WMC's diary pages, 2004.

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See-also: http://www.wmc.care4free.net/diary/.

December 2004

Wed 1st

Frost. Sun. M sick/tired at home. D to sch just a little & talk Mrs S briefly re D's handwriting.

Sign at Plough: we are hiring. A good sign.

Smoko, then town: clay, gloves for E, printer ink, w/s for lunch.

Take E to sch to meet V & H takes E instead. We acquire N in return & arrange D to Jacks (new) for next week. N must start with her piano practice & M helps her.

N & D do Clay.

RC setup proceeds nicely.

M cooks bulgar wheat + raisins which is not popular.

To Castle & (wot with q & all) order my brie bap at 10-to producing the trad-but-stupid 'you're cutting it a bit fine'. A is there, growing a ponytail, & we discuss hairbands & bras.

Thurs 2nd

M a bit sick (she gets to work by 10, it transpires). But when we leave she is in bed.

Work: till 2:30, fixing stuff. Hmmm.

Intended to go to talk 4pm in town on solar var. But! It was at 10:30 this morning. Oops: but unexpectedly free pm. What to do... unsure... end up going home: well its 3 already.

Pay (overpay in fact, as penance) homeclub by internet (from gnatwest a/c).

Fri 3rd

Work: misc admin trivia largely. Talk TLC hades. Talk JT/AJen external supercomputing. Talk JT re my Q4 job - no progress. Its not up to me sez JT: talk to MP. But MP sez talk JT. Argh.

Home: lunch. Peace (except for guilty feeling I should be digging over the compost heap).

E from M'a 3:30. To sch: D etc to multiS. Helen? No. So I keep E. We go to Home Club to find E's miffy bag (yes) then home. Misc. M is back, early. Good!

I tidy l'room a bit: clear out the misc bits of old palm pilot and scsi cards on the shelf (but don't throw them away (nearly did)).

Cook: pots/sos/aub. E a bit tired+emotional by this stage.

Since B has gone to A's too, Andy brings D back for us, how convenient, at 7. D keen to play computer: according to M's new rules, he is only allowed to play "adventure games" on fri nights and weekends. So he is starved.

Bath 7-8.

Read D "Herb the veg dragon" for bedtime story.

M pianos again (she has been a bit occaisional this week due to sickness).

10: a noise upstairs: check on D and E who, when I say "ahem", giggle together in D's bed. "We were just planning what to do tomorrow" says D. OK.

Fiinish draft appeal report and mail to A/S/C. Whew.

Sat 4th

Lie in sun.

Med w/rose then p'sch 'picnic'.

Town: cb1 shut. Cafe de Paris. M's dry cleaning.

M goes in pm to c'mas shop.

Bed: smell: E vom :-(

Sun 5th

E happy chattering. Bath to wash hair.

After lunch: rake leaves then turn over compost heap.

M wants to play piano & ratty cos E wont let her.

Grey day finally clears past sunset. I've dragged DE out. I'm hacking down the last hollyhocks & the clematis. D is pretending there is a drought (since w'butt is empty) & the diggers in the sandpit search for water.

Tiny walk. Mist. Jo+Ewan: exhaust.

Blog: compost/bellamy.

D's mixer.

P'cards.

Soir: M piano.

Mon 6th

Soir: M p; early mornings are no more.

Tues 7th

Work: Blackburn.

Town for chocs for hamper. Espresso in w/s & buy Penroses opus (my cmas pres from M).

Sch 3:30. E in tears 'cos Jodie can't to her cmas party. Clears up & she is now running happily after Gemma. Mrs S checks I can vid on thurs.

D&E end up going to B's so I am home alone. Straight away I set to work tidying up... of course I don't. I blog on s(k)eptics. & drink tea. A phones saying don't come till 6.30. So I don't. When I arrive its noisy: B is teaching D histon fc songs & chants.

7: to pc. Await Dot to open door. JRey has his pda. then at 8 off to sch for gov. Not much, except we vote to apply for permission for the mast.

Wed 8th

D to school; home; then to Ma with E. Stop off at J+J: Jesse has had a second cateract opp which has worked; but until her eyes settle down she can't get new glasses. So she is a bit bored but seemed happy when we were there. Talked to Joan about digital radio/tv. She gave me the recent geneological correspondence. Also the Vimy planes stuff - check wiki.

So to Ma 12:30 (it was a slow drive too) so start with coffee, rest and lunch. then its tree time, and the gingko seems to have grown again (how odd) but put the lights up nicely *and* arrange this time for the plugs to be inside. Meanwhile E has been watching the Aristocats and T+J and Ma is trying to explain to me why she has two videorecorders and I laugh at her mercilessly.

Home 5:30 ish just as D comes back from Jacks (first visit! I think it went well).

Then a bit rushed because we are going out tonight: Pub/curry. Jodie is doing her first babysitting and arrives 7:30; DE of course know her so after some silly fussing by us we leave. Cottenham: Hop Bind then Curry house opposite. HB OK - decent beer, a bit crowded. Discuss blogs with "whitelilac"; Pep arrives then C+A and Dinan looking resplendent in his customary wednesday black tie. Curry is good too but since we have a starter (unheard of) we're running late and have to shovel our meal down and run... back home a touch late but OK.

Thurs 9th

Going to school: D wants sto race with E but he lets E win, to be nice, and enjoys arranging it so she can win.

Work. Still feeling zoozy from yesterday and end up signing the day out as holiday. Home 1:30 to check video etc; Ma arrives and we go to pick up E then to sch.

Play. Ma and I, with E, there early. Ma and E sit at front; I prowl for best vid position and settle on standing on table at back. Full house. Delays with cast: they are all off to the loo at the last minute. Look through class door: D sees me and waves: Mrs S: come on Daniel get ready. So I go away again.

The play: well done. Though, to my tastes, the play itself (the little fir tree) isn't as good as either the gift of christmas (2 y ago) or stable story (last year). But D gets a major part (the woodcutter) and plays it well, lines good and clear too. Of his friends: N was a tree; Billy and Adam animals doing narration. The various weathers (sun; rain; snow) were well done.

