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My Diary/Blog For the Month of August 2010

Tuesday 31st August 2010
08:33 BST

  The ridge of high pressure sitting over Britain is giving us some rather good weather, and should do so for a few more days yet. The sky is nearly all blue this morning, and the shining sun should start to warm up the chilly night air to around 21 C. That's not that warm, but pleasant enough. Yesterday was mostly bright and sunny, but there were a few times when some dark clouds passed overhead.

 I completely forgot to write anything yesterday after getting really engrossed in designing DVDs. After a few shaky starts trying some Windows software I had lying around I gave up on that and tried an open source/free solution. Checking what was available from the Ubuntu package manager I found a couple of possibilities, and the one I settled for is the most excellent DVD Styler. What I didn't realise until I checked to see if there was a web page for it, and obviously found one, is that it is a cross platform application, and there are installers for Windows and MacOSX as well as Linux.

 DVD Styler is a really excellent piece of software that makes all the software that comes "free" with disk burners, TV cards, and the like, look like mere toys. Unless Sonic Solution's expensive DVDit has changed dramatically between version 5 and version 6, then DVD Styler leaves it in the dust ! I am so impressed that I might break a habit of a lifetime and actually donate some money to the makers of DVD Styler (there is a donate button on their website).

 I seemed to spend hours either in front of the PC, or waiting for it to do stuff. (There was very little waiting for DVD Styler - on my 2.8GHz PC it just wizzed through the encoder, and the results were crisp and clean). At the end of the day I had made a short demo demo DVD for The Bluesicians. (That's not a typo - it really is a demo of a demo DVD)  Now I have mastered the essentials of DVD Styler I will be making a slightly more ambitious demo DVD for the band, but my demo demo is enough give the band an idea of what the finished product may look like.

 Tonight I will probably spend a few more hours doing "video stuff", although there is a small chance I will be having a quick beer with Chris (lead guitarist of the band) to show him the results of my dabbling. I think he works locally, and I've sent out a message inviting him to call me to arrange a meet anytime this week. So if it doesn't happen tonight it may happen one night soon. Meanwhile, here's a sneak preview (in low quality) of one of the songs that will be on the demo DVD.
Sunday 29th August 2010
08:06 BST

  The sky is all rippled with high clouds as I write this. A bit earlier on it looked clearer so I am not sure which way the weather is heading today. The forecast was for today to be dry and sunny, and I hope the forecasters got it right. The forecast for yesterday did turn out to be a reasonable guess, but ultimately it was wrong (as usual). I think the weather shifted 10 or so miles to the north compared to how the forecasters thought it would be.

 I had a rather splendid day yesterday if you don't count the agonies of walking up and down the one exceptionally steep, and one not so steep, hills that I traversed to get to the gig at The Fox And Hounds beer festival in Knatts Valley (and the same going home again). That place is really in the middle of nowhere, but all that pain, and how I am suffering this morning, was worth it. Along the way I took a few photos.
You can go up or you can go down
It really is difficult to show how steep a path is in a photograph. Halfway up the bridle path that leads from Shoreham station the path splits in two. The lefthand path goes down, and the right hand path, the one I went up, gets incredibly steep. At some points it is as steep as a steep staircase without the benefit of steps. The whole path from the station to the road at the top of the hill goes on for three quarters of a mile !
Bullocks !
I found these bullocks conveniently close to the edge of the field they were in, and as you can see they were all posers.
Over hill and dale
 I don't know if this picture gives any idea of the terrain I was walking over. The station is on the other side of the hill in the distance. From the peak of that hill I had to walk down to where the cows are grazing at the bottom of the valley, and then up even further from where I took this picture. The second hill is not quite as high as the first, and the steepness less vicious.

 I'll stop whinging about the walk now, and stop trying to get sympathy I probably don't deserve, and get on with the point of the walk. It was, as I have said, to see The Bluesicians perform on the stage at The Fox And Hounds.
The Bluesicians on stage 28th August 2010
The band just finishing the song "Take It Easy" and getting a round of applause.
The Bluesicians on stage 28th August 2010
Steve Cox (bass guitar)  Liz (backing vocals)  Jo Corteen (lead vocals and guitar)  Bob Bonser (drums)  Chris Mayer (lead guitar)
Jo Corteen 28th August 2010
 The lovely Jo Corteen complete with slow shutter speed action blur !
 In between guzzling three well earned pints of ale I spent a lot of the gig either behind my camcorder or digital camera. I wasn't all that happy with my camcorder recording, but some songs did come out well. I think the stress of my difficult walk left my body a bit shaky, and that made handling the camera a bit difficult. Some of that handling difficulty lead me to tilting the camera over instead of holding it level.  I am by no means perfect at doing that, but I can't recall being so bad before.

 Overall I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and on this occasion there were a few extra highlights. I got some praise for the photos and video I posted to Myspace, and I was asked if I could put together a short video demo tape that the band could use to promote themselves. The weather staying warm and dry right up to the point where I was under shelter at the station heading to home was excellent (after that it started tipping it down).

 Another sort of warped enjoyment was using a portaloo !
Portaloos at The Fox And Hounds
 To cope with the needs of all the extra drinkers for the beer festival (that is expected to be far busier today and tomorrow) the pub had these four portaloos installed. You may wonder why a portaloo could give any enjoyment. Well it's a matter of trying to experience the whole festival scenario. I've never been to any of the big festivals such as Reading or Glastonbury, and so have never experienced the horror stories about the toilets there. Now I have been to a (micro, by comparison) festival portaloo, and I am no longer a portaloo virgin. I am guessing that by the end of the beer festival tomorrow these portaloos will not be as bad as those at Reading (which is taking place right now), but when I used one yesterday I found it remarkably fresh and almost civilised. So I guess I have not really done the portaloo experience, but it was close enough for me.

 I think I may have had some sixth sense when it came time for me to go home. Soon after the band finished I had an urge to leave very soon. I stopped for a short while to chat to the band, and that was definitely a good move because to my amazement and delight I got a peck on the cheek from Jo (who I can add, because I very much doubt she is reading this, has a very cute bum !).

 Walking back to the station was a whole different experience to walking to the pub. The best bit is that it starts off downhill before a much gentler climb back up to the top of the mountain (!). It had become quite overcast as I walked, and walking down the narrow lane that passes through the fairly dense Doctors Wood was an almost gothic experience in the dim light. I arrived back at the station in far better condition than I had arrived at the pub. With 15 minutes to wait for the train I had time to cool off a bit and smoke a fag. A minute before the train arrived it started to rain, but I was under cover by then so it didn't matter. Back in Catford it was raining on and off, and I could see that there had been copious amounts of rain earlier. When I got back indoors I let in a very soggy looking Smudge.

 I went to bed last night feeling exhausted, but also rather happy. Today, if I had the energy, I could choose to walk across more fields, and down more country lanes to see another gig, but I think I'll pass on that (and I think it is advance ticket only entry). Instead of all that fresh air I think I am going to make a start on editing my latest video footage, and review the earlier stuff to see what I can put on the bands demo DVD.
Saturday 28th August 2010
08:52 BST

  Summers back ! I don't know how long it can last, but as I write this the sky is the purest blue, and the sun is shining brightly. Not everything is sweetness and light though. The sky cleared quite early in the night, and the temperature has plumetted. I don't know the exact figure, but I guess the temperature is somewhere around 12 - 15 C. The ever accurate weather forecast did get the clear sky right, but suggests there could be some passing showers later on, and the temperature will only rise to 21 C.

 The dry bright weather removes any excuse to not go clambering over the hills of Kent to get to The Fox And Hounds pub where The Bluesicians will be playing this afternoon. The relatively cool temperature today will actually be a good thing. When I did the rehearsal for todays trek it was a bit warmer, and by the time I had walked up and down those hills I arrived at the pub as a soggy mess. I will inevitably still get sweaty today, but maybe it won't be so bad that I am dripping everywhere !

 It's good that we are now starting a long bank holiday weekend, but it's not so good that I am starting it with rather less cash in my bank account than is desirable. It would be very close to the truth to say I am totally skint. The actual truth is that I am just skint with total assetts of around 40 to last until pay day next Tuesday. I was hoping that my pay would go in yesterday in time for the bank holiday, but no. It will be paid into my account on the last day of the month as I should have realised it would be.

 Last night I was doing some video editing. The video originated from my Sony Hi8 analogue camcorder. To get it onto a computer I could have followed either of two routes. The first, and ultimately the easiest, would have been to play the output of the analogue camcorder into the analogue input of my Samsung digital MiniDV camcorder. From there I could just import the digital video straight into the computer (via firewire) in a format that is easy to edit. The small problem with that method is that I am short on MiniDV tape space until I buy some new tapes.

 The method I did use was to use my set-top DVD recorder to record the analogue camcorder signal as a DVD. Unfortunately the DVDs produced this way are a bit non standard, and some DVD rippers have trouble with reading the disk format. Happily I found a Linux DVD ripper that was quite happy to rip the video off in Xvid format. In theory my Windows based video editor should be able to use Xvid coded video, but it is far from happy with it, and I blame the Divx plugin that it insists on using to decode it.

 I have three Linux video editing applications on my Linux PC and I gave two of them a try to edit the video. The first, PiTiVi does make some aspects of editing really rather simple, but crucially it lacks, or appears to lack, the ability to add titles. The second application, and the one I finally used is called Open Shot, and by using the application Inkscape as a title editor, it is possible to generate some rather groovy titles (or it would be if I had the artistic skills to do fancy stuff).

 I ended up with rather a nice little clip in much the way that I wanted it, and yet ultimately Open Shot still lacks many of the utilities that even Windows movie editor has. At least I think it does. Like many Linux applications, the more you dig the more useful things you find. With little money for more exuberant entertainment this long weekend I think I will be exploring the deeper options of Linux video editing over the next few days. There is another small clip I want to edit, and I still have that third editing application to investigate. So in theory I should have no excuse to be bored, but I know that I can probably find an excuse if I try hard enough.
Friday 27th August 2010
08:13 BST

  Yet another summer day has started exceedingly soggy. I don't think there has been any particularly heavy rain overnight. I suspect it was like it is now - a soul draining drizzle from a leaden sky. I feel that it will continue like this, perhaps with a few intermissions, for the rest of the day. Yesterday had a some brighter moments, but I can't recall any direct sunshine, and although my journey home from work started in the dry, there was a very light sprinkle of rain as I walked from the station to home.

 The quicker this rain dries up the better. My resolve to try and get to the gig, up the muddy hills and across the muddy fields, on Saturday continues to grow. After a few pleasant email exchanges with the band I really want to see them play again soon, but the thought of traipsing up and down those steep hills in the wet continues to scare me. One alternative is to book a taxi at the station, but being a mean old skinflint I really prefer to avoid that, and besides which I need the exercise. If my pay is not in my bank account tomorrow the idea of a taxi is completely ruled out anyway !

 The good news is that my gut problem is just about over. I beat it into submission with a big curry last night. I didn't really intend to have a curry last night, but my eating plans went totally off the wall. What I had in mind was to have poached chicken with vegetables, but when I noticed that the skinless and boneless chicken I was going to use was 4 days past it's use by date I decided that I might have something else. After eating a few spam filled bagels, and some very naughty walnut cake, I took another look at that chicken. Gingerly I opened the packet expecting an awful stink, but all I got was the merest hint that the meat was getting old. Rather than waste it I decided to cook it well in some curry sauce. I thought that I might have it tonight, but after being exposed to the delicious smell as it slowly cooked in the oven for 90 minutes, I could not fight the temptation to taste it. One taste lead to another until I had eaten it all.

 I went to bed feeling very stuffed last night, and I was expecting trouble, but trouble never came. There was no gurgling and bubbling sounds from my gut, no painful pressure build up, and no explosive eruptions even after I got up this morning. With so little happening this morning I expect something to happen during today, and I just hope it doesn't happen when I am due to go home.
Thursday 26th August 2010
07:54 BST

  I was very tempted to say that it was an exceedingly autumn like morning until I opened my front door and stepped outside. I was most definitely wet, and the sky was hideously overcast, but the breeze that was blowing felt warm. I don't think I associate autumn with warm breezes so I'll just have to accept it is the lousiest summer day since records began (which as everyone knows is a random date plucked out of the air by broadcasters and newspaper writers).

 Over the last 12 hours the weather has rather unusually followed the weather forecasters delphitic pronouncements. As yesterday afternoon turned into evening the rain became heavier and heavier. It didn't get heavy enough to trigger and thunder a lighning, but it was still a fair old cascade that went on and on through most of the night. There was a small respite at 5am that allowed Smudge to go out and do her business, but not longer after she came in all soggy.

