Dear Diary... August 2008

Sunday 31st August - Sixteen Locks And Avoiding The Rain

Headed out this morning as I fancied a walk and wanted to escape to something a bit more countrified than my urban surroundings, and knew exactly what I had in mind. Last time I headed down to Marple, I only had a certain length of time there before the skies darkened (plus I was visiting a photography exhibition there) plus I wanted to walk the famous canal locks that form part of the Peak Forest Canal. There's actually sixteen locks in Marple, and last time I walked from lock thirteen upwards to the Ring O'Bells pub (which is very nice, incidentally, and has won awards too.)

So, it was a walk first through the Memorial Park, which was very lovely and serene with the crown green pretty busy with people bowling along, and certainly with faces of concentration and application too. I wonder what time they'd got up to be playing? I then headed across the park to the canal path, and straight in view of lock twelve, and followed the canal downhill, as I got to lock nine and walked across Brabyns Brow, then kept going past scores of ducks who were clearly wanting me to feed them bread that I didn't have, and eventually made it to the bottom lock, lock one. After this, you head over the canal on a bridge and keep walking under the railway bridge and onwards to one of the most jaw dropping sights there locally - the Marple Aqueduct. It takes the canal over the River Goyt, which is a long long way down below (don't look down too much or you'll feel ill) and you can also see the railway perched high over the river on another bridge.

As the path was getting a bit muddy, I decided to head back along the canal to around lock two or three, I saw someone open the lock gates and get their boat through, and headed on a path downwards, which then went around a house and to a tarmac driveway that would take me through a small forest and then to the main entrance and car park of Brabyns Park. What I noticed was plenty of people walking their dogs and indeed families with their children as well, which was all rather nice to be perfectly honest.

The entrance to the park took me to the bottom of Brabyns Brow and so I was at Marple Bridge village, all very picturesque too, not least as the stone cottages and the streets in the low cloud looked somewhat beautiful. I walked through the village and admired the old houses and the stonework before heading back across the bridge to the Midland pub, where a really nice view overlooking the river can be yours if you're sat at a table close by. With a rather fine pint of Landlord in hand, I could relax on a really nice walk well done, and just as I did that, the rain started lashing it down, and I mean lashing it. Talk about good timing?

Headed back via Stockport and did lunch, and then had a mooch in Richer Sounds to see how scary the new look shop is, and indeed it's awash with LCD televisions everywhere, but I've got my eye on a DVD recorder that actually has Freeview built in, and wanted to see if it looked any good as a possible Christmas present to myself - it would make sense as I could then transfer the stuff from Sky Plus straight to DVD and then be able to have decent quality recordings on another format as well. You know how it is. But also of course anything on Freeview I could then record straight to DVD as well, so there is method in the madness and all that. Thank heavens my LCD telly has three HDMI slots though, the Sky HD box and DVD player in upscaling mode takes up two of them and the DVD recorder also has HDMI out. Wahey!

Managed to catch up with some telly later on and saw the weekly final of MasterChef, the professionals one. Oh dear. They cracked under pressure. One of them tried this really experimental lobster dish with some odd salad and seasoning, which did not work whatsoever. Another had done scallops for starter, fair enough of course, but it would have been better for him all round had he remembered to fully cook them all and not leave some of them raw, which was a bad mistake. Out of all of them, only Dan seemed like he knew what he was doing, and his mushroom risotto topped with brie cheese, which then melted into the risotto, was so good that Michel Roux himself was really impressed, and Dan's main was pretty good as well - venison with trimmings. Oh yes. Very nice. Indeed.

I was watching also a 100 Number Ones of the 80s countdown on TMF earlier, just to see what tacky rubbish that they'd include. And yes, some of it was, like Rick Astley and Musical Youth. Then again though the gloriously lovely "Orinoco Flow" by Enya was included, a song that truly divides me and The Sweetener In My Coffee - you love or you hate it. I'm in the love category, and so make it tune of the day all round. It's delightfully ethereral and one of those number ones you don't mind admitting to thinking "that deserved to get there".

Saturday 30th August - Food, Glorious Food!

Had a lovely time tonight and headed out with a few friends to Frankie and Benny's in Parrs Wood for my friend's birthday get together. It's somewhere we all like and we can all have something from the menu, which is definitely a big plus for all of us really. I know for me there's certain dishes which are the ones I love, and I tend not to vary from them too much, and also the fact that it's pretty hefty portions means as well that I didn't eat too much during the day, saving myself for the festivities ahead. I'd not seen one of my friends for a while too for various reasons so it'd be good to say hello and catch up and all that, you know how it is.

Thankfully one of my friends had reserved the table as well, good job too as with it being Saturday night it was rather busy. We got a nice table and soon the drinks came and conversation flowed happily, as it often and usually does. The only dilemma I had (as ever I should add) is what to have. In the end I plumped for the mushroom alfredo, which was as gorgeous as ever, and followed that up with the New York chicken main, where I seemed to get a rather nice large portion of the square herby potatoes, not that I am complaining of course. And the baby corns on the cob to boot with that which I happily gnashed without a problem really, all well and all good.

In the end most of us were full and didn't go for dessert, but my friend who's birthday do it was and me couldn't resist: he went for the chocolate orange profiteroles and me for my usual lovely favourite of cinnamon waffle crunch, which was top notch, as ever. Time had ticked by all the way through the evening, my friend was really chuffed with his presents, and we were all very merry and happy. For another reason, it was a lovely evening for me and I certainly felt that inside as well. Awww, I'm not going to get all mushy on you now but it's at times like this that you really appreciate just how wonderful friendships can be, especially if they're special ones. So there.

Earlier in the day, with City not playing, I felt it a good time to head out to town and get my hair chopped to bits as it was way too long and thick for me. Thankfully the lovely Michelle in The Northern Cutter did a wonderful job (her and Joanne in there are ace, pop in and get your hair done there, I recommend them highly) and I felt not as warm and horrible in the head as I had done earlier in the week - what with the cold shifting and all that. I also had to venture around to get some wrapping paper as well for the presents as I'd run out, I actually ended up going to Asda on the way home because the selection was bobbins. C'est la vie, as they say.

Anyway, earlier in the day I'd been sorting through some of the new CDs I'd purchased over the last month or so and given them another whirl to enjoy their contents some more. I must admit that I'm really growing on the new Levellers album "Letters From The Underground" somewhat, because it's one of those that takes time to get in the brain. Can't wait though to see them live in December, mind. And seeing them in March reminded me of how marvellous "A Life Less Ordinary" from that album is, so give that one tune of the day - certainly that's also how my life feels right now.

Friday 29th August - I Feel Good!

Actually, you know what? I do feel good. I think this is because I've felt quite productive over the last twenty four hours. Firstly, after I wrote yesterday's diary entry, I watched some of the Aston Villa game and it looked like a fairly easy stroll for them, so it was time for me to try and re-master some of the vinyl 12" singles from their original format to the PC. So, out with both 12" versions of Die Krupps' "The Machineries of Joy", which I mentioned about the other day (so I'll have that as tune of the day again) . It's so darn fine and of course most of the mixes feature those rather ace blokes from Nitzer Ebb either on guest vocals or remixing the track in the first place, so a true bit of Industrial co-operation as well. Turns out that the same mix "Machines" is on both 12" singles, so only needed to record that once, but the other tracks are unique to each single, so four other mixes in all as well, which all sounded rather lovely once recorded. Result!

Had a productive day at work as well today. My colleagues and I blitzed another PC dropin room and got that all up and ready by the end of the day with some time to spare, so that was good, and went along to a meeting this morning as well and put some useful information across. I much prefer to share information if I can and be able to be proactive instead of reactive, just the way that I am these days. And then in the afternoon it was sorting all the Help Desk calls out and indeed getting to work with sorting out all the potential issues ready for next week as well, a bit of planning ahead.

On the way to work, I did see something quite odd though - a letter of love of sorts pinned to the bus shelter at the bus stop! It was written by someone who'd seen a girl with red hair at the bus stop on Monday, and didn't say hello but wanted to get to know her, and so thinking that she'd be at the same bus stop again, wrote a letter telling her how he felt and indeed even leaving his email address so that she could contact him (not exactly the sort of thing that I'd recommend to be honest - imagine if a spammer walked past the bus stop?). That cheered me up as I went to work, thinking that romance might not yet be dead. Well, when I got home, I noticed that another note had been fixed to the bus shelter below the original note, and it said that she was the girl with red hair, and that she thought he was a "dog" and didn't like him, and to stay away.

When you look at the two letters and contrast the styles of writing, the first one is really articulately written from the heart and with a definite feeling. The second is really either in disgust or in a rush, because of the lack of punctuation or the apostrophe, possibly because she thought that the original letter was a bit creepy maybe? It's a definitely intriguing thing and I'm wondering how long that both notes will last at that stop before someone removes them or that they're taken? Indeed I was surprised to actually see the original one still there when I got home from work earlier.

Settled in then to watch the final of Superstars, and to be honest, I felt a bit like the last two events were staged somewhat just so that it'd be a dramatic finish, with Alain Baxter making up a thirty second deficit to reach sixty dips before Dame Kelly Holmes, and he overtook her with Kelly needing just one more to get and not being able to get it. Hmm.. and they won the previous kayaking event when for some odd reason, Lee Sharpe went off course for around fifteen seconds, just enough time for the other team to build a gap and have a lead so that they'd win that and still be in with a shout of a draw. In essence, I'd still much prefer it to be an individual event though because I have a feeling that Alain Baxter would not be denied this time around and make sure of the win again - he looked pretty impressive all round and I'm sure Sir Steve Redgrave must have known his past form.

But all in all I feel good. Something in the air, maybe? I don't know.

Thursday 28th August - Paying The Penalty - But Not City For Once

I had set the Sky Plus box to record the UEFA Cup game between FC Midtjylland and Manchester City, not least because of the really early kick off at 3.25pm UK time, which meant that I would be at work and wouldn't be able to watch the game live. It's at times like this that I'm thankful for having some way of recording the action and then catching up with it later on. So, once I got home from work I refused to switch the television on but did see if the Sky Plus box was recording so I could make sure that I'd see the action later, so did my ironing and made myself some salmon and rice for tea, and got that all sorted.

By the time I'd done all that, the recording had finished and I reckoned I was pretty safe to play the whole game back. And was it worth me recording? Only just, to be honest. Over the first eighty odd minutes City were poor and lacking ideas, and if anything the home side were looking much more likely to put the ball in the back of the net, and came close a couple of times. The injection of Danny Sturridge and Ched Evans helped a bit to have some urgency, but no one could possibly foresee the immense luck we had. With a couple of minutes left, Michael Ball crossed it from the left, and Ched Evans headed it. It would have probably gone wide, only for one of the Danish defenders to connect with it and head it goalwards. I went mental even so and it levelled the tie and meant that we'd also cancelled out their away goal with one of our own.

As extra time ebbed and flowed, it was still in the balance and although City were unlucky with Danny Sturridge hitting the bar, I have to say that similarly we could have been out of it. At the end though, penalties looked the most likely and knowing how rubbish City were at this sort of thing, I feared the worst, and I reckoned that only Didi Hamann would have the coolness to score. Anyway, Ched Evans scored, and next up Martin Petrov who also scored. The scores were 2-2 and then Michael Johnson missed with his. I really was fearing the worst now, but Joe Hart saved and it was back level. Didi scored as I thought he would, and then Hart produced another save to make it 3-2 to us and if Vedran Corluka scored, he would put us through. He calmly slotted the ball home under pressure, and it was 4-2 and thankfully we'd scraped through.

Channel Five analyst (and fellow Durutti Column fan, incidentally) Pat Nevin analysed it later on Channel 5's Aston Villa game before that started, and he spotted how poor the defending was and that it only got better once Micah Richards went back into that position, and indeed how many times Richard Dunne was caught out. Hmm.. it was food for thought. Could the player who'd been player of the season for the last four years been a bit poor? I reckoned so, he was a bit all over the place. But the first round draw is tomorrow, and get through that, and there's the group stages. Can it get better? I bloody well hope so. In the meantime, I need some Durutti Column to calm me down after watching that game, so what better than the marvellous "Sketch For Summer" to put me on a floaty feeling elsewhere? Spot on really, and tune of the day right there.

Wednesday 27th August - Worm Charming? Ridicule If You Take Part...

