Menu Members Guests LTQ
BOFHcam navigation bar


1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022 | 2023 | 2024

September's Journal
November's Journal

[12:25] A much better day today, thus far. Hopefully it'll get even better this afternoon. Spent the morning generalising more kickstart stuff and studiously ignoring the reinstall I have to do of the Grid Control machines with 32 bit Linux. I'll do that tomorrow afternoon as well as submit the RDA thingy to Oracle. I'm busy for the afternoon today and tomorrow morning with other things so I can just Forget About It.

Climbing last night was OK. I think I should have done a few more climbs but having been in a bit of a mood anyway (even though there were some highlights to yesterday) I went with some power climbs instead and left it that that. I think I'll head off soon and get some lunch, meet some people and concentrate on something fun for a while.

[16:40] I'm kind of overwhemed by information at the moment. There's the fact that Oracle tell me that Grid Control isn't supported on x86-64 Linux despite all the references I keep finding to it. There's needing to run Oracle's RDA tool on one of the boxes (reinstalled with standard i386 Linux) in one of it manifold configurations to send the output to them to help work out what's wrong (that's going to be a barrel of laughs). There's the (real) fun and games I had over the weekend including the Hallowe'en party at James', the excellent visit from Kate and Nigel (and Dave the Dog) and the excellent cooked breakfast I did. There's an excellent cycle to a pub down the river and the lunch enjoyed to remember. There's the information I got this morning which was entirely expected but still served to bring my brain to a halt for a moment. Finally there's everything that I've worked out is going to go on this week and how likely some of it is going to clash, not mesh or otherwise go completely wrong in New and Interesting Ways. Despite all anticipatory evidence to the contrary I'm expecting this week to be a complete and utter pig. Continuing from today's working day with climbing tonight.

I'll keep you informed. Fill you in. Keep you in the loop. Apprise you of the situation as it develops. You'd expect nothing less, I know.

[16:30] Another day of no progress with Oracle and RHEL4. Still, I've opened a TAR so frankly it's not my problem for a while. About the only good news today is that the final machine which is non-server hardware based but doing server duties has been authorised for termination on Monday. I'll be down to that server room to kick that blasted machine all the way back to this building. Oh, and it's Friday so Kate and Nigel are due in a few hours, I get to have Chinese and I'm cycling to a pub for Sunday lunch. Oh, and next week is filling up a bit more too. Just waiting on one more thing to make it close to perfect.

[17:45] Still no joy with Oracle Grid and RHEL. I even went so far as to fire up the sister machine and do a bare metal install and do none of my post kickstart configuration. I had a vanilla RHEL 4 x86-64 Update 4 box. Same errors. I've roped a colleague into helping me trawl through Oracle's Metalink site but we're not coming up with anything concrete as yet. This is something of a showstopper for about three major projects and stops us binning a few Sun E250 machines we really could do with heaving (with difficulty) out.

In other news it's nearly Friday. This means tonight is the regular Thursday: session of DVDs, food and company in the house (always good). I also gain another computer. Not that I need one, but I want to try doing some PVR stuff as well as stopping using my laptop as my DivX-playing machine. I'll need a graphics card with S-Video out to do that though. Also, if it's going to be AGP half-height. Stupid Dells.

Tomorrow night is all about Kate and Nigel and Dave The Dog arriving, food, pubbage and the gym at some point and not necessarily in that order. The weekend is shaping up nicely too with both Saturday and Sunday looking pretty healthy in terms of do-age. Now I think about it most of next week looks like it could be rather enjoyble too. Either way it's all going to be a good distraction from the week I'm having and the meeting I had which was one hour of working out that none of us in the room would actually be doing anything. How's about that for productivity?

I think I should be worried that the highlight of my day was finding out the new rack for the server room I've been pleading for has been ordered. Beat that.

