Dear Diary... February 2004

Sunday 29th February - Leaping Into March

Well, it's the rare occasion that is the 29th February, and a chance to relax after the half hour of madness or so on Saturday morning. You see, the tickets for Morrissey went on sale at 9-30am, and I had the phone ready by the PC so I could talk and surf at the same time. As the tickets for the boy band Busted were also going on sale that morning (oh how well planned that was - not) the phone lines were going to be red hot, and so it proved. I had four different phone numbers to various ticket agencies, all constantly engaged, and kept checking aloud.com and Ticketmaster for any updates, and finally at around 9-50am or so, I got through to Ticketmaster's web site, and purchased a friend and I two seats that we were after. Phew! Of course, it won't surprise you to learn that the gig sold out in under an hour and already people are selling tickets on eBay for around £80-100 each, such is the demand. I'm just thankful I got through somehow and managed to sort the tickets out. Words cannot describe how much I'm looking forward to it though. It's like having Christmas come early. You just don't see Morrissey playing Manchester. You really don't. I just hope it turns out to be such a great gig and not a disaster. Here's hoping.

It reminds me of one cold day back in 1994 (my, was it that long ago?) when I queued up outside HMV Manchester, with lots of others, to get my copy of his album Vauxhall and I signed by the man himself. I remember getting there at 11am and there was already a queue half way down Market Street, and this was some six and a half hours before he was actually due to start signing stuff. It was really chilly, but everyone talked to each other and it was a friendly atmosphere, even entertained by a drunken Big Issue seller belting out, of all things, Daniel O'Donnell. Oh how the mind boggles. Anyway, finally got into HMV itself and the queue snaked around the ground floor of the store, where you could buy the CD or vinyl and then get him to sign it for you and have a few words. He remarked to me that my name was nice, we shook hands and I allowed the next person to meet him. Ushered out at the back of the store, it was a feeling of both elation and numbness. Wow, I just met Morrissey, but also that I couldn't actually believe what happened. I do remember ringing my girlfriend at the time and she didn't share my excitement (even though she actually liked his music as well, bah!) but also remember that one of Morrissey's photographers, Linder Sterling, was there too and chatting to some of us who were waiting for our friends to come out. It really was one of those special occasions.

Anyway, City did everything but score yesterday, still can't believe we didn't win. However, if you don't take your chances you get nowhere, I suppose. The only thing I can take from it is that if we play that well against Manchester United in two weeks time then we might get something from it. Here's hoping, anyway. But nonetheless, at least we showed signs of playing more like we know we can, and Shaun Wright-Phillips? He should be playing for England. I hope Sven was watching the game, as Shaunie gave the Chelsea defence the right old runaround, so he did. It'll be interesting to see what happens anyway in the next few months but I'm sure most Premiership defenders will say "He's a bit of an handful, that one!"

Thursday 26th February - Unbelievable

And no, I haven't been listening to the EMF song. What is unbelievable that some twelve years after the genius that is Morrissey last played Manchester (a superb gig at the Apollo, too) he's finally coming home and playing his hometown on Saturday 22nd May, which coincidentally happens to be his 45th birthday. I just hope I can get tickets on Saturday, put it this way I'll be on the phone and on the Internet that morning trying every single avenue possible to ensure I get them. Seeing Morrissey live isn't just a concert, it's an experience. Put it this way, the last time I saw him at Liverpool Royal Court, the fans were chanting football style to the tune of Here We Go with "Morrissey, Morrissey, Morrissey.." but it was a really warm and friendly atmosphere along the way. Not just that either. Last time I saw him, he was even playing songs from the Smiths' back catalogue, much to the happiness of many of us there (me included), not least when he ended the set with Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me, which is a true classic single of all time. I suppose as well with the first new album in years coming out in May as well, it can only add to the excitement. One of the true Mancunian heroes, he is. I just have to go no matter what, and I'm sure on that day Manchester will be full of Moz-ites heading off to Salford Lads Club, Whalley Range, the Holy Name Church etc.. maybe I should offer my services as a tour guide for them? Hmm..

