Dear Diary... August 2012

Friday 31st August - Meetings, Marketing and More Medals

I had two meetings for the price of one today (well it felt like that!). First off was our technical group meeting in which myself and my colleague went along to the meeting - and I had to do the minutes as well. It goes on rotation between the various teams and so as it was our turn I decided to volunteer and do it - and it proved quite difficult to have to listen intently to everything, note down the important bits and write them down. When you're just writing your own notes down you can do that simultaneously, but typing up the minutes whilst the meeting was ongoing was not that easy.

After lunch then it was another meeting - this time the whole of our team were invited along to meet our marketing and communications manager along with one of the training officers so we could chat about a few things with regard to how we perceive ourselves, how we'd like to be perceived in the future but also what the strategy will be for future communications. On the whole, it seemed that there was some good common ground as a starting point, and also I remembered a key word in all this - proactive. It's all very well being reactive to a situation that occurs, but being proactive to prevent it happening again -a good move I reckon.

I felt pretty positive at the end of the day and thought about that as I headed to Tesco first to do the food shopping, and once I dropped all that off it was back out and off to Aldi to get some more lovely cheap real ale. They had Badger's Hopping Hare for £1.39 a bottle and it was the same price for the Bateman's Gold Medal, which also looked rather nice too. I've had the Hopping Hare before (same brewery that makes Fursty Ferret) and it's rather gorgeous so well worth getting some of that for the low price that was being charged.

I had some tea and then settled in to watch more of the Paralympic Games, and that was truly inspiring. No more so than Hannah Cockroft, competing in the T34 100 metre final. She really looked like she was enjoying the whole occasion with a big smile on her face, and she powered home to win by a massive distance in the event. It was impressive stuff and the smile continued on her lap of honour and later on as she was on the podium to celebrate her gold medal - with the capacity crowd belting out the national anthem for her. Her infectious warmth and smile showed why the was one of the poster girls of these games - and a brilliant performance. Well done Hannah!

And well done indeed to the other athletes too - a shed load of silver medals in the swimming, and another gold on the track in the cycling as Mark Colbourne got gold in the 3km individual pursuit earlier in the day. Again Channel 4 are doing a solid job, with Rob Walker doing the athletics commentary (obviously no "let's get the boys on the baize" needed here) and along with Katharine Merry and Jeff Adams they really did get the viewers watching and involved in the action. Hannah's win was met with a little bias but why not? She was bloody brilliant and you could tell the happiness with Rob by how pleased he was that she won - a good thing.

Tune of the day in the meantime is another themed one with all the sport going on at the moment including transfer deadline day where my beloved Manchester City are doing a fair bit of business right now. It's the theme tune to the Superstars TV show, "Heavy Action" by Johnny Pearson, and it is simply one of the best TV theme tunes ever. Straight away when you heat it you think of the dreaded gym tests, the steeplechase, the 100 metres, the cycling (especially on the banked track at the Ahoy, Rotterdam) and of course the likes of David Hemery, Keith Fielding, Brian Jacks, Brian Hooper etc. Classic!

Thursday 30th August - Medals and Meals

I had a pretty busy day in the office today as I was covering a fair few support calls. I was also working on a few things as well such as sorting out my own new laptop which I'll mainly use when I'm out and about, and ensuring all the new software is on there as well as standard stuff, so the help desk system software, the ordering system and the unified communications client as well. It was good to get that sorted and we've also contacted all the laptop users who are due replacements and asked them to let us know when is good - makes our lives a heck of a lot easier that way.

After all that, I headed home and got the Paralympic Games on Channel 4 on, and timed it pretty well to see a gold medal in the cycling and then a bit later on a gold medal in the swimming. Clare Balding and Ade Adepitan's presenting together really works well, and they both seemed to be brilliantly enthusiastic about all the events and put the public first with all the classes explained in the swimming, what it means in terms of a performance hit that the athletes take, and how you prepare differently in each class to work as best you can around the disability - really well thought out.

The Love In My Heart came over and she settled in with some Emmerdale whilst I made the chorizo pasta bake for tea. The Love headed out to Tesco for some wine and even got some nice little cream scones for dessert after tea - very nice of her to do that. The pasta bake went well - in fact it really did taste wholesome and I think using penne pasta instead of fusilli works a lot better - must remember to do that more often in future. We chatted about our respective days and then settled in and snuggled up.

In between the soaps I was flicking back to BBC 2 to see the Weltklasse athletics meeting in Zurich, with Usain Bolt blitzing the 200 metres pretty well, and Yohan Blake clinching a very good 100 metre performance too. The ouch moment came in the rain in the women's 3000 metre steeplechase, where one of the leading runners hit the top of her knee on the barrier in the home straight and came crashing down - it looked rather painful just watching it and I'm sure she ended up with a bloody nose.

After all that excitement I flicked over to the Paralympic Games again and the wheelchair basketball was on - Great Britain losing to Germany in extra time but it just went to show how intense the sport is and how brilliant it is too - some of the shooting from their seated position is second to none and you have to admire what they do. I definitely do and really was pleased to see it getting a good level of coverage too. I'm sure the British team will bounce back soon - here's hoping so that they can carry on their quest for a medal.

Tune of the day is the tune that the sponsors Sainsbury's have been using in the ad breaks between the coverage - no less than in instrumental version of the Manic Street Preachers' "A Design For Life". Somehow it actually fits pretty well as the athletes do their thing and end up shopping in the supermarket with David Beckham's commentary over. However the Manics track really does stand out well and gives plenty of inspiration during its epic four minutes plus - and a definite good choice to use. Isn't it good when that sort of stuff happens?

Wednesday 29th August - I Am What I Am

It was another mixed bag day at work today with two more replacement desktops being despatched to users and the old ones collected for recycling, but also at long last I've finished off imaging all of the laptops that we had in, so that at least means that I'm able to then get them deployed as and when we need to. Our biggest concern to be honest is to get the current room we're storing all the kit in back to normal before everyone gets back and to do that we really do need some storage space somewhere, but where is the big question that we have.

I headed to the Manchester University Students Union in my lunch break, as inside there is the little shop that now doubles as the box office for the Academy venues, rather handy that. Even handier is that they don't even charge any fee for paying by debit card anymore, so that's a really good bonus. I was in there picking up some tickets to see The Levellers in November as me and a couple of friends are going - should be a good night even if by all accounts their new album isn't as good as the last few, they'll play some of the classics that everyone will go very mental to.

When I got home I had some nice surprises in the post - one of which was all the way from Japan, and the other from America. The Japanese arrival was from cdjapan.co.jp, and was the new Swing Out Sister album "Private View +2" which only got a Japanese release. It was nice to see it brand new still sealed with the paper "obi" that you always get on Japanese releases intact. I had a good listen to it during the evening and really liked some of the more mellow workings of their songs, especially "Incomplete Without You" so that's tune of the day.

The package from America was the new album from the Icicles, "Renegade Parade" which I ordered direct from the band's website. The package even had a hand written note from the band to thank me for ordering it and to enjoy the album. Bless. That was rather lovely and on first listen, it sounds pretty good - a fair bit more mature than their last release "Arrivals and Departures" but still having some lovely songs which make you want to smile and be happy. And isn't that what it's about?

I settled in for the evening to watch the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games, and on the whole it was very good, apart from the two main presenters on Channel 4 who just didn't work for me. Not least as they often referred to ParalympicsGB (the official name for our British team) as Team GB, which was a chronic mistake to make. Going to commercial breaks as the athletes were heading into the stadium wasn't too good either. Channel 4 at least had the sense to have the excellent Clare Balding (she's freelance so can work for BBC and Channel 4, lucky her eh?) who was with the British team and as usual was knowledgable and friendly to everyone, just like a presenter should be.

The ceremony had its moments - the simultaneous biting of an apple at one point, the reading of books as the character Miranda went on a journey across the sea with wonderful lighting, Ian McKellen as Prospero being a wonderful assistant and storyteller throughout, the carrying of the Paralympic flag by some of the wheelchair basketball team, and the flame coming in via Orbit and a zipwire, with the first British Paralympic gold medallist having the chance to light the cauldron, which was a rather nice thing to do.

At the end Beverley Knight sang the classic "I Am What I Am" and this summed up the whole attitude of the Games. People want to be accepted for who they are, and whilst they may have a disability, they have a thirst for competition and a will to win too which I am sure that everyone will hear a lot of in the next eleven days or so. I can't wait to see the athletics and I'm still trying to see if I can go the wheelchair basketball too - really do fancy that as well. Come on Paralympics GB, do the business! :)

Tuesday 28th August - Back To It

It was back to work today and it really did feel like a baptism of fire of some sort to be honest. I've still got tons on to do and so it was to crack on with imaging yet more laptops to get them ready for rollout. I also managed to distribute a couple of the new laptops to staff - one in the morning, and then one in the afternoon. It made perfect sense as I was able to take them over, collect the old kit and return it back, and be able to set things up and get things moving for them.

I also then took some time to work on a couple of things in the office, firstly clearing out the old records of the old kit so we know where we're up to. As devices are re-imaged they don't need a Novell client or Zenworks management any more, so as such it also means that there's in theory plenty of redundant records which can go. All of this does speed things up somewhat so it's a lot better for us if we're able to actually get all of this done sooner rather than later - and it was a perfect time to do some of that.

After heading home, I made sure that everything was given a quick once over before The Love In My Heart came over for tea. I made us some rump steak with chips and peas and The Love had brought some diane sauce to have with it, which really did make a nice difference, and it just added to the niceness of it all. Add to that some very nice rioja as well and all was very well in the house indeed. The Love watched Emmerdale whilst having tea and that meant she felt nice and relaxed too, and after that we had a cosy evening in, and why not?

First up was The Great British Bake-Off, which we both adore in equal measure. We both had a suspicion from the start of today's episode that James was going to do rather well with the tarts, and so it proved. He was consistent all the way through and that was more than enough to see him be the star baker. At the other end of the scale was Victoria whose weird flavours (and an overinsistence on using pepper in sweet recipies - go figure) just meant that the taste combinations weren't at all right and just didn't even look appetising to the plate either. She realistically had to go and did, and after a strong first week I think she's reached her limits.

Later on was Don't Tell The Bride, where the groom was obsessed with history and everything that he wanted to do was history related which you could tell the bride hated with a passion. Two completely different people that you would ever wish to meet - and yet, they were bloody sobbing buckets when they finally got to meet again at the wedding venue. It just goes to show that sometimes it's not just about having lots of things in common, but what you have inside that counts too. Tune of the day is Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" which got an airing during the show and admittedly is a 1980s classic!

Monday 27th August - Raining on the Parade

It was always going to feel rather sad today as The Love In My Heart and I would be heading home later on. We got up at a leisurely pace and headed down for breakfast in the hotel, which was gorgeous as usual. We had pretty much the same as yesterday only I think I got more black pudding and scrambled egg this time - not that I was complaining of course. I did feel nicely fed and ready for the journey home and we had one last relaxing sit down in the hotel room on the very comfortable chairs, which added a neat touch to a lovely room. We'd packed and were soon checking out and saying goodbye, and thankfully it was dry when we did leave.

We were soon in New Street station and heading down to platform 4C for the train. I'd been crafty when I booked the trains back - if you're happy changing at Crewe, you can get the London Midland service from Birmingham to Crewe, then change for a Virgin train to Manchester, which in total costs you a mere £6.50 in advance, much cheaper then the £15.50 direct with CrossCountry. So £9 saved per person - result. The journey was relatively smooth too with the London Midland train being clean and lots of room, and Virgin being up to their usual excellent standards. Happy bunnies. It was weeing it down massively though so wasn't very pleasant when we arrived back in Manchester.

We headed out of the station and over on the bus to The Love's place first as we wanted to get a couple of things from somewhere near to where she lives, and once that was done, it was back home for me. It felt even more sad to leave The Love as well, but I guess you have to do other things in your life sometime, and I wanted to make sure she had time to do what she needed to do, as do I - plenty of washing and ironing of course as well as getting things ready for work tomorrow. Meh!