 As I walked to the station the rain was light and misty, but while I waited for my train heavier rain began to fall for a while. At Earlsfield there was a few raindrops scattered in the wind, but for now it seems to have stopped. More rain is expected at any time today and tomorrow. I hope that Saturday will be dry, but even if it is not actually raining it will make my intended hike across the mountains of Shoreham, Kent a very unpleasant muddy experience.

 My gut troubles go on. I felt fine yesterday afternoon, but it all flared up again in the early evening. At least that was a better time for it, and it didn't significantly disturb my sleep. This morning I wasn't entirely comfortable, but easily stable enough to come to work. As usual I read from The Metro while travelling into work, and this morning there was a piece about how recent research suggested that broccoli fibre helps those afflicted by Crohns disease (presumably this research was funded by the broccoli marketing agency). It described the disease as causing bouts of diarrhoea and abdominal tenderness. That is remarkably similar to how I have been suffering these last 48 hours. I doubt that I am afflicted with Crohns disease, but even if I am it doesn't change anything because it is incurable and has to be just managed. I am pretty good at managing my own medical conditions (well, I'm still alive - I think), and I've already taken the step of guzzling a few "bio-active" yoghurts. I am not convinced they are as good as the TV adverts claim, but I have found they do help clear up stomach upsets. This morning I am trying peppermint oil in the shape of extra strong mints.

 I started a new project last night. I dug out my old Hi8 camcorder to transfer a few selected recordings to avi files for the computer. It is not that straightforward for me to do. I have to use my set-top DVD recorder to burn the analogue video to DVD, and then rip the DVD to an avi file. Once in that format I can use my video editing software to polish up the recording. It is a bit of a long process, but I did produce one clip (rather badly so I'll be doing it again) of the band New England playing at The Stick Of Rock in 1992.

 I was very surprised when I tested the batteries for my old Hi8 camcorder. The last time I think I used that camcorder was in 1999, and yet one battery was still registering a full 6V of charge. When I put it on my battery conditioner it lasted for several seconds on discharge before it automatically switched to charge. I think I had amassed around 8 batteries for that camcorder (once upon a time, working in a place where they were repaired did have it's advantages !). Three appeared to have totally died, but all the others took a charge, and after a conditioning cycle or two may well still have some useful life left in them - in the unlikely event that I should want to use that analogue camcorder again.
Wednesday 25th August 2010
14:09 BST

  With every passing minute the rain gets heavier and heavier. The day started dry but cloudy. Then soon after midday the rain put in it's first shy appearance. Now the sky is getting quite dark, and a weather forecast just an hour or so old says we are in for some really heavy rain as evening approaches, and the rain will continue overnight. It may even be still raining when I go to work.

 Yesterday turned out to be better than forecast. There were a few brief showers, but there was also lots of sunshine. Overall it was a pleasant day, and although it did get pleasantly warm there was none of the mugginess that spoilt the days before.

 I didn't go into work today. At the moment I am listed as sick, but I'll change that to a days holiday when I go in tomorrow because there is nothing much wrong with me  - now ! Earlier on I suffered two things that lost me a lot of sleep. The first was that I was unable to shut up my noisy brain when I went to bed last night. I was in bed with the lights out at 9pm, and despite feeling tired I lay awake thinking of classic music tracks and possible names for a band. It was gone 11pm when I finally managed to fall asleep. A few hours later I woke up suffering from trapped wind.  After 10 or 15 minutes in the toilet making disgusting noises, but little else, I went back to bed feeling tolerably OK. Some time passed, maybe an hour, maybe two, and I did the same thing again. The third time was more productive, and my troubles were beginning to be over. I had to get up for one more visit before the worst was over. When 5am finally came round I felt like I had hardly slept. As the clock ticked on I became increasingly sure that I was too tired to go to work, and there was also evidence that my gut trouble was not as completely cured as I had earlier hoped. Faced with that I stayed in and waited until 8am when I phoned up work with the good news.

 Once work was informed I went back to bed and slept until just gone 11am. Now I feel as if I have had enough sleep, but hopefully not so much to make sleeping tonight difficult. Since then I have been to Tesco and bought a dozen heavy cans of catfood. Well each can is not heavy, but a dozen are, and even when balanced with four 2 litre bottles of Diet Coke in the other hand it's still a lot to lug home.

 While looking for pictures of doughnuts to misappropriate (but subtly edit to disguise their origin) I came across some "interesting" artwork that I felt I had to edit as well.
Jesus and Doughnuts
 Apparently I am free to use this image - "You may use this image for free on your website only if you credit ChristArt.com". I'm not sure what they'll think about the bit I tagged on the end of their message, but I am sure these Christian chappies are full of forgiveness, turning the other cheek, etc. I was going to add "specially if you are a Catholic choirboy", but I thought that was rubbing the salt into the wound just a litle too deeply. See, even us heathens have our morals too !
Tuesday 24th August 2010
08:12 BST

  It could have been the start of a perfect summers day this morning, but within the space of a few hours things are turning more autumnal again. The sky cleared overnight, and that meant that it was rather cool this morning, but provided I kept moving it was still comfortable wearing a short sleeve shirt and no coat to work. As I travelled my long journey, going up into central London, and then back out again, the sky was blue, and the sun was shining.

 Now there are more and more clouds appearing in the sky, but the weather forecasters tell us that, at worst, there could be a isolated light shower or two today. What they didn't comment on was the humidity. Yesterday afternoon was fairly pleasant in all ways except for the thick wet air blown so thoroughly off the top of the Atlantic Ocean that I am surprised it didn't have fish in it. It does feel fresher this morning, and hopefully it won't get all nasty and muggy this afternoon.

 I felt curiously good all day yesterday. This morning I feel a little less good, but still not bad. Apart from a heap of walnut halves I ate very sensibly yesterday, and I had a reasonable sleep (although I woke with the idea that I had been dreaming about rice pudding, and I don't know why). Perhaps the only detrimental thing this morning was a result of either the walnut halves, or what I had for dinner last night. It left my gut feeling a bit tender, a little like wind, but I don't seem to be farting like I feel I ought to be.

 Dinner last night was rather tasty. It was poached cabbage and leeks with scallops, mussels, and for a little extra fishiness, anchovies cooked in a pint or so of chicken stock. Ideally it should have had a lot of garlic in it too, but I seem to have run out of garlic. It would have had shrimps in it as well, but I ate those on Sunday !
Monday 23rd August 2010
07:20 BST

  It rained all through the night, and it's raining now. The rain started in earnest a little before 9pm last night, but at no point has it reached an intensity of biblical proportions as forecast. When I saw the Countryfile 5 day forecast on TV last night it was clear that the very worst of the rain would be passing more to the north of London and into Essex/East Anglia. I didn't entirely trust the forecast, but as it was being made only a few hours in advance of reality I had more hope that it was going to be closer to reality than more long term forecasts.

 For instance, the long term forecast is that Wednesday will be the driest day this week, and it would not surprise me if it snowed then. Making the wild assumption that some of the forecast for the next five days has some affinity for reality, it seems that much of this week is going to be quite damp in a way that summer shouldn't be, and mid autumn could be. The big difference is that mid afternoon temperatures should stay in the low twenties, and in other circumstances that would be a pleasant temperature. The problem is that it is not dry heat from the sun, but warm soggy air blowing in off the Atlantic. So it's probably going to feel rather nasty as I sweat away in the humidity under loathsome leaden skies.

 Strangely enough I  feel fairly good right now when I ought to be feeling quite bad. I have to admit it was slightly unpleasant coming to work. My cagoule kept the rain off much of my body except for my face and legs (I could have put my waterproof bottoms on as well but decided not to). In theory I should have been dry, but even at this early time in the morning the air is still  (almost) warm and (definitely) soggy, and although my cagoule is alleged to permit perspiration to escape, my shirt started getting damp with sweat as I made my way into work. There was one factor that made this worse.

 I should have been feeling something akin to unwell after eating all too much unhealthy food yesterday. Oddly enough I felt rather well, and seemed to have enough energy to rush around a lot (and hence get sweaty under my cagoule). When I look back at some of the worst things I ate I can see some almost convincing excuses as to why I am not as bad as I thought I would be. The several packets of crisps I ate were small, mere 20gm (or 22mg) packets instead of the more common 40gm, and they were billed as 30% lower in fat. The label didn't actually shout what that 30% was compared to...........a typical undersea oil leak in the Gulf Of Mexico maybe, but they did have a sort of dryness that other crisps don't have. The excessive lump of chocolate I ate was 50% cocoa solids, and dark so it had less lard in it, and less sugar than typical milk chocolate. The portion of shrimps I ate with squirts of both hot chilli sauce and garlic mayonaise are too complicated to speculate about about, and the bag of monkey nuts I managed to consume over the course of several hours did have lots of healthy fibre, and gallons of high calorie unextracted ground nut oil in them (probably). The thing is, that is all I ate all day, and in terms of bulk it was not all that much, and maybe if I worked out the calorific value of it all it would still be less than an average nuclear reactor.

 The most important thing is that I feel unexpectedly "not too bad" today, and it is even possible that over the weekend I have recovered my sleep deficit. Waking up at 4.30am was earlier than I wanted this morning, but even as I woke up I was aware that it was hard to stay asleep. It maybe something unique to me, although I doubt it, but after long enough in bed I find it hard to find a comfortable position. It is the reverse of when sleep doesn't come at night. The mattress grows lumps that you never realised were there before, and somehow the pillows refuse to conform to the shape of your head. To add to that discomfort is the difficulty of trying to find the right place and position of your arms. I expect I am weird, but being in bed on the threshold between sleep and non sleep brings as much discomfort as commuting on an over crowded train. Being wide awake, or being fully asleep are as good as gold, but crossing that threshold is like death itself.
Sunday 22nd August 2010
16:57 BST

  The worst is yet to come, or at least that is the warning from the weather centre according to the BBC's Teletext service. All of SE England is supposed to be on flash flood alert with up to 3 inches of rain expected to fall sometime in the next 12 hours. Just to rub salt in the wound, those angry gods of the weather, if they obey the sinister entreaties of the weather forecasters, will unleash gale force winds tomorrow. That does seem a bit harsh as revenge by the weather forecasters just for taking offence for all the brickbats we throw their way for making predictions as accurate as any compulsive gambler might make.

 The day did start off reasonably bright this morning. At least I think it did because I slept through a lot of it as I shall explain later. By midday it did start to get a bit gloomy. In the middle of the afternoon there was a brief light shower. Now it seems the humidity is rising, and the prospect of a raging storm is feeling like an ever increasing possibility.

 Last night, instead of going to sleep at a reasonable hour, I stayed up extra late as I did battle with the ftp (file transfer protocol) server on my server box.  I wanted to set up a virtual user to enable one particular person to access one particular set of files. It is one of the facilities of the software called pure-ftp. Unfortunately it doesn't work !  Maybe that's too broad a statement. It would be more true to say that the package provided by the Ubuntu linux software repository seems not to be preconfigured correctly.  A search across the internet reveals many, maybe thousands (!) of people all saying the same thing. There is no problem with real users using the server. I use it everyday to upload all these bizzare scribblings, but virtual users just can't be authenticated.

 There are probably three solutions to this problem. The hardest, but most reliable it to uninstall the software, and the reinstall using the source packages and supply the correct configuration options as it compiles. The next hardest is to delve into the configuration files and try to correct the problem (which I was messing around with to little effect until 2am this morning), and the third solution is to just burn the files to DVD and give them to my friend in person. It is that last solution I have chosen for now. In fact when I considered the amount of data to be transferred it is would probably be quicker to post the DVDs rather than transfer them across the internet ! One day I will get that server working as it should work, but while I can use it with my real user login it is a low priority to get it working for the exceedingly rare virtual user.

 Getting to bed so late last night (or if you are pedantic, this morning) completely upset my almost non existent plans for today. I did get up at 6 am for a while, but it was obvious that was a stupid idea and I went back to bed. I think I woke up once or twice after that, but it was around 11am before I really got up, and midday before I was washed and dressed. Initially I did consider that I might still go out somewhere, but I still wanted to visit the 99p shop for a few items.

 As is the way with the 99p shop, the things I wanted were not there, but I still came away with a couple of bags of crap. It is one of the annoyances of that shop that some stuff they have is only transient. If you don't buy sufficient quantities when you see something the first time there is little chance that there will be any left a week or two later. I wanted a couple of USB powered mobile phone charging leads, and some more of some excellent memory foam insoles they had. Instead I bought some junk food and a few electrical items.

