For lunch, we join the Stoke Lodge ramblers for the end of their New Year's Day walks, at the Prince's Motto in Barrow Gurney. Never find out what the motto was.
We are just on time, but the walkers must have arrived early, and most of them are already tucking into their lunch. Still, it is a very pleasant meal, and a very civilised way to start the new year.
A sign of the times: at the end of the meal, one lady asks if we have a SatNav. She wants to find her way to an address she has been given. We fiddle with the SatNav for quite a while, and then I leave them to it while I look up the address in our A-Z, show her where she needs to go, and a sensible route to get there. In the end, we lend her the map. It is a real "Oh! You can look things up on a piece of paper, too!" moment of revelation.
Thursday 3 January: my injection this morning, postponed from last week. The first side is fine, but the second hurts a lot. The nurse also takes lots of blood for various tests, and checks my blood pressure: 140/70, which is fine.
Walk up to the Cafe on the Square to meet Sue and Esme, then back home to do some work and have lunch.
Sue drives me back to the surgery. I see Dr McGowan again, and she goes for a swim. After she gets back, we have a quick bite and off to the Orpheus to see Life of Pi. Odd film, but beautifully shot. Not entirely convinced by the message, though: you have to believe in God because the alternative, reality, is too dreadful.
Saturday 5 January: the memorial service at Highgrove for Jenny Price. Paul and Jenny were our first homegroup leaders when we came to Bristol and Highgrove. Paul Price asks Sue to read a poem she had sent him, and I am doing the words. Sue's poem is very effective.
After the service, we go to CostCo, partly in a failed attempt to get some filter papers for church.
In the evening, we drive into Bristol and watch Jack Reacher at the Odeon. A bit violent in places, I find it much more entertaining than Life of Pi. It seems that more thought went into it, too.
Back home, we find that the casserole in the slowcooker is seriously under-cooked. As we are thinking about what to do, the door bell rings: it is Pauline Quintanilla. She saw us getting out of the car, and wondered if we would like to join her for lunch. We would.
We have a fascinating afternoon, talking about all kinds of things. After a while, we get on to the subject of a talk at St Edyth's tonight about Christianity and Homosexuality. Pauline is astonished that they have invited a homosexual to talk on the subject, and wants to know our opinion about what she should say.
She seems quite surprised by our suggestions that maybe the best course of action is to listen to the person who will be speaking. A lengthy conversation follows. She has picked up the idea from somewhere that children adopted by gay couples are at greater risk of sexual abuse, but eventually seems to accept our assurance that the facts do not support this. I'm half tempted to go to this meeting and see what happens, but I fear it will be too frustrating. Just don't have the energy right now.
In the evening, Sue and I go to the 'Comedy Magic Night' at Woodlands. It's a fun evening, but possibly not as much fun as the one we went to a couple of years ago.
Mid-afternoon, we go to the Orpheus and see Les Misérables. Sue saw the stage version a few years ago, and was keen for me to see the film. Wow. Not seen anything as powerful since ... well, I don't know when. Had heard from several places about the actors singing live on set, but I didn't appreciate what a difference it would make.
Straight off for a sauna and swim afterwards.
There is a message waiting for us when we get home. My mother rang to say that my Aunt Joan died this morning. She had been in hospital over the weekend, then had been discharged, but then she had a final heart attack around 10 o'clock this morning. It seems people are coping quite well, but then I imagine the initial shock has not worn off yet.
Friday 18 January: Alan has given in his notice at work. He seems quite comfortable with this; Sue and I are quite traumatised. He will be going to America soon: he was already planning to go to a game developers' conference, and now Hennel has won a trip to the States and is taking Alan with him to drive. So Alan will be out of the country for quite a while, and he wants to concentrate on creating his games. He thinks he can live for a year even if he doesn't earn any more money from the games.
We are simultaneously horrified at the thought of him giving up a good, regular job in the current environment, and delighted that he is confident enough to take this step, and willing to pursue what he wants to do even if it is risky. Being a parent doesn't get any easier.
The funeral is 1 pm at Canford Crematorium, just across the road from Alan's digs in his second year. We don't see Roger or my parents before the service, but when we are called in they are sitting near the front. Peter had written a very good summary of her life, which was read by the minister. Father is deeply moved. It is hard to tell what he remembers, and, of course, we can't ask.
Off to a pub for something to eat afterwards. Oddly, it is just walking distance from where Alan lives. Well organised. We chat to a few people - several come up because they recognise that Father must be Joan's brother.
Drive into Coventry afterwards and park near the Motor Museum. Grab a coffee, then wander round the shops looking for some bits for Mum and Sue, and for somewhere to eat in the evening.
