5:59am. That was the time on my alarm clock cum mobile phone this morning when my eyes blinked open. I was vertical half a second later and spitting expletives under my breath as I threw on my suit.

Somehow I’d managed to knock the alarm function off whenever it initially went off.  No snooze, no nothing. Disaster! I should’ve been awake an hour ago.

I should have been standing in the check-in queue at Belfast City Airport at 5:59am. As it was, I was more than half-an-hour away in Crumlin. Thankfully (and unusually) I’d prepared well enough in advance, and had my bag packed, wallet at the ready and shirt clean and ironed over the kitchen door.

So, stopping only for a cursory brush of the teeth, I raced out the door and was soon burning up the miles between my house and the airport. I couldn’t switch on the stereo. Wasn’t in the mood. My little phobia about missing flights was about to become a reality.

The entire journey to the airport was fraught with a throbbing panic. I told myself to calm down, that it didn’t really matter, but the pressure was there anyway.

I reached the airport around 6:30, marvelling at the speed which I’d got across country at. Better still, as I passed the airport on the way to the car park, I could see the check-in queue was empty. Brilliant! Was there still hope?

Not out of the woods yet, the City Airport long stay car park was full to bursting. I had to park away at the back, further from the terminal building that I was comfortable with. After a furious sprint across the car park, I made it panting and coughing to the terminal, got checked in and took my place in the security queue.

The guy in front of me overheard me calling back home to tell Lisa I was almost there. When I hung up the phone, he turned to me and said “Don’t worry, I’m on the same flight as you. For some reason, the Birmingham flight never leaves on time, so we’ll be in the lounge for a wee while anyway.”

Sure enough, he was spot on. The flight was called later than scheduled, and was stalled on the runway for a little while too. Better still, after all that panicking…

I was the first person on the plane.

Stained glass window in St Vitus' Cathedral, Prague

I took this picture of a stained glass window in St Vitus’ Cathedral in Prague. At this point in the tour we were on, I was starting to get bored very quickly and stopped taking photos.

There were just too many people milling around to get clear shots, and I ended up losing enthusiasm for the place. A shame, because our tour guide was excellent – a very wry communist hater who gave us a no-holds barred account of Russia’s occupation of the country.

Lisa in Prague Tube

So, here’s Lisa with our good friends Noreen and Marty down in the Prague metro. The bevelled walls of the station reminded me of Daleks, so I asked the guys to pose in a kind of Doctor Who/Torchwood style. Naturally, they took this instruction very seriously…

Actually, on a more serious note, Noreen (front left) doesn’t know it yet, but when we got on the next train, her bag will be sliced open along the side seam. She didn’t notice anything untoward, but when we left the train she remarked on a couple of occassions that her bag felt strange.

It was only when we got back to the hotel that she discovered the bag had been slashed. Marty and I were having a couple of beers in the hotel bar and the two girls came in – a bit shellshocked by the fact that the bag had been cut open. Noreen, to her credit, took it with a very level head. Nothing was missing, and she thinks she may have shifted position at just the right time.

Just a cautionary tale – be careful around Prague, especially when you’re in close quarters with strangers.

I took this shot back in the autumn time when we spent a weekend in Omagh. I reckon the angel could be lifted out and used in a collage type picture if I had the time and inclination to use Photoshop.

Omagh angel statue detail

Church art always fascinates me – the mixture of statues, frescos, murals and the ornate intricacy of church furniture. Stained glass windows are another favourite. It just seems that everything in a church tells a story.

For instance in St Vitus’ Cathedral in Prague has some gruesome depictions of folk who were boiled alive, lest we forget the human rights abuses of yesteryear. Must post some pictures of the Cathedral soon. Well, just as soon as I get upstairs to my PC in the attic (which has Photoshop plus my archive of photos on it). I’d like to publish a few galleries of photography here – I think having my pictures publicly available here will encourage me to take the camera out more and to try and take more inventive shots.

Phew! I’m stuck here in Glasgow airport for an hour or so before my flight home. And while I’ve got five minutes, I thought I’d update the old blog.

Personal Issues

When your blog is branded with your name on it, you are naturally more careful about the frivolous throwaway comments you might make on it. Or even deeper existential questions that are on your mind – after all, what might they reveal about you?

I’m finding it very hard to blog on this site, because I’m really not sure what image I want to project to the spectrum of people who might read it. (I say might read it. Let’s face it, barely anybody knows it exists!)

At the moment, friends and family might find it. Nothing offensive there, and possibly the most accepting group of whatever I chose to write here. But I find myself pondering what employers might think – past, present and future. Should I care? I’m not inclined to, but I know myself well enough to suspect I might care in the future. For one reason or another.

And what about all those lovely people who read my more popular blogs? Well, they’re getting nothing. Nada. But then, very few of them search for me anyway.

So I’m continually spinning ideas for personal posts that I can share here, but my inner editor keeps rejecting them all.

In The Air

So far this year I’ve been on four trips out of Northern Ireland. Maybe more. I’m thinking of losing count early this year.

I’ve been to Doncaster once, then Bristol last week to see the set of a new reality TV show, Glasgow today and Lisa and I went to Prague a few weeks back with our good friends and neighbours. By this stage, all the airports are starting to blur dangerously into one tedious conveyor belt of human cattle standing around in queues.

But I love airports. After spending hours freezing my ass off in Bristol last week, I went to the airport as soon as the press bit for Upstaged ended. I arrived four hours early at the airport and divided my time between reading, watching Ghost Whisperer episodes on my iPod and sleeping upright (which is a trick my family have perfected over the years). It’s actually quite relaxing in that no-man’s land between the security scanners and the flight home.

Big Projects About To End

When I started my new job back in July, I knew that I’d be involved in the go-live of a big project that was nearing completion. That behemoth of a project is about to be released within the next couple of weeks and will signal the first stage of massive organisational change.

It’s an exciting time professionally, but amazingly exhausting. The closer we get, the more deadlines and requirements appear that need dealt with. I’m not that close to the strategic end of the project, but as an IT Manager, I’m involved in setting the stage for technical requirements and making sure that client applications are configured and ready to go.

Hopefully I’ve been typically vague about my job. Don’t want to give away too much…

Anyway, there’s a quick update for interested parties. The flying continues next week to my other office, and possibly even more after that. It’s a great time, and so many things happening at the moment that it’s overwhelming. I can see this ‘intense’ period continuing for a little while longer – perhaps toward the end of April, then hopefully things will settle down and I can review around that point.

Drupal LogoAfter a seriously long wait, Drupal 6 has been released to the web. By coincidence, I checked for it yesterday, as I’ve been watching the Drupal site for a while. I’ve done a quick upgrade (made a major screw-up along the way), and upgraded some modules.

All in all, this site isn’t too heavy on contributed modules. I don’t even use pathauto here, so upgrading was relatively straightforward.

My big screw-up was that I put the site into maintenance mode to prepare for the upgrade. Then I logged out to verify that maintenance mode had worked. Big mistake. When the site’s in maintenance mode, there’s no obvious way to log back in as the admin.

Thankfully, a quick search reveals that by accessing yoursite.com/user, you can log in again. Phew!

Anyway, my big test at the moment is to confirm if Windows Live Writer and Drupal 6 will work together. This post has been drafted in Live Writer, so I’m intrigued to see what happens when I hit that post button…

Update: Someone has sponsored a port of the Drupal 5 blog API across to Drupal 6. It’s now available as a module to download. I’ve just tested it against this blog and it works perfectly.