 I don't know why I am so hooked on partly useless electrical gadgets from the 99p shop, but some things I can't resist buying. One thing I bought today was a strip of 5 white LED lamps powered by three AAA batteries. It would be handy for emergency lighting, and maybe if the floods and gales forecast for the near future bring power cuts I may even have to use it, but I didn't know that when I spent 99p to buy it. I think it is that low price tag that is the fascination. I don't think that it is possible to buy 5 high brightness white LEDs for 99p from any electronic suppliers I know of, and yet for that 99p I not only get the LEDs but the enclosure, reflectors, battery holders and a switch as well. It's sort of weird.

 When I got back from the 99p shop I changed back into "slouching around" indoor clothes and tucked into the junk food. While I was out the sky seemed to be getting increasingly dark, and I knew I would not be going out again. I went into what I now call Homer Simpson mode, and sat down in front of the TV with a some deadly, high fat, high salt, high sugar, highly tasty snacks. After a couple of hours in front of the TV I got bored, and I also felt sleepy. So I went upstairs and lay on my bed to read and listen to the radio. I didn't get much reading done because I was joined by Smudge who demanded a lot of attention. It was Radio Caroline I was listening to, and they didn't seem to have a presenter available and were playing a "storm tape"(actually a computer playlist). I don't know who compiles those playlists, but they have a better musical taste than many of the presenters. I was quite enjoying such tracks as Freewill by Rush, and when Pink Floyd was playing I went into deep relaxation mode.

 I can't for the life of me think of which Pink Floyd track it was, but it was from Dark Side Of The Moon. Now that is a peculiar album. Billions of album sales show that it is not just me who adores it more than life itself (or something), but I do wonder if I am the only person who falls asleep while listening to it. It seems a huge paradox that something so wonderful should send me to sleep, but somehow it does. I guess it is like a lullaby, but how do they work ? When I consider it, it is more like a trance than sleep, or at least initially it is. Anyway, for a brief time I did fall asleep, and then Smudge decided it was a good time to have a good scratch and woke me up again.

 I now face a difficulty. I want to do something that is not too hard, but is sufficient to keep me occupied for a few more hours, and then I want to get to sleep early tonight. It's going to be difficult to get to sleep early tonight, particularly if there is a sorm raging, but I would like to get sufficient sleep before making an early start in the morning. If I can face it I want to take the cheap route to work in the morning. That means being ready and comfortable to leave home soon after 6am to get the bus to Forest Hill station. In theory I could walk instead of getting the bus, but the last time I tried that it seemed too much like hard work. The walk at the other end, the 2 miles from Wandsworth Common station to work is a lot easier being mostly downhill. Not only that but the scenery is better. All this assumes that the storm, if it happens, is over. If it is pouring with rain I will take my normal route which has a minimum amount of walking in the raw elements. Now what can I do to keep myself occupied, but not over taxed, for a couple of hours ?
Saturday 21st August 2010
18:34 BST

  Today has been highly variable apart from one thing. The constant is that it has been very humid, and the average is that it has been overcast. Occasionally there have been some sunny intervals, and it has also rained in the lightest way possible. When I think of the positives, the sunny spells, being mostly dry, and being warm too, it is hardly fair to say that it has been a bad day, but I will because a good day demands at least three hours of sunshine and not having to turn on a lamp to read in the late afternoon !

 Yesterday was a better day in most ways. It was less humid, there was a tiny bit more sunshine, and when it was overcast it was still brighter than some of the duller bits of today. The worst aspect of yesterday had nothing to do with the weather although more sunshine may have provided some stimulus to making me feel less weary. As I remarked yesterday, I really did not want to go to work, and I would have preferred to have gone back to bed for another hour or two in the morning.

 I took the fast route home after work to save a bit of energy, but after being at home for as little as 30 minutes I realised that there was no way I was going to enjoy going out later even if I could have forced myself to do it. So reluctantly I missed the gig at The British Queen. I had predicted that I would be fast asleep in bed before the band had even played their first note, but I did stay up later than that watching some TV until 9pm. Soon after that I was in bed, and in a very short time after that I was fast asleep.

 On the whole I slept rather well, but I did wake up a lot earlier than I wanted. After feeding Smudge, and checking stuff on my PC I went back to bed again. It would have been nice to have the option to stay in bed for as long as I wanted, but I had to prepare for Aleemah visiting. Considering the state of the place I should have done more, but I ended up doing the bare minimum to make the place almost acceptable. Even doing that little bit seemed like hard work because the humidity was making me feel very sticky.

 With the place looking as good as it ever was going to be I had a shower and washed my hair. Ideally I would have turned the temperature of the water down, but I left it fairly hot. Soon after I had dressed I went out to do some shopping in Tesco's feeling hotter and stickier than ever. Outside there was a strong breeze blowing, and that helped keep my feeling a bit cooler, and helped dry my shirt that had damp patches on it.

 Most of the stuff I bought in Tesco was good healthy stuff, but some wasn't. I bought a couple of treats and few ready made sandwiches to feed Allemah before she went home. Unfortunately she was not hungry, and it has ended up that I have eaten all the sandwiches and my treats. I also had breakfast with Aleemah in the cafe. After that lot I can't really justify cooking and eating what was my planned meal for this evening. It was to be a seafood, cabbage and leak "stew"* cooked in chicken stock (because I forgot to buy some fish stock cubes this morning). I was quite looking forward to that, but now I will have to have it tomorrow.

* I really must find or invent a new word instead of using the word stew. Stew seems to suggest that the ingredients have been left to cook for a long time. In fact the cooking time is often as little as 10 or 15 minutes - enough to cook the meat or fish, but often leaving some of the vegetables only slightly soft. Maybe poached is a better word, but it still seems inadequate because I consume the the poaching liquid as part of the meal, and I think that usually the poaching liquid is thrown away (in my ignorance I only really think of eggs being poached).

 I don't know what I am doing tomorrow. A lot depends on the weather. I have two destinations in mind if I go out. The first is the 99p shop, and the second is the seaside. I should be able to do both, but if the weather forecast is as bad as I think it may be I may only get to do the first option. If the weather keeps me mostly indoors I will probably dismantle the computer monitor that I recently replaced. Once I get the main circuit board out I can take that into work and inspect it under the microscope to see if I can spot any obvious bad soldering that is most likely responsible for the fault that occurs on it on hot days.
Friday 20th August 2010
08:33 BST

  The day started off very nice with a lot of blue sky and temperate breezes, but it seems to be deteriorating rather too quickly now. The last patches of blue were disappearing as I walked from the station into work, and the nice breeze started to feel a bit humid. High humidity was one thing I remember being mentioned on last nights weather forecast. So it's not just me imagining it. I believe that there is a fair chance of rain today, but it may only be in the form of passing showers. Yesterday remained dry, and moderately warm, but a bit more sunshine would have been nice.

 Last night I tried yet another variation to my journey home from work. This time I took the train from Earlsfield station but changed at Clapham Junction for a train to Forest Hill. It was actually a complicated way to go, but only because of my impatience. I arrived at Clapham Junction station with loads of time to wait until my conection arrived. rather than wait I took the first train to Wandsorth Common station. There was one positive advanatage in doing that. There are no barriers to pass through, and you can literally take 3 paces to leave the non smoking platform area to enter the real world where you can smoke on the street. I still had plenty of time to wait there until the 16:18 train to Crystal Palace (the earliest possible train I could get if I walked directly to the station at a fast pace - which I did manage once). At Crystal Palace I changed to yet another train to get to Forest Hill. It's a lot of mucking about, and I get home around 30 minutes later, but the savings are handy.

 I have now found the definitive answer to my guesswork and confusion about Oyster Card fares. By checking the fares to any single journey at this web page - http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/tickets/faresandtickets/farefinder/current/Default.aspx - I found that travel that starts before 6.30am is considered off peak, as is travel before 4.00pm. If I start my journey to work on the 6.33am train, as I often do, and I manage to "touch in" before 06:30am I am charged 2 for travel between Catford and Waterloo East. If I get a later train it is 2.60, as is the train from Waterloo to Earlsfield. The same fares apply in the opposite direction. It is rare that I am not at Earlsfield before 4pm, so usually I would pay 4.60 to get home from work. Last night, by avoiding the inner fare zones I was charged 1.50 from Earlsfield to Forest Hill, and 1.20 on the bus from Forest Hill to Catford. My brains calculator function says that is a saving of 1.90 compared to the usual.

 There was one day last week when I walked to Wandsworth Common station, and walked from Forest Hill to home. That only cost 1.40, and so I saved 3.20, but I have to confess it was hard work, and I doubt I will be doing that very often. I think I am going to try and go home via Forest Hill more often, although I still cannot work out which is worse - those bloody stairs at Earlsfield or an extra 20 minute walk that is mostly uphill.

 Tonight I should be going to see All You Need at The British Queen in Locksbottom, but I am not sure if I will make it. I feel very tired this morning, and right now I feel like I will want to be in bed, preferably fast asleep, before the band have even played their first note. I certainly had a strong urge to go ack to bed instead of coming to work this morning. Mostly I blame it on Smudge who somehow managed to persuade me to get up and feed her at 1.20am this morning. I thought she was desperate to go out, and rather than have anything unpleasant to clear up I preferred to get up and go downstairs with her. Once downstair she just sat down in front of her food plate and stared at me. I could have let her starve, but I just put some food down for her and rushed back to my bed.

 Maybe I will regain some energy during the day, and if I do maybe I will make that gig, but I also cannot shake from my mind that I will have to be up reasonably early tomorrow to make the place look slightly more civilised for when Aleemah comes to visit. At least I can have an early night tomorrow, and on Sunday I could theoretically stay in bed all day if I wished (except that I am hoping to go out exploring on Sunday).
Thursday 19th August 2010
07:48 BST

  I think the weather has started to deteriorate now, but the day started off rather well. The sky was very clear and the sun was doing it's best to shine while still almost below the horizon. Even the birds seemed to be singing a happy tune this morning. I think if it was as little as one degree warmer it would be close to perfect. As it is, it's not actually cold enough for a coat, but cool enough for long trousers. There is supposed to be rain heading our way, but I think that south of London may not get the worst of it, and there is a chance that some parts might even stay dry.

 If today is like yesterday there will be little to complain about except for the humidity being a little too high (although mild compared to a couple of days ago). At lunchtime the sun came out for a while, and that felt rather delicious, but later on it became cloudy again, and there was even some very light rain in Catford as I approached home. I estimate I got hit by as many as 20 rain drops in the short walk between the bus stop and home.

 I made another minor variation for my route home last night. I had an urge to go home via Forest Hill, but I wasn't so keen on walking all the way to Wandsworth Common station. There is a bus, the G1, that goes up and over the hill to Wandsworth Common station, and I thought I might try getting that. The only problem was that I was not sure where to catch it from. I assumed that if I carried walking along the main road, instead of threading my way through the side roads I would find the bottom of the hill, and the bus stop too. It wasn't as easy as that. I walked for nearly twenty minutes before I found the bottom of the hill, and then find the first bus stop because the bus enters from a side road a little way up the hill. Getting to that bus stop took such a long time that I feared I would miss the train I wanted, but the bus delivered me to the station with a few minutes to spare.

 If there was a bus that would take me straight from work to Wandsworth Common station I think I would be inclined to go home that way every day. In theory a bus would get me to the station in time to catch a train 20 minutes earlier perhaps, and then if the bus from Forest Hill to Catford behaved I would not get home much later than taking the long route via Waterloo. The two bus fares and the one train fare work out at least 1 cheaper by avoiding fare zone 1 in inner London. I have yet to work out exactly what my fares are via both routes. Sometimes there seems to be some variable constant involved when using an Oyster Card. For instance there are no published details about why it should be so, but it seems to that the fare between Catford Bridge and Waterloo East is 60p cheaper if I touch in before 6.30am. For the other legs of the journey to and from work it seems to average at around 2.60 a leg, but sometimes it mysteriously seems less.

 Some other good financial news is that I received my new power supply for my new computer monitor on Tuesday. I assume it works, but I didn't try it in place of the supply from my old monitor that was working it quite happily. What I did do was to bring in the faulty supply to work yesterday. The whole thing, like most "wall warts", is completely sealed, but the application of a sharp knife and some brute force cracked it open like an egg. Once inside it was easy to determine that the fuse was open circuit, and to do a few tests to show that there was nothing else wrong with it. So I replaced the fuse and glued it back together again. I tested it on the new monitor last night, and it works perfectly.

