Dear Diary... April 2013

Tuesday 30th April - Birthdays and Fixing

It was another long day at work with me spending a fair bit of time either in meetings, in meetings or doing other things associated with meetings. I'd had a course committee yesterday and was thankfully not too bad, but it seems that more and more of the time I have is actually not doing IT related work. I suppose when you are aspirational at times you get moments like this, but I try hard not to forget that what I am good at is what I like to do the most of all - problem solving and being helpful to people.

I made a stop off at my auntie's place on the way home from work as it was her birthday today. I had got her a gift card as she wanted to get herself some stuff for the redecoration of the house and a nice card too, so headed round there and had a chat with her and her finacé as well as my Mum who also happened to be there. It was good to see as well her grandson, who was absolutely being adorable and cute and lovely with the biggest smile ever. And that was lovely to see.

I then headed home and The Love In My Heart came over for tea. I made us some chicken kiev with mash and some vegetables and settled in as she watched Emmerdale whilst I booked the trains for a forthcoming trip - they'd gone on sale and I wanted to get them cheap - and by cheap I mean £12.50 each way less 10% discount for having a Virgin Money Credit Card. Can't argue with that and it means a trip down South in a few months time will be even lovelier I suspect.

We watched Alex Polizzi's The Fixer and it was a revisit to two different business that were family run, one was a furniture shop on the outskirts of Leeds and the other much more interesting for us both - a bakery in Padstow in Cornwall. They were really struggling due to eight million signs being put in the shop window and not enough focus on the really nice stuff that they sell - such as their award winning Cornish pasties for example. Erm, duhhh! You're in Cornwall, you make very nice pasties, you're right on the sea front for the tourists, the words "missing a trick" sprung to mind there. Sometimes the easiest solutions are the best.

We then settled in for the rest of the evening watching MasterChef, and that was surprisingly very good as the three finalists headed to Italy to learn some culinary skills in some of the loveliest places to eat - Florence looked a rather beautiful place and I wouldn't mind going to there at some point in the future, and the other places along the Amalfi coast really did look stunningly serene with a real feel of both history and warmth to them. Having enjoyed Nice so much with its beautiful architecture of the old town and the beach, seafront and a lovely city to boot, it really does seem a similar feel to it.

Tune of the day for me happened to be something I listened to when I got home from work and that got me relaxed after a lengthy day at work - "So Sublime" by Beth Rowley. I just think it's got that factor of being massively listenable and relaxing, but also with a beautiful voice that just has a calm clarity which means you can work out what's being sung and have some meaning to it. If you've not bought it already, her "Little Dreamer" album is still a classic.

Monday 29th April - CV or not CV?

After a hard day at work the last thing I wanted to be doing was to update my CV, but I had a very good reason for doing so, in that I thought that if I needed to apply for a job in future that doesn't require the use of an application form, then having an up to date CV might be very handy - which I can then keep up to date as and when I do any courses or take any qualifications in future. As I had also recently updated Mum's CV as well I thought it made perfect sense to be able to update mine, because the way I'd styled it, formatted it etc would look good from a professional point of view.

Thankfully I had a record of all the courses I've done over the last few years at work so was able to populate that into the CV, and in addition to that any courses I've done since I was a GCSE guinea pig back in 1988 (yes I am that old!) - and so the likes of my CACDP Deaf Awareness and PRINCE2 foundation and practitioner qualifications had to go straight in there too. I also saved a PDF copy of it too (thanks OpenOffice!) as this meant I could send it and not be easily modified by any prospective employer for any reason.

I have been keeping one eye open on anything in the future, probably inspired by the recent job application that I did last Friday. My mode of thinking is that it's a lot easier to get another job when you are currently in one, and also that whilst my brain is in the mode of applying and being able to string sentences together to meet the person specification that I get in the zone. It's also not a bad thing to keep a hand in what's going on around you and what the pay currently is. I know full well I'm pretty lucky to be doing the job that I am doing and it's really handy to have that sort of job too.

I've also kept one eye on the last of the second round matches from the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield tonight. It'd have been nice if Ali Carter could have beaten Ronnie O'Sullivan but in the end Ronnie was just a little bit too strong, but on the other table it was a spirited comeback from Robert Milkins and to only lose 13-11 against Ricky Walden was no disgrace really, especially after being 9-3 down and having it all to do. It was all good fun and looking online, I've managed to get a ticket for Wednesday evening's quarter finals! Get in there indeed.

Tune of the day certainly kept me going whilst writing the CV and attempting to get that up to date - no less than "Stringy Acid" by Orbital from their "Wonky" album - it seems to just have an effortless flow to it and proved to be perfect background music to motivate me to update the CV and get it done. I can safely say that I managed with the help of that tune to very neatly fit it into 2 sides of A4, and definitely not skimp any detail either. Hurrah for Orbital indeed.

Sunday 28th April - Milling Around In The Rain

The Love In My Heart and I had a well deserved rest this morning before I got us some coffee and toast on for breakfast. I had got myself ready and so was watching some of the snooker from this morning's session before we decided to head out for the afternoon. Initially we were just going to go for a walk locally but seeing as there was an art installation on in Quarry Bank Mill which was worth a look, and we hadn't been there for ages, we thought why not, and were soon heading towards Styal.

We got to the ticket desk and got our little sticker badges for the mill and the gardens (being National Trust members really helps in this instance) and so it was first around the mill. As we headed in we noticed the exhibition in question - Beastly Machines - which were effectively machines with moving parts based on animals - so we had a sculpted fibreglass pig with metal wings on and when you pressed the buttons, the pig's wings would take off (as if it were flying), an old cycle with a mosquito head on cycling, and best of all, a bird atop a motorbike where the wheels were going around - called Thrush Hour. I really enjoyed all of that.

Going around the mill we could also see that some time and money had been spent on some of the rooms with new information boards telling you more about the mill, the owners and so on. There was also some live demonostrations of weaving in two of the rooms from the volunteers, and that was good. The spinning mule wasn't operational but when you see the sheer size of it you could imagine the noise coming from that - and the water wheel was as per usual a rather inspiring sight.

We headed out into the gardens and it was good to see that some of the paths to the left side of the gardens were now operational so you could take this sloped route up to the top where the vegetable garden will eventually be restored. Unfortunately it looks like some Japanese knotweed has been found here and that has to be treated correctly in order to then make the garden usable. It was then a walk downhill through the other side of the garden and by this time the rain started to absolutely hammer it down, which was a shame.

It was then back to the car and we headed off back homewards and decided to stop on the way home for a late lunch / early tea. We were going to go to one pub but the car park was completely full, so we changed plans and headed for the Greenfinch in West Didsbury, where the atmosphere was relaxed and the food was lovely - The Love had the Sunday roast and I had the rather lovely chicken with mushrooms in stilton and chips which really did hit the spot as did the rather nice Cereal Thriller ale too.

The day had gone by too quickly and we'd both had a lovely time and so it was really sad when The Love headed home but that meant I could see the evening's snooker unfold and that was full of drama. Got to love Stuart Bingham's choice of walk on music - Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" (tune of the day therefore for picking such a class tune) and he and Mark Davis battled it out to 8-8 at the end of their session after some tough matchplay snooker..

Saturday 27th April - Narrow Wins Into Oblivion

It was a fairly early start to the day as I spent time cleaning the house a bit, getting a few things sorted such as the washing and then settling in to the opening session of the morning of the World Championship Snooker, with Judd Trump up against Marco Fu. It was fascinating stuff and the two players were really going for it with some quality play. I think too that having at least some of the coverage on BBC Two HD this year has meant seeing it in a really high quality format - and really does make a difference. Be good when it comes to the final!

It was then off to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City's game against West Ham United. My friend also had some good news in that we'd managed to get our tickets sorted for Wembley for the FA Cup final this morning, and so would be booking the coach on Monday as well. That was good to hear and so we then settled in to see the City game with a win cementing our bid for second place and hopefully meaning that we'd be able to kick on and relax a bit more before that final.

City did dominate the game mostly and played pretty well, with the first goal from Sergio Agüero being the result of a neat passing move involving Samir Nasri, David Silva and Yaya Toure. It did take City ages to score a second though and effectively kill the game off and that concerned us both, with a brilliant strike from Yaya Toure which ultimately settled it, despite the very last minute goal from Andy Carroll with his shot going through the legs of Joe Hart - who to be honest looked like he'd pulled something a few minutes before and wasn't necessarily on top form at that point.

Three points in the bag though, and that was good as the two of us headed to The Love In My Heart's place for a coffee before my friend headed back home and The Love and I headed back to mine first before then heading out into the city centre. We both wanted to see the film Oblivion and as we both get discount rate at AMC Cinemas, the place is normally our weapon of choice. There was no queue whatsoever for the 5.30pm showing so we got our tickets, headed up the escalator, and then to the screen, which was pretty empty.

Unfortunately there were a group of teenagers who were keen to talk loudly and also act like idiots and were doing so throughout the trailers, and it worried me that they'd be the same during the film. Around five minutes in one of the AMC Cinema security staff came in and politely and calmly escorted them out of the place. Good. No room for idiot scroaty people in a cinema especially when you're trying to pay attention to what's going on in the film instead of what they are doing.

Anyway, as for the film itself, it was a little formulaic in places and I had worked out what might have been the little twist at the end but ultimately it was enjoyable stuff, especially as it had a slightly surreal feel to the way that all the drones were effectively being the bad folks, and the whole memory wipe mentioned at the start had to be done for a reason - and sure enough it was. Once you'd worked that out it was all good and it didn't feel at all like it was over two hours plus. Definitely worth a look if you're heading to the cinema for definite.

We then walked down Deansgate and towards Castlefield and after seeing how rammed Dukes 92 was we decided to head over the canal bridges and to the Wharf pub, which is similar in feel to the Architect we went to in Chester. We decided to eat there and I was impressed by the very nice selection of cask ales in there, so I was sorted. I had the sausages and mash which were lovely, lots of gorgeous sausages and a creamy buttery mash. The Love had the burger and it was huge, lots of bacon and cheese on it as well and a big chunk of beef which was cooked well done too, so all lovely.

For the final stop of the night it was then off to Ra!n Bar, with a nice pint of Manchester Pale Ale, and I even put a pound in the jukebox. We hung back a bit to hear the selection, and I surprised The Love In My Heart with four songs that she would like - which were "Sweet Pea, My Sweet Pea" by Paul Weller, "So Sublime" by Beth Rowley (make that tune of the day as that is just the perfect song for a sunny day!) - then "Oh My Life" by Beth Rowley, finished off with the epic "Freewheel" by Duke Special. Can't be too bad a jukebox to have all of those four in I reckon...

Friday 26th April - Application Awkwardness

I had a bit of a busy day today with me being present in no less than three meetings all on the same day - which really did eat into any time I had to sort things out. It was our technical group meeting in the morning and I was able to contribute quite a bit to that. However I also ended up taking the minutes for it because the person who was scheduled to do them was on the other end of a Jabber video call and so it wasn't as easy for them to minute everything. I didn't mind massively but I just don't want it to be every time that I ended up doing them really.

I took a short break for lunch and after that it was then into another meeting about one building move and packaging the applications up for not just Windows 7, but potentially Windows 7 64-bit as well as we may be moving to that for all the student machines. It was pretty productive and it meant that we were at least able to sort out what was happening and how we'd all be taking bits on in order to get everything done. I for one will know that I'll pretty much document all my side so am just hoping that everyone do the same - we shall see.

And then one final meeting of the afternoon with my fellow incident co-ordinators, and we managed to work out a plan of action in some cases as well as be able to put some useful ideas forward. For me it's always good to be able to do that - and I must admit once that was over I spent the rest of the day attempting to catch up on any support calls and the like, and hoped that I would be able to get a lot done. In the end I managed to at least follow up one major incident and be able to email the member of staff so I could get cracking on the Monday.

