Monday, 28 June 2004

Sorry there's so much!

I hadn't realised how much I'd written. If you can bear to read it all, please start off at 'Thursday morning'.

Budapest images

are here. It may be a while before they can be viewed.

Why are we like this?

Following the late night return, I received GBH to the earhole this morning out of Chris’s reasonable disappointment. Contained my feelings until she’d left the room, when I let them out with an anguished groan. It appears she wasn’t out of earshot after all, and asked what’s wrong. The answer doesn’t bring happiness, but did eventually result in a better relationship this morning.

As an observation from this, I wonder if, for a marriage to work well, it’s necessary to have continuous un-vocalised communication to allow partners to align themselves with each other. In our case, it’s quite common for us to be at odds when I first get home, despite the fact that we want to be together. It really blunts the pleasure of returning, even though we both want to be together again. I think this is better than the ‘cool’ approach that I’ve seen in other couples (at least for me) but I’d prefer joy un-alloyed with friction.

Sunday – It’s the last day

Although the conference was due to kick off at 8.00am, we actually agreed this time to meet in the restaurant for breakfast.

As it turned out, we didn’t get to hear any of the talks. There was work to be done, and we needed to discuss some data that a customer had submitted. This took most of the morning, tying it in with data that I’d generated earlier this year, and one way and another, we just didn’t make it to the talks.

About 12.00pm we realised that almost all the other exhibitors had gone, and at 1.00 we decided to throw in the towel and break the stand too. For a short while we were the cloakroom too, while the great and good (and less ‘great’) left their luggage for us to look after, before we were finally done. At 2.30pm I found myself at the airport for a 6.20pm flight, and no way to check in until 4.20pm :-/ Pass time talking with another lass that we got to know, who’s a cytogeneticist in London, and interesting.

Finally managed to check the case, then go look at over-priced tourist stuff and expensive jewellery. Picked up some Amber ear-rings for Chris (she’s always wanted some, and the kids usually get the prezzies) then sit and read.

And wait.

Realise I should have been called to board 25 mins ago.

Go and look at the monitor – flight delayed to 7.20pm. Nuts.

10 mins later, hear some kind of announcement in Hunglish about the flight, so go look again. Delayed ‘till 8.00pm 

Collect voucher for ‘refreshments’ and buy a dubious Danish pastry and 2 bottles of water. The aircon is off, the terminal is hot, sticky and airless and so am I!

Visit duty free. Kids love ‘Milka’ chocolate, and the really big bars are 2.70 euros. Grab 2 and then acquire a litre bottle of apricot brandy (locally made, and silly cheap).

Sit down to finish typing this, look up and see a Finnish lass from one of our competitors that had been exhibiting too. She’s a really nice person, and so we sit and chat about photography, children, digital cameras, travelling for work and all sorts. Her plane has been delayed too, but is at least on the stand being prepared – I feel sorry for her, since she has to change at Helsinki before flying on to Turku and home – won’t arrive until about 1.00 am.

As we’re discussing my plane lands and taxies to the stand. *Sighs with relief*. Maybe an 8.00 pm departure is possible after all.

7.43pm – I’ve just been called to the gate. TTFN.

The plane is absolutely packed, mostly with lads coming back from stag weekends in Budapest. While boarding I half recognised a girl from the conference. She’s Greek, desperately attractive and now stuck alone in the middle of these guys that have (as they told everyone) toured the sex shows. Cue 2.5 hours of absolutely continuous (failed) attempts to chat her up. Fortunately she’s as bright and intelligent as they are stupid (she’s doing a PhD in Kings, London) and is more than capable of resisting, but was still worn down by the end of the flight. I intervened a couple of times, just to try to draw their attention away and change topics when things got a little near the knuckle.

11.30pm – finally make it home. Chris has gone to bed quite a bit earlier, but Ben’s up, since he’s not got to do anything on Monday. At least he’s glad to see me.


Saturday Morning, bright and early

The sun is shining, and we’ve arranged to visit a local indoor market with a couple of cytogeneticists that we met yesterday. The sun is hot on our backs as we make our way there at 8.00am.