I also spent some time this afternoon having a general sort out of the pictures I took over the weekend and was reasonably pleased that some of them came out well enough, so I'll be placing them online over the next few days or so I reckon. What was good to see that despite being at the back of a river cruise boat in Stratford-upon-Avon, it all seemed to go well with some nice shots from the back. We shall see what they look like in more detail I'm sure. I also listened to lots of music including Portishead's "Third" album which is often overlooked in their repertoire - for the record I really like the album, not least "Machine Gun" with its Commodore 64 like ending lead - so tune of the day it most certainly is.

Sunday 26th August - Sunny Stratford-upon-Avon

After the rain last night, we were both hoping for much sunnier and happier weather today as we were planning to go to Stratford-upon-Avon for the day, and a nice dry day just makes for much more pleasant things to do. The weather looked good outside in central Birmingham and a check on the weather resulted in it looking rather promising. The Love In My Heart and I headed down for breakfast in the hotel - which was spot on. Choice of cereals, fruit and croissants and pastries with fruit juice, tea or coffee with toast, and a cracking cooked breakfast with bacon, sausage, black pudding, fried bread, choice of egg (I had scrambled, The Love had poached) and all that sort of thing. It certainly filled us up nicely and gave us lots of energy for the day ahead.

We headed out of the hotel after having had a well earned coffee in the room and it was off to Moor Street station to get the train to Stratford-upon-Avon. On the whole it's quite a nice journey and the coaches are much more modern now thanks to London Midland, so headed through the outskirts of Birmingham before going to the likes of Wootton Wawen and Wilmcote before getting to Stratford-upon-Avon. The sun was coming out and it looked like the weather was going to be good, and although it looks like the station is in the middle of nowhere, within five minutes you're in the town centre, so that's good.

We looked around a couple of nice little independent shops as we headed along Wood Street and then down towards the river bank, and it certainly was busy down by there and the canal as there was a craft market on. We had a look around that, plenty of little stalls selling their wares including one with bright colourful educational jigsaws that would have been pretty good for the children too - and plenty of parents looked very interested, good to see. We then went down to the river bank and decided on the spot that a nice river cruise was a good idea. One was leaving soon and was £5.50 each (about the going rate for them all) - plus we could sit at the back together and admire the view from there.

It proved to be a timely and wise decision. The boat went along the river to the church where Shakespeare's grave is, and then back along, past the canal locks and down the river with some lovely houses all with little boat jetties on one side and countryside and green lush land on the other, very pcicturesque. It was good just to be able to take it easy and the sun was fully out, so The Love was catching some nice rays at the same time - blissful for her I reckoned. We soon were back under the bridge towards where we set off, with a mass of swans everywhere all looking for people to feed them. And indeed also a massive queue for the boats which would mean they'd be rammed later on!

We went to the Baguette Barge near the canal and got lunch from there - and the ham baguette with ham off the bone I had there was gorgeous, and The Love's turkey and cranberry one looked rather nice too. We sat on the other side of the river and found a picnic table and so was good to sit there, have lunch and chat away and see the boats go past, and the many rowing boats with people clearly struggling massively to steer them in the right direction. They were the cheap option - the motor boats were much more expensive but the steering was of course miles easier.

We passed the band stand on this side of the river too and the brass band there were playing film themes in their own style which was pretty good - they even did a James Bond medley with the likes of Goldfinger, Live and Let Die etc which most people recognised. We were heading to the mini golf for eighteen holes of fun, and it was lots of fun actually. The Love hit two holes in one in her round, and a family of three (father with daughter and son) were behind us, so when The Love got her second hole in one, they all cheered wildly and then said to me "No pressure then!". It was good fun, and I hit a hole in one myself but The Love won - she hit 51 shots, I hit 53 in all. Well done her!

We then headed back over the bridge and into the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon again and then walked along the river bank past the Royal Shakespeare Company and towards the Courtyard Theatre, spotting a performance of Shakespeare in the park close by, which had a nice sized crowd relaxed with a picnic and enjoying them perform. I was tempted to go into the tower which is a new addition to the main RSC theatre, but you had to pay for that - maybe sometime in the future though when time was more allowing. We then walked to the chuch where Shakespeare's grave is and around the grounds offered excellent views of the River Avon, so was nice to just sit and admire the view.

We went back into the town centre, looked around a few nice little independent shops and was very tempted by all sorts in there, which was good, and then stopped off at the Old Thatch Tavern on the way back to the train station for a well earned half of Seafarers Ale. In there we heard a bad cover version of Paul Weller's "You Do Something To Me" that made us both hanker after the original. Like I said to The Love - only one person can sing that song properly, and it's Paul - so I am going to make the original tune of the day. It didn't take us long from there to head back to the train station and with lots of people who were on the same train in the morning, we headed back to Birmingham Moor Street.

Back at the hotel, and one shower and change later, with The Love looking stunningly gorgeous in her gold dress (I totally love her in that!) we headed out for a meal for the evening, this time heading to Zizzi in the Mailbox. The experience tonight was everything that Pizza Express wasn't the night before - nice friendly attentive service without being obtrusive, the food out when it was properly cooked and served with a smile, and the food even nicer. I had their bread selection to start, always good, and The Love's bruschetta looked inviting. The main The Love had of the chicken with proscuitto, potatoes and green beans looked and tasted great, and my penne della casa with nice sauce, chicken, mushrooms and pasta was just the spot. And we had a voucher for 25% off the food, so kept the costs down. Needless to say our waiter got a good tip from us - he was great and more people should be like him.

It was then along the canal and up to the Brasshouse where we had a nice drink - I had a nice pale ale which really did look good and all the real ales had been changed since yesterday, which was quite good. The Love had a glass of wine and there was a disco starting at the far end of the place, mainly playing some reggae for some reason before moving on to Stevie Wonder's classic "Sir Duke" along with "Nightshift" by the Commodores - their main big hit after Lionel Richie had done one and left the band. It was a nice atmosphere in there and felt good to notice the hustle and bustle on Broad Street outside. We walked back to the hotel, saw the highlights of Man City's 2-2 draw at Liverpool and then headed for a well earned sleep. The weekend had gone by too bloody quickly!

Saturday 25th August - Bull Rings and Mail Boxes

It was the start of a nice long weekend because of the August Bank Holiday and for myself and The Love In My Heart, that meant a weekend away together. I'd booked a really nice hotel in the centre of Birmingham that we'd stayed at before, and as work had both been getting to us a fair bit lately, spending some time away and recharging the batteries was just the thing to do for us I think. I'd booked all the hotel and travel a while ago, and so was trying not to get too excited until the actual day came that we'd be going. I got to the station at 9am and The Love was already there, so we grabbed a bacon barm and coffee and headed to our train.

It was the 0927 CrossCountry service, and I have to admit I was rather pleased that we'd booked in advance and reserved our seats. For the most part, and especially from Wolverhampton, the train was very busy, not least with one large family who all got off at Stoke On Trent but had had to constantly move seats all the way through because their lack of intelligence meant that they didn't understand a simple screen above the seats that showed which was reserved and which wasn't. As The Love said and Jeremy Clarkson would say "how hard can it be?". Still, got there on time and as the deal we'd got with the hotel meant early check in at 11am, we were able to go there and check straight in, so that was good.

The hotel room was rather lovely, and really did feel homely - nice big comfy bed, bathroom with bath and shower and well looked after, tea and coffee stuff, iron and ironing board, 32" Freeview telly, pretty much everything you'd need, all lovely. We unpacked what we needed to and then headed out for a bit of retail therapy by walking around lots of shops. As thw weather was looking like it was going to wee down any minute, we headed for the Bull Ring and looked in lots of places, perusing a possible purchase or two. The Love got a nice scarf that was half price, so that was good, but one shirt I'd seen wasn't in my size. Boo! The Love also saw a nice top but again wasn't in her size (always the way isn't it?)

It was good to walk around the large Selfridges and admire their red white and blue display ribbon right in the centre of the shop which looked very Olympic themed, and certainly raised the eyebrows as people walked around. It was pretty busy all round though and so after walking round there, the Pavilions Centre and heading past Corporation Street, it was good to have a bit of a pit stop and recharge the batteries with a well earned lunch. And my wasn't it just that? We went in the Old Joint Stock, which straight away looked warm and welcoming. I had a local pint - the Backyard Blonde - which was lovely. And a pie. A chicken and mushroom with tarragon pie at that - which was stunning, one of the best pies I've ever had. Ever. Gorgeous amounts of chicken, proper pastry case, and some gorgeous mash to go with it. A bit of a find really.

We then went around House of Fraser before heading down Corporation Street, stopped off at the hotel to drop off bits of shopping and then recharged, walking up New Street, past the square where the Christmas Markets normally is, heading over the bridge and on to Broad Street, before stopping off at the Brasshouse for a very well earned rest and a drink. I had another excellent pint in there - which was boding well for the weekend. It was from the Lymestone Brewery and was called "Seven Stone Weakling" which seemed to fit in with the Olympic theme - and was excellent. We then walked around The Mailbox, noticed the temporary tennis court in the atrium (and you could hire rackets and play on it!) and then back to the hotel.

We had a nice evening out, and was taking advantage of an offer that I'd had mailed to me earlier in the week - namely three courses in Pizza Express for £12.95, not too bad at all. I had the dough balls to start, the lasagne for main and cheesecake for dessert, while The Love had the garlic bread with cheese to start, American pizza for main and the same dessert. However, the staff in the Mailbox branch really need to get their act together. Order was taken - fine. However, they came out with the mains and The Love pointed out before I did that we'd not even had the starters out yet. Obviously a muck up there. When the bill came, they'd charged for a full bottle of wine instead of the small 175ml glass that The Love had had, and I spotted that - not happy. In the end they discounted and gave the wine for free - but the damage was already done. The food was lovely enough but you live and die by the service - so we refused to give a tip. Only seemed right to me that.

As it was chucking it down, we braved the rain with The Love having a brolly and making use of it (and she looked gorgeous in her green dress) and headed back towards the hotel, and close by was Bacchus, a nice pub we'd been to before that was underground. It is very cosy and homely though and even better was that as it was part of the Nicholson's group of pubs, this meant real ale was guaranteed. Indeed, their Nicholson's Pale Ale was brewed specially for them by the St Austell Brewery (they make my fave beer of all time, Tribute) so it was quality. The Love relaxed with some wine and all was very well with the world indeed.

We headed back and it was soon time to hit the bed and head for a well earned sleep, but we'd had a good day and it was nice just to take our time and relax around the city, shop till we didn't drop and have some nice beer and wine to relax further. Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather ace "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath - seemed right as we were in Birmingham and close to the Brasshouse pub we'd seen one of the Birmingham stars on the Walk of Stars, that of Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, which reminded me of his crunching riff that completely made the tune.

Friday 24th August - Definitely Going Back To Aldi

It was a mixed bag of a day for me today and the opening job I resolved was one I'd half finished off last night. For some reason software being distributed via SCCM wasn't going to one PC, and eventually I worked out that it was down to a damaged install of a Windows component which was WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation). You could try to repair WMI, which I did, but that failed miserably, so I checked out a way in which you could force a reinstall (you need the Windows CD, in this case XP, to do it though.) Do that, restart, and hey, there was the advert I wanted to run. Excellent! Felt good after that.

Most of the day was spent sorting out the first batch of a total of 70 plus laptops which were going to academic staff in another faculty that we look after. It was a case of unboxing them, plugging them in, changing a BIOS setting so booting to network works, and then ensuring that they're all PXE booting to the SCCM server to bring down the appropriate task sequence. It actually works very well in the end and it's really good that we have that in place - and by the end of the day I'd started a last batch of ten which should be ready when I get back on Tuesday after the Bank Holiday weekend.

I headed into the city centre after work though because I had to get an accessory which would be valuable for the weekend. I had to get a new belt a few months ago and ended up getting one from Matalan. Although it lasted okay during my trip to Nice and Monaco, a few weeks later I noticed it was looking not the best and gradually over time it's just disintegrated. Mental note: never buy one from there again, cheap and bloody nasty. Anyway, did it properly this time and found a very good one in Marks and Spencer for around a tenner, much better built and designed to actually last which is what you want.