Ma comes back home with us but has to leave at 5 so we have time for tea (she has brought a cake) and brief computer consultancy, and she reads E some stories (from the story tree, E's current favourite).

D wants to play with a water science kit thats been on the shelf a while so let him for my peace; he ends up in the bath and then E joins him.

Soir: bath for me; we do cmas cards for close family: put photos in. 15 done now, well done us.

Fri 10th

Work, fairly well. Interesting Pierrehumbert piece in Nature that looks to me like it uses at least one of my ideas (t of space). Need to check supplementary for trans but can't get to it.

School 2:30 to xfer video for them. D leaps into my arms and says Daddy! And is generally pleased to see me. But I have work to do. Get it working quickly (trick is the panel on the R of the vid) and leave it running. Its break time, so go out with them and watch; talk to Margaret and discuss the play, and how active the infants are. After, its story time for them and I fix MS's email and send myself the words of Stable Story (for D) in some format other than Evil Empire Publisher. First taping ends; also put one onto the end of last years tape of SS for Margaret; apparently they were watching it at break today!

After school is chaos: I'm still running taping #2; D, N, A and B are bouncing around about whose house we're going to and the "surprise factory"; and then I remember I'm supposed to pick up E. Fight through crowds (leaving Andy in charge, nominally) and pick up E only a bit late. Back to sch. D has his money (I gave him it this morning) and he will share with N if needed; they are queuing up to get in (its a scrum) so E and I retreat to the tea room for cakes and... tea. Good. Talk to H Fox. There are things on show but its too busy to move. Check on my tapes and on DN. M turns up a bit later, its still chaos, but eventually E, A and N leave with her and the laggards (D, N and P) leave with me, still wildly hyper. Even normally imperturbable P is bouncy.

Home. A bit crowded but OK, kids amuse themselves without too much destruction and with M there its easy. Her new R100 has just turned up and she is working out how to turn it on (baby). V slim but (to my eyes, and perhaps hers) not as cute as the 3110; a bit ibm-looking; black; and the bigger battery at the back makes it look lumpy.

Anyway, I get some peace and check the web (of course) and realclimate is live and attracting some attention (QS, Deltoid and Die Zeit!). Excellent.

And so it goes. Turn on bellowhead (rambling sailor) up load and we dance to it: twice over: but the last time at the end D gets so carried away he clouts his jaw with his knee and thinks he has dislodged something. He hasn't, but it quietens things. And the A arrives for B.

Dinner: OK: with too much enthusiasm. N arrives for NPAV (did I mention that Vivian arrives at some point...) and off they go after a fun pm all round. Whew!

M goes too: to the company cmas dinner (do I want to go? Does M ever go to met curries? No). And phones up half an hour later to say she is lost and can I look up a map... mobile phones and internet: a perfect combo.

Later: browsing web for latest RC links. Upload 2004/9/10/11 plus one token photo each month, spurred by Sarah's blog.

M back v late: more fun than she expected.

Sat 11th

Sun. Reverse day: M to town. I take DE to seasonal prod stall & give them 2 honeys. They seem to sell quickly which is nice. DE have fun (we buy a birdhouse and a feeder at D's urging) and a biscuit and we buy some raffle tickets but don't win :-( Jan H is selling horse manure... pick up from her pile she says. OK.

pm: M back, I go into town, for a few things (sigg bottle for D is one impluse - its a lovely blue colour) and a coffee or two. Home just at darkness.

M gets her r100 working and the wireless (there is a little switch on the side).

Sun 12th

12:30: search out 4 useable ex-fertiliser bags; some old newspapers; and the plastic sheet; and head off in the car to JH's to pick up some horse poo for 0.50/bag, self-loaded. Make two trips for 8 bags total and a respectable pile on the alloment, gently steaming.

pm: D out to film with B and N (and G too, to E's sadness). He comes back not too chuffed: he really doesn't like action-type films (too scary) and complains that people/his friends don't understand this. Also he has tummy ache/car sickness/something. Quietly in l'room.

While D is out, ian McG comes over to go over the schedule-of-works for the extension (phase 1) and plans for phase 2. OK. Meanhile, E plays outside happily. Later I look out and realise that she has sweetly arranged her tricycle, lined up carefully, with elephant in the seat, her wicker basket just next to the bike, and a little bag slipped over the handle, and the bike-basket full of seedum flowers. Did D ever go in for arranging things like that?

M pianos again (she skipped a few days).

Soir: check over presents (a reasonable number) and look through the Hawkins box.

Work on the why-singer-is-wrong stuff that I should have done rather nearer the date, 'cos his lies are slipping from my mind.

Buy RR thing from ebay, but its not a chrome crusher (though it does have a twirly thing). Will it do I wonder?

Mon 13th

All up a bit late - E is first - and somewhat late to sch.

W / Y (last of year) / W.

Back 6:30 for a change. Quiet. stoat:sea level rise.

Settle down to do cams cards but realise we have only one left. Good-oh!

Bed by 11, hurrah!

Tues 14th

Restless night: E, then D's talking alarm clock.

Work over (+lunch tlc) then sch; end up with P; & D to B. Cory comes later (for E) but EPC dynamic is wrong (as E-PC: well E is by far youngest).

Painting! D with powders, E with nearly the last of her gel-type ones; and both are happy. D is trying for a fireworks effect; he crumples one then paints a whole sheet black then blobs paint on and "blow-paints" it.

Wed 15th

Up a bit past 8; M has been downstairs a bit but D still asleep. And... ARGH! E has taken the lids of the powder paints and mixed then and there is green powder on the floor and... ARGH! So I go down and say in a fairly restrained way E you are naughty you should not do this you have made a mess and of course she crumples. M comes down and sweeps her off for a bath cos she too is convered in paint. M later confesses?says? that she found it rather funny. I didn't (now I'm less sure) I found it silly/wasteful/pointless/stupid.

