Dear Diary... February 2005

Sunday 27th February - Back To Reality

Long haul back on the minibus yesterday back to Manchester, got back around 4pm to the house. Thankfully I'd cleaned up the place before I'd left, and that made life a heck of a lot easier to say the least. Did lots of washing last night and caught up on emails and such like, a mere 365 of them, and needless to say most of them were spam beasties. Also got the news through the post that the application for my promotion was unsuccessful. Didn't really surprise me to be honest, but I guess I'll just have to knuckle down and work harder and really go for it in the future. Still, that's reality for you isn't it?

And could someone tell the folks in rugby union that their sport is going to lose all their England fans who they'd gained when they won the World Cup? England were a shambles today against Ireland and deserved to lose. We need to prove that we didn't just rely on a few players in the World Cup like Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson, and that we are a team. Didn't seem the case today despite lots of pressure, as nothing happened that made me feel the slightest bit of excitement and pride. I guess we now have to battle Scotland and Italy for the wooden spoon, something that sends shivers down the spine of the fans everywhere, but that's the reality for you in that times are changing and unfortunately the team's been sussed out. For example, we need to drop Jason Robinson straight away, he's a one trick pony at the moment and no good to anyone while his runs do nothing.

Friday 25th February - Cream Tea For Me, Please

Back into Totnes Friday afternoon. I'd had a lie in, but still fussed over and fed Sam the cat. A lot of the male relations in the family had a golf tounrament, six of them played and my uncle won. Not a real surprise, but his eldest son did superbly well to finish equal second. And then into Totnes, and an antique market was on, all so expensive, but worth looking at anyway. It is a sleepy town though, and the castle (which I'd wanted to explore) wasn't open as it was out of season, but there you go. Definitely had to have a scone with jam and cream on, anf found a delightful little café that did it with a good cup of coffee to boot. That done, I also found an old style sweet shop where you could buy 100 grams of any sort of sweets you liked, and all sorts that the family liked too, so there was a few minutes or so (understatement) spent in there, and later, it's back to the King William IV for a late lunch, and the steak just had to be had again.

As the darkness descended around the cottages after a quick drive over to Dartmouth (note: you need to make time for that place, it looked really nice), I fussed over Sam and realised that the week was almost over. Bloody hell, that went quick! Still, on the whole, despite it being out of season, everyone had a nice time, and that's what matters isn't it?

Thursday 24th February - Fossil Fun

Long drive today, but worth it for many reasons. Off to Lyme Regis, just over the border into Dorset, and definitely well worth a visit. The beach, even in Winter, looked pictureseque and the stretch of coast from here eastwards just looked the part, with cliffs dominating the skyline along the way. Even the local chippy I found served a most excellent fish and chips that set me up for the rest of the day, and even with a pause on the way as one of our relations felt a bit worse for wear after the football last night (well they are a Man U fan, so there you go) the place was lovely. Lots of quaint little places, and due to its reputation for being an area to find fossils in, many shops that sold them. Of course that's cheating, but we all did head to the beach to try and find one as well, and my brother actually did, so that was something well worth doing.

And I stepped into one shop, and they had all sorts for sale, but it was when I looked at the pictures that I saw my face light up. Yes, they had Rosina Wachtmeister cat pictures! And yes, they were framed. And all for only six pounds. Well, I just had to buy one, didn't I? I'm sure when I get it home it'll definitely be there in its place somewhere in the house. It reminded me of Sam in the morning, I fed him some cheese and he completely lapped it up to say the least. Anyway, Lyme Regis was well worth a visit and I can recommend it highly. Shame a couple of things weren't open and if time wasn't a problem, I'd have headed to their water mill and checked it out also. Still, it hailstoned down on the way back so a planned stop at Dawlish didn't happen. Still, best day so far.

Wednesday 23rd February - Let It Snow

Woke up this morning to two sights, the first was of the snow that had covered everywhere in a light flash of white that looked very pretty and picturesque. Second was the visit of a ginger cat owned by the farm's family. A really lovely ginger cat called Sam. He'd popped by most days this week already but this time it was different - when I got up he was miaowing at my bedroom window begging almost to be let in. So I got up and let him in, and just kept him warm and fussed over as I made breakfast, which he seemed to want most of, standing up on his hind legs almost demanding food as I was making it. So nice to have a friendly visitor though, and it was also excellent to wake up to. Played golf when the snow receded a bit against my brother (the place has an 8 hole pitch and putt course!) and got duly thrashed as I'd not played for ages, and then by around lunch time it was almost no snow, so we all had a walk down to the village of Harbertonford - and ended up having a drink in the local pub while we were at it.

