Dear Diary... February 2011

Monday 28th February - Drum Roll, Please!

It is always hard to head back to work on a Monday to be honest, but especially today as it really did seem pretty busy and also lots to do and lots to test in the meantime as well. I carried on seeing what software would and wouldn't work in Windows 7, and found out that Solidworks 2010 worked perfectly well, which is good as it's one less piece of software that the powers that be might need to purchase. Of course it's a long process but one I'd rather get right and make sure that everything is doing what it's supposed to do.

I headed home, having worked a little later than normal, and made sure I cooked myself something to eat for tea before settling in for the evening. I had dug out one of the old F1 videos featuring Murray Walker, and it was good to see plenty of classic clips of coverage with Murray enthusing about the likes of Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet, and some great old races as well to see bits of. Maybe I'll have to transfer them to DVD one day so at least I can watch them without damaging the old VHS tape.

I did head over to see my uncle, and he was busy checking out some spare parts on eBay, but also told me that when he searched the web, the search result went to the occasional weird site. I found this was because there'd been some annoying search toolbars and search changers installed, so I removed them and everything was tons better afterwards, so that pleased him. I also helped out another member of the family with what to do about a website and where to host it, along with some little tips about how to get the most out of Flickr, seeing that he had been uploading some good pictures as of late.

I got back and felt the need to get some drumming done, and so it was on with Guitar Hero Metallica and I gave a blast on medium drums to some of their tracks. I'd never tried "The Thing That Should Not Be" and so did that one first, and then did a good effort at "No Leaf Clover" as well. But I then went headlong into their "Mercyful Fate" medley and scored my best score ever on that one, so it's got to be tune of the day purely for the fact that I managed it pretty well overall. Still not easy, but easier than Slayer's "War Ensemble" which I managed for the first time ever today on medium. Hurrah to me!

Sunday 27th February - Fulham Frustration

After a leisurely relaxing morning, it was time for The Lemon In My Cheesecake and I to head back to her place, so we'd be there ready for me to head over to see Manchester City take on Fulham in the Premier League game. I knew that the game wouldn't be easy and after all the games we'd played lately, it would test our mettle to see if we could possibly keep the home wins and scoring record going that we've had as of late. My friend turned up early as he thought it was a 2pm kick off, not 3pm, but that was fine as it meant we could have a well earned coffee and chat about stuff in depth along with The Lemon before we headed over.

As it was sort of lunch time, once we got in the ground I got us something to eat. I was going to have a meat and potato pie but there were none left so chicken balti it was instead (not a major hardship of course as I like them) and once we'd consumed the food, the game was about ready to go. City persisted with three strikers up front and I wasn't sure if that would necessarily work, but we had to see what would happen. In the meantime the sun came out and started to warm things up a bit as it had been a mixture of sunshine and showers throughout the day.

City started off okay without being spectacular, and midway through the second half we took the lead, with Mario Balotelli providing an excellent strike from outside the eighteen yard box through a crowded set of players, beating Mark Schwarzer in their goal with a low and hard shot. It was good to see that go in but the rest of the first half was slightly niggly and I thought it might have been a scrap on the pitch close to half time as a couple of tackles went flying in slightly. But still, not at our best but 1-0 up and I'd have taken that before the start of the game.

However City switched off at the start of the second half and a neat Fulham move was finished off by Damien Duff to make the score 1-1. City couldn't seem to get fully back into it somewhat, and despite a few minutes in the second half where we tried everything but score from corners, it looked like we didn't have an answer whatsoever and that did mystify me slightly as to where it went wrong. UItimately it was a frustrating performance and one that I just hope was a one off and that we'll get back to winning ways on Wednesday against Aston Villa in the FA Cup.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Born of Frustration" by James, as it seemed pretty apt to me. The whole song really does ring well in my ears now when I listen to it, and it just to me is one of their finest songs they've written. After all, how can you argue with a line of "Don't need a shrink or an exorcist" when talking about watching City eh? We're already certifiable I reckon. And it's more frustrating too seeing Birmingham win the Carling Cup - even they have won more silverware than us in recent years now...

Saturday 26th February - Quiet Night In

I had a little bit of a lie in this morning before heading up and giving the bathroom, kitchen and most of the house a good clean down. It's good to get it done first thing as then you know that everywhere is spotless and ready for when you have company round, and as The Lemon In My Cheesecake was coming over later for tea, I thought it best to have it all done now, and made sure that all the bathroom towels and mats went into the washing machine. I did notice my rubber bath mat inside the bath was looking past its best, so I made a note that I might need a new one.

