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October's Journal
December's Journal

[16:15] Erm. Nothing really happened today. In a complete antithesis to yesterday I've had nothing really to do and nothing much to say. Went for a run at lunch (slower again, I think I'm tired, even after a day off yesterday), had a pleasant text-only chat with Kris and sent the final draft of the project plan (now "business case") to the operations manager. Gym tonight, erging tomorrow and Sunday due to lack of coxes for outings. Oh, and I bought another Christmas present for Kris. Thursday was quiet, only Cormac came over. Odd considering we could see Cat in her home office but she didn't answer her phone or respond to knocks at the door.

Time to go to the gym.

[16:45] Going to the gym last night was supposed to be a way to wind down after a busy day of work and a rather tiring 6km run at lunch. It was, but I was more unwound than wound down by the end. As in pile of string on the floor. I also didn't sleep very well either. I definitely think I've been overtraining. This is amusing on one level as the men's squad captain for my rowing club is claiming that lots of guys aren't doing enough exercise (specifically: following the training routine he's worked out). I'd like to think I'm doing enough erg sessions, running, gym and cycling to keep or improve my fitness level alongside some of the better people in the club. Of course, this doesn't help much when a newbie from this year's intake has managed to post a 2km/6min43sec time on his first attempt. I think the requirement is for me to train smarter not harder. Or at least not train for any more time but just do more/push harder in the time available.

Today I've managed to brick and then unbrick our horrible MGE UPS Network Management Card through skill, expertise and low animal cunning involving a serial connection and me cycling all the way into town with a laptop. It's OK though as I needed to be there to get a form to apply for closure of my National Savings (Post Office) account (the account book for which I found while doing refiling a few nights ago). Anyway, the firmware is updated on the card thingy and I've spent the rest of the day installing updates for other people, doing workstation installs and about nineteen other things almost all constantly and simultaneously since 08:40 this morning. I think the last time I was this busy was just before I went to China. I'm seriously glad that I haven't had any exercise today. I'm looking forward to a relaxing evening eating Domino's Premiere pizza and chatting with people while watching something dire on television.

I wish I'd had more time to talk to Kris. I miss her and today was Thanksgiving and I wanted to tell her how thankful I am that I know her as I do and that she's a part of my life. Getting a Christmas package for us both from her parents today brought that home to me a bit more too. Her parents are very pleased that she's going to be spending her Christmas with someone she cares for, which is me apparently.

[17:05] I think last night was the best ever rowing outing I've ever had. I and another person from my normal crew were subbing in to a slightly better boat for the evening. Everyone arrived on time, there was plenty of laughter and joking on the bank but once we pushed off it was all business. We paddled down to the straight part of the river and proceeded to do four 1km race-pace pieces back to back with a short rest at the end of each. So hard did we push that at the end of the last one one of the crew ended up vomiting over the side (and onto his oar a little). I still subscribe to the "if you throw up you're trying too hard" school of thought but I have to admit I was as close as I've ever been to doing the same thing. The boat was so set the whole time though, it was a pleasure to be there. Happily, everyone else thought so, so there's a good chance they'll remember that I and my crew mate were in the boat when it happened. Dinner was huge, when I got home.

This morning (after another moderately poo night's sleep, I wonder if it's still a case of overtraining?) I ached a little bit, which was good. However the ache has only retreated so much throughout the day such that my forearms still do. This has precluded me going climbing this evening so I'm going to pop to the gym (if my membership's still valid) and do some light work there. Then it's home for some more pasta or rice and something meaty. I'm probably overloading on carbohydrates at the moment but I do have a freezer to empty. Who knew I had so much food in there?

Today's work (I should mention that I guess) was mainly a meeting about my business plan, rewriting the business plan and running updates on a few servers (including emailing people to make sure that I was allowed given the paranoia about a few systems we have here at the moment). Oh, I went for a run at lunch time and found it pretty tough, but I'm blaming that on last night's efforts. As a result it was over 1 minute down on my best time of recent memory.

Kris is suffering from tendonitis again (an old complaint which put paid to her running a while ago) so we're hoping the efforts she's taking to nip it in the bud will work. In the meantime we're still chatting, smiling and counting down the remaining 579 hours until she arrives home again.

[16:55] Mostly today I have been recreating metadevices on a few Sun V490 servers which were missing mirrors of certain partitions, proactively rewriting boot blocks on servers built around about the same time as the box we revived yesterday and enjoying rather huge chicken burritos before chatting to a happy and smiling Kris.