I got home and headed to Tesco first to get some little bits of food shopping in for the next week ahead, and mainly it was little bits and stuff for the tea when The Letters In My Rack heads over - got some gorgeous rump steak and a really nice bottle of rioja to go with it as well - so all good there methinks. It was lashing it down as I left and I was just about to take the bags out of my trolley when I noticed one of them had ripped at the bottom.. nooo! Thankfully Tesco lived up to their "bag for life" traditions, and swapped it no problem. It's those little things that really make you feel happy and this was one of them - so good when promises are kept.

It was then a little trip out on the bus to my nearest Aldi - a new one had opened on the site of one of the former PC retailers I used to go to (a lot!) for spare parts, and I'd been tipped off by one of my ale loving friends that by all accounts they'd started to stock real ale. A quick check of their website seemed to confirm this but I was even more pleasantly surprised when I got there. Granted, the food has all sorts of weird and wonderful brands which you won't have heard of, as well as some more familiar names that aren't that cheap, but I wasn't here for the sort of thing which made MJ Hibbett write "Never Going Back To Aldi's" - oh no. Real ale was to be mine.

And my, wasn't it just? I could have spent less than a tenner and easily got eight bottles of real ale, which is pretty decent when you consider Tesco do 4 for £6 and Asda's 2 for £3 works out about the same. Except there's no multibuys needed in Aldi, so makes it more flexible. One of my favourite ales ever (JW Lees' Brewers Dark) was a mere 99p, there were three from the Jennings brewery up in Cumbria (Bitter 99p, Cocker Hoop (which I love) £1.29 and Sneck Lifter £1.49) and also two from the Badger people in Dorset (Hopping Hare for £1.39 and the classic Fursty Ferret for £1.49). There was also Hobgoblin for £1.49, Banks' Bitter for 99p, and Old Peculier for £1.49. Not bad at all eh? So, it was two each of the Brewers Dark, Jennings Bitter and Cocker Hoop for me. I was tempted to get more but can always pop back.

Tune of the day is a rather epic track and I felt it needed to be - as it's been an epic week where I've really managed to get lots done but also feel that it's just the perfect way to prepare for a nice wind down weekend which I'm going to have shortly, and I can't wait for that. It's the title track to Dream Theater's "Octavarium" which as I've said before is a mere twenty four minutes of brilliance and starts off slow but then builds up rather dramatically to a crescendo, not least when James LaBrie screams "Trapped inside this octavarium" reaching high notes, before the string climax. Epic is the word.

Thursday 23rd August - Jamaican Runs

Had a busy day in the office today, mainly sorting out any queries as they came in to our Help Desk system as it was my turn on the rota, but also to make sure that I could carry on with a massive rollout. I was close to finishing the laptops that were going to our academics in one of the faculties that we look after, and was keeping myself organised with that so as a batch was imaged, I'd get another batch ready and have those imaged and out there too. I had a system in place and so it was fairly easy to keep things going and to make sure I knew where I was, always a good thing in my book.

I had also a bit of a dilemma in terms of rollout too because with all the new laptops there's a 22" monitor, keyboard and mouse as well as connecting cables, all for Health and Safety/DSE purposes, and to be honest carrying all that is a bit of a tall order for people to do, so I thought it would actually be easier for me to head out there, dish out the new kit and be sure that everything was up and running for them rather than them have to guess. I contacted the staff concerned and thankfully I've already got a response so that's pretty good.

Once I got home and settled in, and saw that no one had still won the jackpot on Pointless (going to be £14k plus tomorrow, wouldn't mind winning that) it was then on with making the tea whilst listening to some music. I put on Cabaret Voltaire's "Drinking Gasoline" EP, which on CD has been deleted for absolutely ages and of course I was quite pleased to have got myself a copy in Vinyl Exchange many years ago. The four tracks are lengthy but show them at the height of their Industrial beat driven era, with "Kino" being an obvious highlight, so tune of the day that one definitely is.

The Letters In My Rack came over and we settled in for the evening, having some chicken with a sausage and stuffing balls, new potatoes, fresh vegetables and gravy, which did the job rather well it has to be said. I was really pleased that it all turned out so well and it was good to be able to sort all of that out without any problems. We headed to Tesco to get some bits of shopping before settling back in with the athletics on BBC Three, which was the Diamond League meeting from Lausanne in Switzerland.

My, weren't the Jamaicans good? Apparently the team mates and training partners Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt have agreed not to race each other for the rest of the season, instead concentrating on winning races and maximising money for each other, which is fair dos. Blake won the 100m in 9.69, making it the third fastest run of all time and the equal second fastest man ever behind Bolt, and he looked pretty impressive in doing the job with such aplomb. Bolt ran a nice easy 19.59 in the 200 metres and to be honest it was consummate in the way that he saw off all his rivals.

We finished off the evening with a game of Scrabble (inspired by a BBC News article from one of the UK Grand Masters with plenty of top tips for players to do better). I did well with my opening move of THORAX (of course positioning the X on double letter) so scored 48 there, and then later on in the bottom left hand corner QUERY (also making AY) which scored 59 points, so I wasn't complaining about that one little bit. It was good to remember some of the handy tips, such as the blank and S being valuable. The Letters proved that by playing ZINC (also making CLEAN) using the blank as an I and scoring a massive 42 points whilst doing so - well done her!!

Wednesday 22nd August - Catch Up

It was a good day of sorts today, as I spent a fair bit of time sorting out a Samsung R580 laptop and re-imaging it for a member of staff in one of our teams, and then on top of that adding the extra software that they were licenced for and ensuring it all worked correctly on there too. It was pretty painless overall, and whilst that was imaging way I replaced a secondary network card in one of the HP tower workstations that's a specialist machine for 3D applications - the card wasn't working too well in there so I swapped it with a good tested one that I knew was working correctly.

I also set off the last batch of new staff laptops for some of the academic staff, with thankfully all the ones I'd done earlier in the day all working well and correctly. Of course because there's so much other stuff to distribute with it (keyboard, mouse, 22" monitor all for DSE purposes) it might well be worth us actually taking the stuff over (and collecting their old desktops as well) so as to make life a little bit easier. Of course, the important thing is that they're very quick indeed, and Windows 7 runs like lightning on them (they do have a solid state hard drive, so a bit less prone to going as well I reckon).

On top of all that, I managed to catch up with some outstanding jobs that needed doing, put ten new laptops in an academic practice classroom to replace ten old ones, recycled lots of cardboard and tidied around, and generally kept myself very busy. I think when the day goes by you really need to be on your toes and get things done, and so it's going to be pretty manic over the next few weeks as everything falls into place for the start of the new year. I'm just trying to get so much done and prioritise as I need to.

I got home and watched Pointless, and the first two rounds were made for me to get zero points, as was the final round as it turned out. The first round was football grounds and their cities, and as the Etihad Stadium was in there, I was straight in with that (obviously) although I knew the obscure ones. In the second pass Deva Stadium (Chester) was the lowest, but I got all 14 correct across the two passes. I also knew obscure films with members of Friends in, for example Office Space with Jennifer Aniston (pointless!) and then the final - losing world snooker championship finalists. I had Shaun Murphy, Ali Carter, Perrie Mans and any of them was enough for me to win the £12k plus jackpot. Darn!

After a chat with The Vinyl On My Turntable I had a good and lengthy chat with one of my friends and her partner who live over in Huddersfield. It was great to speak to them both and catch up, and of course with the Olympics just being on, we chatted about that and how much it was great to be there but also how captivated you got by it all. We've all sorted that we're going to see the Levellers in Manchester in November, and so I'll have those tickets bought soonish. It was just great to have a chatter anyway and by the sounds of it, we've all been making the most of the summer despite the weather, which is good.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the epic title track from Dream Theater's "Octavarium" album. It's twenty four minutes and in five distinct parts, but never does it feel that long or indeed does it ever bore. It builds up throughout and with some excellent guitar work as well as a really dramatic final part complete with strings, it really does show what the band were about (of course the classic era when Mike Portnoy was the drummer, say no more). If you get chance, purchase the album and realise just how good it is, I promise you won't regret it one bit.

Tuesday 21st August - Bake-Offs and Buying CDs

I had a really nice surprise in my email box this morning. Last night I had decided that rather than get the download version of the new album by US indie popsters The Icicles, I wanted to have the CD so I could listen to it properly on my AV rig but also then I could MP3 it at my own leisure if I so wanted to in the future. There's also something very satisfying about holding a physical product as well, I think. I had emailed the band and enquired why the new CD wasn't on their site, and could I please order it another way if need be. Gretchen deVault of the band responded, and had sent me another couple of emails as I was asleep to say that the site was being sorted, and sure enough, there it was to order. So in a week or two, I'll be able to listen to "Renegade Parade" as I wish to - full blast, and on a good rig.

In preparation for that I went back and played some tracks from their "Arrivals and Depatures" album before heading off to work, and when you listen to the likes of "Snowbird" it just makes you feel good all over. The Vinyl on My Turntable says that they have lots of "happy songs" and I know what she means by that - uplifting stuff generally. I still adore "La Ti Da" from the same album so that's getting tune of the day all over. I had even located the band's "Pure Sugar EP" and ordered it from the nice people at Twee Kitten in California, so that felt pretty productive all round.

But that's not the last of the packages heading my way from faraway places, oh no. Those first two were actually paid for with my PayPal balance that I had left after some recent eBay sales, so good to use the money effectively on stuff I wanted for myself. The last thing I ordered was later in the day when I got home from work. I was checking the Swing Out Sister website to see if they'd announced any more tour dates, as I know that The Vinyl and I would love to see them live. They weren't touring, but noticed that the CD "Private View+2" had been released in Japan, and in pretty limited numbers.

Amazon had it on import but was shedloads expensive, so I checked out CD Japan, whom I've ordered stuff from before (mainly Godiego's "Magic Monkey" - the soundtrack to the Monkey TV series) and they had one copy left in stock. Quick as you like, I went through signing in, paying the appropriate amount including postage to the UK, and sure enough, it was done. It will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine. By the sound of it, it's a fair few of their classic songs re-done in a different settings, so it'll be interesting for us both to hear what that sounds like.

The two of us headed to the hospital to see my friend, and thankfully he looked much more like himself again, with the antibiotics having kicked in very nicely indeed. He might be having something removed later in the week, and if that all goes well, hopefully he'll be out of there sooner rather than later which is pretty much what we'd like to hear. The good thing all round is that the rest and recuperation is getting him well, and that for us both is good - he doesn't want to miss any City games if he can help it, as I know the two of us going to watch the champions (felt rather good saying that!) is something he massively looks forward to, as do I.

The Vinyl and I then settled in for The Great British Bake-Off, which we both love, and the bread challenges were certainly one to seperate the good from the not so good. The technical challenge with the plaited loaf looked rather difficult and I was glad to see that even the best mucked it up a little, makes me feel much less inferior in terms of cooking anyway. The final challenge with the bagels was intriguing especially as it showed Mel Giedroyc researching into the history of it, and some of the results looked pretty good as well. I must admit that I wouldn't have a clue but the right person did leave in the end. I wouldn't mind the sourdough ones that the Scottish bloke made though - they looked great!

Monday 20th August - Getting On T'Internet

I had a busy day at work today, mainly shifting equipment around and getting some new PCs placed in one of the postgraduate rooms. It was good to get them all sorted and one of the students came in just as we had finished, and was mightily impressed that the new ones were more than up to the job and ran everything with some excellent speed (even memory hungry stuff like 3ds Max Design 2012) and so that made me already feel good and start up the day nicely.

I looked also into packaging Opera (web browser of course) as one department wanted it as an extra browser on their set of machines. As it turned out, if you look on Opera's FTP site, there's always a Windows Installer MSI version of their current installer, so that was a good start. I then used Orca to customise the MSI by creating an MST transform, with the settings that we didn't need (ie: don't start Opera when installed, turn off all icons to the desktop, and also disable auto-updates). I also added a setting so that Opera wouldn't decide to make itself the default browser as well, so once that was packaged up it was good to go.

I then noticed that you could set some default settings in an .ini file, which Opera reads on first launch and populates those settings accordingly for the user. I tried that out and that worked pretty well, so eventually sussed it so it doesn't have that Opera launch page on first run but instead the home page that we wanted, updates turned off, mailto links being done with the default mail program on the PC, and all that sort of thing. It was good to get that up and running and showed that I can lend my hand to any packaging stuff.

