Dear Diary... August 2010

Tuesday 31st August - Router Goal

I had had a fairly busy day in the office today, mainly running around the building with my colleague getting some of the rooms set up with PCs post-show. It's a lot of work and a lot of lifting, putting things back in place and then getting the PCs imaged and ready, but we managed to get everything in place for one floor completely by the end of today, so that really does bode positive for the next few days whilst we get everything sorted out. Mind you, I did find out that we might be getting replacement PCs for some older kit which will arrive after we need them ready - which is a right nightmare to get sorted out. Ah well.

I headed over to my friend's place straight from work as I wanted to look at their router and see if there was anything obvious which was either blocking Rock Band 2 connecting on the Wii or to see if there was anything else up. I spent some time looking at his wife's PC as well as she mentioned to me that it wasn't playing ball with some sites and not shutting down. I narrowed it down to an add-on for Firefox and IE but also a bit of spyware that thankfully Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware detected and got rid of, so that was much better once that got sorted out.

As for the router, the Netgear DG834G version 3 didn't have the most up to date firmware, so we snagged the most recent version and seamlessly updated the router to that version. It managed to retain all the settings too, so it meant that we could see what it was doing and what was going on with it. It also meant that there were more options to easily configure the router too thus making things less hassle. Unfortunately it only heightened the fact that even with the new firmware, the connectivity seemed much slower than it should be. I did a test via the Speedtest website, and even using four or five different locations showed a network speed much slower than the router reported. Something's definitely up there and my friend has sent his ISP a message to see what can be done.

We also had a chat about the transfer window and admittedly were quite pleased that Robinho had been transferred to AC Milan. Admittedly City did lose out in total on the deal but to be honest he's not the player that he was going to be for us, it just seemed that he went anonymous on too many away games and couldn't cope with the rigours of an English season. It's a shame because there's plenty that could have happened there but it's a combination of poor man management and lack of motivation really. I was surprised that we let one of our young players go to Leeds but I suspect he'll do a good job for them there, and of course with the Premier League 25 squad members quota, there is that to consider too.

As for tune of the day, it's the excellent "Cool For Cats" by Squeeze. It's a song that my friend and I have rocked to together on Rock Band 2 when he's been at my place and also it's rather apt considering next door's cat was waiting for us when my friend dropped me off home last night. I also quite like the simplicity of it, no fancy electronics, just good old fashioned indie style pop with great lyrics and plenty of witty wordplay in there. Just as I like it sometimes.

Monday 30th August - Setting The Trail

We had a bit of a restful morning did The Cream On My Cheesecake and I, as it had been a busy weekend and we wanted to take things a bit slower on the Bank Holiday. And why not? I found out possibly why Rock Band 2 wasn't connecting online and so emailed my friend to see if UPnP was turned on in the router or not, and if it wasn't, to turn it on. Mine has it on and works well with any Wii game it can throw at it, so that's good. In fact I tested it out playing Rock Band 2 against a random person online and it happily connected without problems, even doing Linkin Park's "One Step Closer" as well - make that tune of the day as it pretty much rocked.

We decided it'd be a nice afternoon if we took a bit of a walk in the fresh air and indeed the intermittent sunshine, so off we headed on the bus via Stockport and then to New Mills on the 358. After a quick stop at the local Spar there for some soft drinks to take with us, we headed down to the path that took us to the Sett Valley Trail, a path which follows the former rail line between New Mills and Hayfield. It's a really well re-used bit of old railway, with the path being relatively mud-free despite the rain coming down the day before, and it being fairly flat as well so not too hilly if you don't want to be clambering up so much.

The trail was also very well used by everyone, from dog owners to cyclists and many local people who saw it as a nice walk to Hayfield from Birch Vale for example, and it was good to see that the place was being so well used. It was a pleasant two and a half mile walk as well - and thoroughly well worth it when we got to Hayfield. It's a lovely little village with a little river heading through the village itself and gorgeous little cottage terraced houses throughout. Some of the pubs looked rather nice to have a drink at in the evening and a couple of them seemed to do nice food too - we'll have to check this out one evening, methinks.

We managed to head back on the 358 bus to Stockport and then homeward bound, where we spent a nice rest of the afternoon listening to Ryan Adams' "Gold" album and playing some more Scrabble, with an impressive move of SQUEAL from The Cream and me doing ZEST in the bottom corner (also making HERS) which scored a nice 76 points for me - so that was good. I made us some tea later, it was some pork loins with chips and vegetables, and that filled us up nicely after getting all excited about lovely places in Perthshire on Escape to the Country. Maybe we should apply to be on it and go window shopping in Cornwall just for the fun of it?

Sunday 29th August - Rocking Birthday

It was a day to take it fairly easy before the evening, as we were heading out with my friend for his birthday. I'd wrapped all the presents and wrote the card out, and it meant that hopefully he'd get some lovely presents from everyone and really make the day complete. Myself and The Cream On My Cheesecake had managed to sort everything out for tonight and were looking forward to it all, and she popped home for a while in the afternoon so I could watch the F1 and she could sort out her outfit for tonight as well as do anything else domestic wise, so it worked out well there.

I watched the race from Spa and it was a real race of excitement. The rain came down not long after the start and some people took the risk of swapping tyres but most of the leaders got it spot on and knew it'd only be a short shower and with some good driving Lewis Hamilton was leading with Jenson Button second. Button looked like he had a bit of wing damage and was holding off Sebastian Vettel, the idea being that he'd do so till the first pit stop and have the nose replaced at the same time. However, Vettel tried to pull alongside, swung the car violently and hit Button right on the radiator, meaning one car wrecked and out of the race. I felt gutted for Jenson to be honest.

Hamilton was doing well up front with Robert Kubica and Mark Webber on his tail a few seconds back but as the rain started lashing it down he went off on one corner and almost hit the barrier, but kept going and it was then the perfect time to switch to the intermediate wet tyre. He did that and stayed out in front, but Kubica overshot his pit box which lost him enough time for Webber to take second, and after a safety car came out later for Fernando Alonso's crash, it was pretty much the same order to the flag, meaning with Vettel out of the points and both Button and Alonso failing to finish, the five horse race looked more like two after the end of the race.

The Cream headed back and we had a game of Scrabble whilst we were working out what time to leave and get ready. Not only did she get her best score ever of 263 but really pulled off some good moves in the process, including ZITS and UNITS (with the S on triple word) for 57. I'd previously played ZIT with the Z on double letter for 23 and had no S, and was hoping that she didn't have one. Too late though! Still, I had to battle back and pulled some consistent moves off later, but it showed how much that she was improving and how well she's now doing. I've noticed as has she that our games are quicker too - often finishing inside 45 minutes all in.

It was then showered, changed and off into the city centre to head to Table Table via The Waterhouse first for a quiet drink together. She looked gorgeous in her black dress and black shrug with lovely heels, and I had some nice trousers on and a shirt from Next that she had got me last Christmas. It was nice to relax and chatter in the pub especially as it meant I could have the Mill Town local ale as well (went down a treat) and be able to take it easy before heading to Table Table where two of our friends were already there and we chatted to them for a while before our other friends arrived, including the one who's birthday it was.

We had a really good meal and the table for six that we have allows plenty of chatter and catch up as well so it was good to be able to have plenty of conversation as we decided what to have. I ended up having three courses but they were gorgeous: the tomato soup to start, then the steak and mushroom pie for main with some lovely soft mash, and then a baked vanilla cheesecake for dessert. Meanwhile The Cream had the baked camembert for starters and the lasagne for main, and no dessert. It was really nice though and my friend was really pleased with the presents everyone got him, not least Rock Band 2 for the Wii (and I got a 2GB SD card to save the song downloads on) and the little surprise we got him which was this pig with shades on, and it was a piggy bank too. It looked fab when I saw it and I couldn't resist either!

It was almost 10pm when we left, not too bad considering we met up at 7, and so it was a lovely evening all round really. It was lovely to see some of my friends I'd not seen for a fair while, and it was also good to be able to have a good time out. We got home later and my friend and I swapped friend codes for Rock Band 2, but couldn't connect to each other for some reason. I'll have to research that, but in the meantime, I'll nominate Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" as tune of the day - we saw a documentary on the band the other night and of course the song is in the game (and Guitar Hero World Tour too) which is good to try on almost any instrument.

Saturday 28th August - Three Courses, Two People, One Lovely Evening

I had a rather lovely day all round today. I headed into the city centre first as there were a couple of little presents I wanted to get my friend for his birthday tomorrow, and knew at the same time that I might be able to get something good for myself at the same time. I managed to find one really good present in Shared Earth, and I saw it and thought "oh yes, that's so him!" so that felt good. The staff in there were lovely to chat to despite some massed ranks of the English Defence League walking past and chanting their usual vile filth.

I headed then down Market Street and stopped off in Fopp. I found a CD for my friend that I hoped that he didn't have and purchased that, but I also noticed that in the £3 CD section there were a couple of CDs that I wouldn't mind for myself either, so thought "why not?" and treated myself to them. They were Metallica's "Ride The Lightning" and Street Sweeper Social Club's album of the same name, which of course has Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine on the guitar duties. It's rather good too when I got home and played it, with the opening track "Fight! Smash! Win!" really kicking from the speakers in a good way, with an opening riff right out of the classic RATM style. Tune of the day for certain there folks.

I had a relaxing afternoon keeping an eye on the F1 qualifying from Spa and noticing how changeable the conditions were and also how tricky it was for people to be able to get just round a lap to try and get a qualifying mark in. First qualifying saw plenty of people heading off track left right and centre, with Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton doing a good job in the bad conditions. And at the end of third qualifying, they both improved on their times despite it getting worse with the weather, showing how they can really apply themselves in the conditions - and it'd bode well for tomorrow.

Later on The Cream On My Cheesecake headed over to see me, which is always lovely, and we headed out to Tesco. I had some Clubcard vouchers which I could for a limited period double up to make discount vouchers for various departments, including clothes. My cunning plan was to get some clothes for technically free by doubling up the vouchers that I had, and I had an idea of what I wanted. We ended up going to the ones in Stockport and Burnage not seeing what I quite wanted before getting to the one in Gorton and finding the jacket that I'd seen in Stockport, and here they had it in my size too - and a pair of really dark blue jeans in my size. Best of all was that the jacket was reduced too, so that meant that my spend was a big fat zero.

In case you wondered what I got, this is the jacket, but the jeans aren't available online, only in store. I would have preferred the jacket in black, but the dark green will easily go with most of the black stuff I have and it's pretty warm too, so good for the autumn and spring if need be, and quite casual. According to The Cream, the style also makes me look slimmer, and considering that I have been losing weight, that's pretty good all round and made me feel rather good inside too. Yaay.

I made us a nice three course meal later, and started off with the Covent Garden minestrone soup together with a baton sliced up into little pieces, which went well together. I then did chicken wrapped in bacon together with some charlotte potatoes and some steamed vegetables, followed by the New York Cheesecake with cream for dessert. It all went down well for The Cream especially as there was some Hardy's Crest wine to go with it too - and why not? You may as well enjoy yourself, I thought. I let her enjoy the wine and I was nice and relaxed with a cold soft drink (being good and all) and we had a relatively relaxed evening.

