Dear Diary... April 2008

Wednesday 30th April - They Only Want You At 9.40pm

Had a good day all round today - we went out at lunchtime for my manager's birthday and the least I could do was get him a drink - he had enjoyed the presents that we all got him (he loved the Neil Young CD that I picked up for him, so that was a great move all round I reckon) and it was just good to have the time to spend and chat. He was also thinking ahead to a meal tonight with family and friends, and how he'd have to set the Sky Plus box for the Chelski-Liverpool Champions League semi final game later as well - to be watched later on when returning. Sometimes you get days where the atmosphere's really nice and this was one of them.

Off to the Academy 3 tonight to see Ladytron, who I've admired for some time. I have their first and third albums as well as their "Seventeen" CD single, a song I absolutely adore because it's so simple yet so addictive to listen to, and there's even a guitar laden remix which completely rocks. Oh yes. And as this was the first official night of their tour with an album coming out July (they did play a warm up in Liverpool last night) then I thought that it'd only be right that I was able to take the time out and see them. In fact the gig was a complete sell out, and knowing how many people that means packing into the Academy 3, I thought I'd get there early and see any support band.

Ah. What support band? As I entered the building the security guy said to me "They're not on till 9.40pm - but feel free to head to the bar if you want!". The downstairs bar in the building is okay, but it doesn't serve real ale and it's very student-centric, which is fine is that's what you want, but when you work with them, it's possibly the last thing that you want to be heading. I decided for Plan B - I too was Sky Plussing the football and didn't want to know the score so I headed off to Kro Bar on Oxford Road opposite and wondered if they still did their cake and coffee deal for a mere £2.50, and they did. So one latte and choc cake slice for me and the sports section of The Guardian that someone had left on a table, and that was me well and truly sorted for a while to be able to just relax a bit.

Headed back to Academy 3 around 9ish and the place was starting to get busy with tall people everywhere standing in front of me - so I did the sensible thing and headed to the sidelines. I even spotted one of the lecturers at work there whom I didn't expect to see - but good to see it's not just me with the eclectic music taste, so had a brief chat and made my way forward along the sides until I had a pretty decent view of proceedings - Korg keyboards and Moog synths everywhere along with a live drum kit. And with some rather odd songs being played over the PA, it only heightened the anticipation.

Thankfully, Ladytron (official site) (myspace) were fine and didn't disappoint. It seemed odd at first as most of them are behind keyboards playing them and then singing, but at least once they got going it felt a bit more uptempo and really ready for a good show. I was pleased to see that plenty of the new album tracks were getting a look in, and as it was a first time listen for me, I didn't have blinkered ears so to speak. "I'm Not Scared" sounded really raucous, the excellent "Runaway" could well be a single contender as well as "Ghosts" too, and I think best of all the new stuff was "Tomorrow" which sounded like it could have been composed on a Commodore 64, it has that kind of catchy hook that the best C64 stuff has. And believe me, I'm giving that a compliment!

Some of their back catalogue got a look in as well. Several of the audience were shouting out "Playgirl" and they weren't disappointed as the band went and played that and did it rather well, "Seventeen" got an early look in too and that definitely got the crowd in the right frame of mind so that was lovely to hear, "Discotraxx" sounded so raw and dirty, and best of all, last song of the night and definitely my tune of the day, a rousing and blistering version of "Destroy Everything You Touch" which went down a treat too. It was rather good all round, and they finished dead on 11pm for the curfew, so certainly in terms of their set they played as long as they could. Got the late bus home and all was well with the world. Hurrah for gigs!

Tuesday 29th April - Hey! Students

Another fruitful day at the office today, primarily because the time just vanished without trace! I spent most of the morning re-checking that our installer applications would work since we moved them from one server to another and that indeed they would still play ball with the proposed new student build. In fact one of them refused to play ball until I realised quite why: Autodesk VIZ 4 has a licence switcher utility and for some reason the installer thought it was standalone - once I used the switcher and set it to network, it saw the server that the licences reside on fine and played ball again. That was a relief I have to tell you that it all did what it was supposed to.

We did lunch as it's our manager's birthday tomorrow: he's planning to head out tomorrow night and so didn't want to eat two large meals in one day, so we headed out today instead which made perfect sense to me. It was nice and relaxed and enjoyable as it should be, and I was careful not to over-indulge on the food either, always a bit much if you overdo things slightly don't you think?

I did spend the afternoon then covering for our Help Desk colleague who was on half a day's holiday, and had a great time helping out the students and making sure that their work was all okay. In one instance I actually ended up using Data Rescue II to do some data salvaging from a USB pen drive: it did work pretty well and at least did retrieve a fair chunk of the documents on there: not everything, but nonetheless a fair degree of success. I think the hardware had given up on the pen drive (some el cheapo make) and it didn't have it. Needless to say that any pen drives that we have for students to purchase are decent, namely the Kingston Data Traveller 2GB variety. They are rock solid and ace, and they work. I've had mine at work for absolutely ages and would recommend one highly, or indeed the 4 or 8GB variants.

Anyway, got home and a nice little package was waiting for me - and indeed the cat from next door! He wanted to come in and have a fuss over, so I happily obliged whilst checking what the package could well be. Once I opened it I was pretty pleased: it was The Fall's "The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country on the Click)" from 2003, which I've been after for a bit, thank heavens for Amazon New and Used I say! Of course part of the reasoning of me getting it was that "Theme From Sparta FC" was on there, so I could enjoy listening to it and indeed the whole album.

Mind you, I then remembered that I had their "15 Ways" single on 10" clear vinyl, and so dug that out and chucked it on the turntable. Needless to say I love that, but the B-side is even better, with a real dig at the student life and how the kids at the time listened to Pearl Jam a hell of a lot. It's entitled "Hey! Student" and is absolutely fab. So give that one tune of the day and that's all sorted. It's just a good laugh and it shows Mark E Smith at his lyrical and up front finest, and as you'd expect that's all fun and games too. Can't wait till Saturday now.

In fact anything needs to cheer me up after the news that most likely Manchester City have sacked Sven-Göran Eriksson. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a massive fan of Sven, but at least this season we actually looked a decent team, guaranteed to finish ninth or better in the Premiership and with a good points total, and indeed have put on some blistering performances, oh, and beaten Man U twice which no other team has even got close to. I am actually gutted (didn't expect me to say that) and I have a feeling that at Anfield on Sunday the City fans will make their feelings known!

Monday 28th April - Class And Tension

Well, what a day's snooker at the Crucible, and if ever I had tickets to the afternoon and evening session on Table One, this would have been the day to do it for sure. Firstly, the afternoon session saw the conclusion of Ronnie O'Sullivan against Mark Williams. It was 9-7 going into it, only for O'Sullivan to win the first three with quality breaks in each and make himself just one frame away from the quarter finals. And as for the next, well I'm not surprised that BBC2 showed it as a repeat as part of its 7pm coverage, that's all I need to say. In particular his shot on the 13th black which not only potted it, but also got the cue ball to gently cannon a red off the pink and making it pottable was completely unreal stuff. Watch the closing frame and see what I mean!

And if that was pure class, the evening session between Liang Wenbo and Joe Swail was pure unadulterated tension, I kid you not. Liang had got three of the first four frames to make it 12-8 at the mid session interval, and all he had to do was win one. However, Swail was not done for by any stretch of the imagination, knocking in a 133 to make it 12-9, then after Wenbo's break broke down when he could have won the match at that visit, Swail knocked in a 105 for 12-10. Then, unbelievable stuff even more so. Wenbo had potted the blue and punched the air as he was in front enough to win - but didn't pot the pink. Swail pulled off a great snooker from which Wenbo missed the pink, and Swail cleaned up the colours to snatch the frame 63-59 and be 12-11 down. And in the next, a courageous break of 66 made it 12-12 and all to play for.

The last frame was one of sheer tension and nerves and you have to say that it ebbed and flowed. Wenbo had got himself 27 in front with 27 on, missed the yellow and after some safety, Wenbo missed the yellow and hit the black, meaning Swail could now win without a respotted black. Swail put the yellow and green in, and missed the brown as it rattled the jaws. Wenbo put the brown and blue in, and still knew he needed the pink to be absolutely safe, and a couple of shots later it was all over and he'd won 13-12 in a nailbiter. Swail though has to blame himself slightly though: the miss on the yellow was called and he requested it be put back. The referee did that and asked if both players were happy where it was repositioned, then Wenbo hit the yellow and Swail complained that the straightness of the shot indicated it wasn't in the correct spot. Clearly if he wasn't happy, he should have said so before the shot was played, and I think that did play on his mind a bit.

Needless to say, been glued to BBC2 and interactive coverage all evening, and not surprised really. What is a nice touch though is that in between frames if the players go off, the Beeb have started playing Doug Wood's "Drag Racer", the proper snooker theme, so you can see the other scores and stuff. It works really well and you can never tire of hearing that classic theme for sure. So tune of the day for me that one, no question.

Sunday 27th April - Here Comes The Rain Again

Well the last few days or so have been ones full of the sunshine and generally nice weather, that's been an absolute joy to see. It's been a rather cold and murky last few months and I honestly thought that yesterday in particular was a rather lovely day weather wise. So what happens when I wake up this morning? Rain, incessant rain as well and not just a light shower. The weather ahead on BBC doesn't look that promising either to be perfectly honest, with a fair bit of rain due. I guess it's those pesky April showers that have come back again, but even so, it's not that good is it?

I picked up a couple of CDs when in Fopp yesterday, one of them was a birthday present, and one of them was for me and for two quid I coudn't resist! It was the Gary Numan "Scarred" double CD, which was his live gig at Brixton Academy from 2000. My friend and I actually went to the Manchester leg of that tour and it was rather ace and loud and Numan was on fine form. In fact opening the CD sleeve reveals some sleeve notes written by Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory, and very well written too. He explains how getting Numan to appear on their version of "Cars" was such an awe inspiring moment, and how when they played London and got Numan on stage with them how much he was in total command of everyone and what a night that it was for the band.

Anyway, back to the music. I own the "Pure" album and it's a very dark and Industrial release, very up my street of course, so the fact that it's on there early on on CD1 is an absolute bonus. It sounds just as heavy as on album and throughout the first CD there's lots of great moments, including "Metal" which has been covered excellently by Nine Inch Nails. CD2 continues in the same vain of being all dark and moody as well, with the likes of recent stuff interspersed with classics such as "This Wreckage", "Are 'Friends' Electric", and "Replicas". It's just a really good live set and I'm glad that it got recorded on CD, brings back memories of the times I've seen the man do his stuff live anyway.

In fact it made me just dig out "Pure" and realise just what a great album that it actually is. Fans of his earlier work may disagree, but to be honest, he just moved with the times and blended his style into something a bit darker, which has always been there in some form anyway. And as "Rip" really does sound dark and menacing, a bit like the clouds outside as it's hammering it down, give that one tune of the day and deservedly so. It's amazing to see that he's still going and the gig at Manchester Academy 1 last month will have to be one of the live highlights of the year for me.

Saturday 26th April - You Had To Be There

Tonight was going to be a rather good night all round, as it was off to the Lowry with a friend to see Dara O'Briain. If you can't place the name, well, he's the host of the excellent Mock The Week on BBC2, which is right up there with one of my favourite programmes on television. He's very funny in his own right nonetheless and tonight was a complete sell out (as was tomorrow night as well) - and considering it's the main Lyric Theatre in there, that's no mean feat to be perfectly honest.

I needed cheering up as well as I'd been keeping an eye on the football all day. First off was the Chelski-Man U game, which was basically everything it needed to be - tense, fiercely competed and a little bit controversial, although on the replay you can clearly see that the linesman flagging for the penalty near the end was the correct decision, and the coolness of Michael Ballack personified when taking it was there for all to see. What it does mean though is that the title can't be officially decided until the last day of the season, although with Man U having a superior goal difference all they need to do is win their last two games to be certain - Chelski really need to do the same and then hope that Man U slip up against West Ham at home or Wigan away.