After work I headed on a different route - I was off to Denton to see one of my Mum's friends who had asked me to check over their new laptop, connect it to their wireless network and so on. I worked out what it was straight away - they weren't sure of the wireless network name and password, so I reassured her what it was and that was all good to go. Once the laptop was online, I sorted out all the web browser plugins, a good antivirus solution, Mozilla Firefox etc, and then showed her a few handy little things which she might find useful.

I also mentioned about phones and her phone was the Samsung Galaxy Ace - an Android phone. It looked like a Gmail account had been set up for her already when she got the phone, so I showed her how to use that for email, and also how you can get things for free at the Google Play store. We got the apps for Debenhams, Next and Argos, and that made her pretty pleased as she could shop on her phone if need be. The laptop was a pretty powerful one too and seemed to be pretty slick with Windows 7 64-bit running on it, and with the software on and everything shown, I made my way homewards later.

It did feel good to pass on my knowledge but also do it in a nice casual informal way too - so as to make sure all the information went in but also so that it proved that you could learn whilst having a little bit of fun along the way. I always think it's important that if you are learning a new skill that you should ask questions, no matter how daft they may seem, and get a sensible answer so that you feel reassured and not scared of the technology in front of you. Works for me, anyway.

I saw the recording of last night's Moto GP from Indianapolis and was intrigued how some of the former F1 track gets used, but there's also an extra little part of the circuit from the start line (they go the same way as the Nascar and CART cars do, F1 went the opposite way) and the action certainly was pretty good from start to finish. I always get amazed on just how difficult it must be to keep a bike under control like that - hence my tune of the day - "Motorbikin'" by Chris Spedding. Classic 1970s rock right there...

Sunday 19th August - Ice Cream, Pigs and Comebacks

The weather wasn't looking too good, but myself and The Ale In My Bottle decided to head out anyway as it would have been a waste of a day if we didn't do something whilst we had the time to do so. She suggested that we head to Snugbury's Ice Cream near Nantwich, and we could see the new straw sculpture that's up for this year, as well as me possibly indulging myself in ice cream (one of my vices, I freely admit). So with the rain tipping it down and with camera in tow, we left my place, headed along the M56, A556, A49 and then the A51 down to the farm where it all happens.

Before I decided to treat myself, we walked along the field were this year's straw sculpture was up and ready for the viewing public (and traffic along the A51 close by) to admire - a circular shape of a velodrome, complete with cyclist on bike heading around it. The way it was done was that the metal bicycle was stuck to the metal frame of the velodrome with that and the rider on top sculpted in straw. It looked very impressive even from a distance and the closer you got to it, the more you realised just how good it actually was.

After admiring the sculpture, we walked back to the main part of the farm where the lovely and cute kunekune pigs were out roaming their fields, and they looked happy to get some looks and attention from the public. The way that they look inquisitive it just a really nice thing to behold, with their mother just happily grazing on some nettles in the background keeping an eye on them. Plenty of people stopped by to admire them as well so that was pretty good to see.

The tough decision I then had was which flavour of their gorgeous ice cream to have? They have lots of different and gorgeous flavours, and for me half the fun is agonising over the choice. In the end I went for the driving me cherries (okay but a little too sweet) and the clotted cream vanilla (bliss - like being back in Cornwall all of a sudden!) and they were both very wholesome and I felt good for all that afterwards. The rain had stopped for a fair while whilst we were there and as we headed back up the A51 and A49 it started to rain again. Good timing I think.

It was then off to the Riverside Inn just before the swing bridge for a very lovely lunch, with The Ale's rather nice Somerset Chicken looking on fine form, and the gammon I had was cooked spot on, especially with the grilled pineapple on top. It just works really well for some reason and it's always a good staple whenever I eat out to be honest. What was also good was that the pub had Hobgoblin on cask (get in!) but even better was a different ale from the same Wychwood Brewery that I never had before, Bountiful. Turns out it's a seasonal one only normally made in August, but it was top stuff.

I kept an eye on the Manchester City v Southampton game and would watch it on Match of the Day 2 later - and to be honest City were a little lucky. We squandered far too many chances including an appalling penalty from David Silva, and although we did go 1-0 up, Southampton had two chances, scored them both and we were 2-1 down. Only some resolute attacking saved the day with a close range finish by Edin Džeko and then a neat finish from Samir Nasri to win the game 3-2 for City. Full credit to Southampton though as they played very well and can consider themselves unlucky not to come away with a point.

Tune of the day is the excellent "Just A Bullet Away" by Metallica from their Beyond Magnetic EP. It just sounded really good on first listen and on repeat listens it grows on you massively. It's my favourite track of the four on the EP and it makes me wonder why the band didn't make their Death Magnetic album a double CD so that they could have fitted these four tracks on to it, which don't feel out of place whatsoever. I'm just waiting for one day Rock Band doing a deal with Metallica so tracks like this can be in the game (Guitar Hero had exclusive rights of course because of GH: Metallica)

Saturday 18th August - Hair, Hospitals and Hearty Food

It was a pretty busy Saturday in the end for me. I did the remainder of the housework and got everything lovely as The Ale In My Bottle was heading over later for a meal and to stay over. It worked out well because doing all that early on meant that I could head into the city centre and visit the lovely staff at The Northern Cutter, who did their usual magic in getting my hair all nice, straight and looking pretty good. I thought that realistically it would be good to do it now as often trying to go during the week relies on a quiet lunch time or going after work and catching them before they shut, so good to do it now methinks.

I got back home and relaxed a little bit with Football Focus, and it was good to see an interview with Joleon Lescott who was reminiscing about the title win last season, and how good it was for him to now establish himself as one of the senior players in the City line up. I of course was looking forward to the start of the season and see City start to defend the title, as you do. It was also noticeable to see that Peter Reid, the ex-Everton and Manchester City player, was tipping City to win the title ahead of Mark Lawrenson's prediction of Man U. Nice one Reidy, once a blue, always a blue and all that.

It was a lengthy journey then to Wythenshawe Hospital to see one of my friends, who is in there at the moment with a nasty infection to his system. He was pleased to see me but was really hoping that he wasn't going to be in there too long, and I tried to keep the spirits up by having a good chat to him about all sorts, including the football and what have you. The bus back home was fine apart from the fact that it was stood at a bus stop in Sharston for over ten minutes whilst the driver read the paper. Haven't these people got a small matter of a timetable to keep to?

The Ale In My Bottle came over and we headed out to Fletcher Moss for a nice walk around, walking up along the tree-lined path to the river bank, following the river and coming back along a hilly path towards Millgate Fields, then around there, back through Stenner Woods and along to the Didsbury pub, where a well earned pint of this lovely single hopped beer was awaiting me. It was very nice too, the name escapes me but I think it was licenced from a European brewer and brewed in the same style over here - still proper real ale style though which was good.

We even stopped off at Carringtons in Didsbury on the way back to mine, where I stocked up with four very nice beers from different local breweries, I picked up Owd Tyke, Wentworth Pale Ale (WPA or Woppa as it's often called), Stone Faced and Stone Brood - these latter two from the Lymestone Brewery in Stone, Staffordshire. I had the Stone Faced later with my evening meal and it was very nice indeed - well worth tracking down if you get the chance to. It's always good to try different ales I think.

After the walk and the beer shop visit, we headed home and I made us a lovely meal for the evening, with butternut squash, sage and honey soup to start with crusty malted grain bread, and then the main of chicken in lemon and pepper with breaded crust, mustard mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, which was gorgeous - notably the chicken. I even had a tarte au citron for dessert with some cream as well, which was just lovely. That and some lovely ale to boot, and gorgeous company in The Ale In My Bottle - what more could I ask for? Not much really was the answer to that.

We ended up watching Red or Black later, and interesting to me was that the final game was called Vortex. I reckon Ant and Dec took the idea from the cult classic BBC2 show The Adventure Game, where at the end the players had to cross and dodge the vortex and avoid walking into it when they made their move. Everything in thta of course was an anagram of dragon, hence the aspidistra that ruled the place was called Rangdo and you had to greet him with "Gronda Gronda!". Classic stuff. In fact, the theme tune from said show (the classic from series 1, 3 and 4) is tune of the day - because I can.

Friday 17th August - Humid Housework

I had another rather hectic day at work today and solved a few problems as well. One of them was to do with all the software I'd added to the main build and how that interacted with Windows 7 on our student build. Turns out that for some reason Adobe Illustrator CS6 decides to muck up the file associations for Autocad (.dwg) files and when you therefore launch AutoCAD as a student, it asks you if you want to repair the file associations. Not really what you want of course, so I decided to investigate that. I eventually worked out that the file type registers itself in the user profile, not the machine, so located the settings and imported them into the Group Policy Preferences for our campus, which worked really well.

I also then spent a bit of time this afternoon investigating a couple of other jobs and managing to weave my IT ninja skills into resolving them. One was quite interesting as it was heading to another building and working out just why a piece of equipment wouldn't connect with the Internet, and eventually worked out that it needed the network speed setting on the port that it was connected to, and set correctly, and then once that was done it then needed switching vLAN to be able to see out. Oh, the fun and games that I have with devices and configuration.

I decided when I got home from work to head to the larger Tesco to do the shopping, as I wanted to get some items I can't normally get in the little one. Got these really nice basa fillets and some lemon rice to go with them which will be a nice fish dish I can make during the week, and indulged in the Tesco Finest Meal for £10 deal for myself and The Love In My Heart for tomorrow night. It was a main of some really nice lemon pepper chicken in breadcrumbs, with a side dish of mustard mash (I have the steam fresh vegetables so they'll go on the side) followed by tarte au citron and a nice bottle of Fiano wine as well. Yummy. I then went for the whole three courses and bought the Finest butternut squash soup and a crusty granary stick to go with that - all good.

It amazes me sometimes though just how many people potter around the larger Tescos and other large supermarkets. For me, it's go in, get what I want, get out of there and head home (timing of buses are usually a good reason for this) but for some it just seems to be faff around and make no decisions about what to get. I was at the beer aisle and was taking advantage of four real ales for £6 deal (in the end I got Theakston's Hogshead, Black Sheep Golden Sheep, Morland Old Golden Hen and Timothy Taylor Landlord) and some were just making no decision about the beer to get - I took a minute or two to weigh up what was in the deal and just get them!!

I got home and decided after tea and after seeing the fifty Premier League moments on BBC Three (Sergio Agüero's goal was number one - that made me a happy bunny) it was then time to get the housework upstairs done. Bathroom cleaned spotless, bedroom sorted and dusted around the tall light stand and around the back of the cupboards, and office room completely overhauled and tidy. It was very humid and so I was sweating a heck of a lot during the process, but I guess that being clean is a good price to pay - and it was good exercise late at night too.

I spent some time before that listening to some Pink Floyd, namely the Wish You Were Here album, mainly the first two tracks on what would be side two of the vinyl, "Have a Cigar" with the Mancunian legend Roy Harper on vocals, and then the title track of the album. Memories came flooding back of how Ed Sheeran had ruined it with a bad cover during the Olympic Closing Ceremony (why oh why do people think he's so in and trendy I have no idea, maybe it's me) and I wanted to listen to the original to realise just how good it was - and still is. So no prizes for guessing that the 1975 classic is tune of the day - and rightfully so in my view.

Thursday 16th August - Stop! Scrabble Time

Had a pretty busy day at work today where we were putting out the new PCs to replace the old ones in one of the main student rooms, and it went really well. I had three of my colleagues on hand to give me some much needed assistance, and it meant that we could effectively set the new ones up and have the old ones collated and ready for writing off and recycling within that some morning. Sometimes the easiest solution is instead of struggling alone is to throw bodies at it, and that certainly worked wonders for me at least. It was good to get that done and indeed to fix a volume issue with one of the lecture desk setups, where I found a disconnected module was that which had the volume control from the DVD player going there.

It was a more sedate afternoon although I did spend a bit of time finally nailing how I was going to work out the next deployment, get a task sequence ready which would therefore deploy all the software that I needed for the next batch of machines, and then also type up some documentation as to how you can get the Group Policy preferences to effectively run a program in whatever compatibility mode that you want - all pretty good in the end and a productive day I certainly felt I had.