A quite busy day at the office, but I did manage to get quite a lot done in a short space of time, all things considered. Not only did my colleague and I finish off updating the PCs in the main dropin suite with the new image, but also managed to get another floor done as well and get that all sorted out. In a way, what we also noticed was that one particular version of the imaging files used for Zenworks imaging seemed rock stable, and so where possible we're going to try and use that and see what happens. In any case, seeing a bank of machines restart and actually do what they're supposed to do felt immensely satisfying, it has to be said.

Got home later on after a detour in the city centre, to get some birthday cards. It seems that WH Smith, although having a great selection, seems to have dropped certain ranges of cards. Thankfully they hadn't dropped what I was after and so I was able to get everything sorted out without any problems really. It was then a case of heading homeward, although I did notice that it was a bit busier than usual for a Wednesday afternoon, surprisingly enough in the centre itself. The journey back though was much less hassle, always good. Once back home, it was a case of getting everything order as I was making tea for two tonight, go me! In the end, it was a pasta bake that was in order, that and some garlic bread worked wonders and was just the right side of filling for the evening.

I'd recorded the Professional Masterchef from last night and today, and watched that, and it showed just how high the standards were when some of the chefs were throwing away macaroons that they thought were substandard where I'd have been pretty happy with them. Nonetheless though, it also goes to show that how much of a reputation Michel Roux Jr has, in that he wasn't pulling any punches. He's not got two Michelin stars for the last how many years for nothing, you know. But it goes to show too that there's so many people out there who aspire to be really good chefs, and for that you have to give them kudos.

Saw the Rory and Paddy's Great British Adventure instalment tonight, and there were some really mad sports out there. Toe wrestling had me giggling, not the least because of the really odd names and nicknames of some of the contestants, like "The Toeminator" and "Nasty Nash" to name but two. Paddy had a bye against Rory who couldn't compete, but nonetheless Paddy did win his quarter final, only to lost to his mentor The Toeminator in the semis. That bog snorkeling mountain bike race was utterly mad as well, just how do you cycle under there, absolutely mad I tell you! Mind you, I think that worm charming in the middle of Cheshire just had to be so boring, no wonder Paddy wanted to cheat in it. Still, next week's looks pretty mad as well, don't think they'll ever top the cheese rolling though.

Placed on a nice quietish album tonight too, namely Bonnie Prince Billy's "The Letting Go", which I happen to have the DVD-Audio version of. It's all very nice in multichannel high resolution surround let me tell you, and certainly the opening track "Love Comes To Me" (tune of the day as well) really has movement, flow and sounds breathy as well. It just has something rather lovely about it.

Tuesday 26th August - The Machineries Of Joy

Ah, the days when things work. And that was today alright. In fact I and my colleague managed to image almost all of the main dropin room today, just blitzing images down and watching in amazement as lots of them didn't fail to multicast, and then noting just how reliable it all was post imaging as all the steps did exactly as intended and indeed made for some nice working kit all round. I'm sure that eventually there'll be a realisation that they'll see that Office 2007 is on the new build and all that, and indeed that it all works. Just got the rest of them to finish off tomorrow but I can see progress being made and that's really smart all round to be perfectly honest, it's about time.

Flushed with that day's success, I went homeward and checked out some more stats - this time with my Youtube channel. I was amazed to see just how many views in total that the videos I'd put on there had, but also how many comments that some of them had had. To give you an idea, my most popular video on there has at the time of writing a mere 77,530 views and I've actually got another one at 56,217 views as well. Not too bad, okay not the mere 33 million plus that have viewed Weird Al Yankovic's superb "White and Nerdy" video, but still. In all, a massive 491,150 video views of mine, and eighteen of them with over 10,000 views overall too. I guess the experiment I did has really worked out, and I was really pleased with my recent one, as it was the first time I'd tried the Panasonic TZ3 digital camera doing small movies - and it wasn't too bad either.

I guess I've been in that sort of mode lately where I've been listening to lots of electronic music at the moment, had plenty of Kraftwerk on, not least I'd still like to get some of the original German releases of some of the albums and all (not forgetting "Computerliebe"'s riff was used by Coldplay on "Talk" from their X and Y album, with Kraftwerk's handwritten "yes" permission). But I also have been rediscovering some of my Industrial favourites as well from the 1980s, and it definitely was the beat inspired stuff that I love, even now. One such superb example was the co-op act between Die Krupps and Nitzer Ebb, bringing the excellent 12" singles on Mute that were "The Machinieries of Joy". I didn't even realise that there was a video for it either until I saw it recently, and was goggle eyed at how good the tune and video was together. Tune of the day really, sort of like this:

Now isn't that just fab? Well, I think so. It just goes to show that sometimes you don't need multitrack layers of progressive rock in all directions, or crunching riffs, but in fact the main thing is a tune and hookline that enters the brain and refuses to leave at all costs, a bit like this one does.

Monday 25th August - Bank Holiday Walking

The Bank Holiday Monday did give me a welcome respite off from work but it also meant that it was a day where I was coping with what I'd developed over the weekend - a full blown cold. Bah! Well okay, not quite full blown, mainly bunged up in the nose and a bit weak, but to be honest I was being careful and dosing myself up, and giving myself exercise, in the hope that I'd sweat it out a bit. The weather wasn't boiling hot but nice enough to head out for a walk, which is what I did, and some walk too. You see, close to where I live, there's an urban cycle way and path that used to be the old Fallowfield Loop Line train line, and you can join on to it from quite a few major roads, the idea being that you can then walk along it in relative quiet.

And so it proved: as I headed down the cycle way, it was well used by cyclists (indeed I saw plenty of people out for a ride on their bicycles and families too, which always warms my heart) but also people walking, and indeed picking berries from some of the trees and bushes that line the route. I wouldn't know how safe that they were, but still, it's good to see that the escape from the urban hell is well used and one that really does give you an incentive to get out more. Last time I walked down the path, you couldn't go any further than Chelsfield Grove in Whalley Range, which meant that you couldn't go to Chorlton. Now, you can. There's a path that goes under St Werburgh's Road and then it joins a path that goes along the end of some roads, running alongside what will be the Metrolink extension line, before ending up by the bridge on Wilbraham Road, so it works out well. In fact went to The Bar (yes, that's what it's called) and they had plenty of cask on, so treated myself to a relaxing pint before heading home on the bus later.

And in another attempt to sweat more of the cold out of me, I headed out to Wagamama later and thought "aha! Ginger chicken udon! Plenty in there to sort me out!". And it was very nice and tasty as ever too, and even a touch more chillis than normal which certainly really did its best to attack the throat as well as the cold nose. Mind you, I did this time indulge myself for the first time in ages and have the coconut reika, lots of delicious coconut ice cream and mango sauce, oh yes. That certainly was a right move too, and it was pretty empty in there really. I wonder how many people have realised that their summer slurpin promotion means buy one get one free on main meals this week? You could eat out for two dead cheap, like.

Still, it was a long day with the walking and eating out, but definitely relaxing, and that's definitely something that I enjoyed a heck of a lot really. Now if only this cold would shift - I think it's a case of trying to whack some Olbas Oil on a tissue, and then placing it inside the pillowcase and see what happens. It did help me sleep last night and it would be rather good if I was able to get some sleep again tonight with that method, but we'll see. Nonetheless though it was nice to get the fresh air today and certainly it meant I avoided the fact that lots of music channels seemed content on playing that Bryan Adams song - you know, the one used in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Yes, that one. The one that was sixteen bloody weeks at Number One. I ask you.

But I had a song in my head all day, most likely because of the company I was with. And so tune of the day has to be "It Only Works Because You're Here" by MJ Hibbett and the Validators, because it's so true, not just about fixing PCs, which is somewhat true, but because of how things in life generally work. Oh, and self indulgently, because yours truly happens to be in the video for said song, which is all rather nice.

Sunday 24th August - In Good Kompany

My brother came over in time for the Man City versus West Ham game on Sky Sports HD today - and it was a rather good City performance all round. For the first half we watched and it was mostly City, but the turning point came when Mark Noble deliberately handballed to stop a City player heading forward with the ball, and he was rightly booked. Five minutes later his daftness at getting booked showed even more as he lunged at Michael Johnson, and connected with Jonno's legs. Ouch. Definite yellow and therefore a red for two of them but it could easily have been a straight red for that challenge.

Now I don't normally believe in superstition and all that, but my brother realised ten minutes into the second half that he needed to be sat on the other sofa in front of the telly, rather than the one at the side. "What am I doing?" he said to himself. Anyway, he switched over and within ten minutes the first goal had gone in, a neat finish from Danny Sturridge. Even better was to come though as each time Vedran Corluka interchanged with Steven Ireland, the latter put the ball in the box and both times Elano applied a quality finish to make it a rather comfortable 3-0 win. We didn't play that well, but West Ham crumbled after the sending off and had we had our shooting boots on we'd have scored more.

Still, what was impressive was the debut of new singing Vincent Kompany from Hamburg. He'd had one training session with the team, went into defensive midfield, played well there and when Micah Richards went off after a clash of heads that left him prostrate and unconscious on the pitch for some time (thankfully he was okay in hospital later) Kompany simply went to centre back, allowing sub Didi Hamann to do the defensive midfield thing, and looked just as assured there too. Could well be an astute move to sign Kompany, always good to have those versatile players really around. And a name that just is one for lots of in-jokes.. but see what happens. It's important now to get a result on Thursday but I'll have to Sky Plus the game I reckon...

The F1 earlier was supposed to be an exciting street race in Valencia, but to be honest, wasn't that good. The track didn't have the excitement and danger of Monaco, it was too wide, had run off areas and indeed looked a tad too professional all round. The only excitement was all caused by Ferrari: almost undoing Felipe Massa's race with a slightly suspect pit lane exit in front of Adrian Sutil (although the pit lane exit is a mere one car wide, that needed looking at) and the fuel nozzle not coming off Kimi Raikkonen's car so that he set off and dragged the fuel man a bit. Ouch. Mind you, I think Massa's now a contender against Lewis Hamilton and I'm sure that team "adviser" Michael Schumacher might be dropping hints to give Massa the chance to go for the title..

What was better was the repeat of the 1974 UK Superstars final on ESPN Classic, with Colin Bell of Manchester City, legend that he is, taking part. In fact he did very well, finshing third a mere 0.83 points behind David Hemery no less. In case you wondered about the 0.83 margin, in one event, points were split for places so some had 1.50 points, and in the football penalties, three players tied for second place, which meant a split of the 7, 4 and 2 points, so three into thirteen makes 4.33 (and a bit, I know), you see. Colin did win the shooting and the steeplechase and I think would have won the 100 metres if he didn't fall at the start. Still, it was great to see the City legend push himself in the likes of the gym tests. And it was "Sporting Superstars" back then, just to be factual. But what was the outfit Ron Pickering had on? He looked like a Rupert The Bear reject!

Anyway, so nice to hear the proper City song "The Boys in Blue" after today's win, so much better than their current trend to have loud Oasis tracks playing before the game, which for me at least doesn't work. Argh. Ah well. Mind you, talking of City songs, it was nice to hear the fans sing Blue Moon in full voice too, somehow it works nicely. But that's not tune of the day, no, that accolade belongs to Supra's version of "Blue Moon". City fans will know it as the one where the singer goes "I said Blue Moon" very loudly indeed. Ah yes, that one :)

Saturday 23rd August - Fix Me

It was time to head over to my friend's place and get their PC back on track and up and running as intended. Thankfully most of the important data had already been backed up, and it was a case of just backing up the last lot of settings, including the all important Firefox and Thunderbird profiles, so that they could be merged back in later on. Indeed, most of the large chunks of data were music files and that was done and dusted, so just a case of making sure my friend and I were both happy, and off we commenced with the Windows re-install. That done, time to also then install all the drivers and software for the PC, get Firefox and Thunderbird on with all the stuff brought back, then do all the updates. Apart from one glitch with Windows Update, which got fixed by re-registering some Windows DLLs, all seemed well.

It also gave us the chance to keep our eyes and ears on the football and the Olympics. I'd already watched the taekwondo at home and was amazed at both the appalling standards of the judging and indeed the way that the sport never had considered using video replays to ensure important shots were indeed called as scores. In the end, reinstating Sarah Stevenson after her hit clearly was one to the head to give her a win was the only right thing to do, and indeed if that's given the sport the proverbial kick up the backside into the modern times so be it. It was a right face of thunder from Clare Balding on BBC1, anyone would think she was going to head over there and sort it out personally, but she was only reflecting what we all felt - British bias or not.