The market is held inside a huge hall, with fixed stalls. There are basically 3 kinds of stall – Butchers selling every part of the animals except the skin, greengrocers with their huge piles of pale unhealthy looking peppers (there was one called ‘eros’, although it’s hard to see why) and stalls selling cured meats, salamis, pigs trotters etc. Occasionally you see the odd stall with alcohol. Some stalls specialised in different meats, usually denoted but the animal’s head being mounted on the wall. Wandering round, we bought paprika in ornamental bags to take home, but somehow didn’t really fancy anything else. The upper level had much more touristy stuff – lacy things, carved objects, toys, Tee shirts, plus a variety of cafes and bars. I took some pics from there, plus on the ground floor on the way out.

That evening we enjoyed a cruise on the Danube, in a huge boat complete with band, dinner and shoals of waiters that really did look after their charges. Despite the bottomless approach to supplying drinks people were generally restrained, and I saw no serious excesses. It was a slightly scary arrangement though, with party atmosphere and unlimited booze – quite easy to see people pairing up and disappearing off together, me included. I have seldom felt this as a concern quite so strongly. Maybe it’s my own inadequacies and immorality coming to the surface?

I also took some pics both on and from the boat. There were a couple of technical staff that were using our products who attended the conference for the first time. I’d been asked by their rep to look after them, and since they were good fun, it was natural that we all kept each other company. That’s why you’ll see Carol and Liz in some of the pics, plus John (a Cytogeneticist at Newcastle) who we also got on well with. I have also included a pic illustrating the challenge to male pulses engendered by the fashion of tight translucent trousers and thongs that were ‘de rigueur’ amongst the lovelies here. Anyway, much fun was had: some at my expense when I was dragged (not entirely with good grace) up on the dancefloor. About 11.30 another male member of the group that we all knew appeared, and William and I made our getaway, only being propositioned once during the 30min walk back (not counting the lap dancing bars we were invited to enter). Interesting place, Budapest.

Friday – it’s hard to wake up, despite the alarm being the same time as normal.

Back to the stand, there’s minimal inerest, but that’s what we expected. Manage to work on the laptop for a while, then go into the conference for some of the more interesting presentations. Most interesting was the recent findings that foetal stem cells not only move into the maternal circulation, but appear to persist and actually perform some protective functions in the mother’s body. There was some excellent work done using mice and a special imaging system showing where foetal cells were assisting in healing just 6 days after the mouse became pregnant. This work has only been done in the last 3 months, and is of considerable importance in understanding the processes involved in reproduction.

There was also some amazing work done by a group in Hong Kong that were isolating foetal DNA from maternal circulation to allow them to identify whether the foetus was suffering all kinds of genetic conditions (they were investigating thalassaemia). This is of key interest, because it might make it possible to replace the presently hazardous methods of CVS or amniotic fluid sampling with a simple sample of maternal blood. Another worker’s results were rubbished somewhat publicly, and I spoke (purely by coincidence) with a colleague of the guy that had been put down, and he accepted this quite philosophically. This sort of things seem very common in the science world these days, and I have seen otherwise eminent and respectable scientists to take childish pot shots at each other from the lecturn.

In the evening a soiree to a ballet had been arranged, however since neither William (the MD) and I appreciate ballet we decided to walk round Budapest. Rain had started during the day, and by evening the streets were pretty sodden. We squelched over one of the bridges spanning the Danube and wandered over to the Gelert Hotel, which has a swimming pool fed by a natural hot spring. Entry here was refused (it was shut) so we just kept walking. For 2 hours. Guess we got to see plenty of Budapest. Eventually the sun came out, and it grew warm before we headed off for dinner.

The city seems very like the way I remember Vienna from my last visit in 1967 (aged 5) with just a few concessions to modernity, such as graffiti sprayed on many walls and buildings. There was littler evidence of rubbish, but most building more than a few years old were in need of repair, and it was common to see holes in plasterwork or even areas where sections of ornamentation had fallen off completely. Many buildings were originally decorated in typical mittel Europe style, with plaster mouldings and ornate doors. This is normally highly attractive, but here it was a sad reminder of greater times, now past.

Many people also look poor, and vagrants were quite common in places. Prices of many things seem very similar to the UK, but I’d bet that wages certainly aren’t. A sign of things bubbling under the surface is the number of ‘nightclubs’ offering table dancing.