After she'd had her fill of X Factor (which I made the tea during so I could avoid it, hehe!) we then saw the final episode of Mistresses on iPlayer, as I'd missed it whilst being at the footy on Thursday. It was a good end to the whole thing but it did also leave some questions unanswered slightly too. It made me wonder if it's left the door open or if this is definitely it. Still, it was nice to see Orla Brady do her thing as Siobhan and dash around the airport near the end (not going to spoil it for you) and she did look rather good. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would, so that worked out well.

Friday 27th August - Chinese Lunch, Italian Future

It was a busy day for me today which all started with me having to trace two network sockets at the cabinet end, work out what sockets that they were connected to and then have them switched over to a different vLAN so that they could perform different functions for the users and machines concerned. One of the staff is one I get on very well with, so we were able to run some tests and make sure that everything worked perfectly for the user when that came up and running. It was good to see that I'd not quite lost it in terms of getting things done.

Our technical group meeting was later that morning and I bumped into one of my colleagues from another site who I get on really well with. We headed to get a coffee first before the meeting (because the powers that be have decided that you can't have it provided any more, which is a cost-cutting measure) and then I was able to take part and put forward my points of view and contribute. I always feel like I'm right in the middle of these things and am able to keep a hand in as to what else is going on, plus it means that I can "network" if you like with other members of staff.

It was then straight over to lunch and to join our colleagues, as one of them is leaving today to have a baby and go on maternity leave. I think it's going to be a different setting without her, because she's a good hard worker and really does contribute well to the team, and I know I'll miss her because of that. It was nice to head in the downstairs buffet part of Tai Wu and have lunch there, and they happen to do Mr Whippy ice cream for dessert (well you know I had to) and they also throw in a free soft drink included in the price as well, so no complaints for me there either.

I typed up my notes from the meeting and distributed them like I do to the team (easiest way of doing so, plus Acrobat Pro 9 integrates nicely into Office 2007 and so was able to easily output the document too, PDF rocks) and then worked on a couple of issues during the afternoon,and was soon time for the Bank Holiday weekend. I'd also seen the Europa League draw and Manchester City didn't get the easiest group - we got Juventus, Red Bull Salzburg and Lech Poznan. On paper you'd think ourselves and Juventus would qualify as the top two but you'd have to be sure of winning whatever games you could do.

Headed to Tesco straight from work and did the food shopping, then headed to Asda later to get some other bits, and kicked back with some chicken and rice and relaxed for the evening. It looked like my ISP was having some routing problems earlier tonight but they seem to be resolved now, so I was able to get the trains booked for a forthcoming trip away and at a nice low price too (which is what I want of course) and that's something else to look forward to. It's nice when you're able to do all that and get everything well sorted - it's how it should be.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather long and ace "Mercyful Fate" by Metallica, basically a medley of songs by the band Mercyful Fate done by themselves in a rather epic fashion. It's great fun too on Guitar Hero Metallica especially if you can get through all eleven minutes. I've done that on drums and scored over half a million points on medium and felt pretty pleased with myself. I'm sure one day I'd try hard and expert but I'm sure you'd really need to be a good drummer to do it. Sort of like this:

Thursday 26th August - Europe Here We Come!

It was another visit to the City of Manchester Stadium for me and my friend tonight, as this time it was the home leg against Timisoara in the Europa League play-off round. Win this game on aggregate and we'd be there in the group stages, with three games at home guaranteed against European opposition. It's also a bit of a money spinner too and will mean Thursday nights in front of the telly for the away games and being there for the home ones (hopefully). We were 1-0 up after the away leg in Romania and even though I knew it wouldn't be full tonight, I did know that it would be nice to see hopefully another win.

We got there in good time for the kick off, and the roads were pretty quiet to be honest. We reckoned about 18,000 were there so were surprised to see we'd got around 23,000 or so. Didn't look it to me even though along the touchlines in both tiers were quite full. There were a few Romanian fans who had made the trip over and they were in good spirits, singing and getting behind the team as they do. It was a slightly sedate atmosphere though, almost kind of after the Lord Mayor's Parade with Monday's win fresh from the memories of the City fans.

It was clear from the start of play that Timisoara were basically ten men behind the ball with not much sense of adventure and it was up to us to break them down. It took a little time but we didn't look troubled and a neat pass from Patrick Vieira saw Shaun Wright-Phillips slot it home low and in the bottom corner to make it 1-0 before half time. It was an excellent finish and Shaun was industrious all game, working hard and showing what he can do. It's good to see that those on the fringe like that are willing to take a chance and make it work for them when they can.

Second half was a fair bit better as Timisoara had to try and attack a bit more, leaving gaps in the defence. From a David Silva free kick up popped Dedryck Boyata at the far post to head home well and make it 2-0. In fact Boyata at the back had a solid performance, not letting anything get past him and showing a calm and collected head when required to do his duty. It's probably that as well as his goal that got him man of the match, although Silva looked good the more he got into the game and with another excellent performance from Nigel de Jong in the midfield (or "Kung Fu De Jong" as I've started calling him after his World Cup final exploits...)

It was easy enough all around and we reflected on this when we saw The Love In My Heart later for a coffee, and saw that Aston Villa had been knocked out by Rapid Vienna and Liverpool made it through past Trabzonspor, so not too bad really. We're in the group stage and an Autumn of European fixtures await us. Let's see what happens but I quite like these European adventures, they're all good fun. I can't wait. Tune of the day in the meantime is "Pledge Your Allegiance" by Suicidal Tendencies, as it's one of my favourites of theirs. The main hook line says it all about us as football fans: "as long as your heart beats, pledge your allegiance". Yes. Rock!

Wednesday 25th August - Patching Problems

I guess today's been down to being able to patch up problems both of a nature of networking, in terms of people and physical cables. One office which is currently being revamped have had some network sockets changed around mainly because of walls coming down to make bigger offices, and so I headed over this afternoon to check out all the network stuff and also see what could be patched in. The good news is that at least most of them were up and working, so I was able to at least get some of the staff up and running but also get the printers working too. Four points along one wall all seemed dead though, so I've had to ask our cabling people to get on it if possible, and so more networking of the schmoozing kind to keep staff happy.

Ah well. I headed home and had a pretty relaxing evening including taking a peek at some of the classic Belgian Grand Prix on the good old red button. I noted with interest that the 1979 extended highlights, which were from BBC2's "Grand Prix" at the time weren't commentated on by Murray Walker, but Simon Taylor instead. He did a good job but I can imagine what Murray would have been saying when Gilles Villeneuve ran out of fuel on the last lap: "But where IS Villeneuve? Other drivers have come past him. Has he run out of fuel?" Ah, the halcyon days of F1. And for the record, it was great seeing Mika Hakkinen's move on Michael Schumacher at Spa in 2000 again - classic.

It's always good to try and resolve issues anyway, and I did get a nice letter today from CrossCountry Trains, after I pointed out to them that their reservation screen system on their trains often fails, leaving people in a free for all rather than sit in their designated reserved seats. I mentioned to them that really it wasn't on and staff should have alternative plans in place, and indeed be able to still uphold the reservations even if the screen wasn't working. They were very apologetic indeed and were very fair in what they wrote too. Nice to see that they're doing something about it, and that they took my letter to them seriously. Shows what you can do when you write a good letter.

And talking of what I can do, looks like BT Infinity is rolling out into my area soon. It's basically BT's version of fibre optic broadband, and it looks like from the quick check I've done on their website, I could potentially have download speeds of 24MB and uploads of 10MB - not too bad at all considering the distance from the exchange. Only snag of course is that you'd be looking at £20 per month (and a stupid 40GB download limit) or £25 per month for unlimited downloads - and that's a fair bit dearer than the provider I'm with at the moment. However, nice to see that where I live is getting it pretty earlyish, makes a good change.

Tune of the day is the rather nice "Incomplete Without You" by Swing Out Sister. It's fast becoming one of my personal favourites. I guess the words mean a lot, and the title makes me think about the woman I love - lots, actually. When I played it the other day when she was here, she really liked it too, and it almost makes me realise just what I missed when I didn't buy the album it was on way back in 1992. At least I've rectified that now, especially as the album it's from is deleted and out of print!

Tuesday 24th August - Davina's Daft Dress

It was lovely to see The Love In My Heart tonight and we'd both had a long and tough day at work for various reasons. She chatted to me about her day whilst I was keeping one eye on the evening meal - peri peri chicken with some baby new potatoes and peas. It went down a treat and also showed that I am pretty determined to eat more healthily if possible. It was lovely as ever to see her and to spend some quality time together. We also checked up on how well our predictions were doing on the Everybody Votes Channel on the Wii, which we do for just a bit of fun now and then.

Then it was over to see Mum as I'd not been over for a while and it meant also that she and The Love could catch up. It was good to chat over coffee about all sorts and have a good time as well, although it looked like Mum was watching the final of this year's Big Brother, proclaiming that Josie must win. Considering I've managed to avoid the whole thing, it did shock me just how easy people get addicted to it (that includes Mum) and how Davina looked completely daft in her dress. Don't get me wrong, the colour and the style was fine, but it was a little too short for her really. Something a little longer (say, to the knee) and more elegant would have been good methinks.

Still, no surprise really that Josie did win and that set Mum off into raptures. Mind you, she then had the option of going back in for the Ultimate show against former contestants. And they looked a right rabble when they went in - and no one really that good apart from Brian Dowling who won the second one back in 2001. It just showed how trashy and Z-listy the whole thing has become now, which proved to me that I've not missed a thing by not watching it either. The sooner the whole reality TV thing dies a death, the better all round - especially considering the furore over the X Factor using autotune. Ha ha ha.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather lovely "Butterfly" by Swing Out Sister, because it reminds me of being relaxed and chilled out, but also seeing the band twice in the last couple of years and melting away nicely on their smooth vibes. It also goes to show too that it doesn't matter how many albums you make, you can still produce brilliant tracks and albums that make people think "wow, they're still going!" which certainly's been the impression I've had from people who have heard it. Just wish they'd tour again so we could go and see them. Yaay.

Monday 23rd August - Sheikh, Rattle and Roll

It was the first home game of the season for me today as a Manchester City fan, and myself and my friend who are season ticket holders were looking forward to it immensely. After all, England were a massive let down in the World Cup and so interest in that did go down a bit (although I did still watch a fair number of the games anyway) and with all the transfer activity that we were undertaking, and after the goalless draw at Tottenham, it was a case of seeing what we could do when it came to a potential rival for the top for visiting the City of Manchester Stadium.

We headed over to see The Love In My Heart beforehand for a cuppa and a chat, and it was lovely to see her as ever. She mentioned that there was plenty of noise near to the stadium because of the new City Square that had been put in and so suggested that we head there and check it out. In truth it wasn't that good: they had a long bar on one side for people to get together and have a beer before the game, and the other was more family orientated with food stalls serving posh burgers and stuff like that. None of it was cheap and for me that was a bit of a rip off even before the fans got in the ground.

We took our places in East Stand level two and excitement filled the air as we waited for the team to come out. City's owner Sheikh Mansour even made an appearance, his first ever at the stadium itself, along with chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak. The stage was set and the rain hammered it down and I felt those tinges of nerves hit me as kick off came. We wanted a win badly to make sure the season got off to a good start but could we overcome Liverpool, I wondered to myself. The fans sung Blue Moon, and off we went.