Mind you, it was good to see James deGale get his boxing gold medal and it was a tough fight. I thought that he might have been showboating a bit much in parts dancing around, but when he connected, he did so well and managed to keep himself under control, which was good. It also meant that Britain had achieved a mere nineteen gold medals - the most for one hundred years! When I'll look back at the Games, I know there'll be many highlights and indeed many points where I was cheering at the screen, and moments will stand out for me - such as getting up on the first Sunday, watching the cycling road race and yelling like mad for Nicole Cooke to do the business - and didn't she just?

Still, good to see my friend at any rate and plenty of football related chatter ensued. With both our teams not playing it was good to focus on how everyone else was doing and indeed the transfer activity that was going on as well - and who would be bought and sold. I think as well that when you chat about something that you're passionate about, you really do get involved, and certainly for my friend and I get on the subject of football or music and we're both there like a shot, which is the way to do it really.

Got home and whacked on some more of Tony Hawk's American Wasteland - even found the secret tape in the third Mall level now, quite easy once I knew where exactly I needed to jump on to from a good height. I'm still mastering it in some way but really wish I could get the hang of landing into manuals as that seems to be the way to rack up many combo points and moves too, but I am sure I will manage somehow. Anyway as the game played I heard a decent cover of Black Flag's seminal "Fix Me", which was okay, but then I thought "hang on!" and dug out the Iggy Pop cover of said song from the "Rise Above" compilation. Shame this one couldn't have been used, because it's tons better and Iggy really feels it too - so that's tune of the day.

Friday 22nd August - Any Old Iron(ing Board)

Disaster did also hit the Towers last night though, as my age old ironing board finally decided to give up the ghost. Not only did the cover (which was attached to the board being an el cheapo one at the time) come off and split, but also the board itself looked like it had corroded somewhat and I was a bit worried about the iron actually falling off and causing an injury. So I decided that after work I'd head out and see what I could get, and definitely with the lunch break providing food for thought (as well as a lovely piece of gammon which helped no end let me tell you) I was in inspired mode, even blitzing a few PCs during the afternoon and hopefully getting back on track with getting them all re-imaged for the new term.

Anyway, I had a look around various shopping sites during lunch, and thought of a few possible ideas - and then in Argos, it hit me: a couple of boards that they had there were half price, and one of them happened to be a Minky branded board, namely the Ultima Plus one, which as most people will know are a bit good at this sort of thing. Even better was that it was reduced to a mere £16.49, and I'd paid around £14 for the first one I'd had which is now not exactly performing. So a better quality one for not much more dosh? I'll have a bit of that - and the Argos in Manchester Arndale had it in stock so I reserved it so I could collect it today or tomorrow.

Made the snap decision to head into town after work and then pay and collect it, which worked well, although I could have done without a sprint for the bus with board in hand (yes, really!) - but I managed it, which meant I was home relatively early. This meant I could head over to Tesco, do the food shopping (and managed to get some nice Hardy's top drawer chardonnay for half the price as well as all the bits for a meal I'm cooking Sunday evening) and then get home, make myself something to eat and settle in for an evening of the Olympics and indeed Superstars later on. The common demoninator? Both programmes featured Dame Kelly Holmes, first as an athletics expert and wondering, like the rest of us, why the British sprint relay teams are bobbins at getting the baton round (fair play to the Jamaican men for their stunning world record) and then saying that she might have a go at the kayaking one day. Obviously Gabby Logan hadn't watched Kelly's kayaking efforts on Superstars, good as they were...

.. and talking of said programme, certainly that's been hotting up to see who gets to the final, and in a bit of a shock, Mike Catt's team really didn't do so well apart from the diving, and Dame Kelly's lot made it through to the final after victory in the cycling and rowing section of the gym tests for Iwan Thomas. It's going to be an interesting final, not least if Alain Baxter is on top form in the gym like we know he can be. And what events will be in the final, I wonder? That'll definitely be intriguing. Bring back the steeplechase, that's what I say of course!

Got into retro dance music mode tonight too - well it is Friday and of course it is the night that a lot of people would head out to the clubs and go out for a bit of a party atmosphere, so it was time for me to go back in time and remember the late 80s tunes that weren't bad at all. One such classic was 808 State's "Pacific", along with the likes of A Guy Called Gerald's "Voodoo Ray", MARRS's "Pump Up The Volume" et al. But if there's one 80s dance tune which isn't as revered as it should have been, no contest. Nitzer Ebb's electronic dance classic "Join In The Chant" certainly gets the mood going, and for that reason it's tune of the day for me.

Thursday 21st August - Chuck Out Your Chintz!

Well, it was off to Ikea after work, as I needed to get a couple of things for the house and wanted to have a good look round in the process. Those of you who've shopped at Ikea for a while now will remember fondly the adverts that they used to have with the women proclaiming from their streets and houses "chuck out your chintz" as bold as brass, and certainly if the one in Ashton-under-Lyne is anything to go by, plenty of people are doing that. Sad to admit, but I even remember some of the words of that song, but I suppose it did rest in the collective conciousness and appeal to women to make the transition of homes from over flowery to a bit brighter.

Anyway, it was fairly busy for a Thursday evening, but after having a nice salmon dish in the restaurant (I love the salmon in there, the cod's not bad either) it was time to head round and get what I needed. What I was after was a bathroom/shower holder for my shower gels et al, and also a rubber bath mat along with whatever else I could find. I found the Patrull rubber bath mat, and so that was good (the old one I had from Argos was looking a bit rubbish it had to be said) and indeed found the Blanken shower tidy, just perfect for what I needed really. I can simply put my stuff in that, it'll stick to the tiles on the wall, easy peasy. I also found a right bargain too in some candles - in fact several items in the store had been reduced which made life easier.

Anyway, whilst looking round the bathroom stuff and locating my items, I also noticed a rather nice shower curtain as well. I was well surprised at the price too - it was the Florence shower curtain, reduced to a mere £2.50! It looked very classy too and as my older shower curtain was looking a bit worse for wear, thought that it would be perfect to get. And it'd coordinate well with the bathroom. Add to that I got these neat salt and pepper pots and the Orgel pendant lampshade for the landing, and some other bits, and I was well pleased to see it all come in at under fifteen pounds. I'm a good little shopper me, and definitely it's well known with friends that I can spot a good bargain when I see one.

Got back to watch Mock The Week - it had already been filmed earlier in the week so that they couldn't go on too much about the Kerry Katona bankruptcy, but of course they still had plenty to get their teeth into, including the Olympics and also David Cameron on his push bike. In fact, I have to say it was the strongest lineup on there for some time, with David Mitchell being very on form and Lucy Porter really complimenting Hugh and Frankie well (and admittedly, she is quite cute as well I have to admit.) Oh, and kudos to Russell Howard for mentioning The Mary Whitehouse Experience as a riposte to Hugh Dennis' tale of being run over on his bike - like Frankie said, it might be David Baddiel next...

Played a bit more of Tony Hawk's American Wasteland before I headed for bed - indeed the soundtrack is an intriguing mix of covers of UK and US punk tunes as well as a variety of rock and punk stuff. I must admit though that I smiled with joy as I thrashed the gamepad yelling out the chorus to the Sham 69 classic on there - so at around midnight I was singing "There's gonna be a borstal breakout!" which must have had the neighbours wondering what the hell I was up to. Still, best make "Borstal Breakout" tune of the day - it really is infectious, and if the band were touring with Jimmy Pursey as front man this autumn, I'd be there. In a shot.

Wednesday 20th August - Eating Humble Pie

Well, back to the grind, somewhat, but finally managed to sort out just how to get an older laptop imaged that I've had on my desk. One of the Samsung X30s that a member of our staff had was one that has this fingerprint sensor, and for some reason, it also wants to save a very small hard disk partition so it can use it for saving any fingerprint enrolments, making it a much more secure piece of kit. The only thing is that as it's a non-regular disk partition, it seems to muck up with the newest sysprep image that we have for PCs and laptops. So I went back to an older one and had a look see if that worked any better. And to my amazement, it did, and worked rather well all round. Sure, this does mean I have to update the software and drivers and Windows updates, but it imaged. So one main system partition, then this 10MB odd EISA partition, then the remainder of the hard disk as another drive. Ah well, it works, and that's the main thing.

I did notice as well that the Olympic medals just keep on coming: no gold medals today I grant you, but at least there were sizeable gains to be had: silver and bronze in the 10K open water swimming race (yes, ten kilometres, bet that's rather tiring all round!) and also a nice bronze from Tasha Danvers in the 400 metres hurdles to go with another bronze in the women's windsurfing. However, performance of the day had to go to Usain Bolt. Not content with winning the 100 metres in a world record time, he won the 200 metres final and only went and beat Michael Johnson's 12 year old record, setting a new time of 19.30 seconds in the process. Johnson himself who had said his record wasn't going to be beaten had to eat a very big slice of humble pie in the BBC studio, hehe, that made me giggle.

I spent some time uploading the pictures I took from last night's excellent Donna Marie gig. I am getting much more selective about what pics I pick to put online, I took around forty or so from her set but elected to put less than half that up. I know that in the lighting of some gigs sometimes an image can come out not so good, but I'm getting better at what to do with positioning and also what settings to have on. In the end the ones that came out well came out really well, and it captures the spirit of the gig, which is what it should be all about really. I've also noticed that she's linked my video for Goodtime Girl, thanks flower! :)

Anyway, with all that excitement, time to mellow out a bit before the Rory and Paddy's Great British Adventure on Channel 5 a bit later on. And so what better than the new Seth Lakeman album? It's rather good all round as you'll know, and what makes it more special for me is that I've visited some of the places that he talks about in some of the songs, so I'll have to make (again, probably!) "Solomon Browne" tune of the day. When I go to Cornwall I'll have to revisit Mousehole I reckon...

Tuesday 19th August - Goodtime Girl Wows The Lounge

After a hard day at work it was good to wind down, and this evening would be the perfect example of what I love doing and having a good time with good company and indeed good music as well. First off was time to head to Felicini's for some tea - not least as I knew that it would be easier to have something in town and head off to the gig I was going to, as the start was quite early. Now currently Felicini's have this offer on where between 5 and 7pm during the week, you can have any of their pizzas for a mere fiver. Yes, any of them. Even, as it turned out, one of my favourite pizzas of all time, their salmon calzone, which is stuffed full of the pink fish and mascarpone cheese in this lovely crisp outer, and it tastes divine. Well, it didn't fail to impress me tonight either, and there was lots of it, and it tasted wonderful. Now this is normally around nine pounds, so it was good to have it for the lower price and it just proves that you can eat out in Manchester and not have to pay a fortune. I certainly would recommend that place to anyone.

It was off via a drink in The Waterhouse (as someone said on the bus home that was sat in front of me, they don't allow scroats in there, unusual for a Wetherspoons) and that was also a wise move: no less than eight different real ales on which really did make the mark. In the end, knowing that I could only have one, I plumped for a local brew, one made by Pheonix in Heywood. They do the rather nice Navvy that I've had at one of the pubs close to work, and the Wobblybob I had tonight (what a fab name eh?) was superb, and pretty strong stuff too at 6%, so as you can imagine, I didn't rush that. I instead caught some of the Olympic highlights on BBC1 playing with no sound, so it meant I got to see Christine Ohorougu's 400 metre glory run for gold. With more medals in the sailing and cycling, we now have 16 golds, officially the best ever since 1908. Wow. In fact, the cycling team have been that good, that if GB cycling were a nation on their own, then they would be ninth in the medals table. I kid you not!

Anyway, off to the Ruby Lounge, and knowing that Donna Marie was on first out of the four acts, I made sure I got there in good time and of course right down the front to see her and the full band (Mon on bass, Greg Morgan on drums and Pete Mason on electric guitar) get down to business. I was intrigued by the rest of the line up too and wondered if they would actually be up to Donna Marie's high standards that I know she's more than capable of. I hadn't heard that much of Kate Rogers and so it would be notable to see whether she was up to being top billing on the night. But for a fiver for four acts, that's a bargain if you ask me.