On our return to the hotel, we found that Greece were beating France in their European cup game, and to our considerable pleasure, they held that lead to the end. There were some Greeks at the conference, and they were celebrating very enthusiastically.

Thursday 24th - leaving on a jet plane.

Early morning to get to the airport for Budapest. Flight was smooth, immigration quick, and we were at the conference centre by 3.00 pm. Driving in Budapest is the craziest I’ve seen anywhere – cars weave from lane to lane, road markings are obscure and hard to follow and the roads are narrow (even by UK standards) and in poor condition. I’ve happily driven in Paris, but I’d hesitate for the first time ever here.

We got the stand set up quickly, then sweltered in the heat, not only from the weather, but from the lights on the stand.

Back to the hotel, we showered, changed, then went out to see the city (pics on fotopic) and find a little late lunch. Never have we (I’m with the MD) visited a city with so many extremely attractive looking women wearing such provocative clothing. It’s frequently necessary for me to look away, and I simply can’t relax and enjoy the ‘sights’. We eventually find a cafĂ© and have a couple of beers and goulash soup (rich, beefy and spicy). Back to the conference, we renew relationships with existing customers from the US and UK, which is the real reason we’re here.

The mobile doesn’t work, no net connection in the hotel room. Nuts!

After the welcome meal we head back to the hotel, only to find the bar full of professorial types declaring how they have no interest in football, but yet mysteriously riveted to the TV with England Vs. Portugal. There seemed to e a lot of anti-English sentiment, with every attack by the Portuguese being eagerly cheered. Eventually England throw in the towel, courtesy of Beckham, and we go to bed. TV is odd, with CNN and the BBC world service, plus a lot of German channels, and if you go too far on the hand set, the porn channel in all it’s graphic display of anatomy.


Wednesday, 23 June 2004

Another mad day

Doing my "azure posterior'd arthropod" bit this week. It's very satisfying to get so much done, but also knackering.

My main technician (who runs the routine screening service) is on holiday this week, so I'm carrying her work, plus I'm off to Budapest tomorrow, and I've had to organise the stand, prepare the kit for shipping, all on top of a busy production support process.

Never mind. Nearly done now - just one assay running a little late.

I also had an hour or so out this morning. There was a presentation this morning at Sarah's school, and she was to receive a Platinum award (the highest they can receive) for achievement and attitude etc. She played it down quite a bit, but she was the only one in her form who received that level of award, and we felt that she should see we honoured her for it.

Talking of Budapest, I'll try to take some pics there, if I get time out of the exhibition.

Tuesday, 22 June 2004

I'm fasting today

....... from the net :-)

See you tomorrow.

Monday, 21 June 2004

It's been around a while, but still funny.

Announcement made jointly by the DVLA and DSA, Tuesday 15 June 2004 at
10:00 BST.

Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency DVLA Press Office, Longview
Road, Morriston, Swansea SA6 7JL. Telephone: 01792 782318. E-mail:

Driving Standards Agency Stanley House, 56 Talbot
Street, Nottingham NG1 5GU. Telephone: 0115 901 2500. Fax: 0115 901

In order to assist other motorists in identifying potentially
dangerous drivers, it is now compulsory for anyone with low driving
ability to display a warning flag.

The flag (comprised of a red cross on a white background) will be
attached to the top of at least one door of their vehicle.

For drivers of exceptionally low ability, additional flags are

What's all the fuss with pooball?

When Brits are winning world cup rounds and leading over all. In Austria, no less. Steve Peat is heading the world cup for downhill riding, and Liam Killen won a NORBA round in the US.

Next weekend sees a round in Canada.

Blummin 'eck

I ache this morning.

Did a short, easy ride with Ben last night, about 16 miles (mostly off road, no big hills). My knees are more-or-less OK this morning (which is great) but my leg muscles are complaining very loudly! This ageing game isn't clever.

There is a hill on the last section before the village that he now consistently beats me up, although that fact that I'm on a plush 5" travel susser while he's riding a light hardtail might have a little to do with it. However when it comes to riding back into the village (really fast downhill) I can still pass him - a reversal of off road performance :-)

Sunday, 20 June 2004

Good feelings today

Went to the outlaws yesterday and instead of simply buying Chris's father a present, we planted a rose (birthday present) and re-did a flower bed in their front garden. Before it was a circle about 7 feet across, showing little but bare clay soil in winter and a profusion of weeds and grass in summer. We completelt dug it over, de-weeded and then reduced it with a wooden edging and then laid new turf to cover the bits outside. We also put a bizzie lizzie and some lavender in to help fill it out.