Finding somewhere to eat is harder than expected. The only restaurant we can find is crowded and expensive. We end up at the theatre, which turns out to provide very nice and reasonably priced food.
Alan joins us for the meal after work - at the end of his last day of employment. We ask about the tearful farewells, but he says there was a notable absence of tears.
Father orders a jacket potato, and eats nearly a quarter before he decides it is cold and starts getting wound up by it. I take the food back and ask them to re-heat the jacket. They come back with a new one, and he manages to get through half of it before it becomes too cold to eat.
Roger and Alan have a conversation about copy protection: Roger thinks Alan's games need it, and Alan explains why it is not only not required but actually counter-productive.
We eventually leave - they want to close the place - so Alan rides off on his bike and we drive to the hotel in Oxford.
Saturday 16 February: I have breakfast on my own at 7.30 - the others don't want to eat this early. Walk over to the Park and Ride at 8.30, and I am in Oxford before 9. The Go Tournament is in St Edmund's Hall, the same place as last time. It is all very well organised.
The first game goes reasonably well. I am a bit behind, but manage to cut off a large group without eyes. We then get into a shortage of liberties race, ending in a ko for life. I make a stupid mistake and don't kill when I get the chance, but manage to grab a second opportunity and take the game.
Walk over to the centre and meet Sue and the others in the Science Museum. We spend a little while looking round the ground floor, then grab a sandwich.
The second game is closely balanced. I very nearly kill a large group, but he takes a long time to think about his response and manages to find a way to live. He ends up winning by a couple of points.
The third game is also close in the end. I create a large area in the top right, but make a couple of careless mistakes which cost maybe ten points each. I end up winning by around ten points, so another similar mistake could have thrown the game. As he said, we were probably a bit tired by this point in the day.
Walk over to meet the others at the Four Candles - yes seriously! - in George Street, and we have a very nice meal together. Fortunately, Father doesn't have a problems with his scampi being cold.
Catch the Park and Ride, then Sue and I walk back to the hotel while the others ride. They come in to have some cake which Sue won in the raffle on Thursday, use the toilet, and say goodbye and wish them a safe journey.
Then I go for a quick sauna. Actaully, the steam room is warmer than the sauna, which is missing a bucket and ladle - people used to put too much water on the stones, apparently. Back to our room just in time to watch the final episode of World Without End, the current Ken Follet adaption, with Sue.
At lunchtime, we have a BCAN Steering Group meeting. Most of the time is spent considering a report on the walking experiment which Mike Pears had been leading. Some fascinating insights about how we fail to see the urban context in which we live and work.
In the evening, another Christians in Science talk. This one is on "Better People or Enhanced Humans?".
He identifies a number of areas of concern, but it seems to be very academic: he notes all the areas which have been documented, but offers little analysis. And he notes several points where Christians typically have concerns, and the folk pressing ahead argue that we say we are against x, but we have already accepted it in a small way so we can't really oppose it. He says we have no answer to this challenge, which riles me.
In the questions at the end, I make three points.
Firstly, Isuggest that we believe there is a real difference between black and white, while recognising that there are an infinite number of shades of grey in between the two. It is true that we can't tell the difference between white and very pale grey, or between very dark grey and black, but this does not mean there is no real difference between black and white. We may need to work on definition and discernment, but this work is absolutely doable.
Secondly, I say that I recognise his concerns with enhancing people and the distinction between fixing problems and enhancing normal people, but I am not sure why enhancing people is seen to be a moral problem. Every technology enhances my abilities: the microphone I am speaking through is enhancing my natural voice. Why is technology outside my body morally acceptable, while technology built into my body morally unacceptable? This point needs to be established, not just stated.
Thirdly, I say that the moral challenge we need to think about urgently is the question of designer babies. We already have the technology to detect many things and fix a few things before birth, and we are well on the way to effective gene replacement therapy for a range of conditions. Everything is in place for an arms race on providing the next generation with the best possible set of genes to succeed against their peers.
Saturday 23 February: up and out first thing, and back in to work for an Addiction Network meeting. Very good time, and convenient that it is at a time when Sue is away. Talk a bit with Clare afterwards, and we fix times for the Network meetings for the rest of the year.
A quick sauna, then back home and work for a bit before driving down to pick Sue up at Temple Meads. Then to Morrisons for a shopping trip, the first one for quite a while.
Sunday 24 February: objectively speaking, the service at Highgrove is good. From the perspective of the person projecting the words, it is the service from Hell. It takes me 45 minutes to sort out which songs we are expecting to sing, and I finish just as the service is starting. Then we don't sing the songs in sequence, and the introductions which are played don't contain the melody so I have no idea what song is about to start. It is a complete nightmare.