Last night was an epic 40min erg session with some of the senior rowers in the club. As a result I was positively inspired to put in a rather excellent distance (for me) of 10301m. This put me in the middle of the pack. The good think is that even though I was hot and perspiring by the end... I could have pushed harder. There's no reason why I couldn't have been pulling 1:50/500m with just a little more effort like some of the people further down the line.

Happily (perhaps, depends on the weather) I'm in a crew tonight with some really experienced people so that should provide some fun, well-set boat time for me to work on my stroke. That and give me a raging appetite for when I get home. Unfortunately there's been another spate of bike thefts from outside the boat house this last few evenings so I'm rather worried about taking mine there this evening.

[16:25] It was an exciting weekend, it was. Friday I was so tired I very nearly didn't go to the gym. Making a few mistakes online was probably the start of things. Luckily those were resolved before I got home and then again on Saturday afternoon in consultation with someone much smarter than me in one or two areas. Anyway, I went to the gym and enjoyed it (hurrah for endorphins) and then went home and got all warm as the temperature was dropping quite a bit.

Saturday I was out in a boat with a coach on the bank for the duration. This meant we were on a super-long (2.5 hour) outing which took us over a lock (we got out and carried the boat) and back. The weather was freezing, windy and perfectly clear. Nice, if you'd been wearing a big thick coat and gloves. We weren't. At home I thawed and chatted to Kris about stuff. Happily we ended the conversation on a high because we're both brilliant people who'd much rather be smiling than not. She's pretty great, that girl. I'm very lucky to have her and her forbearance sometimes. Anyway, rather than stay indoors for the rest of what was still a beautiful autumn/winter's day I cycled into town and got a few more Christmas presents and things as well as some new shorts for exercising in to replace the ones I've worn right through. While out Keith and Cormac SMSed me with dinner plans so I headed home, unpacked, redefrosted and then cycled out unencumbered by panniers and things to have a smashing Chinese meal with Keith, Cormac and Steph. Rather than move on to a pub I headed home for sleep.

The reason being that it was the rowing club's monthly 2km rows on the Sunday morning. Of course, by the time I cycled down there it was snow/sleeting and bitterly, bitterly cold. We ended up getting ten boats in a mixture of VIIIs, IVs, pairs and sculls out on the water and did two 2km pieces while slowly succumbing to hypothermia. Back at the boathouse we defrosted with bacon sandwiches and cake. That pretty much did for me for the day (or so I thought) and I was looking forward to an afternoon of slobbing on the sofa until, while thinking about a doze post-Kris chat I found some energy to cycle to Tesco and back for the week's groceries. I have no idea how. Suffice it to say that once home again I wasn't going anywhere. Steak for dinner with some chocolate for pudding (I made myself have something savoury with vegetables before I allowed myself something sweet (I blame my mother)) and then it was time for bed.

Today the weather has been slightly colder (so just above freezing) and I've unpacked and installed a Sun 2540 disk array, been for my 6km run (in more nice but cold weather), chatted to Kris and tried to get my mortgage company to put my payments back up to the amount I was overpaying before (somehow dropped because of the interest rate drop here). Unfortunately they can't do that five days before or on the day of payment (which is today, which is how I noticed). I wonder if its been dropped to keep in line with the maximum over paying I can do. I'll find out tomorrow I guess.

Coached erg session tonight with some of the senior rowers. I think I may be a little wasted by the time I get home. As it is I'm missing a climbing wall meeting, which is a little peeveworthy.

[15:35] Happily the UPS completely recharged overnight. So that's good. While it was doing that I was hosting a rather good Thursday evening with six people and me. We obtained pizza, as is traditional and also watched one very bad film (The Lost Boys 2) and one good one (The Lost Boys). Only one Corey survived intact. Don't ask why we watched them in reverse order. Suffice it to say the sequel is terrible. Really, really terrible. Seriously, don't watch it. Ever. We spent some time chatting afterwards (not about it) before everyone left some time around midnight.

In a perfect world I'd have slept like a log all the way through but I didn't. Possibly due to the massive amount of pizza I ate, or something else, I woke at 05:00 and had real issues getting comfortable and back to sleep again. Groggy was I when I got up at 07:00 to do my morning exercises.

