Recent Entries 
Proud, Thoughtful, Annoyed, Normal
location [?]:BH15 1NQ
Music:Mike Oldfield - Embers
Sunday 26th July, 2009
07:43 PM
Once again a few months have passed since my last update. I've been meaning to do this for a long time, and countless time I've told myself that I'd write an entry that night, but when night actually comes I'm generally wasting my time doing something entirely unproductive and don't have the motivation to begin. Right now, I intended to be at work since I still have five hours left to do for my week, but I got up late as usual, and knowing that I'd get a taxi there and a taxi back, it didn't seem worth it.

I should start with Diana, I suppose, since she was the subject of almost the entire previous entry. Well, first of all we're still together, and it's been enough time now that I've seen what 'normality' between us might be like, as opposed to the excitement of having just met that dominated my last post. The result of that is good; seeing where we differ, and more importantly the effect of those differences, is vital if we're going to be successful. It has occurred to me that I have been more... analytical than emotional in my thoughts towards this relationship, and I know this sometimes upsets Diana, but I think it's what I need to do, for now at least. It wasn't exactly a concious choice, but more of a side effect of the way I've been feeling about myself, and a desire to actually learn from the experiences I've had so far; I'm proud of who I am, and I don't intend to change. In the time I was with Adele, she caused me to question a lot of things about myself that I vaguely knew, subjects I knew I had certain opinions on but had never tried to formally define. She accused me of being inconsistent, and I decided that the only way to prove otherwise was to declare a set of rules that defined my behaviour in all cases. Since that time, I have been trying to do just that, and it's become the strongest part of me, what's kept me going through difficult times. I've made it my goal to describe and live by a consistent set of rules, whatever the consequences. Whether I'm entirely successful is another matter; I'll make mistakes, and people are complicated - there'll always be surprise exceptions, things I didn't foresee - but my intention will always be consistency. Being a programmer, I tend to imagine these things in the way I might implement them in code, and that would certainly be based upon a tree structure, with child nodes representing increasingly specific conditions and rules than their parents. The root, above all the conditions and exceptions, the global rule which applies in all cases not explicitly overruled, I decided on like this:

For every one of your principals, there will be people who think you are right, and people who think you are wrong. Pleasing everybody is impossible, there's no more reason for you to adhere to their ideals than there is for them to yours anyway, and arguing over it tends to be futile, so the easiest and fairest solution is to allow everybody to follow their own rules. This obviously results in chaos as everybody does whatever they want to everyone else, so we need to add the restriction that your actions (or inaction, whichever causes change as opposed to that which causes no change) must never conflict with the ideals of anyone who would be directly affected by your action or inaction. The result of this is that in order to create any change from default state between you and another, which would have effects for either of you, that change must be 'right' to both you and them.

The problem with living by this, is that to work as intended it requires that everybody else also follow it, which just doesn't happen in the real world. However, just following this rule means that my interactions with people who don't are usually limited to those with very little effect on either of our lives. To me, that's a desirable outcome.

How is all this relevant? Stability has always been what I've wanted from any relationship, that has never changed. This drive to define myself and my behaviour brings me stability. Deciding what I am, and consistently being that, is safer and better than attempting to adapt to changing conditions. As well as that, experience with Shanna shows me that causing anybody else to change their behaviour is not safe, and indeed doing that is a violation of my rules (by whom is not important). Diana and I do have disagreements, but that's not what's important - what matters is how they get resolved. I haven't been very... flexible, and I know that; subjects have come up that I haven't been willing to compromise on, several times even leading me to say that if the issue is a critical one then the solution is that she shouldn't be with me. It upsets her, and I completely understand why... it is cold, and it does imply a lack of emotional attachment, but I don't mean it that way. I say it because the only other solutions I see are that I change or she change, both of which break the rule, or we find a way to avoid affecting each other with our different opinions on the matter. The latter is obviously what I want, but the result is usually somewhere between that and Diana changing her behaviour, which scares me. I don't want to change her because I think it's wrong, but what frightens me is my experience with Shanna. I think that people overestimate their ability to deal with things they don't like, and I've come to the conclusion that any of that in a relationship is just asking for trouble later. Of course, not everyone is the same and I can't use one example as proof of a fact; she asks me to trust her that she knows what she is doing, and I will and I do.

I know I could try harder to compromise, and that it's what I'm 'supposed' to do, but I just feel it's dishonest. I don't want to give a false impression that I'm ever going to be anything but what I am now. I want to show that this is a big part of me, and very important to me. I really hope that I am someone Diana can be happy with, because I know she is for me. I just don't want to become that person - either I am now, or I'm not. If I can be that for her now, I always will be, I promise her that - by following the rules I am defining now, it's guaranteed.

As usual, my long analysis has probably given everyone the wrong impression. That's my logical point of view, that's me being practical, and I try to keep emotion out of it. However, all of that would be completely pointless if there was no emotional reason behind it all. In the end, the reason I spend so much time thinking about how to make it work, is because I really want it to work. I want it, at the most basic and selfish of reasons because it brings me happiness. I always find it hard to explain in detail, but there are things about her that give me a lot of hope. Like I said last time, I love her because she is everything I need for that to be true - I feel the freedom and safety in sharing everything with her. I could add the cliché bits (you know, "she's smart, she's funny...") - but I kind of like to think that those should be standard, not extras. Anyway, lets just say that's all there, and other things I probably shouldn't write about...

As for what we've actually been doing all this time, until recently we were seeing each other roughly once a month, which has been good. At the time of my last entry I had a trip to Germany booked, and since then I've been twice and she's been here two more times. The time we've spent together has been wonderful, and as usual I'm regretting that I didn't record all the details whilst it was still fresh in my memory. Like it always is, all idea of time has been completely lost and I just remember things we've done, but don't have a clue when they were. The long distance thing has been strange to return to - it creates a kind of pressure during the times we have together which I'm not particularly fond of. I prefer to forget that there's a time limit, and just act as though everything is normal, but I agree that it's wasteful that way - we should try and make the most of our time when it's limited. We're currently in a period of a few months where we won't get to see each other because she's gone back home to Romania during holiday from university. I was supposed to be getting on a plane tomorrow to visit her for a week, but unfortunately some unexpected things happened that end, and it wasn't possible any more. I don't know when the next time will be, but I hope it comes soon.

One of the places we went, was to the Counting Crows concert, which was (eventually) excellent. I say eventually, because it was cancelled and rescheduled twice before we finally got to see them. It was originally supposed to be in December, and Mum bought me two tickets (one intended for Shanna, but I gave it to Graham when she left) on my birthday. However, it was cancelled and changed to May instead. Originally, those going had been me, Graham , his parents, and Connor. Since it had been moved though, we realised that it would be during the time that Rachel was staying with us. She quickly tried, and succeeded, in getting a ticket. On the day it was supposed to be, we all went out for a meal at The Goat before the show, only to be told at the last moment that it had been cancelled again. The meal out was still great, but it was disappointing to be let down again. The date was changed to a few days later (I don't remember exactly), and then I realised that it coincided with when Diana would be here too! I tried to get her a ticket, and luckily (possibly due to cancellations because of the changing dates), I was able to. So, in the end both Rachel and Diana were able to come too.

