Blame everything on the cold.

I’m trying to remember what I might have been doing with my time on New Year’s Eve, but apart from trying out the Metafilter channel on IRC (which is scary – lots of people talking at the same time and by the time I’ve formulated my gag about Paul McCartney, the subject has changed to credit card fraud).

And quite against my better judgement I watch Jools Holland’s Hootenany on BBC 2, which primarily demonstrates that Solomon Burke (sounds like a Robert E Howard adventurer, I know) is like unto a god. I think that this might have been Mr Holland’s specific though occult purpose behind this year’s programme.

Looking absent-mindedly to see what the time is, I discover it to be 12:37am: I have missed the turn of the year altogether. Make of that what you will.

Oh, I have a cold. Blame everything on the cold.

even (shudders) a dragon

Having all this important stuff to do, of course I decide that what I really need to do is to download several texts – Persuasion by Jane Austen, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen and Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol – from Gutenberg and painstakingly typeset them and convert them to PDFs so that I can read them on the iBook.

The Gogol even has side-notes.

Aren’t displacement activities wonderful?

I try reading some of Persuasion but fear that my sensitivities are a tad crude – I find myself squinting at the screen and muttering “What? What’s going on?”. I worry that I need a really obvious joke, or a man with a gun or even (shudders) a dragon in order to work up my interest. I have a feeling that none of these (particularly the dragon) appear in the oevre of the late Miss Austen, though I might be wrong.

I still can’t get MySQL to work. I may need help here.

my brain sucked out by the Evil Tube

It’s all a bit of a blur, I’m afraid. What do i do? I can’t remember. Sadly I appear to have turned into a television watcher again, so a lot of time is spent having my brain sucked out by the Evil Tube. I attempt some tidying, which doesn’t actually succeed in tidying anything but does organise the mess into piles of some kind. And I make space on the sofa so that I might more easily do nothing.

And nothing is precisely what I do (please note that I’m in a guilt-fear-denial spiral re the accounts, which always adds a bit of fun to the process).

It ate mine, anyway.

Another dithery day, here in the blank space between Christmas and New Year. Still not feeling fully well – a vague fluiness. My plan is to gather up accounts stuff and file it in the file I got yeterday, however first I have to be distracted by Shrek which I wasn’t expecting as much as I did. I think I was put off by all those people who insisted on seeing Depth in it, when it’s really just a hokey, gag-packed cartoon. Well animated, but still not as good as Pixar stuff. And, yes, very funny.

Then I distract myself with The Mummy Returns. Both this and its predecessor managed to surprise me with their enjoyability. Again, simply the sum of its parts, with lashings of anachronism (particularly in the dialogue), and the protagonists seem to have managed to have acquired a ten-year-old (-ish) son without them or the world they live in getting any older. But that doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t find a number 12 anywhere near the British Library, but I suppose if one were looking for unbelievabilities it would take a while before one got to that one.

Somewhere in there was a programme about Henry VIII by David Starkey, which was fascinating. We are so familiar with the broad details of the story that when someone like Mr Starkey lays it out for us it can be a surprise.

Eventually I get on with the accounts stuff as there’s a programme about PG Wodehouse on the television, which is followed by another one about Peter Cook (the life of Peter Cook, particularly where it touches with that of Dudley Moore, is also beginning to be a well-worn trope. There was the Derek and Clive thing last week, and the nasty programme about Beyond the Fringe a couple of months ago).

Television eats your head. It ate mine, anyway.

Assuming that anything can.

I prise myself out of unconsciousness and go downstairs, where I get to watch one of my nephews in an endless quest to run around and do something or other in the guise of Harry Potter (on the Playstation) and drink tea, and carry on reading Night Watch, this year’s Terry Pratchett book. At a suitable time, Sara takes me to the station (or at least a station – Andover, which is some way away, but convenient for me, since it gets into Waterloo. Nice of her, I think).

When we get there, she buys me a tea from the machine in the shop and we wait on the platform for the train to arrive, it does (and on time, too. What went wrong?) and I’m off.