[17:45] Oracle, RHEL4 x86-64. I hate them both. Why can't I install Oracle Grid control on this damned box? It's obviously something to do with the installer not being able to find compat-libstdc++-296-2.96-132.7.2, libstdc++devel-3.4.3-22.1 and openmotif-21-2.1.30-11. Never mind the fact that they're on the machine at exactly those revisions or better. Gah, it's all so poo. I'm fairly certain it's something to do with 32 Vs 64 bit libraries, LD and things like that but, honestly, I really have no idea. It's rather frustrating. No climbing this evening either which is something of a blessing and a curse as a) I'm shattered from things I did yesterday but, b) Really could do with something to take my mind off this abortion of an installer from Oracle. If anyone had any clues as to what the hell is going on there're beertokens in it for you.

I'm going home.

[12:45] Fear me and my ability to get Ruby 1.8.4 compiled into RPM form for RHEL3 despite the obstacles placed in my way by devious (read: stupid) people who put in dependencies that aren't required, then versions of automake which I don't have. Suffice it to say I think I've got it licked, installed and tested.

Climbing last night was interesting, also revealing on some levels as to what I might expect in the future. Helped one person with their climbing, I hope, and resolved a potential misunderstanding by dint of eventual clear communication. I really recommend talking if you're not sure about something, saves all kinds of woe.

We tidied the server room this morning. I say we, I didn't get time to as I was fighting with Ruby, but I made it in in time to give some useful suggestions and hopefully be of some help. I think this afternoon I will spend some time working on one of the other kickstartable machines, then go to the gym before a quiet evening in for once. I may even do that pasta thingy again. Tesco on the way home last night furnished me with pancetta and more of the sauce I need. No extra plums or peppers this time, just the sauce.

[13:05] Choices. Never thought I'd have them in this regard! Yes people, it's time once more for Oblique References And Cryptic Vagueness Theatre! I know you love it so much. Everyone says so. So yes, choices. Or (and this is the good bit) actually possibly none at all. Either way I've decided to pretty much clear the decks for the moment, as it were. Well, all but one. It makes perfect sense to me.

Friday was blimmin' excellent. Went to a party where I only knew three people and one of them was a quarter of the hosts. Aside from some fire juggling and breathing (which I didn't get around to) it was a case of chatting to people, and then congregating in someone's room to chat, sock and Zen wrestle and then look at photos. Quite by accident I ended up being the last guest in the house so got the 03:15 cup of tea and helped tidy a little before heading home to sleep.

I was up by 09:00 though, and spent most of the day dusting, tidying, cleaning and vacuuming the entire house for the upcoming visit of Kate and Nigel next weekend. By the end of the day I decided it was worth going out to meet someone, who didn't actually turn up in the end so I went into Borders and bought two books. Turns out I already had one of them so I'm heading back this lunch time with it and a hardback to see if I can convince them to a) let me exchange the one I have for another of equal value and b) the hardback for a paperback version of the same novel (long story, doesn't matter). Anyway, it did mean I got to bed reasonably early on Saturday night. I don't know if this is a sad thing or not. Oh, and the person who didn't turn up emailed to apologise, so it wasn't as if I was completely forgotten.

Sunday, at a loss for things to do I went to the gym for what turned out to be a rather epic session. Aside from some good weights work I ended up running four miles in under thirty minutes quite by accident when two of the stepper machines in front of my treadmill became occupied by rather lovely women.


For fun I went to the local botanical gardens for some of the afternoon where there was a kind of open day to do with apples. This meant there was apple juice and cider tasting as well as opportunities to buy same. Also honey and other produce including cheese. I'm such a cheese addict now, I ended up buying some stunning cheddar and sharing apples dipped in honey and the cheese at home with a friend before they headed off and I chilled out for the afternoon. Feeling flush (I'm not, just lazy) I went out for a Thai for dinner with a friend which finished off in a very, very empty pub talking about favourite authors. Additionally I got to go home and watch episode 4 of Battlestar Galactica which is really quite superb. In fact I think I may need to watch it again tonight when I get back from climbing. All in all a pretty reasonable weekend.

... Oooh, oooh, I nearly forgot! Saturday evening before I went out I made the best pasta-based meal ever! Fresh pasta, pepper and plum sauce and a really generous helping of smoked pancetta which had been grilled and then chopped into moderately small pieces. Bloody lovely. I'll be having that again.