The road that led to the cottages was nice going down, but going back to the cottage meant a walk up a fairly steep hill, I'd say it was around 1 in 5 before it levelled out for the majority of the mile back to the cottage. I'd got some more bits of shopping from the local shop and so it was then time to take it easy in the afternoon with a few games of pool and make some food before heading back to the pool room. At one end of this room was a skittles alley, but also doubled as a place where you could watch Sky TV. Okay, you could only watch what the owners were watching, but as they were going to watch Man U versus AC Milan a few of us were up for that. I was even more up for it when Roy Carroll fumbled a shot from Clarence Seedorf and then up popped Hernan Crespo to score the winner for Milan!! Sure, it was only a 1-0 away win, but it's the away goal nonetheless. That made me very happy, let me tell you.

Tuesday 22nd February - Three Towns In A Day

The best thing about today was the tennis in the morning, I panned my uncle 6-1 this time before he teamed up with my sister's partner against me and my cousin (again) and this time we had to fight back from 5-3 down and three match points at 5-4 down before eventually being 6-5 up and then winning 7-5. My cousin played some super shots and I was dead proud of him, and all week we'd be able to sing "Champione!" to any one of the family, cos that's what we was.

And from then on I just felt driven to extremes most of the day. Off to Plymouth first, and that was just being driven around and not finding anywhere to get off that was of interest, and then off to Salcombe, where at least it felt a bit more lively. I bet in the Summer it's a nice little village, and the little quayside looked pretty nice, as did the beach we saw on one side of the town. However, it's a little too small and the Winter curse of nowhere being open struck. While I'd found a really nice little coffee place to have a capuccino and a rather lovely bacon and cheese panini, most of the others went for lunch elsewhere and apparently it wasn't that good.

Anyway, after a quick excursion there it was into Totnes itself for the rest of the day. We'd got there late and so just shuffled along one end of the high street before the day really picked up with a rather nice meal in the King William IV pub along the main street in Totnes. If you're there, go here for lunch cos their steak for a fiver is nothing short of superb. You get 8oz rump (or gammon), with chips, peas and onion rings, and it's served on a rather large plate. And it's delicious, too. My medium rare steak was spot on to say the least. And everyone else's meal was good, so that set it all up brilliantly for the rest of the day, spent mostly relaxing and getting hammered 12-10 in squash by my uncle.

Monday 21st February - The Decline of the English Riviera

Off to Torquay today, but in the morning I'd decided to thrash another couple of relations in the tennis with two 6-0 whitewashes, before me and my cousin decided to team up as a doubles pair, and beat the combined efforts of both my sisters' partners 6-3, which was thoroughly rewarding. My cousin may be only 11, but he's got tons of energy and is dead easy to get on with :) Plus as well we took them on big time with some excellent shots from the both of us.

Arrived in Torquay and you could tell it was Winter, with a fair number of places on the coast shut down, and in general, the place looked to be pretty much in decline. You could tell this at a glance because of the general indifference you felt around the place - just didn't feel as welcoming as the last time I went there. What that boils down to is beyond me, but for some reason it didn't strike me. On the up shot, the one main arcade that I found, which was pretty massive, did have two pinball machines on there, and even if they weren't that good, it had to be something. Also, Internet cafés are distinctly lacking to be honest. There was one inside a computer shop but for the price they charged it just wasn't worth the hassle whatsoever. Not just that either, but it really seemed like it was going to be a bit of a disaster all round for the day until I'd had lunch (even then it was all you can eat buffet at Pizza Hut) and in the afternoon the general feel of the place felt so closed in, I was pretty glad to leave on the minibus back to the cottage, to be honest.

Sunday 20th February - Brixham Calling

Sunday today, and after a few games of tennis in the morning on the tennis court (hard court, but very playable, and all the rackets and balls are provided - bonus) and being able to beat my uncle 7-5 in a one-set thriller that had everything, it was showered, changed, and off on to the minibus for a quick trip across and down to Brixham to explore the town and its many boats that was there. Unfortunately this set the tone for the week in that many of the shops were closed due to the season, and add to that also that some of us hadn't realised we needed all towels bringing, so I had to search to get a hand towel from somewhere to last me the week. In the end I ended up getting a set from Superdrug that was reduced loads, so I'll end up with a few spare bath towels too when I'm home. Not a problem though, as they can double as guest towels, so that's good isn't it?

Anyway, despite my Mum constantly calling the place Brixton (no real comparison, I'm afraid, especially if you've visited both places) it was reasonably okay, lots of boats in the harbour and marina making it quite picturesque, and also quite a few little shops open with interestng ideas as to what counts as souvenirs these days, always worth a laugh. My sister's other half has a habit of winning on those grabber machines, and sure enough he ended up winning this really nice soft toy Tigger for her. Awww. Did lunch in this café, and it would have been okay if they'd have remembered to cook the lasagne properly in the middle, and not just the outside. Wouldn't go there again, I'm afraid.