 Although I walked a lot less yesterday, I did walk for a solid 20 minutes to get my first bus, and that equates to around a mile. Al this extra exercise, and the low fat/low calorie dinners I have had for the last three nights seem to be doing stuff. I dared weigh myself this morning, and it seems that I now weigh roughly the same as when I last weighed myself. That last time was probably after I had done the 10 mile to Ongar, and when I was still partially dehydrated. Of course all this is guesswork because the first reading was actually a bit higher, and I am guessing, from previous experience, how much difference would have been made after going to the toilet twice more before leaving home to come to work. It certainly feels like I have lost a tiny bit of weight, and my trousers seem just that tiny bit looser this morning.

 Tonight I enter into danger again as I go shopping in Tesco. Really I am just after the latest New Scientist magazine, some more booze for which I have 2 off vouchers (vodka and rum tonight), and maybe some more fish and green vegetables. If I stick with that I may even be an ounce lighter tomorrow morning, but there are so many temptations in Tesco's.................
Wednesday 18th August 2010
08:04 BST

  In the three and half hours since I woke up the weather has changed from not bad to rather good. It is still a bit cool, but the sky has cleared to 100% blue, and of course the sun is shining. Those accursed weather forecasters say it won't last, and before the day has a chance to get close to hot it will cloud over, and by 4pm it could even be raining.

 Yesterday was, on the whole, rather dull, but the afternoon became horridly warm and humid. Most of the time the sticky humidity did not bother me, but when I left work to go home I found that it was sticky work just walking to the station. I don't know if it was just the stickiness, but I didn't feel like I wanted to expend a lot of energy. At least not all in one go. I couldn't face going up those horrible three flights of stairs at Earlsfield station so I carried on walking to Wandsworth Common station.

 It may have been slightly irrational selecting to walk an extra 1.5 miles (up a slow hill) rather than rush up those three flights of stairs, and given how thick the air seemed to breathe, and maybe it was. The key thing here is the word "rush" for there is no other way of going up those stairs. With trains to Waterloo every 3 or 4 minutes at 4pm you have always just missed a train, and late for the next one. Brain mechanics probably have a word for it, but I'll just admit to plain old fashioned madness when I feel an overwhelming compulsion to rush up those stairs, and try and reach the far end of the platform before the next train arrives. Walking to Wandsworth Common station seemed like the easy option. Although it may be true that the horror of the stairs was actually only just strong enough to affect my decision because I knew I ought to have done the walk anyway.

 Walking to Wandsworth Common was indeed an unpleasant and soggy affair. I couldn't walk as fast as I wanted, and I ended up missing the slightly earlier train that would have saved my 10 minutes by changing at Crystal Palace station.  I noticed that there was a warning of some disruption  because of problems in the London Bridge area, and that caused a few more minutes delay on my journey on a direct train to Forest Hill. At Forest Hill I just missed a bus by 20 or 30 seconds, but another bus came along within 10 minutes, and I was soon on my way to Catford.

 Back in Catford I went and did some shopping in Tesco before going home. There were a few things I wanted, but I also had a couple of vouchers with 2 off the price of selected boozes. I couldn't really afford to buy any spirits, but I did not want to waste those vouchers so I took along some of the Clubcard vouchers I had been hoarding for the last 18  months or so. In fact I took too many along with me. After buying a 70cl bottle of Grants whiskey, a 70cl bottle of Cointreau (both 2 off), and a few other bits and pieces I found I had taken sufficient vouchers to reduce my total bill to 4.53, and I still had 11 of unused vouchers left. Well those vouchers, and some more will help pay for some more booze the next time I shop in there. I think I have vouchers for 2 off a bottle of rum and a botle of vodka, and I may as well use them while I can.

 I was quite careful not to buy anything else that was high in calories or fat (apart from one small packet of spiced beef stuff). Most significantly I bought some more fresh fish and a cauliflower. I had one packet of mixed fish with half a head of cauliflower for my dinner last night. I have never stopped to find if I am deluding myself, but I believe the whole meal was quite low in calories and very low in fat. It was cooked in at least a pint and a half of water flavoured with a fish stock cube, and I drank all that stock as part of the meal, and very filling it was too.

 After two nights of (probably) healthy eating, and extra exercise too, I am feeling almost healthy this morning. I certainly feel a bit thinner (although that is total delusion), or perhaps it is less delusional to say that my gut feels less saggy. A few internal organs may still be a little tender, but the improvement since Sunday suggests they may even recover. My main complaint is that my right ankle and right leg felt unusually stiff this morning.

Tonight I will be having the other half of the head of cauliflower with some smoked mackerel once again cooked in a lot of stock. After three nights of eating this type of food I might even find I have lost a few ounces ! I am not sure if I want to do any xtra walking tonight. It's possible that I might feel the urge, but it's equally possible it will be pouring with rain. I have my waterproof "hoodie" with me, but I am not sure if I want to walk that far in the rain !
Tuesday 17th August 2010
07:56 BST

  The weather is up and down like the underwear of a street walking operative in a naval dockyard. One day it's hot and the next it is cold, and then there is today when it's middling. It is very overcast this morning, and earlier on, fortunately before I left to come to work, there were copious amounts of rain. The dreary skies, and the general wetness are very suggestive of autumn, and the picture was completed by a smell of burning leaves near Earlsfield station. The one big difference is that it is almost warm this morning.

 That warmth is a legacy of yesterday afternoon. Curiously the weather forecasters got it right for once. During the morning the clouds evaporatd away, and the afternoon was gloriously sunny. By the time I left work the temperature had climbed to 24 or 25 C, and the sun had a certain fierceness about it. I would be most happy if the same happened today, and to a very limited extent I believe it will. The sky is unlikely to be practically horizon to horizon blue, but maybe there will be a few sunny spells.

 Although I felt a lot better when I arrived at work compared to how I felt soon after getting up yesterday, I still had a few things bothering me. Several muscles refused to stop aching, and some unknown internal organs seemed sore. On top of that I felt almost, but not quite, wheezy. It was more like my chest felt sort of heavy. I also felt a bit weary. Against that backdrop I forced myself to walk the two miles in the blazing sun to Wandsworth Common station.

 I didn't make the final decision until I was approaching Earlsfield station. I had some fanciful notion that it might do me some good if I didn't die in the process. I also justified it by thinking it could be my last chance this year to walk in hot sunshine. All these things were true, but it wasn't until later that I realised the unconcious reasoning that had gone on in my brain. Walking the (almost) 2 miles was good exercise, and just enough to stress for feel good endorphins to be released in my brain. More than that was that walking with the hot sun on my back would induce a good sweat of a type more usually associated with sauna users. It is a sort of psuedoscience, but it does feel like all that sweating sweats out assorted toxins, and indeed there is some real science involved. Those with high blood sugar, as mine probably has been lately, do sweat a lot more as the body tries to rid itself of excess sugar - the sweat itself is sweet.

 The result of that short walk, and all the sweating, was that when I got home I was feeling quite good in some respects. My mood had lifted, and apart from being a little wearied I was feeling reasonably good physically.  I was certainly feeling good enough that it seemed effortless to only eat some fish and broccoli "stew" zapped up with some wasabi. That meal was big in liquid quantity, but small in every other way. If I could condition myself to have something similar every night for a month I could probably drop a trouser size (as proved in the past), but most nights I need the thrill, or comfort, or something, of more extensive food.

 I didn't wait for the first train from Wandsworth Common station to Forest Hill, but caught the first train to Crystal Palace, and changed trains there. I saved about 10 minute by doing that, and adding that to the time I saved by getting a bus at Forest Hill instead of walking, meant that I arrived home only about 20 -25 minutes later than if I had gone via Waterloo as I do most days. If it's dry I may walk to Wandsworth Common station again tonight. In anticipation of that I have worn some more comfortable shoes into work. Maybe I'll feel masochistic enough to walk from Forest Hill tonight, or maybe I'll abandon the whole plan and go via Waterloo instead.

 I think I do want to try to walk tonight, and to try and have a similar meal again if I can. You may think I am motivated by health reasons, but you would be wrong. I want to try and capture the mysterious "something" again that induced a most satisfying dream theme. That theme was erotic, but in an unusual way and with unusual circumstances (although I suppose most things in a dream are unusual). In this dream I was in some sort of institution, but I am unsure if it was a womens prison, mental asylum, school, or hospital. In fact it might even have been a factory. All I know was that a young woman who seemed unable to leave the place took a profound interest in me. It started with her discussing the pattern and colour of my trousers with another woman, then lead on to her sniffing me like a cat or dog might (but more my arms and chest rather than my bottom !). Evidently she liked what she smelled because that lead to some heavy duty kissing going on. After that things got even more interesting, but of course as things got incredibly interesting I woke up ! Bugger !!

 I am sure I read on a billboard that Sky Sports News was leaving Freeview. Sky seemed to be announcing it as some great thing, and suggesting that their sports news would be better in high definition from their satelite service. Personally I thought it was a wonderful thing. It is possibly, although I admit highly unlikely, that having got that waste of space off Freeview it's place might be taken by a station with some sort of entertainment value,. With the state of TV entertainment today even The Test Card would be a huge improvement over smelly Sky Sports News !
Monday 16th August 2010
07:17 BST

  If I had woken up from a long coma and had to guess the dateI would have suggested mid October by the look and feel of the world around me. There is definietly an early reminder of Autumn in the air. The trees are still green, but some are shedding their leaves, and the sky is that cold murky shade that shouts November more than anything. Not only that, but I am back in long trousers to come to work, and I even wore my most lightweight jacket while on my way here.

 Apparently today is going to be a fine day, and the sunniest day all week. It seems hard to believe right now, but I did see a very small blue patch in amongst the grey clouds just now. With a thousand more like that joining up it would indeed be a sunny day, and with that sunshine the nasty nip in the air would go away.

 Overall I would say I had a very unsatisfactory weekend. I was quite pleasing to have put together the video clips that I uploaded to Myspace, but I allowed it to consume more time than it really needed, or what I think I am trying to say is that while my direct input to the computer was not needed I should have found something productive to do. Instead I just lazed around waiting until I was needed at the computer again. There were lots of little things I could have done during those twenty minute (or so) waits, but I chose laziness.

 Being lazy did not divert my mind properly from the horrors of living so I felt miserable, and on Saturday in particular I ate too much. Yesterday I was in better control, and ate much more moderately. The grilled salmon and tomatoes I had for Sunday lunch might almost have been healthy if it were not for the pot of potato salad I ate with it.  Later on, for supper, I had three of those small pots of precooked dessert rice. I think they were billed as low, or even very low fat, but I am sure they were laden with sugar.

The net result of my over indulgences, and too long laying on my bed waiting for the world to revolve, as that I felt really lousy when I woke up this morning. I had had a difficult night, and could not keep my temperature under control. I was hot when I went to bed, yet my bedroom was, I think, quite cool. I tried to find a delicate balance between keeping enough of my body covered to keep warm, and enough uncovered to keep cool. I think I failed because when I woke up my back and neck were stiff and painful, and my chest hurt.

 My chest hurting points to another explanation for all my woes. As early as last Wednesday I thought I might be coming down with a cold, but apart from feeling rough while at the gig on Friday night, nothing physical has really happened except that I do seem to have a bit of a congested chest. I have not rekindled my smokers cough yet, but from time to time I do need to clear my throat. There are many terrible and tragic things that could cause this, and probably have, but I'll settle for a simple lung infection for now. Perhaps I had better gargle with some whisky to sterilise my throat before I go to bed tonight.

 Once I had had a hot shower this morning I did feel considerably better, and all the fresh air and exercise in coming to work has improved things further. In fact, by comparison, I don't feel too bad at all right now.  It is possible that it was all in the mind (as John Lennon probably said in the film Yellow Submarine). There is a hint that it was all hallucination, and that hint came when I was walking to Catford Bridge station. Bits of me ached, and my chest felt what I can only describe as heavy. I thought I felt a bit weak too, but mysteriously my legs seemed to be carrying me forward at a quite high and consistent rate with little apparent effort. That is not the action of a dying man. So maybe I'll live after all (bit of a shame really).
Sunday 15th August 2010
09:54 BST

  The sun is taking it's time, but it looks like it may break through the milky white clouds that envelop the sky at the moment. Would it be too much to hope for that today may actually not be depressingly gloomy ? After three or four days of obnoxious, almost autumn like weather I think we deserve a return to something that feels more like summer. I haven't seen a weather forecast for days now, and I am not sure what to predict, but it feels like today may be a nice day.

