguishes this December morning from an April morning is that it is still essentially dark outside. Sunrise was at 07:46, and by now we should have been coming out of the twilight zone, but the heavy clouds are keeping the sky looking very dark. Fortunately there is some light getting through, and so I am reasonably convinced that the sun hasn't gone out overnight like a spent candle.

 I think I suggested that todays temperature would be up in the dizzy heights of 9 C when I wrote yesterday, but apparently we can expect the temperature to rise to double figures today - a brain sizzling 11 C (brain sizzling for the creatures that may live on the icy moons of Uranus for instance). Maybe 9 C was the starting temperature for today, although I would suggest a few degrees below that from they way it felt to me.

 While having a good old dig at the medical profession yesterday I totally forgot to report on how my lamb curry turned out. It was delicious ! One of the cooking tips I meant to share was just how useful a good sharp pair of scissors are in the kitchen. The lamb I used for the curry was the leftovers from my Sunday lunch. It consisted of a flat sheet of meat (it was belly of lamb), and rather than attempt to dice it up using a sharp knife and cutting board I just picked it up and used the scissors to cut it into cubes. It was ridiculously simple, and I wonder why I have never done it that way before. I also used the scissors to cut up a red pepper into chunks.

 Cooking the curry the night before, and then letting it infuse overnight did seem to bring out the best of the flavours. The finished product didn't really match any of the descriptions that you would find on a typical Indian restaurant menu, but I reckon it would match any of them for taste. Hopefully I will be able to say the same about what I am having for dinner tonight. It will be salmon curry. Last night I threw a couple of frozen fillets of "Tesco special offer frozen Alaskan salmon fillets" into a pyrex dish along with (the contents of) a jar of Sharwood's Saag Masalla curry sauce, a couple of quartered tomatoes, some green (string) beans, and some red pepper (capsicum). I cooked that in the oven for about 40 minutes before turning off the gas and going to bed. Tonight I see just how god (or bad) it turns out.

 Last night was one of those nights where I seemed to have many dreams. Most of the dreams were unexceptional, and what I can remember is not worth mentioning apart from one peculiar thing. Unfortunately I can't remember the context of this bit of dream. That does not matter as such, but since waking up I have been puzzling over the meaning of just one tiny bit of this dream. It concerned some new t-shirts. It seems that to wear these new t-shirts I had to stick a cold steel strip to my chest, and on the t-shirt there was a magnet that stuck to the steel strip. I have the very vaguest of feelings that I might have thought this was odd in the dream, but in the morning it seems completely nonsensical. Many dreams are weird, but even the weirdest seem traceable in some way to stimulus from the real world, but this weird t-shirt scenario seems defy even the most intangible of wild speculations !
Tuesday 1st December 2009
  07:50 GMT

 This morning is like a typical November morning, except that it is not November, but the first of December. The ski is fairly clear, and there is a thick frost. The temperature did not fall low enough for ice to form on the many puddles still hanging around after the recent rain, but the cars definitely had a nice thick frosty coating.

 It has been reported that elsewhere in England, in rural areas a lot further north than London, the temperature dropped to -7 C overnight. Meanwhile, here in London, the temperature is not expected to rise to beyond +7 C ! Tomorrow warmer weather is forecast. The temperature in London is expected to rise to as much as 9 C, but with that comes more rain and general gloominess.

 The medical profession sometimes seems to be a very pessimistic occupation. Last night I saw the nurse for my check up. I had not met this nurse before, and although I tried my hardest, I found I didn't really warm to her. Like the vast majority in her profession she spent most of the time telling me all about the gruesome things that will happen to me. How bits will shrivel and rop off, and about the agonies of death I will suffer. Well, I knew all that anyway. What would have been refreshing is to hear what wondrous things the medical profession could do to improve me.Of course that is a total fallacy. There is little they can do to overhaul the human body. Medical science has got to the point where a skilled surgeon can take you apart piece by piece, and put you back together in full working order with hardly a scar. On the other hand medicinal practioners have barely moved on from using leeches. They have some chemicals that they know do some things to some patients, but it's all done by guesswork, and I am of the opinion that doing divination by observing the pattern in chicken entrails would show similar levels of accuracy.

 So my checkup with this new nurse was not exactly beneficial to me in the ordinary sense of the word. However it was quite entertaining, and probably worth going along just for that. As usual my blood pressure went soaring up to the end of the scale, but that was only to be expected. One novelty was having my feet inspected. I knew that this is standard proceedure in a diabetic check up, but in the 12 or so years since some doctors thought I might be suffering from diabetis, I have never had it done before. Apparently the pulse into both my feet is strong, and apart from some heavily calloused areas, my sensitivity to touch is perfectly OK. I think the nurse was quite surprised I passed this bit of testing, but not surprised enough to stop her recommending that I should be using moisturiser on my feet, and grinding bits of them down with pumice stone - advice that I will ignoring !

 As I said, it was quite entertaining having that check up, but ultimately it left me feeling a bit depressed.It is a shame that people that are so dedicated to helping others can make such a hash of it. Obviously my view is probably based on warped conceptions from a totally unrealistic general view of life, but it saddens me anyhow. In part, it is my own rebellious/non-conformist nature that is responsible for these views. Being a rebel at this stage of life is not easy, and many targets are off limits these days (like knocking policemens helmets off - they tend to shoot you first and ask questions later in this neo police state we now live in). Now most of my rebellion is in my head, but I can still rebel against the medical profession. The cost is maybe my life, but that's not important. What is important is that it makes me feel good to be in control of at least one aspect of existence, and that makes me happy !