Actually looked decent.

Gardening is a dangerous thing for me to become interested in - it could take all my time, energy and money. Fortunately I think I shall be able to resist, since I have a life. I must be getting a bit sad in my old age, if I can actually get interested in plants and things ;-)

Friday, 18 June 2004

Not quite perfect

This new firewall needs a little fixing though. I prevents me viewing comments, presumably because it prevents new windows being opened as part of pop-up ad blocking. I'll reply when I've re-configured it :-)

She got it!

Well done my squiffle. It's a tribute to her dedication to her work that she got this (since it was an internal promotion). Music practice turned into a blow out, so I took her out for dinner instead (Nando's - hot spicey chicken in piri-piri and a really sensible price).

More things

Chris has a job interview at 10.30 am this morning. She should get it easily enough, but confidence come before a fall.

Ben has finished his exams, and is now becoming a person of leisure - mostly.

I have another church music practice tonight, to which the keyboard player isn't coming, and the drummer has decided it's not worth the effort for 25 mins on Sunday afternoon (it's a guest service, hence the short time, I understand really).

I'm wondering if my role in the church needs to change too. I'm feeling a need to kick-start some kind of active outreach. Since I am about the least evangelistic person you'll ever meet, that's quite amazing. We've also been asked to consider going on a year-long part time pastoring course (Chris and I). She's not keen because of the time committment.

I also had a prophetic word from one of the elders last week. He had been reticent to share it initially because he started 'interpreting it for me' in a negative sense, and realised that probably wasn't helpful. He'd seen me standing on a jetty that stuck out into a lake, waiting. The word was "the boat isn't coming". Chris and I have been wondering if we were being prompted to move on for a number of reasons, but I think that at least part of this word is that the transport isn't ready to take us yet. There's more, but that's a part.

The cooler weather is MY fault! Had the climate control in the car fixed on Wednesday. Now it gets cool, but doesn't need to ;-)

Our broads are now very bandy.

and running at 512K :-)

Good deal from Wanadoo - £17.99 a month, including the modem. No connection fee etc, 1 year contract, 2Gb per month limit. Seems good to me.

Tuesday, 15 June 2004

Does anyone else get annoyed....

When M$ hijacks your computer through IE to tell you that you need windows updates?

I find it especially irritating since the W/U page takes about 1.5 mins to open over dialup. And it complains that active X is turned off (yeah, like I'd leave it turned on?). 3 hour download anyone?

Now counting the days till the arrival of broadband. I might just abandon the winbox once that's happened. Although Linux won't work with my connexant modem (drivers from linuxant cost more than the original modem!) it works fine with my ADSL device. And it'll force me to learn how to use an OS that really doesn't hold my hand. I'll only fire it up to play mechwarrior then.

Full marks to M$ for ease of use though. It really is just ssoooo simple compared to apparently 'easy' mandrake. Or maybe I'm just dim.

More thoughts

Chris and I have been talking about bits from the heavenly man - she's nearly finished it, and I'll start soon.

She read the bit to me where Yun describes his feelings about western churches - having so much wealth and focus on possessions and so little of the power of God. I almost wonder if there's a negative correlation between how much you have materially and how much spiritually.

Remembering when I was first a Christian, I could recognise much of the same things in me that Yun was talking about. As a small group of spirit filled people in a rather un-friendly baptist church, we were aware of feelings of persecution. I think that we were genuinely willing to suffer for our faith (it was a time when the iron curtain was intact, and Vanya had just been published). And we did see God's power at work, quite clearly in our lives.

It's also interesting that my feelings about God and my approach to sharing with people at that time seemed to mirror Yun's. Yet I was completely culturally irrelevant to them, and despite all my best attempts, only ever saw 1 person actually make a committment apparently through my witness and discussion with them. In fact I was quite offensive to many people, in my determination to be righteous, and instinctive condemnation of the things they enjoyed.