 Yesterday was a horrible sort of day. It wasn't just that the overall weather was cold, damp and gloomy, but I was having a very frustrating time preparing some video clips to upload to Myspace. The actual process of transferring the digital video from my camcorder to the PC is straightforward, and happens in real time. Simply topping and tailing, adding a fade in and fade out, and a caption is fairly quick and simple, but then there is a long wait as the completed clip is rendered down and stored on my hard drive.

 My editing software only has a few settings to export the completed clip, and none of these provides a small compact file suitable for uploading to the internet. So I had to experiment a lot to find a good compromise between file size and quality. There was a further complication to this process. The lighting in The Chatterton Arms was very dim when I "filmed" The Bluesiscians playing, and although my camcorder coped with it rather well, the pictures are a bit grainy. All that grain adds so much detail that the transcoding process is slowed down, and the output file size is increased.

 Eventually I had two clips ready to upload. I sent the to Myspace which promptly mangled them when it transcoded them into it's display file format. I searched their website for help, and in particular information on the recommended display size, but no help was forthcoming. Next I tried converting my "master files" from full "DVD" resolution to cif format (352x288). The video now had the resolution of a VHS tape, and the grain made it look like it was mastered on VHS, but the file sized was reduced and quicker to upload. Best of all was that the playback from the Myspace web site now looked reasonably smooth.

 To do just two clips took almost a whole frustrating day to do. Admittedly there were long periods of time when I was able to walk away and let the computer get on with number crunching by itself, but it was still deeply depressing. Under such circumstances I ended up eating far too much food, and eventually I started on the Scotch. Normally that would just make things far worse, but I must have hit on the perfect dosage because when I finally went to bed a lot of my depression had lifted.

 So what did I achieve ? Well I probably put a few more pounds on, but I also achieved what I set out to do, and here's one example which I can't see yet, but hopefully cutting and inserting some code into this web page will reveal a video player once I have published this web page.

The Bluesiscians - Take It Easy

Ken | MySpace Video

 
 (I had to stop there, publish the half finished page, and see if it worked OK - It did !)

 The video is still a little jerky in places, but I don't think it is too bad. Once it has finished playing there are some of my other uploads to choose from in the video screen.

 Now for today ! I think I am going to end up doing some more video editing/uploading. Now I have a better idea of what to aim for it should be less frustrating. On the other hand if the afternoon is reasonably bright I may try and go for a long walk. I say try because after my gluttony yesterday I am not sure if I will feel much like walking. A lot depends on whether I can refrain from eating anything this morning. Anything more than the small portion of couscous I have already eaten that is !

 Maybe there is a third option, and that is to see if Kevin fancies a quick lunchtime pint. I could do a bit of editing now, have a couple of pints, and resume editing a bit later on. Perhaps having a good excuse to walk completely away from the computer for a few hours might be the answer to the wrist slittingly desperation of trying endure all the slow motion life of video transcoding ! At this point you may remember that I previously mentioned that I am doing all this video stuff on one of my lower powered computers, and that everything would be a lot faster on my fastest machine. You may wonder why I am not using that faster machine, and there is a very simple reason. The slower computer has the most comfortable seat for long periods of work ! It seems that unknowingly I am some sort of masochist for not wanting to make life easier for myself by moving either the PC or the chair, or maybe I am just lazy, or maybe it's just that the way things are has proved reliable, or it's something to do with colour co-ordination between the computers, rooms, and furniture. I don't know, you decide, I've already overworked my braincell getting this far !
Saturday 14th August 2010
09:10 BST

  Today doesn't look any better than yesterday. It's another grey start to the day, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if we had yet more rain. Maybe I am mistaken and the sun will break through the cloud, and it will warm up a bit. To me it seems crazy, but here we are in the middle of August and it feels close to the point where I could turn some heating on.

 Yesterday had examples of all sorts of weather except snow and ice. Maybe I exaggerate - there were no gales either. After the light grey start to the day the sun did break through, and for several hours it was bright and sunny, although the sky didn't completely clear. Then sometime in the early afternoon it began to rain, and very soon after it was bucketing down with rain. That eventually stopped, but an hour or so later the heavens opened again, and we were "blessed" with another torrential downpour.

 As the evening drew near I wondered if it would ever be dry enough for me to go out. Fortunately by 7 O'clock the rain had reduced to just a few spits and spots and so I ventured out to The Chatterton Arms where The Bluesiscians were playing. I had the choice of two buses to get me there, and I chose the 366 midi bus. That buses weaves in and out of the back roads covering a greater distance than the more direct route taken by the full sized 208 bus. By avoiding the main roads it is actually slightly quicker, but it doesn't pass quite so near the pub as the 208 does. I guess the end to end time between home and the pub is probably similar for both routes.

 I had never been to The Chatterton Arms before, and in fact I didn't even realise it existed until recently. I always feel a certain amount of unease when visiting a pub for the first time, and more so when I am alone. Last night was no exception, and perhaps my unease was made worse by the fact that I had taken my camcorder and I was possibly going to usurp the locals by getting a good position to film from. This feeling of unease I knew to be totally irrational, but even after being there for some time I still couldn't really set it aside, and it was just one factor that lead me to leaving early.

 The band seemed happy to see me, and I was happy to see them. I had arrived close to the time they were due to start playing, and after a bit of an extended sound check as they tried to make the best of the funny acoustics of the place, they started to play. I videod a few of the songs, but I made a tragic mistake on the second number I recorded. I thought that I had steamed up the viewfinder of the camcorder, but in actual fact I had accidently flipped off the auto focus button. The real tragedy is that I think my camerawork, apart from being out of focus, was the best for that song. I felt I had managed to anticipate all the parts of the music to get the camera concentrating on where the action would be (singer close up, guitar close up, etc).  I have yet to play back what I recorded so as yet I don't know if I have anything to be proud of, or even useable.

 The band played several songs from their earlier repetoire and one new song. By new I mean I hadn't heard them play it before, but otherwise it was a song that I really love. It was cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing". Sadly they had not rehearsed it enough (in my humble opinion), and although I know that they are more than capable of playing such a song, it sounded pretty bad last night.

 It felt a bit rude to do it, but after the first half  I decided  to make my way home.  By then it was past my usual bed time and I was feeling rather tired. I was also feeling starving hungry. As I explained yesterday, I hate travelling after eating so the last time I ate was just after 11 am, and that was only a light snack topping up a very light breakfast. Another thing that influenced my decision is that I was beginning to get cramp like pains in my right arm where I was doing my best to hold the camcorder as steady as possible. That actually became more apparent as I endured the long bus ride back home (another thing I wasn't looking forward to, and was gnawing away at my mind). By the time I reached Catford my upper arm muscles were close to painful.

 Once I got off the bus in Catford I headed straight for The Catford Chippy and bought their last bit of (cooked and ready to go) large cod and a portion of chips. Then it was straight home where I devoured my food with much pleasure while watching an episode of Star Trek Enterprise on TV. I went straight to bed after that, and fell asleep almost instantly around midnight, some three hours after the time I usually try to get to sleep on most days.

 There are several things I could do today, and I could go out on a long walk. Somehow I don't think I will be doing that. After eating comparatively frugally yesterday I should be in good shape for walking, but with it being so cold and gloomy outside it will take very little to distract me from that idea. Probably the biggest distraction is the still unseen video I shot last night. I am keen to see how it came out, and very keen to edit and upload any bit that came out well. Prior to doing that I want to install a firewire* adapter card in the most convenient PC to edit that video on.

* Firewire = Apple's name for Sony's DV Link, officially known as IEE1394 - a very fast interface used to transfer digital video from a digital camcorder to a PC. Can also be used for other high speed data connections such as external hard drives (not that I have ever seen one with such an interface). Similar to, but not the same as USB.
Friday 13th August 2010
08:46 BST

  It's my theory that today could have better weather than yesterday. It was very bland yesterday. The sun didn't come out until as late as 5pm, and then not for very long. The rest of the time it was a grey monotone sort of day. At least it didn't rain, and the temperature was above cold.

 This morning the sky is horizon to horizon light grey cloud, but I get the impression it is slightly thinner, and more likely to break up than yesterday. It actually feel unpleasantly on the cool side this morning. If I were going out right now I think I would be inclined to put a coat on, and it's definitely too cool for shorts. Although I might still consider shorts if I was going on a long walk, but I am not. I am going out tonight though, and I hope it is a bit warmer then.

 It's difficult to know whether to say that yesterday was a successful day or not. Ultimately I didn't achieve that much, but what I did achieve too a very long time. So it was worth taking the day off work - probably. One small bit of the day was definitely successful. I was put in touch with the manufacturer of my new monitor buy the company who supplied it to me. They are sending me a new power supply free of charge to replace the faulty one, and with luck it will be waiting for me when I get back to work on Monday.

 A rather large portion of the rest of my day yesterday was used for just one project. I attempted, and succeeded in making a 12 minute video with the scantiest of resources. Then I spent an age repeatedly trying to upload it to a web site until the upload finally worked quite late in the evening. With the limited material available to me the video is a bit on the sparse side, and features a black screen for maybe 50% of the time. If I knew the right bullshit I would claim it was art, and maybe it is to some who dig that sort of thing, but the truth is that I just padded out a sound track with some photos and captions. The curious can probably find out by having a look around here.

 I started the video project in the morning, and I intended to contact Kevin to see if he fancied a quick lunchtime pint, but before I realised it, it was already 1.30pm. By then I was also feeling like some breakfast would be a good idea. I needed a few other things so I went and bought some "breakfast" in Tesco. I may have been a little over enthusiastic because I felt quite bloated by the time I had finished eating. It wasn't until quite late in the evening that I had another small snack.

 One irritating, and yet highly useful thing about doing video stuff on the computer is that there can be very long periods of time when the computer is doing lots of hard work. Admittedly if I were using my fastest machine these things would be a lot faster than on the relatively low power machine that I actually did the work on. For instance, while the computer was doing all the number crunching to convert all my editing into one continuous movie about 50 minutes passed. It took a similar time to convert the huge resulting file down to a file small enough to use on the internet. While all this "number crunching" too place I was able to lay on my bed reading, and/or dozing off, and that also allowed my digestive system to make some headway on my too large lunch.

 Times like yesterday make me yearn back to the time when I was paid a huge amount of redundancy money when I left my first job. For maybe the first year I was free to be creative, or be lazy, and still have spare money in my pocket. When I retire I hope I can still find stuff to be creative, but that is both a long way off yet, and yet sometimes it feels it is getting closer far too soon. Of course by that time it may be that my income will be so miniscule that I will be forced to selling matches on a street corner. On the other hand the worlds finanaces may take a step in the right direction and my income may be sufficient for a slightly bohemian lifestyle. It would help if by that time I had given up smoking, drinking, eating, feeding insatiable cats, and probably most importantly, breathing. That would make for a cheap existence !

 My plans for today may include doing the washing up, and some light housework in between a few naps, and a bit of TV. One definite thing I hope to do is to go out to see The Bluesicians play in Bromley tonight. I am looking forward to it, but there are a lot of unknowns involved that have negative influences. For starters I don't know the pub, and I have no idea if it is going to be unpleasantly packed (and maybe packed with unpleasant people). The idea of going out in the evening after spending all day indoors brings some of it's own problems. I always prefer to do any travelling on an empty stomach. So to go out tonight means not eating anything after midday, or ideally even earlier than that, and that is going to be tricky and involve will power that I rarely have in abundance. However if I can overcome these irrational fears I think I will enjoy myself.
Thursday 12th August 2010
08:53 BST

  This morning is not exactly how I pictured it would be. The sky is a milky grey colour, and the prospects for any sunshine seem remote at the moment. Maybe later on the cloud covering will break up and the sun will burst through. At least it is dry now, and with the temperatures in the mid teens it's not that cold. I am sure the forecast for today was for plenty of sunny intervals, and the temperature around 24 C. The only problem with that is that I am relying on a forecast that is now 48 hours old. I didn't see the weather forecast last night for a more, but still hopeless, accurate forecast.

 My new monitor was delivered to work yesterday as planned, and I lugged it home on the trains with me. The reason I missed the weather forecast last night was because curiosity got the better of me, and I had to try out the new monitor as soon as I got home. Upon plugging it all in I found it didn't work. The supplied power brick was faulty, but it worked OK using the power brick of the old monitor.
Digimate L-1962WD TFT 19-inch monitor 
The monitor in question is a Digimate L-1962WD TFT 19-inch wide screen monitor. It has built in speakers that were alleged to be fairly good quality, and for built in speakers they are possibly slightly better than others, but in reality they are crap compared to even the cheap external speakers connected to this PC.