Only slight snag: he's playing Manchester Evening News Arena. I really hate and detest Arena concerts to be honest. They never feel the same warm intimate atmosphere as a smaller capacity venue seems to give you, which is probably why some of my favourite concerts are in the smaller venues - you feel more part of it that way. I can remember seeing Jonathan Richman at the University Hop and Grape (now renamed the Academy 3 for some stupid reason) and despite being around 400 there or so, he was superb and thoroughly enjoyable to all. It felt right, warm and fuzzy, good tunes and everyone with a smile on their face, and that's how it should be. The sign of a good live act is being able to play anywhere, not just the large stadia et al. Plus not to mention in arena gigs you can be over 100 metres from the stage and end up watching the concert on one of the big video screens either side, which is just crazy, it really is.

Been pretty busy this week: not least now the new A1 colour plotter at work has finally had its cage built around it so no one can mess with it. It's really nice though as it does massive A1 Photoshop images in around eight minutes, and at high quality too. Only snag is that to get it working with our print charging system, we had to use the driver from the CD (version 5.31). That's usually fine. However, the previous Designjet 100 plotter used the same driver, but version 5.34. Aaargh. And Windows XP doesn't always like overwriting new drivers with old ones, even if you say "replace existing driver". However, I found a way around it and so now we have a proedure in place, which works perfectly. Excellent. Also, I managed to find a way to effect registry changes silently on machine startup so that you could effectively change some of the settings on the fly, and we had to - just to get rid of the NMAS Authentication tick box on the Novell Client. Worked bloody well though, so understandably I was well pleased with myself.

Must say though that I wish Winter would end now. It was actually snowing in Manchester for about fifteen minutes last night, and that was while I was going through the city centre on the way to a friend's house. It didn't stick of course, but nonetheless it's almost March and supposedly Spring now. Well, you'd seem to think it would be, but when you see weather like this, and ice cold temperatures at night, it does make you wonder what's going on with our climate and how much of it is to do with the environmentally unfriendly countries, not least the United States. Bah. I sincerely hope George Bush loses the election and whoever is the next President takes climate change seriously enough, ratifies the Kyoto treaty again, and actually shows some commitment rather than "we are America, we can do the heck what we like" sort of attitude which is exactly why so many countries dislike them in the first place. Like it or not, it's the truth. I don't blame the average American for it, just their politics and media for spinning them so much lies and bull all the time to be honest. See beyond that, and it's pretty ugly indeed.

Sunday 22nd February - I forgot what a win was..

Well, shock horror, at last a league win for City. Not before time either. Typically we decided to go 1-0 down and make it a bit harder for ourselves before the game turned into the Robbie Fowler show. First, he headed in Michael Tarnat's corner to equalise. Then, he got on the end of a David James clearance, swivelled with the ball and planted it into the top corner beautifully, superb stuff. Not just that, he got involved in the build up which led to Bolton's own goal in the second half and did the business. Ironically, it also meant that we managed to do our first double over any team this season, beating them home and away by an aggregate score of 9-3! Now if only we could play them every week. Although we're not out of trouble by a fair way yet, a win is a positive sign. Only snag: we've got Chelski at home next Saturday, and that's going to be difficult to try and get a result out of: although a win would probably kill their title hopes after Arsenal's win against them yesterday.

So what else has been happening? Well, I was working in one of the buildings at work this week and ended up writing a very long email complaint in, basically the building was horrible. Plaster coming off in parts, rain leaking in to the building through the ceiling, mould and fungi growing in places, not very nice at all. So much so I wanted to throw up one afternoon, it was that bad. Thankfully my firm but constructive email seemed to have had the desired effect, as some senior staff came to have a look at it for themselves just to see how bad it actually was. If something gets done, then wonderful, if not, then at least I suppose I've said my piece now. Nonetheless, there's a right way and a wrong way to go about things to be honest, and by being constructive you always get a lot more done. Whining about it does absolutely nothing. That's at least something I learned anyway.