E sch; home with E. She plays misc on the computer (BtB?) and we get to smoko a bit late. Thence to town (not swimming, I'm off parkside) to lib to return overdue books (we get email reminders now I've signed up: good: helps a lot). Then looking for picture frames (E drags me into early learning center). Cb1 (E is confused between cb1/arj but knows she wants to go there). End up buying a secret 7 book in case D wants to read it. R/S (for frame). Briefly oxfam, then back, E sleepy.

At sch sit on the familiar wall see the familiar people and watch the children come out in the usual order (ie, D last...). They run and play and are happy in an innocent way that is very pleasant to watch, even if I can't share it of course. We end up giving D to N in exchange for P.

Home on bike: M brings EP in car. The not-a-chrome-crusher has arrived: that was quick. Good. check its all there (yes).

M decides to move her r100 and pre-school treasureers stuff upstairs (sensible) and hope that EP don't disturb her - mostly they don't.

E to P: this is my baby. Its called baby Jesus.

6:30. N collects P & brings back D who wants to decorate the house with 'ball bearings'??? Ah... baubles! Ok: find the cmas box.

7: quick pc (I hope). Yes: 1/4 hour. Just letting one allotment and approving a bill: really in a well-run council this meeting wouldn't have had to occur, let alone involve 7 of us.

DE in the bath. M off to her pre-christmas book club swap-a-book meeting.

10: Blunkett resigns, after admitting fast-tracking nannys visa.

I work on contre-Singer and mail it out at work; also wiki/stoat/realclimate. Life is getting busy: the after-hours time I used to spend on work now goes elsewhere (which is why myrinet still isn't working...).

Thurs 16th

pm: have a quiet lunch by the fire, feels like the first time in ages. But its hard to slow down, wot with the web and stuff and realclimate doing well and...

Tidy. Wash windows! I'm sick of seeing the world through crud.

D loses a tooth before bed. Excitment! But in all the excitement he forgets to take it up so I put it carefully somewhere.

Soir: Seelye rev for GRL. OK sez me.

Fri 17

Grey. Rain. As Heather says, it feels like a day of darkness.

Work till 3:15 (in fact end up a bit late picking up E) and don't even get time to tidy my desk (this being my last day before Cmas). I do have lunch with tlc/jck, and a brief chance to tlak to jck re K, whose woes continue.

But contrary to the early rain, the sun comes out (exactly as predicted by the forecast, and not at all what you would predict from the weather).

Rush off to E; then school. D is off to N's (with A+B) and I have P and E (somewhat to my surprise and displeasure, this supposedly begin a free afternoon for me, but M said this morning: oh, I arranged with N that P would come over, since she has a full house. Well spiffy). But apart from the shock its fine, since they do play very well together.

Sometimes I wonder about E: she is 3-and-a-bit and playing happily (not always quite on equal terms, true) with P (who is 5) and G (who may be 5, and is certainly in reception) and even Cory.

M back 5-ish. I go off to fight wiki-wars with Cortonin over GW and even blog it.

Soir: play with M's r100 (bas has a payments freeze due to fuel costs soaring; but mine slipped through just in time: I got the purchase order today) but still not yet used to the touchpad. Its light though, like unto the proverbial feather. Remind D to take his tooth upstairs. Wrap presents for tomorrow.

Sat 18th

To F fairly early... aiming for 10 but fail; leave about :30. Traffic stuck just before bridge &c so there a bit before 1. Mfd+J there (have been since thurs) but otherwise we are first. Others: Jeff+K; Josh (James elsewhere; Mickey (there already but resting); Esther; Jo+J+N (late and a source of pointless worry to F).

So, a bit crowded but OK. Lots of food, and a chance to relax as others entertain DE as required. More food throughout the afternoon, then presents, and (despite Mickey) no charades even those Josh is obliged to organise us into teams: no time really.

And so people leave and misc tidying and stuff until M goes off to bed then I do, at 11, just before Mfd+J leave (with the by now traditional minor argument about F's excess culinary present, though this years is at least a bit less heavy).

Sun 19th

I lazily lie in until about 10, D+E having got up rather earlier and woken F (who had been woken by her new alarm-clock-radio which she didn't know how to shut off) (I heard D say to E lets go and see gt grandma).

When I get down they (or mostly D) are glued to sunday morning kids tv (which is after all its purpose). The prog is a particularly moral one, australian, about children at school and the heroes are a bunch of "feral"s as they call themselves (somewhat new age gypsy types perhaps - don't seem to exist here, perhaps not there) who despite being poor and downtrodden invariably triumph over the rich but stupid others, and intercommunity harmony shines through, hurrah. If only it was so...

Lunch is not cooked, which is a relief because there is quite enough to eat leftover and we need to leave by 2, which we do, and have a quick drive back & stop at the Orchard for D to have a wee and me to buy mother a trug for cmas. And I get a balloon modelling kit for us all.

Then: the reason for our leaving early: 4: Bradburys party: which turns out to be the social event of the season (errrm, not that there is much competition, unless we're missing a lot). The party is excellent and Everyone Who Is Anyone is there. Their living romm is fairly childproof and they have a kids room so the kids get to go mad an run around and D wobbles around on one rollerskate looking elegant in his waistcoat. Paul lights a bonfire (whooosh! he uses petrol. Spectacular) and we go and stand round it drinking while the kids hunt the sweetie somewhere in the distance - presumably D and E are OK. The fun lasts till 8 but at last we gather up our weary-but-still-bouncy infants and depart.

Back home, I am tired and am barely capable of unpacking the car - perhaps because I have drunk incautiously of the strong punch which H was gaily pouring "mount gay rum" into. To bed early. M, however, stays up and plays till minuit+, 'cos she has skipped several days.

Mon 20th

I am a bit late up so M'a comes to get E, which is fine by me. Sit with coffee and paper and internet by the fire and catch up on the weekends damage (little). D does misc then computer (breaking some kind of pledge he made to M earlier... promises are sand).