 The resolution of the screen is 1366x768, and on reflection I don't like it. It is a bit on the low side, but mostly it confirms my preference for good old 4:3 aspect monitors. The monitor it is replacing had a resolution of 1280x1024, which is 4:3 (or near as dammit) and provided loads of screen space to do stuff, and my eyes didn't have to swivel from side to side to see the edges of the screen !

 On the whole it was a bad choice to make. The biggest negative point was the faulty power supply brick, but I'll ignore that, and it may be possible that the supplier may send me a new one free of charge (I have contacted their customer support about this). On the plus side it does provide a crisp clear picture with plenty of contrast, and my first impressions are that it does display photos rather better than the cheap display I bought for my downstairs PC, and possibly better than the monitor it is replacing.

 I have now started the first of two days I booked as holiday away from work. I intended to go out somewhere today, but at the moment I don't feel all that inclined to go out under these gloomy skies. At least not for any long distance exploration. It is possible that I may go out exploring locally though. If I do it will be to check out two pubs that I may want to visit for a couple of gigs. They are The Chatterton Arms in Bromley where The Bluesiscians are due to play tomorrow night, and The British Queen in Locksbottom where All You Need are playing the Friday of next week.
Wednesday 11th August 2010
08:24 BST

  After a very wet day yesterday it is my pleasure to report that the rain has gone away for a while (maybe only a short while). There is a fair amount of cloud in the sky, but it's all very high misty and whispy stuff that poses no threat, but does dim the sunshine. There has been some sunshine already this morning, and I expect we will have more sunny intervals through the day. Yesterday was relatively cool, but today should see temperatures rise to 23 C. That is supposed to be around the seasonal average, but it seems a bit poor to me.

 I don't feel 100% this morning, and the blame probably lays with my enthusiasm for finishing off a rapidly going stale bag of chocolate chip cookies. They have probably raised my blood sugar level too high, and that in turn has probably raised my blood pressure. Of course there is also an alternative explanation. I have had a very slight sore throat on a couple of brief occasions recently, and now my throat feels a bit tickly. Maybe I am coming down with a summer cold or something ?

 Now is either a good time or a bad time to get a cold. I am taking tomorrow and Friday off work. There is no particular reason for this. I just fancied a break, and the opportunity to go out exploring somewhere. If I do have a mild summer cold coming on I will be off work anyway, and so won't lose any money, and there is plenty of stuff I can, and even want to do indoors that wouldn't be affected by any but the drippiest of colds. Friday is forecast to be wet, cold, and gloomy so in all probability I'll be staying in then anyway.

 One aspect where suffering from a cold would be a great inconvenience is my desire to go and see The Bluesiscians play at The Chatterton Arms on Friday night. I don't normally go out late on a Friday, or any night for that matter, but with this week being "adopt a band"*  week I feel I would like to see my adopted band play there.

* I thought "adopt a band" week was my own invention until I Googled it. I now see there is an Adopt A Band website. Their idea is a bit more upmarket than mine, but the idea of having a special week for it still remains my own invention, or so it seems.

 Today will, or ought to, have a few bright points. My new monitor should be delivered to me here at work. The one I ordered seems to be a well specified but cheap monitor with allegedly good quality speakers built in. How they actually sound when music is played through them remains to be seen, but I expect that they will actually be very mediocre. It is a scientifically proven fact * that you can't get good sound out of anything less than a combined mid range and tweeter with 8 inch bass speaker in a solidly built British oak cabinet.

* entry number 12,913,277 of a Google search - I checked every result given, honest :-)
Tuesday 10th August 2010
08:18 BST

  It's piddling down with rain ! It was dry at 4.20am this morning, and may have been dry all night, but at 5am, right on cue, the skies opened, and the rain came pouring down. It is supposed to continue raining until at least midday, but if all goes to plan it should stop, and if I am very lucky the sun will come out to light my way home.

 Yesterday was like a pleasant summers day. There was plenty of sunshine, but also a few cloudy periods, and it was decently warm at around 24 C. By contrast, today is only forecast to reach 21 C. That is still warm enough to keep me in shorts and t-shirt, but my cagoule was a very, very useful essential as I made my way into work (and no doubt it will continue to earn it's keep during several fag breaks this morning).

 Last night I investigated the poor video on my upstairs front room PC. First I tried a new (secondhand) power supply. That made no difference, but at least it confirms I have a working spare computer power supply. It was fortunate that it was ot the power supply because even that small sized power supply was too big to use as a replacement. At the same time it was unfortunate because it would have made for the cheapest possible repair.

 I had already tried a new graphics card over the weekend so that really only left the monitor to check. I didn't have another monitor that I could easily exchange it with so I did the next best thing and tried a whole new PC on the monitor. Luckily I noticed the fault as soon as I turned it on because after a few seconds the fault had disappeared. It is an intermittent problem, and I am reasonably sure it is heat related. It was hot when I first started testing stuff, but had cooled off a fair bit after opening the window.

 I now have three choices. I could bring in the main circuit board from the monitor and check for dry joints under the microscope here at work. I could buy a new monitor. The third option is to do both. If I order a new monitor early this morning I should be able to get it delivered here at work tomorrow. That will solve two problems. I want to use that PC on my day off on Thursday, and provided it is delivered tomorrow I will be able to take it home and use it immeadiately. It will also mean that I won't have to spoil my day off waiting for the monitor to be delivered to home. Once the new monitor is in and working  can then take apart the old monitor and bring the circuit board(s) into work at my leisure.

 One other thing I did last night was to experiment with all this new fangled social networking stuff. Using the name of my alter-ego I played around with a Myspace account. Having now seen how it basically works, I think I could be of use to me. I can do nearly everything I want on my own server except for one thing, and that one thing is show videos. I can and have done it on these pages, but it is a bandwidth hog. I am thinking it is probably far better to use someone else's bandwidth, and also let them worry about the display and stuff. The obvious answer should be YouTube, but somehow I don't really like that, and YouTube pages tend to be very cluttered. I think that using Myspace I might have a little more control on what's going on. When I have finished experimenting I'll do it for real, and post the links etc here.
Monday 9th August 2010
07:55 BST

  Today promises to be a good day as far as the weather is concerned. There are some clouds in the sky now, but much of the sky is blue, and the sun is shining. I suspect that today will be very much like yesterday, but maybe with just a bit more blue sky. Yesterday was quite sunny with temperatures of around 23 - 24 C. There were a few times when the sun ducked behind the clouds, and there were two times when I did fear that we might be in for a shower.

 I went out for a walk yesterday, and what a walk it turned out to be ! My plan was to find a pub that The Bluesiscians will be playing an afternoon gig on the 28th August. The pub is called The Fox And Hounds, and it is in the middle of nowhere, or more precisely a couple of miles west of Shoreham station. That "couple of miles" seems so simple, but as I found out it was far more complex than that !

 The first complication was that when my train arrived at Shoreham station none of the doors would open in the carriage I was in. I tried to go to the next carriage, but by the time I got to the doors in that carriage the train started to pull out of the station. I was left with no choice but to carry on to Otford station. I could have waited there almost half an hour to get the train back to Shoreham, but I decided to walk to the pub from there. For some reason my mobile phone could not lock onto any GPS satelites until I had already walked a few hundred yards uphill.

 "Uphill" carries some significance. In fact it carries a hell of a lot of significance because the other complication that makes those "couple of miles" a useless description is that it is very hilly around those parts. (Personally I would say mountainous !). Having locked onto the sat-nav satelites I could plot the course I took, and in particular the climbs and descents I had to make.
Route profile of walk to Fox and Hounds
 On the graph above my starting point is on the left, and I first had to climb around 120m (approx 400ft) then drop down into a small valley before climbing back up 60m to the pub. After one pint in the pub I covered a much of the route again until I diverged to go down an incredibly steep descent to Shoreham station.

 The first big downhill bit on the way to the pub was a long narrow country lane with the curious name of Magpie Bottom, although my OS map seemed to suggest that the place at the bottom of this shallow valley was called Magpie Bottom.
Magpie Bottom
 Some of the views from the top were quite spectacular, but the magnificence is never quite the same by photograph. I guess you really have to be there feeling the sun and the wind on your face as you pick out its and pieces on the horizon. Near the pub there was a small gap in the trees and I could see right down the valley and  in the distance the tall buildings of London's Docklands area.
 Panoramic view across towards Shoreham
 I took the picture above while still only halfway up the first big climb. Deep in the valley below runs the railway line from Swanley to Sevenoaks, and up in the rolling hills to the right there is a big white cross that is probably supposed to scare away non-believers like me.
Path through maize field
The final bit of the first half of my walk was to cross the corn field above to the pub visible in the distance. (Strictly speaking it is a maize field where baby corn-on-the-cobs are growing up to become big corn-on-the-cobs !) Finally, puffing and panting and dripping with sweat, I made it to the pub.
The Fox And Hounds at Knatts Valley
 Of course having got to the pub I had to get back to the station, and I must confess I was dreading it. It had felt like really hard work getting there, but after a refreshing pint of Kronenberg I seemed to regain a little strength and set out on my weary way. I took it really slowly going back up Magpie Bottom (well you would, wouldn't you !!). I was still puffing and wheezing when I got to the top, but it wasn't quite as bad as I imagined it would be. From then on it was almost level road until the steep descent down to the station. It was actually almost like hard work going down that steep path, and I was quite happy when I reached the bottom.

 The object of the excessive exercise was to see how easy it would be to get to the pub on the day The Bluesiscians play there. I think the answer is "bloody difficult", and yet I might possibly attempt it. Providing I can get out the train at Shoreham OK, and providing I can get up that incredibly steep path from the station to the top of the first hill without dying, I reckon I could still enjoy myself.

 I was quite peckish when I got back to Catford, and I knew I didn't have any proper food at home that would not take a fair bit of preparation before I could eat it. So using some restraint I bought some grilled peri-peri chicken wings and a bag of chips. If after eating that I had gone for a snooze, which I really could have done with, I would have been fine, but I started watching some TV. That was fatal because it gave me a grade A munchies attack. I ended up eating all sorts of crap, and totally wiped out any gains I might have made from my rather severe exercise earlier.

 This morning I feel sort of good. I can still feel where my "breathing muscles" were working extra hard, but my feet and legs feel fine. Curiously I have a bit of shoulder ache and my right wrist seems slightly sore or stiff or something. I am not sure how the shoulders and wrist ache could relate to my arduous walk yesterday. So maybe it's just of those things - old age, syphilis, alopeacia, Tourettes syndrome, or something similar, although my money's on Denoblien Purple Plague.

 Tonight I think I deserve a rest, but I may not get to have one. My upstairs front room PC is giving trouble. I first thought it was the graphics card, then I thought it was the monitor, but now I think it could be the PC power supply responsible for some nasty intermittent patterning on the screen. Unfortunately the PC uses a physically smaller power supply than is standard, but I do have one that I think is the right size here at work where I took it from a scrap machine found in the skip many months ago. So I shall be taking that home tonight.to try. Then I shall go to bed, and even now I am looking forward to that a lot !

Sunday 8th August 2010
07:41 BST

  It's dry now, and it was supposed to be dry all day, but that forecast is now a few days old. On the other hand being a few days old does not make it any less accurate than one issued for 2 minutes into the future by the weather centre's random forecast generator ! It is rather gloomy outside, and the sky is just horizon to horizon mid grey cloud. With luck that will start to break up soon, and we'll have some sunny intervals.

 Yesterday was both good and bad. In the muggy warmth of the morning I walked into Lewisham to meet up with Patricia. I got there maybe 15 minutes before her so I started my shopping while I waited for her to arrive. I had this strange affection that I wanted to buy a pair of red trainers. I knew that the Catford branch of Peacocks had sold some that would do for my needs, but they had sold out of them a couple of months ago. The Lewisham branch is a bigger branch, I thought it worth looking in there to see if they had any. They didn't, but they did have a nice white pair that were reduced to just 7 as a sale item. They were a slightly different style to those I had seen previously in Peacocks, and later, when I had got them home I found that they seemed to be wider fit, and hence more comfortable than the style I would have bought if they had any.