Within twelve minutes we got our answer. The ball went down the right with some neat play from Adam Johnson and then new signing James Milner, who excellently picked out Gareth Barry to slot it home past Pepe Reina for 1-0. The roof almost came off with the noise of the fans - it was a great start. Most of the first half we spent attacking and heading forward, although in parts we were letting Steven Gerrard have too much space and had he had his shooting boots on it could well have been 1-1 before the break. It was a warning and one we needed to keep an eye on as the half headed onwards. But 1-0 at half time? I'll take it.

Second half started brightly and soon we managed to get a second from a corner. Milner crossed it in, Micah Richards headed it goalwards and it was knocked in with the faintest of touches by Carlos Tévez, although I'm sure that Micah might want to claim that one on his own. Nothing more than we deserved and 2-0 it was. Then it was time for Joe Hart to show why he's City's and England's number 1, with a stunning double save denying the Liverpool attack. This sequence really did show his worth and the chant for him as "England's Number One" was very loud and proud.

A couple of minutes' later, that was proven to be a pivotal point in the game. City headed forward with Adam Johnson on a mazy run, and he was felled by Skrtel in the area (who should have had his second yellow and therefore a read for it really) and Tévez did the business as per usual from the spot. It was a consummate performance from us and 3-0 really did set the stall out nicely. Of course I might be winding up my manager at work tomorrow as he's a staunch Kopite and was saying that we'd get hammered. Oops!

As for tune of the day it was a fairly easy choice really, with Supra's version of "Blue Moon" belting out over the City tannoy before the start of play and really getting everyone well pumped up for the game. I'll have more of the same on Thursday for the Europa League and hopefully if we can perform like that during the season, there may be many happy moments ahead for the mighty Blues. I said Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone, without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own (cue crunching guitars from Supra).

Sunday 22nd August - Knight and Day and Late Afternoons

It was a nice feeling to be with The Love In My Heart, as ever, and after some breakfast and general pottering around the house, I put on the Wii and had a blast of Guitar Hero 5 on drums. I finally nailed Arctic Monkeys' "Brianstorm" with suitable aplomb on medium. I had done the song before but this time I just about hit enough toms to nail the bonus challenge for an extra star as well. It wasn't that easy to manage but I did get about half way through the song without missing a single note, which might have helped things somewhat. It looked a fair bit trickier to do on expert though from what I've seen on that Youtube.

I had downloaded a song yesterday with some Wii Points, namely Weezer's "Pork and Beans" which I really liked as a single last year (I bought the CD single because of the cover of Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?" on the B-side, I admit) and I thought it might be good fun to be like the band. In fact I got 100% on medium and so thought "hmm shall I try it on expert?" I did that and got around 94% and with five stars too. Woo, I felt pretty good to have done a drum song on that level, so tune of the day it most certainly is to me. It was good fun and I even did The Sword's "Maiden Mother and Crone" on medium with five stars too - I think I'm getting better..

After another nice little game of Scrabble with Beth Rowley's "Little Dreamer" CD providing perfect accompaniment and with me using the Q twice in two good scoring moves (QUOIT, blank used as U, Q on double letter for 46 and then RISQUE on triple word for 45) it was time to head into the city centre. We don't always head into there at weekends but we wanted to see the film Knight and Day and maybe head for something to eat afterwards. We did stop off at Debenhams on the way so I could peruse the men's clothing sale. There was one shirt I pretty much liked but they only had it in medium and it didn't fit me quite right, I'd have needed a large. Shame as I did like the look of it really.

Then it was on via a pit stop at Tesco for some soft drinks for the cinema and off to AMC to see Knight and Day. I thought it was better than I expected. I can see it dividing critics though because for all its action, there's also little lines of humour in between especially between Tom Cruise an Cameron Diaz. If you take it too seriously then you'll think it's got flaws everywhere when in fact it's actually explaining what's going on whilst there's the car chase including a Spanish bull fight with lots of bulls, plenty of shooting scenes in warehouses. It's a little throwaway in a way but still good harmless fun (well it was for us.)

We then headed to Pizza Express for something to eat, and using our two courses for £10 voucher that we'd printed off the other day (not daft us you know!) the only decision we had to make was whether to get the started and main or main and dessert. We both headed towards the former, and so it was first off time for the starter - I had the calamari which was lovely. We both also had one of their Romana pizzas for the main, which were pretty large and thin. I had the Al Tirolo one with mainly mushrooms and some ham, and that went down a treat. The Love had the Etna one which looked rather hot with the chillis and the hot sausage on there to say the least - no wonder she needed the water we'd ordered!

It was a little bit sad later when we headed to mine and then she had to head home - the day had gone by far too quick and it was a lovely day we'd spent together. I want more of that - I really do, and as long as we're happy together then that's what we'll have. I can't believe sometimes how lucky I am to have met her and how much we've been able to develop our relationshio together too. It makes me feel like this is what I've wanted all along and that it's taken time to get there, but be glad that I have.

Saturday 21st August - I Feel Good, Do Do Do Do De Do Do Do...

I headed over this morning to see my Mum's friend, as their cable modem had arrived and they'd managed to get the laptop talking to it via the wired connection, so that was good. Now we just needed to make sure that it was connected via wireless as well to the router. First thing I did was connect the router to the cable modem then the laptop to the router via wired. As the laptop was the one that registered the ethernet connection when it connected to the cable modem, it was a simple job to access the router and clone the MAC address of that ethernet adapter, and then badabing! It all started to work. Wireless was pretty faultless too and it was soon happy to snag everything it needed.

It was then on with the Wii as well and we soon had that connected to the router and it went and downloaded the latest Wii system software - and it went from 2.1 to 4.3 in one go and without any glitches either, so it soon meant that the SD card menu was there as well as the option to get BBC iPlayer and Internet Channel for free. We both did the Connection Ambassador thing too so it meant that both of us would get 500 Wii points to be used in the shop channel too - might as well get some form of freebies, I think. And why the hell not?

I headed to the local card shop near there to get a couple of birthday cards and that meant a bit of a trip saved by not heading in to the city centre, always good methinks. As it turned out there was also a rather nice little card which I got for The Love In My Heart, as I wanted to write a couple of nice things and hand it her later when she came over. I've been thinking a lot about how close I've felt to her lately and I think in a way that her being away has brought us closer together than ever - and that's such a lovely thing.

I then spent most of Saturday afternoon tuned in to the last ever Gilette Soccer Saturday on Freeview, as Sky Sports News goes off free to air as of Monday morning. It did feel a little sad actually, as I knew thet for years it was a useful and handy resource to tune in to the footy when City were away or not playing and I wanted to keep an eye on the other results. Hartlepool even obliged Jeff Stelling with a win, although not with James Brown scoring so no infamous James Brown doll out that plays "I Feel Good" like they used to have. And when that happens, it was usually a classic moment. Such as this one below:

Ah, you see. Just not the same without him is it? It'll be Score Interactive for me on BBCi next Saturday with Gabby Logan (Man City are away on the Sunday afternoon incidentally) and whilst I am sure they'll do their best to keep everyone up to date with the scores, it just won't feel the same. I wonder as well if that means that MJ Hibbett's song "Gilette Soccer Saturday" will be a snapshot of the time when Sky Sports News was on Freeview eh? Ah, the halcyon days metinks.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over. She loved the card (yaay, I knew it) and we had a nice three course meal for tea later on. I did mushroom soup to start with some gammon, chips and vegetables for main and then a little mini tiramisu each for dessert. I indulged her and allowed her to watch X Factor whilst I made the food, and I wasn't that meithered about it (as I never am, can't stand it) but I know she was intrigued to see how bad some of the contestants are - and belive me they were really bad to say the least, even from hearing the telly in the background from the sanctuary of the kitchen.

It was then time for a relaxing game of Scrabble or two and I put on some nice background tunes, first of all was Swing Out Sister's third album "Get In Touch With Yourself", mainly so I could play her "Incomplete Without You" (make it tune of the day) and she could then hear why I loved the song so much. We had a couple of good games and I even put the Unthanks' album on as well. She wasn't that keen on it and said some of it was a little depressing. What, even the cutesy "Betsy Bell" at the end, I wondered? But hey, each to their own and we can't all like the same can we now? Life is good and I feel good, do do do de do do do... almost like James Brown!

Friday 20th August - A Pizza The Action

It was a fairly busy day for me today as I was checking over the PCs and the equipment that's used for the start of the year - mainly the card printers and the software that's used so that it all works properly. The PC itself isn't always switched on all year so I got them out of storage and put them on, and made sure that they were all up to date with the network settings and indeed any Windows Updates (there were plenty of those too) as well as update some other bits of software too, then test the printer and make sure it printed the cards correctly (including a magnetic stripe which is encoded). It worked pretty well overall and so I was pleased.

I joined a few of my colleagues in Odder for lunch, as it's not that far from work either. I noticed as my friend had that they had an offer of a 10" pizza with a beer for a fiver, which sounded good, or the pizza on its own for £3.99. I elected for a chicken and mushroom one, but the beer that you got with it for a fiver in all was the Carlsberg - ugh. I was going to have the cask Copper Dragon but that had run out (meh) and so it was a case of seeing what bottles that they had - and surprisingly, they had Goliath! That was fine, but almost £4 for a bottle wasn't. A message to the management of Odd and Odder: don't charge so much for your drinks and you might find more people will actually visit!

Anyway with lunch consumed I headed back to the office and finished off the PC maintenance from this morning and pretty much have it all sorted out. It was good to be sure in advance that everything was working as intended and meant less hassle hopefully on the day - especially if a machine was downloading 80 Windows Updates or so - didn't want that really. I did manage as well to see the Man City winner against Timisoara from last night when I got home too - it had been posted on the City website so I took some time out to catch that.

Tune of the day is Swing Out Sister's "Incomplete Without You" as that's pretty much my feelings for The Love In My Heart in a nutshell. My life does feel incomplete without her, not sad or anything like that, but it just feels all there when I know she's with me and we're happy together. It's also the stand out track from SOS's third release "Get In Touch With Yourself" as well and I really wish they'd play it live more often. I love it when Corrine sings out "Can't stop thinking about you baby" as I know how that feels deep down. Yaay Corinne and yaay the band!

Thursday 19th August - Cuddling Up To Mistresses

I felt rather productive today, and even more so when I finally managed to nail a problem with one of our large format printers that had been bugging us for some time. The hard disk died in the printer a few weeks back and since then anything long and with dimensions right to the edge of an image was cutting off for some strange reason a few millimetres to the left and top. It did feel a little frustrating especially as we had the engineer also calibrating the printer for us to test it. However, not to be deterred, I found a solution and it was simple in the end.

The printer does HP/GL2 settings, which is the language of the driver that has to be used, and in there there's two options to shift the margins, and one of them actually shifts it if it needs an outer white edge to fully print properly. Once this was enabled, we tested it with an old and new driver, and they both played ball properly, meaning much less work for us to do now. We can confidently be certain that it'll work spot on with everything and I even did some test printouts with Adobe Photoshop CS5 and they all seemed to be fine as well - so that's good.