Sometime around 11 Cory comes round, looking for E, and is a bit disappointed when only D is available (???) but comes in anyway. They play a bit together, a bit separately. After lunch, they do water play in the sandpit despite the chill weather (ice on the pond; -5 says the min thermo). To encourage their ourdoor-ness, which is commendable, I join them (after putting on long trousers) and do some garden stuff: dig up the last dahlia (at the front); tidy front; take veg rubbish down to the rat :-( annoy the rat by crushing its tunnels :-); tidy the shed and the workroom (partly because builder is coming tomorrow and he may wish to see it). By then DC are inside again and I have a warm glow of satisfaction. Fin 3.

Cory invites D for a sleepover and goes off to check with his mum. But... no, not today (wednesday OK). So we invite C. OK.

Cory goes home for dinner about 5:30 summoned by Dak. Meanwhile we've been building D's wooden press-out ferrari (or ferry as D says) which is fun. What about the owl, long-neglected?

M brings E back at 6 and I have prepared dinner (std pots (mashed now for DE), aub, no sos cos we have none, in fact the fridge is quite bare, unlike everywhere else which groans under teh weight of cmas presents aand sewwties from F.

Anyway, misc stuff till bedtime (and I blog "britannica is rubbish"). D and C finally go to bed and end up both sleeping on the floor and make lots of noise and seem to be having fun - perhaps too much fun - so I go and quieten them. And again. Meanwhile, M is trying to do some more pre-sch treasurer stuff.

Are we going to J+H's wedding? We don't know. But its looking more likely. 50+% ish.

Tues 21st

Town with D. Time a bit tight as we have to be back to talk to PtB. New trous for D*2 & belt as he is slender. W/s. Fruitless cheese search until... market. Philip the builder: we get on well & he seems interested. Early feb is poss if his quote is ok.

Curry (me, jt, tlc, mario, russ) at Maharajah which is conv. Subdued says tom at the end, & he is right. For one, we are all on the lassi.

Wed 22nd

B+G round. D+B to the bedroom; E+G sit on stairs talking about friends. They agree they are friends. 'b is not my friend' says E. 'because he is a boy' says G. E agrees.

All fairly peaceful: I get to rc:consensus &c. G is v quiet.

1: to the pub for its quiet-rather-than-grand reopening (leaving note for Clare). I was wondering how to sheperd the flock-of-chickens that is 4 childs then I realised I could drive. So I did. Drinks & crisps only till they open the kitchen. DB disappointed: its rubbish, its worse than before: this because the nintendo machine is gone. But it *is* open, & child-friendly.

Soir: again. Ben, Chris, Paul, Andy, Eugene (& Theresa/Karen: T back from au pair'ing in Lyon: unfairly hard work she says).

Late: rc/stoat.

Thurs 23rd

Sun. Wind. Chives. D refuses M's choc.

Pub: coffee. D lime & soda 'too strong'. Table in sun.


From this point, I switched to writing up the diary in the evenings on the r100. Why did I abandon my faithful palm? In this case, because I didn't want to take the sync kit and the r100 appears to lack IR and indeed serial. So I couldn't rely on sync'ing, which made me nervous. Also, it means I could write much more and more quickly. And the r100 battery life makes taking it into the living room easy. So now I make minor notes on the palm during the day as needed and write up in the evening.

Just so you know...


2004/12/23. Thursday.

23:00: at mothers, at last. In that we didn't leave till about 8:30. But to backtrack...

M off to work, I am (oddly enough) a bit slow up and heavy headed. Misc. D is quite keen to read him "Email and the detectives" (which I rushed through at F's; from Jeff+K). D has been keen to go for a swim for some time now, and so we rush around a bit looking for swimming trunks and stuff. We do find his old trunks. But... we can't contact Billy. And the H+I pool is shut. And we know Parkside is cold. And D thinks Abbey is boring. So... stay at home, which is fine by me, but it means we have kept M from the care for no reason, poor M. But cycling is good for her.

So I'm sitting in the sunshine about 11:30 and D is on RR and I think: we should be off for a walk! So we do. Offered various options, DE pick walking to the rec on the roads (D's bike is locked in the bike shed at school). E goes on her trike which I push. Just before we leave, Esther (as in Bram) comes round for honey and invites DE over for the afternoon, which is handy because it means I can pack. Or relax.

So off we go, I have made a picnic, and we eat it in the shelter of the pavilion (its quite windy). D gathers wild chives in vast quantities, his pockets bulge, and brings it home to cook with. Or something. The light is lovely when its sunny - green slanting. Its a bit chill though.

Retire to pub for coffee (me) and apple juice (E) and lime-and-soda (D).

Thence home, around 2. D says he would like to sit down and rest but is instantly captured by looking for a vid game to take to J+E's and then can't wait to go. So take them off and end up staying for a cup of coffee and admire Esthers aga and house, and talk about letting children watch tv.

And so I start packing... ha ha, no I don't. I catch up on mail, and RC, and wiki. And a bit of packing. And prepare 2 jars honey for Clare; and Alisons special jar. And install some stuff on my r100.

M back around 4. Back car into drive and load some stuff up. When DE return 5:30 I invite them to come with me to Adams to download the video of D's play but D would rather RR. So I take E so M has peace to pack.

Chez Helen, the traditional problems working out where to plug the cables, and eventually use the one in her bedroom which works, hurrah. In the meantime they give E supper and we all talk. Paula turns out to be Hungarian-German, but mostly hungarian.

Back mostly at 7 and finish packing etc, E loads herself into the card and except for some last minute faffing (did I hide some presents behind the curtains in the spare bedroom? We're just packing stuff, we have totally lost track of what we are supposed to have). Add off.

Which gets me back to here. My beautiful new r100 has no serial port and no infra red (the last a bit of a surprise) so I can't talk to my palm so instead I shall write it here. And here it is. Hello.

2004/12/24. Friday. Christmas eve.

Not up till 10, which is lazy but nice. Get up in the middle of the tree decorating and video a bit of E being v cute as a christmas fairy, and then be a bit more useful and help decorate.