But that didn't upset me - what did was the fact that Man City were cruising at 2-0 at half time against Fulham and then proceeded in the second half to throw that lead away and lose 3-2 to a 90th minute winner for them which also keeps up their hopes of survival. It's a hammer blow to any European hopes that we might have harboured as well so that definitely wasn't good. Yes, we attacked at 2-2 and should have scored a number of chances but didn't, and I think Sven didn't go for the kill enough to be able to really kill the game off and get what should have been at half time a win to keep the run going. It makes the relegation battle somewhat interesting though, with Birmingham, Bolton and Reading drawing and with Sunderland beating Middlesbrough (which keeps Sunderland up) there could be a last day scramble to stay in the division!

So, with me changed and ready, off into the centre of Manchester and then out into Salford Quays on the tram to the Lowry. The nearest stop is Harbour City which is a short walk away, and my friend had come on the tram as well and we spotted each other ar Cornbrook, so that worked out well. It was nice to relax in the bar before and I even had some wine - which is quite rare for me to do, but I felt like it and after all, it's Saturday night, so why the hell not? It was good to catch up before the gig and have a good natter, and before we knew it, it was time to go in and see Dara do his stuff.

Well, what a show it was. He was on stage for at least two hours or so with a twenty minute break in between, and the show was very free form. As the tension built up before he came on, the speakers blasted out Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" (the video with Christopher Walken in it is classic - make that tune of the day right now) and on he came to do his stuff. He had good banter with the front of the audience, not least the fact that two teenagers were there with their parents and he occasionally said "this bit's rude, your Mum probably knew that!" and he explained how he almost called the tour "You Had To Be There" because a lot of it was off the cuff stuff that he was rattling off following interaction with the audience.

In fact during one part of the show he asked people what they didn't want to have a house to have as part of its history when you were viewing it to move in. People said the usual things like murder and death, as you'd expect, someone came out with "Attacks on Konnie Huq!" which of course referred to the Mock The Week episode where Dara himself admitted that "It was a 40 minute fest of everyone saying how much I fancied her!", and someone came out with Artex. Dara blurted out "what the heck is Artex?" and one of the audience kindly explained it. Someone else said "Whores!" although it sounded like wars, which led Dara to end up imaginging a whole TV show "Whores on Wars" where you'd hear the likes of "Well the Crimean war, that was bad wasn't it?" and so on. In fact the audience were doing their bit to really help out, and it was a lot of fun.

He was rattling off so much stuff off the cuff at an immense pace, sometimes my friend and I were wishing that he would slow down a bit in order to be able to just keep up, but it was really funny stuff. I think the fact that he was improvising a fair bit of it as he went along showed in fact what a talent that he is, and I'm pretty sure that if you get chance to see him, you absolutely must, he was brilliant. With me seeing Frankie Boyle in June, I'd probably only need to see Russell Howard to complete a whole Mock The Week regulars live set, all in the space of one year, that happens to be rather good doesn't it?

Friday 25th April - And Hit The Arcades!

It was a slow day today, not for any reason other than it was a case of ploughing through a few jobs and also making sure that everything in one of the presentation rooms for academic practice was working as intended - for some reason the whiteboard was being a bit of a tempremental beastie, and Flash player was complaining that it couldn't update itself. After a bit of checking out, I'd soon sorted out the problems and had managed to really get everything sorted out nicely. We'd had a couple of staff on meetings though and from that we'd found out lots of things which are going to be challenges ahead for the next few months and year or two at least - not all good news, but we're a bit more in the picture than we were before which is something, I suppose.

Headed homeward having managed succesfully in the afternoon to get a potential new application packaged up as well, so was going to look at that on Monday morning in a bit more detail than before, as you do of course. Sometimes when you're on a roll, you're on a roll, and this is how I felt on the way back from work today. I finished off all my domestic chores whilst simultaneously cooking my tea, and settled in to watch a couple of things I recorded from the Sky Plus box as well. It's really fantastic that Sky box, you know it is, it really is. Thank you.

And talking of the papier-machéd one from Timperley that is Frank Sidebottom, when I was doing a search for stuff by The Fall yesterday, I spotted that there was a recording of Frank's cover version of Hit The North by The Fall. Except the chorus goes "Hit the north... and hit the arcades.... hit the pier... and hit Little Frank!". Or something along those lines. It brings back many a happy memory that my sister and I have had of seeing Frank do his stuff. In fact the last time she and I went, it was in central Manchester, and I even ended up on stage with Frank and everything. You know I did, I really did (and if you don't believe me, see my October 2006 diary entries, they're in there!)

It still amazes me to this day that people seem to think that Frank Sidebottom made up the name Timperley and that it doesn't exist. Well it does exist of course, my friend lives there, and it's on the Metrolink tram system between Manchester and Altrincham, and it's quite a nice little place all told. Of course in June I might have to consider taking the Timperley bus tour that he does, it's supposed to be a right hoot and a half and indeed something which I'm sure will feature much fun and merriment. Having just dug out his compilation CD, even to this day I still adore "Guess Who's Been on Match of the Day?" so give that tune of the day, and quickly.

Thursday 24th April - Hit The North!

I had a bit of a mixed bag today at the office, it was mainly getting a few things sorted out and checking that the latest build of the image that I'd been given actually played ball on a few settings. I did have time though not only to download the latest release of Ubuntu (8.04) but also to try out its all new feature set, one of which was most notable - it allowed you to autorun the CD in Windows and then install Ubuntu from there, which after a reboot not only gave you a boot menu that allowed you to select Windows or Ubuntu to boot from, but when you did the boot of Ubuntu, first time it completed its install and second time was a nice usable desktop, laden with all the good things like Open Office, Firefox and even a neat new CD burning program. In fact trying out it just was a really pleasurable experience on the whole and it'll be something I'll definitely be looking at in more detail one day.

Had to go through the centre of Manchester on the way home - but with good reason! As I didn't need that much food shopping this week, and as I had to visit the city centre anyway, the last stop was Tesco Metro to get all the bits that I needed and some essentials - figured it'd save me time going to the usual one and indeed lots of effort as well. That's the plan at least. And it meant once I got home, I could relax. But before all that, it was off to the Ticketline box office within Virgin (oops, sorry, I mean Zavvi, still can't get used to that rubbish name to be perfectly honest) and get a couple of tickets for The Fall next Saturday at Salford University's Maxwell Hall. John Cooper Clarke is also supporting so it should be a really good night all round. Only pain is that even if you pay cash over the counter at Ticketline, you still have to pay the normal booking fee. At least there's not the likes of extra fees for postage or card handling fee, but still.

My friend and I had talked about seeing them last night and we both decided that seeing them would be a rather good idea, and so I said I'd get it all sorted from this end. In fact, doing a search for The Fall videos etc online led me to this rather bizarre yet great video - it was from the time that BBC's Final Score drafted in Mark E Smith to read the classified results on their interactive service. Part of the reason was that the tune that the Beeb use is "Theme From Sparta FC" by the band (it's tune of the day that, it's so darn good) and so they thought it would only be right to invite Mark along. What they didn't realise was that he was going to read the scores in his own inimitable manner. Hehehe.

I never knew that Mark E was a Man City fan though, that instantly put him up somewhat on the Zaw Towers kudos-o-meter. I had to play "The Frenz Experiment" album later and be reminded of classics of its time from that album such as "Victoria" and of course "Hit The North". I remember both of those, along with the likes of "C.R.E.E.P" and "Mr. Pharmacist" getting played at indie nights in Manchester back in the day. You know one day I'll have to do a retro 1980s indie night, that would be rather ace.

Wednesday 23rd April - Post Not Missing

Well, back to the grind today for sure. I didn't sleep that well after I got home and got to bed, even though I was tired, but I pretty much managed to get through the day unscathed, and even sorted out plenty of problems that were reported in the system as well. First up, sorting out the installation of Flash Player for a colleague and making sure it all worked in IE and Firefox, then also making sure that I updated a laptop so it could be used at home as well as in the office for surfing the web. (I have some tweaks for Firefox for that, hehe).

In fact this spell of good things came to the fore during the day, as I successfully re-imaged a hard disk with our image on and then replaced it in a faulty PC that one of the academics had been complaining about, and got it all sorted, up and running, with the printer and scanner and everything, and then finished off a student PC image where the motherboard and power supply had both been changed to make sure everything works as intended, and thankfully it all did, which was good. I felt rather productive and I suppose I was catching up for lost time and all that, but nonetheless I've now got to get my head around databases again, oh joy of joys!

I got home and it was like all m week's post had arrived all at once, when in reality it was completely different. I got a postcard from my friend who'd been to London and come back (loved the card though!), and also the 7" single of MJ Hibbett and the Validators' "Born With The Century" as a few spare copies had been found and thought it wise of me to pick that up whilst I could. In fact, the CD of Wire's "Chairs Missing" that I'd also ordered after enjoying their music over the weekend also arrived too, so spent some time listening to that and realising just how ace "I Am The Fly" still as (so make that one tune of the day) along with the likes of my revised gas bill after I'd taken a proper meter reading and not estimated it!

But what isn't good though is that there's building work going on near me - and even worse, having checked the corresponding planning application, seemingly without planning permission either! I had received notification of the planning application from the council some months back, which I and some of my neighbours objected to for various reasons. What I didn't expect to see today was a wall knocked down, a skip put in place and building shards left all over the place. It's an absolute disgrace and believe me, there will be ruptions once I send an email off to the council about it!

Tuesday 22nd April - It Only Works Because You're Here

A really long and fun packed day today, that would start and end in Manchester with plenty of visits in between. First off, it was off on the now familiar 0817 train from Manchester Piccadilly over to Sheffield to see some more World Championship snooker. I had managed to get a ticket for what seemed like an intriguing match between Ding Junhui against Marco Fu, China versus Hong Kong and a real battle of the Far East as well. I got there a bit early as the train was on time, and the walk up the hill seems shorter every time I do it now. I mooched around the stage door entrance and spotted the very lovely referee Michaela Tabb coming in. Lots of Chinese journalists were waiting for Ding Junhui, and it was a bit of a scrap for attention as he exited the courtesy car. Mark King, playing on the other table against Mark Selby, was in the same car and just strolled past and straight in, he seemed quite in the zone.

The game I saw was everything it was going to be - and then some. After a slightly lengthy and scrappy third frame, which Marco Fu took to go just 2-1 down, it was then an exercise on the most part in potting excellence. Ding scored a 113 century along with a 99 and a 87 in the next three frames to go 5-1 in front, then only for Fu to make a comeback himself and score two centuries in the last two frames of the session to make it 5-4 by the end of the session. As it turned out, Ding Junhui got through in the evening session but narrowly - he won the final frame to get a 10-9 victory. The other table almost finished the same time as us, a few minutes afterwards, with Mark King getting a shock 10-8 win over Mark Selby, and considering Selby made the final last year and has won the Masters this year, that was all good.

After that it was virtually straight down the hill and back to Sheffield train station, for the second leg of three train journeys today. You see, I had thought about going to London to see one of the Totally Acoustic nights organised by MJ Hibbett, and although the nights normally finished between 9 and 9.30pm, it was a case of getting the train back home or paying more expense and staying over in London, which as you can imagine, would be quite costly all round. So I hatched a plan to get the last train back from Euston to Piccadilly and get home, and see how it all worked out. First off though, it was off on East Midlands Trains from Sheffield to London St Pancras, and it was a nice comfortable and quick journey. Previously it was Midland Mainline and everyone got complimentary tea and coffee - none of that now however.

I have to say that the new St Pancras is an absolutely gorgeous building and station - it's really been restored to its glory and using the original features such as the brickwork just adds to the feel of the places like the shops by the Eurostar terminal and indeed the clock at the main station front just exudes a feeling of mixing the old and the new perfectly. It really shows you just how appallingly bad Birmingham New Street station is. Even Manchester Piccadilly looks rather good after its refit and it goes to show just what can be achieved with the right amount of time and investment. Knowing how much security there is in the station, I resisted the temptation with the camera.

I walked down from St Pancras and soon found The Lamb, the venue where tonight's gig was going on. I had some time to kill and indeed something to get for my evening meal, so I simply walked further down the streets and into Holborn, somewhat slightly full of City types, but also quite a lot of regular workers going about their daily business and making their way home via the pubs. I spotted a really nice pub where I had a good mixed grill and a pint for a mere seven quid, and that sort of bargain just always isn't there in London to be honest. It was good to see the world go by and the weather was rather lovely all round, just made me think of sunnier climes to be perfectly honest.

I headed back to the Lamb and spotted Mark (MJ) Hibbett around the back and had a chat with him and Rob (aka Frankie Machine) about all sorts before they had to set up the function room upstairs for the evening's entertainment. It was clear that it was going to be nicely packed tonight as plenty of people had shown up, including Mark's girlfriend and some of her friends, and indeed the very lovely Marianthi from Atomic Beat Records too. So all seemed well and it was going to be a great night, and that's exactly what it turned out to be, with MJ HIbbett doing a short but sweet ukelele set.

The baton was then handed over to Frankie Machine (official site) (myspace) who did a grand job all round with plenty of gently sung songs about all sorts of wistful feelings and melancholy and even one that was really happy too, just to counteract the balance a bit. He even borrowed MJ's ukelele and did a song about how much that he didn't actually like the ukelele and he wanted to destroy it, which was such great irony because it was being played on said instrument. All good fun, and no doubt it was appreciated by the crowd, not least of all yours truly.

MJ Hibbett (official site) (myspace) then did his acoustic set, which worked out gorgeously well. Not only did he do some really old stuff that he hadn't played in a while, but some absolute classics which I adore, such as "It Only Works Because You're Here" (make that tune of the day now, it sounded so lovely). In fact during that song one of the female members of the audience asked "is it a sad song?" and then realised it wasn't with the lovely ending lyrically that it has. As it's proving to be a big hit on Youtube, "Do The Indie Kid" got a play, and quite a few of us including me sang along. Mark looked at Frankie and me and said "can you do the next part though?" and so he and I did the "Music of the Future" bit just improvised, which sounded completely funny, and did get a round of applause from the masses. Phew! Didn't make a complete ass of myself then.

In fact, happily singing along was the order of the day, as the likes of "Easily Impressed" and the excellent acoustic version of "Boom Shake The Room" will testify, it was just marvellous fun all round really. With beer consumed (real ale too, hurrah for good pubs) it was off to Russell Square and then took a bus up to Euston (I knew taking the Oyster card would come in handy you know) and managed to easily get the 10.05pm train with lots of time to spare. It was a lengthier journey than normal and stopped at most stations, that said it was supposed to arrive in Piccadilly at 1.10am and actually got in twenty minutes early. With no night bus 192s around, it was a taxi home for me but I got there very tired and exhausted but happy from my exploits.

Monday 21st April - They Don't Call Him Steve For Nothing!

It was up bright and early this morning to get the 8.17am train from Piccadilly to Sheffield, as I was once again off to the home of snooker, and not just to see anyone either. Oh no. I had managed to get a ticket for Stuart Bingham against - gasp - Steve Davis, and not only that, but it was front row as well. I couldn't believe my luck when I'd booked the ticket on the Friday and I have to say that even though I knew there might be some long frames in this one, it would be seeing a legend of the sport at work. And naturally that was another ambition of mine fulfilled - not only did I want to go to the Crucible (did that last year too) but wanted to see Steve Davis play. As a kid, he was part of the reason I watched snooker, his safety play was awesome and when he was in the mood to build breaks, he didn't muck about. His 18-3 win over John Parrott in the 1989 final was one of sheer brilliance.

Got off at Sheffield station and headed up the hill to the Crucible. As I had a bit of time to kill, I headed to the side and the stage door to see if I could spot anyone going in and getting themselves sorted for the morning session. I spotted Stuart Bingham and also Ryan Day, who was completing his match against Michael Judge, and also BBC's Ray Stubbs who had popped out to get himself some breakfast. I resisted the temptation to ask him just why he used to say the Coventry player Peter Ndlovu's name a la Barry White - oh you don't know what I'm talking about? Well dig out your old tapes of Fantasy Football League that you probably recorded off BBC2 in 1996 - it's all there I promise.

Headed into the Crucible and my front row seat was exactly that - front row! In fact, I was right on line with the colours in their spots and had an almost eye level view of the table. It also realistically meant that I might end up on the telly as well (something my brother confirmed to me later) - I hope that plenty of television screens up and down the country didn't get smashed up to bits because of that. The players all came on, the screen came down and it was up and running. As I predicted, the play wasn't the quickest and Steve Davis was struggling to find any sort of form and after three slow frames was 3-0 down, not good. He needed to pull one back before the mid-session interval and he did exactly that, although it took him several attempts to down the pink!

Had some juice at the mid-session just to keep the throat watered nicely (nothing worse than being all dry to be honest) and then back in for the remaining frames. Steve was really battling now and put together a good break of 57 which was enough to see the frame won, and there were some impressive shots in there. They don't call him Steve for nothing, you know. Bingham took the next which was quite scrappy, then Davis battled away with another excellent break of 58 to make it 4-3. All of a sudden the tenacity seemed to be paying off and the fans (most of whom were backing Steve as you might have gathered) were thinking of how well he was coming back. No sign of that though as Bingham himself scored two breaks of 58 in each of the next two frames which proved enough to go into the break 6-3 up, and all set for later on.

The game had finished a few minutes shy of 2pm, which was fairly slow and just in time for those flocking in to the 2.30pm session. I went to one of the pubs in Sheffield and did lunch, and found a great deal where you got fish, chips and peas, and a coffee, all for £3.10. Can't argue with that and it's cheaper than a Meal Deal is at Boots as well, so that has to say something doesn't it? It was very nice indeed as well and I headed back to the Cue Zone outside the Crucible. There, a full sized table was set up with all 15 reds, and you had 60 seconds to put as many in as possible once you'd broke off. I watched a few of them and someone got 7, which was impressive. Most people were getting 3 or 4, so I thought I'd have a go too. I got 3, which wasn't bad considering I'd not played on a full sized table for years!

Headed back on the train into Manchester and stopped off in town to collect a couple of bits, then homeward bound to see Simone White at the Roadhouse. I thought as the price of the gig was relatively cheap, and indeed that I wanted to hear more from her instead of the "Beep Beep" song that's used in the Audi advert, it was a good way of finding out if I would like it or not before committing to the album. Also, as the gig was an early start and finish (the Roadhouse has a club night on Mondays you see) it meant I could get home and get some good sleep before the long day tomorrow.

And indeed, it was a criminally under-attended gig. I've seen some under-attended gigs at the Roadhouse before, such as Bennet and only the other week Sam Isaac with Donna Marie supporting. But honestly - this was criminally the most under-attended gig ever. There must have been around 30-40 people, if that, to see Simone White, and I feel disgusted with the music gig going population of Manchester as a whole that they didn't take the time out to go and see her perform. What's wrong with everyone? Do they not know good music when they hear it or are they too happy playing the latest Take That single? Bah.

Anyway, enough ranting. Rupert Hill and Yellow Dog (myspace) were a nice warm up act indeed, playing plenty of songs of reflective mood and remembering times when they were kids. What was nice was the two guitars, and the very lovely keyboard player Esther who also did the backing vocals. They seemed very cohesive as a unit and the uptempo track at the end "A Rose In My Hole" really did set a nice uplifting mood in a good way to end proceedings. I liked them and the audience seemed to as well, which was all lovely. Turns out Rupert used to be in Emmerdale, Corrie and Brookie so he did the rounds as a soap actor for years, but to be honest he's better off doing music if tonight's performance is anything to go by.

Simone White (official site) (myspace) came on, and she was wonderful. Her set lasted almost an hour, considering that her songs are pretty short on the whole, that's some good going. Her quiet whispery voice and one acoustic guitar sounded so sparse yet so full at the same time, just perfect for the crowd there to listen and to appreciate. And while she did that "Beep Beep Song", that was possibly one of the weakest tracks out there tonight - and by that I mean that the strength is in depth. "American War" was just lovely, reminding of times gone past, and the title track of the album, "I Am The Man" worked wonderfully well too.

Perhaps my favourite song of the night (and therefore tune of the day) was the song "Roses Are Not Red" which is absolutely bittersweet to the point of ascerbic, but delivered with such intimacy and passion that you couldn't think possible. The closing line of the chorus, "And I never loved you.." is delivered so softly and gently and just works on so many levels. It was good that she played stuff off both albums and gave everyone a good taste of her catalogue. I'm suitably impressed and it just goes to show that sometimes less is more, and wasn't it just?

Sunday 20th April - You Only Sing When You're Drumming

Had a fun filled morning, reminsicing about the old times when indie music was what it was back in the 1990s. My friend and I had remembered various musical moments, such as the Late Show which had lots of American bands except Nirvana, including a great performance of REM's "Half A World Away" and Screaming Trees' "Dollar Bill" (amazing how many grunge girls at the time fancied Mark Lanegan you know) and indeed the moment when the Eels played "Novocaine For The Soul" live on Top of the Pops and completely took the pee, armed with a toy drumky, guitars and keyboard etc, they mimed it and then trashed their toy set at the end. How funny? Very very funny indeed, and one that - shock horror - isn't available to view anywhere. I might have to rectify that as I am sure I have it on tape somewhere and indeed that it was a classic moment, so look out for that on my Youtube channel if I get that sorted out. And for obvious reasons, and because I have the CD single, it's tune of the day as well, an early sign of the band's greatness.

Headed out with a friend later on to see Manchester City take on Portsmouth. It's always good to see my heroes of course and with the way the results had gone yesterday and indeed earlier today, a win was absolutely vital in case others slipped up above us and we could possibly aim for an outside chance of Europe - it's very remote, but while it's still to fight for, you have to try don't you? And that's one thing City definitely did today - try. Everyone looked hungry for the ball, and it was a real team effort. I'm sure that the players are a bit miffed by what the owner said in the week about Sven-Göran Eriksson's position as City manager. I'm no big fan of Sven, but top half of the table is a good start for the first season and it's a foundation to build on, that's for sure. And the City fans today really got behind him.

And in terms of an attacking game, both sides deserve a lot of credit for a game that had everything - good goals, poor defending, incidents a plenty. The madness started when Sol Campbell was chasing down a ball and David James the keeper came out to claim it. None of them did, Benjani nipped in and found Stephen Ireland who had the vision to spot to the run of my brother's favourite, Darius Vassell, to make it 1-0. Better was to come a couple of minutes later as Martin Petrov, although I thought he took too long on the ball, poked in a shot and it deflected off Sol Campbell for 2-0 - and that made me pretty happy to say the least.

Portsmouth pulled one back through John Utaka, but then the game definitely changed going towards half time with both sides going for another goal. Vassell ran through on goal but was pulled back by Herman Hreidarsson when clean through on goal, and the referee had no alternative but to red card the Portsmouth defender. Indeed, Vassell almost scored City's third with a really good curling shot that brought out an excellent save from David James. It had been quality football though, real end to end stuff and the sort of thing that you really want to see more of when you go to the game.

Second half was still end to end, despite Portsmouth's lack of numbers. They pushed forward hoping to use the pace of Jermain Defoe, but to no avail. City kept pressing though and Benjani had a few chances whilst others were shooting from outside the area, always good to see people having a good dig where possible and going for it. Sooner or later I thought that we needed a third to really finish things off and so it was no surprise when Benjani picked up a ball and slotted home a low shot in the corner. To be fair to him, it wasn't against his former club so he didn't celebrate whatsoever, an act I'm sure their fans respect him for. Unlike ex-City defender Sylvain Distin who did everything wrong - kissing the Portsmouth badge in front of the City fans and acting like an arrogant so and so. Compare to David James who used to play for us, he shared some good banter with the South Stand and indeed even at the end the City fans asked him to give them a wave - and he eventually obliged, which was good.

Saturday 19th April - Snooker Loopy

Up bright and early this morning, and with good reason. Today is the first day of the 2008 World Snooker Championships, which meant I was on my way to the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, to see Neil Robertson take on Nigel Bond in the first round. It was also good that I was travelling on a nice early train, and I decided to treat myself by booking in advance First Class with Transpennine Express. And that experience wasn't too bad either - nice complimentary coffee and even some biscuits to go with it (the stem ginger ones were rather delicious all round). It left me feeling rather refreshed and relaxed as I headed into Sheffield station and took the walk up hill the city centre, and then on to the Crucible itself.

I decided that a bacon sandwich was in order, and in the theatre as you go in there's a small eaterie with some really nice sit down tables. Even better, bacon sandwich and a coffee was £2.95, can't go wrong with that. I made a mental note to possibly have this for breakfast again on the Monday morning when I was there. I dropped my coat off in the cloakroom (free of charge as well, that's rather good) and then had a mooch around the outside of the theatre at the display stands before taking my seat. I was fairly high up but because I was quite close to the centre as you look at it on telly, it meant I could see the table I was watching and almost all of the other one, rather handy!

Anyway, the game I was watching was going along nicely with Neil Robertson taking the first two frames in quick time. The next two though were pure dogged swimming through treacle moments and it was a real battle of wits and nerve. Indeed in the fourth frame after about twenty minutes the referee Eirian Williams called correctly for a re-rack, and so that started again and it was another twenty minutes to complete the frame. By this time the mid session interval had happened on the other table and John Higgins and Matthew Stevens had come back out for their remaining five frames of play and got well into it.

During the slow third frame, I looked to the other table and noticed Matthew Stevens was racking the balls in, and kept an eye on it. He got to 14 reds and 14 blacks and had fluked the 14th black somewhat which had everyone smiling, even Higgins (so nice to see fellow players encouraging possible 147s don't you think?). Anyway the last red was very tricky indeed and it went along the rail and just missed out, which was a shame. It was also the last frame Stevens was to win that morning, Higgins took the next six to be 7-2 up at the end of their session, which they finished whilst on table two it was still the sixth frame!

Thankfully Neil Robertson had upped the game a bit and from 3-1 up at the interval he racked up a couple more before Bond responded in good time with a break of 125 in just under eleven minutes. The eighth was scrappy and took forty minutes before Robertson claimed the ninth. It had been a lengthy session of snooker, and a good number of breaks in between some very cagey safety stuff. I'm already looking forward to Monday's session with Steve Davis, that should be rather good all round - they don't call him Steve for nothing!

After all this I headed out to meet one of my friends, and it was good to be out and about and see them too and catch up with what was going on. Ended up having a very nice pub lunch and the steak and ale pie I had was absolutely to die for, a proper pie with proper garden peas and chips and very filling indeed, and the fish and chips my friend had was also lovely as well by how it looked. It's really good when you can have delicious stuff and feel like it's been properly home cooked - and indeed not cost a fortune either!

Relaxed a bit later on and played some great tunes, which both of us enjoyed lots. There was even some vinyl played as well, including some singles by Wire which really have stood the test of time. "I Am The Fly" is rather great (and indeed of course was a big influence for Elastica's "Line Up" but the one Wire song that really is still brilliant is "Outdoor Miner" - a great little cute tune that could still pass now for a great piece of indie pop to this day - so no mistake with making that one tune of the day for sure. Also, Lush do a great cover of that tune as well, which I checked and I actually have on their "For Love" 10" single. So something to check for definite if you have the time or inclination.

Oh, and Buck 65 - just cos we can and because it's ace! "Situation" is just great fun, and when you listen to the likes of "Shutterbuggin'", "Dang" and "Way Back When" you can't help but have a big smile on your face all the way through, and sometimes music should be about that. My friend and I agreed that there's plenty of rubbish hip hop out there and you do have to sort through the piles of not so good stuff to get to the good stuff. Buck 65 happens to be one of them. So does MC Solaar, whose laid back funky vibes are just the thing to have on to chill out to as background stuff. You don't believe me? Well go check it out then.

Friday 18th April - Getting Lucky

Well I got lucky today in more ways than one! First off, this morning I was working on repairing a couple of PCs, and one of them wouldn't let the administrator log in with some weird error message that came up. So, remembering how to counteract this error message, I had to nip back to the office and locate the USB pen for the file and indeed a Windows XP CD. Small problem - the file wasn't there on the stick! Then I luckily remembered that I could extract the file from a Zenworks image file by using Image Explorer, so I soon got to work on that one and managed to extract the file I needed, then head back over to the PC and complete the job. I was lucky in that I was able to get the file by other means, or else it could have been a very long winded and messy job indeed. Phew!

This afternoon was mainly spent reimaging a PC that we'd had back from being repaired, which ended up having a new motherboard and power supply fitted. What was also good was that it seemed a lot more stable so when I got it imaged, it didn't crash whatsoever during the process (certain PCs of that same model have been known to behave oddly) and then get it as ready as I could for my colleague to finish off on Monday, as I'm now taking Monday and Tuesday off work.

Why? You may ask. Well, I was checking the Sheffield Theatres web site to see if any tickets had been returned for the World Snooker Championships (I was already going tomorrow of course - had my ticket for months for that) and as luck would have it, there was one for the Monday morning session (Steve Davis v Stuart Bingham) and one for Tuesday morning (Marco Fu v Ding Junhui). In fact the one for the Steve Davis game was front row, so as you can imagine that was me very well chuffed indeed. I also hatched a cunning plan for Tuesday which will work out rather well to say the least - but more on that when it happens. It's going to be a busy day to say the least!

Going to have a relaxing time tonight as I'm going to be up early tomorrow, and with that in mind it's time to chuck on the separates, play the CDs and just take it very easy (with Cadbury's Caramel Ice Cream bar that I got from Cooltrader just before). And with that in mind, what better than Röyksopp's "Eple" for tune of the day ? It's just a lovely tune and just reminds me of summers gone by when I would just chill out walking round Hollingworth Lake with the whole of their "Melody AM" album in my ears - those were the days. In fact I could easily head up there in the Summer and do the same and just go way back...

Thursday 17th April - The Question Is Why?

After a day's work at the office it was time to head home via my sister's place. She and her husband had decided to sign up with Sky for the basic telly and broadband package, so he could use his laptop and use the Internet, and also keep in touch with everyone via email etc. I guess for my sister especially the whole thing's a new learning experience but one that I know that she'll want to do - not least for her daughter. They had a bit of trouble getting the laptop to talk to the wireless router that Sky provide, but a bit of checking sorted that one out - it was simply a case of configuring the laptop slightly, as the username and password was set on the router, absolute doddle.

With that in mind, I then made sure that everything for my sister and family was all set - newest version of Firefox (an update got released only last night), updated the likes of Real Player, Quick Time, Acrobat Reader etc, and then for good measure placed on OpenOffice so at least that they would have something to open up Word documents etc with. And of course because it's so much better than Office 2007 and its absolutely horrid ribbon interface. All seemed well when everything was installed and I configured everything to stop being a pain in the proverbial backside when Windows starts up.

I also chucked on Photoscape, a free simple photo editing program that a few people I know have been saying good things about. In fact, my sister and I did a simple crop of an image of her daughter so it was just her in the shot, and was able to save it nice and easily in around a minute or so - I was really impressed with how simple and intuitive the whole process was. Looks like it'll be another program that I will be able to recommend as a nice piece of free software in the future (and let's face it, free stuff is all good.) I even showed BBC iPlayer and the daughter was glued to In The Night Garden for a short while.

In fact my sister's daughter is at the age where everything is asked "why?" in an inquisitive way, but that's rather sweet. She'll ask what is going on and I'll tell her, and then she'll just look and go "but why?" - and you can't help but smile. It's such a cute look and one that I know that I've got used to over the last year or so especially as she's become a mischevious but fun little one. My sister reminded me I needed to do my birthday list and I did mention it was worth her going to IKEA on Saturday as everything was 21% off for their 21st anniversary - so she said "well if there's anything on the list from there, let me know and I can get it!" - which works well for everyone, she saves dosh and I get something cool thrown in. Rock and roll.

Headed home via Tesco to do the food shop, and what made me laugh was that there was a free giveaway of some kitchen instrument that was being launched - some cutter or something. Every minute before 8pm an announcement was made so that by the time 8pm hit, that aisle was full of people clamouring for a freebie. This did mean that the tills were empty though so I made my way there and got everything sorted out so I could get home and make myself a couple of Cauldron vegetarian cumberland sausage barmcakes - they were on offer tonight and I have to say that they were just as delicious as the meat variety too.

After munching some food, it was time to settle down to watch the remainderof the Everton - Chelski game (which was dull). In fact the game was so dull I turned the sound off and then just whacked in the Penny Broadhurst "Allons-y" EP for a bit of lightness whilst I was doing the domestic chores such as the ironing. In fact, the track "Ljaded" off that is really reminiscent of the way people do online chats, and the lyrics are completely spot on - it's dead good fun. That makes it tune of the day without a problem.

Wednesday 16th April - Three One In The Youth Cup Final

I'm absolutely ecstatic as I type this, more than you could ever know. Some twenty two years ago I had gone to Maine Road to see Manchester City lift the FA Youth Cup, beating the local rivals United 2-0 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate with around 25,000 fans there to see the job done. So many of that team we had made it to the full team such as Andy Hinchcliffe, David White, Ian Brightwell, Paul Moulden, Steve Redmond and so on. In fact four of them played in the 5-1 "Maine Road Massacre" of Man U some three years later, another happy memory. Since then we'd reached the Youth Cup final a few times, including a 3-2 aggregate defeat to Liverpool a couple of seasons ago. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg at Chelsea for the final, the second leg was in the City of Manchester Stadium and I just had to go and see if we could do it.

So with my uncle, one of his sons and my brother in tow, we got to the ground and got our tickets on the night (a mere fiver for adults, a quid for kids or if they're Live4City members they get in for nothing - what a good move all round) and as it was sit anywhere you wanted, we got close to the centre line at the back of the Colin Bell Stand first tier. City were only going to open the first tier initially, and it filled up by just after kick off, so the second tier of the North Stand had to be part opened for fans to go up there and see the game too. It also meant that the crowds looked full for the telly too, some 19,753 fans had made it tonight in the bitter cold.

It didn't start so well early on as one of the first serious Chelski attacks meant the City keeper saved, but it deflected back off the defender Ryan McGivern, and we were 1-0 down. The heads didn't drop though and the City fans were giving the players plenty of encouragement and singing, sounded louder than it has done at some home Premiership games this season in fact. We pressed forward and wanted it much more, and with twenty three minutes gone, a corner broke down and went to Andrew Tutte, who put in a gorgeous cross that the keeper couldn't handle and it was left to Ben Mee to score with a powerful header - and the place went truly ballistic with Blue Moon at full pelt.

It got even better before half time too, as we won a free kick on the left hand side. After seeing what options were available it was either going to be a shot after lay off or a direct effort. The City players organised themselves, one moved away from the ball just as Vladimir Weiss struck an absolute gorgeous free kick right into the top corner, the keeper didn't have a chance. I think even Elano would have been proud of that one to be honest, it was that good. Cue more happy smiling Blue faces everywhere and at half time 2-1 up, all bode well. Away goals didn't count so we didn't have to worry about a 2-2 draw meaning game over.

Admittedly, City sat back a bit as the game went on further in the second half, and it was a case of thinking just why we didn't get a third to kill the game off a bit. However, on the counter attack, Weiss went forward and although he could have passed to his fellow striker in acres of space, he got into the penalty area and was brought down from behind by Sergio Terja Rodriguez. I must admit I didn't think it was a penalty when I saw it live, only when I got home and checked it out on Sky Sports HD1 did I actually see that it was a pretty decent claim for one. Up stepped David Ball, and cool as you like, sent the keeper the wrong way and that was 3-1 and 4-2 to us, oh yes, get in!

Even a late deserved sending off for the Chelski player Jacob Mellis for a horror tackle on Kieran Tripper didn't down things too much - although we feared it was a leg break, Trippier came back on during the presentations and at least looked like he wasn't in too much pain. The whistle blew and I had seen my beloved City win a trophy. Okay, so it's maybe not the FA Cup or Premiership, but the Academy kids are ones that'll play for my heroes in the future, and if they can do the business now, then who knows what might happen? It was a great advert for recruiting local players instead of what Chelski do and poach them from other teams and abroad, and a moral victory for the kids too - so hurrah to that.

We left to get back home with the tannoy blaring out the club's 1970s single and anthem "The Boys in Blue", which I still love to this day (so tune of the day was a very easy choice) and it just instills so much passion when I hear it and sing along to the words. "The boys in blue never give in" it goes, and how true it was tonight as we fought back and got the job done, which was superb stuff. I feel so proud to be a City fan tonight and so should everyone who is the same.

Tuesday 15th April - Back Down To Earth

I must admit the last weekend and last night really did pick me up somewhat and I do feel much more contented for that just gone - and added to that there's the World Snooker and seeing my beloved Manchester City this weekend, not to mention the FA Youth Cup Final tomorrow night as well. However, it was pretty hard going at the office today as I was sorting out a few tedious and technical things, and it was a case of that the day just seemed to drag, which to be honest doesn't do anyone any good. C'est la vie I suppose, and it's always a reality check to make sure that I don't get too over confident about having everything my own way. Curiously too I was having some problems with ConsoleOne that I might have to try and resolve - but I think there's been some network issues thrown in.

Got home later on and had a sort of mixed evening really. First off was to have a good listen to the new REM album and see what I made of it. I did manage to get the limited edition with the DVD, and it looks like the people at Play got some from the States because the DVD disc, although all regions, is NTSC native. I'm not complaining though, although the booklet that's designed to fall apart is a complete faux pas of a bad effort. In terms of the music, I probably need to listen to it a couple of times more before passing any sort of judgement, but what I will say is that the opening track "Living Well Is The Best Revenge", apart from being a great title, is also a darn fine tune, so tune of the day that one is. In many ways I can see just why people are saying it's back to the slightly more political REM, and no bad thing for it.

Mind you, the album's a bit on the short side - whether that will count against it I'm not sure, but Green was also relatively speaking in CD terms quite short, and even today that's still my favourite REM album that's stood the test of time since its release a mere twenty years ago. Yes, twenty years!! That makes me feel old realising that and I was probably just the right age back then for getting into them and discovering their music. Even then, they were only playing the Apollo in Manchester as part of their tour, and that's the sort of gig that I'd have really liked to have gone to.

Monday 14th April - Driving On Nine

Tonight it was off to the Academy 2 to see The Breeders. It was about time I saw them on tour, in fact looking back the last time I saw them live was way back in October 1993, which is a long time indeed. With the new album "Mountain Battles" sounding pretty good, and with excitement I headed out back towards work and to the Academy itself. Lots of touts outside trying to sell me a ticket, you'd think though that they'd realise as I had my long sleeved Breeders "I Just Wanna Get Along" t-shirt that I had a ticket already and was in no position to even consider selling or buying one - not the thing to do.

Got there in good time to see the support act, Jim Noir (official site) (myspace) - who was pretty decent to say the least. Him and the band played a good solid set, my favourite song being "Same Place Holiday" which was about going to the same resort in North Wales year after year for a holiday, something that rang very true when I went away. The closing track of "My Patch" was also very well done too and had the right mood throughout. He seemed quite Roy Harper-like in appearance with the moustache and even had a bobble hat on throughout the set. Good stuff and might be well worth me checking out his new album out this week - he was well chuffed to be playing a homecoming gig!

Then on came The Breeders (official site) (myspace) and it was just like being back at the Academy in 1993. It was packed to the rafters and everyone was really excited about what they'd do. It was a great stage presence by Kim Deal and her sister Kelly, and both seemed to be goofing around a bit and generally having a laugh in between songs. Plenty of the new album was played, including the delightfully folky "Here No More", a departure from all that rocking, "German Studies" which was very rocking, and lots more besides. What really did surprise me though was just how much off their 1993 album "Last Splash" got played, wasn't complaining mind you.

Oh no. Got "Divine Hammer" early on, along with "No Aloha" which sounded utterly gorgeous, especially the nice quiet bits at the start before it rokced out, and then a real killer move, "New Year" followed straight off by "Cannonball" as it is on the album - and believe me the latter had everyone going - it was a real indie club night favourite back in the day. Later on there was also "Saints" but best of all, "I Just Wanna Get Along" which sounded raw and hard rocking. Can't really not give it tune of the day especially as I was wearing the t-shirt and all! Even got some stuff off the first album "Pod" such as "Fortunately Gone" as well, which I still adore too. The set lasted just over an hour but felt a lot longer, and on reflection was just a really good night all round. Hurrah for gigs!

Sunday 13th April - Reminsicing My Swimming Days

Up out and early today, and with good reason too - it was a visit to Victoria Baths that I was going on. Every so often they have an open day which means that you get to go round and have a look inside and see how the restoration is coming along. Some of you may remember that on the BBC2 series "Restoration" it won the prize to have some money pumped into it. Some of the work such as the frontage is in the process of being done, hence the entrance for any visitors at the moment is at the side. But nonetheless it does need a lot of work, having been shamefully allowed by Manchester City Council to fall into a state of disrepair.

The visit also served as a nice opportunity to meet up with some of the Manchester Flickr lot too, as it was a group booking just for that for the morning. This meant that we coud go round at leisure and explore around, and first off have a guided tour of all the areas. We went to each of the three pools - the First Class Males, with its viewing areas for watching competitons, and the Second Class, which is covered at the moment and used for serving tea and coffee and for buying things to help the cause. Then there's the Females pool. In the old days the males and females had separate entrances!

The outbuildings and workings of the baths were something to behold - it had a laundry, used by the locals, as well as various engine and boiler rooms to keep the water warm, and even a pumping station so that once the water was used in First Class, it went to Second Class, then to Females (weren't the old times so sexist?) and plenty of underground tunnels. You also got to see several parts of the buildings which were used in Life on Mars, apart from the Turkish Baths, which are closed to the public currently. Nonetheless it was inspiring to see and to be able to reminisce somewhat.

As a child I would sometimes take the bus there from my mum's house and walk up the road to the baths. The most I could manage was a width and so I stayed in the shallow end and just swam what little I could - but nonetheless even then it had a good family atmosphere and was able to be used by many locals. The changing rooms I remember vividly - with hangers on the changing rooms, and little curtains to cover your modesty as you changed. It was one of those moments really - and Withington Baths (which we went to with school) was much the same. It's good to see the place being restored hopefully back to its former glory and when I got home became a Friend of the Baths so I can donate to the cause each month to help out. Every little will help.

It was also good to meet lots of people there too - some I'd met at Lyme Park, but also plenty of others too - which made the atmosphere much more homely and friendly all round. Not least as the general mode of feelings were one of just enjoying the place and getting the most out of it. And believe me, there was plenty to go and explore around as well, which was rather good. In fact afterwards several of us headed to Oxford Road and into the Ford Maddox Brown pub for some well earned lunch, which went down a treat - as did the pint of Mad Hatter ale from the Wychwood Brewery that I had. Oh yes.

I had an afternoon getting things sorted in the house and it's the last round of the Masters tonight, so it's BBC HD on for me to watch that and see it all unfold, which should rock. As indeed does the new Breeders album which is all good for seeing them tomorrow night at Manchester Academy 2 - and if I had to pick a track off there which I really like, well the title track "Mountain Battles" isn't a bad start - so put that down for tune of the day/ Right, I'm off to watch that golf...

Saturday 12th April - Going Down To Liverpool

Well, like in the Bangles song, it was down to Liverpool today. I had a gig at the Academy 2 to go to in the evening but felt it would work well if I headed around the city as well while I was at it. After all, it is the 2008 European Capital of Culture and something that reflects the heritage it has of the arts, music and sport - and to this day those three things are a vital cog in the tourist trade that flocks to the city every year - and definitely more so this year if the train on the way to Lime Street was anything to go by - it was fairly busy.

However, I first wanted to head out of the city centre. I knew that as a once avid fan of the soap Brookside that the houses had been sold off and were eventually going to be lived in by normal residents, and wondered if I had a chance to be able to see the close as is now before the move happened so I could reminsce about the many years that I'd watched the series. I took the bus out, and walked along before I saw the brick wall with Brookside written on. What you might not know is that a lot of the houses are normal residences anyway, and the extension that was Brookside Close was added when the TV series started. It's also guarded by a security barrier, guards and CCTV footage as well, so the fact that one of the local residents (who also did the security occasionally) allowed me access was very nice indeed.

Walking around just showed how much times have changed. The iconic street sign that you see in the title sequence has gone, and a lot of the plants are overgrown and really need some attention - but that'll happen in the next week or so I reckon. All the entrances to the houses and indeed the back gardens are all alarmed too, so there'll be no going to the patio to find the body at number 10, just won't be doable. Nonetheless it was well worth me going there and thinking of famous moments like the nurses' siege, the spooky cult, the first lesbian kiss in a soap, and walking the path of Number 9 made me think of Amanda Burton as Heather Haversham and how I'd stood on the same bit of pavement as her (I do adore Amanda, in case any of you wondered!) so that was all lovely.

That done, off on the bus to West Derby and change there for a bus to take me to both football grounds. Heading to Anfield first, I noticed that the Liverpool Memorial for the victims of the Hillsborough disaster showed plenty of flowers, and it was of course because of the fact it's the 19th anniversary of said disaster on Tuesday. Walking past the Shankly Gates, seeing the Kop End and then the boarded up terraced streets that are behind the Kop was such a contrast. I ended up walking round the ground and seeing the statue of Bill Shankly as well. There were lots of tourists there, possibly because Liverpool weren't playing till tomorrow and so they could make a weekend of it and see the game.

I walked through Stanley Park and at the other end, apart from the lake, is Goodison Park, home to Everton of course. Stopped by at the Dixie Dean statue and then the mural on the wall of one of the terraced houses, which worked out well. I also then walked round that ground too, seeing the church that's on the corner of the ground next to the Gwladys Street end. It was inspiring to see that out of match time, it's quite quiet there and that the locals just kick a ball up against the stands and generally are just practicing away. It's very urban but also very homely as well, as Manchester City's old ground stood amid plenty of terraced streets just like it does here at Goodison.

I headed back into the City Centre, walked around the Albert Dock and indeed went into the Tate Gallery to see their current exhibit, which was really good - not least some of the Andy Warhol images that were on display as well. Felt inspired by that somehow in that it's not necessarily about being an artist who can paint, but who can actually make you think. Although some of the more modern art was to be honest rubbish, the classics like Warhol, Rothko, Matisse etc was more than worth it - and I didn't mind donating to their cause afterwards. From then you had to go back along to the main road, and then back to the Pier Head to get to the ferry - there used to be a bridge over, but that's currently closed to the public.

As I walked down the Pier Head, I noticed that two of the three graces were in scaffolding which surprised me a bit - surely in this year of all years they wouldn't? The ferry terminal had been moved, so it was to locate that and then board the 4pm ferry across. I timed it well - and as I had the sense to get a Saveaway ticket for all zones (a mere £4.30) I could use it on local Merseyrail trains and ferries as well as all the buses, which was just what I wanted. I resisted singing "Ferry Cross The Mersey" but it played on the tannoy system anyway and the ferry staff explained things as you went past, such as the hexagonal clock tower that is at Salisbury Docks which is one of only two of its type in the world.

Once over the other side at Seacombe, I mooched around there before heading on a bus to Moorside terminal, and got the train from Hamilton Square nearby underground to Central station, which was quite intriguing. The trains are normal trains, but they run much smoother and safer underground than in London and it's very well used by the locals. I'd never done that before so good to do so. I walked around the centre, up Bold Street and then via a church back to all the art galleries and such like, before heading to one of my little pub haunts in there, the Welkin, for some nice food and - best of all - the guest ale being the JW Lees Brewers Dark that I'd raved about some time ago. Yum yum yum!

I was all set for the Ben's Brother gig and headed over to the Academy 2 box office to collect my ticket from the office there and it was smooth and seamless collection. I got to the doors, going up the stairs and then into the venue, nice and small and indeed the perfect size for them to really do a good show too. What I did notice as I stood by the front was how many female fans of my age there were - indeed one of them from Glasgow had been to the Glasgow and Manchester shows and met them backstage in Manchester! That's dedication for you. Plenty of others were rather excited too and it was all set for a nice atmosphere all round. I just stayed relatively calm but it felt nice to have the odd chat to people around too - made me feel a bit less on my own really.

First, the support, from Laura and the Tears (official site) (myspace) who were actually really good. They seemed nice and laid back, played tunes with passion and a bit of soulfulness, and Laura herself had a great voice that she used to just the right effect without being too much in the way. I can see her and the band going on to better things hopefully, they had something that not every band has - an ability to really transfix you to the hard work everyone was putting in and that showed tons in the fact that they were enoying themselves, as you should.

Ben's Brother (official site) (myspace) came on and did their thing - and it was even better than when I saw them supporting Seth Lakeman in Leeds! The playing was tight, even if they had to draft in Peter, one of the co-writers of some of the songs, in to do the keyboard duties, you wouldn't know it whatsover. The atmosphere was all good, and the songs just added to the feeling of emotion. Starting with "Carry On" and playing most of "Beta Male Fairytales" plus a couple of new songs, including the new single, and indeed playing B-sides, it was a good set which a lot of people knew the words to and just felt it. The diehard women at the front were just having a whale of a time which was good to see too.

Last song before the encore was "Live" which at Leeds everyone had sung along to, and so Jamie the singer gave us all a practice, and miracle upon miracles, I found my singing voice! It was rather good all round as everyone sang along at the right points in the chorus, and indeed whilst waiting for the encore one of the women near me said I had a good voice, which made me giggle cos I don't normally. Jamie came back on for the encore and did "I Am Who I Am" on his own and sounded gorgeous (so tune of the day because of its lovely atmosphere), then everyone came back and did "Rise" rather stormingly well. And that was that. The two women in front of me who had come from Northwhich for the gig said I had a good voice too, so that was lovely of them (and they were lovely people anyway, which made everything complete.)

As I headed back to Lime Street I knew I had to get the last train back to Manchester and so checked the football results - and City had won 2-1 at Sunderland! Hurrah, day well and truly made happy as if it wasn't already to be perfectly honest. It was a long wait for the train but it was packed on the way back with plenty of drunk people heading back to the likes of Hough Green, Halewood and Sankey, before a last stop at Warrington Central before a fast run to Manchester. I got the night bus home and headed into bed around 1am, thoroughly chuffed with the whole day.

Friday 11th April - Start The Weekend

Much more relaxing times ahead for the weekend, and in truth after finding out a few things at work today, I think we all needed to. There just seems to be so much going on that in truth isn't so well known and yet when it becomes public domain just gets everyone's backs up. I could whine and complain but in truth to be honest I've been getting my head down and getting on with it - sometimes it's best to and just accept any bit of fate for what it is. No point in me really going over the top.

Had a great time tonight with a few of my good friends as it was a birthday do. We ended up out in Worsley at the Old Hall, where there's a really nice pub that does good food at a good price, and best of all, Old Speckled Hen on cask! As you can imagine, that certainly appealed to me straight away and so I had a nice pint of that with a mixed grill, which looked good. The fish two of my friends had looked utterly gorgeous, hand battered and absolutely cooked to perfection. In fact the fish was huge and it would have been difficult to finish if I'd had it, a sure fire sign that it was very filling indeed. Plenty of chat and conversation flowed along the way and it was a really good night and time out. Although we're all doing our own thing next weekend we're off to see Dara O'Briain the week after which should be rather good.

I should add as well that my friend liked the presents too - I ended up getting the book by Mark Everett of band The Eels along with the Juno soundtrack CD, which worked a treat. Sometimes you act on instinct when you see what to get and it was very handy that both of those were on my friend's wish list. Always makes things easier if you make sure you get something that they don't have, dontcha know. It was also really good to bang the world to rights on various subjects too and conversation happily flowed effortlessly. I knew too that in many ways it was the perfect start to the weekend.

What was relaxing before I headed out was that I spent some time listening to the new Donna Marie EP, and even after several listens that I've had, I have to say that "Faraway" is still acoustically lovely and gorgeous, it just melts my heart in all the right places with the sheer fact it's just guitar, voice and nothing else. Sometimes you can overdo a track when you need it simple - and for that, it's tune of the day.

Thursday 10th April - Bump!

Back to some form of 2008 reality with a bit of a bump today, and somehow not everything went according to plan. I had an academic bring in their Mac laptop in, and explained that it had frozen during a software update and was unable to start. So off I went and hooked it up to one of the Mac laptops in the office and tried to do the update to the poorly Mac by using that in Target Disk mode to see if it would respond. It failed on the update every time, which wasn't good. My colleague had a look at it as well and the disk recovery software he used said that the SMART had failed, which was a surefire indication of what I thought - the hard drive was physically on the way out. Not good.

And indeed during the day there were certain services that we couldn't use or make the most of because somewhere a central router had gone down, and because of that, it kicked several needed things down. It eventually woke back up and got to life, but one of the servers then wasn't playing ball which just didn't work so well at the end of the day and it was just a case of one of those days to be perfectly honest. But still, got through the day relatively unscathed and was able to plan ahead a little for the next few weeks, I know just how manic it's all going to be.

Nipped out and did the shopping - the first time in term time that I had to do it without the aid of the bus from work to get to Tesco, so I ended up taking a bus home and getting one from there - which actually didn't work out too bad and meant I was a mere four minutes behind schedule what I would have done otherwise. I was also able to whizz around there at good speed, finding all the things I needed and even taking a couple of bargains into the trolley as well, so all was good and getting back home was just the same time as I'd normally do. As I'm heading out for a meal tomorrow, I didn't really want to rush around and that wouldn't have been advisable for me to do - so this way it saves me some time.

The rain that came down tonight was rather not pretty - at all, in fact the skies turned grey and it made everything seem rather down and dreary - a bit like Birmingham New Street station is all the time (if you've ever been there you will know what I'm talking about). With that in mind, only one song qualifies to be played right now - and it's "Hell on Earth" by MJ Hibbett. The whole song basically tells it like it is about the said station and done with so much fun along the way, you can't help but smile and (in my case) even badly sing along. Tune of the day just for the fact I can now sing it acapella and know all the words!

Wednesday 9th April - Feeling All Retro

Another day at the office resulted in me just wanting to really have a bit of a calm evening to be honest. I guess it's just a bit frustrating when things happen that are out of your control and you just want to be able to regain some control of the situation so that you have some way of dealing with things. Nonetheless though, it's been interesting to see just how much it gets busier in the first week back as well - lots of people to support and things to do and not necessarily that much time.

Settled in for the evening and decided to keep my eye on the Champions League games tonight. With Man U pretty much through against Roma, I knew that their game might not be that good unless Roma scored and made it interesting, and knowing how stingy Man U's defence is, it just wasn't going to happen. Ended up seeing the first half hour or so of Barcelona against Schalke, but that was dishwater dull as well. Thankfully, I'd set the Sky Plus box to record the old episodes of Doctor Who that were being shown on BBC Four, and watched them once half time had been reached in the football.

It was a really old classic tale and the first time that the Daleks had ever appeared in the series, so definitely one from the archives that I was glad to see restored. It was the last two of seven parts and actually very watchable, it explained the whole story betwen the Thals and the Daleks, and how, convinced by the Doctor himself, they learned that they had to fight for their peace and successfully took the Daleks on. What was intriguing was the clever use of stages to make it look like a far away planet, notable in the first of tonight's episodes where some of the Thals along with Ian and Barbara were going through a cave system to try and find the hidden Dalek city. Lots of polystyrene coloured etc but nonetheless for its time it was pretty impressive.

And continuing the retro theme, I watched the classic F1 season reviews that have been on ESPN Classic for the last two weeks or so. Tonight was 1977 and it was another great old season, although a lot of the tracks and the way that the races were organised were criminally unsafe. Yes, it may have produced some good races, especially with some of the innovations around then like the six wheeled Tyrrell P34 (a classic in F1 car history that one) but there were also some horrible death incidents. One of which was at the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami, where a track marshal was hit by Tom Pryce at immense speed. The marshal's fire extinguisher then hit Pryce on the head and killed him instantly and his car sped down the main straight and crashed into the crash fencing and another car. Absolutely horrible, and to be honest, it goes to show just how much the sport has changed for the better. At least there were some better and safer races during that season after that, and indeed the debut of Gilles Villeneuve in a McLaren at the British Grand Prix, a sign of things to come for the mercurial legend.

It was good then to be able to just listen to some music before bedtime and be able to take in some of the new stuff that had arrived at the Towers. With that in mind, Penny Broadhurst's "Allons-y" EP had arrived, and the excellent discoesque number "Give It Up" is on there, which sounds just as good on record. It's lovely and uptempo, so make that tune of the day and quickly too. And even some 70s retro squelchy synth thrown in which just sounds so darned right to continue the retro theme. Good eh?

Tuesday 8th April - Picture This

Felt like a bit of escapism after a hard day at the office today, so once I'd got home and made myself something to eat (chicken with some mixed rice, rather nice all round) I headed via Stockport and off to Marple. I wanted to check out a photography exhibition that was on at the library to give me some ideas and inspiration, and also it would be nice to have a walk around there anyway. The library itself is situated close by to Memorial Park, which is a really nice little urban park and well preserved, with some lovely views over the hills. I did feel very at one with myself in that sort of surroundings, and that always helps. And the exhibition was well worth a look at to, with one shot of the Town Hall in Manchester my favourite, the way the sun and shadows are in there was well worth capturing I reckon.

I took a walk past the classic and still fully functioning Regent Cinema (like cinemas used to be you know, it even has Dolby Digital and everything in there) and then along the canal path, past several locks that were going uphill. At the top of those locks, you can go one of two ways along the canal as it branches, so I took the right hand choice and headed further uphill. It seemed quite familar and once I got to the pub at the top, the Ring O'Bells, I soon worked out why. When I saw the benches outside and how it ran alongside the canal, memories came flooding back to the summer of 1989 and one of those moments of my life that I still have a memento of.

Anyway, walked back towards the centre of Marple and it looked like their Stitch and Bitch group were out in force, as they were waiting outside the local sewing place for their evening session (well it looked like it from where I was walking anyway). I also noticed how many of the local pubs are owned by the Robinson's brewery (who are based in Stockport) and how they've retained their olde worlde feel from the outside, which to be honest is a refreshing thing to see. It was nice to walk around there, and if the sun wasn't about to go down, I'd have headed down Brabyns Brow to Marple Bridge and then have a walk around there too. All in all though, nice to get an escape and fresh air, and took the bus back via Marple Bridge, Compstall and Romiley to Stockport, good roundabout trip and got back home just in time for the football.

And wow - what a night of football it was! I discovered that as my telly has a handy picture in picture function, it meant I could watch one channel from the Sky HD box and another from the TV itself - side by side, and indeed select which of the pictures I wanted sound from! So I got that all set up, had the Chelski against Fernabahce game on the left, and the Liverpool versus Arsenal one on the right, with the sound on. That worked well as I was able to see all the goals as they went in. And there were a few, not least in the last ten minutes of the Liverpool - Arsenal game which swung this way and that - Arsenal first equalised for 2-2 on the night through Emmanuel Adebayor and so 3-3 on aggregate meant an away goals win. Almost from the kick off, Ryan Babel got bundled over in the penalty area and Steven Gerrard slotted it home, so 3-2 and 4-3 up, and Babel himself ran onto a long ball out of the box, muscled past Cesc Fabregas and sent the Kop into raptures as it ended up 4-2 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate. And in between the last two goals, Chelski also scored to go 2-0 up and 3-2 overall, so they were through too. Sometimes technology is really ace, and I'm so glad my telly is able to do all that and I could enjoy the football even more so than normal.

Must admit that sometimes it's good to just be able to take a back seat and enjoy some background music as well to soothe you into the late evening, which is exactly what I've been doing as I've been typing today's missive. So thumbs up to Orbital's "Last Thing" for being just the thing to really hammer the keys to - it just has one of those moods which seems to flow effortlessly into the background and I had it on repeat play without getting bored - so tune of the day it most certainly is!

Monday 7th April - Hands Behind Your Back And Bounce Your Hips!

Been a right busy day at the office today - primarily because it was the start of a new term, and with incessant deadlines, everyone wanted their stuff like yesterday (which in effect would have been difficult because of the fact that the building I work in would have been closed yesterday) and indeed it was keeping all the student printers going that was a primary concern. Of secondary note today was the fact that it was the birthday do of one of our senior staff, and it was good to head over there, have lunch and a nice bit of cake. In fact my colleague's culinary skills are most excellent and the marble cake he made was completely bang on - I had to stop myself having more than one slice because believe me, it was very tempting indeed to have more than one and I most certainly would if it was just me staring at it!

Also today sees the official release (and not just to those on the mailing list) of MJ Hibbett and the Validators' fab new single "Do The Indie Kid". It's so much good fun and having seen that performed live on Saturday just reinforced just how much fun that you can have when making a record and playing it. That sense of fun seems to have replicated itself very nicely in the accompanying video too, where there's several moments of happiness and joy throughout, along with possibly the indie kids of the future:

Isn't it just great? Well I think so, so it's tune of the day and all. In fact there's several classic moments in the video that I need to point out to you and they are detailed like this:

Well, you get the idea. It's just all round good fun, and that's what indie music should be about, not all po faced staring at the floor a la Swervedriver and any other bands who dared call themselves "ethereal" back in the day (although admittedly the music press was to blame for much of that, and they're still rubbish now - I mean the NME had something about that popular beat combo from Liverpool called The Beatles recently..).

So repeat after me, hands behind your back, and bounce your hips, move your feet around and do the Indie Kid. Like that. Easy. If I had my way that would be the dance craze at Indie nights everywhere over this summer - if only it was that easy though. Hint dropped, methinks.

Sunday 6th April - Where's That Stump Record?

Woke up this morning and looked outside, and had any snow at all settled? I think you can guess that the answer was a sure fire and definite "no", it just didn't look the part whatsoever and I was pretty disappointed to see that the only little bit I could see was on a roof near the house where there was some shade and so it hadn't quite melted away just as yet. I did also think about taking the train out to Rose Hill Marple and walk part of the Middlewood Way, but the train was ruled out when I realised that no trains run to that station on a Sunday. D'oh! However, there are buses that do..

Before all that, I decided that ordering Penny Broadhurst's "Allons-y" EP would be the thing to do. Well it would, except the ordering shop page on her web site refused to work with Firefox and IE7, but thankfully you could order stuff via her Myspace page instead, which is what I ended up doing. Thankfully the pay once links with Paypal seem to work okay, but I'm always wary and always check the site security when you add stuff to the cart, only seems the right thing to do doesn't it? In any case, I'll quite look forward to listening to that to see how it is with the proper guitars etc on her stuff. And it's only a small outlay to see if I really do like it, got to be worth a try hasn't it?

I saw in the news this morning that Charlton Heston had passed away. Another great actor has been taken from us sadly, if you ever saw the likes of the epic that was Ben Hur, well it showed just how good he was. The only thing I could think of is that I'd now feel slightly sad when listening to Stump's excellent single "Charlton Heston" which was pretty much nonsense but also good fun - with the key line of "Charlton Heston put his vest on" - got to be tune of the day for that line and as a tribute to the man himself. And because it's just plain daft, being happy after all shouldn't make you stupid, but you know..

In the afternoon after watching the F1 (not the most exciting race ever apart from Fernando Alonso seemingly braketesting Lewis Hamilton controversially) I headed off to go to the Middlewood Way - a ten mile former disused railway that goes from Rose Hill Marple to Macclesfield via Middlewood, hence the name of the way. Today I thought I'd take a nice walk from Marple to Middlewood and see how that went, and if I felt the need to go further, I could do. Well I got to Rose Hill station by bus (thank heavens for the weekly pass eh?) and started to take the walk along the way. Even though it was a litle nippy, it did seem fine, and then the snow started to come. Yes, more snow. It was actually soft at first and it did seem picturesque walking along the path with lots of countryside and golf courses and farms, but by the time I headed towards and beyond the former High Lane station it was pretty much snowing hard, as you can see from these images I took (click to enlarge):

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow Under the snowy bridge

I carried on knowing that realistically I could get to Middlewood and then take the train back to Hazel Grove and catch a bus back homeward, well that was the plan anyway. As I got closer towards the station, I noticed how many people out and about on their bicycles use the way, and indeed dog owners walking their dogs. I only saw one horse and rider though, it must have been nippy enough for them to realistically head out there. As I got over the bridge I could see the train coming (perfect timing or what eh?) and so hopped on there, got off at Hazel Grove, where it was still snowing heavily, and then took the bus onward and homeward from there. As I got home the snow had stopped, but it may still be bad out there... nice walk anyway, mind!

Saturday 5th April - Doing The Indie Kid in Leeds

It's been a mixed bag of a day today. First off, it was to the local bookmakers to put my annual bet on the Grand National. Not that I win, but I thought I'd have a go as I usually do. Ironically before I went, BBC Breakfast had as a guest Nick Briggs, the voice of the Daleks, who with the microphone pronounced one of the horses' names "Comply Or Die" in Dalek voice. That said, I had already made my mind up as to which three horses I was going to put money on to win, so it was a simple case of go in, fill the slip out, hand the money over and job done, remembering the all important thing to take the price that I was offered.

Indeed, taking the price could have been beneficial: by the start of the race, Hedgehunter had dropped from 22-1 to 10-1, which meant that I'd be quids in if he won. The other two I backed (Philson Run and Butler's Cabin) pretty much stayed as they were, although the latter did drop from 14-1 to 12-1 late on, so again that could potentially mean I got better odds. And as City against Chelsea was proving rather painful, with Chelski having taken a 2-0 lead and not exactly about to relinquish it so quickly, it was time to switch over to BBC1 and then watch the race.

It proved again to be folly for me, as Philson Run went at the Canal Turn first time round, and second circuit I was thinking "they're both in contention", well that was till Becher's second time round when Butler's Cabin went. In fact the jockey Tony McCoy has had a habit of going there or being impeded by horses there, ouch. One of the other fancied horses Simon fell at Valentine's second time around (second year on the trot - wonder what the odds were on that?) and Hedgehunter was running okay but got impeded as the horse next along fell a the big open ditch of the 27th. As they turned for home, I knew I had no chance of winning but at least Hedgehunter got round. The winner? Comply Or Die! Darn, why didn't I listen to the voice of the Daleks?

With City having been roundly beaten against Chelski, I could have drowned my sorrows in the evening's telly (especially as Doctor Who was back on) but no. I would have been at the game today only my friend took poorly, so we weren't able to go, so rather than being stuck in the car park getting out of the ground, I was at home - and then thought "hang on a second! Isn't MJ Hibbett and the Validators playing in Leeds tonight?". So, with a quick check of the train times and checking the location of the venue along with suitable buses, I felt it was time to be a bit spontaneous and so headed from home to Piccadilly, hopefully getting the 1812 to Leeds, then a bus to Kirkstall where the venue was, and seeing what I could do. The gig was "Pennfest" organised and run by Leeds singer-songwriter Penny Broadhurst, and there were six bands on. As long as Mark (MJ) and the gang weren't on first, I should be fine.

Got the train and headed into Leeds and knew the 33 or 33A bus would be the weapon of choice. As I headed out of the station, I saw one up the road and knowing it was going to turn right and along where I was, I sprinted to the bus stop and managed to get it - good job too or else there was a half hour wait for the next one, which would never do. As it turned out, my sprinting for the bus proved so worth it, as I spotted a lot of places like TGI Friday's and Frankie and Benny's to the left, I saw a pub with scaffolding to the right - which was the Cardigan Arms. Hurrah! Quickly got off the bus and as I was crossing the road, my heart slightly sank, I could hear the tones of "The Gay Train" playing. Nooo! I was really hoping I hadn't missed much.

Got in the venue and went upstairs and paid the three quid entrance fee, and Penny herself who was manning the door said to me "Looks like you've only missed one!" which cheered me up no end. She must have recognised the Hey Hey 16K t-shirt I had on (which was over a long sleeved black t-shirt to make sure I was keeping warm) and as I headed in and spotted the band, Mark himself spotted me and said "Ooh, hello!" which was nice. Indeed Emma and Tim gave me big grins too, I think everyone was surprised that I'd made it but I was glad that I had. Becuase, my friends, it was a stonking show, with two guitar strings breaking because the band were rocking hard. Oh yes.

So, then, MJ Hibbett and the Validators (official site) (myspace) did their thing. And did they ever! Apart from playing a new song live for the first time in public ever, there were also popular ones like "Hey Hey 16K" and Mark even pointed to my t-shirt, yaay. We also got "Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid" and surprisingly the audience joined in with the chant of "Hey there emo boy, give us all a smile!" too (so make that tune of the day, and quick, because it was such great fun to sing along), and the new single "Do The Indie Kid" along with "Looking At My Hands", "The Lesson of the Smiths" and "Easily Impressed" together with audience particpation bit thrown in. It was all great fun and I think it was enjoyed by a lot of people, which cheered me up no end. I spotted one of the fellow fans in the "A Million Ukeleles" t-shirt too, so that was good to see that a jaunt to Leeds was not too difficult for her either. Hurrah.

I stopped to check most of the other bands too, I'd missed The Fighting Cocks (official site) (myspace) who I'd missed in Sheffield because I had to get a train back when I saw MJ Hibbett and the Validators there. Shame I'd missed them, because they were rocking. Imagine the likes of Atari Teenage Riot and PWEI mashed up with some ethnic sounds and full of energy, and you're only about 20% there. It was only three of them tonight, Charlie, Anna and Ilaria (who looked ace in stripy tights and blue cami top, very punky too) but they sure rocked the place hard with their song. Their last one had people including me holding up placards with "England!" on and we'd hold them up and everyone would yell it out during the chorus of the song. Immense fun, and I spotted Charlie later on and told him it was a great set.

Next up we had Brontosaurus Chorus (myspace) who were okay as twee indie pop goes, and indeed played some quite nice mellow tunes as well, which was all well and good as lovely, but they had two faults which they need to sort out. First, they spent way too much time tuning guitars and sound checking actually while they were supposed to be on, and that could have been done earlier on. Also, get the lead singer to drop that cat ears headband, it just doesn't work for me. But when they played, they were decent, and no complaints from me about their musicianship (especially whoever was playing the cello, they were great!)

And then Penny Broadhurst herself (official site - you will need to register to read it!) (myspace) did her thing. I was kind of mixed about her set in that she has a good voice and puts it to use well across a variety of styles (in particular the disco number "Give It Up", which was very catchy) - it's just a shame that she's missing a guitarist so that whatever she's recorded with her session guitarist for the EPs could be played live instead of using backing plus Emil on the trumpet and corner etc. That said, it was still good fun and everyone seemed to enjoy it - and Penny in pink looked the part (I'm sure her husband would agree). And what made me smile was the fact that her witty insights went well on record too, had me giggling anyway.

I knew I couldn't stick around for the last band as I had to get the train back, so said my goodbyes to Mark, Tim, Emma, Frankie and Tom (ie: MJ Hibbett and the Validators), Charlie and Anna from Fighting Cocks, and spotted Penny and thanked her for putting all this on, as it seemed to be quite busy up there and there was a nice vibe too, which was rather good all round really. And isn't that what it's all supposed to be about when you go to a gig? Well, I think so and I'm sticking to it. Managed to head on the bus back down Kirkstall Road, past ITV Yorkshire telly and got off at the train station, with ample time to get the 10.40pm train back to Manchester.

Upon arriving in Manchester I had - guess what - snow! Yes, it was real and it was snowing pretty hard, and I was covered in the white stuff even from taking the short walk from the bus to my house, so that was hopefully going to mean that lots of snow was going to fall overnight. Mind you, it's April, it shouldn't really be snowing. The last time I saw it this bad was making my way across from Sheffield on a Monday morning and having to head into work, with my teeth aching and chattering from the wintry fall - and that was some eight years ago if I remember rightly. I'll just have to see if it sticks or not.

Friday 4th April - Give A Little Something

Another day at the office and the last day before the students officially return, although to be honest because a lot of them have deadlines and the like during the week that they come back, all the clever ones have been in this week getting all their work done and producing it so that they can have the last laugh come Monday. I'd been kept fairly busy by it all, ensuring the plotters are constantly working and on the go, and also tracking down a slight glitch with the online payments system as well, which thankfully I got the right assistance from. Isn't it great when things just work?

Knowing that because of recent bus changes, I couldn't get my usual bus to Tesco, it was Plan B to get the other bus I can get. During term time though, the traffic crawls this way and so I'm going to have to keep an eye on how long it takes, but as this wasn't during, it was quite smooth. By the Tesco I go to, I saw the wreckage of what was a set of flats and possible shops that were being built in front of it, which had all gone up in flames due to arson attack, most likely by doing something with the electricity substation nearby. All you could see was the burnt rubble in places, and it was a reminder of just how quick and dangerous fire can be - the whole thing's going to have to be built from scratch again. But nonetheless I headed around and got my shopping done, even spotting the person who'd done my roof in there doing the food shop with the kids. Homely.

Got home and there was a nice package waiting for me which was the new Donna Marie EP, "This World". You might want to read my review, but suffice to say it was well worth the wait. In fact, I'm still in love with the closing track "Faraway" that it just has to be my tune of the day - it's so gorgeously wonderful and soft, yet maintains all the lovely song writing qualities all at the same time. You can tell there's love and passion written in there, and that's just great. Isn't it great when packages arrive? In fact my friend also sent me a text to say that their package had arrived and it was really nice what I'd got as a present - which gave me that happy Ready Brek type glow - always better to give than to receive you know.

One thing I'd been watching on BBC iPlayer this week (as the show was on at 9.15am on BBC1 and I'd be on work!) was "The Estate We're In", a five part series chronicling the transformation of the Wolseley Road flats and estate in Plymouth. The estate didn't look that nice with graffiti everywhere, insecure doors, poor lighting and a feeling of desperation. Enter Silla Carron, Neighbour of the Year, who'd transformed her estate in North London to a gorgeous place, and straight away she was on the case and working with the people who lived there, slowly but surely change started to come around. It was so heart warming to see a community which were too scared to start to fight back and bring themselves together, arrange meetings, get the council rightly to admit that they'd failed the residents, and what's more, take action and really get things done. The transformation of both the people and the living environment has been an absolute joy, now it looks cleaner, there's a sense of pride, the kids are involved at every level ensuring future generations want to live there, and above all else the smiles on the residents' faces were a pure joy to see.

My favourite of the residents was Joe, a teacher and someone who quickly realised that to change things around, someone has to make a start - he was ever so proactive and yet was great with all the kids, making them feel involved too. When two of the tenants' association had to take step back because of illness, he stepped in to take the mantle and really kept things going - credit to him. The only tinge of sadness at the end was the tribute that was on screen to one of the tenants' association, whom had falled ill and had eventually died. He and his wife were pretty proactive and I'm sure that his surviving wife should be rightfully proud of the work that they did together. But nonetheless, inspiring stuff. The BBC News website article should point you in the right direction as to what can be done.

Thursday 3rd April - It's National Time!

Another day at the ranch and one that had me out and about a bit in the office, setting up the timetabling software for a couple of the staff so that they could sort out their own timetable stuff, and also then getting to fix some of the printers and make sure that they were fully loaded for the day too. One nightmare that did happen though was that the server that we use to do the imaging on seemed to have crashed, and even after a restart it looked like someone centrally had been messing with it. I finally managed to get it up and running with a good old dsrepair, and before you know it everything started working back again as intended. Phew! Relief all round.

I also had a good think today about where the next six months are going to take me. Realistically I know that there's a lot of changes at work and it may be worth me riding it out, and at the same time I also know that I can't really go on holiday if I'm having the kitchen done. That would be a shame of course, but realistically I know that there's priorities to be had and I need to ensure that they are met first before anything else. If I manage a weekend away with a cheap Travelodge stay then that might work fine, and I might even just have a week off in August and take myself away to local places every day, that could well be doable too.

In any case, it was a quick stop at the Post Office when I got home to send a nice parcel to my friend with some goodies in, and also to be sure that the Sky Plus box had recorded the first day of the Aintree Grand National meeting. Today was the Foxhunters Chase over the National fences, the real big race for the amateurs out there. It was a close run thing but in the end a deserved win for Christy Beamish, with two time winner Katarino coming a close second and putting in a really good effort. The winner nearly went down at Becher's too so it was an amazing effort to come back from that and win. It gets me warmed up nicely for Saturday's big race which I'll be recording this year as I'm at the City v Chelski game.

For some reason though some of the clips on the BBC website are saying "sorry, these clips are not available in your territory". Bit annoying that, especially considering I'm based within the UK, with a UK service provider, on a UK landline. I can only imagine that my ISP's DNS servers are coming out with something other than UK-based which might be the cause. Hmm.. but I've emailed the BBC anyway just to make them aware of the issue. It only seems to be the recent Flash-based ones since they changed the website, the old Real Player clips work, and so does BBC iPlayer, so go figure!

Anyway, because it's such a fine tribute to drummers everywhere, I have to give MJ Hibbett and the Validators' "The Drummer's Lament" tune of the day - it is so true and real, and it definitely doesn't sound like a B-side to me either, it's a class tune. It makes me all excited hoping that the new album's going to be as good!

Wednesday 2nd April - Getting Back Into Swing

Well, I wasn't talking about the golf either to be honest, as I've not played that for ages although I must admit the pitch and putt course is most likely going to be tempting for me at Wythenshawe Park at some point in time to have a good knock around and get the short game going nicely. But I meant in terms of work and being able to get on with things as best I can. I'd sorted out the order that we raise for the printer consumables for the student printing, and put the first batch of stuff we needed in there yesterday, which arrived safe and sound this morning. It's very easy to run out of things and one thing I don't like doing is running out, not when there's students concerned, so it was good to be able to sort that out.

Went into the centre of Manchester after work as I needed to get a couple of things sorted out including a birthday card and a present for a friend. Whilst I was in town I couldn't resist and made a very quick trip into Vinyl Exchange, where I flicked through the US Indie section and found Buck 65's "Situation" album for a mere three quid on CD. As you can imagine I'm not one to miss out on a veritable bargain like that especially as I was after it and would have probably done an Amazon "new and used" job instead, so saving dosh was obviously advisable to do. I was really pleased with myself as well and played that when I got home. "Dang" is still bloody great, and it just invokes memories of me seeing him live, so tune of the day it most certainly is for me. And the rest of the album is good stuff too, hard to categorise really but that's a good thing. Like the hip hop vibe in there!

Saw the Champions League game later on as well, but not Liverpool against Arsenal as I thought that would be a bit boring, oh no, Fernabahce against Chelski for me. And indeed as Chelski went a goal up and looked to be cruising, thought it'd be game over. Not a bit of it. On came Colin Kazim-Richards, who used to play for lower league sides like Bury, Brighton and even had a spell with Sheffield United in the Premier League last season, and he transformed the game, scoring a brilliant equaliser and being a menace around the pitch. It was no surprise when the Turkish team went 2-1 up and they deserved their win. On the one hand, they'll be happy, but they still have the away goal to work against them, and having beaten Liverpool at home, they got panned away, so they'll know it will be a tough call to go to Stamford Bridge and win.

And joy upon joy, a nice package came in the post too, no less than MJ Hibbett and the Validators' new single, "Do The Indie Kid" on a veritable huge slab of 7" vinyl! I dunno about you, but I've noticed the 7" single making a real comeback as of late, even HMV in Manchester has a pretty decent selection of stuff and it's also intriguing to see that other shops are doing the same. Of course for the indie disco DJ it's also the preferred weapon of choice somewhat in that they can play stuff for the kids out there to still do their stuff to. I'd probably feel very old and out of it if I went to such a night now to be honest, but I bet they still play some of the old classics that used to make my night when I heard them back in the day. Maybe it's time for me to think of a retro indie night and get that set up?

Tuesday 1st April - Fools' Gold

Of course with it being April Fool's Day today, the inevitable pranks and fools jokes were present everywhere, such as the headlines on the back page of The Sun newspaper which said that the England coach Fabio Capello wants everyone to speak Italian instead so that the players can communicate with him. That made me giggle. But the best one was the BBC's mock trailer for their iPlayer, where they had penguins which could apparently fly thousands of miles to migrate when the weather turned nasty. A clever bit of CGI here and there and it did look quite convincing, and fun too, especially when later in the day the Beeb put up a small "making of" film to show how it was done. I chuckled at that one for sure.

It reminded me of something the BBC did years ago which fooled so many people and really was a classic of its time. The Panorama programme went abroad where they found - get this - spaghetti growing on trees, and how the crop was bad this year. Of course it was all a complete spoof and fooled the majority of people into thinking that that was how spaghetti was made etc, but it was the seriousness of the reporting, the dry sense of humour almost, that fooled people into thinking that it was the way. You don't get TV gems like that too often anymore, but it still makes me chuckle when I see it mentioned.

It was hard not to resist temptation today in the office as someone had brought in some bars of Dairy Milk double choc as a little thank you for helping them out - and especially when you saw one opened up, seeing how the double chocolate looks inside. It's probably calorietastic per chunk though so I had to really exercise some willpower, not least as Mum was making me some tea later and I was going to check through with her some places to stay at during her forthcoming jaunt down to Cornwall, which worked really well and it was good to catch up with Mum too at the same time.

Throughout the day though I've been excitedly awaiting delivery of the new MJ Hibbett and the Validators single "Do The Indie Kid" which should be here tomrorow, on vinyl only too, wahey. I've actually seen this track performed live and it's great fun, and full of funny moments throughout. In fact to remind me of how good they are live, I had to dig out "We Validate" on CD and have a good blast of "The Lesson of the Smiths", which is just a brill song, end of. It mentions Johnny Marr, Morrissey and Gary Barlow all in the opening line - what more could you ask for? Nowt. So tune of the day it most clearly is - peace and love is still a good idea, don't you know.