So, just after eight, on comes Donna Marie (official site) (myspace) and I have to say it was a storming set. From the fact that she played a brand new song that she'd only written a few days ago, and had the bravery to do it, to playing part of my single of 2007, "Paint The Sky" from the EP of the same name, which she nicely dedicated to a fan who had travelled from far, to songs from her "This World" EP and more. I have to say that the new songs are really taking shape now, the likes of "Shape of Your Heart" sounding lovely. What sounded nicest of the night though was "Where Is The Love", which not only sounded very rocking, but also from the heart as well, and you could tell her voice was in fine fettle. Give that one tune of the day, it was easily the best song of the whole night.

Mind you, what wasn't far behind that was "Goodtime Girl", the closing song of the night. Not only was it more rockier than she'd ever played it, but also very tight as well, even allowing Pete to do a bit of a guitar virtuoso lead bit near the end that just sounded pretty darn fine. I was so pleased to hear it, not least too because it gave me the opportunity to try out video capture with the Panasonic TZ3 and see what happened. It came out that well that when I got home, I saw the video was decent and uploaded it as is to my Youtube channel. The quality came out so well that you can even view it in high quality on there, by all means have a watch of the below. I'm quite pleased with myself!

So that was pretty ace. Next up was Tricia McTeague (myspace) who sounded rather good all round. What she may lack in stature she definitely made up for in feistyness and some excellent guitar playing. Indeed, her voice sounded crisp and clear, and with her album just out, a perfect opportunity to plug it and play some songs to an appreciative crowd. I quite liked "Could You Love Someone Too Much" which is a question I've never yet had to ask, and "Thicker Than Blood" sounded quite like Alanis Morrissette, but in a good first album type of way. There was even some name dropping in "Dance All Night" too. Anyone who strings together Beyonce, Madonna, Aerosmith, The Killers and The Fratellis in the space of around fifteen seconds is onto a definite sing along name drop there - and her voice really went for it during that one. If the album's as good as she is live, it may be well worth checking out.

Not stopping there, next up were The Jesse Rose Trip (official site) (myspace) and they were good too. The lead singer Jessie Rose had a distinctive voice, a sort of cross between soul and ska, not least on their opening track "Forever and a Day". I really had to admire the bass player Sarah Buckley, who went from playing a huge double bass (and I mean huge) to a slap bass guitar for different songs, and really looked like she was enjoying herself, which is how it should be. They were quite cheery folk all round, with the likes of "Saviour" definitely giving you an uplifting feel, and "For Love Or Money" just showed how crap Amy Winehouse is in comparison to these lot -and that's paying them a big compliment. They were good!!

After all those lovely performances, I have to say that Kate Rogers (official site) (myspace) was a bit of a letdown really. They came on almost 25 minutes after they were due on, and to be honest, the songs didn't sound that exciting, and if anything, a little boring. The audience seemed to think so too as many of them drifted home. She wasn't bad as such, it just didn't float my boat to some degree. Of her set, "54 Rounds" was perhaps the one that musically sounded the most intriguing. That definitely had flow and feel. But there were less people there for her than Donna Marie, and considering that lots of poeple turned up quite late (indeed only just in time for The Jesse Rose Trip) that said something.

Nonetheless though, no complaints from me, if the order was reversed from that lot and Donna Marie was headlining, then that would have been ideal, but hey, that's me being possibly biased (although other people did say that too which pleased me no end, I can tell you). It showed me though that gigs are indeed a lovely and wonderful thing, and long may they reign. Hurrah!

Monday 18th August - Into The Dragons' Den

It felt serenely strange going back into work today, not because I hadn't been used to a working week or anything like that, but because after having such a weekend of days out and gold medals galore, it was hard to try and not focus on the events in Beijing to see if we'd actually achieve any more gold medals this week. As it turned out there was only one gold today in the cycling, but what a gold it was! The team pursuiters did an excellent job, not only thrashing their rivals Denmark by nearly seven seconds, but also obliterating their own world record in the proceess. It was stunning stuff and when I watched the highlights at home later on, it just went to show just how amazing the whole thing was.

I watched Dragons Den tonight with some interest, notably one Frank Bisson, a quite well known Manchester hairdresser, who had invented this glass cutter for hair that was supposed to eliminate split ends and had developed it with researchers at the University of Manchester. Unfortunately he didn't seem to have his numbers adding up, and the advocate that he had with him didn't I think have too much of an idea either - and all the dragons were indeed wondering just how he'd made some £800k in the last few years in order to fund this idea and indeed bring it to market. I wondered if the dragons had actually done some research or not...

Mind you that said I can't believe that James Caan was so willing to invest in that couple at the end who had invented the Toastabag and other items. It seemed to me that the couple were more like a mini version of JML (and for that read the modern day K-Tel and Ronco, hehe) and indeed their dodgy track record (going bump one day and then setting up a company the next) should have had alarm bells ringing - it did for Deborah Meaden who quite rightly shot them down in flames.

Best idea of all, and one you can pick up from your local Ryman stationery shop (thanks Theo!) is the Magic Whiteboard, which does what it says - it can stick to almost all wall surfaces and instantly give you a whiteboard to use and mark up with. Why Peter Jones didn't like the idea is beyond me: it'd be perfect for children in nurseries to do some artwork on one sheet and then display it proudly on the nursery wall for example, but also it's pretty portable so you can load and go even if you don't have any flipcharts etc to hand. I thought that was a great product, the people had UK exclusivity, and someone like Theo immediately liked the idea as he could see it as a great brand, so he and Deborah going 50/50 in it worked well: Deborah's marketing skills definitely would come to play. I'll have to check it out.

With Donna Marie's gig being tomorrow night at Ruby Lounge (which I am so looking forward to, incidentally) it was time to dig out the This World EP and give that a blast, as I would imagine some of the songs from there would be played tomorrow night. And what better than what's usually the set closer, "Goodtime Girl" as tune of the day? It's been a staple of her live set for some time now and it still sounds fresh and lovely every time I hear it, and it's been developed well as the band have gotten hold of it too. It should be ace...

Sunday 17th August - The Gold Rush, Part Two

Got up this morning and wanted to know how the marathon had got on: I knew it was starting early this morning and I wouldn't be up in time. Unfortunately, I knew that Paula Radcliffe's injury wasn't going to heal in time and whilst she did brave it, almost limping in to finish 23rd, that took the gloss off an excellent effort by Mara Yamauchi to finish sixth for Britain, and all the headlines all day have been about Paula, which to me just doesn't seem right somehow. Come on BBC, give Mara some credit will you?

But the balance was nicely redressed on the rowing lake, where the rowers did the nation proud. Although the women's quad sculls just missed out on a gold and had to settle for silver, what really did make me go mental was the performance of the men's double sculls - they really kept it going and held on valiantly to finish ahead of Greece and Denmark to take the gold medal, well deserved as well. I was cheering them on and hoping that they'd get it. Add to that a close silver in the eights to finish the regatta off, and once again the British had proved to be a superpower in rowing terms, and well deserved. I can imagine the rowers being interviewed by John Inverdale afterwards thinking that they all want to be like Redgrave and Pinsent, who were both there with Inverdale to cover the event, and let's face it, if you want an expert, who better than those two?

More gold rush happened already as I had slept, and caught some of the highlights later on in the day as the British blondes in a boat (as they were effectively known!) did the busines in the Yngling, winning the final medal race to absolutely make sure of the gold medal. They only needed to finish ahead of the Dutch, but the safest option was to win of course, hehe. The interview with the three of them afterwards was lovely, and it was nice to hear them say "It was just like being in Weymouth, chucking it down!". And indeed it was, the Finn race was next and Ben Ainslie matched the Yngling girls and made sure of gold by winning his race, and pretty comfortably it has to be said. That's three golds in the last three games now for him, and that's amazing stuff really when you think about it. The drama though was in the 49er class, as the rough conditions capsized several boats and in the end the Danes came through in a position needed to get the gold, and they had to borrow Croatia's boat as the mast had broken on theirs! However, the race was supposed to start too late for the cut off time and there's been a protest: can't see we hear the last of this.

To finish the day off, it was back to the velodrome where Rebecca Romero claimed gold in the one-two British final, and she really did superbly well. In fact she's one of only two women ever to get Olympic medals in two different sports (she got silver in the rowing at Athens 2004 in case you wondered) which says a lot really. And add to that the men's team pursuit riders. They wanted to lay down a marker and qualify for the final (which will be against Denmark) and not only did they do that and actually overtake the Russian quartet, but they broke the world record in the process! Just how good is that? I'll have to see if I can be glued to the online coverage at lunch break tomorrow for the final.

So all is good, and with the gymnastics bronze that I didn't expect to see (cue ex-Blue Peter presenter Matt Baker going mental on the commentatry) that made it a memorable day for the Olympians. Shame that my Man City lot couldn't follow suit, losing 4-2 to Aston Villa and conceding a seven minute hat trick to Villa hitman Gabriel Agbonalahor. Try saying that when you're drunk! Villa deserved their win and I have to say that we tried hard but it just wasn't good enough really. It just makes me wonder if we'd have done the same under Sven or not as well..

Anyway, I picked up the game Tony Hawk's American Wasteland in Zavvi's rather excellent PC game sale whilst in Nottingham yesterday. The price? A mere pound, I kid you not! I was rather chuffed to bits to pick that up and so I thought that I'd install it and give it a blast tonight to see how well it played (I love Tony Hawk 2 and 3, so wanted it to match that really). The game is good and a bit harder than 3, but what I love is the soundtrack. Oh yes, plenty of punk classics old and new here, and it has Sham 69's excellent "Borstal Breakout" which is certainly good to go skating to - so make that one tune of the day.

Saturday 16th August - The Gold Rush, Part One

Well, I have to say that it was the start of what I hoped was going to be a golden weekend for the British team at the Olympics. I knew that our cycling team was a bit good and at the last world championships that they had shown the world just exactly how good we are and also what performances that we can put in to really strive. Although the cyclists don't get as much publicity as other mainstream sports, the fact that Manchester's world class velodrome is helping them so much to achieve is a fact not lost on me, and many riders are based round here too - which goes to show just how much the legacy of us hosting the 2002 Commonwealth Games is doing the world of good.

I was heading to Nottingham later in the day for a day out, but I caught up on all the sports overnight during Olympic Breakfast. And my, what an effort! First off, I think Rebecca Adlington might be in there for BBC's Sports Personality of the Year after her amazing win in the 800 metres. It made her the most successful female swimmer at a single games, and in winning, she broke a nineteen year old record in the 800 free, smashing it to bits by two seconds plus. It truly was an awesome swim and although this was more her specialist event than the 400, to do the double reminded me of Dame Kelly Holmes winning the 800m and 1500m on the athletics track four years ago.

That was that, but then there was also the rowers. The men's coxless fours are usually the strongest team we have, and the legacy of Redgrave and Pinsent was there for all to see - it meant something for the four in the boat to carry on the tradition. And carry it out they did as well, in a truly epic race where they made up distance and time and kept their form to the end, and really powered through in an amazing burst of speed and energy - just where they got it from I don't know, but it was an awesome performance all round. Meanwhile, the becalmed weather in Qingdao meant that the Yngling and Finn medal races, both with British interest, were abdandoned till tomorrow. It was hard for Ben AInslie in the Finn, as he was doing all he needed to do to win gold but the race was abandoned a quarter way through as the wind completely died.

So, off to the velodrome, and it was awesome stuff that I'd watch later on when I got back from Nottingham. First off, a nice bronze in the points race, and it was a truly great effort to get that considering how packed the track can get and how much tactics play into it over the 160 laps of the track (yes, 160!!). But better was to come: the women's individual pursuiters in the form of Rebecca Romero and Wendy Houvenaghel both qualified for the final as the top two fastest times, and so a gold and silver medal would be guaranteed for tomorrow regardless. Then the men's kierin, and after safely coming through to the final, Chris Hoy showed he was, as the sign said, the real McHoy by blazing a trail and leaving everyone behind to win the event, and even better was that Ross Edgar also pipped other riders to second, making it a 1-2 in that event as well. Oh yes. Get in! Oh, not to mention the men's individual pursuit where Bradley Wiggins made it look very easy and another gold there. So, four today and at least one guaranteed tomorrow? It was rather smart and it showed some lazy overpaid footballers just what it means to actually achieve the pinnacle of an Olympic gold medal.