Ma has a new pile of logs so we have to do our bit shifting them (the sun has come out and nice streamy clouds are high up in the blue): go get the wheelbarrow while D comes out and helps me, and is useful carrrying some, and is pleased with himself for being useful. Light fire - with difficulty, I've picked wet twigs. Its a bit smoky, even with the dimpled bit, and Ma and I talk a bit about this. She had the house surveyed recently cos the insurance company wouldn't let her insure ot for enough, which is a bit bizarre.

After lunch drag D out for a walk... weather is poor and its even raining a bit but he needs to go out. He chooses walking to the playground and E decides to come too so does, with a bit of sadness of the I-want-a-carry sort. Once there they play for a bit (I b rought a rag to wipe things down) but after a bit remembers that he didn't really want to be here and says can-we-go-home-now so yes, we do.

Afternoon: D discovers the triang hornby train track and plays with it while I try to make the engines work. but they haven't for 20+ years and they are very reluctant, and although they do just about work its not very satisfactory. Next time. Perhaps I'll take one home to work on.

Meanwhile through all this M has been wrapping the presents, despite my appalling jokes about rapping. Yo! She has done all but mine-to-her, which would be unreasonable. And she has done 3 lots of washing up (more than you do in a month at home, I jest, ha ha).

7: off to the carols only a little late, E's I-want-a-carry much louder this time (I offer but only M will do and she isn't offering); indeed loud enough that others on the way laugh and commiserate with us. D is skipping on ahead: he and E are to play while we sing, and this is what happens. I go check on him after a while but he is happily bark-fighting with some other children so I leave him to it.

Back from carols and sitting by the fire. E is now to bed (by Ma) and D is having his story, which is from Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book. A little noise (is it E getting up?) - Ma investigates - no its RNLT! Hello all round. 8:15. D's story finishes and I take him up (quietly to avoid waking E, who greets us) while Rob unpacks to find LT's pygamas. As usual LT are downstairs where it can be dark (DE were there last night but just for a change) and D is in Ma's room, with E in there too rather than with us as usual.

2004/12/25. Saturday. Christmas Day!

Wake not to the gentle laughter of infants but the loud hooting of bicycle horns and the shrieks of infants. However this is our fault as we gave them the horns for stocking fillers. DELT run around the house waking up the adults. When D comes in to me I ask him to look inside my stocking to see if there is anything - surprise - yes there is, its the rubber-chicken-that-lays-an-egg, that was last night deemed possibly too disgusting to risk in D's stocking (though I rather liked it) but it turns out he *does* like it, and examines it closely (then tries to stick his little putty man up its bottom, which is a mistake).

So, its time to wake, and indeed a bright frosty morning (though not, alas, a snowy one). Bath and shave (fortunately there is an old razor left in the cabinet and a spare blade). Ma and N are off to adults church for 9, hence leaving just as we are coming down. M is in two minds as she would quite like to sing but elects to wait with us. Brekkers.

LT are going to the childrens service with Rob; E definitely wants to go; D is unsure but is coming because noone is left at home. Meet NMa on the path by the orchard (rumours in paper about dev there; no great surprise) and thence to church just in time so they get to see the bellringing. Pew at the front! Its quite a short service - only 1/2 hour - with various bits for the children to get up and "go off to the census" etc. And 4 carols, all of them decent. Go round the bag after to say hello to Peter and read the words; D and L try to but they are not being serius and indeed end up licking the frost off the gravestone which could be considered disrespectful; I do keep them from stepping on the grave. DL end up ahead with M; ET stop to play and the rec for a while with Rob and I.

Home. M has put out a little choc coin treasure hunt in the back so that keeps them happy for a bit. Start fire. Get out the balloon modelling kit for a few swords and sausage dogs, though they seems to be a bit bursty this year.

Lunch 1:30-2:45, then quick washing up before Mrs Queen. A quite civilised lunch - no real problem getting the children to sit through it and behave: they are good. Mas cooking is as ever very good (though since this is simply expected I don't notice until someone else thanks her; then I do too). But for future ref we have roast pots, sprouts, 2 stuffings, parsnips (I take one for form, since I'm encouraging D to eat them), carrots beans and of course gravy. But I have to put the salt on the table... Crackers for the hats and bangy things to give off streamers.

Heavy pressure means I help with the washing up, then call children to attention for Mrs Q who this year concentrates on religious harmony. As she speaks I ponder what impression D would get from what I say and do: he might well believe that I am a staunch monarchist. Which of course i'm not. So... maybe I'm getting the wrong impression of what other people think or thought.

Then presents, which as last year is quite slow, which is good, ie the children play with their stuff rather than just ripping the wrapping off. D perhaps gets a slightly poor deal this year (as M says later: nothing to really make his eyes light up): we have no really big thing for him (trip-wire kit; granite grinder (not a chrome crusher); weaving kit). But he has too much already... What he really wanted was the wooden fort we got for T (apparently he came up to M v shy but quiet smile about a week ago saying "i know what you've got me for cmas" and was rather sad when it wasn't) and I have promised him that when we get the new childs sitting room done he can have a new big toy. E gets various stuff (you can tell I'm a bit vague on this, because this year M has done most of the buying). Anyway, there is enough. I get Penrose and Milligan which I bought myself and RN have broken the truce and bought us a bit more than a bottle between us: some choc and a nice puzzle (which I end up solving by pure chance in the evening). Ma gets me some 8mm stuff to video: Menorca 1976 and Loch Gilpead 1980. Interesting... to me at least. Odd with no sound.

So the afternoon passes in lethargy and fun and quiet and noise.

DL and ET bath together. They are rather bouncy at this point of the evening and need some restraint to stop them showering the world. I photo ET. RN say that LT have got into the habit of bathing, washing and drying themselves and indeed T is quite keen on washing himself and E.

Story: L reads herself the Secret Unicorn (?) and M reads Troy story (a new one) to D and (as I recall) T; I think E was in bed by this time.

Whew. And now we can all rest and relax. Not that I have been doing much else all day.

Vicar of Dibley: very funny.