I managed to pick up Volume 2 of the Louis Theroux Weird Weekends DVDs the other day, and it was intriguing to watch the episode where he met Neil and Christine Hamilton again. Not least of course as during filming they were being arrested on some indecent assault charge (which proved completely untrue and the woman who made up the lies is now rightfully imprisoned for her crimes.) - and all of a sudden from a normal fly on the wall documentary done in typical Louis style, it was the full media circus glare on every move being made and how that affected relations between them. However, I do think that for showing both sides of the equation and how it shows the British media to be mostly a pack of wolves making up frantic lies and scandals to sell a few more copies of their paper (almost as bad as America, if you've been following their election campaigns of late) - it definitely succeeded. I certainly wouldn't want to be famous with the amount of patheic tabloid stories that pass themselves off as journalism, and credit to Louis for making such programmes overall. Incidentally, one of the programmes he made about some swingers in the USA (also on the DVD) never got shown over there, although most of the others did, probably cos the people he filmed didn't exactly want the rest of the country to know what they were up to. Bit of an own goal if you're volunteering to be filmed though.

And, Footballers' Wives is back on telly too! Yes, it may be trashy, like Jackie Collins' novels, but that's the whole point of it. It's so bad, it's good. Honest. I'm sure quite a few men fancy Zoë Lucker, who plays Tanya, as she does tend to get her kit off and seduce most of the blokes (right now she's after now signing Conrad Gates in the series) as well as the way she gets her man and is the queen bitch, a la the Joan Collins role in The Bitch almost. But in general it's intriguing to see either how far out it can go, but also how true it might actually be about some of our overpaid footballers these days. Compulsive, yes, inmnovative, no, but who cares? It's good television at the end of the day.

Sunday 15th February - Valentine's Day massacre

Ah well, shouldn't have expected anything else really, but a defeat to your local rivals is more painful to bear than usual. Especially yesterday. We'd weathered the early storm and only was 1-0 down, which was a little improvement, and then the flashpoint as Gary Neville headbutted Steve McManaman and he was quite rightly sent off. So, they're down to ten, and the turning point of the game would be whether we would capitalise on the chances we would have, or if they scored another and made the game safe. Sadly for us blues fans it was the latter: the chances came and went, and one just wouldn't go in. And then the killer blow. Two goals from Man U in two minutes, and that killed it off effecitvely. Sure, we came back to 3-1, but they scored again, and even Fowler's well executed free kick near the end (quick thinking from Robbie, good lad!) didn't ease the pain of being beaten by, admittedly, the better team on the day. Coldly and clinically, they finished their chances. We didn't. And that's why we lost.

I am at a loss to wonder why some of the team yesterday didn't play for their shirts and play with some pride. I mean, no incentive should ne needed, it's a local derby. If you can't motivate yourselves for that sort of game then I don't know who you can for. I felt sorry for the few players on the pitch who were trying their hearts out to do something but having not much support, especially Sibierski and Wright-Phillips. I don't feel sorry for McManaman, who has been a waste of money, time and effort since he got here. Ironically before he came to City we were doing okay in terms of league results, and the moment he came, it's all gone a bit downhill. Coincidence that he wasn't playing till late on when we came back against Tottenham? I don't think so. I definitely think that Kevin Keegan's going to have to shape up, and quick. Otherwise I feel the sack will hit him very hard, either that or he'll walk. Tactically he got it wrong yesterday. 4-5-1 worked against Arsenal, it frustrated them plus we had a back four rather than be exposed with a back three, so why didn't he use the same tactic? I'd have gone for that and if you frustrate an attacking team, you have a chance.