I headed into the city centre later one as I wanted to have my haircut, it needed doing. Thankfully the lovely people in The Northern Cutter did their usual wonderful job and it meant that I felt much cleaner and happier on top, always good. I had a good look in Vinyl Exchange, nothing jumped out at me but there were plenty of possible temptations as I looked around there, not least a 3 CD Cabaret Voltaire box set which was a little out of my price range. I also noted that several of the racks had been moved around: the indie is near the middle now and the rock and metal sections are where indie was. Quite why, I don't know.

I did head around more of the centre and went into Fopp on the way to Clas Ohlson where I found a nice new bath mat for inside the bath at a price that was much cheaper than Argos and argubaly better quality too, and so after looking inside a couple of photography shops it was down to get the bus home. This took ages because for some reason the traffic around Portland Street and then Princess Street was very busy, and in fact the bus took a diversion slightly out of the centre. What I found out later was that there was a demonstration being held to protest against the Council's plans to effectively sell off all its Sure Start children's centres, which I don't think is right and could see the point of protesting against.

I spent some time this afternoon taking a walk near where I live and actually bumped into someone who used to work at the same place I do. It was good to see him and I'm sure that it was mutual too - and we had some football banter as well as keeping up to date with what's been going on. It was interesting to note what had happened to him and it served me well as a warning that anything can and will happen at work and so I need to keep my head down and get on with it as best I can.

Later on The Lemon came over and as there wasn't much on the telly, we settled in for a game of Scrabble with the new PJ Harvey album on. The Lemon didn't like it as much as I did, but that's fair enough, and I guess too that because it's effectively Polly doing her own thing yet again, I had to explain what she's like a bit more too. I'm growing to love "England" on that album and so that's tune of the day. I later put on a few tracks from her opening album "Dry" to try and convince The Lemon just how she's progressed over time, but I guess it was a little too edgy for her liking. I'll have to remember that when I next see PJ, it'll be alone!

After a while I put the telly on and started to cook the tea. We had some Winter vegetable soup with some warmed granary baton to start, followed by a tagliatelle carbonara with extra pancetta that The Love had very kindly bought for us to have. I must admit it was good to have that as it certainly made the whole thing much more meaty and it was just the right consistency too. It made us that full that my planned final course was put on hold till later in the week, but that's fine as I didn't want us to be overly full anyway.

We settled in then and watched the third instalment of the Mad Dogs series that her father had recorded off Sky One for us to watch. We both agreed that it was getting surreal but in a good way and that there was some sterling acting performances from Philip Glenister and John Simm in particular, and that certainly stood out. Interestingly Max Beesley, also one of the main cast in that, has recently spoken out about the local swimming baths being closed and says that it should be saved. He apparently used to swim there when he was younger - who'd have thought that, we wondered!

Friday 25th February - KT Towel

After a hard day at work and having got all the shopping done, my friend came over and off we went to the Academy 1. It was the first gig we'd seen there this year (we've got some more planned though!) and this time around it was KT Tunstall, someone we've both appreciated but never seemingly had the time to go and see. I'm sure though that even though it wasn't completely sold out that we'd have a good time. The traffic was pretty rammed as we headed towards the Academy which made me wonder if 2 and 3 also had gigs on at the same night.

We got in and to our usual vantage point and gave us some time to chatter before the support band came on - one thing we never do is gab endlessly during someone playing as I think it's pretty disrespectful to be honest. As it was the power had gone in all the street near to his place and so he was keeping an eye on any updates from the local electricity people to see when there would be power. I think it was possibly some power lines coming down nearby that had caused it.

And I do wish someone had cut the power to the support act, The Pictish Trail (official website) as to be honest, I don't think he quite knew himself what direction to go in. Would he do acoustic folk numbers, or with a synth that recorded sound have himself building up a rave anthem, or some weird thirty second numbers? (he has an album full of them infact) Either way, I think on the whole that it didn't work and many people seemed pretty disinterested in what he was doing. People seemed confused and I think that sometimes you've got to actually win over an audience by playing well, not at random.