It was then off home, spent some time in Tesco getting all the food shopping sorted out, and then back home in time for my Mum coming over - she wanted me to get her CV all up to date as she needed to take a few copies with her and also have an electronic one, so it was good to get working on that together and have it looking all shipshape and spot on. It was also good practice to get me in the mood for finishing off something I started in earnest last night too.

So with some Dream Theater on, namely the title track of their Octavarium album (make that tune of the day) it was then time to fill out the remainder of an application form. It was for a job which is a considerably tougher challenge and a higher grade than what I am on now, but having looked at the job description and the person specification, I thought that I had nothing to lose and with the closing date being today, I thought I'd best get on with it and see what I could do.

The answers I had in my head but it was just writing them down in relation to the specification and also with regards to the relevant experience gained in the position, and where possible giving examples of what I'd done which met that spec as well. I was pretty pleased overall with how it had gone and then managed to submit it electronically at a mere 11.29pm - so around half an hour to go before it closed. Granted that was living a bit dangerously for me but I thought that it was best to at least go for it and see what happens - nothing to lose, like I said. Be interesting to see what happens..

Thursday 25th April - Catching Up

I had to spend a bit of time catching up after having the day off work, and had a couple of deliveries on my desk to sort out - one of which were four external hard drives that some of our staff had ordered because they needed a drive comaptible with the Thunderbolt technology on their Macs, and this was it. They looked pretty cool and one of the staff whose drives they were collected them from us this afternoon and looked pretty impressed all round - I like to make people happy sometimes.

I also did lunch with a couple of colleagues from another site, and took a walk with them around one of the new spaces in our new building which was the gallery space and all the stuff that was being put into there. Now everything is virtually there including the roof garden it does look much more welcoming as a building and I think despite the limitations on space in some sections, it does seem to come together a lot nicer than you'd think. The view from the staff common room seems a lot nicer as well from the 5th floor looking down so it's something that I will try to bear in mind.

In the afternoon I was heading back and forward a bit to sort out an issue with a network based phone which wasn't coming on. In the end we noticed that it was a faulty port in the network switch that was actually causing the problem and re-patching the cable to another socket seemed to sort that out much better, and so the catering staff were able to use their till phone if they needed to ring for supplies or anything like that. The café space has proved immensely popular (to be fair, the old refectory in the ground floor of the tower was so too!) and that's a lovely thing.

After staying a bit late at work to get a few things sorted, The Love In My Heart came over and I made us some linguine with meatballs for tea whilst she watched Emmerdale. We then were watching the opening session of Michael White v Dechawat Poomjaeng in the second round of the World Snooker Championship. The Love felt sorry for Dechawat as White put on a professional performance to be 7-1 up at the end of the session, but there were many moments of Poomjaeng magic including him applauding a shot of his own but also admitting a foul when Michaela Tabb wasn't sure if it was (fair play) and him going mental at the odd shot too.

The most intriguing frame was the fourth, where Poomjaeng was hampered by the blue and was attempting to hit the reds cueing over the spider, but had a clear path to a red and wanted to just nick one to play a safety. He missed the first too and had to be warned by Michaela that one more miss and it was a conceded frame. He tried another shot and missed that too - so it was frame over. Never seen that before at the Crucible but I've seen so much this week that in a way it didn't surprise me one bit. Tune of the day is the Harlem Shake tune which Dechawat is using as his walk on music - somehow it suits him!

Wednesday 24th April - And As You Join Us, Here At The Crucible (Part Three)

I had booked today off work and with good reason - I had tickets for the morning and afternoon session of the World Championship Snooker at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, and with tickets to see Judd Trump v Dominic Dale and Neil Robertson v Robert Milkins, I couldn't complain about what I ended up with there. An early rise for the 0742 departure from Manchester Piccadilly to Sheffield was calling me, but I did that on the Saturday so it wasn't a surprise really. The train was relatively quiet for that time of morning, I'd have thought there would have been more commuters to Sheffield (maybe though they get the local stopping service?)

I made my way through the centre of Sheffield and bumped into Willie Thorne as I headed to the Crucible, and chatted to him about Poomjaeng. Willie said he was a breath of fresh air and he may not be a flair player but he does get the job done, and I mentioned about him holding his nerve in the final frame. Saw Judd Trump and Ding Junhui heading in and both were chatty to everyone, good to see. I could see a lot of Chinese fans on the other table for Ding v McManus, and they had a large banner up which Rob Walker mentioned. They were apparently from the University of Sheffield Chinese Students Society.

I had the conclusion of Judd Trump v Dominic Dale, and Judd really did get going this morning with some good break building and solid stuff. Dale won a frame before the interval and four frames in around forty minutes or so, really fast stuff it has to be said. After the interval Dale was on a 147 and with each red and black I was willing each shot in - only for the 13th red (a long one) to rattle the jaws. I was gutted for him, having spoken to Dominic on Sunday he's a really good bloke and very friendly and chatty to everyone. Judd did more than enough in the next frame to seal it 10-5, but it was very entertaining stuff from both players.

Incidentally, neither match had any walk on music this morning. Rob Walker mentioned that Ding had a black armband on as a mark of respect for the recent Chinese earthquake disaster, and as it was close to where Judd won a ranking event earlier in the season, he decided that he didn't want any walk on music either and respect Ding. Fair dos, really. And then the divider went up and saw the final two frames of Ding v McManus. The 14th frame was over forty minutes but had a great safety battle, with Ding's shot on the green where he put the cue ball right behind the black with the green on the other end was a key shot, McManus missed six times before Ding cleaned up and won the frame before getting over the line in the next.

Lots of Chinese fans were waiting for Ding later on and Neil Robertson arrived and was his usual lovely self with everyone, more than happy to chat, have pics taken etc, and the Chinese fans seemed to like him lots too. Ding came out and it was mental, but the same students with their banner earlier got Ding to pose with them and the banner - nice from Ding that and fair play. I think too that they had been waiting for him for ages and they had all been patient with the mass scrum going on up front, so he was more than happy to oblige.

I went in the afternoon to see Neil Robertson v Robert Milkins and that was a good game, Neil going 3-1 up at the interval although Robert was playing some careless shots which was letting Neil in. The sixth frame was the brilliant 143 break from Neil and I have to say seeing it live was even better. It was a great effort, and full of some good potting, positional play and really working the balls on the table superbly. Robert Milkins did come back at the end after being 5-2 down, getting over the line in a scrappy eighth frame and making a break of 70 plus in the ninth before Neil tried to get a snooker on the last two reds, and then conceded as the snooker failed and he left the red over the pocket.

There was also a hilarious moment in the 8th frame where Neil needed a wee and so had to ask Terry Camileri for permission to go - he and Robert then headed off to the loo and Terry had a crossed look from Michaela who was scoring at the time - sort of "you shouldn't have done that really!" - it was quite funny when Neil asked though and when he came back he let out a big "ahhhhhh" which the whole crowd heard. And before I knew it with Marco Fu beating Matthew Stevens, the day was over and I was heading back on the train to Manchester in the evening, with a good day had all round.

It can't really be anything else but tune of the day is simply the proper snooker theme, being of course "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band, with the proper guitars on it and everything. None of this faffing around with the remixes or anything like that, just the proper theme, the way it was meant to be heard. Personally if I was in charge of the production company who make the snooker for the BBC one of the first things I'd do was put the proper theme back...

Tuesday 23rd April - Sew Who Won?

It was the final of The Great British Sewing Bee tonight, which myself and The Love In My Heart have massively enjoyed to be honest - me because of course Claudia Winkleman has been hosting it and she is lovely, and The Love because as a sewer herself, she can understand how difficult some of the designs and patterns are to do and how brilliant it is when you make your own stuff. I think too that having a wide range of people in terms of age, having blokes who sew etc really does hopefully break some ground and boundaries.

So to the final three challenges then - making a man's shirt first, which when you look at the pattern is rather difficult to say the least - so it was a definite case of keeping to the pattern and really showing your stuff. It was a good attempt by all three but Ann's one pinched it for us both, and that was good to see her methodical approach reaping the rewards. The second challenge was to customise a little bag with designs of your own, and some of the detail and stitching were superb - I think Sandra won that one hands down though and I think a lot of ladies would have liked her alterations!

For the final challenge - an evening wear dress, the models were in fact all related to the contestants in some way - Lauren had her sister, Ann and Sandra their daughters (Sandra's daughter in fact was the one who applied for Sandra!) - and that was a nice moment when they saw who the model was. They measured up and then spent the second day making the dress. All three were lovely and the blue shimmer of Sandra's dress was just the sort of thing a lot of women would look great in. Lauren's glitzy gown with sequins had the wow factor, and Ann's evening dress with a lace top section looked very intricate and difficult but really did work well.

It was hard to pick a winner but I confessed to The Love that it'd be nice for Ann to win - showing that someone at the tender age of 81 could still cut it and show the young ones how it was done - and was very pleased when she was announced at the winner. Quite right too, she was consistent, had an eye for detail, didn't get flustered with the time limits, and was just on the nail every single time even if she was occasionally a safe option. I think it's a positive though as there'll be many people of a similar age who may love sewing and think "well if she can win why can't I?" and give some people a confidence boost.

In a day when the careers and jobs markets occasionally seem very ageist to say the least, it was a moral victory and one that pleased me immensely. It looks like a second series has been commissioned and I have to admit that I'm secretly hoping that means more Claudia for me to enjoy (my friend and I think there's something slightly dark and gothic about her, which makes her all the more alluring) but I also think that the public like the fact that these sort of shows are just the thing to cosy up to during the week and relax, and because it features normal everyday people who just want to do what they love, it's better for it.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good theme tune to said show, as composed by Ian Livingstone. I stand by what I said last week though in that it needs a little "cha cha cha!!" bit at the end of the theme and that'd work really well. It might sound a little twee but in the context of the show it actually works really well too. And isn't it just nice to have that bit of escapism after a hard day at work? Well I do personally and that's what matters isn't it?

Monday 22nd April - Sorting Stuff Out

Had a bit of a sort out in the morning and in the evening checking through the pictures I'd taken yesterday at the World Championship Snooker and getting them all uploaded, and that took a little bit of time. I guess I'm getting to be more of a perfectionist in that whilst I make end up taking quite a few pictures over the course of a day, I'll only pick the ones that I think came out really well or I can do something with. In the older days when I had different cameras I'd tend to keep and upload everything, but I am much more selective now - probably because I want to show more of my creative side rather than have everything there and then online.

I did maybe think that one day my creativity would be different and in that I could pursue it more as a career, but to be honest I know that I have talents in certain areas and not necessarily in others - I do what I can at work because it's something that my methodical brain can cope with and that I can process information in my head well there too. I also think for me photography is more of a fun element than necessarily being a fully fledged artist - if people like what I do, then that's lovely, but I do it to enjoy myself and actually give myself a creative outlet.

Anyway, I also have been mulling over a couple of other things tonight, one of which being a possible career progression move. I know that there's some vacancies that have come up at work but they're a fair few grades higher than what I am on now, and I must confess also to not being very confident at interviews - I tend to ramble when I get nervous and I know sometimes that is not the way. I also worry too that maybe that I don't always react well when under pressure and the higher you go, the more pressure you have to handle. I guess I could apply but I also am conscious of the fact that I'm thinking that if I don't have a chance of getting the position then am I wasting time applying?

I guess that's for another time, but at least the snooker's been on the BBC Red Button so that has at least kept me entertained this evening. It's been a good tournament so far and with plenty of shock results too, which I have to say isn't that much of a surprise - mainly because the qualifiers may have played up to four best of 19 matches in the weeks leading up to the World Championship, so they're already battle hardened about winning those sort of contests, and provided that they don't freeze under the pressure of being at the Crucible Theatre, it can be a real boost to their career.