[16:30] Didn't get to do any of the coding on that hardware RAID monitoring script I wanted to fiddle with until about ten minutes ago at which point I just didn't have the enthusiasm to start anything. It's been a weird day. About the only good thing was getting to go to lunch with someone nice from work who I chatted to amiably all the way there, all the way through food and all the way back again. I don't think we really noticed much else that was going on. I like lunches with people I can just chat to without any conscious effort.

I've done bugger all today and I'm Pissed Off about that. Having someone come online and tell me they're angry at me (probably my fault in a few ways, but still) wasn't the best end to the working day either. I'm off to the gym soon and have a hope that some physical activity (rather than sitting on my arse all day achieving precisely nothing) will improve my mood, and stuff.

Weekend should be OK. I need to do some housework (tidy, dust, vacuum), some washing and maybe even some cooking. I've got a few people to meet over the course of the weekend and potentially a party this evening if I can muster the energy to get to it. It's within walking distance so shouldn't be too hard to come back from if I begin to tire. I hope you all have a good one. See you on the other side.

I've just heaved something that can only be described as a monolithic sigh, I think it's time to get the hell out of here for the week.

[17:50] Success! Once I'd figured out that PowerEdge 2950s consider the USB port I was using to boot from to be /dev/sdc not /dev/sdb things went a lot more smoothly with regard to getting the kickstart file to be read. Of course there was the usual requirement to tweak the post-install script but now that that's done (and at the same time I took the opportunity to really generalise the hell out of all of the kickstart setups I have making things a lot more sensible) I can build x86-64 machines as easily as any other kind of RHEL box. This is what's known as a Good Thing.

Unfortunately, although the Big Brother client appears to work even though compiled for another distribution my custom RAID monitoring script has been completely broken by the new RAID card the machine has so that's going to be tomorrow's job I think. Actually quite a fun one; it's rare I actually get to do some decent (as in time, rather than the quality of my work) coding so I intend to revel in it, and hopefully get something that works with both the old hardware and the new shiny ones. Once it does I can release a new version to the Big Brother/Hobbit community and retain my reputation as a l33t haX0r.

Otherwise I've started to fill up my weekend with things to do, so that's good. Still, although there's something rather fun I could probably do I find I'm waiting to see if not doing it right away makes it more fun later on. In the meantime there's climbing, gym, popping out to see a few friends and going to a party where I know about two other people. And that doesn't even begin to cover the things I need to actually do which aren't social. I won't list those though, who cares about them?

[17:30] OK, I'm very very close to getting these new PowerEdge 2950 machines booted and installed via USB, serial console and Kickstart. All I need now is a kickstart file that Does The Right thing. It's been a bitch of a day all told really. Gym last night was good but I ended up being really tired again. Watching DivXen was about the only thing I was capable of doing for the rest of the evening. That's OK though as I think I've been keeping myself nicely pushed for the last few days. It's not that I've been pushing too hard, I just needed to catch up with the routine I was in before I went away. Some might say I should keep it slow until I'm ready to get back up to speed. Tish and pshaw I say to those people. Life is short, do what you can while you can I say.

Well I don't, usually. But hey. Lots of fiddling going on with servers today, meetings meaning I have to do work have come and gone and as a result I have lots of work on my whiteboard now without ticks or lines through it. No not the one with the funny faces on (for those of you who look at the webcam) the other one you can't see.

Anyway, time to head home and see if there's any confusion left to deal with with regards to climbing this evening. Remind me that I shouldn't ever try to organise things as it just gets people riled. And I really can't be bothered to have to deal with that.

Oh, yes. Just realised that for the first time in as long as I can remember I don't think I have anything planned for this weekend. I wonder what I can do...

[17:20] Oh dear. I really must learn not to stay up late at the moment. It's very not good for me. We went climbing last night and I felt tired as all hell. I don't know if it's the air pressure, the darker evenings or just getting over the trip and stuff still. Hope not, I thought I was made of sterner stuff than that. Anyway, didn't get out of bed until the late, late hour of 08:15 but was in work for 08:40, so that wasn't so bad.