I got home and managed to get plenty of ironing done and managed to get the house cleaned up nicely before the lovely arrival of The Flowers In My Garden, and it looked like it was hammering it down as well outside so she was quick to get in with the brolly and relax. I made us both a coffee and we had plenty to talk about over the last couple of days since we saw each other, and I indulged her a little bit with Emmerdale whilst I made the tea - I had some fresh pasta with mushrooms and some napoletana sauce to go with it, so nice and quick and easy for us to scoff the tea with.

We then had a game of Scrabble (first one in ages) whilst listening to the Ministry of Sound "Electronic 80s" compilation as well, which meant plenty of classic 80s songs including Soft Cell's full extended 12" remix of "Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go?" which has to be tune of the day, notably as Tainted Love is one of The Flowers' all time favourite songs of all time. We did pretty well on the old Scrabble board and we put together some useful moves, my best one being SEXIST on triple word for 39 points, which was nice. Just a shame I had to play SEX first and then add the other three letters, as the X would have been on double letter otherwise and that'd have been 63 points instead. Ah well.

We then snuggled on the sofa and watched the latest episode of Mistresses on BBC One. I had watched a fair bit of the first series back in the day but series two was always on at a time which clashed with other things, and so when The Flowers revealed she'd watched it last week and loved it, we couldn't resist. It was good though to see that character development was still very much in place and that Orla Brady who plays Siobhan is looking as lovely as ever (hard to believe that she's the oldest in age of the four actresses, you wouldn't know that!). It certainly ended on a bit of a cliff hanger and iPlayer might be required next week as I'll be watching City and miss the last episode ever.

It always feels nice to curl up together on the sofa actually, it has that warm glow around you when you do and it's moments like that which show me what love is about more than anything - it's not just about the passion that smoulders or the time you spend out and be there in front of the world holding hands, but also the more softer and intimate moments where it's just the two of you together feeling close. I am quite a touchy feely person at heart but even so, being close like that does make me feel rather special to say the least..

Wednesday 18th August - NT Hell

I went over to see one of my Mum's friends tonight, as she and her daughters were having a problem getting online and had spoken to me about it not too long ago. I had arranged to head over there and see what I could do to try and sort the problem out and help them all get back online. I don't mind really - it's nice to help people out that you've known for a long time and that always helps you when you already get on with them well, makes life easier all round.

Before that I had to go to a meeting at another campus and chat to some of my colleagues about some forthcoming things happening and try and help thrash out a plan of action. It was pretty clear to me that we were able to at least have some common ground as to what we need to do, and also what is going right and going wrong. I'd already submitted an email to the meeting group beforehand to say what I'd found out and a fair bit of that formed a basis for the meeting, so that felt good. It did drag on till my normal time to head home though, but thankfully there's a direct bus from that campus to home, so that worked out okay.

I got home, dropped off anything I needed to, and headed out to see if I could sort out the Internet problem as mentioned above. As they were on cable with Virgin Media I already suggested connecting their PC or laptop direct to the cable modem via a network cable and see if they could get on that way. I had a go myself when I got there and it did seem to connect, albeit very very slowly. I then hooked up their Belkin cable router back in to the equation and even though I'd correctly done the MAC address cloning, and the router was saying "connected", it just wasn't allowing any traffic - in fact it wasn't assigning a correct DHCP address either. Hmmm.

As it turned out after a bit more checking, it was the cable modem at fault that clearly couldn't hack what was going on even connected to the laptop directly. Anyway, I noticed that it was a very old NTL branded one and thought "hmmmm that's a tad old" and considering that they're on the M broadband package they should get a much better speed than this. We ended up calling Virgin Media's support, which went to a call centre somewhere not in the UK, and after being cut off first time we managed to do some testing second time around, which proved that the cable modem wasn't fit for purpose anymore. Fair play to them though: they said they'd have one despatched as soon as possible.

With that done and me headed safely home, I had the chance to relax and listen to some music before I headed to bed. It was nice to have something relatively chilled out on to unwind after a long day, and what better than some lovely ambience that is Swing Out Sister's Theme (from "It's Better To Travel")? It's an instrumental at the end of their debut album that really sets the way for their future soundtrack work occasionally. It's a lovely piece and really ends their excellent opening album on the right side of relaxed. Tune of the day without a shadow of a doubt really.

Tuesday 17th August - Chop Chop!

It was a really lovely thing to be able to meet up with The Flowers In My Garden after work tonight, and with a couple of our friends too. It sounds daft but I do miss her lots when we're not together, primarily because I know that when we are together we have a lovely time and make the most of the time we have, but also because it's that feeling you get inside when you're with someone. Well, I get it anyway. We'd arranged to head up to Ra!n Bar because it's a similar distance from each of our workplaces and we could head in there for a drink. I got there seconds before her so there was a nice glass of wine for her waiting as I got served.

Soon our friends came as well and conversation flowed, and we had plenty to catch up on, including all the recent holidays that we had been on, and of course I had noted our friends' trip to Lyme Park and Dunham Massey yesterday so it was nice to see that they'd enjoyed themselves. We both like it there too so it was good to see what had changed since we last visited, and they'd been around the house in Lyme Hall too and enjoyed the library like we did. Soon that very nice pint of Brewer's Dark that I'd had was going till I had none left, and we decided then to head onwards to get something for tea.

Our friend had suggested Sam's Chop House, just off Cross Street, and that turned out to be an inspired move. You could have a two course menu for £11.95 and three courses for £13.95, and the selections were good. I decided to have main and dessert as the starters weren't my thing, but would be for others I know. The Flowers had the Onion soup and said that it was the best of its type she'd ever had, even being better than the one we had in the Latin Quarter in Paris, which said a lot to me. I had their steak and kidney pudding with mash for main, and it was stunning. It was full of steak from top to toe, the pudding on the outside wasn't too stodgy at all and the mash that came with it was spot on. It was lovely and morish.

I finished off with a lovely dessert of lemon posset (which we jokingly called lemon possum) and that was lovely too - a nice texture of lemony mousse whipped up with some home made shortbread biscuits - perfectly light after the main meal I had. It definitely was excellent food all round and I really enjoyed the meal I had - and The Flowers' bacon chop looked rather gorgeous too - almost wish I could have had that was well but then I'd have been a right greedy pig, methinks!

After this it was a nice walk on to Odd in the Northern Quarter, where amazingly there was even a cask beer on a proper cask - so that was good. Mind you, I do think like several bars in the Northern Quarter they are starting to charge a fair bit too much for drinks. £3.10 for a pint is a bit steep and some of the real ale bottles that they have are approaching the £4 mark - and when you consider they're three for £4 in some supermarkets, you have to wonder just how much profit is being made on the side. Being apparently trendy should not come at the expensive prices either - we're not in that London you know! It was a lovely night all round and good to see everyone, and definitely a great meal too - that's the sort of thing we want.

Tune of the day meanwhile is something I listened to when I got home later: "Low Happening" by Howling Bells. I still love this song off their debut album, it has a real pop indie rock quality to it but also has plenty of angst and anger in there. It also reminds me of seeing the band live at Academy 3 some time ago with plenty of people bounding around to the chorus and just enjoying themselves. And sometimes gigs should be just like that in my view.

Monday 16th August - Coneheads

After a long day at the office, which included spending most of the day working out why Adobe Creative Suite 5 Design Standard wouldn't work with a restricted mandatory profiile Windows XP user (the solution is too long to detail but I might raise it in one of the Adobe forums for reference) and helping my colleague out with that, and felt pretty pleased that I've come up with a solution to the issue, it was nice to head home and take things relatively a bit easier after a lovely weekend and quality time spent.

I ended up seeing most of a documentary I'd missed on BBC3 at the back end of last week on good old iPlayer, which was about a 14 year old from the Isle of Man who had become pretty well known in Japan after a dance to a song "Danjo" and was signed up to become an anime-like real life face and figure, and end up singing and dancing her way into Japanese hearts, even having a three piece band with her at the front. It seemed somewhat surreal that all the attention was on her, but it also showed just how having a lot of views on Youtube can get attention too. Her parents seemed to be okay with it and one of them was always with her in Japan, mainly to check that any images of her weren't going to have plenty of Japanese men gawping too much.

I then saw Dragon's Den on BBC2, and it was intriguing for me to see that one of the items which actually got funded was "Funky Moves", which basically were traffic-style cones but with lights and sounds on them, and you could press them in sequence like the old game Simon to memorise patterns and sounds. It looked good for education but you'd like to think that the technology has moved on a little bit since then. Mind you, I guess that Peter and Theo saw some adaptability in that and that's why they were interested and offered the cash. Didn't seem too impressed with how much money had been spent already on it mind you...

Tune of the day in the meantime has to be Led Zeppelin's classic "Black Dog" from their untitled fourth album (I'm not even going into that debate as to what to call it, if the band call it "the fourth album" then so shall I) which gave me the perfect backing whilst having to do the boring domestic chores during the evening. It also is a classic staple of any rock fan's diet, and the perfect opener to the album. It has crunching guitar riffs throughout, and plenty of changes of pace and tack throughout too. And not least the inspiration for the George Dawes "he's a baby, he's a baby" bit on the older series of Shooting Stars, no less.

Sunday 15th August - Lazy Sunday Afternoon

We woke up in the lovely hotel room and found it hard to get up. Not because we're lazy, but because we just felt right at home in the surroundings and would happily stay another day or two if we could. It was nice to look out of the window and see the view and also to just feel like we were in a special place. As we'd got a lovely breakfast to look forward to in the hotel, we got up and got ready and soon were in their restaurant consuming a lovely cooked breakfast, with coffee, fresh orange juice, cereal, toast, and then whatever we wanted cooked - so I had scrambled egg with sausage, black pudding, bacon and mushroom. It did the job rather well and we both felt like we were well fed for the day.

It was soon time to leave and we didn't want to - but we filled out the comment slip and gave praise for the lovely reception manager, and it was soon time to head home on the train direct to Manchester. The train arrived into Birmingham New Street a few minutes late, and indeed arrived at another platform from what was scheduled so everyone had to dash over, but we got there and got on, and soon were heading back through Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent and Macclesfield back to Manchester. It was then the bus back to my place so we could have a relaxing afternoon.

And that's what we did. The weather was lovely so we sat in the back garden for a while and then watched the episode of Coast on iPlayer on the Wii that I'd mentioned she missed when she was away. As it mentioned places we'd been to in Cornwall I figured she'd be interested and of course seeing the likes of Gorran Haven, Newlyn and the Minack Theatre reminded us of our trips down there and how much we enjoyed them. Whilst I am at it, I'll give tune of the day to the theme from Coast, as composed by Alan Parker and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. It really does invoke that feeling of heading to the seaside.

We also had some tea later on in the evening, and it was nice for us both to share a lovely meal together with Countryfile on in the background which we both like. We had chicken wrapped in bacon with some charlotte potatoes, carrots, broccoli, peas and gravy, and that went down very nicely. It was good to have a nice meal before she had to head home, and as sad as I felt that she was heading home, I knew that we'd had a lovely weekend together and has only made our relationship stronger.

Saturday 14th August - Luck and Romance All In One

Today was to be a rather nice and special day for myself and The Flowers In My Garden, as I had planned a little surprise trip away for us both. I had missed her a heck of lot when she was away with the family, and I said before she went that we could go away for the Saturday night somewhere nice and we'd have a bit of time together to have some quality time to catch up and also spend time alone away from everyone. Of course she was delighted that I'd thought of the idea and that we'd be able to dress up in the evening for a night too - I had suggested she bring something lovely with her.