I spent some time when I got home sorting the house out and also cooking the tea for myself and The Love In My Heart - who cheered me up massively when she got to mine by saying "Shall I stay at yours tonight?" - well that was an offer I certainly wasn't going to refuse, let's put it that way. I spent a fair bit of time getting together some really nice pork with some potatoes, peas and apple sauce and that did the trick rather nicely, and later on we relaxed and I indulged The Love in some of the soaps as well - only seemed fair after all the Olympic action during the week.

Then it was on with the music and with an extended game of Scrabble - mainly because we were chatting during the game and also becuase it was a tricky board with placement of words pretty hard to be honest. I did have a seven letter word and a place to play it but The Love blocked where I was going to go. Darn! I did though come up with AX, EX and BE in one move for 54 points, so that was pretty nifty overall (X on triple letter score both ways in case you wondered).

The Love set me a challenge that when I play some music, I should start with A and go through to Z. So for this evening I picked the Aloneme album Sketch (the band later became The Floe, and Sarah Springett's gorgeous vocals are there for all to hear on that one, lovely) and then followed that up with Baskery's debut album "Fall Amongst Thieves". Even though my favourite track on that album is the rip roaring "Out of Towner", I'm actually going to give tune of the day to the next track on the album "Oscar Jr Restaurant Bar" as The Love remarked that she really loves that one - and admittedly the vocal harmonies are spot on there which makes it work really well.

Wednesday 15th August - Managing Expectations

I spent a fair bit of time today working on Group Policy Preferences so that when limited users launch the Adobe CS6 products, they launch with all the settings that we'd like to set, and have the shortcuts placed in a folder in the start menu, so in terms of usability, it's all good. Most of the software I've done the settings for before (such as Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator etc) and so it was good to see that I've been able to replicate most of that in the new settings that I've done for the software.

All seemed well and everything in Design and Web Premium launched correctly as a limited user - apart from InDesign. It kept crashing out at the same point and at the same file that it was referencing during launch. I seem to remember that CS5 on Windows XP had the same sort of problem and we had to kludge a few things to get round it. However I was armed with a more knowledge and so thought "compatibility mode might work" and so on the machine set the program to run in Windows Vista SP2 compatibility mode. And.. it worked! All good so far.

I found where the Windows Registry stored the compatibility mode flags for programs, and so got the Group Policy Preferences to import the registry key, and so when the limited user logged in, that key was set, the program ran in the compatibility mode and all was well. Well it was on one of my test PCs but I then tried it on one of the PCs that I had imaged yesterday. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it failed, and no consistency in whether it worked or failed. Bit annoying really. Yet my test PC worked every time. Same software, same Windows 7 build, same image. Hmm.

Anyway, I eventually got it sussed, and it was actually down to a hardware setting inside the HP Compaq 8200s that I imaged yesterday. You may know about all this Active Management Technology (AMT) that seems to crop up inside PCs these days. All well and good, but one of the BIOS settings was set within the AMT settings so that the "Watchdog Timer" was on. I turned this off, saved the BIOS settings, restarted the PC, logged in as my limited user, ran InDesign CS6, and badabing! It worked. And again. And again. Every single time, in fact. That's what I'm talking about. I'll need to make sure that it's set accordingly but still, all good.

I got home, relaxed with a bit of Celebrity Masterchef and then caught up on last night's season finale of CSI. I must admit I had an idea from the US sites about some of the plot but didn't want to read too much into it, and it was pretty dramatic. It pains me that it'll be early next year here in the UK when I find out what will happen next, but in a way I know that when that time comes, all will be good. Tune of the day is "Who Are You" by the Who, the proper CSI theme and one that reminded me of them kicking backside during the Olympics closing ceremony. That's how they roll.

Tuesday 14th August - Bake Bake As Fast As You Can

It was another pretty busy day at work, as I spent a bit of time deploying Adobe Design and Web Premium CS6 to a fair few desktop machines, which was pretty good to do. It worked first go and it meant that I could just set them all of performing the task via our SCCM server and get on with other things in the meantime. It also meant I could look at who in a department has plenty of shared drives and how we'd be able to get them up and running in Windows 7 when the data is migrated to one shared drive, and work out a plan of action to at least get some of the PCs up and imaged before we know it.

I was testing a few things and so finished work relatively late, and so headed via the city centre to get home, stopping off for a bottle of white wine for The Love In My Heart, only seemed right somehow. It was also a fair bit quicker, but the humidity was something else. That's one of the few things that I really dislike - when it's hot and sticky I just don't cope with it very well and even later on The Love said that I really was feeling the heat somewhat, even with the windows open and trying to get at least some fresh air aroud the house.

I made The Love and me some spaghetti carbonara with some garlic bread for tea and that went down really nicely, and we ate that just in time for the Great British Bake Off, which is something we both love. I quite like the fact that it's ordinary people baking with the beady eyes and taste buds of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood really tasting everything and being critical but fair in their judging, with Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins being back as Mel and Sue doing their hosting roles. I must admit out of the two I prefer Mel, she just comes across as really lovely and the sort of person you want to hang out with as a good friend.

It cheers us both up a little when we see even those short listed can get it horribly wrong. Tomato and ginger in a cake? No. Just wrong. Some of the designs hidden inside their cake creations were good fun though: one of them meticulously got the union jack really well done and it looked fab, whilst some were better looking on the outside and on the inside.. just not there. Mind you the rum babas looked pretty tricky to do and you had to feel for the eventually eliminated Natasha as she attempted to do them in some water only for it to completely and epically fail. Oops!

As The Love has been seeing nothing but sport the last two weeks, I further indulged her a bit with Don't Tell The Bride, which featured a really bossy and stroppy woman whom to be honest, would not be the sort of woman I'd want to marry. I lost count the number of times she said "lush" to describe something as good (forty plus times before I eventually lost count!). The stag and hen joint do with the paintballing was madly hilarious, with Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Two Tribes" belting out (make it tune of the day) and it was also good to see just how seriously they both took it. I must admit though it makes me glad that I'd never subject myself to that sort of thing (not getting married, but living it out for a TV programme, no thank you!)

Monday 13th August - Back To The Grind Stone

It was back to work today and it really did feel like a baptism of fire of sorts, as I was thrust straight into working on a possible deployment plan for some departments. The issue is that not all of their data has been migrated as yet but we could do with sorting out what users could be moved over to Windows 7 now if all their data has been moved over, and it was a case of getting on with working out what is where. In fact, looking at all the container login scripts it seemed that there were around sixteen different drive letter mappings!

However, by doing a nifty bit of command line trickery, I managed to work out who the members were within a container of each group, and collated all of that into a spreadsheet so I was then able to cross-correlate who had what, it worked really well in the end and when I was able to compare between what they had I noticed that a few of the drive mappings were only available to one or two users, and those users had in fact left. As such they weren't needed and as such that saved me the time I'd need there as well.

I think there's a good chance of getting some users moved over to Windows 7 sooner rather than later but it's going to take some careful work and a deployment plan to get things done, and it's also inevitably going to need more people on board as well at some point to be able to get everyone up to speed too. It's a bit frustrating really because all the new kit arrived late, and as such we could have been getting on with it at the time. Not that I've not had anything to do, far from it, I've packaged up plenty of Adobe CS6 suite stuff as well as keeping an eye on further deployment activities.

I got home and as I'd recorded the Saturday night's session from the 4th August from the Olympics I thought it'd be a perfect way to give it a send off by reliving that golden hour of athletics where Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah did their part to get the record breaking day that we had of six golds, which was awesome to see. Seeing it all again and seeing how emotional they all got showed how much it meant to them all and what it meant to win it at home. It felt great and knowing I'd been to the stadium, got the atmosphere right for Mo Farah's qualification on his way to 5000m glory, was just great stuff.

I spent some time too getting all the weeds out of the little front bit I have and also the back yard, with all the wet weather it's been too easy for them to grow so it was good to really kill them all off rapid style. I might need the council to try and get the alleyway de-weeded though as it does look like it needs doing somewhat - I'll fill the form in and see what happens there. In the meantime, "The Root of All Evil" by Dream Theater is tune of the day - seems appropriate just for its title when getting rid of weeds, but also it's a kick backside opening track as it builds and rocks its way through eight minutes.

Sunday 12th August - Down To The Villa For A Thriller

I had an early start today as my friend and I were off towards Birmingham for the FA Community Shield between Manchester City and Chelsea at Villa Park, home of Aston Villa. With many leading venues being used during the Olympics, it left this venue as the leading choice as it holds 40,000 plus and has often been used a venue for FA Cup semi finals in the past, for example. We left at around 10am and with the journey normally taking less than two hours and with it being a 1.30pm kick off, you'd think we'd have enough time.

Mind you, as we headed down the M6 the traffic was pretty busy, and as we got towards junction 9, you could see a trickle of traffic as you headed towards Birmingham and past the M6/M5 junction it was pretty stationary. We were going to come off at junction 7 and follow the A34 towards Birmingham as per the directions that the fans were given, but seeing the massive queue off the roundabout we instead stayed on the M6, came off at junction 6 for the A38(M), came off at the first junction and followed the signs for the ground. We ended up on the wrong side of the stadium but the stewards directed us round, and eventually we got to the car park with around fifteen minutes to spare, and were in our seats a few minutes before kick off. Phew!

The first half was decent too, it was mainly City and we were looking good in possession. Chelsea did look dangerous on the break and new signing Eden Hazard showed some signs of promise, but it was still a shock when the ball broke for Fernando Torres to score with a few minutes to go before half time. This was the wake up call for City that we needed, and as Aleksandar Kolarov surged forward a couple of minutes later, he was caught with a nasty challenge from Bravoslav Ivanovic, who was rightly red carded (despite what Andy Townsend might have said on ITV1, the idiot!)

So 0-1 at half time and after braving the queues for the chips and drinks (£4 for a pie, bloody scandalous!) it was then back to the seats for the second half, where we both hoped that City would do the business. And that's what they did, in twelve magical second half minutes the game was turned around. With the crowd doing the Kolo and Yaya Toure chant to "No Limits" by 2 Unlimited, the ball broke on the edge of the box to Yaya Toure, who slotted it home low and hard from outside the box, a brilliant finish and one well worth savouring. 1-1 and very much game on as it were.

Better to come during the second half though as Manchester City pressed forward again, Carlos Tévez got the ball on the edge of the area, ran along the area and then smashed it past Petr Cech with a top corner finish that the Chelsea keeper didn't even move for. Very much happy days and better was to come as a cross from Kolarov was met well in the middle by Samir Nasri for 3-1. Looking resplendent in the maroon away shirt and with the sun coming out, all was going rather well for us, and even a Ryan Bertrand goal late on didn't dampen the mood as City won 3-2 and so won the Community Shield.

It was great seeing the players look so chuffed and we were close to the tunnel so we saw Vincent Kompany being interviewed by Gabriel Clarke after the game and Vincent was dead pleased - he kept looking to the fans with a smile on his face and the odd fist clench as well, which was great to see. Interestingly Ashley Cole of Chelsea gave his runners up medal to one of the City fans as he headed down the tunnel - which was either a nice touch or a mark of disrespect depending on how you look at it.

We headed down the A34 back as it was much easier than the two hour traffic jam that was the M6 (people were stuck there for hours apparently) and so we headed through Walsall, Cannock, Stafford, and then Congleton heading home, which was much quicker really. It was also a nicer drive seeing more of the countryside and stuff like that, so all good. It allowed us both plenty of time to then get back and watch the closing ceremony of the Olympics. It did make me feel sad of course that it was ending too.

The closing ceremony was a mixed bag really, with lots of music in an attempt to please all sorts. Would have been nice to have David Bowie and Kate Bush of course, but there were for me low lights (Ed Sheeran ruining Pink Floyd - no! - and the Spice Girls reformation not exactly going too well, with only Emma Bunton coming out of it with any credit, and Russell Brand proving he cannot sing for toffee - or Willy Wonka's chocolate) and bits in the middle such as Eric Idle doing "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life" and a projected Freddie Mercury getting the crowd warmed up in onlt a way that he would have done back at Wembley for Live Aid or similar. Man, we miss him don't we?