Tune of the day in the meantime is a track from the excellent David Bowie album, which I freely admit to have been listening a lot of lately. It's good to see the great man back, even more so when he puts together such gems as "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" as well. I think for many people they've actually been surprised massively how good it is, but for me I also think it shows that if you're a creative genius you never lose it really, sometimes you just need the time to show that spark once again, and my isn't that the case here!

Sunday 21st April - And As You Join Us, Here At The Crucible (Part Two)

The Love In My Heart had stayed at mine overnight and so it was nice just to wake up and be happily cuddled up together. Sometimes it's the little things that mean the most and as I made us both breakfast and had a coffee, we kept our eyes on the London Marathon and how the drama unfolded in that, notably in the woman's race. I also noticed that the snooker MC Rob Walker was on the BBC Red Button commentary and wondered if he was in London doing that or in a studio in Sheffield..

Anyway, as I was heading back to Sheffield, The Love headed homewards but gave me a massive hug before she left, which was lovely. I was originally scheduled to go with a friend today but he was poorly and so this meant taking the train on the day - so got to my station, and bought the ticket from there to Sheffield instead. The Transpennine Express train there was way too packed and although I located a seat, noticed that one woman was being an inconsiderate cow with her bag being plonked on a seat. Quite rightly the conductor was having none of that and freed up the seat for someone to sit at instead. I personally would have thrown her off, even if that meant stopping the train at somewhere like Edale to do so. If there's one thing I loathe it's selfish and inconsiderate people.

I arrived in Sheffield a few minutes delayed due to being stuck at a signal, and soon walked up the hill and through the Winter Gardens to the Crucible, and looking at the big scoreboard I could see that Graeme Dott and Peter Ebdon were still battling away from their morning session, so kept an eye on that before seeing if I could spot them leaving, which I did. Peter was fairly relaxed and happy to chat to people. Because of the late finish to the session it was a quick turnaround for the afternoon session, with everyone making their way in pretty quickly. I was in Row J for the Williams - White match, close to the aisle and stairs, so it was a pretty good view from there and the bottom right corner pocket was directly ahead of me in the eyeline, so I could see if a shot was going into that very well indeed.

Out came the players and because the Williams match was to a finish, they were announced last (normally as Rob Walker mentioned it's the highest seeded player who is last on) and off went the action, with straight away Michael White looking in good form despite the first frame not going his way. Frame 12 was a key frame for me - the green and yellow ended up nestled together by the top cushion and I thought "it might be coming into play later" which it did, Williams getting 2 snookers so that clearing the colours, he could win. However he had rotten luck on potting the green and double kissed the black, then left the brown over the pocket with another double kiss, which White won the frame from.

It was soon 8-5 at mid session interval, and White was taking advantage of any slip ups. What ended up being the last frame was a case in point, Wiliams was rattling the middle jaws for fun, left a chance for White and he cleaned up really well, just falling short of a century with a very tricky final red, but did more than enough to show that he was actually a very capable and enjoyable player to watch. Williams looked off form to be honest and he wanted to get out of there ASAP - as I spotted later on when he made a hasty exit into a waiting car outside the Crucible Theatre.

From what I saw of the Higgins - Davis match once the curtain came up, Mark Davis seemed to be playing and potting pretty well and once he got his nose in front at 4-3 he kept going to clinch the next two and play pretty well overall. It'll be interesting to see how that second session develops I think and so will be attempting to keep an eye on that tomorrow afternoon if I can. Tune of the day is John Higgins' walk on music - these days it's now Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough". Well I can't get enough of the snooker right now that's for sure.

I did spot some players coming and going later, Dominic Dale coming in for a practice and he was really happy and chatty to everyone, and mentioned that it would have been nice for him to have an evening session in his match against Judd Trump (or indeed be drawn against someone else!). Jack Lisowski went in fairly late, walked past everyone and was clearly in the zone, sort of how Judd Trump is at times in Sheffield. Barry Hawkins seemed pretty relaxed as he arrived and was looking forward to getting the match finished early on, and again was more than happy to chat to people - he came across really well actually. I also saw Hazel Irvine walk across from the Winter Gardens to the Crucible, I think with some of her family, and looked smart as she was heading into there for the evening presenting stint.

All in all a good day then and one which I thoroughly enjoyed. I'll be back there on Wednesday for two matches and a morning and afternoon session in all, so having the day off work for it was an inspired move in the end. I just love going and I think when I do go it whets the appetite to go and watch some more - and I think because I just get so enthralled in how the games go, it really does make for a special occasion. Roll on later this week for me then, and I might see if I can get some extra tickets yet..

Saturday 20th April - And As You Join Us, Here At The Crucible (Part One)

It was a very early start for me as I had a train to catch - the 0742 from Manchester Piccadilly to Sheffield no less, as it was the first day of the World Snooker Championship and I was to be there for two sessions during the day, the morning and the afternoon. I made sure I was up on time, got myself showered and ready, and then headed on the bus to the train station. I got myself a coffee and a bacon barm from the Bread Box place (£2.50 for that is a bargain especially as the barm is massive) and then off to Platform 13 to get the train.

The train journey was fast and reliable, and to be fair to East Midlands Trains, their trains that do the Liverpool to Norwich via Sheffield and Nottingham route are much nicer, more seats and they often run four carriages if the demand is there - plus booking online means you get their advance fares cheaper, so this journey for example cost me a mere £3. No way was I arguing with that! I arrived into Sheffield on time nice and refreshed, so walked up the hill towards the Crucible and with blue skies above, had a wander around the city centre at first with the sky really showing the city off wonderfully well.

A lot of the hype was around Ronnie O'Sullivan's comeback and a fair sized crowd were at the Crucible Stage Door to see him make his entrance, except he got in a different way in the end. Mind you, the other players on that morning (including Michael Holt against Ricky Walden, the match I was seeing) were more than ready to do their bit on the baize and were looking forward to getting started. I must admit the game's carried on pretty well without Ronnie but of course for the once a year media that's the only story that matters to them - and that did frustrate me a bit.

The morning session I did see was very good, if one sided. In the second frame Michael Holt missed a blue to the middle, Ricky Walden pinched the frame and went 2-0 up and from then on looked classy, particularly as he knocked in a 140 break in the next frame and before we knew it, 4-0 at the mid session interval. Holt was very expressive throughout and his relief when he finally did get a frame on the scoresheet was good to see. However that was the only frame he would win as Walden was knocking in breaks for fun and it was 8-1 at the close of the session, an impressive performance to say the least.

I headed out to see who I could see, and a large crowd had gathered for the end of the Ronnie O'Sullivan v Marcus Campbell session by the stage door. When Ronnie appeared it was a very quick exit and in the melee a child was knocked over, thankfully not too hurt but a bit upset and understandably so. I avoided the scramble to get to him and noticed that other players were calmly making their way in for the afternoon, with Shaun Murphy and Martin Gould (whom I'd be seeing on Table One) spending lots of time with people chatting about their chances, nice to see.

That match was pretty good and close too, with Martin racing to a 2-0 lead and had Shaun needing a snooker in the third, only for him to get it, clear the colours and win the frame on the black ball. All of a sudden the game changed somewhat and it was clear that it was now a battle, with Shaun Murphy winning the session 5-4 and with all to play for tomorrow night. For me, it was good to see a close match early on and there were plenty of good breaks, including a century for Murphy as well. Ace.

I spent a bit more time in Sheffield milling around before heading back down to the station to get the 7.11pm departure back to Manchester Piccadilly, where The Love In My Heart had arranged to meet me, and so we first headed to The Bank for a drink (in fact my Nicholson's Pale Ale was a free one because of my membership to thier real ale club - bonus eh?). Whilst in there we were mulling over where to go for something to eat and I mentioned that we hadn't been to a Chinese for absolutely ages, and as the pub was near Chinatown it would make a lot of sense for us to go somewhere within there and have a meal.

In the end we went in the Hong Kong Cantonese restuarant, a place I'd been in many years ago during Chinese New Year and I remember the food being nice, and The Love seemed to think she had been there too. Plus points: Worthington for £2.90 a pint (which for an eatery is pretty decently priced to be honest, even if it's not cask) and the food, which was lovely. We had a nice table by the window and it was a relaxed atmosphere in there as we both decided what to have.

In the end we picked some dim sum starters: some spring rolls, crispy won tun and pork dumpling pancakes - all of which were very nice and set us up wonderfully well for the main course. I had the crispy lemon chicken with egg fried rice whilst The Love had the crispy shredded chilli pork with egg fried rice, which did look lovely as well. It was really nice just to take the time to relax and eat together and catch up with plenty of chat as well - all good and all very postive, and not too bad a price either in the end (although the 10% compulsory tip shouldn't be that - it should be up to you to decide if the service was good enough).

We headed back homewards, saw the Jonathan Ross show and I was pleased to see Francesca Martinez on there as she's very funny and came across really nicely on the show - and kudos to Jonathan for having her on and allowng her to be herself. I could have done without will.i.am though to be honest - not my cup of tea. What is and what is tune of the day is Half Man Half Biscuit's classic "The Len Ganley Stance" which I've been singing to myself most of the day, notably the classic line "Shine your shoes and head for the Crucible." Quite, in fact.

Friday 19th April - An Early Night In

It was another busy day today, with lots to sort out and too little time to sort it in to be honest, but I did at least manage to get to the bottom of one of the issues with the PCs in the first floor of our new building. It for some reason had reverted back to its original configuration when imaged, which was no good as it missed out all the extra software. I therefore imaged the PC and was then good to go to add all the software, which finally finished its duty early afternoon, which meant I could at least put it back in situ and have them up and running (they will probably need to be moved by the end of May for the degree shows, but there you go.)

As it's the World Snooker Championship tomorrow and that I'd be heading to the Crucible Theatre (as you do), there'll be plenty of memories that I've had in the last five years on the bounce that I've been there. Seeing Steve Davis play there was one, as well as the arrival on the scene of Judd Trump, seeing one of the real diehard fans having a marriage proposal live on air, late night finishes where I've had to madly dash down the hill for the train, and even seeing Michaela Tabb on a few occasions as well. There'll hopefully be more memories as I head to watch the matches this year.

I had watched Five Minutes To A Fortune when I got home from work and then headed to Tesco to get the food shopping done. I didn't need that much so it was a case of get what I had to, get home and then be able to put my feet up and watch a few things on catch up as well as then take it relatively easy, remembering some of those Crucible moments. I think because of the fact that Sheffield isn't that far from Manchester, once I was able to get tickets and go, and I enjoyed it so much, it meant that I was able to go again, and again, and really make the most of it.

And of course I should add that Sheffield as a city is also a rather nice place actually, always seems to be quite vibrant whenever I go and lots of history in its buildings but also some more modern features such as the "cheese grater" being pieces of urban architecture to be proud of. Unbelievable as it may be, that car park is one of the most photographed in the country, I'm sure I've done plenty of shots of that over time myself. It just screams out at you in the nicest possible way.

And so off to bed early, it's an early start for me tomorrow and want to be sure that I am up and out ready, and so with Sheffield in mind Richard Hawley's "Open Up Your Door" simply has to be tune of the day - it was pretty excellent all round back in the day and for some reason I've kept humming it during the course of the evening as I was reminsicing. Maybe it's because it's by an artist that is quintessentially Sheffield through his blood, and someone who's proud of where they come from. And I do like that!

Thursday 18th April - Back and Forward

I lost count of the number of times I've spent today walking between our base in the office in one building and the new building to sort out various issues with printers and staff. In fact I headed there this morning to investigate one printer problem, had to locate a spare cartridge for it, came back with it, fitted it only to find that the imaging drum was the one that was faulty and even some tests I carried out meant I needed to get one ordered.