Now I feel like I've softened and compromised in so many areas - I've reasonably well off, I tolerate vices in others and even have desires to participate myself. My steely determination for righteousness has become rusty, and crumbled in the face of temptations. I suffer the desire to acquire more and more, all un-necessary, if enjoyable. What's really weird is that I can now talk to people about Jesus (not very much - I'm too reticent now) and they listen a little, or at least don't throw it back in my face. Do you have to be culturally relevent to reach people? That's not how it seems in the bible, but that seems to be how it works round here.

Another area I really really struggle with is the near absolute apathy of such a large portion of the church. People just seem to treat body things as if they simply don't matter. We baptised some new Christians on Sunday, but it was a warm afternoon, and although there were quite a lot of their families present, at least 1/3 of the church didn't bother to come. I find the same things when we organise practices for the music team, or with house groups, or with outreach. Do people think the body of Christ is just a 'nice' thing to do occasionally, but not important compared to cutting the grass or sitting outside with a cold beer?

And why do people fall over 'under the Spirit' and then continue as if God never touched them? Chris and I wondered if it's just God's way of getting a few minutes of 'quality time' with their spirit :-)

Sorry for the rant. There's a lot of boiling happening inside. I just hope it results in some outward changes.

Monday, 14 June 2004

Baptism yesterday

Joanne and David are both from non-church backgrounds, and became Christians over the last year or so. Naomi is Andreww and Linda's daughter, and they had the considerable pleasure of baptising her. At this stage in the church's life, it's really good to see new birth.

Pics are here.

Sunday, 13 June 2004

I seem better now

but occasionally get reminded I've a little way to go.

Went shopping yesterday - boy, was I bushed when I got back. This morning I finished putting together a garden bench, again I'm hot, tired and have a numb hand (from filing the metal ends - trapped nerves again, I expect).

Talking of benches, if I was paid my normal salary while making it, that would cost as much as our settees. 3 years ago we bought a couple of cheap benches from homebase, and in a year most of the slats had rotted away. Being the kind of people that hate throwing good things away, it was decided I'd re-use the cast iron ends with some fresh (properly treated) timber. Only problem was finding some the right size. Eventually some turned up, salvaged from an old caravan. This was treated with brown preservative (which has left a brown, sticky residue!) and the iron ends painted dark green. Today I put it all together, ending up with a slightly ricketty bench that isn't very stable but looks OK. Frankly, far more hassle than it's worth. Wish we'd just bought a (really nice) bench seat for £40 from the place in town than spend £15 and several hours putting this shonky thing togehter. Oh well, you have to learn sometimes ;-)

Wednesday, 9 June 2004

Wurble, mutter mutter.

It's 4.15 am more or less. I've been awake most of the night, courtesy of the interferons generated by my cold. The throat has practically set and the nose is not a nice place to be. When I talk I sound like the guy in the Carlsberg advert (probably the best lager etc) except I can't stop sounding that way.


Just tried to email Australia at an address I haven't mailed for a year or 2 because of an order they placed (the wording is along the lines of "we'd like 100 things please"). It contributed to my wakefulness because the need to clarify it wouldn't stop running through my head (which hurts).


I HATE doing the 'helpless with a cold' thing.

Monday, 7 June 2004

A variety

Well, we saw my mother OK on Saturday. It WAS good to see her again, but these days there's always a sense of poinancy whenever I go. I know she won't be around forever now, and so does she; to the point of arranging all her papers etc for easy investigation if she dies suddenly.

She also went to a Christian 'health centre' (Burrswood) earlier this year, where they did an 'overview' of her life and health. This was available in a written report, and made quite difficult reading for me. It's often quite difficult to see your parent's emotional needs in the same way that you view other peoples, and I definitely suffer this inadequacy. They also mentioned hurts that went very deep, from many years previously, and these produced a feeling of helplessness in me (helpless to help her).

We have a good relationship, and are able to talk freely about many things. I just want the comfort of feeling like I'm doing something to make her feel better. Just selfish I guess.


Broadband has arrived in the village, and ours should be arranged in a couple of weeks for us. Wanadoo are doing BB for £17.99 per month - too good to miss. If I'm feeling brave, I may try to set up a wireless network at home, with access for the kids in their rooms.