Anyway, enough ranting from me. As it was also Valentine's Day yesterday I tried my utmost to escape the commercialism that often happens with the day in question. After all, do you really want to see people being overly lovey-dovey and clearly faking it just for this one day of the year. Not me. After all, if you love someone, you love them all the time, not just one day a year, right? People were in their droves buying cards, all the local restaurants were choc full of gestures and so on. Shame it had to rain for them most of the day, didn't it? Mind you, I think as well that often it's a sign that people just fall for everything like that and don't show their emotions more often, which they should, rather than bottling them all up for certain times. After all, there's many occasions when you can show your love for your partner isn't there, like Christmas, birthdays, and every other day of the year. There's times when you can both share your feelings in an emotionally intense way (say for example you're trying to explain things that happened to you) and yet those can be the closest you feel to someone. Ah well.

I also spent some time this week having a bit of a check of the speaker cables as well, seemed like the left speaker wasn't always sounding as loud as the right one. A quick check around the back revealed why - the speaker cable wasn't in there correctly! A nice little re-cabling job sorted it out, and parity was restored. Now to dig out more vinyl 12"s and give them justice by playing them for pure enjoyment. I don't know why, but it's really a nice feeling when you hear the warmth of analogue vinyl. Listen to Pink Floyd's seminal "The Dark Side of the Moon" on vinyl, and compare it to the CD remaster. Ugh! The CD remaster sounds truly terrible and almost too clean, not right at all.

Monday 9th February - Spinning discs for fun

The stylus for my turntable arrived at the weekend, and so over the weekend and tonight I decided to whack on some of my vinyl and give it a whirl. I've not played some of my 12" singles for a while, so I whacked some of them on. It's really amazing what both the new stylus together with the new AV receiver I've got have done for the vinyl, analogue sounds so nice and warm in the house now. After initially thinking the turntable was a bit on the slow side, I played some 12"s against the CD equivalents and it's actually pretty much spot on actually. Most of tonight's diet consisted of some classic 12"s that I hold dear in my collection for musical excellence, such as PJ Harvey's "Dress", Front 242's "Welcome To Paradise", Cabaret Voltaire's "I Want You", the seminal "More Human Than Human" by White Zombie (that one's a 10" single!) and to finish that little block off, "Run 2" by New Order, a classic if ever there was one. A fair number of the singles I have didn't ever make it to CD, so I treat them with loving care and play them all properly. I even have almost all of them in protective clear PVC outer sleeves, if that gives you any idea.

Anyway, typical City. Only they could serve up a 0-0 draw against Birmingham after last week's heroics. Only they would be denied by a superb goalkeeping display from the Birmingham goalie, Maik Taylor. And only they would be able to draw something like eight times on the trot at home. Are we going for some record here I wonder? Well, we did set the precedent for comebacks this week at least. Everton came from 3-0 down against Man U to level at 3-3, only for their dreams to turn sour when van Nistelrooy scored United's winner. Still, not bad. But Paul Hunter in the snoooker on Sunday was 6-1, 7-2 and then 9-7 down in the Masters final, only to win 10-9 in a last frame thriller. Being 6-2 down after the first session, again he reverted to his infamous Plan B. In case you haven't gathered this yet, it means he spends time between the snooker in his hotel room or dressing room with his fiancee, basically making lurve as long as possible. Dunno why it works, but I do wonder if the City players were allowed their other halves in at half time??

I also finally completed a little mission I had, to locate a retailer that sold black jeans in comfort fit for not much money. Up until the last few months, Primark were great for this, but then for some reason they stopped doing them and replaced them with ugly cords. Like, do I want to look like a supply teacher? So I thought a trip to the Trafford Centre was on the cards, basically see if they have them, in then out as fast as possible. But thankfully the heating they had on last time was turned off so you could actually breathe, and mission was duly accomplished with two pairs for £20 in a deal. That'll do me fine, that will. You'd think that more people, not just me, wear black or something? Bah.