Just before we set off from mine I accidentally let slip where we were heading, because I was wittering on about possibly picking up a birthday present whilst I was there - and revealed it to be Birmingham. Ah, silly me. Anyway, I then showed her the booking for the hotel we were staying at, and she was rather happy - the one that we stayed at a couple of years back for a weekend and took in some of the local sights as well as Stratford-upon-Avon. I knew she loved it and knew too that it was a perfect base for a nice bit of shopping and a meal out at night. Had we been able to book a longer weekend I'd have had more stuff planned this time - but it was the time together that was most important.

Anyway, off we set to Piccadilly station to head on the train. Now, one top little tip for you: if part of your journey down there is by Virgin Trains, you can get much cheaper tickets than if you go direct with Crosscountry. Strange, I know, but true. I had done this for the journey there primarily to have increased the suspense (oops) but also to keep the costs down for everyone. As it turned out this proved to be a good move. We found our seats for the Virgin part of the leg from Manchester to Stoke-on-Trent, and it was the two seats close by where the train manager's office is. One of her staff needed to use the desk space where our seats were, so the manager said "my colleague needs to use that space for work, so would it be okay if we upgraded you to first class? Anywhere in Coach G would be fine." Of course we would be, so off we went!

As the train was heading off, we also spotted Antony Cotton (who plays Shaun in Coronation Street) making his way to the same carriage, so that was a bit of a celeb spot along the way. And before we got to Stoke, we'd had a lovely coffee, some biscuits and some mineral water to take with us. So that worked out rather well didn't it? We didn't have to wait long before the Cross Country train popped up and we were on the journey to Birmingham New Street. The train was busy with Stoke City fans on their way to Wolverhampton to play Wolves away, so we were glad of our reserved seats let me tell you. Soon we were in Birmingham.

We checked in to the hotel and the reception manager there actually recognised us from two years ago, which was a rather lovely thing. She asked us how we were and commented on The Flowers' lovely suntan, and had a nice little chat before she said "I'll see if this room's available for you". It was, and she gave us the keys to the room and wished us well for our stay. What I didn't realise till we got the room was that she'd only and gone and put us in one of the suite rooms. Oh my! It was a bit posh to say the least. It had a separate sitting room with sofa and TV with fridge and tea/coffee stuff in there, and then the main bedroom with a massive bed, wardrobes, iron and ironing board, and a lovely en-suite bathroom with power shower and lovely tiling to boot. We felt rather happy - that and the train journey added to the special feeling for the day.

Once we'd unpacked everything we decided to head for a nice walk around the shops and then up by the canalside. We headed into the Bull Ring, had a good look around a fair few of the shops there and got some ideas as to what we could buy next either clothes-wise or leisure wise (I think The Flowers has her eye on some novels by Mike Gayle, particularly as they mention Manchester in them). We also noted that the Birmingham in Bloom thing was on like our last Summer visit and noted a handbag made of tressle above some flowers and later on in New Street a full lip gloss, make up compact and mascara kit with flora, which was pretty well designed.

We walked up along New Street, had a quick stop in Swordfish Records which was a really good record shop if you want to venture slightly off that street, and also then headed over the bridge and along Centenary Square to see the work being done on the new City Library. They had a thing on the construction fencing where you could get your picture taken and submit it to be one of the new faces of the City Library - with the website submission explaining why you'd want to do so. We both had a go of that and as we walked along Broad Street towards the canalside, the rain started a little bit - so off to the pub, where a pint of Brakspear was a mere £1.50. Yes, £1.50 for cask ale. Ace or what?

After the rain died down we walked back along Broad Street so I could find the Murray Walker star on Birmingham's Walk of Stars, as I'd missed it last time I came along. That was good, and we then headed to Gas Street and the canal, walking past the tour boats and over the bridge to The Mailbox, which was a hive of activity canalside, and then through there back towards the hotel. The canal looked like it'd been cleaned up a bit and the water certainly looked less murky, with plenty of canal boats using it to head along, so that was good to see. It felt very nice indeed to be doing that, and a good walk meant that we had used up a fair bit of energy to make us ready for dinner later on.

We got showered and changed and The Flowers looked fabulous in her black dress with matching bag and heels, and I was so happy. I wore my nice trousers and the shirt that she'd got me one Christmas, and I felt pretty good. We headed out and decided to see if there was any spots at a nice Italian restaurant that we'd spotted along the way - and when we got there, a table for the two of us was available. We had a very nice time in San Carlo, and I'd recommend it to anyone (and as it turns out there's also one in Manchester). The food was gorgeous, the ambience was right and the prices weren't that expensive either - especially considering the clientele, which were in photographs all over the place, the likes of Tom Jones, Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roberto Mancini, Sven-Göran Eriksson, and so on.

I had some garlic mushrooms in a light filo pastry parcel to start, and it was gorgeously presented. The Flowers had the pate and that had plenty of flavour as well as having some fresh cranberries to go with it too - which was a nice touch. She had the spaghetti carbonara for main, and I had the penne pasta with chicken and prawns in a cream sauce. There was no skimping on the amount of chicken or prawns that you got, and certainly made me feel very pleased inside with a hearty main meal. I had the creme brulee for dessert, which was topped by some fresh raspberries, and after trying a bit The Flowers said that was the best creme brulee she'd ever tasted (which was hard to top her previous favourite!). It was a really nice meal and as the Birmingham one was the original San Carlo, I felt it nice to go to the original. The staff were all native Italians, even singing Happy Birthday opera-style to anyone celebrating, and it made for a lovely time.

The rain was attempting to creep in but we had a plan - nearby was Bacchus, a bar which is actually under New Street and close to where we were staying. Certainly we'd never seen a place like it - the walls had images of ancient myths and gods, even some statues and sculptures with the walls in decor, and pots of flowers everywhere. It was a step back in time but a worthwhile one, as it had plenty of cask beer, including Fraoch on cask. Oh wow! I've never ever seen this gorgeous beer on cask ever, so of course, I had to have a pint - been rude not to to be honest. The Flowers had some nice wine and we chatted about all sorts until the time sped by without us realising it, so we headed back to the hotel to cosy up for the night, but a really lovely day all round.

Tune of the day is "Hand In Glove" by The Smiths, partly because The Flowers asked me that if I could have any band playing on a special birthday, who would it be? I answered The Smiths because I'd never seen them live and it would be great to see them back together for one final gig, and especially if I happened to be there. I then made me think of the classic above because of the line "this love's not like any other love, this one is different - because it's us!" and that's exactly how I feel at the moment. To be able to treat her right and to have the good luck of the train and room upgrade just made the day even nicer. Hurrah!

Friday 13th August - Not So Unlucky!

It was the day traditionally that people call the unluckiest, and I must admit I do normally have some fear around the 13th anyway. But it worked out well for several reasons. The first was that it was pay day at work today, so it meant that all of us could head out to lunch at Buffet City to celebrate my colleague's birthday. We'd not been in there for ages, and thankfully everything was just as good as it normally is. Bearing in mind the diet I stuck to less food, so a little soup to start, then some chicken and mushroom along with beef in black bean on a bed of yeung chow fried rice, and a small bowl of vanilla ice cream to finish. I ate less but still felt full so that was good.

The second was that on the way home I headed to Tesco and got almost all of my food shopping, but couldn't get one item (which my local one never has anyway) so it was off down the road to Asda later. I wandered around the aisles and spotted the Birds Eye steam fresh veg packs (handy they are because if you want a portion of veg for one, it's easy to sort out instead of wasting food) and I was a little gutted because they didn't have the broccoli, peas and carrots one that myself and The Love In My Heart both like. I checked the other shelf and I spotted three packs near the back (looked like it was the last three) and at three for £3, I was straight there. That was lucky wasn't it?

The third actually was the Thunderball draw tonight. I don't normally do the Thunderball on the Friday night, but the ticket I'd got earlier in the day had entered me for the Friday and Saturday draws, so I thought "may as well see if I win". And lo and behold, two numbers and the thunderball came out, meaning I'd won! Fancy that - winning something on this day of all days. I won't cash it till Sunday just in case I happen to win on Saturday as well (pretty unlikely but, you know) but nonetheless that was pretty good. Two numbers in the main draw were decent enough but I knew they'd have counted for nothing unless I had the thunderball too. Now why can't I get the six numbers tomorrow night?

As I was in Asda, I was really surprised that the in-store sound system was playing decent music. And not just anything either - Ben's Brother, no less! And the single "Stuttering (Kiss Me Again)" too, which ended up being on the re-release version of their first album. Nonetheless it was nice to walk along the aisles and actually hum the song, because I know it. Who'd have thought it eh? A supermarket playing a pretty good song. Tune of the day for me that - just made me feel lucky. Well, do I, punk?

Thursday 12th August - Timi-Price-Soara

At one stage today I was having a think about possibly heading to Romania next Thursday to see Manchester City away there in the first leg of the Europa League qualification match. The tickets were a mere £5 and although there were a limited number available, I thought that getting one could be doable. However, I decided to abandon all ideas when I worked out the flights to get there. Despite Timisoara being the third largest city and third busiest airport in Romania, it turns out that the flights there and back have bumped up a fair chunk in price. If I wanted to fly from Manchester, it's in effect a change at Dusseldorf, and it's a mere £542 with not many seats left.

The other option is to fly there direct from Luton with Wizzair, but that means staying an extra day and flying back on the Saturday. The flights currently would be £340 return, but then of course there's the cost of getting to Luton in the first place and back. and seeing as the flight from Luton is 0810, you'd have to go the night before and stay overnight in Luton as well, thus increasing the cost. Darn, why couldn't we have had someone a bit easier to get to? Like Motherwell, I could have taken the train to that one!

Anyway, one thing is for sure: I do know that I'll be going to the home second leg and seeing if we can qualify for the group stages, which would mean at least three more home games in Europe and a run up to December, so that would be good. I think that having a good run in Europe is pretty vital for us this season, especially as there's so many players in the squad that have come for money instead of necessarily glory and how that'll affect the balance of the team is yet to be seen. I'm just a bit concerned for us that we're ditching some of our youngsters off far too quickly...

One thing I did manage to resolve today was a potential issue with Photoshop CS5 and some of the older PCs that we're installing it on as part of our student build. Occasionally when you created a new image, Photoshop would just crash and exit, and sometimes even if you closed Photoshop it did the same thing. Knowing that the PCs were a little on the old side, I soon worked out that the onboard graphics did not support OpenGL (no surprise there then) and that even though Photoshop itself had turned off any OpenGL features in its product, it was still doing some form of graphics detection when it fired up.