But for those that rocked, we salute you. Elbow were majestic during their two songs and really got the crowd lited beautifully, Kaiser Chiefs did a decent version of Pinball Wizard, Muse performed their Olympic song "Survival" with full on rock mode and getting the crowd really into it brilliantly, and considering Gary Barlow's wife had had a stillborn baby earlier in the week, he was really brave to perform with Take That and do "Rule The World" like that - respect to him for that, and I'm no fan of the band but you have to give credit where due.

Best of all though were right at the end - The Who closed the show and showed the young upstarts like Jessie J that you don't do crowd singalongs, you get on with rocking and let the crowd see you're kicking backside. And they did, with "Baba O'Reilly" (which many people only know as the CSI: NY theme), "See Me Feel Me" (the closing theme from "Tommy" of course) and best of all, a spirited late night rocking version of "My Generation" - make that tune of the day as it was completely fab, and really showed off just what we do best - rock!!

Saturday 11th August - Dinner For Nine

I had a lie-in today, I freely admit. I think all the travelling up and down the country I've been doing following the Olympics caught up with me a fair bit, and so it was good not to have to get up too early and instead just relax and sleep a little bit. I eventually woke, switched the telly on, watched the semi finals of the diving and saw Tom Daley make it through to his 10m platform final, got the house tidied up, and then ended up being glued to the telly in the early afternoon watching the women's mountain bike race.

I have to say these mountain bikers must be pretty hard. They ride down hills and on this course down hills covered in rocks with various paths to take, the faster being the riskier. You saw the odd fall and then see them just get up and carry on as if nothing had happened (and one of those ended up with the silver so there's proof of their hardness) and overall it was very entertaining to watch. The British girl Annie Last did pretty well, up at front at first but maybe a bit too quick and paid for the pace, but still in eighth place overall which wasn't that bad.

I went to Morrisons in Chorlton in the afternoon to get some good real ales for later tonight, and it was good to see that several of them were priced pretty cheap, for example The Governor at £1.50, Marstons English Pale Ale at a mere £1, and £1.25 for one of my favourites Brewers Dark. Ace. Of course I bought a few and even timed it well so I got the bus back home which was the same one I'd taken to get there, so less time spent equals more time I can spend in quality relaxed time mode.

The Love In My Heart came over later on and after a coffee, chat and getting ourselves showered and ready, we headed out to Mum's, as she was cooking for us. In fact what was planned to be a smaller dinner party for myself, Mum, The Love, my brother and his girlfriend ended up being dinner for nine, with both my sisters and partners and one of Mum's friends coming as well (my brother's girlfriend was poorly and so didn't come). That said, it was good to see everyone and relax and have a god evening.

In fact before the food was served, my brother me and little nephew were in the front room as Mo Farah was off in the 5000 metres final. As the last lap unwound, my nephew shouted out "Warp speed, Mo!" and it certainly did the trick as Mo Farah wound up the last lap and kept it together to win - and thus claim the 5000m and 10000m double - and not many athletes do that successfully. It was a brilliant moment and one which I know will stay with me because of where I was and how much we all enjoyed it, spine tingling stuff.

Then it was the food - and all lovely. Minestrone soup to start followed by a main of some gorgeous beef in red wine sauce with mushrooms, potatoes and some vegetables, cooked to perfection in a really nice gravy as well. Add to that a gorgeous apple cake with ice cream and I was a very full but happy bunny, and having brought some wine and beer with us, we relaxed in the back on the patio and had a very nice chilled out evening chatting, smiling and enjoying ourselves, virtually our own Olympic party as well. It was really nice, and "Our House" by Madness seems appropriate as tune of the day - as I reckon it'll be in the Closing Ceremony somewhere...

Friday 10th August - Afternoon Drinks

It was a lie-in for me a little bit this morning, as getting back at around 2am last night certainly meant that I just fancied a bit of a sleep and rest, and as I wasn't going to any Olympic events or be in work today, it was time just to take things easy at home, clean around the house, sort out lots of pictures that I'd taken yesterday and Wednesday, and generally get them organised so I knew which ones that I'd upload. They're all up now and I was quite pleased with some of them, not least the one I took of the Wembley Arch in the dark - in black and white it really does look the part and the black is pure back too - very nice. Quite happy.

I had a cup of coffee and relaxed whilst keeping an eye on the BMX quarter and semi finals, and it certainly looked pretty intense as the riders headed around the track there. I think too that at that speed one mistake you're hitting the dirt certainly shows that you really have to think fast, act fast as well as ride fast, and it's intense that way too. I set my Freeview HD box to record the rest of the semis and final so I could watch it a little later, as I was heading into the city centre.

And for good reason - I've been missing The Love In My Heart terribly and on my way to Wembley from Earls Court yesterday I suggested meeting her for a drink after she finished work, and she thought that was a good idea, so we met in Kro Piccadilly for a drink and a chat, and it was nice just to be sat together, taking it easy, having plenty of time to catch up together, and generally be together. I even had their gorgeous St Clements cake with a coffee later on which was so worth it.

It was just a really nice way to start the weekend as well, and I think we both appreciated the quality time that we had together and being able to just take things at a slower pace was ideal for me in the end. I've just felt so lucky that she's encouraged me to make the most of the Olympics and to enjoy my time there. Although naturally I think if I'd have got tickets earlier for the gymnastics or the athletics I am sure she would have loved to have gone to that, nonetheless she can see how happy it's made me being at different events an enjoying myself, so all is good there.

I spent a bit of time during the evening watching the athletics and see that once again Great Britain failed to get the baton round in the 4x100 metres. What do we have to do to get it round properly and qualify for the final, I wonder? Just not good really. However what was a lot better than that, thankfully, was the men's 4 x 400 metre final with a bit of a shock - Bahamas beating the USA into second and really showing that great team ethic. The British finished fourth and at least looked like they were in the hunt a little bit, signs for the future maybe. Either way, all good stuff and I finished off the evening with a bit of handball. That's how I roll.

As for tune of the day it was actually a very easy choice in the end - the Chariots of Fire theme by Vangelis from the film of the same name. It's just suited the medal ceremonies perfectly as the music to hand the medals to with plenty of inspiring themes throughout, and when you've seen a British athlete get a medal of any colour, it really has been stirring and getting cheers from the crowd at the same time. Also makes me think of the Commodore 64 version of the arcade game Hyper Sports which had a cover of said theme tune.

Thursday 9th August - USA! USA!

It was back to London for me today for more Olympics action, with the volleyball semi final followed by the football final. I knew that the trains might have been icky though due to last night's line damage, and saw that my 1115 train was a cancelled one. I spoke to Virgin who reassured me that I could either get the 1055 or 1135 which were running, but went for the 1055 one because I knew that it would at least get me there around the same time (allowing for delays obviously) and as it was also not my original train, I went to the unreserved coach E to be fair to people who had reservations.

The journey down to London wasn't that bad, and I got into Euston not far off the same time I'd have done if I got the 1115, so that was good. I nipped in to Sainsburys and got one of their £3 meal deals for lunch, which meant I could have it on the journey to Earls Court and keep the empty water bottle to fill up inside the venue, not daft me you know. It was a straight run on the tube via Edgware Road to Earls Court, and followed the signs so that I'd be getting to the venue without issues. I had myself security checked and in, and was in block 40 right at the top. Must admit the view wasn't too bad from there, and the organisers had deliberately set the seating plan so that any views behind pillars at the top weren't sold, meaning everyone could see.

It was the best of five sets between the USA and South Korea, and although the first two sets were pretty close, USA edged them, roared on by a very loud crowd who were more than happy to yell "USA! USA" every few minutes and wave their flags so blocking the view of everyone else in between points. Mind you, it was more intriguing to see just how six a side worked with volleyball, some of the longer rallies where players dived to reach the ball and get it showed lots of commitment, and technical timeouts to keep the court clean worked a treat.

What was nice though was the choice of tunes in between points, including "Lola's Theme" by the Shapeshifters. As that's one of The Love In My Heart's favourite tunes of all time, it has to be tune of the day - I texted her to know that they were playing it and it did make me miss her loads. I did want her to come really but she couldn't have the time off work, but I think she would have appreciated the atmosphere massively. The third set was also close with South Korea fighting back, but in the end USA won it and so set up a straight sets win, meaning the session actually finished on time - don't think the organisers worked out long enough for the volleyball matches somehow.

I decided to avoid the crowds at Earls Court tube and instead go back round to West Brompton, which worked fine as I was soon on a London Overground train, changed at West Hampstead and then took the Jubilee line from there to Wembley Park, so I could walk down Wembley Way and see the majestic stadium. Of course as a Man City fan I've done that walk a few times recently, but you won't see me complaining to be honest. Lots of Japanese and American fans there, and plenty of us British who wanted to see the final and be there - would have been nice to see our team there but the two best sides in the world are there, so can't complain really.

My seat was in block 522, level with the goal line but up in the gods, and so was a long way up. The view wasn't that bad though but it did mean I'd be looking down on the action, so my 55-200mm lens came in handy on the camera for seeing stuff a bit more close up if I needed to. With the anthems played and the teams out, it was ready for action and the football final commenced. Only seven minutes were on the clock though when a cross from Alex Morgan was headed in my Carli Lloyd for 1-0. Japan were the better side for most of the first half though and hit the bar twice, with an excellent save from Hope Solo to keep the score at 1-0, and despite Yuki Ogimi's best efforts, Japan couldn't score.

The second half got underway and the Japanese again went for it but left their shooting boots at home so it seemed, and a few minutes later Carli Lloyd ran with the ball and with twenty yards out unleashed a shot into the top corner that was a world class finish. She was understandably pleased with herself and 2-0 was a long way to come back for Japan. But however Japan showed some fight and after some goalmouth scrambles, Ogimi finished from close range to make it 2-1 and set up a tense last half hour or so.

With the Americans near me all chanting "USA! USA!" en masse, it spurred the team on and their never say die attitude meant that they were getting all forms of blocks in to stop Japan taking the game to extra time, and as the game headed towards the end and in stoppage time, it was game over effectively, and so the USA had won the women's football tournament, one which I was proud to see various games of and one which really did set the game on the map over here - I'm hoping now that it wasn't the Olympic factor but people actually see how good it was.

It was a fairly painless ride on the Metropolitan Line tube back to Euston Square (much quicker going that way) and before long I was back in the Crown and Anchor with a pint of Windermere Pale and seeing Jade Jones win her taekwondo gold medal live, which was rather good. I'd booked the 2330 train back to Manchester Piccadilly from Euston and at the time I'd booked first class, as it was cheaper for some reason. And it wasn't a bad move either to get that train - as the 0030 and 0130 were cancelled due to the line repairs.

On the train it was as great as first class normally is - free coffee, soft drinks, and even Old Speckled Hen, which I happlily savoured along with some cheese and crackers which went down a treat as well after getting a little peckish, along with a little toffee muffin too. It was just the perfect end to a great day and my last Olympic day of going to the events. When I consider I've done so much and enjoyed it, it really does put into perspective what a year it has been for me!

Wednesday 8th August - A Day At The Olympic Stadium

Well, after last night's happiness, today was going to be a very special day indeed. I'd booked the trains for today last night, and did my crafty little wrangle of saving around £70 on early morning trains between Manchester and London Euston. Rather than go direct and pay upwards of £110, I bought a ticket from Crewe to London on the 0653 (£32) and then a single from Manchester to Crewe on Virgin (£9.50) and so that was much easier. I'd also got a direct train back to Manchester at 1820 for not that much expense either, so just goes to show that you can still shop around and get a good ticket price.

I was therefore at Piccadilly Station at around 0540, and Bread Box in the station was open, so large bacon barm and coffee for £2.50 was mine - excellent! I had that on the way down to Crewe and changed trains there, and soon off to London Euston. I arrived on time at 0833 which meant I had just under an hour and a half to get to the Olympic Stadium before the action commenced. I was wondering if it was enough time, but I went to Euston Square tube, took the Metropolitan line to Liverpool Street and then the Central line to Stratford (pretty quiet too) and there I was. I got through security without problems and was walking by the Aquatics Centre at 0910, not too shabby eh?