It was a good show. The only other thing I'd seen live at the BIC was Bill Bailey, so I didn't know what the sound would be like for a music concert, but I was very impressed. I'm sure it helped that we were standing right at the front by some speakers, but it sounded better than where we'd been sitting in Wembley, when we saw Dream Theater. As is typical for Counting Crows, there were a lot of 'songs inside other songs' and changes and additions, which I like about them; I think it's nice for a live performance to be something more than just a live recreation of studio albums. We bought ridiculously-priced t-shirts at the end, of course, all part of the experience. Unfortunately, so was the journey home - originally, the December date had been on something like a Wednesday, but the final date was on a Saturday night. Saturday nights in Bournemouth town centre... let's just say they're not something I like to experience.

At work, I did what I said I was going to down. Vantage is now built on top of RAWR, and RAWR has grown to accommodate it. The way things work now is basically that we have RawrObject, on which all Vantage objects are based. Any RAWR object has a RawrType associated with it, which describes a set of fields, their types, and bindings to various storage engines. Storage engines implement IRawrStorage, and must provide a means of storing and retrieving RAWR objects by certain criteria. RawrObject provides functionality for objects to populate their fields only when actually needed. It also provides specialised field types beyond simple values, such as collections, references, serialised data, all of which are handled automatically, with clearly defined and enforced rules for their persistence. All in all, it works, and works very well. Most of the hard work falls to the storoage engines, so far of which I have one that uses a SQL Server back-end, for Vantage Server, and on the client side SQLite (local disk), memory (persistent for application lifetime), and cache (using weak references). Recently I've been working on integrating it with the System.Transactions namespace; previously the SQL Server engine used transactions internally, but now all storage engines will be required to accept a RawrTransaction, which can instruct any requests to enlist themselves in a distributed transaction. All business logic is implemented server side by callbacks in the relevant RawrTypes (OnPreInsert, OnPreUpdate, OnLog, etc), giving each type of object a chance to validate, perform any operations, log any information or audit records, or anything else they need to do before or after a write.

There are some further changes I'd like to make, but I'm not really able to - they're too big for a system already in live use - I'll have to wait until I reach a stable point where I can freeze all features and start an entirely new branch. In particular, I'd like to stop using an auto-incrementing ID in my SQL tables, and stop exposing storage IDs publicly at all (since they're not necessary - any object which has a field of another RAWR type already has enough information about the join to populate without the ID being exposed). Then I would introduce GUIDs (again, not public) as a storage identifier, but across all storage engines. I want to do this, because it would solve a problem I'm having with the offline storage feature. Currently, if the software loses connection, it can 'seamlessly' carry on working by using offline versions of data, stored in local SQLite files. A background synchroniser keeps local data such as the menu up to date, and when the connection is regained, it forwards any orders that were taken offline to the remote server. The problem I'm having is that local storage has to be treated as a special case, because it cannot generate IDs. Existing (synchronised) data that already had an ID is fine, but any new orders (or anything else) that's temporarily saved offline cannot be used again until they've been forwarded to the remote server and given an ID by SQL Server storage. Local storage has no way of predicting what ID will be allocated, and cannot guess because it risks a conflict. Using GUIDs, any storage engine is free to assign them as necessary, and I will be able to treat both offline and online storage as equal, and the synchroniser can do it's job in both directions simply by comparing that last update times of objects and their fields.

My time at Market Close, and indeed in Poole, is coming rapidly to an end. Graham decided many months ago that he would be moving back to his parents, so he could concentrate more on university and less on working all the time to afford this house. I can't afford it by myself, other possibilities such as my sister moving in didn't happen, and I don't want to live with strangers, so I'm leaving too. Then there was the choice of whether to look for another flat of my own right away, or whether to also return to my parents for a while. I decided to go back, because it will give me an opportunity to save some money, and also it means that when I do look for somewhere of my own again, I won't be pressured to find one quickly - I can take my time until something good comes along. It should also be a good chance to do some things I should've done by now, such as learn to drive.

This entry could do with a bit more detail, and I've missed some things out, but honestly I'm getting too tired, and I need to work tomorrow/today. Possibly I'll add some more later, but for now, goodnight.

Playful, Happy, Sarcastic, Sexy, Crazy
Love IV
location [?]:BH15 1NQ
Music:Roger Waters - Amused To Death
Tuesday 3rd March, 2009
03:02 AM
Again I'm faced with the problem of where to begin. I know what most of this is going to be about (and so does everybody else), but I still feel I'm supposed to at least pretend to lead into it somehow. Well, the dead plant I started my last entry with survived. I poured a pint of water over it, and a couple of days later it looked healthy again.

So, not-Jennifer. I was actually looking forward (in a silly childish way) to calling her that, but the original reason was that she asked me not to use her name in here, in case anyone she didn't want to find this, found this. Since this isn't exactly secret any more though, there's no need for that any longer. Her name is Diana, I am watching her sleep, and I am very happy.

What happened to 'only friendly intentions'? Well, that was true, but mainly because I believed that was what she wanted. We'd been talking a few months already and I'd come to love our conversations, but there was no question of this. Shanna was still here when we first 'met' anyway. We talked about visiting each other, but this too was a genuine friendly invitation on my part. Being more than friends never even crossed my mind, but it was when she misinterpreted something I'd said as sexually suggestive and reacted strongly and negatively, that I actually started making a concious effort to give the opposite impression, and being very careful not to say anything that could ever be misinterpreted again. There was no way this could ever happen.

Except that it did, in a matter of hours. I met her at Stansted, which is damn inconvenient to get to. It's a five hour journey by coach, although an hour and a half of that is hanging around at Heathrow for a connection. She kept trying to tell me I didn't need to meet her, but it's part of the enjoyment for me - meeting friends is really the only reason I ever travel anywhere. She tells me our meeting was awkward, but I don't know why - I don't remember it being anything of the sort. She was waiting for me at Stansted coach station, I found her easily when I arrived, and she gave me a cup of tea and a brownie, which was an unexpected pleasant surprise. We only had about fifteen minutes to wait for the coach for the return (well, for me) journey so we stayed in the coach station and talked there. It was late, and I started to get worried that we were in the wrong place, but it eventually arrived and we boarded. We talked on the journey back to Heathrow, but it was mainly uneventful. I felt perfectly comfortable.