Nottingham too was very lovely, although almost spoilt by the rubbish train company East Midlands Trains. They do the route that covers Manchester to Nottingham as part of its Liverpool-Norwich service, and just lately they seem to have been putting on quite old trains for the service, and even worse, with only two carriages! This inevitably meant that the train was packed going there and coming back, and although I had managed to get a seat for some of the journey there (I had to stand between Manchester and Sheffield) the train was also dead hot and stuffy, and getting fresh air at Nottingham station was a welcome relief, let me tell you. Going back the train was packed too and people were standing (thankfully not me!)

Anyway, it was lovely to go around Nottingham Castle, explore the gardens (definitely check out the floral scupltures of Robin Hood and one called Sir Bloom-a-lot, they're both excellent) and then wander round the castle's museum and art gallery. They had an exhibition on of artwork by Laura Knight, who was an artist who captured the spirit of the theatre during the 1920s to 1940s, and plenty of her images are so delightfully made. It certainly inspired me, as did the whole museum and art gallery - there were lots of nice things to do the children too including a play area with a ceiling display of paper made fish that looked rather fabulous. The views from the top of the castle over the city itself were well worth it, I could even see the cricket and football grounds from there very easily.

Later on, I headed downhill and to the museum of Nottingham Life. It was a rather nice thing: a set of houses beneath the castle walls converted and it had preserved displays of how life was lived in olden times: from the chemists, complete with old Boots' branded medicines and bottles of liquids, to the toy collection including an old 1960s Dalek toy, and indeed even some of the caves underneath the castle which you could explore too. What was nice especially was that there was even an old Anderson air raid shelter built into one of the caves, and if you wanted to re-enact the air raid sirens, you could get a key off the reception and do that yourself. I should also mention that the admission charge for the castle gets you into this museum, and vice versa - and at £3.50 for adults and £2 for kids, with a family ticket of just £8, that, I have to tell you, is rather good value all round for sure.

I'd had lunch in the café within the castle itself (the tuna and cheese panini along with the carrot cake afterwards went down a treat, let me tell you) and after I'd been to the museum of Nottingham Life, it was over to the pub next door, Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem Inn, for a well earned pint of ale. This pub has been here since the late 12th century and as such is the oldest pub in England no less, and when you go in, part of it is built into the caves itself, and it really does look the part. Importantly of course, the main thing is that they've remembered that real ale is the order of the day, and I counted around seven varieties of cask available, like how good is that? I went for the local brew, Olde Trip (named after said pub incidentally), which was very very lovely indeed, and I can highly recommend that if you are at any pub in the Nottinghamshire area.

All in all, a cracking day as Wallace would say (cue suitable expression from Gromit) and that's not all. I discovered a rather neat re-working and mash up of the classic iconic Superstars theme. It's not bad actually, it's done by Hi-brid, and the instrumental mash up mixes parts of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" with the legendary "Heavy Action" Superstars theme, and works really well in terms of beat and in terms of using the original theme tune to best effect. So much so that it just has to get tune of the day from me. I might even have to use it when attempting to break my squat thrusts record!

Friday 15th August - Stat Attack

I've just been checking the statistics on my Flickr! image gallery. And my, that threw up some very interesting numbers along with the fact that there's several of my images which have been viewed over one hundred times, fancy that! It always intrigues me just how many people these days are also using Google image searches to locate images, and that some of mine appear in the image results. That's actually quite intriguing as well in that those images much be searchable in a good way. I guess too that adding a tag or making the image description somewhat relevant always helps as well.

So, the top ten rundown. At top spot is my pic of what's now Al-Waalis restaurant, formerly the Palace Nightclub in Levenshulme, Manchester, with a massive 207 views. In joint second place, with 186 views each are my pic of Michaela Tabb from the 2008 World Snooker Championships and one of the statue of Archimedes in the bath at the University of Manchester (formerly UMIST). Five pictures that I took on the set of the TV soap Brookside are also in the top ten, at positions 4 to 7 and 10, 8 Brookside Close has had 154 views, then 5 Brookside Close with 134, 9 and 10 Brookside Close (together) with 129, 10 Brookside Close with 128 and 9 Brookside Close with 121. In joint eighth place are the pictures of a water wall feature at Sheaf Square in Sheffield, just by the railway station, and the front of the Glasgow School of Art with its Rennie Mackintosh features, both with 124 views each.

It's quite interesting for me: I never knew that my images of how Brookside Close looks now would be so popular with people (certainly those who visit one of the Brookside forums for the show were pretty pleased) and indeed in terms of how other landmarks or places I've been would be those people want to look at. Always find that intriguing actually. All in all I have seventeen images with 100 views or more, and they really are wide ranging. Indeed, the number of views by image search on Google shows me what people have been image searching for: popular are Justin Beck, the former host of the KDVS 6581 SID radio show based in Davis, California, whom I met at the Back in Time retro gaming gig in 2001, Jon Wilkin, the St Helens rugby league player, Emily "Bouff" Booth, TV presenter and cult movie star, Michaela Tabb, the snooker referee, and bizarrely, Colin Firth (I think because I mentioned about the lake in Lyme Park gardens was where the BBC filmed Pride and Prejudice with him coming out of it). Weird how these things turn out isn't it?

I was also chuffed, talking of stats again, for the British team sprint cyclists. They did their preliminary round and not only won that, but smashed the world record in the process. They knew that the team to beat were the French, who had beaten them by half a second at the World Championships in Manchester (yes, our Velodrome is one of the best in the world) and so breaking the record kind of laid down the marker somewhat. And so it proved later on as they posted the fastest time in the next round to go through to the final against the second fastest French. And off they went, with Jamie Staff, Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy doing the business and indeed beating the French by half a second to claim the gold - a medal which we didn't expect to win. Hurrah! And with the other cyclists knocking off fast times, personal bests and an Olympic record in the process, it really showed just how together the team was.

With the BBC's Olympic coverage using the Damon Albarn/Jamie Hewlett combination of showing an animated version of Monkey (very apt of course as it's a Chinese tale) and with some suitably apt funky music, I thought what better to listen to the actual Monkey soundtrack from the TV series, just to really get into the spirit of things as well? It certainly has aged pretty well and all the songs are there, but I'm going to go for "Havoc In Heaven" as tune of the day as that's the Godiego song that plays normally when Monkey is involved in some form of fight or battle, usually against, as Monkey would say, "deeeeeemons", or something similar. "I am the greatest, will you demons never understand? I love to fight!". Hehehe.

Thursday 14th August - Afskedige Den Bestyrer! *

I have to say that right now I am feeling angry, disgusted and completely upset by possibly one of the most shambolic, pathetic and disgraceful "performances" that I've ever seen Manchester City play. I had the misfortune of being one of around 17,000 or so (although it looked way less than that it has to be said) in the ground tonight, and to be honest, I could have been at home watching Mock The Week, out with friends or doing anything else and it would have been far better entertainment than the dross served up at Eastlands tonight.

Words fail me. I don't know where to begin. But let's start with the manager, as he picks the team and is supposed to be coaching them in the right way and making us hard to beat. Unfortunately Mark Hughes isn't exactly endearing himself to City fans with the sort of effort that was put in tonight, he didn't seem to motivate them enough, and even worse, he got the team selection badly wrong. Starting with an out of form Danny Sturridge and a vastly rubbish Felipe Caicedo didn't exactly send the right message to either Valeri Bojinov or Ched Evans, either of which I'm sure given the full ninety minutes would have done a much better job for sure. And also not being able to give them a roasting at half time when already 1-0 down shows a lack of belief and a lack of passion.

Then there's the players. I'm going to single out one because of the fact he's stalling on a new contract, but if Arsenal are going to offer us £8 million for Michael Johnson, then we should bite Arsene Wenger's hand off and take it rather quickly before he changes his mind. If he was watching tonight, then bang goes that offer. He was useless, couldn't tackle, passes were going nowhere and looked the least bothered of anyone to be perfectly honest. It also amazed me that he felt it necessary to raise his arm at the Midtjylland player because that player had won the ball cleanly, so Johnson felt fit to have a hissy at him, and in truth, was lucky to stay on the field of play. It just was pathetic, and when he got near the touchline, I made my point clear to him from Row D in Block 105, right on the centre circle and said "If you want your new contract, then you need to earn it because you're playing rubbish, you slacker". Admittedly there were a few choice swear words in there as well because by that time I was that angry at what was happening.

The other players really didn't look good either - Richard Dunne's defending was poor all evening, and it was his mistake which led to their goal, which they fully deserved. And indeed he seemed not to be too co-ordinated, not least with Tal Ben Haim on the left. It just made me wondered just what exactly he had been up to during the week, as he had a shocker. Mind you, he wasn't alone - Caicedo was dreadful, Sturridge has no confidence whatsoever, Elano did try but had no help whatsoever, Martin Petrov was often out of position and out of sorts, Joe Hart didn't even dive for the goal (which he could have done but wasn't bothered obviously.)

It just angers me so much that when these players are paid so much per week that they can earn that by doing absolutely bog all, and the fans voted with their feet tonight as many of them left with fifteen minutes to go. I can't say I blame them and I was half tempted myself to walk out because I was that disgusted, but felt I wanted to at least applaud the Midtjylland team for giving it a go and being the better team on the night (which they were) and showing our lot up to be a right load of useless idiots. Whether or not all the fuore surrounding Thaksin Shinawatra is having an effect too, I don't know, but it just didn't look good no matter how much spin that you were giving it. Oh well, roll on Friday I reckon. As such I'm that angry that only one song shares that same anger: "Killing In The Name" by Rage Against The Machine - so that's tune of the day.

* (oh, in case you wondered, the title is Danish for "Sack the manager" which is exactly what I feel right now to be perfectly honest. Appointing an ex-Man U player (and a legend for them at that it has to be said) is always a risky job, but particularly in that we already had a good manager who was unfairly sacked, and he's got a lot to prove and indeed a lot to do quickly because I think already many City fans' patience, including mine, has worn thin to say the least.)

Wednesday 13th August - A Kick In The Shins

Well, more fun and games with the trolley laptops today as I methodically and gradually worked through them to get them all configured for enrolment next month. Thankfully, they all appear to be in working order and have to be honest been well looked after. I have spotted that there's one missing power adapter though which is a bit of a worry - they're not the cheapest to replace and I am sure that it was mislaid somewhere, as all the others are plugged in to the charger and intact, ready to go, which has to be a good thing.

Got home and chilled out for a while, and watched the first half of the Standard Liege - Liverpool game, which to be honest, was bobbins. So, I was going to Sky Plus the "Rory and Paddy's Great British Adventure" on Channel 5 later, but instead I ignored the game and went straight over to switch the channel. And you know what? The best thing I did. It was absolutely hilarious as both Rory McGrath and Paddy McGuiness toured the country in a VW camper van (yes, really!) searching for the weird and the wonderful sports played in this green and pleasant land of ours. Oh yes, and not just that. They would be taking part and trying to outdo each other!

First off, off to Gloucestershire where the weird happens a lot. Take the cheese rolling as people risk life and limb chasing after a cheese down the ridiculously steep Cooper's Hill. The champion this year actually knocked himself out as he landed, but came back to claim the cheese he had won. In the end due to the mud, the two of them slid down on their bottoms instead, not exactly running but they at least got down safe. Later on, it was the noble art of shin kicking as well, and Paddy actually beat last year's champion before losing to who would become this year's winner - no disgrace there and the fact he did win a bout showed he was giving it a go. Even funnier was when Paddy tried river football in Bourton-on-the-Water and headed in an own goal, now that was absolutely mad!

Nonetheless though, it was a really interesting thing to see just how many different novelty sports that we had and the eccentric people it takes to play them - it's the sort of thing that you only tend to think happens in the likes of Terry Pratchett fantasy books, but when you see it actually happening, suddenly my love and adoration of the old computer games of the 80s doesn't seem that sad anymore to be perfectly honest. Still, maybe one day I'll have to try that cheese rolling thing, just to see what it's like and how mad you have to be to do it - sounds like a good excuse to break a leg and have some time off, hehe!

Meanwhile, I've ordered the 2CD edition of the Levellers new album and cannot wait for that. If it's anything as good as the tracks released for free download by the band, then it's safe to say that it's going to be rather fab. And fingers crossed I shall be seeing them in December as well, which will be rather good after their excellent performance at the Apollo in March. Nonetheless though, I still adore "Burn America Burn" as it just has the right balance of protest songs and fiddles to make it a classic track - give that tune of the day.