Friday 6th February - I woke up and it wasn't a dream

Well, first off, I've been battling a horrible flu this week, and indeed I even had to take a couple of days off work, it was that bad. It was maybe something I might have caught on Sunday while out watching the Arsenal-City game, where we played well but lost 2-1 and had Anelka rightly sent off just after he scored, although Ashley Cole, the cheating get, should have gone as well for his pathetic impudence, bah! But the flu was horrible, it hit me badly on the Monday and by Tuesday afternoon my nose was churning out crap or being ridiculously blocked to bits, I couldn't breathe so well and I felt weak all over. Not good. And when I spent half the night awake trying to get some breath and rest I realised that I would be stupid to go back into work on the Wednesday. So I had two days of dosing myself up with lots of honey, lemon and ginger tea (thankfully one of my favourites anyway) along with some Sudafed decongestant tablets which at least got rid of the blockages in a nice way for me, and curled up in the living room with a duvet over me. Hmmm, most attractive!

And it has to be sod's law that my beloved City pull off one of the most amazing comebacks in the FA Cup, ever, and I couldn't even watch the game down the pub because I was so unwell. Knowing though that at least there'd be highlights on BBC1 later on, I settled down to some television and a warm drink and put the Teletext in-vision on, which is usually pretty deathly. Sure enough, the scores came and went, 1-0, 2-0, Nicolas Anelka pulls up with a groin strain injury so our second best player is off (see below) and then 3-0, and then Joey Barton sent off for being so silly and using foul language at the referee right on half time. He really must learn to control his temper, and I must admit that the flu felt worse, and all I could think about was trying later on to get a good night's sleep, resigning myself to an early FA Cup exit for the second season on the bounce after our pathetic 1-0 loss at home to Liverpool in round three last year.

But I should know. This is City. Nothing ever happens normal with them. Who else would put you through enough last game of the season dramas for promotion and relegation to last you three lifetimes? And who else would come back from the dead in a play off final by scoring two goals in second half stoppage time? Knowing our sort of record for these feats over the years, and indeed our last gasp win in round three, I turned off the television for half time, made myself another drink and resigned myself to seeing how many we might concede.

But no. None of that. It was 3-1 all of a sudden with Sylvain Distin scoring. Maybe at least a consolation. I changed trhe channel on my Freeview box and turned on Sky Sports News in the hope of them covering the goals and action from their studio. They reported on our goalie Arni Arason's superb double save, and it sounded to me then as if it was awesome, and it probably kept us in it. Then, all of a sudden, a deflected shot from Paul Bosvelt and it's 3-2. Surely we can't pull this one back can we? This would be pure theatre to say the least. I keep on watching, praying, hoping that someone out there likes us tonight. And with ten minutes to go, every City fan is going ballistic, with Robbie Fowler picking out currently City's best player, Shaun Wright-Phillips, and he does what he does best in one on ones, lifting the ball over the keeper and into the corner of the goal.

Bloody hell! It's 3-3! Absolute delirium ensues as I do my Paul Dickov at the play offs impersonation, knees on the ground, looking up,yelling "Come on!" and thinking at least we forced extra time. By the sound of it, Wright-Phillips is having a stormer, and looking at the coverage later, the only City player who did well in both halves, and he gave us all the belief with his runs and his passion and his determination. And it was from such determination that in the last minute he almost scored a better goal than Maradona's non cheating goal against England in Mexico 86, but he and Jon Macken made sure Tottenham weren't going to clear the ball easily, it came out to Sun Jihai, then to Antoine Sibierski, he held off the challenges, ball came to Michael Tarnat who delivered the perfect cross, and there's Jon Macken.....