At Heathrow we had another long wait for the connection, so went into Terminal 1 to sit down, where I got another cup of tea. This was probably where I started to notice my problem. We were talking very easily, and as is normal, I would look at her whilst talking. Then the sentence would end, and then what should I do? To suddenly look away seemed impolite, but then I found myself staring too long instead, and then looking away out of shame, not wanting her to think I was staring at her and give the wrong impression. Still on my mind all the time was the necessity to reassure her that I was safe, that I had no inappropriate intentions, and that was still absolutely true. The fact that I was even worried about looking at her too long shows how intently I was concentrated on making that clear. I don't even know what I do in normal conversation with others, I don't think it's ever been an issue before.

The time passed fairly quickly, and we got on the connecting coach that would take us all the way back to Poole. Again, more natural conversation, and the same comfortable feeling. My awareness of 'staring too much' got a little stronger, and I seem to remember deliberately looking away out of the windows several times. I think it was about half way home that I began to notice the contact. It was small, almost accidental: her hand just happened to be touching mine, or my leg. I still didn't think anything of it, I just assumed she felt comfortable too and was relaxed enough to not try and keep to herself any more. It didn't bother me, so I ignored it.

It started to get a little less 'accidental', and in any other circumstances I might've realised sooner, but the idea that I must reassure her, the memory of her reaction to my comment online, changed my own interpretation. It was obvious enough that she was deliberately touching my hand, but well, there was nothing wrong with that. I was a little confused about why, but it didn't particularly matter at that moment.

We were almost home, somewhere just before Branksome, when it finally became too much for me to just ignore. She took my hand completely, and seeing what she must have taken as a negative reaction from me, withdrew completely. I couldn't ignore the obvious any more, the meaning was very clear, but I wasn't sure what to make of it. All I really decided though, was that this was not the time to deal with it. We were still on the coach, in public, and nearly back in the safety and privacy of home. The only thing on my mind at that moment was that she was clearly worried she had upset me in some way, and I wanted to reassure her that she hadn't. So, I took her hand back, and held it until we arrived in Poole. She asked me some questions about how I felt, which I do not remember, but I didn't want to think about it then; I still felt comfortable, and I wanted it to stay that way. The question of what the hell was happening and why did enter my mind, but I suppressed it. It could wait.

We arrived home and said hello to Graham, and had a cup of tea. We stayed downstairs for a little while, but both of us were really tired from all the travelling, so we agreed we should get some sleep and then go out later. I took Diana upstairs to show her where her room was and the general layout of the house. As always happens to me whenever something worth remembering occurs, I can recall very little of what happened, or at least the order in which it happened. All I know is that at some point, we were in the hallway outside the door of my room, she was standing very close to me, and she kissed me. I was too surprised to do anything about it, and didn't know how to react. Eventually I just asked her to follow me, and took her to her room. I sat down on the bed and asked her to sit next to me, which she did. My thoughts were fairly useless at that time, consisting mainly of 'what the hell is happening?', 'why?', and 'but this contradicts everything I was expecting!'. The correct thing to do seemed to be to talk about it, but I didn't have a clue where to begin or what to say, so I asked the only thing I could really think to ask: why?.

I can remember very little of the conversation now. She told me she 'liked' me, which I found vaguely amusing, because nobody has ever said that to me before. She was asking if I was okay with that, whether I felt the same, and I was generally refusing to answer and demanding more explanation and time to think, and these were my thoughts: I tried to work out exactly how I did feel, from the beginning. I hadn't felt anything but completely comfortable on the coach, or with her in general so far. I hadn't stopped her kissing me, but I was so surprised I couldn't have if I'd wanted to. I thought about the idea of starting a relationship, and got no particular. That puzzled me, so I wondered why. Then I realised that it wouldn't constitute much of a change in how I saw her anyway, as a friend. I already loved her company and her conversation, I looked forward to the next time we would talk, she made me smile and laugh, and I'd found us to be incredibly alike in many ways. I'd already realised that she was going to be a very good friend to me. I felt like a relationship would just be the same thing under a different name, so I certainly had no objection to that. This was impossible though! Out of all the things that could've happened, this was the one thing that never would. She'd made it so clear to me that she wanted nothing more than friendship, and I'd gone out of my way to reassure her that I agreed with that, and it had been an absolute certainty up until a couple of hours ago. Now she was contradicting everything I knew about where we stood.

I was also worried that I wasn't thinking straight, and that any answer I came up with couldn't be trusted. I didn't want to decide anything until I'd had time to calm down, and think properly. I couldn't answer her completely, but she asked if I could give a yes, no or maybe, and I had to tell her honestly that whilst I couldn't say yes, it definitely wasn't no. Maybe. Which really meant 'probably, but I don't trust myself to be sure at the moment'.

The tiredness was still there, so we agreed once again to get some sleep. She asked me to stay with her, and I didn't mind that idea at all. After a little while, she wanted to get up for something, I don't remember what, and then she wanted to change clothes, so I left and went into my room to wait until she was finished. She came in a few minutes later, and we got into bed. She'd changed into some kind of... sleep-related clothing, but I don't have anything like that, so I just stayed in whatever I'd been wearing that day.

There followed many (I don't remember, but many) hours of an alternating mix of sleep, talking, and me trying unsuccessful to convince Diana that this was already plenty for me to deal with and that we really shouldn't go any further. I wanted more, I knew that, but still didn't trust myself to be thinking clearly. Desire is not a reason for anything. I could hardly claim to love her so soon, could I? I thought about that. I have a very clear definition of love, and as I've seen before, time doesn't really have anything to do with it. It's about a feeling of safety and trust, having someone that I can share anything with. She'd been that before she even came here - there's nothing I would've ever felt I couldn't tell her. My love doesn't have to be earned over time, it just has requirements, and it's those prerequisites that usually have to be earned, but she already had. I shared these thoughts with her.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that whatever I called it, whether I could actually say "I love you" or not, it was the same feeling. Every second we talked I felt a bit more certain of it. The previous paragraph was more about me trying to control my desire for her and resist her constant temptation, but I should explain that that (and the sleep, unfortunately) were the minority. Most of that time was filled with wonderful conversation, throughout which I just found myself astounded at the constant stream of mutual agreement. I knew from online that we agreed on a lot of things, but with conversation turning to more serious subjects, that didn't change. We are so unbelievably similar in all the ways that matter, it's incredible. I was still trying to explain my thoughts, that I could never enter any relationship without a solid belief in a future, but she just endlessly surprised me by saying all the things I was about to say before I even got to them. We just... want the same things.

The four days of her visit are a blur, just one big long day to me, partially due to getting very little sleep. There was roast chicken (courtesy of Graham), chocolate fudge caek, the beach, Ghettopoly, music, HTML coding, shopping, Portal, and generally much happiness all over.