Tuesday 12th August - Not Gonna Crash!

Another day, another Olympic medal. In fact, three. A silver in the C1 canoeing final, and very well done indeed to David Florence, who set an impressive second run which meant he led with just one canoeist left. It was the world champion to go last and he duly delivered, but still a silver is darn good going. Better happened later in the equestrian three day eventing, as the team got a bronze medal and did really well, as did Tina Cook, who did a clear round on a difficult show jumping course to lead temporarily. Only two others stayed ahead of her as the rest knocked fences down under the nerves, and the medal was hers, so she got two bronzes (she was part of the team, too.)

It's been a promising start and I have to say better than I expected: although I'm not quite sure how well we will do over the two weeks, to see people really give it their all and actually do their best is all you can ask for. It certainly made me pleased to see the medals being presented and showing that they felt so much reward for their efforts. I even got up earlier in the morning to watch the women's 10 metre synchronised diving, and although I had to leave for work with two rounds to go, nonetheless you could see that the Chinese were far and away and the best and did deserve their gold medal. Our women tried, but picking a low degree of difficulty dive on the fourth dive really didn't help matters to be honest, and the last one wasn't as good as it should have been. Strangely similar to the men, but still, at least they were there.

Back at work, it was time to get a few things sorted out: I imaged the laptop and notified the member of staff it was ready to come and collect: I went over to another building to get one of the laptop trolleys that would be used for enrolment and started work on configuring them for the September enrolments online and so on, and it was good to see a couple of people whilst I was there and have a good natter with them. All is well with the world and especially as I found out one of our ex-colleagues got married, and it was all lovely, apparently. Yaay.

Got home and headed over to the excellent Football and Music blog, where they often feature songs related to football, or even club FA Cup final songs, the likes of Hoddle and Waddle (yes, really!) and so on. As Alexei Lalas had recently been sacked as coach of LA Galaxy (you know, that team in America that David Beckham plays for) there was mention of him on the blog, and indeed a link to the fact that he once covered the classic "Crash" by the Primitives. You can hear the version over at the blog, and it's typically American in its rock style. It's not bad guitar-wise, but unfortunately someone forgot to tell Alexei that he couldn't sing for toffee. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear.

I need to redress the balance a bit, so had to play the original classic Primitives song. Ah, that's better. Much better. In fact, the Primitives were in many ways one of the archetypal C86 era indie bands, they were. They had good tunes with pop sensibilities and indeed some excellent jangly guitars. Everyone got them confused with The Darling Buds (and the other way around, as they both had blonde singers) but nonetheless, happy days indeed. Make the proper version of "Crash" tune of the day and if you completely forgot how it goes, then here's the video. Hurrah!

Monday 11th August - Oh My Goodness It Is!

I woke up this morning and first thing after getting ready and setting breakfast up was to switch on the television. And you could just hear the dulcet strains of the British national anthem, and I had to pinch myself, thinking that it was a repeat of the ceremony from the cycling yesterday. But it wasn't. It was the women's 400 metres freestyle swimming, and obviously to get the public's attention, a repeat run of the race was handily set up to wake up to. And believe me, it was absolutely awesome.

One of everyone's fondest memories from the 2004 Games was Kelly Holmes timing her run to perfection in the 800 metres on the track, evenly pacing the run and not panicking. The swimming here was another case of that, while some of them went out too hard, both Rebecca Adlington and Joanne Jackson hung back a bit and kept it even pace, and over the second to last 50 metres gradually bridged the gap to the leaders. And in the last fifty, every single stroke they were catching Katie Hoff and were hassling her (get it?). It was only in the last few metres that Adlington looked like she could win, and literally got her on the touch to win by seven hundredths of a second. I went mental watching it, and it wasn't even live.

As for the commentators, well as you can appreciate, they went mental. It was Britain's first women's swimming gold since 1960 and the first swimming gold since 1988. The winner of that medal, Adrian Moorhouse was co-commentating and he was understandably chuffed, but as for the main commentator Andy Jameson, well, he was going absolutely nuts. "Could this be gold for Adlington? Oh my goodness it is!" - he almost shouted that along with a "Come on Great Britain!" ten metres from the line. Memories of Barry Davies' legendary commentary from the 1988 Olympic men's hockey final sprung to mind for sure.

But definitely, that was a great start to the day, and for me it was no more than the two women deserved: gold for Adlington, bronze for Jackson, and the way that they were so chuffed and it meant so much to them both (after hugging BBC TV presenter Sharron Davies in the process) showed some overpaid sportsmen and women in other sports that winning a medal at the Olympics should rightly be the pinnacle of those sports involved.

The day went well too at work: I got the laptop finished that I was working on (well, 99% done, but I only really have to image the image up to the server and that can be done tomorrow morning) and indeed I also managed to get the licence file sorted for the licencing issuing PC I was working on last week. I tested it out, it all worked, so imaged that and then swapped over the old machine for the new to minimise as much as possible any service disruption. It all did the job wonderfully well and I was quite pleased with myself to be honest.

For some reason, possibly because of the Olympic coverage, I kept thinking of the fact that commentators and presenters alike on the BBC kept using the phrase "going for gold" every so often. It reminded me of the television show of years gone by and one fact that you might not know - the theme tune was composed by the one and only Hans Zimmer (yes, him!!) - film soundtrack expert extraordinare. It seems weird hearing such a cheesy tune and knowing that he was the one that composed it, but it also in a way makes a lot of sense too. Anyway, complete with vocals and lyrics from Sandy McLelland, I'll make that tune of the day and resist the temptation a la Henry Kelly to ask "What am I? (like)?"

Sunday 10th August - Cooke-ing Good Day!

Well, what a day today was, and all good. First off, waking up this morning I whacked the Olympics on, and was immediately glued to the cycling road race, which I thought following on interactive was a good idea. Not least as with one lap or so to go one of the British team went on a mini break and really tried to take the sting out of some of the riders, and the plan did work to a point. Nicole Cooke, the Welsh road racing star, was part of the British team, and she kept herself in contention near the front of the main group and played very sensible tactics. As they went through for the final 12K or so, one rider had tried to get away, and Nicole and three others caught her up and maintained a breakaway, and as the kilometres went down, the gap maintained to around fifteen seconds.

I was getting more excited, as I knew this was a potential medal here, the top five weren't going to get caught and if Nicole could time her run, you never know. A tricky right hander came up with around 800 metres to go, and when the camera got in shot, she was slightly off the back of the group which led to worried comments from commentator Huw Porter. She got herself back in there though, and muscled her way to the front with just 200 metres left, and just kept going up the final little hill to the finish, and you could see the determination on her face, and then the line came. She'd done it! Not just a medal either, but gold!! I was so pleased and punched the air with delight, going "YESSSSSSS! Get in!". I was understandably chuffed as it wasn't an expected medal so for gold to be achieved was a superb job in horrible rainy conditions (which made it slippy, the shot of one of the Chinese riders landing in a ditch showed how bad it was!) and I felt a real sense of pride seeing her collect her medal in the ceremony. Hurrah!

The day carried on in the same vein as I went over to the Lowry Outlet Mall in Salford Quays as well. I ventured into the M&S Outlet, and as I searched through the sections (even the clearance bits at the back) I noticed that there were pairs of the black moleskin jeans that I liked. I got a pair last Autumn for the full price of £35, and they were not only comfortable on but also very classy to go out in, and I felt rather gorgeous in them. Knowing it'd be nice to have another pair, when I spotted that the outlet had them for a mere £17.50, I thought that the only option would be to treat myself, which is exactly what I did. The rain was still teeming down that had started just after I got there though, so it was off to Costa for a nice latte, and once I'd left, the rain virtually stopped as I walked back to the tram station to head into the centre of Manchester.

Next stop: lunch, and I definitely fancied a spot of noodles, so it was off to Wagamama in Spinningfields, where the ginger chicken udon was a definite winner, once again. In fact it tasted better than last time too with the noodles being the right side of soft, and it not being too gingery and in your face. I also tried the duck gyoza as a side dish and that went down very well indeed. I then took a walk around Spinningfields and saw just how much of the new development is an intriguing mix of homes, offices and bars, it's certainly got plenty of character now that's for sure. I even noticed that it showed just how unclean the River Irwell is in comparison: it really does need something doing.

After that, a quick pit stop in Ra!n Bar for a pint of the Brewers' Dark (as you can imagine, a very nice pint) - for some reason they were closing early on a Sunday, which I couldn't work out why, but never mind. One nice walk along the canalside later and I then headed home, having had a really nice little escape out but also being able to do plenty. I even found time later on to watch the recording of the Superteams from 1979 that I'd set the Sky Plus box from this morning, I'm good like that. It was intriguing to see some of the events where the team spirit came through, but also Steve Assinder basketball coaching the football team (he went on to compete in Superstars himself later that year) and the likes of Daley Thompson and Brian Hooper for the athletes. Hooper's faux pas on the balance beam in the obstacle course was stark contrast to his 1982 World title, that's for sure!

Keeping with the Kraftwerk theme of the weekend, I played their Expo 2000 remix CD single today. I have to say, that hearing the original Expo 2000 tune is all very well and good, but it's not often that a remix actually shows how the original should have been done, but Orbital's reworking actually makes it faster, more bouncy, more catchy and also keeps the original electronics ideals that Kraftwerk has - it's not often you can say that with abundance. So I'm going to give that particular remix tune of the day - if you get chance to track that CD single down, do so, there's some good stuff on there. Now, back to Trans-Europe Express on vinyl!

Saturday 9th August - The Boys In Blue Never Give In

Well, I'm so proud of my beloved Manchester City today. Yes, I know it was a pre-season friendly, and yes, I know it probably wasn't played at 100% full pelt, but get this scoreline: Man City 1 AC Milan 0. Yes, that's right, AC Milan! I was excited of course about them coming to Manchester to play us, because, let's face it, they have some world class players and to see them do their stuff on the pitch would be good to watch anyway, but to see us go against them and give it a go even more so. I suspected it wouldn't be a full house or anything like that but I did think quite a few families would go along and enjoy the game, and so it proved.

I got to the ground, after deciding a ticket on the day was the best move, and there was hardly anyone at the Box Office South, so I managed to easily get myself a ticket sorted for block 111 in the East Stand, pretty much in line with the corner flag but also with a good view of the South Stand goal that City would normally attack in the first half, all good there then. A few families had taken their seats nearby and with several of them having small kids, I made the conscious decision that if I was going to sing along, I'd replace a swear word with a bleep, which would at least make it more palatable for them, the least I could do really.

So, the crowd came in, the game kicked off at 5.15, and City looked quite lively. Valeri Bojinov had returned from injury recently, which put him out for the whole of last season, and you have to say it really looks like we've gained a hungry player. He was making runs all over the place, drawing defenders in and generally making a nuisance of himself as he went forward. And so it proved for the goal, the corner came in, it was headed out and the ball eventually went to Bojinov who struck home off the underside of the bar from distance, and it was a cracking strike. No wonder he went mental when he celebrated!

The changes were being made mainly by City in the second half to give some of the players a run out and indeed to test them against some class players, and although Milan did press and make several chances, the defence held sway. Nedum Onouha had a solid game and looked good as did new signing Tal Ben Haim. When Richard Dunne came off the bench he got a massive cheer, as you'd expect, and he showed his sharpness hadn't been lost as well as managed to get to several balls and keep it all tight. We even had a couple of chances to make it 2-0 late on, but altogether a solid performance. And this was with a Milan team that wasn't weak at all: Mathieu Flamini, signed from Arsenal, played the whole game, as did the likes of legend Paolo Maldini, Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo, and Gennaro Gattuso played seventy minutes or so. It was a bloody decent team and for my beloved blue shirted heroes to claim the win was plucky stuff, and should put us in the right frame of mind for Thursday's UEFA Cup match.

I managed to hear some German language versions of Kraftwerk songs today thanks to the joy of online radio streaming. I'd really like to listen to them properly on CD though (even if that means getting the albums on German import) because it's always better where possible to hear them in their native language. Too many bands and artists pander to playing English in an attempt to boost sales, and indeed most of Kraftwerk's later output was in two language versions, making perfect sense to me anyway, have English but keep the native language as the original recording. Hence, from the "Trans Europa Express" album, take a bow "Schaufensterpuppen" as it's tune of the day time. (in case you're wondering, the English version is "Showroom Dummies" so now you know.)