The morning was spent fighting with Solaris 10, updatemanager and Zeus' ZXTM upgrade, the latter of which actually went flawlessly, it was just that the change of IP we'd just subjected all the management workstations to meant that we couldn't talk to the load balancers after the upgrade. We couldn't before either, but we hadn't tried since the changeover. Brief few minutes of worry there. Got the old heart rate up. Of course the whole Solaris updatemanager/smpatch thing was enough to raise my blood pressure with frustration until I was able to get my head around things there. Bottom line: some unavoidable issues, mostly not my fault, everything sorted as much as it can be.

Cycled all the way across town to meet someone for lunch. A pleasant way to spend an hour or so and hopefully something we'll repeat as time allows. Unfortunately I got back to work fairly late so I've not really had time to do much other than get things ready for tomorrow. That'll be more working with linux, a meeting to discuss the new eSales servers (fagin and sykes, good names) and some temporary racking excitement with some precariously-balanced boxes. Gym now though.

[11:55] (More) Fame at last! Seems my gallery of sailing trip pictures has made it onto the Soren Larsen's voyage log web page. Which, as I am wont to say, is nice. I'm only mildly peeved they used the shot Anja took of me in Millennium Cave face paint as their "here's Ben" shot.

The weekend started extremely well on Friday night, oddly enough. Was at a work colleague's house with Shaun, Linda and another work colleague where we were treated to proper Chicago-style pizzas, cooked from scratch. None of that shop-bought nonsense. We ended up talking into the not so small hours about systems-theory with relation to working practices and business planning and its possible connections to Eastern Philosophy and meditation (and yoga). Really, you had to be there to understand how interesting it actually was. And the sense it made. As a result I didn't get up until well past 09:00 on Saturday morning. This wasn't too bad, except that I had to be in London for 13:00 to meet a friend. Luckily Cormac had popped over for a cup of tea and a natter so he gave me a lift to the station.

Lunch in Tokyo Diner is always good and the company was pleasant, but I had to get to The Castle to get some climbing in before it closed. Given the cost it's worth going for the day if you can. Of course, when I got there most of the bouldering was closed for competition route setting but I still managed to unstiffen my muscles and do some fairly good climbs before chatting to some people. Suitably introduced I was able to do some lead routes with them for a few hours before meeting some other new people on the overhanging feature wall upstairs and working through some interesting fingery overhang routes until the wall closed.

Home late I just went to bed, promising myself that Sunday would be a Day of Rest. Amazingly I managed to stay in bed until 11:00, waking only once at 07:00 as usual. Obviously I decided to mow the lawn (some two months without a trim) which took about two hours, at the same time as putting washing on. Then I went to the pub for lunch with James before running beside him on his bike back to his place to go and do a massive Tesco shop. Following that I felt it was high time I sat back and didn't actually do anything else. There then followed some serious DivXen watching before a friend popped over for a bit to entertain me as well as give me a chance to work out why I'd not expended much effort going to see Aeon Flux in a cinema. I think I got to bed around 12:30 in the end.

As per usual Monday follows Sunday and I find myself in work. I'm absolutely famished at the moment, lunch will follow this journal entry. Other than that I'm downloading four different sets of RHEL ISOs for kickstart point updates, have the new Zeus ZXTM thingy ready to go for tomorrow's upgrade and should do something with the new Dell PowerEdges at some point today too. Oh, and we have approval for a new Dell rack for this building's server room. That means I rather than having to down a whole rack to recable it neatly I can start moving my machines out of it and into the new rack where they'll be neatly cabled from day one. I can then ignore the other rack as it'll only have Windows servers in. Unless the Windows admins ask nicely, then I might take pity on them and recable it at some point.

[16:35] So I didn't manage to get the PowerEdge talking via serial today. I reckon it's something to do with the cable. At least I hope it is. RHEL4 x86_64 installed just fine. I wish I'd been able to do it in the server room though; the thing's ruddy loud. Even louder than the Sun V20z. Of course now I need to work out if I'm going to do set up a whole Kickstart thing and do it via USB stick with all the configuration (not much) that that requires.