In the afternoon we had another report about a printer with no power, and after testing some of the power leads and even using another plug socket, I found out that the internal power supply was basically blown and so it was a case of ringing our supplier and getting an engineer out. I headed back to base and around twenty minutes later a cartridge arrived for one of the other printers there, so back I went to fit that. So it was a lot of walking between floors, heading up and down stairs etc, and that certainly if nothing else was keeping me fit during the day.

I also had to re-image a machine and then deploy all the specialist software to it, which as you can imagine was taking a fair bit of time. The specialist software does take time because there's so much of it, and what I normally do is put it all into one SCCM task sequence and have it running with the machine powered on and good to go. I worked out that the majority of it takes around two hours, but when you consider the software installed in that timeframe it's still pretty impressive all round I reckon.

Later on I headed into the city centre to have my hair chopped to bits by the lovely people at The Northern Cutter, and then headed to Piccadilly train station and just about managed to avoid the driving rain and hail beforehand. I was here to use the ticket machine to collect my train tickets for the next two journeys I've got, both to Sheffield - one on the Saturday and another on the Wednesday. I think you can guess what they might be for - the snooker no less. I infact managed to get a ticket for next Wednesday morning and afternoon, and indeed be able to see Judd Trump and Neil Robertson in the space of a day - no complaints there then for me.

The Love In My Heart came over later and we had a gorgeous chorizo pasta bake (after she managed to head to Tesco for me to get the grated mozzarella cheese which I had forgotten to get - doh me) and then settled in to watch the animal awards thing on ITV with Paul O'Grady. Some of the animals and what they did, how they interacted with their owners was a lovely thing, and the story of the horse Yorkie who was there to help disabled people enjoy riding the horse and carriage and bonding with a lot of them was a really lovely thing, as was the cat Bob who with his busker owner James Bowen, immortalised of course in the book "A Street Cat Named Bob" too.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the very good "Soul Riff" by the Doug Wood Band, another great but more forgotten sports theme. Of course everyone knows the snooker one "Drag Racer" and "Cranes" for the old school darts, but this one was actually the theme that the BBC used for many years for its coverage of that most pipe-in-mouth-back-in-the-day type sport of crown green bowling. The tune has plenty of synth lead lines along with its guitar and listening to it now, yes it sounds late 1970s, but that's the whole evocative point, right? Well, I think so.

Wednesday 17th April - A Lucky Escape

It was all systems go for me today as I had to head over to one of the new buildings several times to get some important work done - most notably of all one of the black Cisco IP phones had been put into place in one part of the building, but the network socket for it hadn't been patched in, nor had the phone got its correct location. We were soon able to sort all of that out so that the phone would be renamed, and I patched all the network in so everything was playing ball happily - much better all round I reckoned.

I knew that it was going to be windy tonight and certainly on the way home from work I could hear the wind blowing somewhat - and thought that it was going to be pretty ugly out there for City's game against Wigan later, effectively a dress rehearsal for the FA Cup Final in a few weeks time. Talking of which for a second or two, isn't the decision to have the kick off time at 5.15pm for two North West teams somewhat ludicrous, especially when there's only one Premier League game with a 12.45pm kick off? What would be wrong with keeping tradition and having a 3pm kick off eh?

There's also some dodgy commercial dealings going on, I suspect. The 5.15pm kick off coupled with some weekend engineering work on the trains means that there'd be no trains back to Manchester or to Wigan after the final whistle, and especially more so if extra time and penalties were coming into play. People would then effectively be either having to stay over in hotels and get the train back on Sunday or taking other options, such as a car and parking by the stadium, directly in opposition of Wembley Stadium's official ethos, taken from their website: "Wembley Stadium is a public transport destination and all visitors are advised to utilise public transport wherever possible."

But of course, there's the coach, and although both clubs will be laying on their own coaches to get to Wembley (which is what we did, much easier!) the FA are more than happy to encourage you to travel with their official travel partner National Express, who of course get priority coach parking in Wembley itself and it's their recommended transport partner for public transport. Well of course it would be, wouldn't it? Stitch up is the word. The FA's statement of "ooh well there's lots of other 5.15 kick-offs" really rankles too. It's the FA Cup Final, it's supposed to be a main event of the season, and that time seems rather stupid to be honest.

Anyway, tonight's game against Wigan was rather forgettable to be honest. Whether it was the FA Cup hangover from Sunday's epic win against Chelsea or if it was just tiredness, or a lacklustre performance I'm not sure, but it was pretty concerning that we didn't seem to hit any form of top gear, and that in all honesty Wigan looked the more likely side to score first. Joe Hart saved well in the first half, Joleon Lescott cleared off the line in the second half, and even though City had their chances it wasn't looking too great.

That was till seven minutes from time, when a Yaya Toure pass found Carlos Tévez on the edge of the box. He jinked his way past two defenders before curling an absolute beauty into the top left hand corner to score, and that was indeed the only goal of the game. A vital three points to ensure that we should finish second in the league, and even more so when you considered Chelsea were battering Fulham 3-0, and that United could only draw 2-2 at West Ham. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Pounding" by The Doves, which certainly gets the fans in the right mood on a match day, as it did on the Sunday.

Tuesday 16th April - Sew Who Will Win?

I must confess that The Love In My Heart and I have been watching The Great British Sewing Bee on BBC2. And we've both found it actually very enjoyable, but for different reasons. For me, the competition is good fun to watch and I of course have the added bonus of the completely loveable Claudia Winkleman on the telly for an hour (I know one of my friends will agree with that) and for The Love, being quite a sewer herself on occasion, it's good to see how people can design their outfits and become a real fashionista as well as actually be able to apply their craft so well.

The Love had come over and I had made some steak and chips (and even got some salad in for The Love) for tea tonight, and we had that in between The Love watching Emmerdale and so were able to have a chat and catch up at the table before we would settle in for the evening's telly - her with a little glass of wine and me with a Costa capuccino from the trusty Tassimo (be rude not to) - and I have to say, I think I cooked okay on the steak front - I always do The Love's much more well done than mine because of the different ways we have the steak as well. Was just really lovely to cosy up too.

On comes the theme tune to the show (although I think the end of it should have a "cha cha cha!" type ending with three notes, if you've heard it you will know what I mean) and the four contestants seemed (or should that be "seamed" haha?) to have all sorts of fun with making the moderations to a high street dress, with either tucking or pleating in or adding all sorts of funky extras. It was a bit bold in some cases, but it was a very different approach from them all. The café is actually opposite where the building is where the challenges took place and it was hired for the weekends during filming - I do want to go in there and it looked nice.

We saw them make a jacket for the final challenge, fitted to the model. We both knew from the approach and the way it was being done that Lauren and Ann were shoe ins for the final without question, they seemed to do things the right way and we both commented that Ann's jacket for her model would look very stylish on my Mum as she would wear the right clothes to go with it and look classy all the way, which is rather nice. I think it is tempting The Love to get the sewing machine out though!

Later on we watched The Syndicate, the latest episode of the second series where a small syndicate wins big on the lottery. This time it focusses on the character Alan who has a drink problem which progressively gets worse as he starts to spend the winnings, and indeed start looking on the Internet for Thai brides and has one called Sulim come over - with a rather surprising little secret (I won't spoil it for you in case you've not watched it on iPlayer yet). If you did see it and think "I know that actress from somewhere!" then you're right - it's Elizabeth Tan, who in an earlier role played Xin, Tina's friend and Graham's girlfriend in Coronation Street a couple of years back. It was good fun to watch although the drama at the end really hit some of the realities home, and was really well acted by all concerned.

As for tune of the day well I'd like to nominate the theme tune to The Great British Sewing Bee actually. It's evocative, it's very quintessentially English, and on top of that it's also one with plenty of nice instruments played well and just feels so homely. It's composed by Ian Livingstone (not to be confused with the Fighting Fantasy books author I hope!) and really does have lots of charm and fits in perfectly with the show. Sort of how Johnny Pearson's "Heavy Action" is nailed on to Superstars and Doug Wood's "Drag Racer" is the snooker theme really.

Monday 15th April - Tassimo-tastic

I arrived into the office this morning a little bit running on adrenaline after yesterday's long day of travelling and cheering on City to the rather good news that one of our managers had purchased a Tassimo for the office, which I knew he had done, but it was now also in the office for everyone to use. Of course we had made sure we stocked up on Costa coffee pods for it whilst still cheap too, but it was good to see that everyone was intrigued as our manager christened it with an initial latte to start with. Of course a Costa americano was mine too, as you'd expect.

I had a busy day, mainly looking at application packaging and documenting that, but also spending time sorting out a faulty Blackberry, which transpired actually wasn't faulty as such - it just needed the battery putting back into place, charger plugged in, and all good to go. I think maybe the battery came loose from its housing in some way and so a quick put back in place and restart did the job. Often with Blackberries the best cure for a hang is to take out the battery, put it back in, restart and good to go (sort of turn it off and on again really)

I was also working on a few things for the future as well - and I had a chat with a colleague at lunchtime who said that one of the things that they rely on is the fact that I've got good documentation out there, which I must admit pleased me a bit. I think it's often too easy just to keep things in your head but without actually writing things down and making it clear to others it becomes pretty tricky to actually remember it yourself sometimes. It's good that I can easily get the necessary screen grabs along the way and make it a relatively simple process.

I headed home later and caught up on the Chinese Grand Prix from yesterday that I had recorded when I was in London. It did prove to be an exciting race with Fernando Alonso showing his tactical acumen and nouse to win well from the likes of Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton, who just held off Sebastian Vettel at the end. I was really pleased Jenson Button got fifth, making the most out of his strategy despite a still poor McLaren car and it was the way he brought the car home that made his drive almost as good as Alonso's but for differing reasons.

And the World Snooker Championship draw was made today after the qualifiers yesterday, and so I now know who I'll be seeing this weekend when I am heading over to Sheffield. On the Saturday morning I've got Ricky Walden against Michael "The Hitman" Holt, and in the afternoon a mouthwatering contest between Shaun Murphy and Martin Gould, which should be pretty fast and fiery. On the Sunday afternoon it'll be Mark Williams up against Michael White, so all good there I think. Lots of first timers at the Crucible but also lots of people who will be back to give their all (Alan McManus being one of them!)

Talking of the snooker, back in the 1980s when David Vine was your host at the Crucible, there used to be a great piece of music for the "Shot of the Championship" and it's no less than "Skorpion" composed by Simon May and performed by the Limelight Orchestra, it was I think an 80s TV series, and later found its way to the snooker. The word evocative doesn't even come close to be honest. Tune of the day was an easy decision here I reckon.

Sunday 14th April - Wembley Wonderland

I was up early on a Sunday morning and with good reason - my friend and I were off to Wembley to see Manchester City take on Chelsea in the FA Cup semi final. We had booked the coach and they left the Etihad Stadium car park at 9am, so we got there around 8.30, got ourselves all sorted, found our coach and got on, and we were all set to head off to London. After us beating United in the derby on Monday, it was all smiles as we thought that form may well continue into today but knew Chelsea would be a tough proposition.

The coach went down the M56, M6 and then the M1, stopping off at Northampton Services for a well earned rest and a cold drink before heading back along the M1 and the North Circular Road, turning off and following the signs that took you to the coach park, and we were actually parked very close to the ramp at the far end of Wembley Way which leads you up to the stadium, which was good for us as it meant a nice short walk, sampling the atmosphere and heading to the ground.