It's been a while since she left now, I've had plenty of time to think about all that has happened, and there really is no doubt: I am very much in love with her, in a way that reminds me of the first time I felt love, so many years ago. She is the best bits of all I've known so far, and so much more as well. Studying maths and computer science, a mind of logic and reasoning. So many aspects of me that I've never found in anyone before. Someone who agrees with me on what love should be, shares my dream of the future. Someone who'll not only understand a love note written in C++, but understand why the hell I would do something like that at all. We've seen a sample of how we'll resolve any disagreements, which pleased me a lot. My 'if you're going to argue, do it early' philosophy might not seem like the best thing for a new relationship, but experience seems to confirm that it is a good idea to get all the important stuff out of the way in the beginning. I could say so much more, though there are some things best kept between us, but the point is that she's shown me a lot to make me feel very good about us, and a future between us.

So, I have a flight to Bremen on the 12th. It's strange to be back in long-distance-relationship mode after several years, although it's not really much like before. We don't know dates very far in advance, but we already know Diana is coming back here very early in April, and although May is a busy month for her, it looks like we're going to be able to see each other pretty frequently. It's also a lot easier than before because we're not confined to talking any particular time each day - we see each other around all day, in between whatever each of us is doing (work, university), which I like, and then perhaps talk properly in the evening when we're both free. Of course, then there are the long-term plans, but I won't discuss those here until we're ready. It'll be at least a year and a half before there's any possibility of anything other than this, but I'm sure we'll be able to spend a lot of that time together.

There've been other positive side effects too: I've actually been successful at maintaining a vaguely normal routine. The week she was here I did only ten hours of work, and then made it all up by doing seventy hours the following week, but even during that time we were getting up between 9-10am, at work by 11 and doing a twelve hour day and going home by bus, instead of wasting money on taxis. I've strayed out of it for a couple of days this weekend, but we'll be back on early (relatively, for me) starts for all of this week. It keeps surprising me when I've been home for a few hours after work, and noticed that it's only just past 10pm. I don't think I've been home so early so consistently for months and months. I might never make a 9-5, but it's a big step towards stability, and it won't be far off.

Emotional stability too; I haven't been angry. All the rage, and the dreams, the constant memories... forgotten. I can look back now and just calmly examine facts, analyse what happened, talk about it. I don't feel differently about Shanna and I don't think anything is going to change that, but I somehow feel free of it all now, it doesn't concern me any more. When I'm talking to Diana I'm happy, and the rest of the time I have a goal again. A destination, to work towards, and that makes a big difference to me. It provides motivation, something I really lack by myself, and when motivated I achieve more. Work is better. Everything is better. And then... I'm not ready to go into detail yet, but... my dæmon has been on my mind a lot. There is a connection here. She has brought me peace again.

Hopefully I'll be seeing Adele, Willow and Merlin some time this coming week. It's been much longer than I intended since the last time, but hopefully we'll make another whole day or two of it. I'm thinking this time will be different in some way, though I'm not sure I can explain how yet. I'm sure I'll write about it afterwards, and I'm sure I'll struggle to describe what I want to say again. I don't know the date yet, because she has a guest at the moment, but it'll be before I leave for Bremen. I'm looking forward to it.

This reminds me I actually still owe some people Christmas presents, specifically Adele and Connor. I had something specific in mind for both, but failed to get either in time because I left it to the last moment only to discover I couldn't get them when I thought I could. Now might be a good opportunity to correct that.

Work is... interesting lately. I'll probably make that a separate entry, since this one is long enough already, but the main thing I've been pleased with is that my generic object framework, RAWR, has been used successfully. Darius asked me to write a very simple supplier tracking system which records what they buy from various suppliers, for how much, and who's offering the best deals and such. It only took a couple of days anyway (C# and .net pwn), but I initially wrote it to use SQL server for storage, and wrote separate code for each object to be written and read to and from the database. After it was finished, as an experiment I tried to convert it to use RAWR, since it was a good test project. It took about two hours, and it worked. Now each business object class just has to describe it's fields and their types, and RAWR handles the rest. There's now only one set of read/write code which can work with any RAWR object. Objects populate their fields in batches only when they're needed, and things such as nested objects (fields which reference other objects) are also automatically supported. Basically it works like Vantage has for a long time, but in a much simpler way.

After this success, I'm going to start converting Vantage to be based upon RAWR. All object storage, to and from the server, to and from local offline storage, caching, instance tracking, will all be managed by one piece of code that works with all objects, rather than having to maintain code for each class. There's a lot of things I could potentially do with this, and I'm quite excited to get started.

I'm going to get some sleep for now. I've left out a million things, but there can be other entries for those. I just wanted to tell the story of Diana's visit, really. Cynical as I am, I expect to be met with scepticism from most people, but eh... I don't care. Say you've heard it all before if you like, but I feel really good about this.

Strong, Powerful
The Adoring Beast
location [?]:BH15 1NQ
Music:Nightwish - Ghost Love Score
Wednesday 4th February, 2009
07:24 AM
I just came across something else that Shanna left behind. I don't know how I didn't notice it until now, it's been right there in front of me for weeks, but I didn't see it until just now. A dead plant. Not a small one either, it was quite tall when it was growing upwards and now it's spread all over one end of the breakfast bar. It's completely covering where the phone is, which I've used very recently. Until now though, I've been completely oblivious to it. I was just making a cup of tea to take to bed when I thought 'hold on... there's a plant here. And it's dead'. Now I'm going to have to deal with it.

My control of my... feelings is not getting better, it's getting worse. I shouldn't share my thoughts right now, but such is my mood: I want to kiss... to bite, to draw blood... to tear...

The snow was nice. I haven't really been out in it, except for a few minutes at a time. I was amazed how alien it seemed. I know what snow is, I've encountered it several times before, and it seems perfectly normal to see snowy scenes in pictures and videos, but you walk down a familiar road and everything is covered in fluffy whiteness, it is kind of weird. Pretty, but very strange.

Today I rearranged a dentist appointment that used to be on the 12th. I did this, because I now I have other plans: I'm going to London to meet a friend who's name is definitely not Jennifer. I didn't think there was anything unusual in that until she kind of started convincing me that there was - it is rather soon - but I'm looking forward to it. For someone who generally avoids travelling or meeting people, I do get a lot of excitement from doing both at once. My only worry is not being able to keep my guest entertained, but I suspect it will turn out to be less of a problem than I expect, as usual.

Spent most of the day at work trying to install Vista on Darius' computer. He bought a copy and asked me to install it, but the installer wouldn't start, because apparently the 'BIOS is not fully ACPI compliant'. My only chance of resolving that was to hope to find a BIOS update that made the problem go away, but HP didn't make that easy. Even when I found one, the utility only ran on Windows, which I was really impressed with, considering the machine had no existing OS. So I had to install XP, only to then have the flash utility fail for unknown reasons, giving me error messages insisting I must log in as administrator, when I was. I had to find out where the update package extracted it's temporary files, get the ROM image, find an appropriate flash tool, and do the update myself, guessing at most of the settings. The result could've been success, or a dead BIOS. Luckily it was the former.

My sister was also there earlier in the day. She decided to take the interview for a job there. I don't know how it went, but she's coming in tomorrow evening for a trial and I assume that unless she somehow really sucks, she has the job.