What I then found was that you could set a registry key for the user which basically tells Photoshop not even to attempt to bother to use OpenGL or detect it whatsoever. Of course as the registry key is in CURRENT_USER, this effectively means that you either have to ensure all users get this key when they use the program, or if using Zenworks, make sure the registry key is brought down when running the application (which is really easy to do). In case you're interested, here's the key:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Adobe\Photoshop\12.0]
"DisallowOpenGLWindows"=dword:00000001

Copy and paste that lot into Wordpad, save it as Photoshop_GLFix.reg, and merge it in to the registry. Now see what happens. When we tried it, it was much much more stable and looks like it hadn't crashed once during out testing afterwards. It proves something to me anyway, in that sometimes Adobe just don't have the programming talent to make their software always so stable. Not everyone can afford the most uber-most graphics card or system whatsoever and shouldn't feel the need to upgrade every five minutes. Rant over.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "I Hope You Know" by The Floe, on the day that they announced that two of the band are leaving to pastures now. Thankfully lead singer Sarah is staying, which is one positive. But let's celebrate the foursome's excellent album and indeed this track - it's a real grower and I have to say that it really does make you sit up and listen. It's got all the hallmarks of a great pop song without the need to mention the words "mother" "bitchin" and "ho" every minute or so, and for that we should all be thankful.

Wednesday 11th August - Welcome Back, My Love!

It was a rather emotional day in the Towers today. I knew that The Love In My Heart was returning home from her family holiday and that it was two weeks of an enjoyable time for her, even though I knew that we'd both be missing each other a lot. I've tried not to be too emotional and over the top in the diary primarily because I didn't want to be going on and on about it to you readers who would probably want to throw up at any overly lovey dovey phrases. But I do know this: I've missed her much more than I ever expected to, and that proves to me how much I feel for her inside (if I ever needed to know.)

So when she arrived here tonight it was a case of having plenty of hugs and cuddles and kisses, and catching up with each other as to what we'd been doing and how the time had passed. I showed her pictures from the weekend I had in the Lakes and she really liked the self-timer shot I did of the four of us in Bowness-on-Windermere. She showed me the pictures from her holiday too, and it was nice to see that not only had she used the self-timer quite a bit too, but managed to get some really good shots of their time away. And oh yes, she had caught the sun and with it a really lovely tanned body as well (it was rather hot where she went.)

I made us some tea and it was nice to be able to have a sit down meal together with plenty of chat as well, so that was really lovely. I didn't do anything too over the top but it was really nice, and I think getting the stonebaked garlic bread to go with it was the right thing to do, just meant that we ate well. I just felt so pleased and happy for her to be back and the night went too quickly before she had to head home. It made me feel all sad when she had to go, but at the same time I felt so happy that she was back and that we're going to spend plenty of more time together - and that pleases me no end.

And today was also a pretty important day too - I've finished my 365create project! I started it off this time last year with the brief from one of my good Flickr contacts to do something creative every day for a year, whether that be photography, poetry, artwork, stuff like that. It's been a good creative outlet for me to do the odd bit of spontaneous poetry as well as chart some images over time, and of course even try things like audio poetry, video of me playing Guitar Hero (hence being creative) and other things. It's sad that it's all over but in a way also gives me some time to think about a possible creative project for 2011..

Tune of the day was something I listened to last thing before I head to bed tonight, and what certainly sums up my feelings for The Love In My Heart as well - it's "La La Love You" by the Pixies. It's beautifully simple and one of the few songs that David Lovering the drummer gets to do lead vocals on. The main line is this: "All I'm saying, pretty baby, la la love you, don't mean maybe" with a beautifully lilting guitar hook as well. Sometimes the simplest things in music are the nicest, and this is one of them.

Tuesday 10th August - The Sky Is No Longer On

It's another long day at the office today. Mind you, on the one hand it was also good as I finally completed a mere 180GB backup from one hard drive to another one. The source drive was starting to develop bad sectors and as you can imagine I really didn't want the user to lose data, not that much anyway. As it turned out there was one folder with one or two files that failed to copy, but the remainder seemed to be pretty much fine. I did know however that it'd only be a matter of time before the old drive might go, so it was good to get it all sorted out.

I got home after a quick detour to the Academy box office, now open again after its summer break. I needed to sort out something for me and my friend and as usual the box office staff were their wonderfully helpful selves. It makes me wonder why all box offices aren't as ace. The Lowry one comes a close second in my view - the staff there are always really warm and friendly too, especially if you go there in person and chat to them. In a day when there's endless online ripoff booking fees and call centres, sometimes the old fashioned side of me just wants to talk to a real person to get things done.

I got home and on schedule as agreed when I terminated my contract with Sky, there's now no Sky channels coming in to the Towers. On the one hand it's a little sad, as it's nice to have been able to watch the football and have the folks around to see City and see how we do when it's a far away game. However, I can't justify spending what would be £54 a month on the likes of that and in HD when there's other things I could theoretically be doing with the money. The Smile On My Face has managed well since she decided to up ship and leave, so why can't I?

A quick flick through the channels on the Sky HD box shows that it now basically acts like a Freesat HD box. The upshot is that I do get BBC HD, ITV HD, Channel 4 HD and Five HD for free, so that's not too bad (and also the useless Luxe HD too, but the less said the better). You still get all the CBS channels, some of the music channels like The Vault and Scuzz, and also some of the film channels such as Film4, True Movies and Movies4Men (not that the latter has anything good on, but you know..). I counted around 100 plus channels of TV, so not too bad I guess. Of course I can't record anything on it (guess what, you need a subscription even to activate the Sky+ feature) but it'll do me for now till I decide which way I want to go in future. I guess if Sky tempt me back with an offer of much cheapness and free HD and not the £10 charge, I've got an option... Let's just see how long they take before meithering me to take them back.

I do take issue with Sky though in that even though they've had to release some of the Sky Sports channels to other providers, they're making it as difficult as possible to be supported on certain terrestrial platforms. As an example, Top Up TV's service offers ESPN and you can get it via a CAM slotted into the card slot at the back of almost all LCD televisions. Sky apparently won't let Top Up use the same simple system because they don't think it's encrypted enough, so you have to buy a newer Freeview+ recorder box, supplied by Top Up, with added encryption. There's many people who have recorders already, why they need to buy another one or have to bundle one in is beyond me. Oh,and to rub it in, such services can only get Sky Sports 1 and 2, so what do Sky do? Put lots of games on Sky Sports 3 and 4.

Then of course there's the great debacle about them taking Sky Sports News off Freeview as well. For many people who can't afford the expense of Sky, being able to tune in to the likes of Jeff Stelling and co on a Saturday afternoon is a guilty pleasure that they can at least enjoy at home and be tortured by their team losing or James Brown scoring for Hartlepool and watching Jeff with the infamous doll. Now that'll soon go (August 23rd to be precise) and so it'll be the only choice of Score Interactive, which let's be honest just isn't as good. All this I think is deliberate to try and get people to move to Sky because they have no other choice. Meh. I hope the viewing figures slump for Soccer Saturday and then they might realise the gross mistake they've made...

Anyway, on to something a bit less serious. The sun in the evening's been rather bright so it's meant I've sat outside in the back and relaxed a bit with the hi fi system belting out some top tunes, as it should. I went back in time again and discovered another vastly under-rated band, Done Lying Down. I bet there's plenty of you who haven't heard of them, but they were around in the mid 1990s doing songs which were a cross between punk and the Pixies, although more tuneful than both. I quite liked them and I always appreciated that their playing was pretty tight too. To this end, "Trenchmouth" which is the climax of three songs segued into one another, needs to be tune of the day as it has a great chugging bass line with plenty of anger and heartfelt vocals in one. And a killer chorus, which is what every good song does need.

Monday 9th August - Oh My Golly!

After a long day at the office where I managed to resolve various problems and also find out some new ones along the way (such as one of the systems due to be up tomorrow not playing ball whatsoever) it was a quick jaunt into the city centre for a little bit of shopping. I wanted to get a birthday card for my colleague's birthday tomorrow, and also was after a birthday present for my friend which I'd hoped to get from one of the music shops. Of course, buying music on DVD or Blu-ray is a bit more restricted now in Manchester simply because there isn't that much choice of shops, it's basically HMV, Fopp (owned by HMV anyway) or not much else.

I did traipse around in the vain hope of finding what I was after but no luck whatsoever. I even went into Vinyl Exchange to see if they had the item but no joy there, although there were plenty of CDs which did tempt me whilst I was around in there - so I had to be on best behaviour and not get anything. Part of me really wanted to get some Cabaret Voltaire whilst I was in there though. Still, no luck, and so managed to source what I was after online later on, which maybe I should have done in the first place.

What is clear to me though having been into the large Manchester branch of HMV is that they're concentrating much less on music these days, and that does worry me somewhat. The ground floor now seems to be full of sale offers, fashion items, books and then classical music shoved at the back. The first floor is now blu-ray, DVD and then music poked near the back with far less CDs than they used to have. Is it any wonder that people resort to online shopping when they can't just walk in to a record shop and pick up the CD that they want? Not everyone wants to go down the download route and would much rather listen to music on proper hi-fi equipment. I love blasting out a good CD now and then.

In fact I got into slight retro mode when I got home, after I'd nailed six songs on the bounce in Guitar Hero World Tour, including the two Jimi Hendrix ones, and played some Pixies. Even now their legacy and back catalogue is very impressive indeed, and for someone like me it was the perfect time when I was younger to get into them in a big way. Anyway, one of the things I remember about the "Surfer Rosa" album was that it was short sharp stuff all the way through (apart from "Vamos") and there were some little gems such as "Oh My Golly". Well, imagine when I ended up finding the below. It's Tenacious D with Black Francis doing said tune, and Jack Black even does the "You ****ing die" track (which is after this and before Vamos on the album incidentally) as well which is top stuff. Tune of the day - no question.

It almost makes me want to play the whole back catalogue now on CD actually. Maybe I'll have to start with "Doolittle" now I've listened to "Surfer Rosa" (which on CD has their "Come On Pilgrim" mini album at the end) and work through that way in chronological order. That won't be a pain as I still adore "Doolittle" tons, it's one of those albums that once you listen to it doesn't leave you very quickly either. Ah, the days of screaming out the words to "Debaser" in an indie night, oh how I miss them and oh how the uneducated masses have no idea that bands like the Pixies would struggle to make the top 40 then despite tons of critical acclaim.

Sunday 8th August - I Hate It When Things End

After a good night's sleep we all headed up and soon had a rather nice breakfast of croissant and pain au chocolat, which really did fill the hole nicely for us all. It was good that our friend was really accommodating and an excellent host too, and if that kept the cost down then all well and good for us I reckon. I certainly thought so, and we spent a bit of time in the morning watching the "Synth Britannia" documentary on how synth music evolved in the UK, and iPlayer on the Wii did an excellent job of showing that to its potential. There were plenty of ace tunes on it too, and if I had to pick one (and it was difficult) then John Foxx's "Underpass" would be mine, tune of the day right there. It's a bit under-rated if you ask me.

After a bit more chatter and some giggling at Harry Enfield clips on Youtube (notably the 1920s style informercial "Women: Know Your Limits" one) it was then time to say goodbyes as we headed off (well for one of us heading back to South Shields at least). We did have an idea for a weekend up in the North East though, and so we may be looking at early October for that. I hope that comes off as it'll be an excellent thing to happen, and of course will also mean that we get to have more quality time - be the third time this year we'll have got together so that is good.