 After Peacocks I went into Footlocker. It is not the sort of place where I like doing business because it is typical of the sort of place that attracts young yobboes. When I got in there there was a young black man having a vigorous argument with the sales staff about something or another. Ignoring him I found a nice “ox blood red” pair of Converse “All Stars” trainers. At a tad under 40 they were more expensive than I would normally spend on shoes for occasional casual wear, but maybe it was money well spent. They seemed to be far better made than the cheap throwaway Chinese made trainers that I have been buying these last couple of years. Not only that but they do seem to be a lot more comfortable on first impressions.

 With my two purchases made I met up with Patricia. We went to the Muffin Shop inside the Lewisham shopping centre where Patricia had a coffee and I had a diet coke, and chatted for around 20 minutes. With our chat over Patricia continued her shopping and I walked back home through the park. On the way back the air seemed less muggy than it had on the way there. It seems unlikely it could have changed so quickly, but it certainly felt like it.

 Back at home I tried on my new trainers and was happy with they way that they fitted. I still had quite a few hours to wait before I was due to go out to Petts Wood to see The Bluesiscians play at “Petts Woodstock”. After getting all my stuff together ready to go out I could think of nothing better to do than to have a lie down on my bed. I did a little reading, and dozed off a couple of time. I was awoken twice by phone calls from unwanted salesmen, but the third time I dozed off I really did fall into a good sleep. It was lucky that I had got everything I wanted together for going out because I woke up after the time I was planning to leave.

 I had originally planned to get either the 15:03 or 15:33 train, but it was the 16:03 train that I actually caught. To make life more interesting it was raining when I left for the station. Happily it had stopped raining when I arrived at Petts Wood station, and I was able to stuff my waterproof top into my back pack before I got off the train. I arrived at The Daylight Inn just as The Bluesiscians were beginning their set.


The Daylight Inn

Somewhere behind that crowd is a bar and a band playing

 It was very hot and very crowded inside the pub, and I didn't really enjoy that, but I did enjoy the music. There were some problems with the sound, mainly a bit of occasional feedback, but the sound was far superior to the band who had been playing on the outside stage in the car park when I first arrived. Their singer sounded like he was singing through a wet sock, as did the singer of the next band who played on that stage.

 The last time I saw The Bluesiscian play, Jo, the lead singer, was suffering from a bad throat, and Chris the lead guitarist had to cover some of the vocal. This time Jo was in fine voice, but for one song she gave the stood down and Chris did all the vocals. That last time I was not all that impressed, but on this occasion he sounded quite good. Perhaps he had a better stage monitor, or maybe it was just something else, but it definitely sounded better. (If curiosity has got the better of you Jo, and you're reading this, pass that on to Chris).

Jo Corteen at Petts Woodstock 7th Aug 2010

 I found the heat, the crowds, and the overall noise level quite unpleasant, although logically it was what I should have expected. I guess I am a bit of a weirdo, but with two stages being used alternately it would have been nice not to have recorded music blaring out once the band had finished playing. While they were playing I wanted it loud and noisy, but a few minutes quiet to allow a few conversations to take place would have made everything a bit more pleasant. (On the plus side, the loud recorded music playing inside drowned out the terrible music of the band who had just started playing outside).

The Bluesiscians - Petts Woodstock 7th Aug 2010

I stayed around long enough to thank the band for their music and then I went home feeling slightly sad. I guess I had allowed myself to get a little too excited about the day without considering what the reality of it would be. Although the overall experience was disappointing I still look forward to the next time I can see the band play because they are most definitely entertaining.

 Back in Catford it started to rain again again. On the way home I grabbed myself was was in effect breakfast from one of the local fried chicken shops. I had some spicy hot wings and a bag of chips followed by some ice cream that I had in the freezer. After my breakfast/lunch/dinner I had a look at the photos I had taken. It was so crowded that I didn't even have a chance to get my camcorder out, and the photos I took had to be taken by holding the camera above my head without being able to see what was in the viewfinder. Only the two pictures above were usable, and then only with a bit of “photoshoppery”. The outside picture just needed a bit of cropping and rotating, but the other two needed colour correction and exposure correction as well as cropping.


 Today I feel like indulging in a full English breakfast, but I think I am going to forego that pleasure and go out for a walk later. I could go to the coast, but I think I'll stay inland and go and find a pub that The Bluesiscians will be playing an afternoon gig on the 28th August. The pub is The Fox And Hounds in Knatts Valley, and on that date they are holding a beer festival. By using some footpaths I reckon I can get Google Maps estimate of about a 3 mile walk down to little over 2 miles. That's just a short stroll from Shoreham (Kent) railway station, although I fear some steep hills will be involved. After I have found the pub, and maybe had a beer in it, I might just retrace my steps, or take the scenic route to Eynsford station which will add at least five miles to my walk. My decision partly  depends on the weather, but mostly how I feel.
Saturday 7th August 2010
08:11 BST

  The heavy rain forecast for late yesterday afternoon may have finally fell in the early hours of this morning. It looks very wet outside, although it's not raining right now. Judging from how the sky looks there could be more rain at any time. Today was supposed to have a mixture of sun and showers, and while those showers would not be great for Petts Woodstock, where one stage is out in the car park, the sun would at least provide some relief for the soggyness. Maybe the clouds will break up later on, but right now it is most definitely very grey !

 Contrary to what those mystic seers at the weather centre pronounced, I don't think it rained at all yesterday. It wasn't a very bright day, but it certainly did not pour with rain as I made my way home from work when the rain was supposed to be at it's heaviest as it swept it's way across the south of London. To emphasis the point the sun came out when I arrived in Catford, and continued to shine for most of the walk back to home.

 I only stayed indoors a short time, and during that time the skies did darken again. After feeding Smudge and changing my shirt I went out again to go to the pub. It did look like I would either get wet going to the pub or coming home again, but I showed my defiance by just wearing a t-shirt and shorts. My defiance of the weather worked and it stayed dry all the time I was out, and, as far as I know, up to and beyond the time I fell asleep in bed.

 It was Kevin I met in the pub, and seemed to have made the wise choice that beer was better for him than the pain killers he has been on since his accident. I had three pints of Stella Artois, and Kevin just had two and a half pints of bitter. We left the pub later than I thought, and Kevin just missed the opportunity to get some shopping in Tesco. They officially close at 8pm on a Friday night, but put all the shutters down at 7.45 leaving 15 minutes for the shoppers inside to finish shopping at get through the checkouts. That was happening as we passed the shop.

 When I got home I couldn't be bothered to cook any dinner, and I ate a wild mixture of cold foods. While that assortment was nice it was probably a bit much, and this morning I don't feel very dynamic, although I could blame some of that on the booze. It had been my intention to get up early enough to go to Lewisham to buy a new pair of trainers, but once I had let Smudge in and fed her I went back to bed again. Initially I could not get back to sleep again, or at least that is how it felt, but looking at the clock when I did wake up again suggested that I did sleep for quite a while.

 Just as I wrote that a text message from Patricia came through in reply to a text I sent her yesterday about meeting up in Lewisham. It seem we may be able to meet up, and so I think I had better get myself washed and dressed very quickly now.

 Today could be an excellent day. Seeing Patricia, if our visits to Lewisham coincide, and hopefully enjoying some good music in Petts Wood later on. Who knows, I might even "pull a bird"........well it's still possible no matter how unlikely !
Friday 6th August 2010
07:53 BST

  The weather forecasters forecast an absolutely foul afternoon and early evening, but right now it is bright and sunny. The sky does seem to be getting cloudier, but for now it is just white, and sometimes fluffy clouds. I think that this morning may be marginally warmer than yesterday morning, or it might just be that the humidity is a little higher.

 It may or may not have been a bit warmer overnight, but for me personally it was a lot warmer. Yesterday morning I thought it was a bit chilly in the early hours. So last night I put the duvet in the duvet cover. It was nice to feel the weight of the duvet on me again last night, but unfortunately I fell asleep under it. At around 2am, maybe a bit later, I woke up feeling like I had been cooked. After that I lay awake for close to an hour cooling off, and then I managed to get back to sleep with just one leg and one arm under the duvet. This morning I woke up still feeling a bit odd. Most of that undescribable oddness has now passed, but not all, and it truly is undescribable. Nothing hurts, and my body seems to be working as well as it does on any average day, but there is still an air of mystery about it.

 I wrote yesterday about the new batteries for my semi-pro/posh/upmarket camcorder. To my surprise the second, more expensive, battery turned up yesterday morning. It is the same capacity as the first cheaper battery, but announces that it's cells were made in Japan instead of China. In theory that could be good, but in practice there may be little difference. The definite good thing is that it has the right shape with all the grooves and slots in the right positions.

 The Sony DCR-VX1000 camcorder is the full model number of my camcorder, and it is 10 or more years old now. When new they were very expensive, and I wondered how much it was worth these days. A quick search on Ebay suggests that it is still worth over 500, and possibly as much as 1000. The fact that they still command such high prices suggests that they are still a very well regarded piece of kit. I got mine as part of some forgotten deal, with some forgotten person. With hindsight I think I might have got the better end of the deal, although without remembering quite what the deal was it is difficult to say for sure.

 I am not sure what I am doing tonight. I did have some stupid fantasies that I might be able to meet up with Patricia after work, but she is now working further away from her home in the other direction to Catford, and a meeting would have been unlikely even if she were more loacl to Catford. So I rule that out as a possibility. Iain seems to be unlikely to want a drink tonight, and that just leaves Kevin who might be available for a pint or two. Although I suspect there is only a small chance that he will be.

 In all probability I will go straight home, and if it is raining like has been forecast I think Smudge might be quite glad of that. She was out al night, and only came in to have her breakfast before oing out again. That tends to confirm my theory that last night, and this morning are a little warmer than the night before, and Smudge is obviously confident that it won't rain before I get home. Maybe not though........she does have some mysterious shelter that keeps her dry enough for her to come home with almost dry fur after a complete cloudburst.
Thursday 5th August 2010
08:27 BST

  The dice has been thrown again and come up with a sunny morning. It is getting a little cool in the mornings now, and this morning is one of the coolest for some time, but it is still not cool enough to prompt me to not wear t-shirt and shorts to work. There is a lot of blue sky this morning, and since arriving at Earlsfield station the sun was sufficiently high to feel very warm on my black t-shirt and charcoal grey shorts. It is forecast to be dry all day today, but with rain again tomorrow. If the sun can stay out the temperature could climb up into the mid twenties, and maybe even rival the warmth of Tuesday.

 There were reports in the news that yesterday Sussex suffered exceptionally heavy rain with flash floods and other stuff. It's strange to think that was where I was enjoying the sunshine enough to get mildly sunburnt just the day before. Here in Earlsfield there was a some heavy ain around 11 am, and even a clap or two of thunder. By midday it had stopped raining, but the sky did remain overcast. Later on, in Catford, the TV weatherman was saying that the rain had now passed London just as we had a brief heavy fall of rain ! Sometime I really think those forecasters should try looking out the window more often.

 Last night I checked the tracking details for my walk on Tuesday. The idea that it was only 120ft to the top of that huge steep cliff seemed wrong, and the tracking data seems to confirm that wrongness.
profile of Seaford
 I am not sure where they took their datum line of sea level because there was no way the sea was 56 metres below where I started from. The significant thing is the difference between the top and the bottom; 140 - 56 = 84 metres or 275 feet, and that's more what it felt like !

 I feel a bit excited about the mini music festival type thing I am going to on Saturday. I decided to take my camcorder along to get some better video of The Bluesiscians playing than I can take using my mobile phone or using the facility on my digital camera. In fact I am taking along my posh camcorder, the Sony DCR-VX1000.
Sony DCR-VX1000 3 chip CCD DV camcorder
 The batteries I have for this camcorder are very old now, and slowly dying. So I have ordered an extravagant two new batteries. One order was for a cheap battery that may take a while to reach me, and the other was for a more expensive battery that should be delivered quickly. Oddly enough I think it is the cheap one that has arrived first. It is a higher capacity than the original specification battery, and it is also a tiny. tiny bit longer so the battery hatch on the camcorder won't latch shut. That in itself is nothing I would be worried by, but there is a further complication best demonstrated by this picture.
Li-ion batteries for Sony camcorder
This hastily cobbled together picture shows how the battery should look (on the left), and how my new battery looks (on the right). The significant thing is the groove running down the side of the battery. On the new battery it is missing. Fortunately it was easy to cut away the thin plastic shell with a scalpel, and now my new battery fits inside my camcorder. With it's almost doubled capacity I am hoping that the one battery will last for all the videoing I am likely to do. If not I still have one battery that may last 20 minutes, and two small batteries that only last 5 - 10 minutes a piece, but have proved very useful in the past.
Wednesday 4th August 2010
07:46 BST

  I've seen a little bit of everything this morning. There were a few seconds of sunshine, and a few seconds of light rain. I've seen bits of blue sky, and bits of dark grey murderous looking clouds. Right now it has all congealed into one. The sky is just grey. It might rain now or later, but the weather forecasters seem quite insistent that I going to drown on my way home from work. I may shiver too because the temperature is not predicted to rise to much above 20 C today.