We had time to kill so had a walk around, mingled with fellow fans, grabbed some chips outside for lunch (a mere £4 and even if they were a decent portion, still not cheap, and the burgers were £5, rip off!) and then headed inside. It was good to see a few fellow fans that we sit near in the Etihad and chatted with them before my friend put a bet one (City to win 4-1 was 40-1 so he went for some of that) and we then got to our seats. We were right behind the goal as well so it was good to see that we'd have a good view, and we would be in the same end that we were in for the semis and final in 2011 when we on. Oh yes.

Both The Enemy and Reverend and the Makers played a song from the scoreboards before kick off, and the teams were soon out to a massive reception, and unlike the previous day's semi, the ground was full, no hint of trouble, and happy smiling faces all round as the game got underway. City were intent right from the start, with lots of movement, some good chances on goal, one of which from Sergio Agüero was well saved by Petr Cech, and it was pretty much one way traffic but still nothing to show for it.

However one Yaya Toure surge forward changed all that as he powered straight towards goal, releasing the ball to Agüero who found Samir Nasri. His initial shot deflected back to him from a Chelsea defender but made no mistake second time around, smashing the ball past Petr Cech for 1-0. And right before half time, a shot from the left was well saved by Cech and Vincent Kompany wished that he had done better with the rebound. Still though it was 1-0 at half time and in my view throughly deserved. The atmosphere was great and the City fans were in full voice.

A few minutes into the start of the second half, and City doubled their lead with a great goal. A flowing move down the right with James Milner and Gareth Barry resulted in a diagonal cross from Barry, which Agüero met with his head and looped it past Cech into the opposite corner. It really was a great finish and the way that he celebrated showed the fans how much it meant to him. City were cruising and it was very enjoyable at that point with lots of banter, songs and plenty of skills from the players.

Fernando Torres came off the bench and a few seconds later a through ball was met with a crisp turn and volley from Demba Ba, giving City keeper Costel Pantillimon no chance, and so 2-1. Pantillimon dived at the feet of Torres when one on one and got the ball cleanly to stop the Spaniard, and Vincent Kompany held him back before he could get a shot on goal late on, although the referee could have given a penalty. Yaya Toure was fouled when clean through and the ref gave nothing, so that evened it up a bit, and it was very tense at the end as we were screaming for the final whistle..

And there it was. 2-1! City had done it in an enthralling and exciting game and it was great to see the fans in full voice singing Supra's version of "Blue Moon" after the final whistle (make that tune of the day) and as we eventually left the ground and headed back downhill to the coach park, we were just buzzing with excitement. It was a long journey back I admit, but one that was well worth it, arriving back at the Etihad Stadium at around 11.30pm at night, and getting back to the Towers just before midnight. What a day it was!

Saturday 13th April - Terrapin Power

I had a relaxing morning, mainly ironing, cleaning and sorting the house out as I knew that I was going to not get too much time the rest of the weekend, primarily because of the FA Cup semi final tomorrow that was going to take up the whole day and be (hopefully) rather good. Once I'd got everything sorted I had a little time spare on my hands, and so decided to take a walk around Fletcher Moss in Didsbury and see what I could see with the camera in hand.

I got the bus there and walked down the hill and along to possibly one of my favourite spots in the whole of Manchester - the poplar avenue walk, lined with poplar trees and still very pretty at this time of day with the blue sky breaking through and the sun coming out. Walking from there it was up to the River Mersey seeing lots of people out walking their dogs, and also on the other side of the river, people getting inspired by the Masters and out playing golf too.

I walked around the wooded trail and back through the path lined with wooden suspensions above a muddy field, passing a group of people on the way on some sort of tour, and then headed back along the path towards the rockery. Entering the rockery, part of the pond was flooded, but one family had spotted an adult terrapin who had made it ashore and was just sat there relaxed. Walking further along the path by the pond, I not only spotted that but also a baby terrapin too who was sheltering near a stone close to the pond. Cue lots of "awww" from everyone who saw the little baby one.

It was then over to the rather lovely Alpine Tea Room where lovely coffee and their stunningly fabulous carrot cake was to be had. I mentioned about the terrapins and showed them the pics of the baby one, and they were pleased to see that two (they knew about one) were there. I sat by the window admiring the landscape and saw that same group earlier tucking into something outside - turns out that they were being shown how to do foraging for food in the wild and then cook what they found. Not a fan of it myself, and I hope they had some of the yummy cake on offer from the tea room!

I headed back home as my sister was heading over to print off her flight confirmations for her holiday later this week, and it was good to see that she was happy and excited to go with her friend too - and was good to see how things were. It was then off to The Love In My Heart's place, where it was all rather lovely as we had a rather nice large filled mushroom to start, roast chicken (roasted by The Love too) along with potatoes and vegetables and a nice gravy for main, and even a sponge cake with strawberries for dessert. I really did feel a touch spoilt to be honest.

It was good to settle in for the evening, see The Cube and see how the contestants did (and not too well to be honest) but also to watch some of the singers on The Voice and actually do justice to some of the songs that they did. It couldn't help but make me think though that there's often too much emphasis on the judges sometimes and not enough on the actual singers, but nonetheless anyone who attempts to rock out needs to realise that you've got to do it properly, so kudos to the one who did Foo Fighters' "Best of You". It did make me want to listen to the original and that one is tune of the day.

Friday 12th April - Epic

I had a pretty epic and productive day at work today, and most of the afternoon was spent testing out the AV equipment so it was all ready and good to go for the new term. My colleague had devised a testing procedure and check list, and with a laptop that supports both VGA and HDMI, it meant I could test both types of connector with sound and ensure that everything worked as intended. It was pretty good really as once I got into the swing of it, it meant I could go on a roll with a lot of testing, plus it was all in one building.

I had got to the second last room I needed to test on the third floor and had made sure it was playing ball and joined my colleague in one of the new rooms in room 303, and all of a sudden a loud piercing sound was heard - and it was the fire alarm. We had to head out and sod's law was of course that it was completely weeing it down outside, so not very nice there whatsoever to be honest. I escaped back to base, checked that everything was filled out and then headed back as I needed a key for the final room, got that done and everything was taken care of nicely. Isn't it good when that happens?

I had also assisted a colleague with an odd problem with a member of staff's laptop where they couldn't see something on one of the systems properly, yet on another machine it worked, and I replicated what they did as well on my machine and it worked too. My colleague and I had a hunch it was spyware judging by all sorts of weird IE toolbars, and so managed to remove a fair few of the bars and then used Malwarebytes Anti-Malware to clean them all up. Once that was done, everything worked. Isn't it good when your hunches prove to be right, sort of like Gene Hunt in Life on Mars really.

I headed to Mum's after work to see her and my brother, as he was back off to Japan in a few days and with me being at Wembley on Sunday it'd be good to spend some quality time with him before he jetted off. It was good actually and with a brew it was really nice to be able to chat about all sorts really. I suspect my brother is much more excited than he's letting on but he and my other brother had a trip out to North Wales and even went in the same Black Cat arcade in Towyn I was in the other day, so much reminiscing there I reckoned.

I walked home and then headed to Tesco to get the food shopping in, and cooked tea when I got home. I spent a fair bit of time during the evening watching A Question of Sport but also listening to some epic songs, to reflect the epic mood of the day. I suspect that a double CD compilation would be just about big enough to fit on some of the epic songs in my collection, but I reckon there's more than enough scope for such a thing. For me, if someone writes something lengthy that seems to tell a story or just develop as a tune throughout with lots of progression and carry that over at least ten minutes, then that's pretty epic as far as I'm concerned.

So I ended up listening to the following songs in this order tonight:

Morrissey - "The Teachers Are Afraid of the Pupils" (11:20) (make that one tune of the day as it's massively under-rated in my view from a massively under-rated album Southpaw Grammar)
Frank Black - "Surf Epic" (10:13) (which later was shortened with vocals to be the title track of his "Dog in the Sand" album no less)
Metallica - "Mercyful Fate" (11:11) (there's three or four songs by Mercyful Fate in this medley of songs, all expertly played together. I love playing this on Guitar Hero Metallica it has to be said)
Orbital - "Meltdown" (10:17) (closing track to their under-rated album "The Altogether" and really shows off their craft to its finest)
Roy Harper - "Me and My Woman" (13:01) (from one of my favourite albums ever "Stormcock" we're talking Harper's finest acoustic guitar, strings by David Bedford and orchestra, and in five distinct parts. Amazing.)
The Stone Roses - "Breaking Into Heaven" (11:21) (the opening track to "The Second Coming" and one which sets the tone for their more progressive tone on that album - to me another under-rated one)
Moby - "Face It" (10:03) (am I the only person in the world who really gets his "Animal Rights" album with its suitably guitar driven songs, not least this where you can feel his emotion)
Rush - "2112" (20:33) (couldn't resist - it is after all one of the pinnacles of Rush's work and one which saw them really establish themselves as prog rock gods in my view. Playing this on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock - essential)
Dream Theater - "Octavarium" (24:00) (five parts of epic progression and those lush strings that come in at the end just make it all complete somehow. Still one of my favourite tracks of there even at this long)

So there you go - a few to be getting on with and if you've not discovered some of those tracks, I've just given you the perfect excuse to do so haven't I?

Thursday 11th April - A Nice Cuppa

It's always good when you're able to get in the office and have a nice cuppa to start the day, and I think because the nature of the day was pretty busy to say the least, it meant that I was able to get the brain in motion and start thinking about the tasks I had ahead of me. One rather large task was in the afternoon where my colleague and I were checking over some network sockets in one building, that needed re-routing to another network cabinet instead of one that they're currently in - but proved to be quite handy as some of the newer sockets were already live so was able to get things running with minimal downtime.

I also spent some time testing out an application package and worked out just why when you manually installed the software that second time round it didn't ask you for the network server. It was simply because at the point of install first time, you put the server details in and it saves two .ini files in the program's installation folder, which doesn't get deleted when you uninstall, so next time you install the installer sees them and effectively knows you're doing a network based install.

I got the grey matter working and then realised that if on a fresh machine you were to copy those files there beforehand and make sure that they were present, when you then ran the installer, particularly as a silent install, you'd then be able to at least ensure that the installer had all its information there. I thought up a possible way of doing it and so would be able to come up with the goods pretty shortly, I hoped. It felt positive that I was making some form of progress at least.

I headed home later and nipped to Tesco to get a few little things, mainly some bread for tomorrow's sandwiches for lunch but also to get some pancetta for tonight's tea with The Love In My Heart as I was doing spaghetti carbonara, and why not I thought to myself. Indeed that went down pretty well after I had indulged The Love with double Emmerdale before the football came on - only felt it fair really before we would chat and catch up with stuff in between.

I was tempted to watch all sorts but in the end we decided to after tea watch some of Masterchef before seeing the second part of the programme with Victoria Wood about tea. It was quite good fun actually as she went on a search for just why the British love tea so much, having lots of chat with Graham Norton, Matt Smith (Doctor Who fans would have been happy) but best of all when she was in New York she met none other than Morrissey, who was his usual Northern witty soul (something Victoria gets) and he explained his passion for tea and how it just doesn't cut it in the States. Tune of the day featured in that segment, no less than "King Leer" by Morrissey himself. Ooh yes.

Wednesday 10th April - One In One Out

It was a much better day work wise and I felt like I had got on top of a fair few outstanding tasks that I needed to do. I had got one of the halls connections issues sorted - because the switch on the same floor that I'd got a socket re-patched to effectively didn't have power over ethernet, I had to locate one of the power supplies for our voice over IP phones, plug that in and badabing - the phone worked, yaay, and so did the network as well routed through the phone, and so it was one down, and one to go, as I was waiting for our cable contractors to effectively redirect the cable accordingly.

I also got to the bottom of why one of our departmental heads had lost some contacts in Outlook, and I had been chatting with one of our email specialists - turned out that we have the "recover deleted items" option enabled, so did that, sorted it by the from field, and contacts have none, restored a lot which were deleted at the same time back to the deleted items folder, saw that they were contacts, and dragged them back to the contacts folder, and everything worked as intended. Happy we both were with that to be honest.