I assume LJ's 'planned maintenance' is complete now, so this can stop being 'New Text Document' and have a proper title. As for me, I'm off to sleep. Eventually.

Proud, Thoughtful, Annoyed, Normal
location [?]:BH15 1NQ
Music:Jonathan Coulton - Bacteria
Thursday 29th January, 2009
06:00 AM
I knew I shouldn't have watched that Voyager episode. It was the last of series two, ended in a 'to be continued...', and I don't have series three. I have several things to mention, but I can't seem to find a way to begin any of them. I thought starting with something completely different might help, but it hasn't. Suppose I'll just have to leap right in. Forgive the rapid subject changes.

Today. Work. I was supposed to get there before five because I was going to give a disc to one of the people who work there, but I failed to drag myself out of bed in time (the previous day had been about 30 hours long) and didn't get there until six. I could've made it a bit earlier, but when it was clear I wasn't going to make it before five, I just told Nicky where in my office the disc was and decided not to rush. I was hungry so I went to Subway and had 'breakfast', before heading to the 'bus station' (the real station is undergoing work, so my bus now leaves from what used to be a car park). Waiting for the bus on the edge of that poorly-lit car park by myself, I felt a strange sense of independence... which then reminded me of America, and made me angry.

I didn't do any programming today, it was all spent moving hardware around. The product of the evening's work is that several computers now don't contain the same components they used to. I read a LiveJournal entry of Vicky's in which she expressed a hatred for her job. I suggested that I could get her a job at California, which whilst not very exciting at least doesn't involve cleaning (or any physical effort whatsoever, in fact). She accepted, so I asked Darius, who said they could 'probably arrange something' and told me to ask Nicky tomorrow. Then I remembered him offering me a place for Shanna when she couldn't find a job, and it made me angry.

There's been talk of Vicky and Josh coming to live with us again. It was considered before, but at the time Adele had just left and it wasn't clear whether there was going to be any dispute over who was staying in the house, so they found their own place to live. Now financial reasons have brought it up again, and it seems it would be beneficial to all of us to do it. I think part of me will also just be glad to see the spare room filled. Every time I walk past it, I get a memory of a feeling that Shanna is probably in there, avoiding me. It makes me angry.

The fish which isn't mine seems to be unwell, though better than it was. When I came upstairs a few nights ago it was barely moving, and it's dorsal fin seemed very torn. I cleaned it's tank and held the bubble-emitter underneath it for a while, but it didn't seem very interested in living. I assumed it would have died by the time I came home from work the next day, but it seemed completely unchanged. Today though, it seemed to have recovered a lot. It's fin is still damaged, but it's swimming around and actually responds if I put a little food in, whereas before it was completely disinterested. I really don't know why I have Shanna's fish again. It was at my parent's house after she abandoned it last time, but on returning she begged to have it back, promising to take care of it, yet abandoned it once again. This makes me angry.

I appear to be contemplating a trip to Germany. I've been talking to somebody from OkCupid (towards whom I have only friendly intentions) who's at university there, who suggested I should visit the country. I said I had no particular interest in travelling just to see Germany, but I'd go to visit her. She seemed happy with that idea and agreed to find me somewhere to stay and to show me around, so I'm equally happy to go along with it. She might also come to stay for a few days for her spring break, which'd be nice.

As for the main reason I'm on OkCupid... oh Tux, why am I so attracted to Shannas? Seriously. Out of all the people I could be interested in (and believe me, I've found many), I'm always drawn towards that certain type of girl. I can't even really explain what it is... just a kind of simpleness. It doesn't make sense though. I have nothing in common with these people, they're not like me at all, I've seen that thoroughly demonstrated. Surely I should be looking for something else? I kind of blame Graham, for providing good conversation. With him around, I don't have to care about finding it in a partner. I'm pleased when I do (see: Adele), but so long as he doesn't disappear, it's not actually necessary. I really am too easily satisfied. I've still got about fifty people saved in my favourites list that I haven't even got around to messaging yet, but I'm fully aware that at the first sign of interest from anybody I'll probably forget them all. Which is very stupid of me.

I got a message from Chris Wilson (the person Shanna ran away with last year) the other day, which was... unexpected to say the least. I'm not sure why. He apparently wanted to apologise, to take 'responsibility for his actions'. Perhaps he just realised we both got treated the same. Still, it's a little late, he didn't say anything I didn't already know, and it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference to my feelings.

Nothing particularly interesting to mention about work lately. I'll keep what there is confined to this paragraph, so if you usually don't understand or don't care, you can skip this one. I fixed one of the only two remaining known bugs, which was the somewhat serious issue where the program would forget the quantity of a meal, seemingly at random. I noticed that it always caused a message on the server about missing UpdateTime and GUID attributes in the meal XML, and found that this was because the client was deliberately not sending them, because it believed the meal was in menu context rather than order context, even though it was apparently inside an order. Eventually I tracked this down to the function where meals are removed from an order. The particular statement that was failing was a call to List<>.Remove(), which I couldn't understand. It returned true, but the item it was supposed to remove was still there. I 'fixed' this by checking if the removal actually succeeded manually, and doing it again if it wasn't. I didn't feel confident about it since I couldn't understand why it was failing in the first place, but I put the 'fix' out anyway. That turned out to be a mistake when there came a flood of reports of meals disappearing completely. Oops. So I looked into it again, and this time realised what was happening. I'd overridden Equals() and the == operator on VantageObject<>, the class from which all my business objects inherit, to compare types and IDs rather than instances. List<>.Remove() was using these equality comparisons to determine which item to remove. After I realised that, I was finally able to reliably reproduce the bug, simply by adding two of the same meal to an order. Attempt to delete the second one, and the first one is actually removed from the list instead. However, since true is returned, the function assumes everything was fine, and happily notifies everybody that the requested meal was removed, which is a lie. So I end up with one meal being displayed which is actually removed, and one meal still in the order which is not shown any more, and also no longer in order context. Removed the overloaded operators, and the problem was fixed. Guess I learned not to play with them in future.

I think I've been overpaid the previous two weeks, by about ten hours each time. I've told Darius both times, but he doesn't seem particularly interested. I'm not sure what to do. I shouldn't just keep it, but if he doesn't care, what can I do? It would really help us right now. I suppose I can always pay it back later, if anyone ever actually checks and finds I'm right. Of course I could be wrong, and I actually did work sixty-five hours... but it doesn't seem very likely.

Found a lot of music I like lately. Alter Bridge first of all, which I heard through on it's 'station' of recommended music. A bit samey, track-to-track, but all good. Then Jonathan Coulton, who wrote the Portal credits song 'Still Alive'. Turns out he has several albums of his own, which are pretty good. If you like that kind of stuff anyway. Then Within Temptation, who I found on the search for 'bands like Evanescence'. They're not really much like Evanescence, but I like them anyway. We got some more Placebo, because the only song we had was a very poor recording of Without You I'm Nothing. I wasn't much impressed by most of their other work (at least the two albums we tried), but I find myself particularly liking Pure Morning. Anybody know some more songs like that? Whilst you're at it, anybody have any comments about Fallout 3? I've been recommended to play it, but it's still priced fairly highly and I want to know if it's worth it.