Thankfully none of that for KT Tunstall (official website) who seemed to be much more in tune with what everyone wanted - good tunes well sung that pretty much rocked for the most part. She had her hair slightly tied back and along with Charlotte Hatherley on another guitar, provided a good mix for the rest of the band to play with and that worked well. It was good to hear her do new stuff and even a brand new song as well as the stuff from her recent album "Tiger Suit" and in the middle of a set a rather nice well built up version of her hit "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" with her solo for the most part and then the band came in and just layered everything rather well.

It was also lovely to hear a rather hard full on version of "Madame Trudeaux" from the "Tiger Suit" album that sounded so tight it was spot on, and then of course a really good version of "If Only" too. Mind you, the highlight of the night for me and my friend was during the encore, as she belted out a rather good cover of The Cure's "Close To Me" sung with gusto, passion and respect for the original. Excellent, and tune of the day without question. And ended it all nicely with a really good rousing "Suddenly I See" which of course many of the front rows of the crowd sang along to nicely.

If you're wondering then why the entry's called KT Towel, it's because of the merchandise on sale. As well as the usual t-shirts and hoodies and the now seemingly more popular jute shopping bag, there was also a tea towel with a print of the front of the "Tiger Suit" album on. My friend commented it should be a KT Towel, not a KT tea-towel (see if you can work the pun out) and I thought that was quite witty actually. Not that I was going to pay almost a tenner for one, but shows where the money is at gigs these days. Well worth seeing her live though and I'd definitely go again.

Thursday 24th February - Edin For Kiev

It was off after work to see The Love In My Heart, who had the common sense to book the whole week off work so that she could take things relatively easy. It did take longer than normal to get to her place though, with the centre of Manchester crawling to a standstill along with some fresh water pipe works on one of the main roads into Piccadilly Gardens, and then getting out of the centre was just as bad for the same reason. It turned out that one of the main roads in the city centre was closed off due to someone wanting to take their life by jumping off one of the flyovers.

Safely negotiating the roads on the buses and then to The Love's place, it was nice to have some rest and relaxation with her for a while. She had a keen eye on the BBC News as she wanted to see the royal visit to Anglesey by Prince William and Katherine (she can't be called Kate anymore which is a bit dross really) and at the same time made us this really lovely chicken in tomato and basil chilli sauce with potatoes and vegetables, which did the job of filling me up nicely and keeping me nice and warm for the football later. My friend was coming over as we were then off to watch Man City against Aris in the Europa League.

The rain had held off for most of the day and as it was pretty mild at least I knew it wasn't going to hammer it down lots, and so that meant it would be hopefully playing to City's strengths for the game. It wasn't going to be full but it looked like there were more fans than against Notts County, plus my uncle, two cousins and one of their girlfriends had also got tickets and so were on their way to the game as well, a rather nice representation of the family really. I just hoped that City could keep scoring at home - a mere sixteen goals in the last four home games. Who says we're boring and defensive?

The stall was set out early with the team selection, with City playing Carlos Tévez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Džeko all starting up front. For me that meant how serious that Roberto Mancini wanted to win it, and so as the game kicked off we were all hopeful of doing the business big time. We didn't have to wait long either as the ball broke from an Aris defender straight to Edin Džeko, who soon slotted it past their keeper for 1-0 and sort of silenced their very loud bunch of travelling fans, who seemed content to chant whatever the scoreline was. A few minutes later and a neat through ball from Tévez put Edin Džeko in with a great chance, and he took two defenders on and slotted the ball low and home into the bottom corner for 2-0. It alreadty looked like we'd won it!

The game did fizzle out a bit from then on in, but understandable as Aris didn't look like they could score and the City defence held firm and went forwards with David Silva orchestrating things rather nicely. Mario Balotelli hit the post after a lovely ball from Tévez and before long it was 3-0 in the second half, the ball breaking out to Yaya Toure who hit it low and hard from thirty yards and deflected in to make it a nice easy win for us. And as we left the ground, we heard the news that Dynamo Kiev had thrashed Besiktas 4-0 to make it a 9-1 aggregate win, so we've got them on 10th and 17th March coming up.

I was staying at The Love's place, so we had a chat with my friend before he headed home with us both buzzing with the win, and with me then snuggled up and contented, always a nice feeling that. Tune of the day seems to sum up the feeling of waiting being stuck in traffic rather nicely when trying to get over to get to see the game: "Setting Sun" by Howling Bells. The sun was going to come down before I made it there, and whenever I listen to the whole of their debut album it reminds me just how good it is and how I spent many an hour at night listening to it alone before I met The Love - a definite source of inspiration.