Friday 8th August - Lighting The Flames

Today I was off work, primarily as I had a package arriving that I knew was coming today, but also that it would be a good idea to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics as well, be interesting to see how it turned out with of course London being the next hosts in 2012, which I just might have to try and get tickets for if at all possible. Anyway, as I knew the package was coming before 12, it meant that I could actually be up and ready in time for it arriving early, and then have the rest of the day to myself if possible.

So you can imagine when there was a knock at the door at around 8.30am this morning, that it was a nice surprise. What I'd ordered had arrived and indeed ahead of schedule, but it was good that where I ordered the items from actually said when the order would be despatched, by what method and indeed what service was used so when I knew to be in for. All well and good, and even better when the post came, as I got a really really nice surprise then. I'd entered a competition in the South Manchester Reporter the other week where they were offering as a prize some £50 gift cards to spend at the new Tesco Metro near my house. I entered it thinking "well someone's got to win it". And guess what? A gift card arrived in the post with my name on it! I was really shocked, I've never won a competition before and it was such a lovely surprise to win one at long last.

Needless to say I did the food shopping (as I was going to anyway) and used the card so it was like getting a free week's worth of shopping, and I've still got more than enough left to treat myself, which I may well just do. Maybe a couple of CDs or some clothes if I go to the big one in Stockport at some point, but nonetheless even if I just use it for the shopping to get some valuable freebies is always good, and meant that taking advantage of any two for one offers meant I felt I was getting even more, which is a considerable bonus. So it was so nice having lots of lovely surprises in the post, and made the day even sweeter.

Settled down in the afternoon to watch the cricket and indeed the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, and flicked between the two till the ceremony was over. I do feel it dragged on far too long and with every single country being introduced along with their athletes, and there now being over 200 countries competing, it does tend to take its time. The show itself was pretty spectacular, and the way that they lit the torch at the end of it was quite a neat touch, although I wouldn't want to be suspended on a roof with just those two wires holding me up, that's for sure, he was very brave! Nonetheless though it's sixteen days of competition now and thankfully BBC are showing lots of it in glorious HD as well, which is going to make it all look rather smart to say the least. I'll have to see how it goes, but if the ceremony is anything to go by..

As for the cricket, well I was pleased that in Kevin Pietersen's first game as England captain, he got a century and indeed it was good to see him knocking the ball around the ground. But him being out sparked a bit of a collapse, rescued in the most part by Steve Harmison, who managed his highest test score and was only robbed of a half century by the fact that Monty Panesar doesn't understand when you need to run a quick single, it's called a quick single for a reason! That left Harmison on 49 not out and he'd played some excellent shots, and his ninth wicket partnership of 53 with James Anderson really did help the English total - not least when Anderson had Graeme Smith out first over. Be intriguing tomorrow...

Now, what was also intriguing was the fact that the opening ceremony had some Scottish bagpipe players during the main part of bringing the athletes on. And so I strived to think of a good tune that had bagpipes in, immediately discounting Wings' "Mull of Kintyre", as I can't stand that record and think that Frank Sidebottom did a much better job covering it as "Mull of Timperley". And then I remembered, Korn's first album! Yes, there's bagpipes on one of their tracks, "Shoots and Ladders" so give that tune of the day. Coming immediately after the heavy as hell (and often moshed-to) "Faget" on their debut album, it's a bit lighter, but not much, and even has some nursery rhyme words recited and sung during the track. The opening with the bagpipes just works superbly as the guitars then rock in. Hard. Very hard indeed.

Thursday 7th August - World Laptop Building Show

Another pretty busy day in the office, as I ended up working pretty much solidly on the laptop I was working on yesterday. Thankfully though it all seemed to go well. I was testing the Novell Client for Windows Vista, and with all the necessary settings set, even LDAP authentication worked properly now and I was able to log in to the network just like I would do in Windows XP. What was even better was that the drive mapping worked sensibly, and once I told IE to make sure that the UNC paths were part of the Intranet Zone, it all worked swimmingly and didn't complain about any file opening on mapped drives being an issue, which was a relief as you can imagine.

As I'm trying to make it as close to current build as possible, I've put on Access XP but the rest of Office 2007, along with the likes of ActivStudio and the usual suspects of default software like Adobe Reader et al. It's pretty much getting there now but it's just making sure that the user profile in Vista is set up so that whoever logs on will have everything working. Of course as there's no Zenworks client for Vista that runs under Zen 7 (there's nowhere I know locally that has Zen 10 installed, so pointless really) so couldn't use any customised application installers - just the off the shelf stuff with any modifications needed later on.

Mind you, got home later and was very pleased to be able to chill out and relax somewhat. As I'm seriously considering heading to the Academy in December to see the Levellers again, I thought it'd be wise to have a blast of "A Weapon Called The Word" and indeed "Levelling The Land" tonight, to get me in the mood. I still love "World Freak Show" though on the first mentioned album, it just seems to me to be in many ways one of the real signature tunes of the band (even though they hardly ever play it live by all accounts) and set them on their way. Some almost twenty years on, I still like it, so give that one tune of the day because it happens to be rather fab.

Watched Mock The Week (well of course I did!) and that was rather funny all round. Never seen that Zoë Lyons on as a guest before, but she actually seemed quite witty and sharp, and wasn't afraid of calling a spade a spade either. One other intriguing point: on Hugh's team (Hugh Dennis, Frankie Boyle and Ed Byrne) they were all in suits while it was all casual clothes for the other lot (Andy Parsons, Russell Howard and Zoë Lyons). Mind you, Russell always seems to be in t-shirts, it's almost a trademark of his. Nonetheless though some corking moments, not least during the "If this is the answer, what is the question?" round. The answer was 85,000 miles and the real question was "How far had the Olympic flame travelled during its journey to Beijing?".

Of course, for Frankie Boyle, an oppotunity also to take the mickey out of those who keep mistaking him for those pop twins the Proclaimers (who of course had a hit with "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)") . Zoë had said the question was "How far would the Proclaimers have to walk these days to get a hit?" to which Frankie replied with the question: "If I was to add together all the times that people have sung "I would walk 500 miles" at me... I love that stuff when someone goes "You look like one of the Proclaimers." One of them? They're twins, you daft *******" - well, you get the idea anyway!

Wednesday 6th August - Hobgoblins And Vista Goblins

I've just been supping a very nice pint of the rather lovely Hobgolblin ale, which definitely made me feel very chilled out and relaxed this evening. Admittedly none of my local pubs have heard of real ale, but thankfully for me I had a bottle of the stuff which I hadn't had from my birthday, and I felt it was about time that I had it in a leisurely manner. So with pint in hand and a nice blast of The Prodigy's "Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned" on, it certainly did do wonders. In fact, I'd better nominate "Action Radar" for tune of the day becuase it's just infectious and I ended up repeat playing that track a couple of times because it's pretty rousing. Also, kind of ironic that some of the early Prodge stuff is getting re-released as a 2CD set - talk about "reissue, repackage, repackage!" as Morrissey once sang about.

Anyway, another day and another laptop has hit the desk at work. It's actually one I've worked on before, a Toshiba Portégé M700 Tablet PC, which is a very nice and compact laptop that also doubles as a tablet as well and you can do all the fancy tablet gestures with. This time last month I was finishing off a Windows XP Tablet Edition image for the laptop, which worked really well and even though it took time for me to sort out, it was a really nice piece of kit in the end. This time around the department that I'm working on it for would like to have Windows Vista remaining installed and so they really want to use it as more of a test rig. Nonetheless I'm going to try and make it as standard as possible so that it looks and feels similar(ish).

One annoying issue with Vista I know of is the way that it doesn't seem to like relocation to our guest wireless logon portal when anyone accesses the Internet with IE7 on Vista, and so it proved here as well. It worked once and then failed again for some mad reason, and I'm going to wait till the laptop's MAC address is registered for the secure wireless, and try adding that network to see what happens. It's just rather annoying actually, it seems to go in an endless loop of not being able to connect. I suspect part of it is the way that the guest system is configured to be honest. I should add that on the flip side, Mozilla Firefox works perfectly (as you'd expect of course!) even on Vista and doesn't throw these issues whatsoever.

Still, next step was the Novell Client for Vista, which admittedly is still in 1.0 and not really mega advanced. It does at least now ask for a Novell login when the login page appears, and you can still log on locally if not hooked up to the network. On the other hand, I'm yet to see LDAP work fine on it, so I'll be interested to see what happens tomorrow when I give it a blast. In fact, I did have two laptops on my desk this afternoon, as one of our lecturers returned a Samsung X30 which wasn't booting. I soon worked out why: there was a ticking noise from the laptop, and it sounded very much like the hard drive was dying. Indeed, when I unscrewed the bottom of the laptop and removed the hard drive, and connected it to another PC, it made the same sound. I'm going to use the "put the drive in the freezer" trick overnight and see if I can bring it back to life to try and get the data off it, but I'm not holding out much hope!

And to complete the goblins theme, I reminded myself of the arcade games of old by having a blast at Ghosts 'n' Goblins on MAME as well. I have the Commodore 64 conversion of it somewhere (complete with rather ace music where everyone does an impersonation of the drum bit near the start - if you've heard it you'll know what I mean). I used to love this arcade game when I was younger and it's still pretty difficult to complete now, even some twenty odd years after release. Ah, memories!

Tuesday 5th August - The Hurlers of Recycling

Another day at the office, and I had really got my teeth into getting the printers all sorted out, and indeed we're pretty much ready now and swapped them over ready for the influx next year. What we also found that the driver for the old printers seems to work okayish with printing to the new ones,so there's some overflow in the interim we can at least cope with, which is pretty nice. What we're definitely going to do though is before we scrap them is to pull out the Jetdirect EIO cards, not least because they happen to be pretty worth some money and also can be re-used in another printer if the card in that one goes: I'll have to set to work on that tomorrow and see what can be recycled where possible.

As it was, I've already recycled the cartridges from the old A4 colour printers that were new in its boxes and never got used: had a chat with our supplier and they're exchanging them for the cartridges for the new A4 colour printer too, basically like for like, which is rather good isn't it? I guess this is probably because I've worked on a good working relationship with the suppliers over time, and that enables me to be able to be personable and be able to get things done. Sometimes it's worth "networking" in other ways. Plus of course it means I go green as well, hurrah to that.

Got home and straight away realised that there was a nice package in the post from a friend, so that was lovely to open. Always good when you receive stuff, not least something we'd talked about on the phone. Oh, and not just that. I was checking out Seth Lakeman's new stuff and realised that he'd filmed the video for "The Hurlers" somewhere very familiar to me indeed - The Minack Theatre in Cornwall! You can imagine my delight as I watched, enjoyed the song and just thought "why couldn't I have been there during filming to say hello?" - but nonetheless the song is bloody ace, so tune of the day there. There's a track on the album too, "Solomon Browne" about the Penlee lifeboat disaster just up the coast in Mousehole, so good to see that Seth's keeping in with his Devon and Cornwall roots too. So there you go!

Monday 4th August - Back In The Den

And back to work too, today, after having the Friday off and a long weekend, which was just the thing. I'd sorted all my clothes out before the weekend away so I didn't have to come back to a pile of washing, which of course was the clever and sensible thing to do (I can do sensible sometimes you know!) so that I could get up, have a good day back at work and then relax later on and not have to worry too much, always a good thing as you could well imagine. Of course, the day was pretty good anyway as there was plenty for me to get my teeth into: finishing off those Toshiba Satellite Pro A300 laptops and then getting to work on something else: the new printers that we'd got! We'd soon set them up and I network configured them to make sure that no one would be able to print to them directly, only through the relevant network queue (hurrah) as well as make sure that it was suitably locked down in terms of the menus.

I got home later and of course it was time for Dragons Den on BBC2, which seasoned readers will know that I love. Well, what a roasting that bloke from Very PC got. The company may indeed have won awards from PC Pro, but the problem was that the person who went in to pitch the PC brand completely overvalued the company, and indeed if there's one thing that riles the dragons, it's overvaluation. Also, considering that Peter Jones had spent many years as the head of Siemens Nixdorf's computer division, he pretty much knew what he was talking about in terms of how to be energy efficient with PCs. All in all, where the entrepeneur fell down on was that he seemed to me quite arrogant and too self-believing in his product without actually being personable.