Happily, today has been a relaxed day of ordering new UPS Network Management Card kit, considering firmware upgrades and writing emails. I also went for my 6km run at lunch and will be going to the gym this evening. This weekend are the (rowing) club 2km pieces on Sunday, with a training session on Saturday. Only I'm not sure the boat the organiser thinks we'll be using is actually in rowable order at the moment...

[17:15] Well, I went to the gym and it was good. I went home and relaxed and that was good too. I watched Blade: Trinity and it... wasn't so good. But I knew that was going to be the case. Getting up this morning was pretty nice though. No aches, no pains and no problems getting to work. I even enjoyed catching and overtaking the 'semi-pro' cyclist who insisted on undertaking me when I was waiting at traffic lights, going off during the pedestrian phase and sitting in advance of the advanced stop line for cyclists. He just wasn't as good a cyclist as me. Even if he had all the gear.

Today we plumbed the UPS back in in its new location in the corner of the new part of the machine room. The batteries seem to have completely discharged though, which is a bit worrying. They've been reconnected for about half an hour now and we have 10% capacity and 6 minutes of runtime on a 100kVA unit, which shouldn't be right. Everyone thinks it's lying. I just hope we don't have a power cut before tomorrow morning.

Kris was in fine fettle today when we chatted. That boosted me out of the minor worries I'm having today with regard to the back of my right hand which seems to be developing an ache similar to the RSI I had about a decade ago. Another issue I'll deal with elsewise.

I should head home; we're watching both Lost Boys films this evening over pizza. This could be 'epic'.

[17:05] I went running at lunch again today. Only forty seconds slower than Monday, which isn't bad considering I was rowing last night. Although it it was a short outing (dead front light) we did some power work which was quite draining.

Work today has been quiet. Nothing of note to report and I'm considering not going to the gym this evening as I feel quite tired. I should go though, really. Had a nice long chat with Kris before my run. She's tired at the moment too but still working damned hard on her teaching, research and all the other stuff that she has on her plate over there. I don't say this enough publicly (and probably not enough to her personally either) but I'm really proud of her. I know things are going to get harder over the next few months so I just hope I can be what she needs if she needs it.

Anyway, enough of that. Let me tell you about the fact that we're off UPS at the moment as they're moving it through to the new area of the server room (did I tell you we're extending the server room into our old office?) and plumbing it back in again. Obviously we have nothing to do with it but let's just not mention anything about anything to do with electricity for the next 24 hours, eh?

I should go. We'll see which way my bike turns at the last set of traffic lights before home as to whether I gym or not...

[16:00] Had a builder over this morning who's also Corgi certified. He said my oven was safe to use and that the cracks and soforth in the house were all simply cosmetic rather than anything else. Which was nice. Came into work without gloves or lights because I was in a rush. Had lunch with Kate in town which was even nicer, before chatting with a very tired Kris. I'll be off to row this evening in the dark with a good crew (the one above me) and then home with a pannier full of presents for me and Kris for Christmas!

[17:25] We raced on Saturday morning. Well, I say morning we didn't actually get all the way up the river until well past the time we were due to race owing to the marshalling being curious. Imagine thirty plus boats all sitting on the river over 3km from the start of the race (on the wrong side of the finish line). We'll just gloss over the fact we managed to run up the bank a little too. What we will cheer about is the 42nd place out of 246 crews (although some of those were 4x, 4+ and 4- as well as 8+). Not too shabby for a mostly scratch crew in the S4 category (rather than Novice). After coming home I went to Tesco and then settled in to relax for the rest of the day as I felt like I'd put rather a lot into the morning.

Sunday was fun. After being told that we'd had a replacement engineer because the first was still attending a call begun the previous evening I was also told by Sun that as the mainboard and ILOM had been delivered to his house we were missing those parts. Apparently more were being sourced from London and would arrive at 10:30. However, as I was preparing to leave at 08:00 a DHL person rang and said he was lost in town with parts and could I meet him on a road I knew. I cycled out and had him follow me to the server room. En route I was called by the replacement engineer who followed the DHL guy to where I was. This one had come from London.