Later on I had a one to one meeting with one of my managers and it was pretty constructive to be honest and I think I felt a bit more positive afterwards, which was good. I think sometimes it's easy just to get into a routine somewhat but I think there's a bit of food for thought in some of the things he was suggesting, so it'll be interesting for me to ponder those over. On another positive I got something else sorted by the end of the day which meant I felt like I'd made some suitable progress on a few things, good.

I headed home and found that as predicted the retune had happened on my Freeview HD box, primarily because of the fact that a fair few of the frequencies are being moved around (to free some up for 4G so that they don't interfere with the telly ones). It worked well and all the channels were there and working, and even settled in to see some of the new game show "5 Minutes to a Fortune" on Channel 4. It looked simple enough to work out but I can imagine how fiendish it probably was in the studio to concoct.

Later on I caught up with last night's TV that I missed, including an excellent episode of CSI where a victim died on the grave of former CSI Warrick Brown, and how it uncovered a fair bit with regards to his ex-wife, his child etc and how that all worked out was a real story in itself, and well acted throughout, with Paul Guulfoyle as Brass doing what he does best - kicking backside but in such a cool way that he doesn't even realise. I also saw The Great British Sewing Bee, and wondered what had happened to the contestant who liked the old cars who ended up poorly in week one. Admittedly it did mean a fair bit of the lovely Claudia though :)

I was also keeping an eye on the World Snooker qualifiers (cue Drag Racer by the Doug Wood Band - tune of the day of course). The old legend that is Jimmy White won his match 10-4, and so goes to the final round over the weekend, and unfortunately Steve Davis lost 10-7 against Kurt Maflin and so will be doing two weeks of punditry and occasional commentary at the Crucible. It'd be great if Jimmy White could possibly continue onwards and beat Robert Milkins in the final round though, fingers crossed later in the week...

Tuesday 9th April - Porquoi?

It was one of those days at work today where everything just seemed not to work and play ball in the right way, and ended up uncovering a whole mess of things which wasn't good. It transpired that one of the network cabinets in a floor being completely renovated had lots of cables removed, which shouldn't have been removed. Not least because there are people on an upper floor who actually do use the network. I had to visit one of them and thankfully there was a cable that went to another switch instead, so I'm looking at getting that patched in and running which should at least be handy.

Still though that and a few other things were getting me bogged down today and it's at times like this where I really do want to leave things behind and just forget about them in a way. I think it's more important for me to switch off once I leave work and not think about it too much - I don't read my emails (even though I can) when I'm off and I think if I didn't attempt to have some form of balance between the two then it wouldn't really work so well as it should do.

A case in point was tonight, I was heading to the Deaf Institute, a venue pretty close to work. I had decided though to head home, have something to eat for tea, and then head back out after getting showered and changed and to the venue, so I could have a lovely evening of music in the company of Mélanie Pain, who as well as singing with Nouvelle Vague also does her own stuff, with her second album "Bye Bye Manchester" being recorded in this fair city. I was secretly hoping for the odd cover as well as her original songs but knew it would be an intimate evening in a rather lovely venue.

However, one thing I have massive issue with the Deaf Institute, even in its normal bar downstairs, is the price of everything. None of the bars have real cask ale, and although you can get real ale in bottles, two things: it's in the fridge so will be cold (total no-no, room temperature only) and it's on average £4.50 a bottle. We're not in London now and the owners Trof should do something about it in my view. The upstairs venue bar is just as pricey, with cans of Brewdog Punk IPA for around the same price. Part of me was tempted to swan off to Sandbar (everything a proper place should be) and just come back when Mélanie came on, but I wanted to see the support act.

And it was a good job I did, as the support act Little Sparrow were rather lovely. With Katie on the acoustic guitar and vocals and some beautiful violin playing by Graham, it was an intimate set, with the room filled with string goodness and really wistful often moody vocals as well. I really liked the sparseness in parts of the songs which allowed the voice to fill the room, and lovely that the crowd paid attention and listened to the songs too. I'll have to check more of them out, definitely. The closing track "The Swallow Flies" was just a wonderful thing. Yaay for good music.

A break later and on came Mélanie Pain, who was looking trés chic in her black number along with some heels, very pretty. Her vocals were spot on too backed by Guillame on the guitar and occasional keyboards and Julien on the drums, both looking the epitomy of cool and providing lots of melody for Mélanie's voice, exemplified by many of the songs played from the "Bye Bye Manchester" album. This included the title track, which was good fun, and "Black Widow" which really had a nice feel to it, a touch melancholy but sung with such passion.

This continued into the likes of "How Bad Can I Be" as well as a few tracks from her "My Name" album including "Bruises" which she joked that in Australia they thought that the chorus meant other words instead, which kind of changed the context somewhat. Best of all though was "Ignore moi" which still sounds brilliant and full of charm, so tune of the day there without question. We also got her tale of how she wanted to date Jack White in "Looking for a Man" as well which was all rather lovely, and delivered with such gusto and happiness at the same time.

The encore had another nice little surprise as she came out with a little keyboard and started playing a little cover of "Panic" by the Smiths (quite apt being in Manchester of course). The rest joined in with their percussion and she had the whole audience singing the "Hang the DJ" parts along with her. It was genius and I for one was wonderfully happy to hear it, and the show had gone by far too quickly to be honest. I was soon to be on my way home and treasuring a rather lovely gig all round. Aren't gigs lovely?

Monday 8th April - Agüeroooooooooooo!

It was the Manchester derby tonight, but first of all it was back to work for me and it was good to do a few things to be able to get back into the swing of the working week. I had spent some time this afternoon with one of our members of staff sorting out a plugin issue with Outlook because they couldn't log in to the external web resource that the plugin was using, and also checked over their iPad as well to see what I could do to try and sort things out but it just seemed a little sporadic in terms of connectivity. Bit annoying especially as you can't easily downgrade the IOS version back either. Double annoying in fact.

After work I had some tea and then headed over to my uncle's place, as he has Sky Sports 1 and so was having a few of us round to watch the game - his two sons were there as well as my brother in law and me, and also my auntie's partner, who happens to be a Red (boo!). However that did mean he was the only one of six of us who were cheering the other lot, and so thought that if we did score he was going to have to take it big style from us lot.

The first half was pretty edgy with a few niggly challenges, City went close through the likes of crosses from James Milner, shots from Carlos Tévez et al, but United had their chances too with Rafael da Silva hitting the bar, and so at half time 0-0. I had a half time coffee from the trusty Tassimo (they have one too - ace!) and we got ourselves set up and ready for the second half, and with some Hula Hoops we were ready to enjoy the rest of the game.

More so after a few minutes into that half - a good build up move from City after Gareth Barry had robbed the ball from Ryan Giggs. He ran down the left, placed a ball into the middle with Samir Nasri held up and then James Milner whacked it one low and hard - it may have deflected a little but the shot deserved the goal and that was 1-0 to City. Unfortunately for City fans it was short lived as a Robin van Persie free kick was headed by Phil Jones, came off the back of Vincent Kompany and rebounded in for an own goal and 1-1 and definitely all to play for now.

City brought on Sergio Agüero for Nasri and the game seemed to change, with both sides trying to go at it on the counter attack. City went forward, Yaya Toure and Gael Clichy putting some passes together, and Yaya found Agüero on the edge of the box. He ran past the United defence on the diagonal, and as he was about to run out of room he smashed a shot hard and high into the top corner past David de Gea and it smacked into the roof of the net. What an awesome finish it was, and understandably you can pretty much understand that all the City fans in the house went mental. Agüerooooooooooooooooooo!

YES! Get in! And as the game carried on it did get a little niggly with a fair few yellow cards being handed out, but City held their nerve and were unlucky later on when the ball from Yaya Toure found Agüero but he was crowded out before he could get his shot away. Still 2-1 at their place was a mighty win for us and just the tonic before our FA Cup semi final against Chelski on the Sunday afternoon. And of course we're back down to 12 points behind in second place, no chance really but getting it back to single figures would at least make it interesting. Tune of the day is Man City's "The Boys in Blue" cos as the song says "The boys in blue never give in". Damn right they don't. I was so proud of the lads tonight.

Sunday 7th April - Relaxing Sunday Afternoon

My last day off before heading back to work tomorrow, and one that proved to be rather lovely and relaxing all round. I had arranged to book The Love In My Heart and two of our friends a table at the Ashlea in Cheadle to have a Sunday lunch together, and so we could give one of our friends her birthday presents (she'll be away next wweek) and for my friends to see The Love as well, so it was a good thing all round. We also knew that the Sunday roasts are lovely, and that The Love and I had a voucher via email to get a free starter with a main ordered, and we had one each. Well, we may as well!

We met up with our friends at 2pm and looking at how busy the place was, I was glad that I'd booked a table in advance to be honest. It was good to see everyone and plenty of chatter ensued as we pored over the menu. Even better was that two of the three cask ales on offer were Black Sheep and Hobgoblin. Epic win straight away there and I hadn't eaten anything yet. I did have the mushroom starter with stilton and peppercorn sauce on some crusty bread and that was gorgeous as it usually is - and The Love had the paté and it was consistently good as per usual.

We all had the Sunday roast for the main - be rude not to. The Love had the roast chicken and she got shed loads of it, our two friends both had the roast beef, and I went for the trio of meats so I got some gammon, beef and turkey, easier in the end I thought than having to pick one. They were all lovely and it was good just to relax as well. I even went for the treacle sponge pudding with custard and a well earned coffee, and my friend went for the apple pie with custard - his all time favouite so no complaints there whatsoever.

The Love was really pleased with her presents from them too - some gorgeous Clarins eye make up, some nice body butter with different fruit scents, and also the Mike Gayle book "The Stag and Hen Weekend" which was lovely - and something I think she'll be saving for her trip to Cornwall to read on the train - would make sense to me anyway. That was really nice and my friend enjoyed her presents - lots of Miranda Hart related stuff including Call The Midwife and Miranda on DVD and her book too - which meant lots of happiness and fun to be had there. We discussed things and agreed that she's better in Call The Midwife a more serious actress.

Later on The Love and I headed home and we had a relaxing game of Scrabble with The Human League's "Dare" album on, and of course there's some top tunes there as you'd expect. In fact, "Seconds" for me is always vastly under-rated on there, so tune of the day it certainly is for me. It inspired me to make some good moves on the board as well such as QUERY (Q and Y on triple letter score, so scoring a fair bit) as well as later on the classic OX and AX (X on triple letter both ways) which just had to be done.

It was sport and drama later on after The Love had gone home, with an epic MotoGP race from Qatar with Valentino Rossi battling back impressively to finish second behind Jorge Lorenzo, and then on BBC1 The Village, which seemed pretty dark with lots of secrets that were gradually being revealed over the course of the series. John Simm and Maxine Peake have been excellent so far and long may that continue as the drama continues. The actor who plays the child Bert Middleton also deserves lots of praise too - just comes across as a cheeky chappie but one you can't help but like too.

Saturday 6th April - Winner

I had a nice relaxing morning, cleaning up the house, sorting out my pictures, and also making sure that I'd done lots of washing, drying and ironing so that everything was all good for when The Love In My Heart stays over tonight. I wanted to mainly keep an eye on the build up to the Grand National today, and just before lunchtime I headed out to the bookmakers. I knew I wanted to back Roberto Goldback (has the same first name as the Man City manager of course), but also fancied Teaforthree, and plumped for an outsider to cover all bases. I went for Auroras Encore as I knew the horse had been well placed in the Scottish National before now and so would last the distance.