Mind you, I really liked Lesley-Ann Simmonds who ran Shoes Galore, a party plan type franchise for selling different coloured shoes for women. Obviously spotting a niche in the market where it's hard to get the right colour shoe, she'd have franchisees doing parties where women could buy the shoes that they wanted. Master retail magnate Theo Paphitis did spot a potentially big flaw though: having all that choice inevitably means lots of stock that may be redundant and that might not be able to be sold off for the right price, and that was a potential issue. However, her personality was really bubbly and personable and I'm sure that if she'd had another business where the risk was less great, the Dragons would have invested because of her sheer enthusiasm: sort of like Levi Roots and his Reggae Reggae Sauce.

It's always intriguing to see what happens and just how difficult business is, and what you can do to make things better. Thankfully some people took that advice on and were able to come away with a positive experience: as all good business meetings should be really. But there was also something I noticed as well today: Abba are back at the top of the album charts with their "Gold" compilation! I reckon that lots of people have gone out and bought it on the back of the "Mamma Mia" film doing so well at the cinemas, and that plenty of women out there have had the swoon factor with the likes of Colin Firth singing very badly (understatement, my friend who's a massive fan of his admitted to me that she thought his singing was bobbins) and so wanted to remember the film and moments from it by listening to the music of Abba again.

I was never a big fan to be honest, too many bad memories of drunken people hitting the dance floor to "Dancing Queen". I guess if pushed I'd probably go for "Does Your Mother Know?" as a good tune of theirs. It for some reason seemed more catchy and a bit less cheesy than some of their other tunes. And also I should add, not least because indie band Ash did an ace cover of it, and it's that version that I'll make tune of the day. Somehow listening to Tim Wheeler and co churn out a nice indie rock version of it somehow feels a little bit more in keeping.

Sunday 3rd August - Three Laps Of Pain

I didn't want to leave this morning, and I didn't want to go home. The bed in the hotel was very comfortable, and the breakfast was just awesome (again!) As I sat in the room and watched the television, and also saw the shots with the camera (I'll have to upload those soon) it all reminded me of just what I needed, a break for me and a break from the norm. It felt sad leaving and as I sat in Costa on New Street with a coffee, watching the world go by, it all seemed somewhat idyllic. The weather had stayed intact and didn't rain during the day (didn't mind the rain at 4am when I was asleep!) and just rejuvenated me somewhat.

Coffee consumed, it was time to head back to New Street station and head for the 1218 train back to Manchester Piccadilly. The doors to the coach I had a reserved seat on weren't playing ball for some reason, and so I had to enter via Coach D and then walk through to Coach C for the reserved seat, but no biggie really. It was just really good to be able to relax on the train and head home, even if for some reason the train crawled in between Stockport and Piccadilly. Mind you, a short walk from there meant I was able to time the bus home perfectly, and it didn't take me too long to get back, which pleased me immensely.

I had recorded the Hungarian Grand Prix knowing I wasn't going to be home in time for it, so I could watch it later on instead. I have to say that the race was pretty exciting really with incident all the way through. You couldn't help but feel sorry for Felipe Massa though as he had put a brilliant passing move on Lewis Hamilton to take the lead, only for three laps from the end for the race to be snatched from him as the Ferrari's engine blew. This handed the victory to Heikki Kovalainen, with the impressive Timo Glock in the Toyota second ahead of Kimi Raikkonen third. Glock's second was more impressive by the fact that he'd had a suspension failure at Hockenheim and had gone into the wall backwards, and to come back from that and do so well - nerves of steel, I tell you!

Also, I'd recorded Superstars from Friday night and that too looked pretty intense, not least of course with the gym tests. Alain Baxter's 101 squats was impressive stuff, especially as no sliding is allowed anymore and he really did push on hard and got the job done, for the others it looked painful, not least Jane Couch on the dips and indeed Sir Steve Redgrave on the same discipline. I think I'd manage 10 dips at a push, and I reckon 50-60 squats as well, which still wouldn't be that good but definitely worth the effort. It's very draining though and I do take my hat off to them all for giving it a hard go. Of course, thankfully Channel Five have kept the ace theme tune intact, so Johnny Pearson's "Heavy Action" is tune of the day. Now, why can't we see some more of the old classics, eh ESPN Classic?

Saturday 2nd August - All Is Well in the Town of Stratford

Day two of my weekend and something I'd been looking forward to - a day out in Stratford-upon-Avon! I really like the place and hadn't been for many years (and I mean many years) and wanted to see how it was like now and indeed how the restoration of the RSC's main theatres was going on. I know what you're thinking: "but why didn't you just stay in Stratford for the weekend?". Well, I'd have to change trains from Manchester, and it's also more expensive by a shed load to stay in Stratford. Not just that, but there's plenty I wanted to see in Birmingham too, so this way the weekend worked out nicer. And so it proved!

After a hearty breakfast it was the short walk to Moor Street station (it was either there or Snow Hill) to get the train to Stratford-upon-Avon. I admired all the small countryside villages and stations along the way with great names like Danzey and Wootton Wawen (try pronouncing that when you're drunk!) before the train calmly pulled into the station, and on time too, always nice to see. It was a short walk from the station to the town centre, and along the way I noticed that the Teddy Bear Museum, which had existed here for many years, had now closed down and moved to South West London! That was gutting, as I wouldn't have minded a quick look around there.

Still, it was past one of the old thatched roof pubs and along to one of the squares where there was a farmer's market going on. It was great to see so much local produce being made, and it all smelt lovely, especially some of the cooked meats. Had I not had such a big breakfast, I think that I would have definitely gone into overdrive and bought some of the burgers to try out. And indeed so many people selling their own drinks that they'd made too: great to see such enterprise and indeed how much that things like this bring local communities together - you could just imagine a BBC Countryfile report or something.

Walked through the town centre a bit and on to the Halls Croft, one of the historic buildings in the town. I didn't go in, but saw that the gardens were very well maintained and looked after, and the croft building had kept its original fittings where possible and history to boot too. I wanted to walk to the Holy Trinity church that houses Shakespeare's grave and resting place, but when I got there, the church was closed for a private wedding service. The guests had arrived for the wedding and looked suitably attired on such a warm and lovely day.

So instead, it was along the river, past the Dell open air theatre where a young theatre company were doing a free show there later, past the Courtyard Theatre, the temporary home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and where David Tennant and Patrick Stewart are currently treading the boards doing Hamlet. (I didn't see either of them during the day but that would have been a great star spot!) Anyway, walked past the main Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan Theatre and you could see just how much building work was going on - lots of it! Indeed the project was costing numerous millions to do and it looked nowhere near what it would be like when completed, just empty shells and part of the original building intact.

Got to the bridge over the canal and towards the riverside, where you could do a half hour cruise up and down river for £4, which wasn't too bad, so I had some of that. The cruise took you upriver out of town first, viewing many really nice houses and lots of riverside boats, and then back along through the centre of Stratford, with views of the RSC theatres, the Holy Trinity Church and beyond. Not too far beyond though, as a blocked off weir prevented you from entering dangerous waters and the canal barges had a separate canal to go down, which many of them seemed to be doing whilst taking their canal tours. I noticed something on the river too and thought "over I go!"

And indeed over I did go to the far side of the river, a band were practicing for some free afternoon gig that they were putting on and did a very good version of "Canned Heat" by Jamiroquai. Now I don't like his music at all, but this band were doing a cracking cover, so whoever they were deserve a pat on the back and indeed tune of the day from me as well. It remnated throughout the centre as I walked over to what I'd spotted moments earlier: a mini golf 18 hole course! Mini golf is sort of like crazy golf without the windmills et al, just bumps and humps to negotiate. It all seemed good fun and did a respectable 49 shots for the 18 holes as well, not too bad. I almost got a hole in one at the eighth where the ball rolled just short of the hole and didn't drop, but nonetheless that was all good fun.

Walked back through the town and after finding one of the pubs had completely run out of real ale (bah!) I ended up in The Garrick pub, one of the oldes pubs in Stratford. The really lovely low ceilings with the wood and the way it was very olde worlde immediately appealed, and I even noticed that the real ale was on, so a definite cask of Greene King IPA was in order - in fact four cask ales in all so I was more than satisfied with the selection to be honest. I had the gammon and eggs, and it was a big chunk of gammon which would get me through the rest of the day to say the least. Yum yum!

Had a good walk then around the streets where Shakespeare's birthplace was, and indeed seeing how many Chinese and Japanese tourists as well as Americans that were there - literally hundreds of them, all walking around the properties and then buying numerous gifts in the gift shops as well. It was good to see though that not all of them had come just for the Shakespeare, as many of the local shops would testify. After a walk back to the Holy Trinity church, I'd timed it just right to see Shakespeare's Grave within the chuch. It was an inspiring moment seeing it and the other famous Stratfordians of that era buried here, along with a facsimile of the christening and death certificates of Shakespeare himself, definitely made me feel very humble that.

Back on the train to Birmingham Moor Street, I contemplated what a good day that I'd had and indeed the day didn't end there, oh no. After a nice warm shower I got changed and headed out onto Broad Street and down by the canalside, where the really nice Italian restaurant Strada looked very lovely. Indeed it was, and the food was to die for: I had the rigatone pasta with ham and gorgonzola cheese, just the right portion and very lovely too. And I couldn't resist the tiramisu, what am I like eh? Anyway, had all that and then walked past the Mailbox, had a drink in one of the bars that overlooked the canal there, and headed back to base, thoroughly happy at such a good day and night.

Friday 1st August - Start of a Long Weekend

Well, I'd worked hard enough and long enough lately, so what better than for me to escape for the weekend? Well, that was the plan and indeed everything was well and truly sorted so that I was able to take a bit of a break and relax a bit. I suppose when you've been working hard with only the occasional stop for the odd gig or what have you, and with me having the kitchen done, I've really missed not going away this year. Even though it's only a weekend away, at least I'd be able to have done something and indeed make the most of the time I do have to give myself some quality time. So it was off on the train to Birmingham at lunch time and to head to the hotel which was my base for the next couple of days.

Once off, I decided to have a long walk around the city centre and even peek in some of the shops (although technically I was browsing instead of buying!). A walk through to the Bull Ring and round the shops there showed just how much rejuvenating the whole area certainly has brought a level of pride back into the centre, and indeed how clean it felt at the same time, which made things rather lovely. Walking out of the bottom of the Bull Ring and to the markets, including the famous Rag Markets, only reinforced that view of the intriguing mix that's there despite that horrid city centre inner ring road (it truly is horrid.) I walked through parts of Chinatown and then under the city centre ring road to The Mailbox, with its smart appearance and über-trendy shops which then leads to the canalside walk at the far end.

It's all very well laid out by the canal side, and after crossing a footbridge so you can carry on walking along there, there's some lovely places to watch the world go by before you reach the Brindley Place bit with many bars and restaurants with the National Indoor Arena in the background. From there it was up over the canal bridge and down Broad Street, passing the Repartory Theatre and in the Centenary Square. I was sure it was here that they'd invoked the Birmingham Walk of Stars, including the new star for Murray Walker, but I couldn't find it. What I did find though was some of many flower arrangements done for the Birmingham Floral Trail, which all looked lovely. One was the shape of a Cadbury's Dairy Milk bar and with it was a carved wooden gorilla (because of the famous advert last year where the gorilla drums a la Phil Collins.)

I did a bit of research later on and found that the stars on this Walk of Stars thing weren't all together, but dotted around the pavements of Broad Street, so I'd have to walk up and down to find them. Aaaargh. Ah well. I shall know for next time. Anyway, I continued through the walk way leading to the Town Hall and discovered that someone had plonked a beach there, I kid you not! It felt slightly surreal seeing this Emirates Beach in the middle of the city centre, but with the weather being decent it made a lot of sense to be there and definitely something to keep an eye on.

It was a good walk around, and with a nice meal in the evening, including the most gorgeous rump steak with home made hand cut chips to die for, it all was a lovely start to the weekend and certainly that immediately made me feel a lot better as I was relaxed in the hotel room in the late evening. I do feel that I needed this and certainly if today's anything to go by, it can only be better tomorrow as I've got a day out planned (wooo, go me eh?). A song entered my head and refused to leave, "Happy" by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins. It's beautifully floaty and the way that Jenny sings the word happy in the chorus just makes you go "awwww". So, tune of the day, easily really.