I made it to Bridge E to get to the stadium itself, and sat there admiring the rather lovely view I had. I was just beyond the finish line in block 216, meaning I'd get to see the finish of the track events rather well. I also noticed that the stand curved a bit, so not many people in front either, so the vantage point was brilliant. Ben Shephard was hosting and he had the Star Trek legend Patrick Stewart there who was taking it all in. Make it so, Patrick! (etc) The action was soon to get underway with the pole vault qualifying with two groups and plenty to keep an eye on.

In fact there was almost too much to see at once as the women's hammer throw qualifying started on the back straight corner, with two groups set to see if they could get the qualifying distance. The decathlon 100 metres started off with four heats for the runners, with Daniel Awde going in the last heat and winning it for Great Britain. It's all about the times though for points, and Ashton Eaton of the USA justified his favourite tag to win in a great time. It was sad seeing the legend Roman Sebrle struggle though and he had to pull out after that first event.

The men's 5000m heats were up next with Mo Farah in the first one, and obviously the crowd went mental for him because they'd seen his 10000m win. The heat he was in was pretty slow in the end and it did mean he'd need to be top five to be sure of qualifying, and he cruised to third. Maybe the British wanted to see him win but those who follow athletics like me know that you get to the final and use as little effort as possible, then see what happens in the final itself. Nick McCormick of Great Britain went in the second heat but just missed out as one of the fastest losers, which included Mo's training partner and 10000m silver medallist Galen Rupp of the USA.

At the same time, Sophie Hitchon had produced a British record hammer throw of 71.98m to not quite get the 73m automatic distance, but with only four athletes going better than her in her pool, she stood a good chance to become one of the top twelve and get to the final. I kept my eye closely on pool B, seeing how the athletes did there, applauding the good throws and generally looking at the scoreboard for the distances. Thankfully only five did better than Sophie, which meant that in 10th place she made the final. Well done her and her jump for joy on the track was deserved - we just don't get people into field finals and yet we were today.

The women's 800 metres had been going on track, and this produced two of the stories of the games in one qualifying session. Six heats in all and Lynsey Sharp had qualified for Great Britain in heat four behind the current champion Pamela Jelimo, but the drama was in heats two and six. In the second heat, the Turkish athlete Merve Aydin looked like she'd pulled a muscle or hamstring going towards the back straight on the last lap, but despite her pain, she managed to hobble round the track to complete the course in scenes reminiscent of Derek Redmond at Barcelona in 1992. Epic stuff, and she got a massive standing ovation from the crowd.

Heat six also saw a little bit of history being made as the Saudi Arabian woman Sarah Attar was their first ever track and field athlete - it was the first time that the country allowed female athletes, and it might only be a small start, but the knowledgeable crowd understood what this meant and cheered her on to her own national record and at the same time creating her own bit of history. Okay, so it might not necessarily be the biggest step or quickest time, but the whole spirit of the Olympics had been summed up right there and I felt priveleged to see it.

With the decathlon shot put complete, the session was over, it had gone by so quick! With lots of time to spare I had a nice walk around the Olympic Park, seeing plenty of sights including the Copper Box, the shipping crates that support the on-site BBC studio, the media centre, plenty of British fans wanting to swap tickets for the hockey so that they could see the British in the women's semi finals, the Velodrome, Basketball Arena, Water Polo Arena, the Aquatics Centre designed by Zaha Hadid, and Anish Kapoor's "Orbit" as well. It was good to take time and walk around and see everything.

With the queues to Stratford station starting to form, it was time to take the alternative route, out via the Greenway Gate and following this rather nice walk which took you over many areas and in plenty of green space, and before long I was at West Ham underground station, which was relatively quiet. I took the Hammersmith and City line straight back to Euston Square, and as I had time before taking the train, I stopped off at the Crown and Anchor pub for a well earned pint or two and had their gammon and eggs meal for tea, which was brilliant, well worth the mere £7 it cost too. Yaay them!

I got back on the 1820 train and all was well till we got to Cheddington where a broken down train was causing delays. Added to that was some line damage at Wolverton, just north of Milton Keynes, and it looked from what I could see like vandalism had occurred. I wasn't happy about that because it might also affect tomorrow's journey back down to London, but also that I would get less sleep later. I eventually got home at Piccadilly around forty five minutes later than planned, so it was straight home, relax a little bit and catch up on the action before heading for bed. It had been a great day though, so "Beautiful Day" by the Levellers has to be tune of the day - as it most definitely was. I feel so bloody happy let me tell you!

Tuesday 7th August - I've Got a Golden (Athletics) Ticket!

Those of you will remember the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and the film with Gene Wilder's finest hour as Willy Wonka) where Charlie manages to find a golden ticket inside one of the only Wonka bars he buys, showing that sometimes the nice people win out. I felt really unlucky not to have got a ticket for the athletics in the opening ballots of the Olympic Games but my hopes had been raised by seeing tickets go up for sale a day or two before where Olympic family type people weren't going, or that some people might have changed their plans.

After sorting out plenty of stuff at work and deciding to book tomorrow off work just in case, I had had one go at getting tickets at lunch time but thought nothing of it as I'd failed. I got myself home from work and after seeing a bit of Olympic action on the telly, I went to the PC and to check online to see what came up. When I searched for athletics, it looked like some tickets had been released for tomorrow morning's session. I thought "don't go for the cheap ones because everyone will do that" and so went for a middle price category B. I added them to the basket, went to the purchase screen, and waited. And waited. Could it happen?

Next minute, the seat was reserved and I was at the checkout page. Oh my gosh, I could be going! I went through the card payment screens, paid by debit card, waited for that to be approved, and - there it was. A screen that clearly said that I had tickets for tomorrow morning's athletics session!! I had an email confirmation a minute or two later, and then a half hour later the print at home ticket arrived, which I printed off just before The Love In My Heart came over. I'm going to the athletics at the Olympic Stadium!! Oh my gosh, that's something else!

As The Love arrived I had to tell her the good news, and she was pleased for me. Like she said, I've worked hard, I can afford it, and why not go and enjoy it? I checked the schedule and Mo Farah was to go in the 5000m heats, the women's hammer throw qualifying with Sophie Hitchon, the start of the men's decathlon, 800m qualifying, all sorts really. But just to be in the stadium to see all that will be a dream come true. I literally had logged on and got the ticket like that, just goes to show that people who have been trying for days on end might have been trying a bit too hard!

The Love and I had pasta with meatballs for tea, and we settled in for the evening with her watching the soaps and then us watching some athletics action from the Olympics. It was just nice to relax with The Love and give her lots of hugs and cuddles too, and we chatted about all sorts including the working day and generally just felt all snuggly, so that was good. I really felt on the up and as The Love left later, she said to me "enjoy yourself tomorrow" which was really nice of her to say. Tune of the day is "I've Got a Golden Ticket" performed by Jack Albertson from the soundtrack to the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film, seems rather apt I think. And I do love that film!

Monday 6th August - Last Minute Drama

After a hard day's work, it was a trip down to Old Trafford for the women's semi final of the football tournament. One of my work colleagues lives pretty close to the ground, so he was pretty happy to give me a lift back to his place and I had a cold drink there whilst seeing the equestrian jumping team claim their gold medal in a rather dramatic jump off. The British held their nerve and managed well to get clear rounds and so win, so yet another gold meal for Britain, which also meant that we'd be on the way to beating the medal haul in Beijing four years ago, epic stuff.

I headed over to the ground and to save on the food costs stopped at one of the various fish and chips takeaways on Chester Road, and one portion of chips later, that was me very much happy and fed, and so walked around the ground, spotting many fans along the way who had their face painted in either Canadian or American colours, and with a decent crowd of around 26,000 or so expected, I was hoping for a good game and after Canada had beaten Great Britain, a lot of neutrals wanted them to go on and win the tournament.

The atmosphere buit nicely with every venue it seems playing Dizzee Rascal's "Bonkers" by law (make it tune of the day though - you'll see why later on) and lots of women here supporting the football as well, and families too, it made for a good place to be. I did feel that Canada might have to take the lead to have a chance of winning, as the USA tend to lead from the front and not give leads away. Maybe they could take inspiration from what France did in the opening game going 2-0 up?

The first half started and it was all USA initially but Canada came back into it well, and after a good passage of play the ball went to Melissa Tancredi, who released Christine Sinclair, she coolly took on the USA defence and slotted the ball home low and hard for 1-0. That certainly was a well taken goal and one that meant that at half time the USA had it pretty much all to do. I could see Canada possibly scoring again so it would make for an exciting second half, I was hoping.

And my, what a half! Possibly the best second half of women's football I've seen, and right up there with some classic Man City games as well. It had everything. First off, a corner came in from Megan Rapinoe of the USA and curled in, missing two Canadian defenders and their goalkeeper at the near post. 1-1 was definitely game on, but that didn't account for Christine Sinclair heading home Melissa Tancredi's cross, right in the corner for 2-1, another excellent finish from her.

Anything Canada did though, the USA came back at them and Megan Rapinoe rifled home a twenty five yard piledriver right off the left hand post and in, not too bad scoring at the Stretford End I reckoned. It was a superb finish and I think there'd be plenty of male players proud of that one as well. Canada though weren't done, not by a long way and a couple of minutes later the corner came over and who else but Christine Sinclair completed her hat trick with another superb header. She ran to the coaching staff and showed her appreciation of the fans there too, and it was 3-2 to them. What now?

Controversy, that's what. The Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod took too long to clear the ball and the referee gave an indirect free kick. That was harsh, but not as harsh as when Megan Rapinoe whacked it towards goal and the unfortunate Marie-Eve Nault looked like she had handled it. It showed up later it was ball to hand and never a penalty, and that met with massive boos from the crowd. Abby Wambach slotted home the penalty and so it was 3-3, and with no extra goals during normal time, a half hour of extra time loomed with both sides looking like they needed another spurt of energy to try and kill the game off.

Extra time came and went, and it looked very much like it was going to be penalties. But in a finish almost Sergio Agüero-like, USA went forward and in added on time at the end of extra time, Alex Morgan headed home to score the winner, with heartbreak for the Canadian defence as they slumped to the ground. The USA fans were delirious, and what a way to win the match. It was a classic game, a bit bonkers maybe, but just goes to show that the women's game can produce some classic matches as well as the men - a perfect advert for their sport. If you didn't see it, catch up on the BBC site - you'll be glad you did.

Sunday 5th August - Lightning Bolt

The Love In My Heart and I had enjoyed a very nice meal out in Kro in Heaton Moor last night, and it was good to relax and take some time alone together, with a very lovely soup starter and main of salmon papardelle pasta for me, which was stunning. If you're ever in there, have it. Later on whilst we were in The Elizabethan down the road we saw that Jessica Ennis had clinched her heptathlon gold medal with the pub cheering the TV screen massively. Add to that of course Mo Farah's excellent 10,000 metres win and Greg Rutherford pulling off a great surprise in the long jump to win gold too, and it proved to be a superb night for athletics if you're British. I just hoped that others would be inspired.

And weren't they just? Well, whilst The Love headed home in the afternoon to get some things done so she could come back to mine later and watch the 100 metres final live with me, I settled in and watched the men's tennis final. Could Andy Murray possibly beat Roger Federer and claim the gold medal, or could he win with Laura Robson in the final of the mixed doubles? Either way two silvers guaranteed minimum was a great effort and you could tell from both Andy and Roger's reactions after their semi final that knowing they were getting a medal showed pride from them both. Don't tell them the Olympics means nothing for tennis players - it does!

For the next couple of hours I had to pinch myself. Knowing how brilliant Federer is on grass (seven Wimbledon titles!) the way that Andy Murray played was unreal, he totally smashed Federer off court and produced some blinding tennis, perhaps the best of his career. Fired up from his Wimbledon defeat, he really looked like he wanted it more than anyone, and Federer didn't play that badly at all and showed many flashes of genius, it was just that Andy really produced on the day. It was a well deserved gold medal, and Roger as ever was very gracious in defeat and said "to come back from losing Wimbledon to win here today, that's the true sign of a champion" and was happy to get the silver, a medal in the singles for him was all he wanted.