With all the changes with regards to the build up, the start of the race being moved and the fence changes, I also thought there might be a possible melee or even after the false starts in the two races over the National fecnes earlier in the week, so I also put £1 on there being a void race. Granted it's only happened once in 1993, but it has happened, and of course jockeys can no longer remount horses either, so if there was a pile up a la Foinavon 1967, you never know. All done and dusted, and in all three horses, I always back them to win and win only - and sensibly took the price at the bet (Auroras Encore was 80-1, Teaforthree 11-1 and Roberto Goldback 20-1)

I had some lunch, settled in for the afternoon and noted in the first two races long priced winners were in both - a possible omen? Well not quite as the next two races were all about the favourite doing the business and winning pretty well, so that was soon trashed to bits. However, I kept reminding myself that this is the National and anything can and will happen, and so grabbed myself a coffee, sat in front of the telly with Channel 4 HD an watched the build up, which seemed much shorter and no horses in number order doing a slow parade, they had a canter round and then headed off.

With the start being moved 90 yards forward, it also meant a 4 mile 3½ furlong trip instead of the 4m 4f it usually is, but thank heavens - first time, off they went. Amazingly, there were no fallers or even an unseated rider till the Canal Turn first time round, which was very impressive. At The Chair AP McCoy was unseated on his mount Colbert Station and the bookmakers were pleased with that, but still lots left as the second circuit started, and jockeys sensibly using almost all of the course to keep out of the way. I noticed Auroras Encore and Teaforthree were both very handy which was good news all round.

The race continued and the bookmakers had another happy moment as a mistake at Valentine's meant that Ruby Walsh went down on highly fancied On His Own, but his sister Katie was still there on the favourite Seabass. Could it happen? Didn't look like it to me, and with two to jump I still had Teaforthree and Auroras Encore in contention, which was good (normally my horses would have succumbed to a fall or unseat by now) and at the last those two were disputing the lead. However Auroras Encore produced a brilliant jump and had forged ahead.

I wasn't getting too excited yet as I've seen how much it changes during the run-in of course, but with every stride Auroras Encore was keeping going, and extending the lead, and with 50 yards to go I knew it was going to win. I was very happy to say the least with that. Teaforthree had been edged out by Cappa Bleu for second, but still, first and third wasn't to be sniffed at, and best of all the longest priced out of the three won, so all good. I sensibly had also taken the odds at the bet as I mentioned, as the starting price was 66-1, so 80-1 meant more for me.

As a long priced outsider, there wasn't many people in the bookmakers - in fact no one at all. The very nice manager behind the counter said to me "You backed to win, well done!" and handed me over the £81 (you of course get the £1 stake back) and I couldn't complain. Of course it might have been tempting to put more on, but if I'd have lost, would have not been good. It's actually the first ever National winner I've ever had - the closest I came previously was a couple of seconds, and also in 2001 when I had Beau, who was one of only seven left by the start of the second circuit but Carl Llewellyn had lost the irons and so went at the 20th (my brother had Smarty to win that year and was second)

Needless to say I felt like a champion, and remembering the Nationals of old it only seems right that the stirring theme tune to the film "Champions" (based on Bob Champion's recovery from cancer and his horse Aldaniti's fight to battle back with a leg injury and how they teamed up together to win an epic in 1981) is tune of the day - it was in my head most of the day and as my winner crossed the line, I thought back to the races of old, Red Rum's third win in 1977, West Tip in 1986, the 1997 Monday race won by Lord Gyllene, Ambereigh House in 2004 (my friend won that day) and AP McCoy finally getting a National winner on Don't Push It back in 2010.

Friday 5th April - Sore and Stiff

I woke up this morning and certainly was feeling the after effects of the very long walk I did yesterday. The scenery was beautiful and I know that in the glorious sunlight I managed to take a fair number of pictures which I'd be sorting out and uploading, but my left leg particularly behind the knee was feeling the effects a fair bit, and as such meant that walking was a little bit on the painful side. I suppose that when you push yourself a little bit more than usual, the body has to spend some time adjusting, but I'm not deterred really - next time I might do Abergele to Conwy via the same path, as you divert off just beyond Rhos-on-Sea and follow the number 5 cycle route across country - and after all the castle's got to be worth a visit hasn't it?

I headed to Tesco though to get the shopping done, and it was a fair bit quieter so was good to get it all sorted out. I was going to get some of the Costa Tassimo T-discs whilst they were on offer, but they weren't for some reason at the branch I went to, bit odd. I made a mental note to check my local Metro branch later and they did have them (so got two lots of Americano, one Capuccino) and emailed Tesco to complain that the store I'd visited didn't have the correct prices. I got everything else sorted including some lovely wine for The Love In My Heart for the weekend, and headed home on the bus.

After putting the shopping away I caught up on a fair bit of telly I'd recorded, including the latest episode of CSI which proved to be excellent, not least as DB Russell's son was at the same university as the murder and at one point could have been the suspect, but wasn't in the end - a tangled web of jealousy and sexual favours was uncovered instead in a really good episode. I must admit that Elisabeth Harnois who plays Morgan Brody looks even lovelier - it's all the fluttering of the hair whilst being intelligent enough to solve the case - yaay mode on.

I also saw Top of the Pops from BBC Four last night and that was good to watch, especially as the Boomtown Rats were on, and Brian and Michael were number one with "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs" an affectionate song about LS Lowry of course, which went down well with us Northerners back in the day. And if you watch the video online from TOTP, you might even see Sally Lindsay (Coronation Street actress) as one of the choir. However, best of all was Squeeze being on with "Take Me I'm Yours", one of their early singles and one which introduced the world to their song writing brilliant and a very young Jools Holland on the keyboard, no less, absolute classic and tune of the day without question.

I also kept an eye on the racing at Aintree and again felt a bit disappointed in Channel 4's coverage. My main gripe is that Simon Holt is their main commentator - I know he has been for years, but he doesn't convey the racing as well as Peter O'Sullevan or the Australian Jim McGrath, who called the Nationals after O'Sullevan's retirement. On the National course at least there is Ian Bartlett on the Becher's Brook section and he is much better - why couldn't he have been the lead instead? Just have to see how it pans out tomorrow I reckon.

I spent the evening with A Question of Sport first of all with an interesting archery captain's challenge as well as two of the team describing the phrase to the other which they had to get. Kelly Sotherton was very good at the guessing, and Michael Vaughan with Matt Dawson did their bit brilliantly. It was all good fun, and later on I relaxed with a coffee and watched the Channel 4 documentary on what makes a Grand National winner, and shows how obesessed the trainers and jockeys are with winning it, as well as having the science bit to determine the horses' genes which apparently have something to do with picking a horse from the stable to run now.. amazing stuff really.

Thursday 4th April - Seventeen Miles of Joy

I had something in the planning for today whilst I was off work, and that was to do a lengthy walk along the North Wales Coast. I was mainly following cycle route 5 which mainly uses the North Wales Coast Path, would start in Rhyl and end up in either Abergele, Colwyn Bay or Llandudno depending on how far I wanted to go. Ideally going the whole distance to Llandudno would be the aim but left my options open in case I didn't want to try it out for some reason. Either way, I knew a bus back to Rhyl and train back from there was doable, and it'd also evoke many childhood memories for me, so it was an early rise.

And off to Piccadilly for the 0750 departure to Rhyl which actually ends up in Holyhead, but doesn't stop often once it leaves Chester, and so meant a quicker train journey, a mere one hour thirty seven minutes to be precise. Once I got to Rhyl I headed straight out of the station and down the road towards the promenade, and spent a little bit of time admiring the revamp there before heading along towards the harbour and the Clwyd River Bridge. It seems the harbour's having a make over too, with added defences, the bridge being done up and a pedestrian swing bridge to take you to a new visitor's centre (it'll also open up the cycle path that way I think!)

I negotiated a few streets in Kinmel Bay to take me to the sea wall and the cycle path and followed the sand dunes and the path along until I got towards Towyn, where I made a slight detour to give me some childhood memories of when my grandad had a caravan at Happy Days and we'd spend each of our Summer holidays there. We couldn't afford much back then but that was our special time and something I won't forget. I found the bridge over the railway, and headed over it to Happy Days and then to the Black Cat arcade on the main road, which was the place of choice to play the latest machines back then. It still has the likes of the 2p falls and even has a Kentucky Derby in there, which looked like fun in the high season I suspect.

From there it was back towards the seafront via the Knightly's Funfair on the other side of the railway, and then followed the coastal path as it aimed straight along the front and towards the village of Pensarn, where also the Abergele and Pensarn train station is. The beach in Pensarn had a couple of the shops and cafés open and looked calm and peaceful, and on I walked past that towards Llandullas, which had a couple of caravan parks, one of which had some of the caravans on a higher hill which overlooked the sea - bet that looked gorgeous as the sun goes down at night I think.

From Llandullas to Old Colwyn the path goes around and through one of the quarries there, with lots of warnings to stick to the path and that it's down to the land owner that you're allowed to through here (or else it would be a hefty diversion via Abergele and Llandullas itself) and once you get past that and see the old abandoned clifftop little stone shack, it's down the hill and eventually to the promenade at Old Colwyn, which looked much more like it.

In fact at one of the car parks I spotted a little van almost hidden from view close to the railway bridge, and it turned out it was a coffee van. I had one of their coffees and it was absolutely gorgeous, and just the thing to keep me going. They're called Providero and you'll see them at various places along the North Wales Coast in their grey van - if you do spot them, coffee just has to be done. The very nice man was chatting to me about my walk and the cakes also looked tempting, but as I was being healthy walking I thought it best to be good - I would have had to have more than one otherwise.

Gradually I got towards Colwyn Bay and noticed a fair bit of work going on the promenade - the sea defences are all being repaired and a new place called the Water Sports Hot Spot on the front too - looks good so far. The pier there needs to come down though - it's massively dilapidated and in need of either massive repairs or wholesale demolition. Walking to the Bay itself revealed some nice sandy beaches, a lot of which are currently closed off because of the sea defences. Own goal scored there I think.

As I headed to Rhos-on-Sea the beach was being more populated by people walking, and the coast here seemed very pretty and the town itself quite nice, a little more hidden resort maybe but one that's definitely worth a look. As the marine drive turned left and headed with a golf course on the left towards Penrhyn Bay, the coast path follows the road there and so moves away from the sea a bit, and as I got to a very familiar roundabout, I nipped in the Co-op there and got a sandwich and drink for lunch to keep me going. The roundabout has the road to Llandudno going uphill, which is what I remember from being a kid, and the cycle path runs alongside on its own accord.

At the top of the steep hill, the massive "Welcome to Llandudno" sign appears and I knew it wasn't far to go now (yaay). The cycle path follows a back road and then a public footpath before joining a road to lead to the very end of the promenade, and so for the final mile it was walking on the prom, past the old pool and then seeing the large hotels on the left and the sea to the right, with the lovely sea air really giving it a feeling of being on holiday like I used to be.

I even walked along the pier, right to the end, admired the view there, and then headed back along the pier with a massive sense of achievement. From the start of the Promenade in Rhyl to the start of the pier in Llandudno was just over 17 miles, around 27.5km if you're metric, and that for me felt rather good that I'd walked all that way on my own and seen the coast that way. I must admit as I stopped walking I did feel a tad stiff, and I headed back on the number 12 bus from Llandudno to Rhyl via Llandrilo College, Rhos-on-Sea, Colwyn Bay, Old Colwyn, Llandullas, Abergele and Towyn before heading back to the bus station (handily next to the train station).