Wednesday 23rd February - Frustration

I encountered a bit of frustration at work today and even though I stayed behind a little late to try and get to the bottom of it, I couldn't deal with the issue I was having and might need to revisit it tomorrow. I made an MSI installer in the SCCM console and that seemed all well and good, and wanted to advertise it to my test workstation in my collection. But would it show the advertised program? Absolutely not! No matter what I did to it, it just refused to play ball, for some reason. Maybe it's something obvious I've done that makes it fail to work or if there's something up with the server..

Anyway, I headed home via the city centre as I needed to top up my phone. I know, I thought, I normally top up my phone in Boots so I'll do it there and use my Advantage card points to pay for the top-up. But no! It turns out that the people at Boots won't let you do it, so that means that I had to pay by my debit card instead, and I was trying to save money instead by using what I had. Apparently as well according to the assistant in Boots there was a time when you could use your Advantage points for that, but not now. I feel a stern letter of complaint to Boots coming on methinks.

I got home and it was good to take it easy and relax, and after getting plenty of washing done, I settled in to watch Mad Dogs that The Love In My Heart's father had very kindly recorded for us both from Sky One so we could watch it. The Love watched it over the weekend and handed me the tape so I could see it, and it proved pretty interesting in terms of how it transpired. Of course seeing Philip Glenister and John Simm work together showed that they really do work well, and of course I'm sure The Love would have been swooning over Max Beesley somehow!

After that I tried to convince myself that the new look Masterchef would be a good idea, but to be honest, it just doesn't cut it. Having all 20 finalists in one big kitchen with a pile of ingredients and using one core one smacked of something from the Australian version, and I really don't like the new format. At least with the old one you could see what each one would do and get enough time to decide if they could cut it before elimination and then see them on their journey. I guess too that it could mean quicker eliminations and all, especially culling the 20 to 12, but something doesn't seem quite right for me somehow.

I took the time out too to listen to PJ Harvey's "Let England Shake" album, and let me tell you this: it's already a contender for my album of 2011 and although not as sparse and emotional as the brilliant "White Chalk", it certainly deals with its subject matter of war in a different way, more expansive and with many a tuneful song throughout with an almost poetic quality to all the lyrics. The title track certainly gets you right into the album's mood straight away and for that reason it's tune of the day - but I can see several songs from this album being up there with ones I'll cherish and love so much.

Tuesday 22nd February - Touring

We had a leisurely lie-in (no work, bliss!) and then once we were changed and ready to rock, we said goodbye to the Travelodge and made sure we got our car park voucher. This meant that we put in the ticket first, then the voucher, and the discounted price should then show. But before that it was off to the Scarborough Hotel for breakfast, and my was that excellent! It was two rashers of bacon, two large Cumberland sausages, large mushroom, two fried eggs, toast, tomatoes and baked beans (I passed on the latter two) and a hot drink for a mere £5.50. Can't complain as it was gorgeously cooked all round and certainly set us both up for the day.

The plan was to head to Hebden Bridge and have a look around there during the day, and so we headed on what I thought would be the right way, head on the M62 to junction 24, go down the A629 towards Halifax, turn left before reaching the centre and head to Sowerby Bridge on the A6026 and then to Hebden Bridge. However, in the centre of Sowerby Bridge, the turn off for Burnley (A646) had no mention that this was also the way to Hebden Bridge, so we kept on down the A58 and over the tops at Ripponden before then descending into Littleborough, and then turning down the A6033 towards Todmorden and back down the A646 to Hebden Bridge. Note to Calderdale Council: not everyone necessarily knows the turn off to Hebden Bridge from Sowerby Bridge Centre, might be handy if you speak to the department of transport and sign it better next time!

Anyway, once we got there the next difficulty was The Love In My Heart finding a parking space which wasn't easy whatsoever. We got one eventually and had a nice walk by the riverside and along some of the pedestrianised streets. Many of the shops were little independent ones which had a nice range of stuff available, especially the Heart Gallery on the main road with plenty of artists selling their wares there, which was good. What we did notice is that a lot of the shops shut on Monday and a fair few on the Tuesday too, so not everywhere was necessarily open to actually peruse their wares. Bit of a shame, but I know that what we did see of the place was lovely and I'm sure we could head back there (most likely on the train!) on a Saturday and have a good look around.