Andy Murray said afterwards that the likes of seeing Mo Farah win fired him up even more, and it just goes to show that with all the athletes being together in the village, they were feeding off each other and pushing themselves. Well done Andy for proving that the Olympics meant so much and that you were so proud to get that gold medal. Although he couldn't quite win the mixed doubles with Laura Robson later on (they went to a champions tie break and narrowly lost 10-8, so no disgrace there whatsover considering they had the women's world number 1 Victoria Azarenka and the world men's number 1 doubles player as their opponents) his job had been very well done. Nice one!

The Love arrived back for the evening athletics and I made us a nice three course meal with mushroom soup, rump steak and tiramisu being the courses, I thought it was only fair that I spoilt her a little considering all my gallivanting around the Olympics that I've done and will be doing. It was also good to see that the stadium was full again for the evening's athletics action, and in the 100 metre semi finals Usain Bolt basically jogged to the line from 20 metres out, showing just how confident he was. His team mate and rival Yohan Blake got to the final relatively easily too, but no British athlete in the final wasn't so good. Maybe in four years time...

As the evening carried on, it was clear that the attention would be later on focussed on the 100 metres with it being the last race of the day. The Love and I were excited as for me it's the blue riband event at the Olympics and the one which was the most oversubscribed for tickets as well. I just wondered what was going to happen when the gun went off, as did The Love, who was as excited as me. I think when it's major events like this you all tend to watch together and really get behind everyone.

The gun went, off went everyone and although Usain Bolt got a slow start he soon was out of the blocks and powering down the home straight, setting a new Olympic record of 9.63 along the way. Yohan Blake did equal his own personal best in second, so no disgrace there. In fact seven finishers all went under 10 seconds and had Asafa Powell not been injured during the race, it might well have been all eight. Incredible stuff really and as the mascot Wenlock attempted to join Bolt in his iconic pose, it just went to show that the spirit of the Olympics was very much alive. Tune of the day is "Survival" by Muse, which just seems to be more suited to the spirit of the games each time I hear it.

Saturday 4th August - Big Up Japan

I got up, plied myself with more decongestants, did a shed load of ironing, and also then got myself showered and ready and good to go for the afternoon's football that my friend and I had planned. We'd got tickets for the football quarter final at Old Trafford and as the draw worked out, Japan who had won Group D played the Group C runners up Egypt. Japan had looked good in their group, not conceding a single goal, and Egypt almost pulled it back from 3-0 down against Brazil earlier in the group, so definitely positives from both sides going in to it.

My friend and I got ourselves to the ground and the small old ticket office near our entrance was open, so was able to pick up the ticket I'd managed to get yesterday for Thursday's women's volleyball semi final at Earls Court. Works out rather well as it means that I'm able to see that and the women's football final on the same day, and the lovely helpful lady in the ticket office saw my ID, printed the ticket out and the job was a good'un for sure. Saved me faffing about later in the week that's for sure.

We got into the ground, got to our seats and we were behind the right hand goal again but with a meshed fence in front which did spoil the view a little, but we were there - and the ground was almost full, with just over 70,000 inside the ground - pretty impressive really considering that some of the group games weren't full, but I guess it might have been Great Britain here depending on the draw (a lot of us bought tickets before the draw was made as we wanted to be part of the Olympic experience) - and the atmosphere with the Japanese fans was spot on, really did make for a good game.

Japan looked set to want to win from the start and we were both impressed with the way they went about their business. They had a header just wide in the first half and mid way through a superb through ball released Kensuke Nagai, who nipped in between the Egyptian centre back and goalkeeper and then scored with an easy finish. Nagai was injured throgh and a few minutes later he had to be carried off on a stretcher - a real shame but he'd played his part and got a massive standing ovation from the fans.

The turning point of the match was when Manabu Saito broke through with an excellent through ball to him, and was brought down on the edge of the box by Saad Samir. The referee was perfectly placed and it was a straight red card no question, and so with Egypt down to ten men they'd really have to dig deep to make sure that it wasn't a pasting, as Japan went forward in search for more goals. At half time it was 1-0 and Japan looked good, the majority of the fans were very happy too.

It took a bit of time to get going during the second half but Egypt gave it a good go and came close on a couple of occasions, before Japan turned the screw later on. A good cross provided an excellent header for Maya Yoshida who glanced it past the goalkeeper at the Stretford End for 2-0, and just a few minutes later it was then another good header from Yuki Otsu made it a good 3-0 win for Japan, and they were well worth their win in my view. A good day all round and the fourth of our Olympic football matches there, it's been a really good experience to be there and cheer on the teams, and feel welcomed even at a ground that as a City fan we'd normally not be welcomed at!

I got home and the mixed doubles semifinal was on and Andy Murray and Laura Robson took the first set 6-1 so all looking good there. The only decision is what to watch and where really as there's lots of channels to see on BBC online and even on Freeview there's at least three or four different streams to watch, with a lot of focus on the British as you'd imagine. For me though it's good to see that there's so much to enjoy and if Murray wins here, he's guaranteed two silver medals minimum, although I think Roger Federer might have a say on Sunday...

Tune of the day is the rather good "We Will Rock You" by Queen, which was played a few minutes before the teams came out at Old Trafford today to get the crowd going. It's certainly been doing that in the beach volleyball every time I've been watching, so that's good, and I think as well it builds up the excitement for the fans inside the grounds. Let's have more of the same as the British team aim for more medals to add to the ten golds that we already have. Go us!

Friday 3rd August - Bunged Up and Medalled

I spent a fair bit of the day bunged up and feeling a bit rubbish. Trust a cold to start kicking in a couple of days ago and leave me coughing, with a sore throat and basically not being great whatsoever. I took as much orange juice as I dare have along with paracetemol during the day to try and keep me going, and I decided in the evening to have an early night, although of course the mass of Olympics action was keeping me going. We also had a team meeting for our Platform Team today and it looks most likely that I'm going to have more work on my hands in terms of application deployment, but we shall see.

At lunch a few of us were keeping an eye on the athletics online, and seeing Jessica Ennis' marvellous 100m hurdles in the first event of the heptathlon (she broke the British record no less!) along with a good high jump in difficult conditions really made everyone feel positive, as did the British rowers again as they got another gold. When I got home of course it was all about the cycling, and seeing the team pursuiters smash their own world record and get gold was just nothing short of awesome, it really was.

After having some pizza for tea, I kept an eye on the swimming, athletics and women's football. Becky Adlington got bronze in the 800m freestyle and no way could she have known that a 15 year old American would put in a world class performance (almost beating Becky's world record) and dominate to win, with Becky fading as she couldn't keep up but hung on for third, which was a good effort really. Jessica Ennis carried on with an okay shot put but made up for that with a storming 200m race and really did put the hammer down on that one.

The women's 10,000 metre race, the last one of the night, proved to be rather fascinating as it was a case of tactics as well as putting the accelerator on when it was needed. Of course the best moment was seeing Dibaba smash it on the last lap with real pace and injection, and no one was going to catch her for the gold medal. The British girls did well finishing well inside the top ten and one of them set a personal best, so they didn't do too badly and you always knew it was either Kenya or Ethiopia to win it, so not a realistic medal chance here to be honest.

The women's football team sadly lost 2-0 to Canada but I suspected that the Canadian women would win because of how well that they played against Sweden the other day, and it does set up a bit of a grudge match as Canada face USA on Monday night - which I'll be there at. It'll be good to see how many turns up of course considering it's not Great Britain, but it's football at the highest level and that should be applauded I reckon. Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "Survive" by Muse, the Olympic anthem for this year. Spine tingling it most certainly is.

Thursday 2nd August - Golden Moments

A full day at work today and one where it was tough to get fully into the swing of things mainly because of a bad cold that I'd seen to been developing over the course of the week. I was pretty bad when I went to sleep last night and today was no exception either, with me feeling rather snuffly and a bit bunged up, not good. I suspect there's a bug going round though as my colleague in our office had been full of it himself and was even at home with a couple of days rest from work too.

The HP Probook laptop I was working on yesterday had brought down its task sequence but was missing some drivers, and so set about getting them from the HP website. The good thing was that it was a pretty logical exercise to get most of them, ensure that the 32 and 64 bit versions were in separate folders, and then basically build a driver package, add the correct WMI query to the driver package, duplicate the main task sequence, and then make sure that I added the extra steps in the duplicate one to see if it worked okay. On 32-bit it did, and when I then tried 64-bit late in the day that seemed to work too, so here's hoping.

I had a relaxing evening with The Love In My Heart, and as it turned out just as she came over we were going for gold in the cycling team sprint, having already won gold in the canoe slalom two man team event and the trap shooting. The British men with Sir Chris Hoy doing the final lap, won the team sprint and set a new world record whilst doing it, a brilliant moment to see live and definitely one which was enjoyable to watch. On BBC1 later they showed highlights of both the gold medals from early in the day so that you could see how well that they did, and the focus was mainly on the swimming in the evening.

I made The Love and I some gammon, potatoes and peas and that was good, and after a bit of indulgence with the soaps for her, and the Olympics for me with some more swimming, judo and the basketball where Great Britain almost pulled off a major upset, losing to Spain by just one point, and you could tell that the Spanish were being rather panicky to say the least using all their timeouts and other moments to try and get the clock down as quickly as they could. I'd say though that the British now feel more inspired when they see others winning gold medals in the team too.

We later watched The Hotel Inspector with Alex Polizzi, as she tried to turn around the fortunes of a hotel in Eastbourne. When we saw that it was bottom of the online reviews of all hotels in the town, straight away The Love and I went "Trip Advisor!" and indeed it was. In fact, even with the so-called improvements made during filming of the show, it's still right near the bottom on Trip Advisor, so maybe a challenge too far for even Alex to turn around? I do think the attitude of the owner didn't help.

Tune of the day though is Elbow's "First Steps" the theme that the BBC are using for their excellent Olympic Games coverage. All the sports are getting covered on interactive red button and online channels for you to watch, and the main events on BBC1 are getting plenty of coverage too which is good. The theme really does evoke lots of emotion and certainly really does will you on to support the British folks when they're on and competing with such a stirring theme like that.

Wednesday 1st August - Nil Nil

I was back at work today (well only for the morning) but this did give me chance to catch up and at least get on with a few things, and also be able to sort out where I was up to in terms of imaging PCs and also where I needed to be as all the new kit had arrived and was ready for mass imaging and distribution. As one of them was a new set of HP Probook 4540s, I knew that a driver package would need to be created, so the first thing I wanted to do was task sequence one of them via SCCM, see what drivers were missing or incorrect and then work out what I needed to do, so set the machine off imaging before I left for the afternoon.

I had a little bit of time at home to relax and basically get stuff sorted around the house, and I was able to catch up a bit in terms of plenty of images I'd taken during Monday and Tuesday, as I'd not had any time to get them checked over, so sorted that out before my friend came around 3pm as we were heading off to Old Trafford. I'd seen the first British gold medal earlier in the day, and when we got to Old Trafford the screens in the concourses had the time trial cycling on, which of course Bradley Wiggins won excellently (and Chris Froome a superb third also, let's not forget how good he's been this year).

The evening's match was the last group stage game between Spain and Morocco. Spain had lost both their opening games 1-0 and Morocco had to win and hope that Japan beat Honduras to have any chance of qualifying, and when you consider that the likes of Juan Mata were in the Spanish side, it did make you wonder whether there was something else amiss with the team. The weather was sunny at the start of the game and the Spanish looked comfortable early on, although Morocco did look a bit more dangerous as they headed to counter attack as often as they could.

Spain hit the post with a crashing low shot, and just before half time dark clouds descended on Old Trafford, and sure enough the heavens opened massively. We escaped back to the concourse and the downpour was absolutely torrential, and pretty horrible as well it has to be said. It stopped just before the start of the second half and bright sunshine ensued, which was then too bright and made it hard to see. A bit in the middle would have been good of course, but at least it was going to be dry for later on. Morocco tried their hardest to score and David de Gea kept the clean sheet, and Spain missed a few golden chances late on.

Despite it being nil nil it wasn't too bad as draws go, but it did mean both teams were out of the football tournament. Plenty of people left Old Trafford rather dejected but for us it had been another good day's Olympic footy - and I had Frank Sidebottom's "Football Medley" in my head when I got home because of the part where he sings "Nil nil, nil nil, nil nil, nil, nil.." and gets the whole crowd to join in - pretty much as you'd expect really. Tune of the day that one for obvious reasons.