Saturday 19th February - Off To The Middle of Nowhere (almost)

Today was the first day of a family holiday. Now normally I wouldn't be one for going away in February, especially with the English weather being quite cold at these times. However, for family reasons this holiday was arranged for this time, and it's due to personal family reasons - I'd rather not say too much at this stage. So everyone was there at my mum's place for 9am this morning, and off down to a series of farm cottages that were based on a real farm just outside a small village called Harbertonford. This village is three and a half miles from the town of Totnes in Devon, and is also a few miles from Dartmouth and the English Riviera. Now in Summer, this could well be appealing, but in Winter it's a different proposition. Still, it was a case of everyone making the most of it. As there was so many of us a minibus was hired, which cases and people were duly placed and it was off out of Manchester, down to the M6, then all the way down the M5 with a stop half way at Michael Wood services, where I happened to bump into someone I know (isn't it odd how you meet people at the strangest places?) and then back down the rest of the M5, then the A38, come off and get to Totnes, then out to Harbertonford, turn off a road in the village and follow that for another mile to the cottages themselves.

And what a surprise! The cottages themselves were really nice, and the one I was staying in, Garden Cottage, was really nice. Conservatory, living room with kitchen as one large room, two bedrooms and bathroom with shower. Oh, and telly with built in video, iron and ironing board, electric cooker, virtually everything you could think of was there, which was nice. Unpacked all the stuff I had and relaxed a bit to settle in. It was around 4pm by the time we'd all got there and after unpacking, it was down to Totnes and to hit Safeway for some essential food shopping. Although I'd brought essentials like tea with me, nonetheless it was other bits I needed - and ended up spending around £30 on food that I'd have probably got down my local Asda for a bit less. Ouch! Even with the Morrisons takeover, they and Safeway just aren't as cheap as Asda for the stuff I have to buy. Your own mileage may vary, of course. By the time we'd got back it was dark, so settled down with a bit of telly and just relaxed for the evening.

Wednesday 16th February - Derby Day and Monday Morning Blues

Unfortunately, both of them came together within the space of a day and that was something that really wasn't good - at all. First off, the derby game. I wasn't holding out much hope anyway as City had run out of decent strikers, and the influential Paul Bosvelt in midfield was going to be missed through suspension - and that proved costly as gradually the midfield was over-ran, and inexperience in some corners unfortunately told somewhat. The deflection for the first goal, and Richard Dunne's own goal for the second, were just one of those unfortunate things, I guess, but nonetheless it didn't make very pleasant viewing and listening to as it gradually got worse with all the other side's fans celebrating, especially as we'd drawn with Chelsea the game before and did them a big favour in the process. Ah well, there's always next time. And we just have to hope that City can at least climb the table from the mid-table mediocrity of 11th before the end of the season - please!

Monday morning wasn't much better either - it was just a case of if stuff went wrong, it went wrong and just made the whole morning seem like one bad nightmare. Certain things weren't working, the CD drive on a staff PC couldn't see the contents but the root of the CD okay, and lots of student queries that weren't being solved in minutes. Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice. But I got things pretty much sorted out by the end of the day, just that it felt like it was 4-30am not 4-30pm by the time everything was looking a bit more positive. On the positive side though, I am at least now finalising the rollout of the staff email change from Pegasus Mail to GroupWise, so that should all be done by the middle of next month, disasters and other freaky things permitting.

Now I just have to start thinking about the next move in the house once the bathroom's complete. Ideally, the office room where I type my missives just might be next - it's not been decorated since I moved in, and I know one of the walls might need a re-plaster as it didn't look 100% the last time I was in the room. In a way, it'd be good to get it all done and ship-shape in any case, and then that's another room off the map of stuff to do. It's having the time and the energy and the money, plus as my DIY skills are notoriously bobbins (despite me managing to put up the bathroom cabinet very nicely) it's having to rely on (and obviously paying) others to get stuff done. Not that I mind as I know people who can do it properly, but still..

Wednesday 9th February - Busy As Ever

Well it's all go at work this week, and this afternoon was no exception - because of staff being on courses there were only two of us in. So what happened? Everything at once, that's what. From a small query to a large one, it was like being in a manic call centre where the only people who matter are those in front of you who need your assistance this side of right now. However, a lot of the students I was assisting today were very nice and talkative, and I don't mind that at all as it shows that they appreciate what you do but also don't feel afraid of asking you for help. You've probably seen the type of person that thinks "I know stuff, I'm better than you" but in reality everyone's as good as each other - it's just that some people have skills which they're good at and that's what they use to the full. And why the hell not eh?