We then left and headed back towards Todmorden, stopping off briefly at the Gordon Rigg garden centre to have a look there. Compared to the advert, it's vastly over-rated in my view. Granted, the potted plants and such like were reasonably cheap but an astute elderly lady told me that some of the things that they sold were cheaper down the pound shop (I bet that went down well if the store staff heard her) and some of the decor did make the place look a little bit twee, I have to admit. It was very busy for a Tuesday afternoon though which maybe showed that people were having a good look.

Final stop was a bit further away, it was back to Littleborough, towards Rochdale on the A58 before veering off on the A680 through Norden, and not being able to see the wind farm on Scout Moor because of the very low cloud, then heading downhill to Edenfield and back on the A676 to Ramsbottom. We wanted to check out one particular shop as The Love was buying a birthday present, and that also meant we could possibly have cake and coffee in the Chocolate Café there as well. Present was duly found and purchased, and so we managed to get a space in the café and have a rather nice cup of coffee as well as home made Victoria Sponge. Absolutely delicious, let me tell you.

We headed homewards after all that touring around, but we had a lovely day together and I felt rather sad when The Love dropped me off and headed home. It's at times like these I realise how lucky I am and how much that we spend lovely times together. I also had noted that The Unthanks were playing Hebden Bridge along the way so I might actually go there instead of Manchester Cathedral - especially as a) it'll be the last night of the tour and b) Becky Unthank actually now lives in Hebden Bridge, so it'll be like a homecoming gig for her. In view of that, "Betsy Bell" is tune of the day by The Unthanks - it's a perfect end to their "Here's The Tender Coming" album.

Monday 21st February - Leeds

I had a couple of days off work (yaay) and The Love In My Heart also had a week off work (lucky her!) and so we'd planned some time together to make the most of the time off. Ages ago, I'd booked the Travelodge in Leeds for one night as I wanted to see The Sword, but the band cancelled all their UK gigs. What I did was re-book the Travelodge date for when I was off work along with The Love, and then that meant I'd only have to paya re-arrangement fee of £5 instead of losing out on the amount I'd paid for booking it in the first place. That of course was at least useful to do.

The Love wanted to drive over as it meant we could have more time over there and on the Tuesday we could head back and do other things should we want to, which was very nice of her, so I left my house and headed on the bus to The Love's place. As I arrived, she was putting her stuff into the car which was perfect timing for me to put my overnight stuff in there. We soon got ourselves sorted and ready and were heading off via the cash machine and petrol station before going towards the M60, and then along the M62. As we headed over the highest point of any motorway in England, the mist and rain descended along with some snow to go with it, and it was pretty hairy heading over there. The mist didn't really clear till we hit the M621 going towards Leeds.

We soon got to the centre of Leeds and I managed to successfully navigate The Love around the city centre to Boar Lane car park, which was next to the Travelodge and also handy as we'd get discounted parking in there for staying at the Travelodge too. It wasn't easy for her to find a space but find one we did, and we soon worked out how to get out and towards the shops. We walked along past the Leeds Shopping Plaza and up towards the Headrow, but unfortunately The Love's brolly was deciding not to be good to her and so we knew that we'd have to track one down sooner instead of later.

As we got to The Headrow, we walked to Leeds Art Gallery and to the magnificent splendour of the Tiled Hall Café. If you're ever in Leeds, you must go there. All the old tiling has been restored to its original condition and the whole place really feels grand and special - no wonder you can hire it for weddings. They do nice food in there so we stopped off for lunch. I had the special thai green chicken curry whilst The Love had their club sandwich, and as I've got a 90 day Tastecard, I got two for one on the food which made it that little bit less expensive too. The curry was spot on as was the latte I had in there, and all the food looked stunning, which kind of kept in place with the gallery.

We walked along the many shopping streets and also in the Victorian arcades which have been delightfully brought back to their original splendour. It's apparently called the Knightsbridge of the North due to the many well known fashionable names that have called home there, but it really did feel like you were going back in time, with all the frontages above keeping a Victorian style and typeface along the mosaics, the ornate lighting and the old railings above. It felt iconic and certainly kept its tradition. By this time The Love had also got a replacement brolly too, so she was at least covered from the rain once we left the lovely rows of shops.