11: news: Ukraine elections tomorrow; snow elseshere today but not here.

Read Penrose till late. He starts wih number theory until at least p90, interleaving it with physical stuff to some extent (though the connection is thin; e.g. do we need reals to do reality becuase fater all we don't get to the v v small... etc). To me this is easy going and just wallowing in stuff I did as an undergraduate (together with some interesting insights which he, as a high grade mathematician, provides; e.g. the modification to the std sqrt-2-is-irrational argument). But I would guess that to Joe Public it will be rather hard going and nearly unintelligible (I could ask AH, who is reading it too I believe, who is hardly JP but also not a mathmo).

2004/12/26. Sunday. Boxing day.

Another frosty morning, rather frostier in fact and I am up not-too-late to see it. I find DLTE downstairs with N, so have my breakfast and a liesurely coffee. After this I feel positviely inpsired to go out so do, trailed by infants, to shift some more logs to the back. While we're at this Jen+Alex+Pat/Ann+Joseph turn up, their 4wd just about fitting in. I say hello (and hello Pat/Ann to P/A, since I never know which to call her, and she never knows either). Ben+Danni are off with Mike this christmas, which seems fair enough (at least to me) since J has them previous years.

All inside for a coffee to recover them from their drink then out for a walk, it being truely such a beautiful morning with no wind (I even went out with my coffee to stand in the sun). Ivinghoe beacon is selected (rec too dull; canal too dangerous; ashridge not so suited to the day and further). We have to drive there (not having walks from the door is a defect of mothers house), though you can walk along the canal from a minor start along roads.

E goes with T; L comes with us. Ann and I take the long way with the dogs; and probably we would have chosen an even longer way had it been possible; since the ridge strectching N looks beautiful (am I getting too carried away?).

[Evening writing up paused for evening dinner... To resume... RN are doing the crossword and wondering if a foil can be described as a narrow bladed fencing weapon.]

Although its the long way its not really very long and is anyway easy. Poor Skye is getting on and her back legs are dodgy... Kes keeps on coming back for her and playfully trying to knock her over, and once Skye can't get up, drags herself along on front legs, till Ann picks her up and massages her back legs. Apparently S is having hydrotherapy which sounds rather californian. On we go, out of the shadow of the low light into the sun - the gentle rolling hills are good for shadows in this light. To the top - others there - E walked all the way I am told. I swing her up onto the trig pillar. D is collecting chalk with L. One model plane; then another. Distant views. Lovely.

And so home, via yet more photos. E chatters to J as they go, about her new clothes, which she likes, and their colours, and this and that.

Lunch is crowded but we all fit in. Joseph is scared by the bangs of the crackers etc so we don't pull them all. And he is allowed to spend some time as a dog under the table, along with the real dogs.

Inside pm as the light fades. Misc. Watch the vid Ma got me of Menorca (1974) and Loch Gilpead (1980). I end up falling asleep in an armchair in true patriarchalstyle. So I suppose I don't know what happened.

JAA/PJ leave 6 ish. Children bathe soon after. I read quietly - starting the SM biog, which so far is just a rip-off of his war diaries (but much less funny) - though hopefully this is just to get onto the goon hears.

E to bed first; then LT; then D. L is reading "the secret unicorn" which is about a girl with a pony which can turn into a unicorn when a special word is spoken. D is writing a "no entry" sign for LT's room.

2004/12/27, Monday

Another cold sunny morning; reflections of the red sun poke at our windows but we stay abed.

Today an infant finds our play maize which we forgot to get out on christmas morning, because they didn't really need entertaining then. When I get down they are having lots of fun, and D is making a magic land with a river and metallic apples. I sit down and make a sophisticated swanky apple tree which is nice. LT have to be dragged off to see Sue+Steve+Victoria+others (though they end up staying long enough that they are happy to be there) and then its quiet.

Torygraph: news: massive tsunami off Indonesia. Lots dead: 23k so far.

11:30 ish: to Berkhamsted. Ma needs to shop and I would like to reminisce (sp?) and DE can play in the playground. Park behind where-waitrose-now-is (behing the old GPO...) and Ma goes in while we go over the canal on the new bridge to the playground where the swimming pool once was. M is rather grumpy because she thought we were going straight to the bookshop for lunch and isn't mollified when I say she can if she wants. In truth the weather is somewhat chill and frosty, with some sunshine fading to grey and maybe maybe even the prospect of snow; but M is a creature of warmth.

The canal fields are rather smaller than they used to be, which I think I expected. I spend some time on the new bridge trying to work out where things used to be. The pool had a high wooden fence all around, and I *think* the bridge was made while the pool was still there. So I suppose the pool was where the car park and the playground is now. But (in my memory) it was quite a big pool, with quite a lot of lawn around it. There is a house, two, nearby which must be new too - quite undistinguished. And the bowls club is new. And the canal fields themselves have been sanitised - there used to be a bit near the canal, rough, with a path by the river, and embayments and nettles and stuff - thats all gone now, its just a field of grass with some boring trees. I go off (with M's permission) for a look at 26 South Park Gardens. The bridge under the river is much as before, though - covered in grafitti, even if not the same grafitti, and with cans stuffed into the mire meshing.

SPG itself is the-same-but-different. Houses much the same though several have been extended, but more notably there are more cars (no great surprise) and the gardens are in a worse state. My memory is that *all* the gardens were well tended. Now 26 is OK, ish, but the rockery is gone at the front; one of the trees ditto; the rose beds is now just a flower bed; the drive is just concrete. The forsythia is still by the front door and the garage as it was; though the house is white not green.

And of course

its all much smaller. Next door has now changed from being pristine to being covered in building rubble (maybe they are building, but even so...). And where there was our reclusive elderly neighbours the new folks now have 3 cars in the garden. Walk along to the end... the impression is the same: things just aren't as well tended as they used to be. Which makes me think of chez nous. And the result of my thinking (and by C N I mean our neighbourhood; not just our house) is... its worse than near us. But I'm influenced by thinking how-it-used-to-be. Fallen from... not grace; not on hard times; just steps down the social ladder? Or people are more busy? Or its just winter. It would be nice to have enough time to walk up the canal a way to see whether the tidying up has progressed further. Go up the once-huge arched bridge, now quite little, and watch a barge ice-break up the canal.