Three of us headed back to Bowness-on-Windermere to collect my friend's car, and we said our goodbyes there before we then headed off, with myself and my friend from Doncaster soon bypassing Kendal, getting on the M6 and having a seamless journey down there and the M61/M60/M602 back into Manchester. As we came on to the M60 from the M61, there had been an accident and it was a little slow moving there but it was soon clear to go and so the journey back was much quicker as we all headed homewards. Soon I was home and it was another excellent weekend over. Shame really, but good whilst it lasted.

I spent a fair bit of time then doing all the clothes washing as well as making sure that I'd got enough food in for the week (thankfully I did do some shopping before I set off) and started to think about how soon it would be that The Love In My Heart would be home. I really am pining now to be honest and I think what it has shown me is that I love her dearly as she does me, and knowing that we feel that way should help us strengthen the relationship that we have. Sometimes it's a good thing spending some time apart to know how you feel, and as we'll have both had a wonderful time it's at least time we've had to enjoy too.

It's back to work tomorrow though and I don't really want to face a week back at the ranch (you never do when you've had such a good time) but I know too that it's meant that when I do get time off, I've been able to really make the most of the time that I've had, and that's important to me - more than ever. Now I'm off to have some piri-piri chicken and potatoes, which will give me a bit of a nice kick end to the weekend but also keep up the more healthier eating regime I've imposed on myself. It is working, so fingers crossed..

Saturday 7th August - Lakes Weekender II, Day Two

It was nice to wake up feeling like I'd had a good night's sleep on the air bed I brought with me and that I was ready for today's action. I had a shave and refreshed myself and soon we were having a coffee, orange juice and some rather nice bacon barms my friend had made us all, along with some scrambled egg on the side should we wish to. Top notch stuff and certainly got us in the mood for the rest of the day's fun and games. We were considering seeing Barrow's pre-season game against Bolton but decided against it, as it meant we could head upwards towards Bowness-on-Windermere and spend the evening there, and take the late bus back to Ulverston. My friend would park his car in Bowness and we'd head up to collect it tomorrow on the way home.

With a plan decided and some classic Youtube clips watched during the morning, we soon headed to the Lancastrian and got there with hardly anyone waiting for the snooker table, so the plan was to take in a couple of games of snooker in teams and then have lunch there. This time around I was with my local friend and between us we managed to win both games. I did commit a few fouls in the second game but then redeemed myself with some of the colours, the brown to blue I was pretty impressed with myself, and so out of the four team games I'd won three of them - as had my friend too, so that was pretty good. Of course it had been almost a year since I'd played on a full sized table (the same place in fact!)

After this we headed to their sit down more restaurant-style bit for a spot of lunch. They did two courses for a mere £5.50 for lunch so we had that, and I had the mushroom soup followed by some baked salmon with potatoes and vegetables, which was very nice. The cod a couple of my friends had looked even more spot on and I kind of wished that I'd had that - but the salmon was lovely and filled the gap nicely. It was good to see that plenty of families were in there making it feel more of a local too - and with it being under new management my friend said it'd be interesting to see what happened in the future in there.

It was then back on to the A590 and a stop at Newby Bridge as we headed in to The Swan Inn, which is next to their hotel and spa of the same name. As we arrived it looked like a wedding had taken place in the hotel, as a couple were having their pictures taken on the grass overlooking the River Leven, close to the pub itself. To get there you have to go over an old stone bridge which is one car wide, and frequently bottlenecks when traffic from the pub car park and the road want to head in there - especially with idiots in 4x4s (that led to a nice little joint rant from us all about how they're so bad for everyone - good to see we think the same!)

It was then off along the A592 with Lake Windermere on our left as we headed to Bowness-on-Windermere, which is the town actually by the lake itself (Windermere is a mile or so uphill, incidentally!) We managed to get a spot and then the first stop was the John Peel Inn, where I had a pretty nice pint and we had plenty of chat. I couldn't get a signal to see what the league scores were (especially as Doncaster were playing away at Preston and that would have cheered one of us up lots!) but it was good to rest in there before heading towards the lakeside.

We were considering a game of crazy golf in the park close to the pier and lakeside, but at £4 per game we thought that was way too expensive and so decided that it wasn't worth the hassle. Instead we headed slightly uphill in the town centre and located the excellent Royal Oak, which had lots of real ale on (I had the Coniston Bluebird, which was gorgeous I should add) as well as an excellent pool table which only charged us 50p per play and a jukebox which downloaded songs from its own website if it needed to store them on the hard drive and then play them for you, so that was rather neat.

Several games of pool were played (I think we played something like 15 or 16 games on the trot, which surprised us because we thought other people would want to have a game). My friend from Doncaster won five games and he was the overall winner I think, and two of us won four and the other one won three. We're all at a similar level and several games were decided on the black ball, if that gives you any indication as to how we were playing. We also pumped some pound coins into the jukebox which meant plenty of the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Mike Oldfield, Kraftwerk and lots of indie guitar and 80s songs as well. I put on "World In Motion" and most of us sang along which was a great feeling.

Tune of the day though is "Love Plus One" by Haircut 100. We had that on and all of a sudden we started to hum the interludes and sing the parts we knew. Of course being by Lake Windermere it was quite apt too, as the lyric "Where do we go from here? Is it down to the lake I fear?" being prominent in the song. It summed up our mood of happiness and general fun as well as we didn't mind singing along and generally being us. It was almost 10pm by the time we'd left there and considering we got there around 6pm you had an idea of how much fun we actually did have too.

Last stop on the little pub crawl was The Hole In T'Wall, a Robinsons pub with plenty of nice ale on, and a very olde worlde feel inside. We got a table inside as outside was pretty rammed, and there were stuffed animals of all sorts above the table that we were sat at, which would be a bit concerning to some people. The four of us soon got chatting to this couple from Solihull, who seemed to be enjoying their weekend, staying at one of the luxury hotels there and spoiling the bloke for his birthday, which was rather nice. They were full of good banter and chat with the four of us and it was nice to see that people see us four as sociable and chatty people too. Over a pint of Unicorn we put things to rights and my friend found out Doncaster won 2-0, so all was well with the world there.

It was sad to say goodbye but we wished the couple an enjoyable rest of the weekend and headed towards Bowness Pier in order to get the late 618 bus back to Ulverston. It was £3.20 single (would have been £4.30 return so can't argue with the cost of the fare and all that) and the driver positively pegged it along the A592 and A590 back to the town centre before dropping us off in the centre of Ulverston, where it was a short walk to my friend's place, with pizza and chicken consumed late night for a late but welcome evening meal. We chatted about all sorts before eventually heading to bed around 1am, with another cracking day under our belts. It certainly was another excellent weekend and I treasure these times well, let me tell you.

Friday 6th August - Lakes Weekender II, Day One

A nice leisurely slow wake up for me this morning, and then followed by a quick clean up of the house, packed the case and got the camera all charged up and ready, and it was soon the second weekend up in the Lakes with me and three friends. One of my good friends lives up in Ulverston and was putting us up over the weekend, which saved costs for us all, and it also meant that we could head around Ulverston Friday evening for a few beers as well, so that was good. I had myself ready and was keeping an eye on the cricket before my friend from Doncaster arrived to pick me up. And England were slightly on top against Pakistan - at the lunch interval it was a mere 37 for 6 which became 72 all out by the time we'd just left the M61 on the way up.

The journey there took around an hour longer than expected due to some horrendous traffic on the M6 northbound. As soon as we joined from the M61, it was horrendous and we came off at junction 32 (for the M55) and then up the A6 through Garstang, rejoining the M6 at junction 33. It was actually a lot quicker this way, and we soon got through some more roadworks between junctions 34 and 35 before heading back off down the A6 and then along the A590 through Newby Bridge and on to Ulverston, where my friend was waiting for us. It was good to see him as ever and we soon got chatting before heading off to one of the local pubs, the Lancastrian, for some drinks and snooker. The pub has a full sized table!

As we were on a game of three player snooker (yes, three player, fouls are given to the other two players!) our other friend from South Shields rang to say that he was not far off, so we gave him the postcode of the pub for the sat nav and he soon headed to join us, so that worked out rather nicely. It then meant that when he arrived we were able to have a couple of games of two against two in teams on the snooker table. The teams were the same for both games and although my team was beaten in the first game, we won the second on a respotted black with a round the cushions shot into the bottom corner, excellent stuff that!

We then headed back to my friend's place and had a quick change before heading into the centre of Ulverston for a few drinks. First stop was the Stan Laurel Inn (Ulverston in case you didn't know was his birth place) and plenty of real ale on tap there so I tried one of the local ones, as well as (if you wanted to) their fish for a fiver deal on the Friday night, which did seem popular with most people eating in there. We soon got in to retro gaming banter and plenty of chat about everything else too, and appreciated the rather fine ale that we had there.

Soon it was off to the next port of call, and a pub with a rather unique feature - that it has an old ancient well! The King's Head is the pub in question, and as well as stocking some more fine real ale, the bar staff even lit the well for us so we could look down to have a see how deep it really is. Next and final stop on the little pub crawl was The Rose and Crown, which was a Robinsons pub (as some of them are up there, amazing considering that they're a Stockport brewery) and the Dissy Blonde I had was on fine form in there. We had a blast of their quiz machine and one of the games we tried out was the John Parrott Sports Quiz. His pose in the title screen with two thumbs up reminded me of how I look sometimes with the same sort of pose, so my friend had to take a shot of me doing the same! We giggled inanely and then proceeded to get plenty of questions wrong. Oops.

We headed for a takeway at Flames, and their chicken and mushroom pizza I had was spot on as we ate our takeouts and consumed a little more beer at my friend's place before eventually calling it a night around half past midnight. It had been an excellent day all round and we really did start the weekend off with plenty of smiles and giggles, and that's how it should be I reckon. Tune of the day is "The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson, primarily because to end the night we saw some of the This Is It Blu-ray that my friend has, and that he's a big fan of MJ. Seeing how it might have turned out had he lived was intriguing but also showed it was still a good song. So there you go.

Thursday 5th August - Looking Ahead And Up

The last day of the week for me at work, as I'm off tomorrow for a nice long weekend, and even better, it's with friends too. Of course it's always good when the four of us get together, but till this week it looked like there'd be only three of us till my friend from South Shields rang me to say that he could make it after all. Hurrah! It's bloody great when we get together and because of distance and real life we can't always get together so often. But I do know that when we do, it's ace. I can think back to the weekends here at the Towers and indeed this time last year up in the Lakes, which resulted in plenty of classic moments too.

I pretty much know what I'm going to pack, and that's all sorted. And indeed it was a fairly easy job to head into the city centre after work to get my hair chopped to bits so it's all nice and short for the weekend, and then off to Tesco when I got home to get the food in mainly for when I return so I don't have to be faffing around on Sunday. Just a shame that there's no F1 to watch this weekend as it's on hiatus till the 29th of August when it heads to Spa, but hey ho, these things happen don't they?

I think we might end up heading around Ulverston on a little pub crawl on the Friday and if we get time Saturday we'll see Barrow hammer Bolton hopefully before heading up via Newby Bridge to Bowness for the evening, see how it goes I guess. I guess as The Wind In My Hair is still away from me and I do miss her tons that it's also good that I'm taking my mind off her and having a good time elsewhere too. It really has surprised me how much I have missed her (more than I thought) and that I'd really want the time away to go by quickly so we'll soon be back together. Which is why I've got something nice planned when she comes back - all shall be revealed at the time and not before!