After ten minutes in the server room waiting for Richard to finish shutting down the Oracle databases another DHL person called with "the parts". After guiding him in I collected a second mainboard and ILOM. This from Ipswich (who'd told Sun Dispatch they didn't have the parts, then found them and sent them even though Dispatch had told them they'd get them from elsewhere. London, in fact). The engineer and I attempted a boot from SUE CD to perform an SP/BIOS update. The version of Solaris 10 on there segmentation faulted each time but the /SYS area within the SP session reappeared, which was helpful. We brought the box down and reseated the ILOM (for unconnected reasons) and then tried a TFTP load and then a "-force" TFTP load. Both appeared to work without error but then on SP reboot the BIOS was unaffected. Oh yes, and we had a power cut in the middle of one of the flash attempts. Thank goodness the UPS actually worked.

At that point a DHL person rang and I took collection of a third mainboard and ILOM. This one had apparently come from Belgium. The engineer rang Sun Support for advice on getting the BIOS flash to take, but while we were waiting we brought the box down, fashioned a jumper from the clip of his anti-static strap and shorted across jumper P19. On powering up the box no BIOS boot screen appeared on console or on the VGA monitor we'd brought in from next door so we powered it down, removed the 'jumper' and powered it up again. On boot the BIOS announced it was at the newer, correct version. A few errors (including a CMOS checksum error) flew by before we could see them (one was possibly a "DKS error"?). Going into the BIOS, verifying settings and making one trivial change to update the CMOS checksum and then warmbooting the box resulted in all errors vanishing.

We then tried a series of warm and cold boots and reboots including going all the way into the OS. Once satisfied I brought up the Oracle instances (but needed to call someone to start the TNS listener), the Process Scheduler, Application Servers and Web Servers.

As far as I can see the box is now stable, happy and running up-to-date BIOS, SP and RAID firmware. That took the whole morning so I went Christmas shopping a little and then cycled wearily home reflecting on the fact that I haven't done any Christmas shopping offline in about five years. Lunch and a chat to Kris followed before I cycled out to meet Keith to see Quantum of Solace. Coming home and snacking for dinner (late lunch) lead to me staying up not terribly late.

This morning was mostly about reporting on the weekend's work, looking at new firmwares for other servers and the UPS and taking receipt of a large number of parcels from various places (mostly not for me but for Kris). I went for a rather lovely run at lunch (just a short 6km in 26min) and have spent the afternoon working on emails, project plans and reading news. Home this evening is either going to be company and TV or cleaning the bathroom and TV. I guess I'll find out shortly.

[16:05] Preparations for this weekend's work is what today has been all about. I'm meeting a Sun engineer at 09:00 on Sunday morning and will be attempting another BIOS flashing operation. Currently the machine is spooling its two main fans up and down repeatedly in a way very akin to a man stumbling or coughing repeatedly. Most disconcerting. If that update fails (which we're all pretty sure it will, but Sun are adamant we try once more) we'll be swapping out the mainboard (while keeping the ilom GRASP board and then hoping that the onboard RAID controller on the new mainboard finds the current RAID 1 configuration it should be in by reading it from the metadata on the drives in the chassis) and either calling it a day then or attempting a firmware upgrade on that instead.

That's basically taken most of the day to organise. Don't ask me why.

The rest of my weekend will be taken up variously with: rowing (race), Tesco shopping, a ceilidh, seeing Quantum of Solace, a run, updating my Amazon wish list, a Skype call with Kris, washing, cleaning the bathroom and hopefully some sleep. If it is at all possible I'd also like to rewatch Casino Royale too, before Quantum of Solace, but I'm not so sure there's going to be time.

As for the rest of the day, I'm going to the gym for a short session, then home to shower, over to Cormac and Steph's to collect some downloads and then out to a local Chinese restaurant for Shaun's birthday.

[17:10] You'll never guess what I did last night. I mean aside from rowing 20km in a reasonable time on an erg. Yes, that's right, I strained my gluteals. AKA pulling my arse. Silly boy. I don't know what happened as I got off the machine feeling pretty happy and did some other exercises. I must have held myself strangely when I was doing those and that plus the cold air coming in from the balcony must have caused the muscles to contract and then I pulled them somehow. Cycling home was agony, as was showering and raising my legs. Lying in the "reclining Buddha" pose when I got home helped, as did plenty of light stretching. By the time I'd eaten and gone to bed things were an awful lot better and I was fine by this morning, thankfully. I won't be doing that again in a hurry.

Today has been mainly about polishing project plans, working out what's happening with the machine that's going to be (hopefully) getting fixed on Sunday (day off in lieu ahoy) and writing lots and lots of emails about things. I'm glad its been pretty quiet, really. I'm off home now to do some washing up and then relax with friends while eating pizza. I may even have a beer.