After that I must get back, having used up 20 mins of my 10 min allocation.

M (and to a lesser extent DE) wants to go off to the book/coffee shop; theough DE keep getting distracted by lock gates, ice on the river, ducks, etc etc. Civilisation has come to Berkhamsted in the shape of Otokars bookshop with a coffeeshop inside. And so we all sit down, mind you it costs 28 for a slap-up feast for the 5 of us. M drifts off to recover her 20 mins by reading books; E rides on a rocking horse they have kindly provided; D goes to the Mr Men stack; leaving Ma and I to sip our coffee and tidy up the misc stuff.

Finished: should we wander around the castle and/or my old school, or, err... all go home. Sadly the vote is all too obvious so I make no complaint. Back around 3. I finish off moving the pile of logs but, to avoid getting any completer/finisher points, I don't sweep up.

Later: Marion comes round, and indeed ends up staying to dinner-by-the-fire.

Mfd/J phone for M... we have been a bit naughty and not phoned till now. And we need to sort out when we are going over, but the answer (as has become clear) is wednesday.

Later: I've downloaded vim-for-windows: I just couldn't cope with wordpad for another evening. How does anyone tolerate it?

Break and read email: nothing much; a lot of RC stuff that I don't need to respond to yet.

Rob is trying to fix Tobys robot: in principle a super-dooper walking-talking-shooting thing, but in practice a bit fragile. We discuss a bit how is is marvellous that only 18 buys so much function; just a shame about the robustness.

News: tsunami: pictures. All a long way away. How would I feel were it D? Ukraine: orange.

2004/12/28, Tuesday.

Another slightly restless night, poss the latenight coffee again. I know I shouldn't.

The beginning of the end... RNLT are due to leave at the end of today. I am up "early" at 9, ahem.

11 ish its time to drag the kids out due to excess bounciness. Where to go? I'm in favour of the canal and swing bridge but am sadly alone; it is to be the rec and Rob comes too. E wails all the way in rather tedious fashion about wanting a carry. Heartrending, but nonsense. And she does end up walkig anyway, with a small amount of scooting: L has "flashing storm" or somesuch scooter for cmas and E likes it. Its quite chill, but sunny. Once there, all is fine, at least for a while. But E becomes waily again so I take her home (leaving Rob with the othber 3; OK by him) and put her to bed, with the heartrending sobs continuing. Then its time to see if I can fix the 2 lights on Ma's gingko which are out (mumph grumph, of course no-one else even thinks of doing this, and all the stick I get for not doing enough washing up, of course its not the same...). And by the time I'm back inside M has brought E back downstairs. Hey ho, thats her problem, but in fact E is fine.

Lunch. After, I help wash up, then go out for a walk. No-one else seems inclined to (esp D) but it is still a lovely day though clouding so I set of for an hour or so gentle stroll along the canal and am rewarded by the sun coming out. Very gentle wind; a few boats moving; few people; ice all gone. Stand on the swing bridge and ponder... what? Loneliness: why isn't there more of it?

Back about 3+ or so; sun is setting; cold returns. All is well at home. Start fire.

From now on RN are packing in the background. This is a handy order for us: they have to do the wandering around wondering if stuff is theirs or ours; we will just have to pick up anything left over.

Last bathtime for DL/TE; photo of us all on the sofa; last packing; goodbyes.

Bedtime for E then D (they are sleeping downstairs tonight at their req; odd). Then our misc supper. I check on the web (Lubos has a blog I discover and has commented on RC and Will and even picking out the 70's stuff: such fun). And then I write this.

2004/12/29. Wednesday.

Today is our day to leave. M up somewhat before me and moves around the bedroom packing things, possibly in an effort to wake me up but, ha ha, this fails.

Breakfast; pack; not too painful; all fits in the boot. Byes and hugs all round and see-you-in-ox-next-weekend (huh? says D - I think we have forgotten to tell him about Peter Pan).

Leave somewhat after 11 - this is not too bad really. Go via Wendover for the old days (I preferred this way when going to Oxford) but get a tiny bit lost around Chinnor, always a problem. To Mfd+J a little after 12:30 (the chorous of are-we-there-yet getting rather loud); Mfd and F are there: J is out CAB'ing. D's first action (beyond kissing hello, of course) is to rush to the computer and start playing Lego creator - knights kingdon. Which appears to be lego c, but with KK pieces, and a storyline too. M pianos.

Lunch.

J back (her office was unheated; I relinquish my place by the fire); more hellos. Quiet sitting - falling asleep again.

I go for a run! Hurrah for me. But about time to. Just to-the-next-village and back. I can feel that my legs will be complaining, and I sort of pulled a muscle in the left calf. Hmm. Maybe no run tomorrow then.

At some point E says to me: Stop! You're sinqing naughty sings! Because I've been singing a nonsense song.

D does some more computing (back to RR now - he can't see how to "win" KK) - then present opening time. Which is quite restrained in comparison to the paper-fest of the 25th. D gets some more clothes (oh good) and the discovery that the ones I got him have an internal adjustment system so he didn't need the belt after all. Oops. He also gets a real-tiny-bricks set, which looks like fun, v similar to the german-toyshop ones but from hattifatteners. E gets a number crocodile - such as I have been thinking of making for some time now. Since D was young in fact :-(

Dinner. Baths for DE - together now. I supervise. This is hardly needed except to prevent excess spashing and to make E let go of D's widger and D not push E. Ie, its essential.

Read D "milliganimals" which he likes, inc the story of Mr Gronk which he laughs at.

Soir: J's 9x9 puzzle; log on (not much).