In a siding is a train marked Railtrack Snowblower which sounds like a character out of Lord of the Rings.

I sit on the train, reading and listening to MP3s on the iBook.

Anyway: Waterloo, home, lack of flooding, which is a relief. Still bits of plaster all over the place and I don’t feel up to… much, really. I glower at it, but it doesn’t help, and to be honest it wouldn’t have worked for Mary Poppins, either.

I go online and upload the diary for the last week or so, then go out and pay the telephone bill (which I failed to do on Tuesday, as water was pouring down). While I’m out, I go to Rymans and buy a year planner for next year (so next year will hopefully be a bit organised) and a filing system thing to assist with the tax. Assuming that anything can.

I dedicate the rest of the day to blankness and channel-switching. And trying out some of the food Mother gave me for Christmas.

They keep life interesting.

Boxing Day is just Christmas day afternoon writ large. Actually, my Boxing Day is almost entirely afternoon as I get up at noon. A new late for me.

Am worrying about that possibility of a cataract by the stairs. Oh, well, I’ll find out tomorrow.

In the evening I finally catch up with Amelie (which I gave Sara for Christmas), which is as lovely as everyone says.

I try to upload this stuff, but can’t remember the passwords. I realise that I should have thought of that before I came out but I had vigorous moistness to deal with.

There’s not much to Boxing Day. There never is. Coming up is the Wierd Dead Period between now and New Year’s Eve. And fresh catastrophes. They keep life interesting.

Angels are, I’m sure, doing stuff.

Christmas. There is, of course, a chaos of wrapping paper in the living room. I’m still feeling a bit crappy, so I perch on the sofa and wait for the chance to have a cup of tea.

As relatives arrive, non-child-related presents are opened, a process that’s drawn skillfully out to lunch. My own gifts boywards are greeted with less than fulsome praise, probably because I’ve failed to get behind this year’s programme (Note to J.K. Rowling: You will be receiving considerably less money from this family this year than last. Apologies), a lapse that I know will never be forgiven as long as I live.

There is lunch, and some allowances have been made to me as a teetotal vegetarian. Being that benighted species, the only way I could be less christmassy is by embracing Islam. Or Satanism. Or something.

Then there is the post-prandial sitting-around-and-watching-the-new-presents-being-tried-out. Which is important. They have reinvented the battling top for the twenty-first century. There are also small plastic creatures that flash lights and twitter and beat out Bruford-esque rhythms with their wing-things and feet. Apparantly they interact, and I’m not prepared to disagree.

What else is there to say about Christmas? There is no doubt goodwill, at least across Europe, the Americas and the Expat communities in the Middle East; There is a wedding and a death on Eastenders (a wedding is much-loved by the soap-watching community as the preamble to a future, long-running and agonising adultery plot), while on Corrie Emily Bishop vies for the coveted “Most Unexpectedly Indestructible Woman Ever” award (and what about Gail Tilsley’s taste in men? Shouldn’t the council have stepped in to stop her coupling, on grounds of public safety?); Angels are, I’m sure, doing stuff.

The television is, as everyone traditionally says, terrible. On the one day of the year when we can be sure that millions of people will be doing nothing other than slouching in front of the box with no resistance or standards whatsoever, it’s like they want to give these steaming piles of ordure a chance to be seen by somebody who, given normal standards of judgement and remote control technique wouldn’t watch a second. The same thing is true of what they show on Friday nights at pub closing time.

Don’t talk to me about the True Meaning of Christmas. The True Meaning of Christmas is “it’s the middle of the winter and it’ll be at least four months before the temperature improves noticeably. Give me too much food and drink”. The stuff with the angels and the goodwill and the sprigs of evergreen is just a cover.

a semi-permanent water feature

Getting up requires a bit of a run-up. I start making plans for it at 6:00 and revise them at 6:30, 7:00, 8:00 and 8:30, that is to say whenever I wake up.

I’m not a prime physical specimen, it has to be said, even at the best of times, which this is certainly not. I am aching all over, and the leg that had the infection in it has decided to join in the fun by turning dark red again. Through some force of will, and/or superego I drag myself onto a bus and up to Virgin.