[16:45] Sorry! Forgot to mention that I put my China photos up at the beginning of the week. They're at if you're interested in checking them out. I've managed to cull them down to a nice small number but there are masses more I've chosen not to publish. I hope you like them.

Otherwise today I've done very little here. Elsewhere I've rewired a machine and been to an IT Vendor Exhibition day where I managed to snag a few, poor, freebies. Enough to make the journey worthwhile if nothing else though. This afternoon I've done barely anything at all! Whee! As punishment I'm not going to sit at home instead of climbing (which would have upset my hip), but am going to go and do some erging instead. I think straight leg movement will be a lot better for me than stretching and bending and all kinds of dynamic body tensioning. At least this week, anyway.

[16:25] I went home worrying about my hip last night but seem to be improving massively as each hour passes. This morning there was barely a twinge from it as I jumped (kinda) out of bed. Morning exercises went well and with no lunch to make (it's burrito day) I was in nice and early. After doing some final configuration on the two bixes I PXE booted yesterday the networks guy (who's applied for another job...) and I taxied them down into town and got them plumbed in in record time before getting a taxi back again (by dint of bringing a trolley with us, no trolley means making your own way back). Minutes later it was time for a burrito, this week badly packed by a trainee who caused me to almost spill rather spicy salsa all over my desk. I hope they've improved by next week. Not that I may be going next week as Kate's coming back into town for a job interview and would like to meet for lunch, which is nice.

This afternoon I hand-rolled another RHEL5 desktop install for someone, replacing their aging RHEL3 installation with something a little more... modern. Not that they care, particularly. All I have to do now is stop them from restoring their entire old home directory onto their new one and causing all kinds of harm with dotfile mismatches. Not to mention what they'll do to their Firefox profile...

Gym shortly, with no leg work. Then more consuming of freezer food, so I can defrost it for the first time since I bought it.

[18:00] I crammed an awful lot of things into the weekend. I mean, I didn't go to the gym on Friday - which was probably a very good idea all things considered - but I did do a first winnowing of my China photos before collapsing for the evening. Also from Saturday morning I was all about the achieving. First off was rowing, in a 4+ with one of our favourite coxes. That went quite well all things considered.

Then I came home and without missing a beat, dashed out to get some marigold gloves and then vanished up into the loft to do two and a half hours of loft insulation. I only needed the gloves for the first two rolls (left over from the original lot I bought many years ago) and then I was basically unrolling recycled plastic bottle stuffing, clambering under eaves and lying across beams and laying it down. Completing it and putting the boarding down didn't really sink in as an achievement that had been almost four years in the making until I was back down in the house again climbing out of my paper suit and finding my entire body was soaking with sweat and my gloves were full of water. At that point I remembered how I'd felt when I'd done the first half those years ago. Hurrah for me and my glacial efforts at making my house better! I reckon the place felt a little warmer even eight hours later (before the heating had come on for the evening). Good job too, seeing as how heating costs have gone up.

After that I put some washing on and settled in to chat to Kris for an hour or so. I didn't really move much from the sofa after that. Sunday was supposed to have started with more rowing, only it was cancelled due to lack of cox. Instead I got up early and did the washing up before pulling on running stuff and doing my 12.7km run. I thought this was going fairly well until about ten minutes from the end when a pain I first got when walking the Great Wall started up in my left hip (basically around the tensor fasciae latae). It wasn't anything too bad so I finished my run in a reasonable time. However, after coming home, vacuuming the entirel house, attacking the bathroom tiling grout with bleach and a toothbrush (successfully, I might add) and chatting to Kris the discomfort in my hip had increased past the usual post-run tightening up I usually get. I decided to confine myself to the sofa rather than exacerbating it any further.

This morning it was no better so I made the decision not to pack for a lunch time erg session and it's possible I may not be in a boat tomorrow (which is good), we'll see. I will go to the gym in that case, but do no leg exercises in the hope that it'll help the inflammation (or whatever's wrong) go down a bit. I'm racing this Saturday coming so it'd be a good idea to be fit and happy for that.