No points to anyone who spots the hidden message in this entry. Not particularly hard. I'm still really pissed off.

Lonely, Tired, Lazy, Sad
Family II
location [?]:BH15 1NQ
Music:Alter Bridge - Blackbird
Thursday 22nd January, 2009
04:43 AM
I have a brother (Connor, antidote074) and a sister (Vicky, vicstaroonie). Not that I've just discovered that fact, but I have been thinking about them lately. About my relationship with them, and theirs with me (which yes, are the same thing, but you know what I mean). I think I've finally noticed how much they've grown, they've reached the point where decisions start to have significance, and I have a great interest in the paths they're taking. I'm the oldest by four years, but I've never been much of a 'big brother' to either of them. When we were all young we used to play together, but by the time I was into my teenage years I had no interest in them. I actually consciously distanced myself from them because I felt they were too immature. Vicky I know looked up to me, but I never wanted to be a role model for anybody. I never had time for them because they were young and I felt so far above them. Their lives seemed so petty, whilst I thought I was doing big important 'real' things, things that mattered.

That isn't true any more. Vicky moved out and has been living with her boyfriend for something like a year now, but I noticed the change a while before that. She's done some silly things, but learned from them. She will probably make choices I don't agree with, but why should that mean anything? She's not stupid, not a child any more, she's making her life. I've found a lot of respect for her and her reasoning. I might not understand the things she'll end up choosing, but I'll feel sure she knew what she was doing.

Connor is eight years younger than me, but I've lost the arrogance of being the 'older, mature one', and instead I just see familiarity. Again another different life, different choices that I might not have made, but equally good ones. His concerns are different; he has school, the few responsibilities of teenage life, doesn't have to worry about a career or paying bills. Still young, but not a child like I always thought of him as until recently.

It's like I'm finally seeing them as individuals. Up until maybe a year or two ago they were just my brother and sister. Now they're unique people, with unique identities, that I want to get to know. People I could imagine meeting out in the world, talking to because we have something in common, not because they're 'family'. Family ties have always meant relatively little to me, I don't have any special attachment to them because of their status, I don't feel anything for them that I don't feel for my friends, and in fact I'd much rather think of them that way - as friends I have because they're good people, not because I have some kind of obligation to stick with them.

I feel a bit bad for ignoring them for so long. Particularly when Vicky was trying to get to know me, and I resisted. I didn't want to share anything about myself with anybody at the time, but I was unnecessarily harsh sometimes. Though, it actually makes me feel a little proud that she didn't let it do any damage; she wanted to 'be like me', but when I didn't have the time for her, she just found her own way instead. I don't know quite how they view me now... we still don't really talk much, and now all three of us live apart, but I've come to like the times when we get together, for birthdays and Christmas and such.

I never really give encouragement either. That's the way I act with everybody, not just them, but I wonder if it has any effect sometimes. I've never needed compliments or approval to feel good about myself or things I've done, probably because I never got them and learned to live without them. I tend to assume other people are the same though, and usually find that I'm wrong. People get the wrong idea because I only point out the bad, but it's just that my standards are high; doing something well should be normal not a special case, so it never occurs to me to point it out, but I am learning slowly that it is appreciated and can make a difference.

I feel I completely failed to make any kind of point there. I just knew I wanted to write something - I'd been reading Connor's latest entry, and ended up thinking about how the way I think of them has changed over the years. From annoying siblings to people with opinions I respect. That's probably as much a change in myself as it is in them, and I think it's noteworthy.

Proud, Thoughtful, Annoyed, Normal
Throughput III
location [?]:BH15 1NQ
Music:Electric Soft Parade - Silent To The Dark
Tuesday 20th January, 2009
06:02 AM
Today (well, yesterday - Monday) was the second day of my 'weekend'. I managed to do what I failed to do last week, and worked six days supervising running Vantage, this time including both Friday and Saturday night, so I took Sunday and Monday off. Once again, it all went well. There are two distinct recurring bugs that I've seen, one connection-related and one not. Both are annoying to the operators but neither are critical - they're still high priority, but don't actually break anything. Having some performance issues on a couple of the machines, but it's not hard to see why; I don't remember the reason for it, but most of the operator computers seem to have between 128MB and 256MB of RAM. CaliHQ2 was alright with that, but Vantage caches a lot of information in memory to reduce communication with the server and easily exceeds that amount. I could turn the cache size limits down, but I'd rather upgrade the hardware if possible.

I've lost count of the usage hours, but it's been running reliably for some time now, and processed around 10,000 orders (including deliveries, pickups, and the tills). The most stressful part of it all has been dealing with one particular operator. She gets so upset over the tiniest issues, most of which she causes herself, and abuses the mouse in ways I've never seen. She also somehow managed to get into an argument with Graham when she had a problem and demanded he fix it for her, and he didn't know how - she made some speech about how he was there to help and should do what he's being paid for. Err... no, he's there to work for me, as a programmer. Vantage is my responsibility, and though I try my best to help with any issues they discover, problems will still exist. I got very annoyed with her attitude that suggested it was somehow all about her, that I'd put bugs in the software deliberately just to piss her off. Making comments like "it's not what we need on a Friday night, is it?". No, it's not, I'm aware of that thanks. I don't need your pointless observations. I can do you job. Can you do mine?

Still related to work, yet on a completely different subject, I find myself attracted someone there, and this actually bothers me. Whilst it's probably more likely that this is 'typical' and I have been unusual so far, I've... never had this before, and I don't want it now. I've never had petty 'crushes' on anybody before. Even at school I was never particularly interested in anybody, and since then I've always been committed to one person at a time and whilst I am I just don't see anybody else. Now in just this last month or two I've felt attracted to two people I barely know anything about. It seems silly that I'm even noting this, but it's... unfamiliar to me, and I really don't like it. It seems so shallow, knowing that it's based on so little.

I've also been having... trouble supressing my anger about certain recent events and their related history. I really wish Shanna hadn't come last week, and I'd found another way to send her mail and her files from the computer without having to see her. It keeps harassing me, especially when I'm trying to sleep. Any small connection is enough to trigger a memory, and it gets to the point of rage in seconds. I actually wish for her to suffer, and that seriously worries me. I want her to know how angry I am, I want her to feel guilt, reget, to doubt herself. but I know that the reality is that she just doesn't care at all, and that is what's keeping it going. I don't know how to let it go, other than wait for it to fade with time. Again.