Had a pleasant lunch in town with a friend and then headed back to do not much this afternoon. Friday afternoons, I mean, really? What can you do with them? Of to the gym shortly (erm, now actually) then home-made pizza for dinner. Probably an early night, unless I watch those two new Battlestar Galactica episodes. Have a fun weekend everyone. I'm off to London to climb tomorrow and then do something home-based on Sunday. Probably mow the grass given it's at jungle levels now.

[17:15] You know those days when everything seems to be finicky and broken in interesting ways and just generally crap. Well that was today. First of all the data cleansing thing that I was doing went wrong, and right and weird and messed up and generally odd. Then I couldn't tell my line manager as he was out of the building (for the day I thought, actually until mid-afternoon). The Dell server (PowerEdge 2950) refuses to talk to the serial console I have (I think it's the cable pinout, but I can't be sure) which means I can't get on with installing the RHEL4 64-bit OS I need to try and get my head around. I've been trying to get some NTP reconfiguration done which has required connecting to all my servers and doing fiddly little tasks. In the middle of all this we're re-VLANing all the machines on the 192 network (including my box and some of the ones I need to talk to) and then there's the mini-issues with RedHat Networks which is going to bite me in the ass tomorrow.

Still, had a pleasant evening last night, even if I'm just as tired as can be and in need of some more relaxation. Maybe I'll get some this weekend, but I doubt it. Usual Thursdayness in an hour and a half or so, so I better go home and make me and the house presentable.

[09:10] Oh! I forgot to mention that I put my trip photos up yesterday, finally. Anyone who's interested in looking can head on over to and tell me what they think. Or not. Either way, there they are. I've cut them down from the 1078 I actually took, but I think there's still enough to give you a flavour of the experience without overloading you with too many shots. I know, there's still loads and loads but hey, it was a good trip. Deal with it.

[17:10] So I flipped RAM between the new Dell 2950 servers today, and then got into a mood where I was prepared to rack them... only to find that we have no space left in the Dell cabinet, the rails (funky as they are in being both screw and clip rails in one) don't fit in any of the Sun or generic cabinets and even if they did we have a) no power available and b) no ports left on the terminal server anyway. This means I'm going to have to do the builds one at a time with each box sitting on the workbench table here in the office. If I know anything it's that Dell rackmount servers are loud. Oh well.

No word as yet as to whether the data file I sweated over is going to be applied to the live database as yet. We'll have to see how it goes. But not today. I'm downloading RHEL4 64-bit ISOs at the moment so that'll be tomorrow's install job. Tomorrow's because I'm heading home soon as it's the end of the day and I want to conserve my energy a bit. I'm not going climbing this evening. I feel like a night in. I'm not sure what I'll get up to as yet but I'm sure something'll come up.

[19:00] Just finished writing up my trip journal. I could have gone through and made it a bit less matter of fact and a bit more like a story, but there was so much and I have so many other things to do that it'll just have to stand as it is. Do feel free to read/wade through it as when when you've got nothing else to do.

[10:25] OK, yes the weekend. Friday was a bit of a rush as I headed to London early to see a a friend for the evening. That worked out fairly well and resulted in a bacon breakfast which is the sign of a good visit if ever there is one. Following departure from there I took a Tube over to Old Street to see a new friend which also worked out fairly fun too. That wasn't for long as I then had to go back over to Kensington to meet up with Andy, Andy and Co. to watch the England match (dull) and have an enjoyable evening with all kinds of new people I'd never met before. Or in one case had, but about ten years ago.

Either way I was shattered by the end of the evening (I guess still a bit lagged, or something) so when we headed back to Hammersmith I was asleep on my feet and crashed out on the floor in my sleeping bag in short order. Of course, it being Hammersmith I was under the Heathrow flight path so was Wide Awake at 05:30 as the first planes started coming over. This was because of having to leave all the windows open rather than cooking to death. Naturally there was bacon (how could there not be?) so the morning went well. We sat and chatted for a while before Andy (Andrea) and I made a move, her to shops me back home again.