Work today was all about PXE booting two servers which I've had to tear all hard Xen work I did and reinstall them as standard 'flat' OS configurations. This isn't upsetting me as much as it could because I'm past the point at which I care, really. It wasn't my decision and while I don't agree with it I guess that it's what will keep the service and the management happy. We'll probably revisit it all at some point in the future. I've redirected what frustrations I have into writing a project plan for the upgrade of the now-oldest linux boxes in the organisation. They're some RHEL 3 boxes I installed as my second job here when I arrived at the beginning of 2004. April, in fact. I wasn't looking forward to it (the writing or the project itself) but now I see that having something to concentrate on, get my teeth into and really make mine (in a way which no-one else has any say over) could be the best thing right now.

[17:00] I'm a bit fed up with the RHEL5 box I've been playing with and the 1680x1050 monitor I have. This setup used to be completely stable video-wise and now it just won't display X unless you jump through hoops every time the box is rebooted. This is annoying. Still, I've reinstalled one person's desktop and have the promise of another's before the end of next week so that is something of an achievement. I've also been helping someone get a PXE boot setup working so that theoretically once a machine's racked and its LOM is networked we never need to go and see it again. No more heading down to the machine room with a USB stick (which I kind of liked, actually).

Erg session at lunchtime wasn't bad; I'm getting back into the swing of things there. Gym this evening, if I can muster up the energy. I should really, but most of me just wants to go home and slob. I think I may do that rather than push myself this close to getting home. Especially as I have an 08:00 row tomorrow morning and Sunday morning. Couple that with an attempt at a Sunday run as well as probably doing the loft insulation at some point this weekend (well, I'd like to) and I think giving the gym a miss until next week sounds like a definite plan. I have to wash up anyway. And I have a headache.

So yes this weekend will have: rowing, loft insulating, house cleaning (especially the bathroom) and vacuuming, running, sorting China photos, chatting with Kris and quite possibly finding some time to just sit and read a book. Those last two would be nice. I guess this means I didn't need to leave at 16:30 after all. Thank goodness; it's 17:00.

[17:10] I almost didn't go out to see the fireworks last night. Once I'd come home I really just wanted to relax for the evening and chill out a bit. As I had to deliver a torch to someone and ten pounds to Cormac so he could buy some food I ended up going out. It was a pleasant evening and for the first time ever I had the choice of either standing on the balcony of the boat house or onboard a narrowboat on the river right under the fireworks. I chose the latter and not just because of the free mulled wine. Standing on the roof of the boat my group had a great view with no crowding whatsoever.

I stayed up late again and although I'm semi-sure I woke when it was lightish I didn't wake properly until about 07:00, which is helpful. I'm really sure I should be able to lick this eventually. As it's a Thursday tonight I'll try and see if I can make it a later than usual one to make sure I go to bed at a time that'll see me sleeping later. At least I hope so.

Today I've been installing RHEL5 on more workstations here as I gradually move all the people still using RHEL3 up to something a little more modern. I've got five more machines to go so I think it shouldn't take too long to have everyone up to date. Then all I need to do is start dealing with the older servers which are still on that marque.

Feeling pretty stable, normal and featureless (in an emotional sense) today, even with the news that I'm going to have to embark on a fairly major upgrade project anyway in the next few weeks. It's all good.

[17:35] I should mention more about how much of the trip Kris organised. How her grasp of Chinese made the whole thing a joy to experience and how smoothly she handled the few and far between problems we had with things as well as how much legwork she did in making sure we had things to do, places to eat/hide/sleep/relax. I can't thank her enough for making China (an extraordinary and incredible place) so accessible and easy to experience.

As for today, I woke up at 06:30 (and possibly 05:30, I forget) after a late night up waiting for the first US Presidential Election results to come in. I'm glad Obama won, we just have to see if he does what he's supposed to now. I've been mostly battling with Optiplex 745 video woes and writing emails for much of my time. However I did manage to tear myself away to get to the gym and start my ergo training again. Not a great distance for the 30 minutes I do and I was pretty tired by the end of it too. I'm sure my cardio fitness will return in time.

There're fireworks this evening, I should go home and get ready for them soon.

[16:40] Back again. Hello everyone (who's reading, which isn't many I think). All is well and I'm here and in one piece. China was brilliant and I only got one cold. The photos are coming (as soon as I have time, maybe this weekend) but in the meantime here's a quick rundown on what happened:

The journey to the airport was fine. Coach was on time and all was well. I had no checked baggage so was able to do the electronic check-in thing and go straight to my gate to wait and read (after that incident with missing a flight to America last year I never hang around when I can go to my gate now). The flight over was nice even with a window seat. I had two Chinese people beside me who I had to get by every time I wanted to get out but otherwise the flight was uneventful.

