Dublin update's in the pipeline, and has started, so when I get around to finishing it it'll appear in the list below this message.

This weekend I don't remember doing a great deal really – it was meant to be a nice relaxing weekend at home, however I can't say that the relaxation component has been very prominent.

On Saturday I was wandering back from my National Insurance Number interview. The NI is the UK's equivalent of a Tax File Number, except getting one isn't just a matter of filling out a form. Here you have to ring a number and make an appointment at your local job centre to go pick up a form, which you then fill out to request an interview, and then they ring you back and tell you when your interview time is. After that, it's just a matter of having an interview with some script-reading Numpty who doesn't care less what answers you give, or even comprehend what the answers are you're giving them… then you wait around for 12-16 weeks and they send you a number. My interview went pretty smoothly, except that the girl who gave me the interview seemed very keen to be doing something else, and at what I perceived to be the end of the discussion she told me to go sit over on this chair and wait, and then after sitting at her desk sending about a dozen SMSs, she just left ! Fantastic, and another chalk mark on the board for the spirit of professional conduct being alive and well in London today.

Right, so I'm wandering back to the flat and for god knows what reason, I pop into Argos. Argos – for those outside the know – is a catalogue order store, where you decide what you want, give the storepeople the numbers of the items, then go collect the gear from the pickup counter. It's like mail order shopping, but without any interaction by the mail. So whilst in there (I was probably picking up some minor DIY item – we're doing a lot of that around here at the minute) I spotted some ex-catalogue pump-driven espresso machines, quite reasonably priced. Now if there's one thing that registers in my cool books, it's the ability to make a decent espresso without having to leave the house… so Jason happily buys one of them and heads on home. Upon arrival and the immediate plugging in of this wondrous item (anticipation building with every step home), the thing turns out to be Dead On Arrival. Now considering the joyous weekend I'd had so far (which I've left most of out, because I wouldn't want to sound like a whinger…), this was hardly surprising. I had to then go out, but Steve was able to return it for me – however it seemed that the others at the store had sold out, so I had to make do with a refund. TODAY however, I decided that come hell or high water I was going to get an espresso machine, and upon leaving Argos today was the proud owner of a new DeLonghi Cafe Treviso. It cost me 60 quid, but when you reach that stage, you cease to care any more. Mind you, when you're that wound up, strong coffee's probably not what you need anyway.

Adding to the enjoyment this weekend was a fairly terse letter I got from my bank in Australia saying that I'd missed a credit card payment, and had 7 days from the date of the letter to contact them on a 1 800 number to sort it out. Sadly however, the letter arrived on the 8th day, and in any case one can't ring 1800 numbers from outside Australia. So that's good news – I've probably got a nice big black mark on my credit record now, and all the bank phone jockey could say was “Sorry sir, the it's all controlled by the system”. Almost every time I've tried to do something other than just sit there and have various amounts of money extracted from my account under the nebulous banner of “fees”, I get a soulless apology that there's no way whatever I'm asking for can be achieved, and it's all due to The System. As if The System's some big, self-aware and intelligent digital entity which each bank has to use – its employees poking and prodding at The System with long poles like the ones you open windows with, occasionally reading information from its greasy skin whilst trying to avoid its deadly slightering tentacles.

Hmm yeah, so anyway I suspect the message here is that it's time I went to bed. More when I can get my camera working with my freshly reformatted laptop (Hooray ! Jason's laptop's back with a new hard drive! It's only got a 90 day warranty now to cover the hard drive, so my prediction is that by the end of April my computer will explode again.)

Ramble ramble ramble grumble grumble zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz