Dear Diary... April 2009

Thursday 30th April - Digging An Early Grave

Had a marvellous night out with The Flowers In Her Hair tonight, and it was what was needed after a pretty intriguing day at the office. I had had my interview for a post that I'd applied for, and I did feel quite happy with how I did, I was able to ply a good customer service angle along the way and certainly the recent experience that I've gained has allowed me to give good quality answers that certainly would be rather useful. I did feel quite contented afterwards that I had done well. Of course it was no guarantee of me getting the job, but nonetheless that was something I could take on board and see how things went.

I then in a flash of inspiration rang the box office at the Crucible just to see if there were any tickets going for tomorrow night's snooker action, with it being the semi finals and all. When I mentioned I just wanted a single ticket, the woman at the box office said "we have a return in Row D if that's any good to you". Err.. yeah it is! I promptly paid and will collect the ticket tomorrow. I've worked out that I can get to Sheffield straight from work on the train okay and have time to be able to sort myself out for the session ahead. It'll be grand, and with things in the office coming to a decision about who goes where for us, it'll be very interesting times.

I got home, got changed out of the suit and then went to meet The Flowers In Her Hair at her works, as she was working on a late shift. We headed across to the Waterhouse and had a nice meal in there, and I had a really nice pint of mild that was one of the guest ales on offer at that time, which was all good. I also then was able to have a good chat with her about the interview, and she seemed pretty pleased that I had managed to do okay in the grand scheme of things, which was rather lovely. We then headed to the Academy 3, noted the on stage times, and as we had some time to kill, headed across to Kro and a nice pint of Landlord just happened to be waiting for me.

We got inside the Academy 3 later, met with my work colleague and his Mum, and we had a good chat. We'd got in half way through the set of opening act Foreign Slippers (myspace) and she wasn't that bad, although her songs were a little bit melancholy. She had what looked like tree twigs in her hair with a few flowers and even a fake bird, which looked a bit eccentric to say the least. Her voice reminded me a little in parts of Natalie Merchant, but with a bit more of an Irish twang to it. She was okay, and generally if she played the occasionally more happy song, that'd have gone down nicely.

Duke's mate Chip Bailey was on next, and Chip had his long time friend (myspace) and they were Bailey and Bowles for the night, although the two of them played Chip's stuff as Temperance Society Chip Bailey. Chip had his bizarre range of percussion instruments out tonight (everything except the infamous cheese grater and whisk!) and rattled out a few cracking numbers, including "Ya Ya My Name Is" to open the act, complete with rocking guitar, a tale of how they missed Jimi Hendrix on the Isle of Wight, and the rather cute "Stumpy Goes To Bognor" which is a really fun instrumental piece.

It was a shame Chip wasn't playing with Duke Special (he did guest on a couple of numbers) but nonetheless, Duke Special (official site) (myspace) was just as good as he usually is. He had the full band this time, so Paul Pilot and Phil Wilkinson for example were present and correct. It was a good cross section of both full length albums, including a gorgeous title track of the new album "I Never Thought This Day Would Come", a lovely "Salvation Tambourine" complete with scratched record and eerie bits, a haunting "Digging An Early Grave" which had the audience singing along, and a beautifully emotive "Freewheel" near the end, which had Foreign Slippers joining in to sing with Duke, which was lovely. But.. the highlight for me was a rather gorgeously lovely "Sweet Sweet Kisses" (and it's tune of the day) as it just had everyone singing but in a really nice soft way, which just melted in the mouth with goodness. Awww.

But there was more to come, oh yes! Not content with the usual encore, Duke, Precious Slippers, the band and Chip decided they wanted to do a music hall number and so went into the middle of the crowd and had those nearby sat on the floor so that those at the edges like me could stand up and watch them to their stuff. After the song, they carried on playing, went round the back of the Academy 3 by the bar, then back, right past myself and The Flowers, and then up on stage to say goodbye. It was a lovely end to a lovely gig, and although not quite up there with their legendary Deaf Institute gig, it was still excellent all round. What a nice way to end the month, even if the finish was late.

Wednesday 29th April - To The Wire

Well, a quite intriguing day really. I had to try and sort out a possible problem in one of the offices when there were people stating that they couldn't log in, only for it to be one of the routers that certain staff are connected to that sounded a bit flakey on the whole, so I didn't want to necessarily go and visit the staff member concerned till that other issue was sorted out. What it did mean was that I had to slightly prioritise things differently to be able to work out what I could do and what I'd be able to sort out in the meantime.

I went via Blockbuster on the way home later, and noted that they were having a games sale on, notably a second hand copy of Boogie plus the microphone for the Wii, which was interesting to note. It'd mean I'd get the microphone for less than buying it retail alone, and another game to boot as well. It would also mean it could be used with Guitar Hero World Tour as well, because the one my friend borrowed me was bundled with the same game as well. There were a few other games to note and I was suitably impressed by the reductions: but I resisted the temptation.

I had some tea later and then settled in to watch the World Snooker - and what an evening it was. Neil Robertson was the one on fire against Stephen Maguire, and even though they'd started the final session with Robertson 8-6 up, it was a case of Robertson knocking in constant breaks and at one stage was 12-7 up before winning 13-8 and polishing the game off. On the other table though, it was a real battle and a half with John Higgins and Mark Selby fighting right to the wire. As I'm typing this, it's locked at 12-12 and a final frame decider - now that's what I am talking about.

Of course, no snooker match would be complete without the proper theme music of Doug Wood's "Drag Racer", would it? Thankfully on the BBC Red button in between frames it gets an airing, and the full version too - so tune of the day it most definitely is. It was also good that in the mid-session interval I was able to switch the red button stuff to some of the classic 147s, including the great 1992 Jimmy White maximum and Ali Carter's from last year, which was great stuff. Of course with Stephen Hendry making one yesterday, there's only ever been nine maximums and only six players have done it - Hendry joined an even more exclusive club (him and Ronnie O'Sullivan are the only two players to have done the 147 twice or more at the Crucible) but it didn't help him as he lost 13-11 to Shaun Murphy.

Tuesday 28th April - We're So Pretty, Oh So Pretty

I had a pretty good day at the office to be honest. I had to do a training session in this new little piece of software that I've been testing out, and I had one of my friends and colleagues in another department and his team checking it out for us. It was a nice informal chatter and I was able to demonstrate the various ways in which it could be used: and they seemed pretty contented all round. What worked best was that it seemed nice and accessible, and all the testing that I had done seems to have put things to good use overall, which has to be a positive for sure.

I felt pretty flushed as I made my way into the city centre later on: I needed to get a birthday card or two, and also I wanted to see if there was anything decent for the Wii in Gamestation - just to get an idea of prices and such like. One thing I did also notice whilst in the centre was just how many sales are still on despite it being way past Easter. Whether that's a sign of the times or not I don't know, but I am pretty sure that everyone's still feeling the pinch pretty hard and that if you can actually save any money, then everyone's there like a shot I think. I did also this morning manage a good effort on the rowing machine: meaning I've beaten my best again. I think I was glad that I didn't ditch the thing, thinking it was broken, that's for sure.

I settled in for the evening and started to make my favourite chorizo sausage pasta bake, which always seems to go down well when I cook it for The Spikes In The Punk's Hair, that is for sure. I had timed it so it was pretty much ready just after she got to mine, so I was then able to serve it with a nice drink. In fact she had very kindly got me a bottle of the Feelgood cranberry and lime drink, so that I could have a soft drink instead of alcohol with the tea, and hopefully try and be healthy. We had the pasta bake and I was pretty pleased it turned out consistently good, so that was rather nice, and then it was time to rock.

I had unlocked some songs in Guitar Hero World Tour last night and so was therefore able to play some more numbers either by guitar or vocals. In fact I set the guitar to beginner mode, so you just had to strum at the right time, and The Spikes did pretty well on the couple of songs we tried with me doing vocals, one of which was Sex Pistols' classic "Pretty Vacant" (and tune of the day). The band had re-recorded it specially for the game as the original master track was lost and couldn't be found, so even though it sounded different, it was still them rocking and kicking backside. Of course, a lot of it you can just yell punk style, which I certainly did to great effect - it might have even scared The Spikes a little bit. Mind you, I did also do Hotel California by The Eagles on my own vocally, which was pretty neat.

I had also been busy last night dusting down a lot of the house. In fact, the bedroom was particularly the case in that under the bed was quite dusty, so I had lifted the bed on its side and ran the Dyson through there several times, which did the job nicely, it felt a lot cleaner and much better for it. As I'd done the downstairs as well, The Spikes remarked on how clean the house was. I certainly don't want to be on that show with Kim and Aggie, and I don't think I ever would be either - I pride myself too much for that. I think that if you keep on top of the house work, and then you only need to do a little bit every day, it's easier to maintain, I'd certainly like to think so anyway.

We had a fun last part of the evening with Carnival Funfair Games on the Wii, where I was soundly thrashed on the "Day at the Races" game. I think The Spikes is definitely the queen of the Kentucky Derby, as almost every ball she rolled was going into the 50 point targets and going pretty far with the horse, and her finishing time was excellent. And not to mention her panning me on the hoops basketball as well. Credit where it's due to be honest, she's got demon skills when she needs them!!

Monday 27th April - Off With The Weight!

Well, back to work today, and not that I really wanted to go to be honest. The weekends are becoming so nice as of late and especially with the weather being so nice as well. I had a great time with my friend on Saturday and with The Ferry Cross The Mersey on Friday and Sunday, it almost felt like a massive anticlimax to actually head back to the office - not least as the rain outside was heavy and hammering it down, which didn't really entice me to get out of bed. But get out I did, because I've set myself a target. Every day, I must do 10 minutes on the rowing machine before I have my shower, and in addition, I should try and aim for (according to the onboard computer thing) around 200 calories burned in that time. Yesterday I managed 207.3, and today I got to 209.2, so a nice gradual improvement. The idea is that I do that and set myself up for the day and not be tempted to scoff myself silly with chocolate.

I guess I've been inspired by the MJ Hibbett and the Validators song "Do More, Eat Less" (and hence it's tune of the day) because it pretty much says what I know - that if you do more, get active and eat less crap, you'll become a lot healthier and happier for it. I know that deep down I want to try and lose a bit more weight and try to get to a weight that I am comfortable and happy with. I resisted the urge of the bag of Eclairs that my friend had brought to the snooker on Saturday, and that was good practice for me, and I also completely thought that not having desserts would be a sensible move. I've allowed myself a yoghurt in the morning to get some sweet stuff inside to stop me craving, and I even bought a lot of Weight Watchers ones (even better that they were on offer in Tesco too) which should help.

I know that when I'm on holiday later in the year, temptation will appear in the form of Cornish Cream Teas, pasties and such like, and whilst some of that is all very well as I'll be often taking nice walks around places and seeing the sights and all, it'll mean that I have to balance things a bit between now and then so that I can treat myself a bit. That's the plan, and if I can try and get a bicycle and spend some of the Summer evenings out getting on a seven or eight mile ride, then that's got to be a good thing I think. What I need to do too, I think, is to think positively about the whole thing. It's not a fad, it's a lifestyle choice and something that I know that if I apply myself, I can stick to it and make myself feel even better inside than I did. I'm even toying with the Wii Fit, although that'd only be useful during the dark Winter months though.

Sunday 26th April - That's Why I Take The Train

I had a very enjoyable day out with The Ferry Cross The Mersey, as we thought that it would be a good idea to head out into Liverpool and indeed take a walk around the Albert Dock, see some of the museums and galleries, and even have a look around the new Liverpool One shops as well. The only question we wanted to decide on was whether we'd take The Ferry's car, or we'd hop on a train from Piccadilly to Liverpool Lime Street station. In the end, the car won, purely because of the fact that she didn't mind and was quite happy to drive in the nice weather, although I did state a good case for Transpennine Express being clean and comfortable (which they are).

After a few minutes of drinking coffee and indeed checking out the votes to our submitted questions on the Everybody Votes Channel on the Wii, and ensuring Sky Plus was set to record the F1 race in Bahrain later, it was off in the car, along the Mancunian Way, down the M602 and then M62 into Liverpool. I always found it weird that the M62 ends at junction 4, but this was because at some point it was meant to go closer to the centre, and they can't renumber the junctions now because junctions 12 to 18 are shared with the M60. Meh. However, a bit of navigation later and we were soon heading into the centre, and after rejecting a couple of car parks because of their prices, we went into the car park underneath Liverpool One, as it was close to there and to the Albert Dock, only to find that the parking there was just as über-expensive as the others - a mere £9 for the five hours we had, for example. When we took into account that plus the petrol used (around two gallons or so at around £4 a gallon) I reckoned that it was almost as cheap taking the train and with less hassle of finding a parking space. That's why I take the train! (said in Sir Jimmy Saville type voice).

Anyway, we had a look around Liverpool One first, and it was all grand and new, and with plenty of the shops open. It felt a bit odd at first with it not being covered, but in fact because of the scale of the buildings (not least with the Odeon Cinema bunged right on the top of one of them) it allowed some nice natural light in and felt a good experience for it. I noted too that quite few exclusive named shops had set themselves up along Paradise Street, which was notable, and after a pit stop at The Wrekin for lunch (and me avoiding the television on inside so I didn't know the F1 result) it was then back through Liverpool one and along the gardens and water feature towards the Albert Dock.

We spent some time in the Tate Gallery, and their current sculpture exhibition is definitely one you will love or hate in equal measure. I say this because whilst some of the sculpture made a good arty point and made you think, others was just people discarding objects on a floor, which let's be honest, is just making a mess and then attempting to call it art. Most of it was good enough though, although the previous 20th century art exhibit that they had was much better in my eyes at least.

We also headed in the Maritime Museum, and started from the top down - the top floor has a whole exhibit now about slavery, the trade it was and the reforms put in place to abolish it, with a side angle of how such actions could also be deemed as the first acts of racism too. It was inspiring to see that it was a well balanced and unbiased exhibition and that deserves a lot of credit for not taking sides too much. The second floor has a feature about some of the history of Liverpool, complete with occasional "phone points" where you pick up the receiver and a bloke in a full on Scouse accent explains some of the times spent in the city, such as it when it was responsible for one seventh of the world's shipping, no less. There's also the mentions of the ships like Titanic on the first floor as well as a whole exhibit on how ships were used to great effect during war, with plenty of artefacts like huge cannons, missiles and such like. All very Boy's Own stuff, so to speak.

We had a further wander around the Dock, noting all the eateries and gift shops littered everywhere, not least a couple that dealt in really tacky souvenirs of the city and didn't really do that much for the image of the rest of the place. What was good to see was that the civic pride from last year's European Capital of Culture was there - it hardly looked a mess at all, all very clean, tidy and very commendable, credit to those who deserve it for that. The new Liverpool Museum is taking shape and will be a striking building between the Albert Dock and the Pier Head when it opens, and be a gateway to both.

We headed back in the car and made our way out via the South of the Mersey, along the A562 and then joining the outer ring road back to the M62 - not the least mileage perhaps, but bloody quick nonetheless, and it was a sprint down the M62 and M602 and back to mine, where I started to make tea. For the first time ever, I was attempting to make a curry all by myself, and I had some Quorn pieces, a nice korma sauce, and some rice. The korma sauce was even Tesco's low fat version, and it certainly didn't lose out on taste either, was all lovely, and managed to get the pieces spot on too - a sort of chicken curry sans chicken, vegetarian style almost. It went down well with The Ferry, who praised me kindly for my efforts. Next time, I'll have to try real chicken and indeed maybe do some naan bread with it, but I wanted to take things a step at a time.

Then it was out with the Wii, and on to Guitar Hero World Tour. I played guitar, The Ferry sang, and we got booed off the stage. It turned out that the mic wasn't picking up her vocals as well as it could, and even with a slight tweak, we did better second time around, although it helps when you know the words too (and we got cheers, yaay). I then did Blondie's wonderful "One Way Or Another" (make that tune of the day) alone, with The Ferry holding the mic close to my mouth whilst I also strummed the guitar as well, so I could do it solo. Now all I need is a mic stand and I can do both together, hmmm, possibilities there. I did also sing "Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac and was pretty pleased with how I did, and before we knew it, The Ferry had kissed and cuddled me goodbye and left me to watch the F1 to see Jenson Button kick backside (and also burn his backside due to the heat!) and win in Bahrain. What a good day!

Saturday 25th April - Shine Your Shoes And Head For The Crucible, Take Three

It was another visit to Sheffield for me and indeed another visit to the home of snooker, The Crucible Theatre, which was always a welcome thing to do for me. I'd never been to the second round before either - all of the matches I'd been to were first round ones, so that was nice. Even nicer was that I was taking my friend along with me as well, who fancied going to see what it was like and also if it was any different than being on the telly. I knew the case of it being that it was, but it was a case of seeing how others would interpret that atmosphere, especially as it's smaller than people think.

My friend picked me up and we headed off in the car. I'd allowed a bit more time with it being Saturday, and this turned out to be a good move. Inevitably at the end of the M67, the traffic looked like it was snarling through Mottram, and so we took the back way around the back of Hattersley and Broadbottom, then down through Gamesley and into Glossop. On the way back, we worked out what the problem was - temporary traffic lights just before Woolley Bridge on the A57. It was still a little slow getting into Glossop, but once we left there and headed out to the Woodhead pass via Old Glossop, all seemed well. Of course, we had to avoid the junction down at Holingworth because of the snarl-up, and so had to go this back way - but had the option of taking the Snake if we wanted.

Once we got on the road out of Glossop and on to the Woodhead, the traffic was fine, and we got off the M1 at Meadowhall, took the road into town, navigated the ring road and arrived at the car park close to Sheffield Hallam University, which I'd worked out was about the best for us - and there were spaces too, so that was good. We got all sorted and then went up the ramped access to Surrey Street and upon us was the beloved Crucible. We did have some time spare, so we had a quick look round the side where the stage door was, and both Ryan Day and Ali Carter arrived, both of them walking in from their hotels rather than take a courtesy car, which was a nice touch to be honest. Once they'd all gone in, we headed back into the Crucible, took our seats, made sure the phones were switched off, and play was ready.

The match we were seeing was Ryan Day against 00-147, and Man City fan, Nigel Bond. Day was 11-5 up after the first two sessions and wasted no time at all, winning the two frames required. The second frame took around seven minutes and my friend was impressed with his play. Ryan's up against Mark Allen next, who pulled off the result of the tournament with a well deserved 13-11 win over Ronnie O'Sullivan, so that'll be one tasty quarter final during next week, that's for sure. Nigel was at least a bit happier later in the day, and so was I, as we found out after the session's play that Man City had won 2-1 at Everton, with goals from Robinho and Stephen Ireland. Wahey!

The Crucible then became one table on one side, and the dividing partition was lifted up so that we could all see the action. It was the start of Neil Robertson against Ali Carter, and it was a pretty good affair, even if it was tense near the end. They swapped frames for the first four before the interval, with Ali Carter being particularly honest with ref Jan Verhaas in the fourth frame - he had nudged the white when playing a pot and admitted it to Jan so it was a foul shot. Good sportsmanship that, and in the end Carter won that frame to make it 2-2 at mid-session. After the interval, Robertson got on top, and although the last three frames were littered with tense and nervous mistakes, but on the whole it was good stuff, and Robertson edged 5-3 ahead.

After that, it was off to get ourselves something to eat, and remembering how nice it was, we went to RSVP close to the City Hall. They do their two meals for £6.95 every day, and so he had the scampi and I had the barbecue chicken melt. All was lovely and the scampi by all accounts was spot on, so that was excellent. It was then back to the car and off out of Sheffield, this time taking the A57 through Broomhill and Rivelin and on to Snake Pass, and the sun in the eyes was the main factor in us taking it a little slower, because it was quite offputting. He did really well though, and it didn't take us that long to get back to Manchester. We also discussed whether the makers of Singstar should do a spinoff called Singstar Football Anthems, and obviously in that you could have Three Lions etc.

It was then back to mine to play Guitar Hero World Tour and play as a band, wahey! He had brought the microphone over and he lent it me (very kind) and soon I was rocking the guitar, he was doing vocals, and all was well with the world. We did REM's "The One I Love", "Band on the Run" by Wings (make that tune of the day, it's a classic), "The Joker" by The Steve Miller Band, and indeed "Some Might Say" by Oasis, amongst other things. It all worked really well and I have to say that we were spot on in terms of band play. We rock, we do, and it was an excellent end to an excellent day.

Friday 24th April - Singing La Ti Da, Ti Da...

Well, it was a pretty busy day in the office, not least because we all had a meeting to go to during the lunch break which basically showed what was going to be happening to the building that we currently work in. We have an eight floor tower and next to that a smaller square undercroft of two floors. In order for us to try and expand a bit but also have a new building, that two floors is being demolished entirely, with there then being a brand spanking new four storey tower put in its place. That sounds okay, but the equipment and staff based in those sections will need to be rehoused temporarily, so it'll be a case of squeezing people in where they can till the new build is done by 2012. It's all a new challenge and I am sure that it will be met by our folks head on, but still, interesting times ahead no less.

I also had to try and sort out an Asus Eee 901 as well, and I soon got to the root of the problem. The user had complained of crashing, and when I took a closer look I was able to work out why. You see, the Eee has a 16GB solid state hard disk, but for Windows users, it's set up in hardware with a 4GB and an 8GB partition, with no easy way to repartition the thing because they're hardware set. This means that Windows XP with SP3 etc has to live on the main partition C:\, which seems a bit daft. I managed to free up some temporary space, and then uninstalled Nero off C:\ and reinstalled it to D:\ (second partition) which freed up another 600MB or so. Asus has even released this program to trim space off C:\ you don't need, gaining you more, and by the time I was done there was around 1GB free on the drive. Hopefully that won't be eaten up by IE cache, but we'll see.

Had a very enjoyable evening, as Guitar Hero World Tour had arrived from Tesco DVD rental! As you can well imagine, I was straight in there and having a go, and thankfully my Guitar Hero III guitar from the Wii works wonderfully well. Okay, I can't do the slidey parts as it doesn't have a neck slider, but it still works spot on. I even managed to 100% one of the songs (admittedly on easy, but still). The Wii version has a unique feature, Mii freestyle, which allows you and a friend to use your Mii characters to jam to a track. For the guitarist, you can earn stars by completing riffs that appear in the top, and the drummer can even use the Wii remote and nunchuck instead of the drum pads, which is a neat touch. I tried it when The Milk In My Coffee came over later, and it was quite sweet when her Mii was rocking it big time - which led her to say "I rock!"

Also, the new MJ Hibbett and the Validators album arrived at the Towers. Yaay. I'd been waiting for this release for some time, and there's a review planned (stay tuned people). What was nice was the little booklet, which only comes with the initial run, which has all the song words and information about each of the songs within the album, which worked well. There's a copy of that as a multimedia extra on the CD as well, so at least you don't lose out. I played it for The Milk during a game of Scrabble, and she seemed reasonably okay with it. Considering she's coming with me for the album launch gig in a couple of weeks' time, thought I'd best get her used to the sound now. You know how it is.

Mind you, it was Friday, the weather was nice, the weekend upon us, so I did a bit of a masterstroke. I played The Icicles' second album "Arrivals and Departures" which led me to happy memories of seeing them in Birmingham back in November 2007. Once I started playing the album, The Milk was like "I like this - a lot". I don't know if it helped her concentrate more, but her Scrabble score in that game was very good indeed despite a tight board. Because she loves it, and cos I do too, I'm going to make "Crazy" by them tune of the day - it's a gorgeously sunny feeling when you listen, and rightly so in my view!

Thursday 23rd April - Everyone's Down The Pub

Well, on the way home, I headed via the city centre as I wanted to check to see if I could find any Wii games cheap, but also to see if I could get hold of a suitable microphone for the Wii. You see, I am having Guitar Hero World Tour delivered from Tesco DVD Rental tomorrow, and as such it'd be nice to have the option of either singing along with the songs or rocking out on the guitar (thankfully the one with GH III works, yaay). I even considered getting Boogie, because that'd have the mic with it. However, I couldn't find one as a standalone package and the ones with the games weren't cheap. What I might do is that my friend is coming over on Saturday and we're going to watch the snooker at the Crucible - so we might head back to mine and if he brings his mic (he has Boogie for the Wii with one) then I can try that mic out and see if it works - he can sing, I'll do the guitar, we're a rock band!

I couldn't help but notice as well that on the way home, nearly every single pub was full of people getting hideously drunk - and not just anyone either, lots and lots of scroats and chavs. Oh bloody joy. Whilst I can understand that England should celebrate St George's Day and I do feel it should also be a Bank Holiday thrown in (scrap the first May Bank Holiday instead, that'll sort it) it seemed that the only people really celebrating it were those who were likely to be out there getting hideously drunk and then causing trouble. Certainly the pubs around Piccadilly Gardens were like that, and it did make me wonder somehow.

Still, I could have done with the Bank Holiday - I had two meetings today to attend and to put my input into, and that certainly was something well worth doing. In fact for the second one, I had to write some documentation which I had been doing all week, and just about managed to get it done in time - literally! It was a busy day in the office but something I'm used to, and quite happy to cope with. It makes the weekends even more sweeter and indeed the time spent with those I care about even more so, to be honest.

The weather though has been really nice and to be honest I wanted to take myself out to the country somewhere, go for a nice walk and just take in the gorgeous views as well. That might be the plan some time this weekend yet, we shall see. I also did something else pretty good and joined the National Trust for a year. Both myself and The Milk In My Coffee worked out that paying by direct debit saved lots of money on the membership fee, plus it meant that we would be able to get into quite a few places locally and indeed in Cornwall when we go, so that might actually work out to be quite a good move. Locally to me, we've got Lyme Park, Tatton Park, Dunham Massey, Quarry Bank Mill in Styal etc, and with the option of car parking and admission to the houses etc thrown in, all would be well. We looked in Cornwall, and St Michael's Mount is part of that list, as is the steam mine at Levant as well - close to Geevor, cool.

So, lots to look forward to really - and then there's plenty of rocking to do between now and then, and as you can imagine being able to see Kristin Hersh a few times was definitely right up there on the wish list. I don't know why I adore her music so much. I just do, and that's the way it is. In fact, I just put on "Hips and Makers" and it's still a bloody marvellous album, so there. And I'll nominate "A Loon" as tune of the day as that also aptly describes those getting hideously drunk right about now. And I like the song's two parts - the more aggressive start and then the gentler feel later on.

Wednesday 22nd April - Do The Indie Kid!

I had a very nice email this morning from no less than MJ Hibbett, informing me that the new MJ Hibbett and the Validators album "Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez" was available for pre-orders for those lovely people on his mailing list. Now of course, this meant that not only would I get the album in advance of its release date (cool) but even cooler was that the first batch of orders would get a limited edition booklet as well (it's also in PDF form on the CD as an extra, apparently). Needless to say when 10am hit, I was onto it straight away and ordered the album. I can't wait to hear it either, especially as both singles from it thus far, "Do The Indie Kid" (my single of 2008 no less) and "It Only Works Because You're Here" are on there along with plenty of other great indie pop rock stuff. I might even have to give it the old review treatment when it arrives.

In celebration, tune of the day just has to be "Do The Indie Kid" - I proudly own the 7" vinyl single, and it's all rather lovely, especially as the slab of vinyl feels really thick and wholesomely good when I place it onto the turntable as part of the rig. Of course, thanks to it also being on the next EP, I have the track on CD anyway, but it's nice to be able to have the option. Besides, the B-side "The Drummer's Lament" is on the vinyl, therefore making it an altogether cracking purchase option. When the album comes out, it's well worth you ordering the singles as well if you don't already own them - I am sure there'll be a combo deal going on!

Anyway, the day was made even better as I had The Milk In My Coffee come over later for tea - I did us some gammon, which seeemed to do the job rather well to say the least. I was pleased with how it all turned out, and we had a good chat about the last couple of days or so before switching tack to The Apparentice. Now, is it me, or did one team completely screw up on the task? I mean, having a cereal's hero character as Pants Man? The idea is pants to start with, whilst the Treasure Flakes option with the pirate adventure parrot, complete with great box design and game on the back for the kids showed that the team there had paid attention, done their research and nailed a rather good pitch at the same time, not to mention a good advert as well for the whole shebang. Sometimes. that's all you need to do and it's the way forward to do the task with the audience in mind. I was a bit surprised though that the team leader was voted off, should have been either Philip or Lorraine, both equally annoying for different reasons and with egos the size of Sir Alex Ferguson's special watch!

Still, what it did show that was even with the best business brains around, you can still muck it up big time and pay the consequences, sort of like Alistair Darling and the budget. I hate him. I hate him because he was the one that put the Metrolink extension back years by saying that the whole phase three wasn't viable to be funded and therefore shot Manchester in the arm. Since then, I've not trusted him and although a tax on the super rich is all very well and welcome to the money grabbers out there (who'll probably bugger off to the tax haven of Monaco now) there wasn't enough for the ordinary person to really think "that's going to help". It just didn't feel right, and when he said the economy would upturn at the end of the year. Like, which economist did he speak to? George W Bush? Dear oh dear me. Sadly that means the Conservatives could win the next election - and that might even be worse. Eek.

Anyway, The Milk and I then had a blast of the tennis on Wii Sports before commencing with a rather good blast of Fun Fun Minigolf, where she soundly beat me on the hard course and knocked in some impressive shots, including for good measure a hole in one on the final hole, which I've never been able to do. So well done to her, I say - she really did have the putting shoes on last night and it's nice that she can join in the games and play too. That in many essences of course is the beauty of the Wii - the fact that even my Mum enjoys it says it all in that it's good fun to pick up and play, and isn't that what it's all about?

Tuesday 21st April - The Gene Genie Is Back

Watched Ashes to Ashes late last night (I'd actually Sky Plus recorded it as I was watching the evening's snooker on the red button) and it was so pleasing to see that normal service had been resumed, not least with Gene Hunt, the Gene Genie. Philip Glenister was doing his usual sterling job playing him, and it was completely spot on, especially as he really wanted to give people a good kicking for hurting others - and rightly so too. None of this PC nonsense with him - oh no. Keeley Hawes as DI Drake seemed a ton better this time around too - whether this is because she feels more comfortable doing the role or whatever, I don't know. It all looks just as good next week and it's such a relief to see something decent back on the telly, to be quite honest. Monday nights aren't usually so hot and sometimes you need a wind down after work with something to keep you entertained, and certainly that was the case with that show.

Back to today and back to the grind of work as well - and it certainly was all hands on deck for today and most of the week, as we found out that there were plenty of student hand-ins as well to take care of. I also ended up looking at a PC which was refusing to boot, and I soon worked out why. It turned out that some of the files to do with IE7 had somehow been corrupted, causing duplicate copies in the Windows folder (which were clean) and the originals weren't, thus when Windows attempted to start, it'd blue screen every time. One recovery console session later and after the PC restarted, it all came back up. I then, just to be absolutely sure, uninstalled IE and then reinstalled it, just so ensure no remnants were present - it's the thing to do, you know.

In any case Microsoft will soon be gently encouraging everyone to go IE8. Oh whoopie do. Excuse me whilst I contain my excitement. IE happens to be on my PC because it's part of the OS - and for no other reason. It's a case of using Firefox on my main PC rig and the custom version of Opera on the Wii for browsing, which works well. The only snag is that Opera on Wii doesn't have any form of Adobe Reader, nor Java, and the flash plugin is a fair way out of date now. It'd be nice if Nintendo sorted some of that out, because it would then really enhance its usage as an Internet browser for the telly (and especially seeing as USB keyboards work with it!)

Talking of the Wii, I had one last blast on Guitar Hero Aerosmith before sending it back to Tesco DVD Rental. It was a case of going through the last couple of songs and doing the Joe Perry Guitar Battle, which I eventually sussed out and won. Unlike III, if you score well in Career Mode, it also becomes a high score in quickplay mode (which makes sense, because it's the same song) so at least whichever way you play, the high scores reflect the guitar skill. I wish III did that - saves me playing them in Career and Quickplay to set the scores goinmg. I did have a blast of III later anyway as I wanted to see if I could get Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" nailed (it's tune of the day, instant classic). - and I did 100% on it after four attempts. Okay, it was in easy mode, but still...

Monday 20th April - Back To The Crucible

It was up again early this morning, but not to go to work - oh no. It was a case of heading into Piccadilly station, this time with The Pink On The Snooker Table, and heading to Sheffield. Yes, it was the World Snooker again, and we'd booked the tickets ages ago. As the draw worked out, we ended up getting Marco Fu against Joe Swail, two quality players who weren't slow and too tactical either, they could rack up points at speed. Today, as you can imagine, I was hoping to get the full nine frames in that the session allowed, and indeed, see things from a different angle than on Saturday.

We headed on the train to Sheffield and it sped its way through the Peak District, and with plenty of sheep out enjoying the early morning sunshine, it was nice to think that a day off work was going to have such nice weather, even if we were going to be indoors for a fair chunk of it! We arrived at Sheffield, made our way up to the city centre and into the Crucible Theatre, not before managing to spot one of the players coming in via the stage door (it was Martin Gould, no less). We took our seats, which was right at the top row, but we were also in a position to be able to see both tables, which was quite nice.

However, we concentrated on the Marco Fu v Joe Swail match, as that was at the table in front us, whilst occasionally checking the other game (Martin Gould v Mark Allen). Marco made a great start with a century break in the first frame no less, and the next seven frames were shared between them with the eighth being a battle of safety and tactical play, easily being the longest frame of the match thus far. It was 4-4 though, and so the final frame beckoned. It only took ten minutes though as Fu racked up his second century of the match and end the session 5-4 up, with the second session on later tonight.

What amazed us both was that even from up top, the view was excellent - you could see the table and the players clearly, and even be able to work out the angles of the balls so that you knew what was positional and what wasn't, so to speak. Also, what was interesting was that how much you could see the levels of concentration on the shot from up there - being able to really have a birds' eye view on the action was pretty smart. I'm actually going with a friend on Saturday now as well, as I managed to get tickets too, so that'll be good methinks.

The session ended well on time, so we walked around to the stage door to see if there was anyone else we could spot - The Pink had bought a programme for her Mum and so we thought it'd be nice to get autographs. Joe Swail came out and was very nice and friendly and did the honours - cheers, Joe! We also spotted Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo, but they had entourages around them and wanted to get in pretty quick - not least as they were playing each other into the bargain! Nonetheless thought it amazes me to see just how many people were around there - even Terry Griffiths popped round to say hello to a few people, so that was good.

We headed to RSVP bar for lunch close to the City Hall, and two meals for less than seven pounds proved to be a good bargain all round - we both had the barbecue chicken melt, which was spot on. I even had a pint of Bombardier served in an old school pint pot - think of those you'd see in Coronation Street in the 1970s and you get the idea. It certainly felt rather nice anyway, and the weather was good. We then had a look around the Winter Gardens, the Museum and also the Cue Zone before heading back on the train to Manchester, but a great day all round really.

As for tune of the day well I kept thinking of the lyric "shine your shoes and head for the Crucible", because that's where we were headed today. Of course, that line is from Half Man Half Biscuit's seminal "The Len Ganley Stance", a tribute to the former snooker refereeing legend. If you get chance, check it out.

Sunday 19th April - Come On, City!

It was time to head off to watch Man City again with my friend, and what was nice was that The Pink On The Snooker Table had invited us to her place, along with one of my other friends (my friend's wife no less) so that the two of them could have a girlie afternoon whilst us blokes went off and watched the blue shirted heroes. With my Shaun Goater Man City legends t-shirt on and with the sun looking positively bright and nice, we headed back to The Pink's place, nipped to the local Asda before the crowds arrived and got some bits in, and then relaxed a bit before my friends arrived.

Myself and my friend went off to the game, and we were both hoping that after Thursday's battling performance against Hamburg that we could win against West Brom, thus sending them nearer to relegation from the Premier League. I was hoping that City would start with Elano, especially after Thursday, and that did happen. Micah Richards was injured so Pablo Zabaleta went back to right back, with a midfield made up of Vincent Kompany, Nigel de Jong, Stephen Ireland and Elano, with Robinho up front with Felipe Caicedo. I was hoping City would score some goals today. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed.

Eight minutes in, a slick City move saw the result of the first goal. Stephen Ireland curled in a lovely cross and Robinho cracked it in on the volley to take the lead. It was Robinho's first goal of 2009, and hopefully a big weight lifted from him - you could feel the relief around Eastlands. 1-0 soon became 2-0 after a corner that wasn't cleared, the ball went in the air, and although you could argue that Felipe Caicedo had fouled keeper Scott Carson, Nedum Onouha got his head on the ball and the ball went in the net, and the City fans were delirious.

All that was to change though either side of half time. First, the City defence didn't do a good job of marking a West Brom attack and a turn in the area provided the ball to Chris Brunt, who lashed it home past Shay Given, and then early in the second half, Brunt was allowed to piledrive a free kick low and hard past all the defence and into the corner of the net. 2-0 became 2-2, and a lot of City fans were unhappy - not necessarily with the performance (although we weren't playing that well) but because of the tactics employed by the manager Mark Hughes.

I bet Hughes was thankful for Elano, then, as on the first attack after the restart, Elano was fouled in the area, earned a penalty, which he took himself and slotted in the right corner to make it 3-2. It was still anyone's game, and West Brom did at least try and take the battle to City, and at the other end Danny Sturridge wasted numerous chances to settle the game once and for all. Elano made way, much to the disgust of the City fans, who knew he was man of the match again, and eventually Ireland gave Sturridge a gilt edged chance he couldn't miss and to make it 4-2 in stoppage time and a vital win - at last we're over the 40 point mark generally considered to be pretty safe.

We headed back to The Pink's place after the game, and munched some potato wedges, chicken goujons, garlic bread et al for tea, saw Don't Forget The Lyrics, which was on after a few weeks, and thankfully to mine and my friend's delight, the contestant picked the Buzzcocks' classic "Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldnt've)" and that has to be tune of the day. We were even singing along as well and getting the words spot on, as you'd expect! That made the day big time, as did Total Wipeout USA, which had us all in stitches seeing the contestants being utter rubbish. All in all then, a great day - again!

Saturday 18th April - And You Join Us, Here At The Crucible..

It's that time of year again, when the World Snooker Championship is upon us, and when many snooker fans make their annual pilgrimage to The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, to see the best players in the world compete, do battle and really go for the title. And it happened to be, because I rung up in the week and managed to get a ticket, that I was going to the first session of the first day for the third year in a row. I really enjoy going to watch the snooker live, and as Sheffield happens to be not that far from me, it's pretty easy to hop on the train, get there and then watch the action. I do try and make a day of it and also take a walk around the city so it feels like a proper day out.

Up I got, out and ready and on to Piccadilly for the 0820 departure to Sheffield. When I got on the train, the conductor announced that the train would be going via Romiley to New Mills and on to Sheffield rather than via Stockport as it normally does, due to a bridge being struck - and as it turned out, not that far from me either! It didn't delay the journey time any at all, and got into Sheffield on time. Soon I was heading through Sheaf Square, up the hill, past the Museums and on to the Cue Zone and then on to The Crucible itself. It's actually in a revamp phase and all the front is all polished and new, with a new entrance and much better disabled access too, all good.

What wasn't so good was that if you were picking up a ticket that you'd ordered, the queue was massive and yet the future collections bit of the box office was empty. Thankfully sense prevailed and soon two members of staff were sorting out today's tickets, I picked mine up and all was well with the world. I made my way up to the foyer, noticing that the new sponsors BetFred had a stand so you could place a bet on the action at any time, various snooker merchandise up for grabs, the bar and also some of the toilets had been updated (complete with posh Dyson hand dryer too). It was then a case of heading for the Purple Door and down to Row B, second from the front, for the game I was watching.

Rory McLeod made history by being the first black player to qualify for the final stages at The Crucible, and he was up against the Royal King, aka Mark King. What we expected was a bit of nerves, and what I didn't expect was a real tactical battle. Some people might have called the game boring, especially as two of the frames were over fifty minutes each, but in fact there was a lot of excellent safety play involved, and not least in a tense final frame of the session. As it was, the clock had run out before all the nine frames of the session were played: we only got through six. On the other table, they'd finished ages ago with Ronnie O'Sullivan 6-3 up against Stuart Bingham.

However, it didn't matter. It was a real test for both players out there and I think that was engrossing in itself, with plenty of really tricky shots to play, some good breaks in between and also even a slight bit of controversy when McLeod challenged referee Eirian Williams' respot of the red after a miss, only to find it was spot on (confirmed by scorer and snooker ref legend Jan Verhaas via television freeze frame). Of course it was good to see that they kept on Rob Walker and his "let's get the boys on the baize" phrase too, he really is a good front man for the occasion and knows his stuff.

I had a quick meal deal lunch in Marks and Spencer and then had a walk around the city centre, with the sun coming out to play as well. What I did notice was that the city seemed very clean indeed today, which was a real joy. I hate city centres where there's litter everywhere and annoying kids being numpties. None of that here, thankfully. It was good to walk down past The Moor and see it being knocked down and then walk up towards the skate park, on to Division Street and back via the City Hall in a little loop, before having a peek in The Cue Zone, seeing the BBC being ready for filming, and heading back to the station and to get the train back to Manchester. All in all, a fab day, and being there at the snooker is something else. If you get the chance, go!

Even nicer was that The Pink On The Snooker Table came to pick me up from the train station before heading back to mine, where I made some pasta and meatballs for tea, we settled in to watch Robin Hood, then a fair bit of the 1 vs 100 quiz to see if we'd won the lottery, and also try out the Fun Fun Minifgolf game on the Wii, before a couple of games of Scrabble to rack the brain cells. I even managed to get rid of all my letters in one go as well, which was pretty good to be honest. Finally, it was back on the Wii and Guitar Hero Aerosmith, where I got through to the last batch of songs and almost jumped for joy when I saw what one of them was - no less than Stone Temple Pilots' classic "Sex Type Thing". I thoroughly enjoyed rocking to that, so tune of the day - not least as I had to nail all the heavy riffs in there. Rock on!

Friday 17th April - Nine Inch Friday

Late last night I found out that Nine Inch Nails were playing in Manchester in the summer, and after checking that the date doesn't clash with my holiday, I excitedly texted my friend to see if he was up for going, and he was. I partially didn't fancy it because it's at one of my least favourite venues, the MEN Arena. But this could well be one of NIN's last ever tours, and to be honest it's one of the bands that I've always wanted to see live but never managed to get to see, so when I knew it was an on sale job this morning, then it was time to check it out, I reckoned.

As it turned out, whilst replying to email queries and answering phone calls (which was the busiest part of the day) standing had pretty much sold out to those who had a membership for the NIN website, and thus trying to get to stand up was going to be impossible. At one point I thought I'd got it at the Seetickets site, but then it encountered a problem and wasn't able to process the transaction. Meh. Obviously standing wasn't available and the link just seemed to appear. Darn, I wish it wasn't the case. Anyway, got block 113, which is a pretty decent view from where we are - not that far back, and in a good row. I do wish it was standing, but can't win them all, and at least we're going.

The rest of the day was pretty much spent checking a few things out on a couple of PCs and also making sure that things were in place so that the automatic logout system would start kicking in on Monday, so see what happens from there methinks. In fact some of the buildings staff were almost throwing us out of the building by the time it was the end of the day, I think they wanted to get off early. No matter though, it was time to head home, do a shed load of ironing and washing, then head to Tesco to get the week's shopping done.

I did of course play some back catalogue Nine Inch Nails when I got home, just to get me in the mood for the gig in July really. One of my all time favourite NIN songs is "Sin", so that's tune of the day - it may sound quite simplistic in terms of its electronic, but Trent Reznor's vocals are spot on for it and it gradually builds up a crescendo and wall of sound, especially during the instrumental middle bit. And.. I even did a Commodore 64 version of the tune for my friend's demo - the same friend who in fact is coming to the gig with me. So there you go - how things end up going full circle eh?

Been also trying out this new game on the Wii from the WiiWare portal - namely Fun! Fun! Minigolf. As it turns out, it's not too bad whatsoever. It's more like what a proper mini/crazy golf course would be like, but with one exception: there's certain zones the ball can be hit to in each hole and if you miss, you're out of bounds. It's darned tricky on the hard nine hole course and scoring under par for the whole round is no mean feat, I can tell you. The good thing is that they've kept the controls simple enough and made it very playable, although the graphics when the player scores a birdie do grate a bit with that Japanese-style cartoon facial expression. Still though, can't complain for the mere 900 Wii Points that it cost.

Thursday 16th April - So Close And Yet So Far

The working day, and the first day back, went by pretty quickly, even though it was fairly quiet everywhere to be honest. I was expecting a shed load of emails to catch up on, and I wasn't disappointed there. I also expected that I'd have to do a shed load of paperwork, and that too didn't disappoint. However, I managed to get most of the stuff done I needed to catch up with, including an update to some of the financial software which required doing. All in all I did feel quite productive, and even went to the Northern Cutter to get the hair done at lunch, where the very lovely Joanne and Michelle did their usual wonderful job.

Later on, I had a bit of spare time before my friend picked us up to head to tonight's game as City faced Hamburg, so I whacked on Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. Of course I wanted to play through some more of the songs and after doing the two set list songs, and the two Aerosmith ones, I was rewarded with no less than Aerosmith and Run DMC's version of "Walk This Way" (which Aerosmith released themselves in the mid 70s). Of course, lots of people remember the crossover one and I even was attempting to sing along as I played the guitar and tried really hard to get it right. Nonetheless, I did it pretty well, so tune of the day it most certainly is.

Myself and my friend then went over to see City, and my, what a game it was. We both knew that it was a complete sell out, and indeed over 47,000 fans had packed into the ground to see City try and come back from a 3-1 deficit in the first leg. A 3-1 win to us was the only way to force extra time, any other score would mean it'd be over in the 90 minutes. We managed to get to our places ten minutes before kick off but noted the various queues everywhere which meant people were still trying to get in as kick off approached. The atmosphere was loud and proud, bananas and flags everywhere and plenty of noise coming from the City faithful. We knew we had to get behind the lads tonight and be the 12th man, and I was so up for it, let me tell you.

Typically City, things never went to plan, and disaster struck as Hamburg scored first after a mere ten minutes with a mix up in the defence being to blame before a calm low shot home past Shay Given. The whole stadium took an intake of breath. It was now three to score for extra time and four to win outright. Ouch. But.. Elano had been on fire already, and it was his determination that got is back into it five minutes later. His cross was handled and the referee pointed to the spot. Thankfully Elano wasn't going to fight anyone, least of all Robinho, to take the pen. He strode up, slotted it home and it was 1-1. The place went mental!

Throughout the first half it was even stuff, City attacked and Hamburg tried to counter. Just before half time we got a free kick and it was perfect Elano territory. He took it and whacked the bar with it from some thirty yards. Now if that had gone in going to half time, it would have been interesting, but 1-1 at half time and so 2-4 down on aggregate. Yet I felt we could still get back into this, as did my friend, so we would see. And the second half started. And it got tense. But then the roof came off the stadium as the ball was crossed in, it broke to Felipe Caicedo who controlled well before drilling a low shot past their keeper, and 2-1 to City. The decibel rate went even higher, the fans were going for it, and could we do it?

In short: no. But in long: not for the bloody lack of trying. Caicedo had a chance and blazed over after a fizzing Elano corner, Elano himself hit the post with another free kick, Robinho's diving header was saved by their keeper, Micah Richards had a chance to volley home but scuppered it, and for around fifteen minutes after we went 2-1 up it was all City, and all the fans responded, I was shouting myself hoarse cheering the boys on - it was that sort of game. Once Richard Dunne got a second yellow and was sent off, it looked curtains, but we kept going and I thought right at the death we might snatch one, but not to be and so the UEFA Cup run had come to an end. But what a run.

I went home proud of the boys tonight. We had won the second leg and at least shown heart, spirit and fight. Elano was man of the match by a mile and quite why he got took off near the end was anyone's guess (possibly injury or fatigue though, as he ran himself into the ground dying for the cause). And all in all, I hope that for some of the fans who'd paid five quid they got their money's worth, and if the kids for a quid were with them, that they were able to take that on board and take them again to another game and get them into the whole football bug. The boys in blue - they never give in, and that was the case tonight.

Wednesday 15th April - Justice For The 96

It was a nice little package that arrived in the post this morning: no less than Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, the replacemement disc. I was going to take a quick walk out, but wanted to see if this disc actually worked so that I wouldn't have to send it back like I had to last time. I put it in, fired up the Wii, and.. it worked! I tried the first couple of songs with the guitar, and all seemed to be doing the right thing, which made me feel pretty chuffed to bits. I'll have to try and play through it if only to try and unlock some of the later stuff like their co-op with Run DMC on "Walk This Way" (instant classic that) and so on.

After a while it was off to my friend's place, to sort out a PC which had been troublesome. I reckoned that as the power supply that came with the PC was a little on the less power side, the graphics card under stress from the 3D online game being played (Lord of the Rings) was pushing the card under, but possibly as one of the resistors on the card had come missing, it might not be working fully. I've temporarily put in a Geforce 7300LE, and although not as quick as the one I took out, seemed to do the job okay - albeit with some of the graphics settings ramped down a bit. Still, it worked and that was the main thing.

We tried out Carnival Mini-Golf for the Wii, and on the whole it worked out okay. However, the minigolf seemed to be a bit too extreme in terms of the hole design and the sub-games to play, plus the swinging didn't seem as good as say the putting in Wii Sports golf. It got frustrating when you unlocked middle difficulty and saw that the level had been rampled up a bit rather than in a gradual stage, which wasn't so hot either. Still, it was okay and a lot better than some of the other games out there, I suppose.

I made my way home later on (as they were going out for the evening) and whacked on Guitar Hero Aerosmith and got through the first few songs, and managed to do the excellent "Living On The Edge" which even for me has to be a bona fide rock classic. It just made me put into perspective that when I was a child and going to football matches that you were often crammed in so much that you were always living on the edge as well, which brings me nicely to the main topic of today.

As you'll have read in the media, today was the 20th anniversary of one of the worst disasters in English football, Hillsborough, where 96 football fans lost their lives tragically as a massive crush in the Leppings Lane end of the ground resulted in nowhere to go but either up above into the stand (if you were able to) or to face an uncertain time of it. There's still, sickeningly, no justice for those that died with no one held accountable for what happened, something which even today there are still people fighting justice for. Seeing the memorial service and the fans as one singing "Justice for the 96" during the speech by Andy Burnham, the sports secretary, said it all about how the fans felt and how many of us, who aren't Liverpool fans, feel too.

As Gerry and the Pacemakers sang in the 60s, and as Gerry Marsden sang today with many fans joining in with him, "You'll Never Walk Alone". Nothing else could be tune of the day really to be honest. It just was spine tingling stuff to hear everyone as one, together, and coming together to remember those that just went to a game of football and never came back. The whole football family is there in spirit with Liverpool today, and I'm just glad that hopefully nothing like that will ever happen again.

Tuesday 14th April - Oh, Vienna!

Had a pretty good day all round today. Determined to make the most of my leave, and also because I knew I was off to my friend's tomorrow to take a look at the PC, I headed out pretty early on the bus to Stockport and then on the bus to Altrincham. There I would then take the number 5 bus which, if I stayed on it all the way, would end up in Warrington. But I wasn't going that far, oh no. It was a case of getting off at Dunham Massey so that I could walk around the country park there and indeed see if the deer had come out to play. I had gone of course with The Strings On My Guitar a little while back, but rather stupidly forgot to take the camera with me. In any case, a long walk was well due and so I would be able to do that at the same time.

I walked past the pond and then on to the house and on to the main paths along the park, this time going in the reverse direction from last time. This turned out to be a good move as straight away some of the red fallow deer were wandering and quite close to the path, so I was able to get a few shots of them at play. I then walked all the way around the park and spotted plenty of deer up by the exit to Dunham village, so spent some time sat down and observing their actions, before heading back round the other side. The ducks were playing in the water ponds and in fact several families were around with their children having a walk, all good to see.

I also took another look at the saw mill and saw that the water wheel was powering at even more pace than normal, and added to that the weather was turning out quite nice too. I had a wander around the shop and noticed that they were selling the local Dunham Massey brews as well, which was good of them. I had one last walk around and then headed for the pond by the house and the fountain, and my patience was rewarded by seeing one squirrel not be scared of the ducks and indeed competing for food as well - he was proper pleased when he got himself a nut and scoffed merrily.

I timed my walk back to the exit and to the bus stop pretty well, and back I got on the number 5 and into Altrincham. I had a look around the centre there, and indeed it all seems like there's plenty going on in terms of its redevelopment, not least the Stamford Quarter with its much better looking shops than before - and the way it's been repedestrianised with it looking nicer too. It'll get there, and I'm sure the locals can see that hopefully. I then hopped on the bus back to Stockport and then back home, and it was a job well done all round. I then did some little chores such as renewing the bus ticket online and also sent off the cheque for the holiday as well (can't wait for that) and it was then time to get the place cleaned up for later.

The Strings came over, I threw in a pizza in the oven to share for tea. I have to say this worked well because I'd normally eat it alone, but sharing half meant I ate less, thus trying to start my portion control methods. The plan being is that if I don't eat as much then I'll be able to try and keep the weight off, I have been worried about it I have to admit. We then had a quick look at the place we'll be staying at when we go away, and noticed that they'd put up new pictures of the redeveloped bathroom and kitchen, which looks even more gorgeous. I can't wait till we go now, I really can't - not least because a holiday for a whole week is just what we'll really enjoy.

It was then off to the Apollo to see Ultravox. I wasn't even old enough to go to gigs when they last toured in Manchester (back in 1984!) and I had pretty much been a fan since the 80s - primarily as my dad used to play quite a bit of their stuff and was into them too. In fact two of my friends were going - they were downstairs, with The Strings and me up top, but close to the front so we'd have a good view. We did leave a little later than normal, and as it turned out when we got there, the support act was half way through her set, so it'd be a little unfair to rate yaay or nay for her really. What I did hear through sounded okay but a little too long for each song. The bit of paper by the entrance said she'd finish at 8, and Ultravox would be on 8.30 to 10.40pm, two hours I thought, that'd be good.

Turned out the bit of paper was wrong. But still, Ultravox (official site) (myspace) did the business. It was by no means a Greatest Hits set either, something which myself and my friend were well chuffed to bits with. For a start, they started off with Astradyne, the seven minute opening instrumental from "Vienna" which was a brave move - but those who were fans really appreciated it. The two women sat next to us were a bit like "what the heck is this?" but I was loving it. In terms of albums, "Vienna" and "Rage In Eden" got two thirds worth each, with "Quartet" and "Lament" also getting a good mention. In terms of the tracks off each album we got, it was like this:

Vienna: Astradyne, Passing Strangers, Sleepwalk, Mr X (a massive surprise for me that!), Vienna, All Stood Still
Rage In Eden: The Voice, We Stand Alone, Rage In Eden, I Remember (Death in the Afternoon), The Thin Wall, Your Name Has Slipped My Mind Again
Quartet: Reap The Wild Wind, Hymn, Visions In Blue
Lament: One Small Day, Dancing With Tears In My Eyes, Lament

So it was eighteen tracks (including two as the encore) and around an hour and forty minutes' worth of entertainment, finishing at 10.10pm. That said, it was bloody great. "Mr X" had some great visuals to go with the sound and Warren Cann on drums did the spooky voice really well. That was spine tingling, but having Midge Ure rock out on "We Stand Alone" was also excellent, the way "Your Name Has Slipped My Mind Again" seguing into "Vienna" was pure class, and "Sleepwalk" during the encore was a pure hairs on the back of the neck moment. It was that song that I remember seeing them on Top of the Pops when I was young, and it brought back all the memories flooding, let me tell you.

Tune of the day just had to be "We Stand Alone" - out of all the non-single tracks I've heard, it's right up there. It just has a feel of desperation during the whole song, and Midge's voice and rocking was spot on during it, and of course the synth work throughout just really had the spine a tingling. I was pleased the early Midge Ure-era albums got the most stuff, because they were the best two. I was just pleased to get a good set from them and I'm sure that if you're going to see them, you'll love it. Apparently the Roundhouse gig is being filmed for a DVD. Oh... Vienna! indeed.

Monday 13th April - The Sun Sometimes Shines On The Fylde

Myself and The Bell On My Lindt Bunny were up at a reasonable hour this morning: in fact I even got to see Total Wipeout USA whilst having breakfast, which was quite even more ridiculous than the UK version, and that's saying something to be honest. We had some bacon, scrambled egg and muffin and a coffee, and all was well with the world before we headed to her Mum and Dad's by noon - although her Dad had decided to set off for bingo earlier in the morning, it worked out to be a good move as he had won a tenner for his efforts!

The Bell's parents were taking a few days' break in Blackpool, in a hotel that they're comfortable with and that provide them with entertainment each night, meaning you don't have to brave the cold but also the numerous stag and hen nights that I'm sure happen every night on the Fylde coast these days. The sun had come out too as we set off, which was good, and hopefully that was the theme for the week as well with a bit of luck. As soon as The Bell got towards the end of the M61 and towards the M6, I could see a snail of a traffic tailback, so quickly instructed her to take the M65 at the next junction, get off by the A6, go round the back way towards Preston, and then take the A584 through Lytham and St Annes on Sea. The traffic flowed much better this way, and apparently the M6 was in miles of tailbacks, so we did the right thing to avoid that.

We then stopped off at a Two for One pub close to Blackpool International Airport for some lunch - I had the light gammon, which worked well, and The Bell had the light scampi. Her parents went for the light fish with jacket potato: but I think they got the normal sized portion, as it looked very massive indeed. Still, it was a good meal all round and we ate heartily before setting off down the Golden Mile, past the Pleasure Beach which looked really busy, past all the piers and the many people going in them, and noticing how the work on the new sea wall seemed to have tidied up the front quite a bit, before making it to their hotel on the North Shore, and checking them in to their room with a rather nice sea view.

We were going to stay in Blackpool for a bit, but the traffic might have been bad going back, and so we set off going round Cleveleys and then the back way towards the M55. Just before its junction with the A6, we noticed that the traffic to the M6 (junction after) was queuing up all the way back here, so we craftily came off, took the A6 through to Preston and continued towards Chorley, then got the A674 down to the M61 and back to the M61 which seemed empty at that point, thus avoiding the M6 and its jams. Hurrah! My sense of direction was pretty good although the Bell's come back that way from Preston, so she knew the way too.

We did at least get back in time to get ourselves all ready and changed, as we were heading out with friends for my friend's birthday meal (her birthday is tomorrow but we're all doing stuff on that day). We met up in Table Table again and had a really nice time, and I had the chicken goujons to start this time, but kept the main and dessert the same as last time, meaning I had gammon twice in one day, wahey! We all had a good meal, my friend liked her presents from us (The Shield Season 1 DVD, London's Burning Season 1 DVD and the Songs of Praise 2CD set) and plenty of conversation flowed, and good music too: even the original Tears For Fears version of "Mad World" (rather than the crap Gary Jules cover) so that's tune of the day from me for sure.

We headed back home later, and I had to kiss The Bell goodbye as she had work tomorrow (I'm off till Thursday using my leave up). I felt really sad because we'd been together since Saturday morning non-stop, and the more time we spend together, the more I know that I want to be together. I know she feels the same as I do and that's a lovely thing. My friend had sold me Samba de Amigo for the Wii as well for cheap, so I tested out the disc and then hit the bed, and thought about what I could do during tomrorow daytime to keep myself occupied and also to ensure that I made the most of the time off.

Sunday 12th April - Easter Sunday Of Defeat

It was nice to have a bit of a lie in on Easter Sunday, and The Bell On My Lindt Bunny had kindly got me an Aero Easter Egg. Good job then I'd bought her a Lindt bunny then really, with lots of lovely Lindt chocolate in it. She bit the ears off and then wrapped it back up to take home with her later, as we were heading back to hers for the rest of the day - I was off with my friend to watch City later and it's a bit easier going from her place after all. I made us some breakfast, we had a bit of a relaxing time with the Wii, and then after packing my overnight bag it was time to head out to hers.

My friend came over later, we had a cup of tea and a good chat, and then headed to the City of Manchester Stadium to see City take on Fulham. There was no queue for the ticket office, and so we decided to get tickets for next Sunday's game against West Brom as well before we went in, and got to block 136 in the North Stand ready for the action. City badly needed a win, not least after losing 3-1 away at Hamburg in the UEFA Cup, and with our home record decent, then we had to see what would happen.

The first half went okay, although I felt that we were lucky not to concede goals with some sloppy defending to be honest, not least when Richard Dunne lost his footing. Thank heavens we have Stephen Ireland then - he took the ball from the half way line, kept going forward and no one was challenging, expecting him to knock it wide to Martin Petrov on the left hand side. But no. He only went and looped the ball over their keeper for a superb strike. Ireland is indeed Superman, and so chanted the fans - a great goal, and at 1-0 at half time we were both pretty pleased that the scoreline at least was in our favour.

If I'd have known how bad the second half performance would be, then I could have left at half time a happy man. Instead it could possibly be the worst 45 minutes I've seen City play this season. Sticking with 4-5-1 at home isn't winning anyone over, and the defence looked like they were going to capitulate at any moment, and sure enough when Pablo Zabaleta lost the ball, Fulham raced forward, and Clint Dempsey tucked home the equaliser. Worse was to come: City were all out of shape, and they allowed Fulham far too much time: so much so that ex-City player Dickson Etuhu curled in a peach of a shot from twenty yards out with no one challenging him. In nine minutes we'd gone from 1-0 up to 2-1 down. The fans including me voiced their frustrations with "You don't know what you're doing!" being the chant directed at Mark Hughes.

It got even worse when Robinho came on as sub - he may as well not have bothered. He looked lazy and lacklustre and to be quite honest, I think City are better off without him - can we please get rid for an over-inflated sum of money at the end of the season? He didn't look bothered, and that narks me off no end, not least as I had my Shaun Goater Man City legends t-shirt on as well. At least The Goat's never say die attitude and his sheer pride to wear the blue shirt meant that number 10 was his, and to be quite honest, unless someone with that same passion and determination comes along, Robinho's not fit to wear the same shirt number. Plus of course The Goat actually knew where the net is, something Robinho's not done for ages now.

Needless to say when Fulham scored a third there was a mass exodus out of the ground, and for the first time in a long time I was tempted to join them and leave early myself. Normally I don't as a rule as I've often seen City do some daft things in my time, but I knew that Mark Hughes' useless tactics meant that we weren't going to score in a month of Sundays, never mind this one, so stayed till the end and then rightly booed him for being a muppet who clearly has no clue whatsoever what it means to be manager of Manchester City. It makes me wonder if getting rid of Sven (admittedly that was a Thaksin decision, not of the current board's making) was the right thing to do, and how well we might be doing under him now with the players we have.

Anyway, took out the frustrations in the evening by relaxing with some Wii Sports tennis with The Bell, and then we both had some lovely chicken in barbecue sauce for tea, with some of her yummy cheesecake for dessert, and after a small dose of the television, we knew it was time to take an early night as it was a busy day tomorrow. As for tune of the day, I'm going to go for "Passing Strangers" by Ultravox, as we're seeing them on Tuesday plus that's how often it feels when Robinho's on the pitch - see, pretty apt there eh?

Saturday 11th April - Little Voices And Luscious Lunches

Earlier in the week I had decided to take my Mum out to lunch on Saturday, primarily because it was close to Easter and I thought it would be a nice thing to do, but also because she enjoyed herself so much when she was out with myself and The Bell On My Lindt Bunny that it would be nice to give her a sort of Easter present. Mum traditionally buys all us kids an egg, even me as her eldest child, and so had already given me my Mini Eggs egg earlier in the week to keep in the fridge for whenever I fancied it. The Bell picked Mum up on the way to mine and we decided where to go.

We decided to stick with where we went last time: the Midland in Marple Bridge. Three good reasons: first, it's a bit out of town and towards the countryside, and Marple Bridge really has that village feel which reminds Mum of the little country villages she'd often visit: second, the food is rather delicious in there and always makes you feel full without being over-full, and third: the setting and location is just wonderfully lovely. We headed from mine into Stockport and headed on the bus out to Marple Bridge, going through Marple on the way and then heading downhill, over the train station and off at the Bridge itself.

Conversation and drinks flowed merrily, and the only difficulty was deciding what to have. In the end, I went for this rather nice chicken and mushroom pie, with mustard mash and a selection of vegetables. It was gorgeous. Mum was going to go for the slow cooked pork, but the waitress was kind enough to tell her that it does turn out pink and not everyone likes it that way - and so Mum changed for a well done rump steak. The Bell had the pork and as it turned out was also very delicious indeed, so all was well there. Only minus point for the pie I had was that it was in a pastry case: and as you know, I hate that. I'd much rather have a proper pie, if you know what I mean. Still, desserts were lovely: I had my usual treacle tart with clotted cream, The Bell had this lovely St Clement's meringue pie, and Mum had the rhubard crumble with custard: all looked the part and all were lovely.

After that, it was time for coffee, a mooch around the shops and then to head back to my place, where I got out the Wii and much fun ensued. I would have put on Guitar Hero Aerosmith for a bit of rocking that I'd hired out from Tesco DVD Rental, but the disc refused to work and so I'd emailed Tesco to say to sort it out, which they have done (hurrah). Anyway, Carnival Funfair Games went on, and we all had a competition in three player mode doing several events. Mum impressed us all on the Test Your Strength event by ringing the bell, no mean feat I can tell you, and she was good on the skee-ball too (or as they call it Alley Ball) and the super version, where you get obstacles in front of you as well to avoid. All good fun.

It was a great day all round and Mum rung us in the evening to say thank you for such a lovely time, which made me feel very humble. The Bell and I snuggled in the evening, whacked on Robin Hood on BBC HD (the only way to watch that, especially in full surround as well), and then put on Little Voice on DVD which also arrived today as well. We enjoyed that, and The Bell had never seen it before so it was good to get feedback. This time around, with Scarborough fresh from our visit, I recognised plenty of places from the town that had been used in the film, and of course seeing it all with the full surround on was rather lovely. The Bell really liked it, and I think it impressed her most that Jane Horrocks sang all the songs on there herself. As such, I think I'll have to give her version of "I Wanna Be Loved By You" tune of the day because it's so well done.

Friday 10th April - The Rainy Good Friday

I woke up this morning and spent a bit of time checking/answering the emails whilst my friend was crashed out asleep in the spare room, and I'd also tried out the CD of the live recording he got from the gig - and it sounded pretty decent. The only not so good thing is that the CD tracks aren't exactly split as they should: "Alice, What's The Matter" and "Oblivion" are all one track rather than two separate ones, and the same think happens at the end of CD1 with "Some People Say" and "What Makes You Tick" as well, but the recording itself is pretty good all round so that's brilliant. I'm going to give "Perseverance" tune of the day as it rocked brilliantly last night.

My friend had had a good sleep and so a coffee when he awoke was on the cards, as well as a quick blast of Carnival: Funfair Games on the Wii, which he likened to Alternative World Games on the Commodore 64 (I can see the similarities there) and we had a blast in two player mode, trying out all the different events and having a five game two player competition, which worked really well in the end. He thrashed me at the basketball hoops and was pretty good at the rolling the ball one (usually called skeeball in arcades but something else here) and it was a good blast and giggle before he had to make his way homeward and indeed back to work. It did feel like old times though and that was really really good. Hurrah!

Went into the city centre to get a birthday card for a friend's birthday later in the day. I didn't want to stop long in the centre to be honest and it was going to be a case of in and out. I did get distracted by one of the computer game shops showing a demonstration of the new EA game "EA Sports Active: Personal Fitness Trainer". Bizarrely, it has a little thigh strap which has a pouch for the nunchuk, which you have to place in that pocket for some of the games. It also has a resistance band which you hold in both hands and stand on for some of the exercises. I don't know just how it will work but it goes to show that the interactivity of the Wii is being used in the right way.

And ironically down the way in the Arndale there was a huge stand set up with several Wiis and Wii Fit on, and encouraging people to have a go of it and give it a blast. I'm guessing that since most of the major stores have them in stock at the moment and sales aren't particularly high, it might be a case of direct marketing getting people to get one - but we shall see. I did have a quick blast on one just to try the ski jump out so I could still show I had what it takes on that event (145 metres as well in one go - hehe, I rule). I didn't particularly fancy the rain outside either - it was quite heavy at that point.

Still, got home, and as it's a Friday, I do where possible like to have fish, and especially today with it being Good Friday and all, so it was a nice piece of cod and some chips to go with it, which was all nice. Add to that the Wallace and Gromit Matter Of Loaf and Death being repeated on BBC1 and BBC HD (bet those who've shelled out for the DVD might be gutted though - bit of an own goal, there Auntie Beeb!) and then settling down for the Masters golf - and in HD - and that's the day pretty much taken care of!

Thursday 9th April - How To Make Friends And Influence People - Live

I had set aside today and tomorrow as one of my friends was coming down. I've known my friend for some fourteen years or so now, and it's always a right blast when we get together. Due to the nature of where he works, he was able to confirm that he could make it down late afternoon from Ulverston, but he'd have to head back around noon tomorrow so that he could get to work on the Good Friday as well. I don't envy anyone having to work on days like that to be honest, but at least he didn't have to shoot back home straight after the gig, so I made sure that I had the futon in the spare room up and ready to rock.

During the day I did a bit of catching up with some of the Sky Plus recordings, and also watched one of my old F1 videos, "Murray's Magic Moments" which details Murray Walker's memories of F1 between 1976 and 1996 - and there are some great moments in there, such as the Gilles Villeneuve classic races, lots of Monaco races, the rivalry between Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell, and how you could win from the back if you really pushed, a la John Watson for example. I had forgotten just how good the video was and it was something I've owned for around ten years now, and it's still a great watch.

I also sorted out which of the pictures from the visit to Donington on Monday that I was going to upload as well. I had taken 300 pictures with the camera, but I ditched 35 of them as they were too blurry and quite unusable. Then from the remainder left, I picked the best 50 which represented the place (as well as trying to avoid duplicates as I took 2-3 shots sometimes of the same thing to make sure I got something decent) and gradually between late yesterday and earlier today, got them all uploaded to my Flickr gallery and put descriptions and so on so that you could understand a bit more about the car - the set is here.

My friend arrived dead on 5pm, which was perfect timing. I made us coffee and we had a chat and a good catch up on all sorts, and showed him the pictures from Monday's visit (he's an F1 fan too). I was able to show the images on the Wii because of the new system update that allows you to use SDHC cards in the photo channel, so it was really straightforward to do rather than faff about with leads connecting to your telly and so on. We left the Wii on and set up Guitar Hero 3 so that he could have a blast - and we came up with a plan that we should play it in 2 player career mode (him on guitar, me using the Wii remote) so that we could unlock some extra songs that way.

Before we knew it, it was time to head into the city centre and on to the Academy. First stop was an old haunt - Babylon on Oxford Road. We used to head there a lot when he was a student at Salford Uni and we'd often meet up at the weekend, so it was good to be able to rekindle old times (if only that arcade was still there in Piccadilly which had the Theatre of Magic pinball machine!) and the pizza with two toppings was the weapon of choice. When we used to go back in the mid-1990s, it was £2, and it was £4 today, but thankfully the quality hasn't changed one bit - it's still pretty smart.

We walked up to the Academy 1 and found that we could go straight in, no queues, nothing. I knew that the gig hadn't sold out and so was surprised to see so many touts around - did they not realise you could turn up and get the tickets from the box office? Anyway, we headed in and got to the bar, and there was a few people with these t-shirts on around the bar area, so we were able to speak to one of them and find out what was going on. It turned out that tonight's gig was being recorded and put on CD within 10 minutes of the gig finishing, and so the idea was that you'd be able to purchase it. You had to pay in advance and be given a ticket, which you'd then exchange for the CD at a stall after the gig itself. Neato. My friend signed up for that.

It was time for the support act, Rebel Yell (myspace) who weren't half bad - they were a sort of a rockabilly punk band, complete with huge double bass, and with plenty of rocking provided as well from the four of them. They got the crowd warmed up nicely and were very proud of their Northern roots, shown in the way that they mentioned the likes of fish and chip wrappers in one of their songs, and how between songs that they'd mention places like Leeds. They did a good job and considering they're unsigned, you wouldn't have thought it.

That got everyone in the mood for Terrorvision (official site) (myspace) and it was time to rock. It was the 15th anniversary of their 1994 album "How To Make Friends and Influence People", and the idea behind the tour was that they would play the whole of that album. What we didn't expect was that they would play it in the same track order as the album as well, so first off it was "Alice, What's The Matter?" which went straight into a rocking version of "Oblivion" which had everyone feeling in the right happy mood and rocking hard as well as singing along to the singalong chorus. It was such a great moment that it has to be tune of the day.

Thankfully it wasn't a case of peaking too early either, with the rest of the album holding up very solidly live indeed, notably "Discotheque Wreck", "Middleman", "Pretend Best Friend" and a rather nice slow version of "Some People Say" really giving people a chance to break from all that rocking before setting the stage on fire (not literally) with a blinding "What Makes You Tick" with everyone yelling out "tick! tock!" at the right moments throughout the song. The band went off after this, and I guessed that'd be CD1 of the live set recorded there and then. Rebel Yell came back on for a few numbers including a rockabilly cover of Terrorvision's "Bad Actress" which slipped in there.

Terrorvision came back on after that, and with Tony Wright running round everywhere like a complete loon but with a smile on his face (ah the days when he was on Never Mind The Buzzcocks often and say "I don't know it, it's not metal") and the band threw themselves into some of the B-sides from singles to the album, which was a nice touch, before also playing a fair few of their singles from other albums, including "Tequila", "Celebrity Hit List", "Do You Wanna Go Faster?" and last of all, a really hard rocking and superb version of "Perseverance" which I'd joked with my friend before the encore that I'd really like to hear. And we did. Rock!!

We had a drink in Kro bar before heading back via the city centre and to mine, and Guitar Hero 3 had a fair shred of play between us. With him on the guitar itself and me using the Wii remote, it was the guitar and bass two player duo, and we did all the first three levels and so unlocked "Sabotage" by Beastie Boys, "Reptiliia" by The Strokes and "Suck My Kiss" by Red Hot Chilli Peppers, which had the two of us going "Yes! rock!" a la Beavis and Butthead. We both had a blast of Muse's "Knights of Cydonia" in single player mode, we both got five stars and a pretty high score, so all was well with the world and almost 2am before it was time to call it a day. But a bloody good day at that!!

Wednesday 8th April - Ear Ear!

It was off to the doctor's today for a return visit to the local practice. As you'll know a few weeks back I ended up having an ear infection after a cold, and the infection eventually shifted somewhat with some antibiotics, but the doctor said to me at the time that if I needed to have the ear syringed, then make an appointment and go from there. I was able to make the appointment for today and it was at 11.50am, so that gave me some time to do a bit of tidying up around the house for later on and then set off from my place to the practice.

I made myself known to the receptionist and waited in the waiting room. And waited. And waited. It got to around 12.15pm and I was about to ask if I'd been forgotten about, but the receptionist informed me that the practice nurse was running late and she knew that I was here. Five minutes later, I was called into room three. The nurse had a look into the ear and could see some hardened wax in there that definitely needed shifting. The "syringing" doesn't involve a needle as such, it's like a jet wash for the ear, with a high pressured jet of water which powers through the ear and then sucks out all the crap. It worked really well and a few minutes later I felt no cloudy sensations in the left ear, and tons better. Job done.

I then went off to see my Mum for a while, have a cup of tea and a good chat as well as being able to have some fun with my nephew, who Mum was looking after. We spent a fair bit of time throwing the ball to each other and practicing catching, as well as him being able to have a run around in my Mum's garden and generally speaking have a bit of play time. It's good though that I was able to spend time there as I was told that sometimes after the syringing you can feel disorientated, but I felt okay really, which was good.

I headed home later and got everything ready for seeing The Sunshine In My Smile later on. I had all the ingredients in to make one of my signature dishes: the chorizo sausage pasta bake. I'd even managed to get the chorizo in my local Tesco as well, so that pleased me no end let me tell you. I managed to cook it up to my usual pretty good standards, and there was a garlic ciabatta to go with it, so that was nice as well. We had a pretty relaxing evening really, mainly watching The Apprentice and seeing how thick the contestants were when attempting to design a new piece of keep fit equipment - one team got it all wrong and were just so unfocussed that it was untrue.

Later on I whacked on John Mayer's "Continuum" CD and out with the Scrabble - and it was a very close game. The Sunshine did really well and consistently scored some good moves as well, not least JIVE on double word and double letter on the E for 30 points, pretty neat that. Meanwhile I was enjoying the John Mayer CD and definitely the likes of "Gravity" show his song writing ability to a tee, so that's tune of the day. I played pretty much the whole album while we played the game, which shows that we can both speed through a game quickly but also think: maybe that Big Brain Academy's given me some practice!

Tuesday 7th April - Retail No Therapy

I had a bit of a lie in this morning. I think I deserved it after the hard few weeks or so and that I just needed a couple of extra hours' sleep to really feel motivated and up and around. I was going to head out for a walk later in the day and get some fresh air and scenery, but unfortunately the rain decided to set in before I could head off anywhere. Instead I came up with a cunning plan: do some of the washing, ironing and give the place a spring clean of sorts, and that's what I did. I even washed the shower curtain (thankfully it's one from Ikea that you can wash in your washing machine) and let that hang dry so I could put it back up later in the day.

I did head into the city centre a bit later, primarily because I wanted to see if I could get Little Voice on DVD. I was talking about the film to The Sunshine In My Smile earlier in the week, and I realised that I didn't have it on video any longer and that if I wanted to watch it, I'd need to get the DVD and so we could watch it together. I do love the film - Jane Horrocks is superb in it as Laura (LV), and Michael Caine as the really dodgy agent who starts dating Laura's loudmouth mother (Brenda Blethyn is superb here too) and I remember seeing at the cinema many years ago and loving it then. I knew what the price was online, so if all else failed I could order it later.

As I headed into the centre I realised that of course with it being the Easter break, all the kids are off school, and sure enough there were parents and kids everywhere, which didn't exactly make some shops that pleasant an experience: it was pretty busy in parts. I looked in HMV and Fopp with no joy and there isn't really anywhere else in Manchester now that sells music and video. In fact what used to be Zavvi was I thought going to be a Head Entertainment store which would have been a good move: but no, it's another HMV. Do we really need three HMV stores in the city, especially as the flagship Market Street one is one of the largest in the country anyway?

Anyway, after much looking, even in all three branches, I couldn't find the film on DVD, so I resigned myself to a little trip back home, a final session of Big Brain Academy on the Wii before sending it back to Tesco DVD Rental in order to get the next item on the list, and then simply ordered Little Voice from those lovely people at play.com for the knock down bargain price of £3.99. That's much more like it. And they wonder why retail stores are dying? In the meantime, as I own the soundtrack CD, I played it and enjoyed Jane Horrocks' version of "Get Happy" tons, it's still really good the way she sings it - so tune of the day it certainly is.

Monday 6th April - Down In Donington Park

As part of the time off I'm having, I wanted to do a couple of things for myself: the sort of thing that I wouldn't torture The Sunshine In My Day with coming with me for. We both sometimes like different things in life, and I know full well that she doesn't like the F1 that much - she'll let me watch it and do something else, but I mentioned to her that I wanted to head down to Donington sometime and see the Grand Prix Museum there with plenty of old classic racing cars in the collection as well as other motorsport memorabilia, and figured that today would be a good opportunity for me to go, armed of course with the camera.

So, to get there.. and how. I had done some research and the best way was to either head to Derby or Nottingham, and then get the bus towards East Midlands airport, but get off before where the track is. In the end it worked out getting to Derby would be easier, as there'd be more choice of trains, and of course as long as I left after 9am I'd get the cheaper train fare as well, so that was good. I ended up getting the 0920 train to Sheffield, changing there and then getting a direct one to Derby. This meant also that I could get the airport bus outside the train station, so less hassle and waiting time all round. It came on time, the fare was reasonable and before I knew it I was heading out of Derby through some villages before Castle Donington, and then stopping off at the track.

I must admit that I felt a bit underwhelmed by the entrance to the circuit: it certainly didn't look like it could hold the British Grand Prix in 2010, but I guess the work is already underway in the background that I couldn't see. The museum was open as was the café bar, and that was all that mattered. In the building entrance, there was a shop too with plenty of F1 merchandise to spend the hard earned cash on, including signed pictures of lots of drivers, including Michael Schumacher - and yes, they were priced accordingly let me tell you. But let's go into the exhibition itself..

.. and all I can say is "Wow!" and I mean that honestly. If you're an F1 nut, then you need to go - end of story, and for a mere £7, it's well worth the effort. For a start, you get some of the classic older F1 cars, such as the Hesketh from 1975, the Tyrrell from the Jackie Stewart era, including the 1971/72 classic, the BRM of Jean-Pierre Beltoise that won the 1972 Monaco GP, lots of the Williams cars from the 1985 Nigel Mansell Red 5 up to the 2000s versions, with Jenson Button's 2000 Williams also in there, Michael Schumacher's 2000 Championship-winning Ferrari, the Alfa Romeo from the late 1930s and one belonging to Andrea de Cesaris in the 1980s, and the McLaren hall with literally scores of those cars since the late 1970s onwards - including John Watson's 1982 and 1983 cars, Alain Prost's 1985 car, Ayrton Senna's cars from the late 1980s and early 1990s, including the very one he won his last F1 race at in Australia in 1993, and so on.

You get the idea, and add to that the classics from the 1960s in one hall, like Sir Stiring Moss' 1961 Lotus that beat all comers at Monaco, the prototype 1995 McLaren in the old classic yellow McLaren livery, the tribute to Tom Wheatcroft's protege Roger Williamson, who was killed in F1 before he could make a name for himself, the drivers' helmets, Damon Hill's 1998 Jordan (the very one that won the Belgian GP, Jordan's first ever win, on loan from EJ himself), the 1993 Williams with Sonic The Hedgehog on the back (Sega sponsored the European GP at Donington you see), and so on, it was magical. I won't go into too much more, but you need to see them all and more in the flesh. I took almost 300 pictures with the camera to give you an idea of the sheer size of the place and the amount of cars (and bikes too) on offer to you the punter.

After a couple of hours of "And look at that!" (as Murray Walker would have said) and admiring the cars for one last time, I headed to the café, and this turned out also to be a darn fine move, as the fish and chips there was cooked from fresh, tasted spot on, you got lots of it, and it was £6.50. What more could you ask for, really? It was good to see as well in the reception hall area they had the F1 simulator out with the 2010 Donington F1 layout so you could try it out - I didn't, but plenty of people did and crashed in the process, which made it all seem even more difficult somehow.

I headed back on the bus to Derby later on and had a look around the city centre including their new Westfield development before heading back on the train, this time via Uttoxeter and Stoke-on-Trent. What amazed me was how close the Uttoxeter horse race course is to the railway and indeed how close the station is to the entrance as well - it's well worth a pop down there at some point to see some live action, I reckon. I then got the train from Stoke home, and that was the day all done and dusted really. I even managed to locate the MP3 to the Murray Walker tribute video that I saw on Youtube the other day, and it's "Murray Walker Tribute" by The Cuban Boys that gets tune of the day for me - lots of classic MW quotes all done to a neat bit of dance music and it just sounds right to me. And it's go go go go!!

Sunday 5th April - Deer and Downpours

I got up early, and let The Sunshine In My Day have a lie in (only fair) as the Malaysian Grand Prix was due off at 10am UK time. I did get up a bit earlier to catch up on the pre-race coverage and Martin Brundle's pit walk, which is always full of useful titbits. Intriguingly, Jenson Button was quite happy and relaxed to discuss the race options, and yet some of the drivers didn't want to know. I think Jenson knew his car was good and that he had some soft tyres not even used, which might come in handy. I was a bit concerned about the start time though: it meant a 5pm start and with the sun coming down later on, it could well be tricky to race in.

The race started off well enough apart from for Button, whose poor start left him down the grid at first. However, he'd clawed his way back to third and when Jarno Trulli and Nico Rosberg pitted earlier, Button absolutely nailed the laps before his pit stop, so that when he came out of the pits, he was ahead and in the lead - the sort of thing that Ayrton Senna was so good at back in the day. Button kept his head and as the rain came down, made his tyre change and kept in front. The only problem he could have had was that Timo Glock had gone to intermediate tyres instead of full wets, and as such was the right tyre choice. Everyone realised this (although not as quick as Ted Kravitz in the pit lane, great job there Ted!) and then switched to inters - just as more rain came and full wets was the choice! In the end, the track became a lake and undrivable, and quite rightly, the race was red flagged.

Everyone was waiting around for the race to restart, but let's face it, that wasn't going to happen. When you get drivers like Nick Heidfeld saying to his team that he couldn't keep up with the safety car, that's how bad it was. Continuing in that would have been complete carnage and an accident could have been very nasty. It does make me wonder though if Bernie Ecclestone's continuing crusade to gain TV audiences is actually at the sake of driver safety - something that I'm sure Mark Webber and the rest of the GPDA will be putting forward in their own time.

We then decided that it would be good to head out for the afternoon, and I thought it might be nice to go to Dunham Massey and see if we can spot any deer out there. We headed to Dunham itself first, as it was time for some lunch, and so went into the Axe and Cleaver pub. It was pretty busy, but the weather was nice enough so that we could sit outside, which is exactly what we did. I ordered the drinks and food (and they had Adnam's beer on cask too, hurrah to that) and we had a good chat before the food came out - The Sunshine had the Sunday roast lamb and I had the Steak and Ale pie, which wasn't too bad, apart from the minus point of it being in one of those pastry cases.

We went into the entrance to Dunham Massey and then walked up to the house itself and admired it from the outside before walking along one of the main paths - and about half way down I paused as I'd spotted some deer in the distance. The Sunshine had spotted them too and was pretty pleased. We walked down to the far end and then back along another path to the house, and I was going to queue for an ice cream but the queue was massive, so I thought it wasn't worth the hassle in the end. We did get to see the water mill as well, and The Sunshine even spotted some deer from there too and got pretty close to them whilst taking a few shots, well done her. I was a bit worried they'd try to attack me so I kept my distance.

We spent a bit of time at mine later on the Wii and I also made us some tea as well, and the time sped by before she left for home as unlike me she was back at work tomorrow. I knew I didn't want her to leave, but knew also that the whole weekend had been lovely and that made her birthday even more special, I am sure of that. Tune of the day is going to be Natalie Merchant's gorgeous "Life Is Sweet", because it's a brilliant song, Natalie's voice is in very fine fettle especially emotionally, and because life is bloody well sweet right now, it has to be said.

Saturday 4th April - Grand National Birthday Bashes

It was a fairly hectic today and in a way carrying on the birthday for The Sunshine In My Day as well. It was nice to get up, make some breakfast and pretty much relax and chill out and take things easy for a while, and even nicer when my Mum came over for a while. We had a coffee and she had got The Sunshine a present, as well as one of my brothers and one of my sisters as well, which was very nice of them indeed - they didn't have to do that! They were all lovely too and it was really good that it made The Sunshine smile even more. It means a lot to me that my family like her, and that they see her birthday as an extension of the family's birthdays, so to speak. Yaay.

Anyway, Mum had been itching to have a go of the Wii for ages since I got one, and so we set her up with a Mii character of her own and tried out the bowling - and my, wasn't she good at it! The technique once learned was a little unconvential, as she tended to let go when the ball was raised in the air, but that didn't matter: not only did she get a turkey of three strikes on the bounce, but also posted a very respectable score of 175, which thrashed The Sunshine and wasn't too far behind my 200 for the game either. I could tell she really enjoyed herself and that she might be dropping hints to my brothers to try and get her one so she can have a go more often (she's obviously welcome at mine of course).

We also then made her day as the three of us checked what tickets were available for Oliver! for the London West End. I know that it's one of her favourites of all time, and I know too that she'd been mentioning it to us a few times, so we checked the Wednesday matinee, which would be the day after her birthday, and managed to get front row in Upper Circle, so the view should be excellent, no heads in the way and all that, and it's all booked. So that gives us something nice to look forward to later in the year as well, so we can't argue.

We then headed over to The Sunshine's parents' place, where apparently it was tradition that everyone watches The Grand National with her dad. I didn't mind, as it meant I got to see the race anyway, and both The Sunshine's sisters were round too, so it was a pretty full house. One of the relations had organised a sweepstake too, so we had a go of that (me having already put a bet on in the morning as the local bookies' is round the corner from me) and it meant I had a few to keep my eye on during the race. The race itself was anything but dramatic: one of my choices, Black Apalachi, who had won the Becher Chase over the big fences a few months back, was running at the front and then made a mistake at Becher's second time round: game over. Then Hear The Echo was close to the front all the way to the second last and started to fade badly - in fact it collapsed on the run in and later died, which is always a sad thing - and it wasn't a fall, it was a heart attack, which could have happened at any time.

I didn't win, none of my friends won, in fact no one I knew had won. Mon Mome had won the big one at 100-1, the equal highest priced odds winner and the first at that price since Foinavon in 1967, so it gives you an idea of the history there. The Sunshine did have the second placed (and last year's winner) Comply or Die in the sweep though, so that meant a rather nice £10 win for her - well it was the day after her birthday so she deserved that so much to be honest. It was the most open race for ages and I was glad that it was that way - and a lot got round. It felt odd seeing run off areas to the outside of each fence, it didn't quite feel like Aintree, but the loose horses used that a lot and didn't hamper anyone, so the safety angle of it was a success.

It was then a case of getting changed later and heading out into the city centre to meet up with some of my friends and so we could all have a lovely meal to celebrate The Sunshine's birthday yesterday. It was really nice in Table Table in Lower Mosley Street actually, the atmosphere was good, we had a nice comfortable table to fit everyone around, and the food was good and not expensive either. I had some garlic mushrooms to start, the gammon for the main and this lovely ice cream with blackcurrant coulis for dessert, and all was delicious and just about right without being too filling. My friends are ace, incidentally. Not only did they all make me smile and giggle throughout the night but they also all had got The Sunshine presents as well, which we so didn't expect whatsoever, and nice gifts too. Hurrah!

In fact as we all left later on and headed for home, it made me realise just how good my friends are (as if I needed that proving) as they've all taken to The Sunshine, made her feel very welcomed and have all made the effort to be their good selves and have a giggle. I think that has to be rather nice, don't you think? As a consequence, tune of the day is the rather good "Friends" by Led Zeppelin for that reason - just sums up the mood of feeling I reckon. We headed back to The Sunshine's place and were very relaxed and chilled out, even though it had been a very busy day indeed!

Friday 3rd April - I've Had The Time Of My Life!

Today was the birthday of The Baby For The Johnny, and I really wanted to pull off something special for her. It's been ten months now since we've been together, and let's be completely honest, the best ten months I've ever had. Ever. Therefore I didn't mind making the effort to really make today special, and although we'd planned some of it, it was still good to enjoy the whole day. Like with most females I know, Dirty Dancing is one of her all time favourite films, and as the theatre show was in London which followed the film and indeed had plenty of the songs, I knew it'd be something that she would love to see, and had booked tickets a while back. And I'd booked the trains in First Class as well, as apparently travelling on Virgin during the week is rather nice.

We got to Piccadilly around an hour before the train set off, this was so we could go up to the First Class Lounge in there and relax a bit. We had a really nice time of it, overlooking the commuters coming in and also having coffee and biscuits whilst we were waiting, setting the day off nicely. It was good too that we got in when we did, as the lounge became quite busy and full of business types, and we had a good natter along the way to have a catch up and also be ready for the day ahead. At around 9am, we went to the platform and found our seats for the 0915 to London Euston, and we had a nice little table between the two of us, with a forward facing seat as well - how lovely.

The train sped its way to Euston - and I have to say, First Class on Virgin during the week is like no other train company. You get served tea or coffee and fresh orange juice, and you can have cereal if you want. They then take your order as to which cooked breakfast you want (we both went for the traditional one) and also bring over a bakery basket with toast and croissants in as well. The cooked breakfast had egg, bacon, sausage, potato rosti and tomato if you wanted it, and I added some toast and croissants into the mix. You could also enjoy a copy of The Times to read on the way down too. And I should mention that the food was served in proper white china plates with proper cutlery, and a nice china cup for your coffee and tea too, and a really nice designed glass for the orange juice. It was so lovely I half wanted the journey to be longer so we could have more, but what we had was very wholesome and filling.

Half way through the journey, The Baby went off to the loo, and so it was time for a little something I'd done. I had written a poem just for her and wanted her to read it in a nice moment, and as it was quiet on the train, I thought now would be the time to do it. She came back and the envelope was there waiting for her, and as she read it I could tell that it meant a lot to her and that I'd written the right words. She was so pleased and I knew it was the right thing to do and that just set the day off on an even more happier note, which was lovely to see.

We got to Euston and took the bus down to Aldwych, where we were right next to the Aldwych Theatre where we would be seeing Dirty Dancing later on. We walked through the streets, passing the Theatre Royal Drury Lane where Oliver is currently on, and through to Covent Garden. I'd not been there for some time and so it was good that we could spend some time having a look around all the market stalls and shops (and one shop had a shed load of Rosina Wachtmeister cats, yaay) and also noticing the street entertainers as well.

One of them we saw for some time was Spiky Will, who had green spiked hair and was captivating an audience with what he was doing. He juggled three swords whilst walking over this bloke as a volunteer, shuffling over and that was pretty risky. Mind you, it wasn't as risky as the finale: he had two beds of nails and they looked pretty rusty but yet still sharp, and also dangerous. He allowed the audience to check the beds as well as also touch the spiky hair too, and he then took off his top to reveal a bra and then some nipple tassles, then also his trousers to have just a naff pair of boxers which looked like y-fronts on. He then got a couple of people from the audience to lift one of the beds of nails on to his stomach as he lay on the other bed of nails on the floor. He then got the volunteer from earlier to step on the top of the second bed, so in effect he was sandwiched between them, and managed to stay there for 24 seconds before stopping the act - which was pretty dramatic stuff. When he got up, you could see there were nail indentations all over the back, but thankfully no blood.

We walked further around the market and stalls after that and even saw a few nice hand made jewellery shops before heading to Wagamama for lunch. We knew that getting lunch around the Covent Garden might not be easy and so thought that getting into somewhere we know would be good and not too slow was the right idea. We got a place and both had the lovely chicken katsu curry with the duck gyoza on the side, and as is tradition whenever I go Wagamama, I have to have the coconut reika. Oh yes, gorgeous that. We both felt rather nicely full after that which would keep us going for the show and beyond later on, and had a nice walk then around Long Acre and even found the little square where there's five classic iconic red phone boxes all in a line, so that was good.

It was soon time for the show, and we couldn't help but notice the scores of women queuing for the entrance. We noticed a large sign for the show by the side of the theatre, and I thought "Take her picture there, that'll be lovely". I was about to get the camera out and ended up having to take lots of pictures with various mobile phones of a couple of groups of women who were there for the show. One group seemed to be on a hen weekend, but I thought that at least they were doing something different rather than just get trashed. Anyway, got The Baby's picture all sorted out and we joined the queue for the grand tier.

Thankfully, The Baby's concern about there not being any merchandise was soon sorted - as you go up the stairs to the tier, there's a stall there with all the merch you could possibly want or need. She bought herself a programme (as is her tradition in the theatre) and also a coffee mug as well with the logo on and in pink and white - very girly, but hey, if you can't treat yourself on your birthday, when can you? It was getting exciting for many people as 3pm approached and the show was going to start. I was intrigued to see what the fuss was all about but also knowing that The Baby would absolutely love it.

And love it she did, and I have to admit, as a West End show goes, it was pretty good all round. It followed the film pretty well with pretty much most of the important lines said word for word, and quite a bit of the dancing getting in there as well - even getting a log to come down from the side of the stage at one point to be a very useful aid to learn the dance moves as well. The revolving stage and all the bits that came up from underneath made it all quite dynamic, soon making different backdrops to the right part at the right time, and some excellent acting performances. Even though it was the understudy doing Frances "Baby" Houseman, you wouldn't know - she was excellent and even looked quite like Jennifer Gray from the original. The guy who played Johnny Castle was also good too, having the right amount of moodiness and brashness to carry it off, and near the end, when he delivered the famous line of "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" he ran from the back of the stalls to the stage, complete with many of the females down there whooping it up.

The show lasted some 2hrs 45 minutes including a 20 minute or so break, so you definitely got your money's worth. Even for a non-fan like me of the original film, the show did a very good job of conveying that feel and really taking you back to the 1960s and that summer camp look about it all. Even better was that two of the actors would sing some of the songs, and even doing "The Time Of My Life" and giving it some justice. I'm going to give the Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes original from the film tune of the day because I know it's what The Baby likes, and it's her day after all, you know?

We walked from the show across Waterloo Bridge and on to the South Bank, and walked up river, past the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Royal Festival Hall, some of the street entertainers and the London Eye, and then across Westminster Bridge before heading down Whitehall and towards Trafalgar Square. We stopped off at a rather nice old school pub on Whitehall itself, The Clarence. It had real ale and so it was a pint of Brains for myself and some wine as well for The Baby, and after a leisurely drink in there, it was time to get the bus back from Trafalgar Square to Euston in time for the 2000 train back to Manchester.

On the train back it was more of the same lovely first class fare: tea or coffee, and you could also have wine or beer as well (well I wasn't saying no to that!) and a choice of a really nice posh sandwich, with either some fruit or a gorgeous lemon muffin to go with it, and even a choice of more wine or beer later on, which was really good. It just meant we could have a light evening meal on the train and head back into Manchester and have a relaxing time on the way, and by the time we'd got back to mine, there was still time in the day left for us to have a coffee at mine and for me to give her the rest of her presents.

I had bought the ticket for the show as part of her present, and only deemed that fair really, and also got her the first Duke Special album on CD, as well as the 20th anniversary edition of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack CD (well it seemed quite apt to do that really didn't it?) as well as a nice necklace from the Royal Exchange craft shop - it was something we'd seen when we went to see Macbeth and knew that she'd like it. She was really pleased and I was so glad that her birthday had gone so well and that I was part of the reason for that. I know full well that I'd find it hard to match that, but wanted to really pull out all the stops, so that every birthday of hers for the last few years have been great - and this one was. Hurrah!

Thursday 2nd April - Last Day For Some Time

Well it was off to the office today and it was the last day of work for me for some time, as I am using up the rest of my leave before the holiday yeat ends after today. It wasn't a gradual wind down though, as I still had plenty to get on with and consider, including the possibility of rolling out a small registry change so that Internet Explorer 8 doesn't get deployed to PCs without our permission. Must admit, I've not played with the browser as yet, but the fact that it needs a whole new Group Policy ADM to successfully administer it properly goes to show that something's afoot there I reckon. I can only hope that people see sense and don't migrate straight off - it was bad enough when IE7 came out.

As it was the last day I'd spend with my colleague who was due to leave for pastures new, I decided that we'd head out to a local bar for a little natter and a leisurely pint, which worked out pretty well - not least as the bar in question had a really nice Thwaites brew, Wainwright, which was spot on and golden and summery. It was good to have a good chat as well and see how the land would lie in the new job - he's said to me that he'll keep his eyes open if there's anything he thinks that would be right up my street. With all the changes going on at the moment, it's always good to keep the options open I reckon.

I had a really odd and strange issue with one of the users and their Laserjet 2300 printer. As they also used to have a HP Business Inkjet 2300, remnants of that driver were interfering with the Laserjet one, really odd. What I had to do in the end was remove both drivers in the Control Panel/Printers folder by going to Server Properties and taking them out from there, then restarting, installing a driver update and then ensuring it's all controlled, then also deleting the user's profile so it could be recreated with the right settings for the new driver - and it finally all worked. Bizarre, that, but there you go, sometimes you have to approach these quirks in a slightly different way to get it all working.

I had a pretty relaxing evening to be honest, just taking it easy and being relatively chilled out in preparation for the time off to come - starting tomorrow, with a plan to make the weekend very special for someone special. I could only hope it'd all work out and to wind down nicely, I whacked on Guitar Hero III, did that bloody Slayer song and then went for the rather excellent classic "Sunshine Of Your Love" by Cream, and rocked out on that. The original is a classic, and my Mum even quite likes that one, so tune of the day it most definitely is.

Wednesday 1st April - Five Out Of Five

We all (finally) got our leave cards in the office today for the next holiday year. For us as support staff, the holiday year runs April to April, and normally we can use the leave up to the end of the Easter week - so this year that was up to 17th April. The leave year officially started today, so it was good to get them. Of course, as there were things in the future that I had already booked, then I wanted to get the time off sorted so that I didn't have anything to worry about to be honest. As such, I've booked the 20th April off, as I'm off to the Crucible (again) to see the World Snooker Championships, the 18th and 19th May (staying over in Glasgow to see Kristin Hersh) and 22nd May (off to York to see Kristin Hersh) and then the week that I'm heading to Cornwall later in the year with The Smile On My Face.

It was good as well that we all headed out to lunch as a way of saying farewell to one of our colleagues, who's leaving on Friday. His sunny disposition and also the fact that he's picked up so much from us and been able to apply that knowledge is a testament to the way that we work and the fact that he's been able to flourish and feel more happier about his abilities, which is all good, I reckon. So it was off to Buffet City, and thankfully, normal service was there, the food was as good as ever, and it was just as cheap too, which always helps. I had quite a bit of the crispy chilli shredded beef which tasted spot on and really enjoyed it, a perfect antidote to yesterday I reckon.

I also investigated the way to update the printer firmware on our plotters, and realised the only way to do it is to hook up a PC or laptop to each one via USB and run the firmware updater program to get it done. I tried one out just to make sure that the printer still did what it was supposed to do after the change (not least because of the way that it deals with printing) and that after a couple of test prints tended to work really well. I'll have to do the rest tomorrow but I'm hoping that all should be well in the grand scheme of things.

I got home and after making some tea it was time to watch the England game against Ukraine, thankfully on ITV1 so that people could watch it all over the country. I'm always a bit concerned where England are concerned as often they flatter to deceive, even with four wins out of the four qualifiers thus far. I knew Ukraine were to be a test. The game though seemed to be okay first half, and after some pressure, we got a corner, it came over, it was headed onwards towards goal and there was Peter Crouch to slam it in for 1-0. All was well with the world and at half-time even chucked the Wii on and kicked ass at the tennis too.

Second half was a different kettle of fish: the Ukraine players came out hungrier and once they'd put the Chelski reject Andrej Schevchekno on, you knew that somehow he was going to score, and sure enough, fifteen minutes to go, he pops up to score, capitalising on a poor clearance from a free kick. 1-1 and all to play for. On came Shaun Wright-Phillips which as a City fan pleased me, and England pressed on. Five minutes to go and we got the breakthrough we deserved. A cross came in from David Beckham, headed on by Steven Gerrard and there was the captain John Terry to slot it home for 2-1. And that's how it stayed for another England win and five out of five in the qualifiers, which wasn't bad at all really.

As Ukraine was one of the newer European nations (been plenty of changes over the last 20 years or so) it reminded me for some reason of Ultravox's "New Europeans" from their Vienna album, and so that's tune of the day. I'll be seeing them soon live and I really hope that they're going to play this track to be honest, but we'll see how it all goes I reckon.