I arrived back in time to get changed and head out to the circus arts thing for the first time in a while. This was a good thing as not only did I see someone I've not seen in months and who is off to China of all places to teach English to children, but I also got to try out trapeze for the first time ever. It's so cool! Apart from the rope burns (hur hur hur) and the bruising that a novice (and apparently experienced people too) gets I think I did reasonably well. Not a complete klutz anyway. After a few hours of that I got back into poi and started the long road to learning some new trick. I think I'm way out of practice on that score too. Had a nice dinner out with a friend afterwards before coming home and just crashing out, again.

So yes! That was the weekend. How was yours? This morning I've been asked to do some data cleansing for one of the systems we use here. The data import routine is a bit finicky so I'm having to dig into the 8500+ line file and pull out/alter whatever it's barfing on.

[17:25] A busy day. Been unboxing Dell 2950s and swapping RAM, fiddling with more data stuff and generally chatting to people and arranging more meetings. Hopefully I'll start having them soon, rather than organising them. Gym this evening, for the first time in ages.

[17:45] Whoa, bit of a weekend. No time to talk about it today, I've been too busy, someone remind me tomorrow. Mostly today has been tracking down control characters in 8253 line files by hand (when you don't know what you're looking for), typing up more journal over lunch and arranging meetings with people. The meetings look like they'll be the most fun things coming up this month. We'll just have to see if they happen on time and everything that can be achieved in them is.

So yes, will talk about the weekend tomorrow if I remember. Off climbing now.

[16:10] Off soon. Got to head to London to see friends tonight, tomorrow and stuff. Today I've been doing journal catchup from the trip, discovering that an import routine we all thought was working has been broken since June and I also have to do some work with a BSD box, a Perl application and a Dymo label printer. Honestly it just Doesn't Get Better Than That.

Obviously congratulations to Rachel and Tony who became (I imagine) proud parents around 09:00 this morning to a 10lb, 4oz baby Charles. I hope mother and child (and father) are all doing well.

[16:25] S'been a bit of a willy of a day really. Aside from feeling fairly good when I got out of bed and having a reasonable day at work there's been a meeting which has either complicated matters relating to a project utterly, or clarified them in an utterly horrifying way. Part of the issue was not having one of the people we needed in the meeting in the meeting. Still, we went and saw him afterwards and achieved as much in those ten minutes as we did in the preceeding thirty.

Journal writeup continues apace. Basically whenever I have some free time. I hope to finish the 17th and 18th of September before I go home today. I'll be hosting a Thursday night thingy for the first time in a while tonight, what with one of my ex's being about to give birth (possibly this evening, who knows?) I imagine I'll get a couple of her housemates who want somewhere to go for the evening. Who knows, they may end up staying the night if the birth happens shortly. Contractions are quite strong now apparently.

[15:55] Most of the morning was spent figuring out how to deal with the mass of things I need to do today. This has meant that I haven't actually done any of them yet. Especially as, even though I don't feel jetlagged or ever particularly tired, I just can't be arsed to get back into the saddle with regard to work yet. Still, needs must and there's things that need doing.

Happily one of the things that needed doing was to say hi to Elaine who came over to print out a job application for a post within the Institution. This gave me the chance to rave about some of the highlights of the trip to someone new, which is turning out to be a real pleasure as every time I remember something I seemed to have forgotten.

I've started writing up my journal but, given the amount I've got to do, by the time I'm finished no-one's going to be interested in reading it except me I think. I'll make an effort to get it done as quickly as I can, as well as getting the photos up.

Climbing tonight I hope. I imagine I'll be more awake than this time on Tuesday.

[09:00] Well, I'm back.

All present and correct. A few new scars, a few bruises which are beginning to fade and feet with soles that'll withstand just about anything except molten lava. Oh, and one hell of a tan. Photos (1078 to whittle down) and a complete journal of the entire adventure to come (backdated aproppriately, so those of you reading this on my site rather than on LiveJournal will need to flick back to September to read them), also I need to learn how to use a computer again.

Anything happen when I was away?