....9.52. ... .9. 523 3....59.. 3.. ..5 9.. .....3..4 ... ..3 1.4 .3..7...2 ..79.86.. .3. .7. ..2 1...4..3. 427 938 615 7..8..... 1.. .4. .3. ..63....1 .48.1.... 7.3 8.. ... ..6 3.. ..1 .48 .1. ...

M/Mfd/J compare versions of a piano piece and disagree (though mostly defer to M).

2004/12/30. Thursday.

Today is the day of Jo+Jacob+Noah's visit. And that, really, is all that happens today, apart from M getting up fairly early (to play) and me getting up fairly late. Also my thighs feeling the strain of yesterdays run - not that it was much of a run but I am far out of practice.

D wakes me up to help him with his bricks - he has laid out the shape of a kennel for Mr Weasel but requires help with the tiles for the roof. But before I have time to get onto that...

JJN arrive a bit before 12. Lunch. Misc. Out to the playground in the late sun. D and I walk behind and talk about tree rings - dendrochronology/climatology - and he is bright and interested. We see a squirrel who stays still and close long enough for me to lift up D to see him and then take a photo. D can now do the monkey bars - several times - more than I can. But then he is lithe and slender. Photo: D being the crocodile to the elephants child.

Sometime pm E (or MDE) start on E's "noahs ark" kit... an odd cd/paper hybrid that doesn't seem too promising. It gets interrupted half done by dinner.

Dinner: the raclette set that caused a certain tension chez F is put to use, and proves usable if dangerous with children about cos it gets v hot - D is proud of being on duty to make sure it is safe.

JJN leave. E bath, D not. D has been restricted in his computing today but is bought off being noisy while JJN get ready to leave by being allowed to play. We are trying to work out how to play/win KK - is it just creator, or is there a game in there too? If there is, its hard to find.

I'm still trying to do the puzzle and failing; arrange tomorrow with Marion (and, implicitly, JI). Fail to phone Den/A.

10: M off to do some practicing.

2004/12/31. Friday. New Years Eve.

Up somewhat early (groan) because we are off to Marion+John today. Even so M is up before me to Piano and E comes in to play meccano with me - I lie in bed quinting cos (ah... now I was thinking as I was driving how nasty it is to say things like "cos" when I mean "because" and thinking, but why not use "for" instead, because they are interchangable... aren't they? Well, it doesn't work above, when you continue...) I don't have my glasses on. And we screw two plates together and this is Fun if you are small (E's POV) and its fun if you are me (for I get to play with E).

B'fast. M plays on, and is resistant to being reminded that it is 10, she can get rather grumpy when interrupted or nearly at practice, much like me online.

Anyway, set off just after 11, which counts as pretty well on time. Zoom down a34, in fact zoom a bit too much, because (depending on your perspective) I have ignored M's careful directions to turn off to Basingstoke or M has forgotten to point out to me when were are at the turn. So we take a slightly triangular route, which oddly turns out to be as fast or perhaps faster than the direct route when we time it roughly on the way back. Arrive (only making one mistake on the common this time) early, pre 12:30, anyway, and Hello.

A description of their situation (for they have an unusual and quite beautiful one, so worth describing): they live in hillbrow bungalow, shortheath common. You get to their house over a sandy track with many potholes (fortunately SH common is sandy not clay-ey, or it would be impassable), with branches (unlabelled of course) to other houses... about 5, closer together than they seem when you are there. The common is beautiful... oak and silver birch and bracken and fir and stuff. Thats in front of them: behind is a slope to fields. The slight downside is a small garden (though you don't need a garden with the common all around, it must be heaven for kids (D was a bit unsure when let off, since he feared getting lost)) and a smallish house... probably about the same as ours in total. The more major downside is having to drive miles for your work, since they both work in Portsmouth, which is 30+ mins away on clear roads and I'd guess more like an hour on a normal day. But this is the balance we all face.

Walk to pub (red lion) 1:20 to eat; just std-ish stuff at lunchtime though better and more pricey fare is available at the evening if the menu is to be believed. Decent beer. D and E well behaved, which always soothes things, and Is too. Talk of... the usual. Work; J can complain about being teaching-only (though quite resigned to this now) and of the various admin assessements that plague him. Marion has another year off (on 1/3 salary) which is a slight surprise to both M and me: we thought her career would have more priority. Isabel remains cute throughout with only a few cries, which is good for her age (ab out 14 months?), and has quite a cute-looking face for a baby (ignoring the wen, which will fade they say, though accounts of how fast vary widely).

Back for tea and talk. D and I rake their path of leaves... it was ankle deep. Dump them on the common, which is a convenience. DE play with Is's toys happily, and E plays with Is quite well.

Leave 4+ and return the "sensible" way which turns out no quicker and more annoying due to roundabouts etc.

Dinner: F has cooked pots/peas/cauliflower bhajee; something she used to a lot but now rarely does; today was calm enough that she had time too; and she very much likes to be helping. Mfd/J have bought some white stilton with apricots that D is obliged to try (he rejects it) before he gets pudding. I rather like it.

Then its time for E's bed; D's bath-then-bed. Read him some of the Giggler Treatment, which (a bit oddly perhaps... perhaps not) he likes (requested). Well it has lots of poo in it.

Soir: wading through more of Penrose's maths (I'm sure there is far too much in there), and some stuff online: I have now have RC, wiki, belette, mail and sci.env to patrol, and with a dial up link it is not possible. So stuff is accumulating till I get home. Of course the whole online world is slow at this time of year. Lumidek is causing trouble (as L on wiki; as Motl elsewhere inc RC related kerfuffle; I can't see him surviving unless he cleans up). Put my machine into the living room running a slideshow of decembers pictures.

Meanwhile, D may still not be asleep - he was promised to be waked for midnight and is apparently up there staring at a clock counting down the minutes... its 23:40 now.

He is not asleep. He is reading "dogger" (which has rather different connotations if you were at Teddy Hall when I was). Its nearly minuit now so call him down - he must be dressed he says, and has already done his shirt.

So we celebrate with port (Mfd+J, being sensible, have little truck with sentiment and tradition on things like this, and port does make more sense).

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


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