We walked down through more shops and I stopped off in HMV to get the new PJ Harvey album (I still had a gift card which I saved up to get this album as I wanted it lots) and also we headed into Debenhams, which was inside the Victoria Quarter, and I spotted this lovely Matthew Williamson top in purple with a butterfly design to the back which was very pretty. Even better was that The Love looked gorgeous when she tried it on and promptly bought it. I've always said that she would look good in purple so I was so pleased she treated herself to it. We also went round the Corn Exchange, and the glass domed ceiling was very inspirational to look at.

We soon checked in to the Travelodge and spent a bit of time in there with a coffee and also meant we could relax after all that shopping. I even watched The Chase and noted that I got quite a few of the questions right, still brushing up on the quiz knowledge even now of course. I am sure though that really to beat the Chaser you need all four on board at the end, and he rattled off the win with plenty of time left. I guess that's why ITV can do a show like this: hardly anyone wins and so it's not that much money to give away either!

We headed out for the evening and first stop was The Scarborough Hotel, a really nice pub close to the train station. It was especially nice because I was spoilt for choice with the ales, and as my tummy had been a little icky of late I played safe with the Leeds Best, which was very nice, light and golden. It was a good atmosphere in there and we noticed that they did breakfasts there, so we might have to head back tomorrow and check that out. I certainly noticed that quite a few people were impressed by the nine different cask ales on offer, and certainly the Saltaire Triple Chocolate would have been inspiring otherwise.

We walked up Park Row and decided to head for Strada in one of the side streets just off there. We had a voucher for 2 for 1 for the mains (thanks to Martin Lewis' website of course) and we'd not been in there for ages and thought "well why not?". The garlic rose flatbreads we shared for starters were lovely, and we both went for a chicken based main. I had the pollo funghi, which was chicken in a cream, mushroom porcini and thyme sauce with some lovely potatoes and The Love had the Pollo Alla Milanese, which was chicken in lemon and grana padano breadcrumbs with a tomato and basil sauce, potatoes and green beans. Both were gorgeous and we both agreed we could have had either. And there was decent music in the ambience too - I even heard I'm From Barcelona's "We're From Barcelona" which is still a lovely happy tune, so tune of the day it most certainly is. Summed up my happy feeling.

We then headed close by to the Becketts Bank pub where I had the Cheeky Kriek beer from the Saltaire brewery and The Love had a glass of wine, and we both chatted plentifully. I still love to lovingly gaze at her when we chat together, I know that sounds soft and all that but as I feel so contented and happy, then I think I am more than allowed to. The time went by far too quickly and before long it was time to head back to the Travelodge and to sleep. Well sort of. Apparently a local indie club nearby was pumping out noise (I didn't hear it but then again once I'm gone I'm gone!) which might have meant a late finish as well. I guess that's the only thing with being in a city centre location..

Sunday 20th February - Five

It was a slightly cold day today and one which I could have done with being a little warmer to be honest. I had my retro home Manchester City shirt with a long sleeved t-shirt underneath to try and keep me warm (along with my big coat) as it was the FA Cup fourth round replay between Manchester City and Notts County. I suspected along with The Ice In My Lemonade that in fact it wasn't going to be a full house and as such it meant that I might be able to get back in time for the sixth round draw later on, along with my friend who I go to the games with.

We got up and had a lovely breakfast which filled the gap very nicely before I ventured out towards the local cashpoint as I needed some money for later on (not least as I owed my friend money for the tickets for today and Thursday's Europa League game against Aris) and I could tell that it was nippy outside. I also spotted that the Velodrome was proving popular for people due to the Cycling World Cup event going on, and it was good to see that the place was full for the events and that the fans were getting behind the British contigent. Healthy to see.

Soon my friends arrived and whilst myself and my friend scootled off to the game, his wife and The Ice stayed back and had a relaxing afternoon including a little jaunt around Asda as well. However we had a more pressing engagement and we were soon at the City of Manchester Stadium. I noticed that it was less busy than normal and as we got to our seats those fears were confirmed. In fact the top tier of the Colin Bell Stand wasn't even open and the Family Stand looked quite threadbare as I suspect people wanted to be along the touchlines to see more of the action.

With a sparse City crowd and a fair few thousand Notts County fans present, they did most of the early attacking and were unlucky when Karl Hawley's shot rattled against the post. However that seemed at least to wake City up and soon they were pressing forward for a goal, with David Silva and Edin Džeko being a tad unlucky. However from a corner Patrick Vieira headed powerfully home and it was 1-0 to City. Despite some Notts County pressure later in the half, that's how it stayed to half time and at least we were getting there, hopefully.