 It's all rather different to yesterday ! Despite some gloomy predictions from the weather forecasters it turned out to be a glorious day. Not only was it bone dry, but there was quite sufficient sunshine to give me some light sunburn. Maybe it didn't get hot, but it was very comfortable even in a strong wind, and I encountered some really strong winds while I was out.

 When I wote yesterday morning I was not 100% certain I would be going out. I was feeling good in some respects and not so good in others. To be truthful I think I was feeling a little out of practice, and I thought that it might only be a short walk because I was sure that I had seen a weather forecast predicting some heavy rain on the south coast. I was prepared to walk in the rain, but just not very far. Maybe that weather forecast was just in my imagination beause it was beautiful on the coast.

 I took a train to Seaford and initially walked to the east to see if the cliffs there were anything like I remembered them, and they were. While walking towards the cliffs I stayed away from the waters edge because the tide was out, and the water was actually a long way down the steep shingle beach. I hate walking on loose shingle, and climbing up it seems like hard work. Having avoided the shingle because it was too hard work I surprised myself by thinking the unthinkable, and then doing the unthinkable.
The cliffs at Seaford
 I saw a path leading up to the top of the cliffs, and decided I wanted to see what the view was like at the top. Somehow the idea that it is only 200ft to the top does not seem much. The Ordance Survey map shows the 70 metre contour close to the top, but no spot height for the very top. What the photo above doesn't really reveal is just how bloody steep the last bit of the climb is. Going up the last 30 ft was exceptionally hard work and I had to stop to catch my breath a couple of times, but once I was at the top I had a fag and my breathing and heart rate dropped to near normal before I had finished it. The view from up thereis rather spectacular, but I think the climb was worth it more for the feeling of achievement of getting up there alive.

 At sea level there was a strong breeze blowing in off the sea, but on the cliff, it wasn't a breeze but a wind, and oddly enough, half way up the cliff it was like a roaring hurricane. Even my stout body was being buffetted around enough to make photography very difficult. I have more pictures taken up there that I will putting on their own web page sometime. One good one, and I don't know why I didn't prepare it for showing here, shows the "Seven Sisters". They are the next section of cliffs towards the east, and there are, in my photo at least, seven distinct peaks along the top of the cliffs until the edge turns more north towards Beachy Head.

  There is a lot of insect life up on those cliffs, and I think I am slowly improving me techniques to take photographs of some of them.
Gatekeeper butterfly
 I managed to get another, possibly better, photograph of a gatekeeper butterfly, although I didn't recognise it at the time. The first one I photographed was (maybe) 100 miles to the north in Essex.
Common Blue or Chalkhill Blue butterfly
 In slightly soft focus is this bright blue butterfly that I have yet to find a name for. It is a small butterfly, perhaps only an inch across, and although I have not identified I am sure I can recall a picture on the internet saying it is found near chalky soils - and there is plenty of chalk in those cliffs !
[update; this is either a male Common Blue or male Chalkhill Blue butterfly. Probably the latter]
juvenile Great Black-backed gull
 No visit to the seaside is complete without the earache inducing shrieks of the seagulls, and the piles of guano on any flat surface, but this seagull was probably feeling innocent as it posed for me on a post. The grey dappling, and a slightly downy appearance make me think it is a young gull, but it could just be a different species of gull. To non experts like me, seagulls are just seagulls, but I do appreciate that there are different types with different names.
[update; This bird appears to be a juvenile Great Black-backed gull]

 After coming down from the "mountain", which was hard work in itself, I walked all the way to Newhaven Town station, passing Newhaven Marine, and Newhaven Harbour stations. At the end my feet were aching as usual, but it felt like my new wide fitting hiking shoes were doing less damage to my feet (and this morning I am sure of it). It was a pleasant walk, and unusually I felt no urgency about it. Maybe it was because my feet felt more comfortable, maybe it was just that it was quite a scenic walk, or maybe it was because I realised I had been blessed with far better weather than I could have ever hoped for, but I felt I was in no rush to get to a station for a train home. So I did a bit more exploring than usual, and didn't follow a strict point A to point B route. There were a couple of times I made little detours to investigate things.

 As sson as I can I will be making up a new web page showing pictures of what I saw on these little detours, and some landscape pictures. Somehow I don't think I'll be doing it tonight. Last night I had trouble switching my brain off. My body was very tired after all that fresh air, but my brain would not shut up. I guess it was some time after 10 pm when I finally got to sleep, and then I was awake again at 4 am this morning. Tonight I am determined to to get to sleep before 9 pm even if I have to batter my brain into submission with a large hammer !

 footnote: My typing is getting worse ! I've corrected a few really terrible typing errors in the above paragraphs, but I can't spare any more time to search out the other errors. It's time to do what I am paid to do.
Tuesday 3rd August 2010
08:51 BST

  Against all expectations it seems to be a very sunny morning. There is little cloud in the sky, and from the coldness of the morning air, I guess there was little cloud overnight. As far as I know it is likely to rain sometime today, but evidently not this morning. If the sun stays out for long enough I think that the temperature could climbs into the mid twenties instead of the low twenties as I thought it was supposed to be. It all makes a total mockery of my words yesterday when I was gloomily saying that summer was over.

 The weather yesterday was not much to write about. It was dry, and it was very mild. There was some sunshine, but not much, and that's about it !

 The legacy of my over indulgences on Sunday was that I felt rather lacking in energy yesterday. When I came home from work I felt hungry, but initially I thought I would just make myself a simple stew of skinless chicken with peppers, tomatoes and herbs all cooked in a lot of chicken stock. I did actually cook that, but I didn't eat it (but I shall tonight). What I did eat was probably a bit strange. I had half a packet of tortilla chips that were in danger of going stale, and were also quite tempting to munch on while I was cooking. They ended up being the core of my dinner last night. Initially I dipped them in some houmous, and when that ran out I used them to scoop up huge piles of low calorie coleslaw. I also had a handful of hazlenuts, and a small bar of dark chocolate. As I say, it was a strange dinner, but seemed to be quite satisfying, and I don't seem to feel too bad for it this morning.

 It wasn't planned this way, but I am taking a days holiday today. Once I have got a little business out of the way I think I am going out exploring. I think I want to go to the seaside, and the destination I have in mind is Seaford. It's an annoying place to get to because it means getting to East Croydon, and then changing at Lewes. The lure at the end of that horrible journey is some interesting scenery to photograph - I think. I've only been to Seaford once before, and that was almost in winter time. At least I think it was. It was cold and it was very windy. That made the sea look very big and scary. It might also have been raining too, but what I seem to remember was looking to the east and seeing huge rugged cliffs looming out of the mistiness. A few miles further on past the start of those cliffs is the infamous Beachy Head.I don't think I will be going up and overland to Beachy Head, but the start of the cliffs could make for some interesting pictures. What I hope I can do is to walk back westwards towards, and maybe beyond Newhaven.
Monday 2nd August 2010
08:14 BST

  It seems summer is over for this week, and maybe for the year. A lot of rain is forecast for the week, and daytime temperatures will always be in the low twenties. I thought all that was true at first light. It was very overcast with several suspicious looking clouds in the sky, but now it looks like those clouds are breaking up a bit, and I can see a few small patches of blue sky.

 As I recall from last night's weather forecast for the week ahead, today will be mostly OK, and it is only after today that things might get a bit grim. Today will most probably be similar to yesterday. Occasionally a burst of sunshine would make it's way through the clouds, but most of the time the sun was obscured by clouds. It was only mildly warm, but was a bit humid. Late in the evening, perhaps around 9pm, there was some heavy rain (or at least it sounded like it). Where today may be different is that once it starts raining it may not stop, and I can look forward to a soggy journey to work (and possibly a soggy cat when I get home if she insists on staying out like she did last night).

 My guesses about how I would spend yesterday were nearly correct. I definitely did not go out exploring, but I did go to Aldi's to buy stuff I really shouldn't have bought. I tried my new hiking shoes on that short walk, and I have mixed feelings about them. They are certainly no worse than my old pairs, and they are relatively comfortable, but I didn't think the new ones were that much wider than the old. It did feel like my foot was a little flatter widthwise, but I was still suffering from too much pressure on the injuries I sustained last week when I wore a pair of trainers without socks and removed many layers of skin in two places. Those injuries are now almost healed, and I hope the biggest hole will be filled in during the course of this week, but the two areas are still quite tender. I am now doing what I should have been doing days ago, and putting on antiseptic cream to try and speed up the healing process.

 Instead of restoring audio recordings like I suggested I might do, I spent quite a few hours contributing to the giffgaff forums. Giffgaff is almost certainly the best mobile phone service provider around at the moment. Calls are cheap, and texts are cheap too, but the best thing is when you buy a goodybag. The 10 goodybag, which is what I buy, lasts for a month and gives you 100 minutes of talktime to any network, unlimited texts, and unlimited internet (on a phone only). Even better than that is that all goodybags are half price for August. If you're ever tempted to sign up tell them bkfromcatford sent you !

 For some of yesterday I went into Homer Simpson mode - sitting on the couch watching TV while consuming all sorts of evil junk food. Of course I would call the couch the settee, and the TV was only displaying video recordings most of the time, but the major simularities are all there. One difference was that I was not serially going through packets of junk food, and in a few cases I actually returned half eaten packs to the kitchen instead of scoffing the whole packet in one hit. It almost sounds like my eating was quite controlled, but in truth it wasn't, and I ate far too much. It made me feel quite heavy as I made my way to work this morning.

 During this week I have to be a bit more careful how I eat so I am in good condition for Saturday. I am not going out walking on Saturday, but going to see some music being played. Specifically I am going to Petts Woodstock, and the best way to describe that is to link to their website.
Sunday 1st August 2010
10:21 BST
  There is nothing about this morning that screams out "go for a walk". The sky is a dreary grey colour.Admittedly it is not a threatening sort of dark grey colour, but more a light coloured misty grey. It gives a sort contrast flattening ambience to the great outdoors. The temperature is about 20 C, or maybe a degree lower, and is probably a good temperature to walk in, although for some bizzare reason I do like walking when it is far hotter.

 All this is building up to the fact that I am finding it very hard to motivate myself to go for a long walk today. As I mentioned, when I wrote up my diary rather late in the day yesterday, I do have a brand new pair of wide fitting hiking shoes I want to try out. I think they will suit my feet rather better than my existing pairs, and the hope is that my feet will stay more comfortable on long walks. While I am feeling negative about going out it does occur to me that I would get a sort of feel of those new shoes by just walking to the shops and back.

 One of the pros, but also one of the cons for going out today is that I ate sensibly enough yesterday that I don't feel all stodgy. That is always good for walking, but it also means that I am feeling unusually hungry this morning, and the more I think about it the more I want to eat some breakfast, and that would kill any chance of going out today.

 All these excuses for not going out pale into insignificance against the big reason - I can't think of anywhere to go. On the days when I have gone for long walks I have, as far as I can remember, had a destination in mind several days in advance. That wild curiosity in wanting to know what's out there is a powerful motivator, and the suspense in waiting for the day to arrive to find out drives me on. Sadly today it is lacking, and although I know I would start to enjoy myself if I just went out walking somewhere randomly, it is a hard threshold to cross.

 If I don't get out today I am not sure what I will do. There is always the unlikely possibility that I will get a reply to a text message I sent on Friday suggesting a meeting for a quick drink, and a beer or two might be nice today. A nice fantasy would be to spend several hours getting boozed up in a pub, coming home to a full roast dinner, and then sleeping it off for the rest of the afternoon. That's not going to happen, and I don't think I want it to happen, but it's nice fantasising about it.

 There is stuff I can usefully do today. I have quite a few radio recordings that I want to clean up, and that would could me occupied for many hours. There is also a friends PC that after several weeks I am only half way through rebuilding for him. He doesn't need it for a few more weeks yet until after he has moved house, but sooner or later I am going to have to to finish it off. I have a feeling whatever I end up doing today the day will soon be over, and then it's back to work on Monday.