We're probably leaving this house in August. I think Graham is keen on leaving now, but the tenancy agreement is due for renewal too soon, so we'll be staying for another six months. I don't really want to go, but I can't afford to keep this place by myself, and he wants to remove the financial pressure so he can concentrate more on university and not have to worry about working enough to pay the bills. It won't be a problem - both of us can go back to our parents, myself temporarily whilst I look for another flat of my own. The idea of staying there is slightly tempting for a moment - it would be a lot cheaper, and let me save up some money, but I don't want to go back to living in someone else's house again. It's just not the same. Still, I might do that for a few months at least, with the aforementioned aim of getting some money together. Anyway, it's a long way off. Six months is a long time these days.

Rachel's coming again in the summer, which I'm happy about, and she also managed to get a ticket to the moved Counting Crows concert, so we can all go together. Seems we have quite a few of us now actually: myself, Graham, Connor, Rachel and Graham's parents are all going. Should be great.

As for today itself, I didn't do much. I was tired having stayed up all morning watching Voyager, and tried to sleep through the afternoon but Nicky kept waking me up by calling and telling me things that really weren't urgent and could have waited. Got up about 6pm and had a bath, which I really wanted, but kind of changed the day. Before the bath I felt ready to get up and do something, but afterwards I just felt relaxed and not wanting to be active. For a about five minutes this morning, I also felt in the mood to write in my diary, but it didn't last long enough to start. I'm still hoping I'll get the feeling for a decent period of time soon; it's a very specific mood, anything else just doesn't work. I'll find a way to get there. Suppose I'll get a little sleep now though. G'night.

Strong, Powerful
location [?]:BH15 1NQ
Music:Pink Floyd - Dogs
Thursday 15th January, 2009
05:14 AM
Ah, that didn't take long. I know what it is now. I talked to Rachel for a bit, who told me some things I really already knew, but it helped to hear anyway.

I feel detached. This could be anywhere, at any time - I don't feel tied to anything, there are no points of reference to determine my position from. I'm remembering millions of things with such equally perfect clarity that they could all be yesterday. I could be anywhere between five and fourty, there doesn't seem to be any reason to believe that it has to be 2009, or that I'm twenty-two. Just numbers, relative to other numbers, they don't mean anything, they're not important.

I want to tell people completely useless facts about things I remember. Pointless, insignificant trivia. Just because right now, I can.

I'm really tired now. Staying up was a mistake, but nothing new there. I guess this is going to be another day without sleep. The best approach seems to be to attack it head on, try and get work out the way as early as possible then come home and collapse in the evening. Maybe.

Confined, Solitary
Passing IV
location [?]:BH15 1NQ
Music:Son Volt - Left a Slide
Thursday 15th January, 2009
02:44 AM
Small update, just because it's been a while. My vision is blurry, which is annoying me; I'd understand if I felt tired, but I don't, I feel fine, I just can't see the screen properly.

We didn't run Vantage every day, but that wasn't my fault or it's fault. The days we did run, we ran all day, and it all went very well, including Friday night. That pleased me. I was hesitant to do it, because I spent Thursday making some changes to the protocol library to use asynchronous socket writes, partly for performance and partly to correct a problem that'd come up the previous couple of days. It was untested other than a quick check to make sure it 'still worked', but thankfully it was fine, and the problem is gone. It's now served around three million requests and I'm very happy with it's stability and performance. More than anything though, Friday was symbolic; if it can do Friday, it can do anything.

Shanna came on Sunday, to collect a couple of items of mail and move her files from my computer. It was uneventful, and mildly depressing. She made a couple of attempts to have a conversation, but didn't get far. I found myself being annoyed at her again, just for 'acting nice'. We're not on good terms, why pretend? I had some mixed feelings, a few of them positive, but none of them can be trusted. She's so deceptive. I was glad when it was over.

I'm thinking a lot of things I don't seem to be able to express. None of them have anything to do with anything else I've written here. Maybe I'll find a way, eventually.

Proud, Thoughtful, Annoyed, Normal
Desynchronisation II
location [?]:BH15 1NQ
Music:Nightwish - Sahara
Monday 5th January, 2009
04:36 AM
It got off to a promising start, but quickly fell apart as usual. Got up at 9 on Friday morning, had a nice cooked breakfast with Graham and did ten hours at work. Then spent all night wasting time online until about 5am before finally sleeping. Not surprisingly, the next morning I couldn't get up quite so early. Still, I managed about 11, and did about another ten hours, but was very tired by the end of it. Stayed up all night yet again to a similar time, and then it added up to more than my body could take, so this morning I didn't get out of bed until 4pm. Didn't do many hours today, so my total for the week is about twenty-five hours. Twenty-four would've been three normal days anyway, so my attempt at making up for the lost time pretty much failed. Still, this week is going to be a long hard one - I wouldn't be surprised to do between fifty and sixty hours. Darius said that from today, he wants to switch exclusively to Vantage. If problems come up we deal with them as they arise - switching back to CaliHQ2 (the old software) is a last resort only. It's a risky approach, but that's how California does things. Everything is ready, and from the trials in December I don't expect anything serious to go wrong, but it's still going to be a very stressful time, mainly because of the users. I can't stay from opening to closing every day or I will die, so I need to decide how best to divide my time. I will go in for opening tomorrow to begin everything and probably stay to closing the first day, but from then onwards I will probably come in just before the shift change, about 4pm, and stay to closing which is about nine hours (eleven on Friday and Saturday). I'll need to be there Friday and Saturday night for certain, but if it survives those two evenings it will survive anything, so I'll then probably take Sunday and Monday off completely as my 'weekend'. Sounds okay, but we'll see how it goes...

Whilst I was sleeping in this morning, I had a dream that Shanna wanted to come back to me, and I refused. I wanted her to apologise and she wouldn't. I was trying to speak to her sensibly about the things we'd have to agree to face, and she would only argue and try to pin them on me. So I walked away, and didn't feel like I was losing anything. I've really never felt like this before, she really has succeeded in destroying everything this time; last time she failed, and though I was serious about committing to somebody else, I still wished I could still have her. That's all gone now. I don't even find her attractive in the same way any more, which has surprised even me - I've always thought she was the most beautiful person I'd ever seen, right from the first time I saw her, but lately I've actually been consciously noticing that I don't feel the same. I think my physical and emotional appreciation for someone are very much connected. If I think of her now, all that comes to mind is a sexual desire, nothing emotional. I want her for pleasure, but I've no desire to share anything intimate, my satisfaction would not come from any kind of sharing, but would be purely physical. I've never felt that way about anybody, and indeed I've always wanted not to.

Anyway, other than feeling deprived of the sexual aspect, I'm feeling quite contented about everything. I felt a bit lonely whilst Graham was away, but spending time with him now, and my family over Christmas, has fixed that. I'm back on OkCupid again, but not in any hurry this time. Last time I was pressuring myself to prove that I could replace her, but now I know I can for two reasons: I've done it before, and I don't have residual feelings for her dragging me back. I do seem to have developed an obsession over My Favourite One, which is a bit silly, but it's harmless. I don't even know her real name (so if you were wondering who it was, if I know your name, it's not you).