Had of course to catch the next instalment of Look Around You on Monday, and that whole medical robot, Medibot, was hilarious, from the fact it can be qualified to do operations to the amazing like of those hundreds and thousands that you always see on kids' birthday cakes, and also it could play the mouth organ. Well, how the hell did it know how to do that, I wonder? Still, it definitely kept the retro 80s feel along with spoofing what would happen now very well indeed, and the eagle eyed amongst you may have spotted Simon Pegg in a cameo role. If you didn't, and if you recorded it, look out for the advert - there's your clue.

And even Manchester City made my weekend with a sensational display at Chelsea to draw 0-0. Now, that might not have seemed exciting, but we played there and stopped them scoring, and as we won 1-0 at home to them (their only defeat in the league all season) I felt pretty happy. No doubt my friends thought I was going to go super-mental with David James' last-gasp point blank save from Frank Lampard, but I think that the Fanzone commentators on Sky pretty much did that for me at any point. I'd love to do that, you know, the whole Fanzone thing. Build up the rapport with the opposition fan, try and put a fair perspective on the game and of course go completely nuts when City score. Then again, you'll probably be expecting that if I ever did it.

Now all we need is Shaun Wright-Phillips to score for England tonight against the Netherlands, that would be rather good. Not least as both sides are using the game to front their anti-racism campaigns, with the Dutch even having a one-off black and white halves kit (their Kit sponsor Nike has something to do with one of the campaigns, incidentally) which is a nice touch. Whatever happens if both sides show such a united front like that it sends out a strong message, especially to that idiot coach of the Spanish national team who in my view at least needs the sack sooner rather than later. If Shaunie scores, the 40-odd thousand singing "Shaunie Wright Wright Wright" will just feel so good inside. And it's on proper telly (ie: BBC1) as well, a perfect showcase for the game. Let's have lots of goals and quality football all round, lads!

Thursday 3rd February - Machadaynu..

One thing I forgot to mention in yesterday's entry was the return of the spoof science programme, which is more comedy than anything else, Look Around You. Extended from its ten minute episodes to a full half hour, the four "presenters" explore a science issue each week. Pretending to be from 1980 showcasing what life would be like in 2000, the subtle touches and humour won me hands down. Not least the music 2000 contest, where the contestants songs were utterly hilarious, especially the first one from Tony Rudd, "Machadaynu". Sung in a very odd language with an acoustic guitar, it's already cult listening and has attracted someone to actually remix the thing. It's odd, but good. Check out the remix at this site. Anyway, the other two songs were also mad in their own way, but really fitted in with the programme. Shaun of the Dead fans should recognise Peter Serafinowicz as one of the presenters of the show, he was the flat mate Pete in the film. Did anyone else spot Harry Enfield as the Ghost of Tschaikovsky, by the way? Neat. Incidentally, typing machadaynu into Google already resulted with 5 hits. Once this diary update hits, make that 6 :)

Wednesday 2nd February - Don't Go Breaking My Heart, City

Well I've just got back from the City of Manchester Stadium after a long day - first off, work (obviously) and then off to my mum's to wish my youngest sister a happy 19th birthday. The fact that she's growing up so quickly these days and becoming responsible and mature (well, sometimes!) does make me feel a little old these days, but nonetheless it's also showing how much time has passed me by already this year without even noticing it whatsoever. She mainly wanted money off everyone so that she could try and get a front row ticket for one of her favourite bands who are touring later in the year - most likely an ebay job, I reckon. Good luck, cos I think she will definitely need it!

And then off to watch Manchester City against Newcastle, and if there was one song that would sum it all up, it'd just have to be James' seminal Born of Frustration. Because that's what the game was - frustrating. We can play a lot better, and at the end of the first half we never looked like scoring whatsoever, just a complete lack of coherence and ideas for the most part, with the odd half chance here and there. And I didn't fancy the prospect of more of the same in the second half, although at least that was soon rectified as Shaun Wright-Philips was upended in the box and up stepped Robbie Fowler to take the penalty and steer it home. But we just couldn't get the winner.

Tonight also saw the debut of Kiki Musampa, our new midfielder. Too early to say yet about him, but he did at least look like he wanted the ball and got stuck in to a few challenges along the way. Don't think he quite deserved the man of the match award that he was given by the Orange text vote thingy, but at least he tried, and that's all you can ask sometimes. Hopefully with more training and practice he can become quite a good player at any rate. Fingers crossed and all that. Now you can see where the somewhat dubious link is with the title of this diary entry - hopefully.