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! I exclaim, very loudly and start singing City chants in the front room (thank heavens the next door neighbour is a City fan, or else they would probably tell me to shut the hell up!) and just wish for full time to blow. And it did, and we won. I had to rub my eyes. Did I dream this in a flu induced bout of sleep? Have I really seen the goals coming up on the television with us winning from an impossible position? Was I going to wake up in true primary school can't write a story to save my life tradition and realise that it was all a dream like the cop-out ending it was? I paused, and rang my brother. He was on his way back from a job and when I told him, he was just so happy, and I think he sped home in record time to make sure he was back for BBC1's coverage.

I watched it, still under a glaze. It was like someone had scripted it, and to be fair Tottenham scored three good goals (not least their free kick from Christian Ziege) and I am sure they thought they could have more in the second half. But as it unfolded, as every City goal went in, you could see the Tottenham players' confidence draining fast and they panicked a little, not calming the play down and really if you were a fan of theirs, you'd be most upset. John Motson went mental, he really did, and it was so nice to see him be so involved in a game like that, not since England thrashed Germany 5-1 have I seen him go so doolally (and that, my friends, was a special game to watch, believe me.) and indeed in the post-match coverage, ex-City goalie Peter Schmiechel raved about Wright-Phillips and how superb he was. Nice one Peter, good to see you saw the talent while you were at Maine Road and now enthuse about them. Even Alan Hansen, usually biased for all the top teams, came out and said what a game it was.

So I woke up Thursday morning, still bunged up but getting there. I put on Sky Sports News. No. It wasn't a dream. It happened. They showed you their Fanzone commentary from the game and the City fan doing the commentary went mental, kissed the screen to say thank you to Jon Macken while all you can see in the background is the Tottenham fan holding his head in his hands. And our reward? A Valentine's Day derby date with the red lot. Bring them on. It could well be a goal massacre if both teams play to their form and some game if you're a neutral. And this time, I will be watching as the flu will have gone by then.

What else can I say? City, City, the best team in the land and all the world! Well, at least for one night, anyway.

Sunday 1st February - Fighting for honour

The snow has gone in torrent of rain, and waterlogged everything everywhere. However, this wasn't enough to call of today's game between Arsenal and City, so I can only hope City can be inspired by the film The Last Samurai and battle for honour. Sure as hell, we need to. Ironically it would also do Man U the power of good as well if we beat them, typical double edged sword it may be, but to be truthful, it's much more important to actually look after ourselves first and stuff any possible results that it might affect elsewhere. We've also signed a new defender, Daniel van Buyten, in a swap deal. He looks half decent, and I just hope he's given some time to see what he can do. If he's any good, of course, then we get the benefit of having looked at him first hand which is pretty good.

Anyway, I did see The Last Samurai over the weekend, and I have to say - it's a really good film. I think what makes it work is that it doesn't focus on any soppy love romance (although there is an undercurrent of it somewhere) but instead it stays more historical, and features most of the Samurai code of honour and discipline, which includes a lot of training and a lot of battles between the warriors to sharpen them up for battle. As for the battles themselves, they are superb. You can really feel you're getting into the action with plenty of large scale battles (particularly the end one, which has you on the edge of your seat hoping that the Samurais will win) and also the intensity of them. It also has a very human element inside too, with the pain of Tom Cruise's character, Nathan Allgren, plain to see. It makes you think, too. It's one of those films that you get really involved in and that's a testament to its strength of story and also setting. Put it this way, it didn't feel like two and a half hours long, not by any stretch of the imagination, and that's probably the best thing to say about a film if you really enjoyed it.

I also was noticing around the cinema that there were quite a lot of new films that I really fancied to go and watch. It's always the way, nothing is out for months and then along come a load of good ones. School of Rock is definitely one I want to see. Jack Black's usually pretty good (well he is in High Fidelity and Orange County for a start) and as he's already rocking out as one half of Tenacious D, well I am sure that it would be pretty funny. There's already the main theme of the film out there as a single soon, and it does look pretty funny, I have to say. Not least as it's teaching kids about proper rock music and not some teenybopper rubbish that they would normally have on. About time too.