Kris met me at the airport, which was lovely of her. The metro ride to the city was a good opportunity to catch up (even though we talk most days on Skype). Finding the hotel was midly difficult but the place (down a quiet hutong in the middle of Beijing) was a hidden gem. A shower and some food later and I felt quite human again, even though very tired.

The next few days saw us doing a lot of walking, seeing the sights and eating nice food here and there. A trip to see where Kris lives at the moment and a visit with some of her students to see the Forbidden City took up another day. The place is fascinating even if after a while you get sick of red walls with green, blue and gold highlights elsewhere.

After Beijing was Xi'an (pronounced "She-an") and the Terracotta Warriors, among other things. The car to the hotel was huge and made me feel a little inadequate but then the room fabulous with precisely the type I'd hoped we'd get (a corner room that was mostly window). Truth be told I can't remember much about our time there suffice it to say there was more in the way of people spitting, more amazing things to see, masses of Chinese people everywhere and more good food. Oh, also a free aromatherapy massage, some swimming and a bed the size of Spain. For the other things we did there I'd have to ask Kris.

After Xi'an was Shanghai and the ultra-stylishness of the hotel there, also free wine and cake in the afternoons. Really, my overriding memory of Shanghai is style, T-shirt shopping and wonderful food when it was really needed. Oh, and a long walk around town as well as a bit of the Bund. It was nice to see the place the Qui Xiaolong books are set.

Shanghai transitioned to Guilin and a longish car ride to Yangshuo and a longer stay in a more basic (but lovely) hotel. Two opportunities for day lohng cycles in high heat and blazing sun (as opposed to the smoggy weather of Beijing every day except the day we left) which left our bums numb as well as a lot of walking up and down Moon Hill. In the end a day off was required. We spent this sitting in a cafe for most of the day playing chess and reading before relaxing out of the sun in our room, coming out only in the cool of the early evening to explore the overly Westernised streets again. Kris being most saddened to see that a KFC had now opened there. The scenery was truly amazing though, as was the opportunity to see original Maoist slogans on the walls of old village dwellings. Likewise amazing was the opportunity to experience Chinese traffic first hand (and survive). I know now why Chinese students here are so dangerous on bicycles.

We journeyed back to Beijing and the cool of the north of China and had the opportunity to walk around the Summer Palace in high winds (less pollution, clear skies) before moving rooms within our Kempinski hotel due to flooding issues which I won't bore you with. Suffice it to say we loved the first room and then hated the second after having seen the first. The next day we did get to move back into the first again, which was nice. There was also opportunity to get close to the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube at the Olympic Park but by then the temperature had really started to drop and the wind increase in ferocity. The following day we walked the Great Wall, or at least 20km of it. Aside from tripping slightly twice and being very very tired at the end of it it was probably one of the best hikes I've ever done over some breathtaking scenery and architecture. Joeseph Needham was right, China has a lot to be proud of, in terms of invention, pioneering and initial development of many astounding things. Why didn't it continue?

Coming home was a sad affair for both of us. Having spent so much time together being apart again (and for 47 days now) was upsetting. Stiff upper lips were (and will be) required, although by the time I got home I was so tired that all I could think of was warming up the house again and getting to bed. Everything ran to time, there were no major delays or mishaps and it wasn't raining too hard when I got back. I went to bed at about 21:00 and was wide awake and raring to go at 03:00 this morning. Ironically, the sleep issues I was having before China vanished while I was there but judging from last night are back again. Perhaps my body clock was sympathetically linked with Kris this whole time. We'll see what the next few days bring.

Today I've been catching up on email, fixing the few small things that people did that I'd normally have done had I not been away and buying lunch before realising it was Burrito Day. Rather than rowing this evening (which would probably kill me) I'm going to Tesco to restock my fridge and then home to watch lots of downloaded television in an effort to stay awake until about 23:00 in the hope it'll mean I sleep the whole night through.

I've chosen not to make this entry too detailed or talk about the amazingly, tremendously fabulous time I had with Kris but you're more than welcome to ask me about specific bits/places/durations of time and I'll go into excruciatingly mind-numbing detail then. Also, photos coming soon.