The second half started and City started to press on, and before too long another Aleksandar Kolarov corner was headed in by Patrick Vieira for 2-0 to City. In the melee in the goalmouth though Mario Balotelli had obtained a head injury and although seemingly okay, was taken off by Roberto Mancini and replaced by Carlos Tévez just to be on the safe side. Balotelli seemingly chucked his proverbial toys out of the pram, but to be honest it was a safety measure and one he should have respected. Mind you, what it did do was mean City were much more potent going forward and you could tell that County were scared of Tévez.

The last ten minutes saw plenty of City attacks, and for those who left early - shame on you, and I'm glad you missed what happened. First of all a through ball to Tévez was perfectly placed, and Carlos went on to round the Notts County keeper before expertly slotting the ball low and hard for 3-0. That was good enough for me and it happened to be the striker's 50th goal for City. All this inside two seasons as well which just goes to show how well he's playing for us and how highly regarded we all think of him.

A few minutes later and Gareth Barry released Tévez on another run and although he was on the edge of the box, he cleverly drew out the Notts County keeper before chipping a ball into the six yard box for Edin Džeko to head home easily for 4-0. And there was still time from a City corner for the ball to break free for Micah Richards, who expertly slotted it home on the half volley to make it 5-0. Not to mention that Džeko missed a one on one with the goalkeeper as well which would have rubbed more salt into the County wounds. Mind you I do have to say that County played their part and it was only once we got Tévez on that we hit top gear.

Tune of the day happens to be Supra's "Blue Moon" because it really does get me going when I hear that just before the City boys come out to play. It also really goes at a fast pace and as a piece of rock music really does set the pulse racing. Of course, it'd be nice to sing that at Wembley if we get far in the cup, but I'll take a passage into the next round and a date with Aston Villa on Wednesday March 2nd. And if we get past them, it's Everton or Reading in round six, so that'll be quite intriguing. Here's hoping that the next four home games we can win by the same scoreline, that would be nice...

Saturday 19th February - Costello's

It was a pretty relaxed but still enjoyable day today after all the fun and games that we had during the last week or so. As I'd gone straight out from work yesterday the first thing to do today was to get all the food shopping done. I didn't need that much to be honest so it was good that I was able to whizz round Tesco in double quick time and actually get everything I need before heading back home. I then spent some time cleaning around the house and also doing a shed load of ironing, which I wanted to get sorted, especially as I was going to pack my overnight bag with some of the stuff later.

It got to lunch time and so I made myself some lunch and tuned in to ESPN to watch the FA Cup fourth round replay between Chelski and Everton at Stamford Bridge. It was a slow burner to begin with but it was 0-0 after 90 minutes which meant extra time. When Frank Lampard put Chelski ahead I thought it was game over but you have to hand it to Everton and their never say die attitude, especially when they went for it in the last few minutes of extra time. They got a free kick and Leighton Baines curled a beauty home to make it 1-1 and almost certainly now a penalty shoot out. Of course, the momentum was with them and so it proved in the penalty shoot out with Nicolas Anelka and Ashley Cole missing their penalties leaving Phil Neville to score the winning one to make it 4-3 and send the holders out.

After this it was straight over to see The Ice In My Lemonade as we were going to head out later on. We were meeting up with The Ice's friend and her husband, who are a really lovely couple and as she's also a fellow Flickrite, we've always got something to talk about as well. We'd suggested last week that we try out Costello's in Altrincham, as it's owned by the Dunham Massey brewery meaning real ale central for me, and as they don't live too far from Altrincham they could potentially walk it in and have a great time. It was nice to have a coffee with The Ice and have a good chat and catch up whilst I kept an eye on the football and as The Ice got changed I saw some of the Man Utd v Crawley Town game which didn't look that convincing if you were a Man U fan it has to be said.

We were both ready and changed later so off we headed from The Ice's place on a bus into the city centre before heading on the Metrolink tram to Altrincham. Disappointingly, it wasn't a shiny new tram and even more so that the prices on the trams these days aren't to good - £4 return to Altrincham! Had I planned things a bit more we could have got the train from Piccadilly as after 6.30pm the return tickets are half price within Greater Manchester (so would have been £1.65 return instead) but not to worry - the trams are a tad more regular and we got past Old Trafford before the football had ended thus avoiding a massive jam of people getting on there.