[19:00 GMT] OK, I'm home. Just some basics at this point as I'm really very knackered.

The transit area in Brisbane is very well catered for with a book shop. I spent most of my time waiting for the next flight reading a book on alternative history before my name was called over the tannoy to confirm that I was in the airport and what seats I was going to be in for my next two flights. Once that was done I got some food and settled down to read some more.

The short hop from Brisbane to Singapore felt much shorter when I fell into conversation with a girl from Australia and watched a film or two. We ended up chatting all the way through the transit time in Singapore and elected to sit next to each other for the mammoth flight from Singapore to London. It was nice to find the airline people so happy to help. As a result we talked and nattered most of the way home (for me), especially as the seat back entertainment systems crashed for a good few people on the plane (they're running on WindowsCE). We had a fun time, exchanged contact details, all things you do when you meet someone fun on a long-haul flight.

What was cool was that the person who met her at Heathrow was happy to give me a lift to Paddington so I didn't have to get the Tube all the way from Heathrow to Kings Cross.

The loneliness didn't start to kick in until I got on the train from Kings Cross. By the time I was unlocking my front door (covered in cobwebs, despite the generous visits by friends to make sure the place was OK) I just wanted some company, but there was none to be had. I tried to go climbing an hour ago but after being woken from sleep by the knock on the door I decided that it would be safer for all concerned if I went back to bed.

[07:45] So I read for a good long while as Anja slept after returning from her walk around town. Eventually Penny arrived in a minibus taxi similar to the one which had taken us to the Millennium Cave, on this one had had all of its upholstery redone in pink PVC. No, I don't know why. We drove through the steadily worsening rain to the airport on the outskirts of town. New but unexciting the building was open plan and airy. We sat in the foyer and watched what seemed like the rainy season begin. it poured down, ceaselessly. Planes came and went every so often until it was our turn to watch our luggage be carried over to the 22-seat Twin Otter waiting to take us to Efate. One hour and ten minutes of turboprop-driven rattling through the wet Vanuatu night found us touching down in Vila. After dickering with a taxi driver we managed to negotiate a fare that would take Penny to her five star hotel and Anja and I to our backpacking hostel. Penny's hotel looked stunning, the Treetops Lodge and Bungalows, even by night, seemed pefectly good for sleeping in. The taxi had pulled up outside a wrought iron gate at around 20:30 and after some standing around I realised the gate was open and the taxi drove in. We were met by the owner's wife who showed us to the accommodation block which was lovely, if as basic as the price per night signified. There was no-one else there other than an Australian woman who I never got to see owing to her being out when we were in. The room was nice and I offered Anja the double bed seeing as I was only going to be using mine for about seven hours. My flight was at 07:00 this morning.

When I explained to the woman that I wouldn't be getting the inclusive breakfast in the morning owing to my early start she vanished and returned with some sausages and rice to cook for myself. I have to say that sausage-fried rice really is very, very nice when you're hungry. We sat around for a while enjoying the silence and companionship we seemed to have developed before heading to bed.

Anja set her phone's alarm because I wasn't sure mine would a) work, b) wake me up. It was a good job she did, it turned out that owing to crossing the International Date Line weeks ago my phone was a day out of date. Anyway, I was awake for 05:15 this morning and had a lovely shower. I bade my goodbyes to Anja who promptly went back to sleep. She may come to the UK in November to visit a friend in London. The odds aren't bad on her coming to see Cambridge for the day some time then.

The taxi I'd arranged the night before was waiting at 05:45 so I was whisked through a slowly awakening Vila to the airport where a check-in went by in seconds and I spent the last of my Vatus on a delicious piece of carrot cake and a coffee. Boarding the 737-300 was done from the tarmac rather than a skyway and I was seated next to a Scot and his daughter now living in Australia. He spends one month on, one month off flying helicopters in Papua New Guinea helping to build an oil pipeline. Among other things he's flow Chuck Yager deer hunting. How's that for a claim to fame? However when he discovered I was in in IT he spent the remainder of the flight quizzing me on how to fill in internet dating site profiles for best effect. Like I know anything about that?

Next stop Brisbane.