I used to be a lot better at buying presents, or at least I used to put a lot more work into it, but these days I find myself doing it all at one media store or another. Age-related imagination failure, no doubt. Despite the fact that the process is very shallow it does take an inordinately long time, partly because I spend at least some of the time just staring into space.

I suppose with my dishevelled appearance and tendency to walk into things I must have appeared to be some kind of drunk to the people behind the counters (all the more surprising when I whip out a credit card and buy Stuff). That is to say my excessively dishevelled appearance and increased tendency to walk into things.

The gift for myself that finds its way into the pack is the soundtrack to The Wicker Man.

When I get home I find that there’s a letter from the telephone company telling me that I really should have paid my bill several years ago, so I set off in search of a PayPoint (to no avail – a complete waste of an hour). On returning home again I discover a large stream pouring into the hallway from my flat. Arse.

It appears that the ceiling where the drip is has finally given way and a large chunk of plaster has landed on the ball-cock, precipitating a tumultuous flow of water into the tank, from there into the overflow pipe and the sink. It appears that the sink very quickly filled up and overflowed itself and that’s where the water downstairs is coming from. So some minutes are spent pulling chunks of soggy plaster from the water tank. Joy.

Having put the plaster into plastic bags, I run some water through the tank (to try to get rid of the plaster contamination) and put the water heater on for a bath, which does get rid of some of the aching. Then I wrap the presents (since they’re all rectangular, that makes the task a lot easier).

Pa comes over to collect his and runs me up to the station. He also brings a gift from New York, which is a bag for the iBook. Hurrah! It is dead groovy, with all sorts of pockets and things in it. This is what I want from a bag: all sorts of pockets and things.

I have missed the 7:35 by a minute or so (although my organisational abilities are at something of a premium at the moment, particularly my ticket-buying skills, so I’d have had to have been a lot earlier if I’d wanted to catch the earlier train. Like yesterday). It’s a good job I didn’t go off yesterday or there would have been a semi-permanent water feature in the hallway.

There may well still be, actually, since there’s a bit of as yet unfallen ceiling that I’m suddenly remembering.

Most of the time is spent asleep, of course

I’m feeling very queasy when I wake up. There’s a lot of aching in my back and legs, reminiscent of the “Infection Incident” of a few months ago. In this case there is no doubt that it’s related to my lifting immoderately heavy objects yesterday. I send off some work (I realise that the day before Christmas Eve is a bit late for this, but better late than… or maybe not, actually). The nastiness gets worse, with shivering and so forth. I had intended to spend this afternoon doing my Christmas shopping, but decide that the time would be better spent dropping into a hallucinatory fit, which is what I do.

I further intend to get up at six and prepare myself to go to the Three Stags for the Jam, but my body denies me even that. I have the radio on, and so am drifting in and out of the programmes – a play about the late Delia Derbyshire, which suffers from radio play-writers’ regrettable tendency to turn their research directly into dialogue. At some point I switch it to Radio 3, and get Wynton Marsalis being very assertive about his technical grooviness (it seems to go on for days, but that’s the affliction talking, I suspect). Then through the night, which seems to feature an unusual quantity of organ music (that is to say, some)

Most of the time is spent asleep, of course, but in my waking moments I am aware that I have stepped into a parallel universe – I have several convictions re tossing and turning technique that make no sense at all now.

I have to share it with some sweaty men

More twiddling with the guitar, then in the afternoon I go to the gym. I think I overdo it a bit – I certainly feel the warm glow of having overdone it. It’s nice to do the hot room thing again, although I have to share it with some sweaty men. I realise that this oughtn’t to be surprising, seeing as how it’s a sauna, but it hardly improves my enjoyment quotient.

I have to have a lie down when I get home, anyway.

In the evening to Joan’s, where I chat to herself and David S and Alastair and Lifer about things. I go off at tangents about coding. I should keep that up. People love sparkling repartee about computer languages, I can tell.

(note the irony)