Had a blast of Guitar Hero World Tour tonight for old times' sake and impressed myself by doing Lacuna Coil's "Our Truth" on medium guitar and scoring 100% with not a single note missed. I was surprised, but good on me eh? I had to put on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits then and tackle "Them Bones" by Alice in Chains (make that tune of the day) and did well on that one too. I'll have to give it a blast on drums sometime and see how I manage with it, as the drum beat isn't too bad to work out I reckon - apart from the odd faster bit in the middle. I guess it's encouraged me that one day I might even learn to try and play the drums properly although my co-ordination is shot to pieces most of the time!

Also caught up with "Coast" on BBC iPlayer, which works really well on the Wii. I had seen part of an episode whilst away last week but wanted to see it in full, so it was the perfect opportunity to kick back and watch it. It featured many places in the South West that I've been to, such as Lyme Regis, Torquay, and further into Cornwall with the likes of Gorran Haven (where the rather lovely Alice Roberts tries to explain the smell of the seaside and does rather well) before heading to Falmouth, Newlyn and then the Minack Theatre at Porthcurno where Neil Oliver even tries a bit of acting there with suitable weather! It was enjoyable and programmes like this really prove that you don't need to go abroad to enjoy stunning scenery.

Wednesday 4th August - It's Only Baloney

Another busy day at the office, mainly getting together a few of the new laptops and having them imaged and pretty much ready to go for most of the academic staff that are getting the replacements. Thus far it's gone pretty well and I have to say that it's a case of working with them, discovering what they want and then adding that to the standard build which is nice and rock stable when it needs to be - so that's pretty good. I also managed to get some jobs done in between the imaging of the laptops themselves (as it can take around 40 minutes to bring an image down) so it was good to get things sorted in between everything else.

I spent some time as well tonight getting all the clothes washed and ironed and in between that kept an eye on the mammoth effort being whacked around the ground by Surrey at The Oval in their Clydesdale Bank 40 over match against Glamorgan. They scored a mammoth 386 for 3 in a game reduced to 38 overs per side, but even so it's the highest total in English 40 over cricket history. It was impressive near the end when Mark Ramprakash was whacking it left right and centre for fours and sixes for fun - reminded me of how the nation took to him a few years ago on Strictly Come Dancing in the days when Strictly wasn't rigged and they didn't mess with the format too much.

Had a nice little surprise tonight when I got some time to listen to what I'd downloaded late last night - the first proper single from Pop Will Eat Itself in absolutely years. Originally planned to be a B-side, but with the news that Graham Crabb had brought back PWEI, it was decided that "Axe of Men 2010" be a free download-only release, which includes five remixes of said track (the original is on their "The Pop Will Eat Itself Cure for Sanity" album) and also a remastering of their "Sonic Noise Byte" which had parts of tracks from the abandoned PWEI album after their 2005 reformation and tour.

Needless to say, even a remix just proves how ahead of their time the incredible PWEI were, and still are. The 2010 radio edit has that edge to it, and even has the original vocal in there up front and proud too, given a nice backing of some evil sounding synth and drums. The bass hook around 1:25 onwards is just perfect and really does draw you in nicely to the remainder of the song. Needless to say I do wish it was brand new material but even so this just shows why I loved (and still love) the band so much. No prizes for guessing it's tune of the day and you can snag yourself a copy here if you wish. Go on, dare you!

Tuesday 3rd August - Ch-ch-ch-changes..

We had a bit of a staff meeting, a little impromptu, this afternoon, where one of our team leaders divulged what had been going on in the last few weeks' meetings and how they may affect us. It's one of those situations where we all know that change is inevitable, and you can face that in two ways - you can either meet it head on and deal with it professionally, or you fear it and become a stumbling block to seeing things differently. It's a fine line sometimes between the two, but you've got to grasp things sometimes and accept that change will happen, but you can influence it instead of be scared and run away from it.

One of the things I learned from PRINCE2 is how to make a business case more solid in that you've explored all the options. I was having a chat with one of our Textiles staff who look after knit and weave and she explained to me that they were looking at some new software which they would use for weave. It seemed a little on the expensive side but they had to put a proposal together. I suggested to take the business case angle in that you need to evaluate three consequences: do nothing, do the minimum, do something. People often forget the first one "do nothing" because they don't see it as something being done - when in fact, that's maintaining what you have now and this is what will happen. And if often comes up as an exam question too (hint for anyone taking PRINCE2)

I had a nice surprise too in that one of my old friends who I used to speak to regularly back in the early 1990s about all sorts of Commodore 64 stuff put a friend request to me on LinkedIn. It was good to see that he was still around and so it was nice that he'd located me and wanted to add me. Sometimes it's good to have yourself out there, although I must admit my main reason for joining was that if I wanted to change career, people might notice the skills I have and see if I fancied moving. Sometimes you have to get yourself out there. And unlike Facebook, it does give you full control of the privacy settings too, which is what it should be.

Talking of changes too, just been checking out the Ticketline website to see what gigs have been announced for the Autumn and there are loads that I do fancy going to actually. For a start there's 3 Daft Monkeys on 9th November at Academy 3 (I love them to bits and you feel so uplifted after bounding around like a loon to them), Skunk Anansie at Academy 1 on 13th November (oh yes! And new album too. Rock!) - Seth Lakeman at Academy 2 the night after, and then The Sword at Academy 3 6th December. That should keep me pretty busy indeed, and I've always wanted to see The Sword - kind of love their songs thanks to Guitar Hero. Let's make "The Black River" tune of the day whilst we're at it.

It always shows to me though that plenty of the good gigs always seem to happen around the same time - you can go for months without something good happening and as the Autumn draws in, everyone then seems to tour all at the same time. Bit frustrating but thankfully I've made sure in the past that I keep some money aside for any gigs ike this, so I don't have to feel like I'll be completely skint during that month. That's how you have to do it sometimes...

Monday 2nd August - Back To Work And Back To Fixing

It felt a little strange heading back to work today. I think it always does when you've had a week off as well because you get yourself in the mode of being off work and having a great time enjoying the quality time, and then to have that taken away and to get back into the mode of work does take time to adjust. Mind you, I didn't have time to adjust too quickly today. Our new manager of IT at the top end started today and myself and my colleague had to head over and find out just why things weren't working for the laptop and network connectivity in his office. I was pleased that I was able to assist and get things sorted, and he certainly wanted to get to know everyone. See how that goes.

I also managed to sort out a little niggle at home tonight as well so I was on a bit of a roll. I'd put up some new bathroom accessories including a glass shelf. For some reason the shelf was sloping forward quite a bit and it looked all secure, so couldn't work out why this was. I soon had the answer though. Under the two brackets that connect the glass shelf there was a grub screw for each bracket, which you tightened whilst ensuring that the shelf holder was straight. I did that and once it was all tightened it looked a heck of a lot straighter and neater. The instructions didn't mention this step which was a little on the frustrating side, but I've managed it now and I can't see it being that easy to loosen either, so all well and good there. Must remind myself to get some of the shea butter and ginger hand wash so I can top up the hand wash container..

I've been in slightly 1990s retro music mode tonight, remembering when I was younger and I'd head off to indie nights at the weekend, but I'd also head off to record shops and check out the new releases on a Monday too - in the days before downloads and online sites like Play.com, this was the way you had to do things. I kind of miss that. Anyway, I remember back in 1993 hearing a couple of singles by what was then the Juliana Hatfield Three (she went solo afterwards again) and really liking them both, so I then scoped out the "Become What You Are" album. It's still one of my favourites of that year, Juliana's voice sounds just the right side of raspy and there's plenty of good subjects on offer.

If I had to pick a favourite off that album (and it'd be difficult) I'd have to go for the opening track "Supermodel" which really does sum up the whole supermodel cliche in three almost perfect minutes. Consider the lyrics for proof: "The highest paid piece of ass / you know it's not gonna last / those magazines end up in the trash" - which pretty much gets to the nitty gritty straight away. The more gentle chorus of "$5000 a day / is what they pay my baby / for a pretty face" pretty much shows that people get attracted for the money and the myth too. It lilts along with rocking guitars wonderfully well and shows just what you can do when a threesome are tight. It's still my favourite album of hers. Tune of the day, obviously.

Sunday 1st August - Danger Danger, It's Schumacher!

Had a fairly relaxing day today before having to face up to heading back to work tomorrow (boo). I got up at a leisurely time and after a trip to the local pound shop to get some bits that I needed, it was on with the coffee and then on with the cricket - possibly the last time I'll ever watch it on the telly unless BBC get the rights back. Still, it was a good way to sign off with some style too, as England pulverised Pakistan. After putting themselves a mere 434 runs ahead and knocking down a few wickets last night to leave Pakistan 15 for 3, it was soon a procession of wickets and in good time for the F1, James Anderson took his sixth of the innings and eleventh of the match to bowl Pakistan out for a mere 80 runs, impressive stuff.

The F1 from the Hungaroring came on next, and it wasn't that bad a race. Certainly the safety car made it interesting with incidents galore, such as Nico Rosberg's tyre coming off and it heading down the pit lane (mercifully it didn't hurt no one) and Renault's unsafe release of Robert Kubica meaning he hit Adrian Sutil's Force India. And on top of all that Sebastian Vettel strayed too far off the back of Mark Webber whilst following the safety car and the stewards rightfully gave him a drive through penalty. That did change the race in Webber's favour, although his laps to make sure he could pit and still be ahead were awesome. He's now rightfully leading the championship.

But the incident that had drivers and fans alike frothing at the mouth with a mix of dismay and anger happened with a few laps to go. Rubens Barrichello pitted pretty late and ended up 11th after the stop, but was closing on Michael Schumacher for 10th place and the vital championship point. Coming out of the last corner Rubens was clearly quicker, and got alongside Schumacher down the straight, only for Michael to show the sort of thing that the fans hated him for and almost drove Rubens right into the wall. Thankfully the pit wall ended, Rubens kept it on the road and rightfully got ahead. He was upset as was many of us watching. It was a dangerous move to say the least and could have resulted in a bad accident.

Thankfully most of the F1 pundits agreed with my view, and Martin Brundle was particularly scathing about it, as was former driver Alex Wurz (he's also one of the ex-driver FIA stewards too). The FIA driver steward for this race, Derek Warwick, also saw it similar and thus they had no hestitation in giving Schumacher a 10 place grid drop for the next race. That did at least show that it had teeth but there were some even calling for a one-race ban. Might have been a bit harsh that but I really did feel like something had to be done.

I went over to see Mum later and had a good chat with her and showed her the pics from my trip to the Highlands. She said that it looked better than she thought weather-wise and that I was very lucky to get a framed shot of a boat heading past parts of Urquhart Castle (which I was, no doubt about that!). It was nice to have tea there as well with a very nice piece of gammon to munch on. I get spoiled sometimes but why the hell not? It's always good when you don't have to make stuff yourself methinks.

Tune of the day happens to be "Tell Me What Your Girlfriend Said" by The Cygnet Ring. It's an excellent song that had an acoustic appearance on one of their singles, and indeed was one I always enjoyed when they played it live. Turns out that one of the band's managed to put a live performance up on Youtube as well, so might need to add that to the Cygnet Ring site...