Finally, one small thing I forgot to mention last time: I've decided to make a serious effort to learn Farsi. I took an interest some years ago, and Atieh taught me a few words and I practised writing a bit, but I want to give it a proper effort this time. I'm going to focus on learning the written language in the Latin alphabet, so I can for example hold an IM conversation with Atieh in her language. I'll leave learning the spoken form and the native written form for later (as much as I love the script - so pretty!). I'm planning to get a book to help me, when the financial situation has settled a bit (too much non-earning over Christmas) and I find a good one.

Special: Goodbye Fig
Reflection III
location [?]:BH15 1NQ
Music:Pink Floyd - Pigs (Three Different Ones)
Friday 2nd January, 2009
06:02 AM
Writing this entry was the only thing I intended to do today, though it's still taken me until almost 3am to get around to it. I'm back to work tomorrow morning, and have arranged with Graham to go for breakfast at 9, so I need to be up again pretty soon.

The post I made at Christmas wasn't really anything to do with Christmas, so I suppose I should mention that. It wasn't particularly eventful. I went round to my parents house on Christmas Eve, and stayed a couple of nights there. Vicky and Josh came over the same day, but didn't stay, so the 24th was the most eventful, most 'Christmassy' day. Connor had got that Guitar Hero game, so he and Vicky and Josh spent most of the evening playing that. I'd been avoiding it, thinking it looked silly, but I did have a go in the end and it wasn't that bad. It didn't really seem to have any connection to music though; other than the rhythm of the song helping with the timing, everything seemed entirely about pressing the buttons in the right sequence, and the whole 'you're a rock star' part of it got kind of lost, at least whilst I was playing it. The theme of the game could've been completely different and it still would've seemed the same to me.

Christmas day itself was quieter. We had a nice roast ham dinner, which I ended up eating most of, I think, and watched whatever was on television. I haven't had a television at home since I moved out three years ago, and I always find myself strangely fascinated to be in the presence of one again, but still never feel a desire to own one. At my parents' house I can sit and watch it quite happily, but in the years I've been without one I've never missed it for one second. Unfortunately, I also saw Eastenders. I didn't want to, but there wasn't really anywhere to escape to except upstairs, but there was nobody up there and nothing to do, so I just stayed and tried ignore it. It depressed me. Are there any characters that aren't lying to at least one other, or keeping some secret for blackmail purposes, or generally trying to ruin everyone else's lives? Someone please tell me that the actions of these people in the storylines are supposed to be met with disgust by the audience... they're not supposed to be accepted as normality... are they?

I stayed up long after everyone else went to bed, and didn't get up until about 7pm on the 25th, which made me annoyed at myself. I'm trying to stop this, but I'm not making any progress at all.

On the 28th, we went up to Minehead. Christmas day was my Granddad's 80th birthday, and the family had organised a surprise for him. Minehead is one end of the West Somerset Railway, which still operates steam trains, something he has a great interest in. It'd been organised for him to sit up with the driver whilst the rest of the family rode in the carriages behind, whilst we went from one end of the railway to the other and back. There were thirty-three of us there, coming from all over the country, so the whole event was split over three days. The first day was mainly just for everybody to arrive, and we had a small dinner in the evening and a chance for everyone to talk. The next day was the trip itself, and a big party in the evening, and the third day everybody went back home.

I was happy to go for the sake of being there to celebrate the birthday, but I wasn't keen on the 'family gathering' part. There's nothing wrong with my family, we don't have any disagreements or anything, but we just don't have anything to say to each other. All my cousins always sit together and talk endlessly, and I just sit by myself. One by one they'll attempt to have some kind of conversation with me, but it's always the same 'how are you' talk where they ask if I'm still doing the same work, where I'm living, and what my marital status happens to be this week. Then there's nothing more to say and they go away. They're just being polite. I don't think they have any real interest in what I'm doing, and I don't have any interest in their lives either. They're all doing okay. They've all got their good moments and bad moments, and they're all pushing onwards like everybody else is.

I'm not sure how to explain this next bit. I kind of wish that none of them ever knew what was happening to me. I was the first of my generation in my family to get married, and of course everybody knew about it. I'm the first to have a child, and no matter how little information I give out myself, they all know about that as well. But my wife is gone, my son is gone, I really don't want to talk about it. I get the feeling that all the rest of them are going to do these things too, but they're not going to lose them. Now I'm the first and only one who's got these things wrong. I'm not afraid of their judgement, exactly, but I feel disappointed in myself when I'm among them, because I've ended up in a mess and they haven't.

I'm probably going to provoke something here. I missed both lives, and wished either of them were a part of this one. The last time I went to a gathering like that was just after Shanna arrived to stay, for my aunt's wedding, and I couldn't escape the memories of that. She was my escape that time - when I didn't want to be around my family any more, it was okay, because I had my own. I remember retreating with her, I remember her being upset because I wouldn't dance, I remember walking around outside with her afterwards, I remember talking in our room, I remember a promise, I remember sneaking out with her in the middle of the night. And the connection to my other life... I remember playing with Brian and Mikey. We left the adults and went to play with the two children. I remember letting them ride on our backs and running around chasing each other, and being so happy with the thought that one day, we'd have our own. I saw them again this time, and though neither of them paid any particular attention to me, seeing them play with Georgina (the next youngest above them) brought the feeling back with such intensity. I don't think I ever realised how big this was until these last few months. I've wanted a family for as long as I can remember, but it's always been there competing against my other ambitions... or so I thought. Nothing comes close now, there is nothing I want more. I missed being a separate 'family', being identified as 'Ashley & X' as a single entity, being treated entirely differently. I almost feel I don't want to be seen again until I they can see me that way. I never want to meet them again as just Ashley. I don't want to go back to that. Feeling that was actually disturbs me a little... but I do.

Finally, the new year. That wasn't very eventful either, but I enjoyed it. It was very welcome after the trip, anyway. I spent it at home with Graham, just playing games (mainly Streets of Rage 3) and listening to music and talking. We didn't even manage to get any food or drink because the shop was closed by the time we tried to go. 2009... I don't like the sound of that. Still, as people keep helpfully pointing out, this year can't really go much more wrong than the last. I don't do resolutions, but I will designate this year with a purpose: this year is for repair. Between 2004 and now, I really should not have ended up here, and this year is for putting it right. I don't expect to achieve anything in particular, but I expect to end it in a good position, standing on a good foundation I can actually work from. I'm going to find a routine. I'm going to make whatever decisions I have to to ensure I'm financially secure - and that will involve choices about where I work. But most of all, I am going to make sure there is no more waste. I am sick of waste. The amount of time that has passed for nothing is too much to think about. Never again do I want to look back at any period of time and wish it hadn't happened. I want to know that even when things go wrong, there is something constructive I can gain from it. 2005 - 2007 must never be repeated.

XVII Web Design FREE Technical Support BlindBunnies