I knew it was touch and go to get the train but I got to the station around 30 seconds from when the train was supposed to leave (I knew there was one in 20 mins time I could get to Chester as a backup.) However, the crowds on the platform meant that the train was late (8 minutes in fact) and so I had made it after all. Hurrah! I got that train back to Manchester and it made up all eight minutes of delay (it went in and out of Chester quickly instead of a five minute pause, which helped somewhat) and with my very proud heart but very sore legs I made it home and I think I'll sleep very well tonight.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the theme tune to BBC2's "Coast" as composed by Alan Parker and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. I had that and its variations in my head as I walked along, with the main title theme sounding almost triumphant as I headed along Llandudno Promenade on the final mile of seventeen too. It's stirring stuff and certainly draws you in to watching the programme. If the Beeb ever need a normal person to present it, count me in okay?

Wednesday 3rd April - A Very Special Birthday

Today is The Love In My Heart's birthday, and so tonight was going to be a rather lovely time with her having a special evening. During the day, as I was off work, I headed into the city centre to get a bit of shopping done, namely the final birthday present for one of my friends whose birthday is pretty soon. I needed a card too and so first of all got that one sorted out before heading to a few other shops to find the present. Did any of them have it in stock? That was a resounding no then. Not so good.

However I was very heartened indeed to see as I walked past HMV that there were no longer closing down sales there anymore. In fact a big notice got my attention, stating "here to stay". It turned out that loyal customers and a re-negotiation of the lease with the landlords meant that in fact the store could in fact stay open, and further more it was going to do a proper re-stock and everything. This was indeed good news as with Jessops re-opening last week, it seems that the Market Street corridor in the city centre is still the "go to" place to do the shopping. Hurrah for that.

I eventually headed out of town to Tesco Gorton and actually found the gift I was after, and it was cheaper too. Hurrah to that. In fact as I was passing the Apollo there were already people queueing up outside for tonight's Emeli Sande gig there, the second of two sold out nights. I guessed that she was already very popular but the clamour to be at the front to get a glimpse of her in action really did show buckets. I for one don't mind really - it's better having the kids listening to that than some "I'm gonna kill you, you bitch you ho" kind of music anyway.

I got myself showered and changed later on and headed to the city centre to meet with The Love In My Heart. As I arrived earlier I headed to Kro where we were going to meet and got her a nice glass of wine for when she arrived. She looked beautiful in her new top from Zara and with a nice smart pair of jeans and her Zara velvet shoes (which I got her for Christmas and she loves them) she looked elegant and casual yet classy at the same time. How lucky I am, I kept thinking to myself.

We caught up on our respective days in Kro and I had a very nice pint of the Phoenix Arizona ale, which really did refresh the thirst very nicely indeed and was just the thing to keep me going. We soon were heading off to Jamie's Italian on King Street where I'd reserved us a table and it'd be the first time we'd visit since I had my Jamie Oliver Gold Card through the post (sort of loyalty club card really). We got a drink and sat at the bar whilst our table was being readied and we were soon heading up to the first floor, with a lovely table and view which overlooked the bar area and let us admire the gorgeous architecture of the building.

The waiter brought over our little extra as a Gold Card holder, and it was a little dish of mozzarella with a gentle chilli dip. That tasted very nice and got the palette whetted nicely for our starters, both of which were gorgeous. I had the crispy squid with the garlic aioli mayonnaise which was really crispy and tasted spot on, and The Love had the baked chestnut mushrooms, which were done in a flat dish with a crispy bread base, almost sort of mini-pizza-ish. It was delicious though from what I could see of it and I've made a mental note to have that next time I think.

The mains came by a little later and both of them were gorgeous. After my brother recommending it massively last night The Love had the Jamie's Burger, which was a big chunk of well done meat with lots of nice fillings, and really did fill the plate well. She had some posh chips to go with it and that just complimented things ever so well and she told me that my brother was right - it was well worth it. I had the wild rabbit tagliolini, which was in a nice gentle sauce which was a little too gentle, but worked well. The wild rabbit was a bit like chicken in texture and taste, and really did go well with the pasta. It also filled me up nicely too.

We declined on dessert and because this was my first visit since I'd signed up, we also got £10 off the bill as well which proved to be rather good all round, meaning that our total bill including drinks was just over £30 - not too bad at all really. We also went over to the Waterhouse for a drink, which with their real ale festival being on meant lots of choice. And joy of joys, the Skinners of Truro special real ale "Sennen" based on Sennen Cove. Well no prizes for guessing I had a pint of that and The Love had a nice glass of wine, and she met up with a friend from work in there who was into her ale, and so we had a chat for a while too.

The nihght went by too quickly and soon it was back to Piccadilly Gardens where The Love was getting her tram home (now the tram runs to near her place, she loves it and uses it whenever she goes into the city) and we'd had a lovely night. I love her so much and I know that she had a lovely time, she liked my card and present (the other one I got her is still on order but she told me beforehand that it was cool and would be lovely when it arrived) and it just felt a wonderful evening. Tune of the day is something that The Love will enjoy: "The Things That Dreams Are Made Of" by The Human League, as I was talking about their iconic "Dare" album and the fact I'd seen the deluxe version in HMV, and brought back happy memories of us seeing them live.

Tuesday 2nd April - Taking It Easy (minus the Cadbury's Caramel)

It was the start of the final week of my leave for the holiday year (ours runs April to April, with a little allowance for going up to the Friday after Easter Monday) and so had today pretty much planned out in terms of things to do. It's a friend's birthday in a few weeks, and so having looked online at a couple of things that they were after had worked out that in fact of all places Asda was the cheapest, so I headed to one of the large ones near me to see if that was the case - and the prices in store actually matched the online ones. Woo! That was good, so a couple of purchases later and the job was a good one I reckoned.

I then headed to my friend's place in Sale to spend the afternoon wth coffee, lunch and much chatter. I was trying a different way of heading there, getting the bus to Chorlton first and then the 16 from there which runs very close to my friend's place. In fact as I headed towards Chorlton I could see the 16 bus behind, so I got off one stop and waited for the bus then. What I didn't expect was that Arriva are now officially even more expensive than even First in Manchester, with their day ticket just for their buses being a massive £4.20. It still worked out cheaper than two singles though, and had the freedom then of heading back how I liked, so that worked well eventually.

I got to my friend's place and it was just really nice to spend the afternoon catching up with chatter, having a few cups of coffee and tea along the way, and I'd even been saved a peanut butter cheesecake which was made, and that with some cream was rather lovely it has to be said - the perfect accompaniment to some tuna sandwiches which we had had for lunch. Interestingly as well on This Morning was a person whom my friend actually knew of - and it was intriguing to see what the reaction would be seeing that person on the programme.

Most of the afternoon just sped by rather quickly and it was just really nice to be able to take it easy and not worry about work, and with the time approaching the early evening, it was time for me to head back to the bus stop and get the 16. I noted that it was late getting in to Chorlton so I stayed on it till it went via Whalley Range and Moss Side to the Royal Infirmary, got off there and then just got the bus back home from there, so it worked out pretty well in the end and I was back in reasonable time considering it was peak time traffic and all.

The Love In My Heart came over later and the two of us had some chicken with stuffing balls and little sausages in gravy, along with some mash and vegetables. That filled us up nicely and after The Love had watched Emmerdale we headed over to my Mum's for a coffee and a chat. Mum was a bit poorly with a cold but soon perked up with us there and had a good chat about all sorts. Mum was also able to hand The Love a birthday card for her birthday tomorrow, and even a little gift from my sister and nephew, which I know The Love massively appreciated.

My brother was also chatting to me about a few bits of work he'd been doing and how he spotted Roberto Mancini in a place in Alderley Edge - apparently he goes there quite a bit (Mancini, not my brother before you ask!) - and it was good also to see my brother before he flies off back to Japan in a couple of weeks time, so all in all a rather nice evening really. Tune of the day simply has to be one that featured on Radio 2 this morning when Claudia Winkleman was standing in for Ken Bruce, because that's what I did: "Have a Nice Day" by the Stereophonics, a proper tune that one.

Monday 1st April - Castle Howard

It was a relatively early rise on a Bank Holiday for myself and The Love In My Heart this morning, as we were heading off out for the day together. As The Love is working on her birthday and this was the nearest day we had off to it, we thought it'd be nice to spend some time doing some of the things we like doing best - going for nice lovely walks and seeing country houses. And thrown in we had a voucher for 2 for 1 that we got from Chatsworth last time out - so more value for money as the cost was less. We had some breakfast, The Love filled up the car and off we were.

The journey there wasn't too bad, it was all plain sailing on the M62 and M1, and most of the A64 till we got to the roundabout with the A1237 on the other side of York where the dual carriageway goes down to one lane and plenty of idiot drivers decide to cut in last minute. Once we'd all assembled into one lane the traffic wasn't too bad and we were soon turning off and going up the hills and through the gates on to Castle Howard, which looked pretty busy judging by how packed the car park was. Of course with some Easter activities for the children on this wasn't really a surprise to either of us.

However, queuing for almost half an hour was. When we eventually got to the end of the queue and were paying our admission into the house and gardens there were just two staff serving and sorting the admission tickets out. That's way too few in my view and you could hear plenty of disgruntled people in the queue saying that it was way too long. I have to agree, and we were tempted just to leave and head elsewhere in the car to be honest. We peservered though and were soon walking down the hill and towards the house itself.

It's always nice in the house, and the rooms looked very resplendent and clean, and the Antique Passage leading to the Great Hall was letting in some lovely light, and the Great Hall with its restored Antonio Pellgrini painting of The Fall of Phaeton really did serve to give the whole place a sense of being, as did the exhibits that detailed both filmings of Brideshead Revisited there (personally I prefer the TV series as I suspect that The Love does as well). We did a circuit around and saw the crimson dining room, the long gallery with its octagonal hall and the chapel before heading through the shop.

It was then down to the lakeside to see if the café was less busy, and it wasn't, plus the soup had ran out which wasn't good, so The Love and I decided that we'd go for somewhere to eat on the way back home later and keep going till then, and so headed back up from the lake and along the gardens, heading via the reservoir and the woods to The Temple of the Four Winds, which always looks rather good from no matter which way you look at it. It was aptly windy there though so we walked back along the grassed path via the statues on the left hand side of the lake and back towards the Atlas Fountain, from which the iconic view of the house can be seen of course.

We walked back through the rose gardens which looked lovely, some of the gardens were closed off though as work was being done on the, but the views inside were really nice, not least the fountain with the little man statue holding a fish in the middle. That just looked gorgeous and well worth going round the garden for that. We did a look around the shops and the farm shop in the courtyard before we headed off, with a fair few hours well spent there. Lots of families were up for seeing the hare Grand National and the tents around where it was taking place was really busy to say the least.

It was the back to the A64 and again the traffic went silly when two lanes went into ones, and I have to say it was mainly ignorant people in 4x4s. What is it with its owners who think they can drive where they like eh? Anyway, The Love and I had spotted a few places to eat on the way up and so once we reached one of them decided to stop off at Thompsons Fish and Chips in the little village of Hazelbush. And it proved to be a very wise decision indeed. We had the 8-10 oz cod along with chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce, which came with a cup of tea (we got a pot for two which meant we could have had two cups each!) and bread and butter, all for one very good price.

And I have to say it tasted stunning. The cod was cooked with a lovely light batter and the fish was white as it should be. The chips tasted like proper chips in a chippy should be, crisp and cooked to perfection and the mushy peas were also spot on. The tea was good too, so all in all a definite positive from us both, as we both enjoyed our meal, so much so that The Love didn't want to eat anything else for the rest of the day, and I had to agree - it was filling and gorgeous all at the same time. Hurrah!

It was then back along the A64, M1 and M62 back towards Manchester and home, and it was sad to say goodbye to The Love after a lovely day out together. However, it's also good to know that the time we do spend is precious to us both and long may that continue as far as I'm concerned. Tune of the day in the meantime is the theme tune to the TV series Brideshead Revisited, as performed by Geoffey Burgon. The word evocative doesn't even come close, it just suited it perfectly in my view.