And talking of which, I've just set up a wireless network here. One of the sales guys had a laptop die, and the replacement came with 802.11b connectivity built in. We bought a 3com access point, and after 1 brief false start, it installed and configured with no trouble. Configuration was easy, and set to accept only specified MAC IDs, and using 128 bit encryption, it should be secure too. If this proves a success then I'll convert the other mobile computers, and probably also install wireless cards in a couple of (presently un-networked) PCs in the lab.


I've been reading odd snatches from 'The heavenly man': the story of a christian in China. Yun suffered severe persecution for his faith, and in turn, saw God move in tangible ways. And it's recent - we're talking about him leaving China in 1999. This is really what I signed on for when I first became a Christian - not singing 'nice' songs in church. I don't want to talk too much now, because there are various things going off inside, and I'm going to have to read the book properly, methinks.

Friday, 4 June 2004

We're off to see my mother

The plan was she would come to us last night, but she's got a sick cat (literally -YUCK!)


I'm coming home

Frankfurt airport is a dam’ funny place, considering it’s in the heart of a nation that prides itself on functional design and efficiency.

Courtesy of a hiccup with air traffic control at Heathrow this morning (to err is human, you need a computer to REALLY foul things up) the flight has been delayed. This could have been far worse – the flight before mine was actually cancelled, and although I’d have really quite enjoyed another night in Sinsheim, good German cooking, pleasant company etc; the family needs me too.

Now, theoretically the plane is due to leave in 15 mins. There are no signs of departure at the gate yet, but who knows – stranger things than a flight leaving on time can happen.

But about Frankfurt airport or ‘Fraport’ as they like to call it: it was apparently designed by an architect that knew he’d never use it. Airports in the UK are fairly functional outside passport control, with the odd bar, shop etc. But go past the barriers and they have a miniature village inside with food, stores and all kinds of things to entertain the traveller and separate people from cash.

Frankfurt has bar-restaurant Laxx. If the name doesn’t put you off (needs an ‘ative’) then the promise of the ‘Laxxburger’ should. Apart from that, there is a kind of ‘deli’ for tourists, at which I bought a litre of Coke, some potato crisps and a pack of ‘jaegerwurst’ (dried sausage – usually smoky and good rather than rubbery and fatty, but hey – it’s meat). One upside was that a minature coffee bar in the seating area was closed and I found a free socket at which I could charge my phone, so thumbs up for that.


The passengers are now streaming off the plane that I’m reasonably confident I shall board in a few minutes. The time is 8.23pm and a couple of girls that I saw leaving a moment ago have just run back into the tunnel to get back on board. Ho hum. Now the girl on the desk has been called on her mobile and has gone back down the tunnel too.

I did feel as though my time was successful. The guys in the DSL Germany office were very sharp, and despite them having to speak English for me (they ALL speak some) I was able to compress training and installation into about 1.5 days. Most customers I’ve visited have barely learned to use the instrument in that much time. These people learned the installation side, plus how to program it as well as how to run the thing. Quite outstanding. One of them had used a similar instrument previously, but with a different software interface. I’m really quite impressed.

It will also be good to put faces to names. I frequently deal with different staff in that office, and this will make things so much easier.

One interesting thing about these people is how they don’t conform to the classic view of Germans. Far from being stodgy, solemn faced people marching in line (OK, that is a bit too stereotyped ;-) they are warm, friendly, smile and laugh at jokes. People make eye contact in the street and greet you if you do the same. They also use the greeting ‘Gross Gott’ that I had only come across in Austria, as well as ‘guten morgen’ at times. I’ve a feeling I shall look forward to my next trip to Sinsheim.


It’s now almost 8.40pm (original departure time 6.45).

I’m still sat in the lounge by the gate.

Patience is a virtue, virtue is a grace and grace is a little girl with a dirty face.

I sit here feeling slightly grubby ;-)

We’re going!


No we’re not. Made it to the plane OK, but once everyone was on board the captain announced that we would take off at 9.40pm.


He told the truth. I got home at 12.30am German time.

Wednesday, 2 June 2004

Germany calling.......

However I'm definitely NOT lord Hawhaw.

"Es geht gut" or somesuch - that's about the extent of my german. But the people here seem good, quick to learn, friendly and as helpful as could be.

It's nice to be appreciated.

And it's completely embarrassing that they speak very useable English, while my German would probably get me ostritch feathers braised in sump oil if I tried to order my own food.

See you all soon