We walked up from the tram station along Stamford New Road, turned left at Goose Green and soon found Costello's without delay. The Ice's friend and husband were already there (and we were pretty early too!) and so I got some drinks in and conversation pretty much flowed, as did the beer, for the rest of the evening. The bar had a nice informal relaxed atmosphere with background music that you could actually hear without it disturbing your conversation, and nice comfortable leather chairs to sit on too. The Ice's friend had brough some old photographs with her and it was good to see those and see how The Ice used to look (as well as her friend, great classic hairdos there!) and we soon got chatting about all sorts.

We even had a photographer who was taking background ambient shots for a local newspaper write up on the bar itself, so he kindly asked us if we didn't mind (which was good of him). It looked like he had a Canon 5D which is pretty high level and was soon snapping away whilst I had the Dunham Dark Mild, a really lovely mild ale that had a nice dark tone to it and went down very nicely indeed it has to be said. As did the Big Tree bitter and indeed the Stamford Bitter that I had later as well, and the other male in the four of us was very contented with the Little Bollington beer as well. The Ice was having a wonderful time as was I and it was great to catch up and have wonderful conversation.

Time flowed by much too quickly and before we knew it, it was 11.30pm and time to head back to the tram station to take the journey homewards. It was so lovely to see both of them again and they've invited us to theirs at some point to have a meal there, which I am sure would be pretty wonderful. It made me so happy to see The Ice with massive smiles on her face, as I know that good friends are dear to her heart and they've made me feel very welcome too, which is also lovely. We got the tram to Piccadilly Gardens, stopped off in Burger King mainly to keep warm but have some late night snacking, and then off on the night bus back to The Ice's place for a well earned sleep.

Tune of the day in the meantime sums up the rather nice and relaxed atmosphere in Costello's earlier in the evening, as a plethora of classic tunes were belted out of the music system but in a good way. Amongst those I heard were "Where Did Our Love Go?" by The Supremes, and as that happens to be covered by Soft Cell in the 12" version of "Tainted Love", a song which The Ice loves dearly, then it just had to be the song choice for me. It reminded me of the days too when Top of the Pops was filmed in some disused church in Rusholme, Manchester. Those were the days!

Friday 18th February - Quizzical

It was the end of a long week at work, and I also tried some SCCM stuff during the meeting and workshop that we had today. I actually managed to get an application installer MSI into the SCCM server and get it to be an application package - and no small one either, it was Adobe CS5 Design Standard as well so that was good. It was fairly easy to get that side of it done and then integrate that into a task sequence so that the laptop I was working on would then have the master image brought down, the application layered on top and amazingly, it all worked really well. Hurrah! I also spent some time checking the backup tapes and making sure that everything was changed over there ready for the weekend major backup but also as I'm off next Monday and Tuesday I wanted to be sure that everything would work fine for then. I also made sure that I'd closed down anything I needed not to have on and so I knew I could relax and have the time off.

And that certainly was the plan for tonight, as many of us were heading out for a bit of an after work do. It had been decided that we all needed some wind down time and it tied in nicely with one long serving member of staff taking early retirement so it served as a bit of a retirement do and also a charity pub quiz for us all at the same time, so that was all good. As that wasn't commencing as an event till 7pm we decided that we'd head to The Pub to get something to eat for tea and also to be able to take some time out after work. I ended up having the chicken and bacon baguette which was spot on, and even some games of pool got played.

I got talking to a few of our team and soon the question of music came to the fore and we were soon on the ball as we discussed all sorts, and how one of my colleagues had started to really get into Metallica (a good thing). I highly recommended The Black Album (as some people call it) as I knew that would have stuff on that he'd like, and because he'd recently bought the S&M live album and loved the stuff on there. I did put some money in the jukebox and in keeping with the theme the jukebox had the full version of "Master of Puppets" by Metallica, so that had to be tune of the day really.

It was then a walk down Oxford Road and Oxford Street, turn left past Rain Bar and in to the Britons Protection, where we'd hired the upstairs room for the evening. We had just enough room and table space, and as we were going to be teams of five and that we'd already randomly drawn our teams out, we knew what the state of play was and how it would all work. The pub had standing room only at the bar and it did take time on occasion to get served, but it was all good fun really, and of course we soon worked out that with the combined brainpower on there it'd take some time to get our answers worked out and agreed between us.

Still, it was good fun too! We had a sport round, a "guess the celebrity name from their real name" round, one where you had to guess the songs from their lyrics, one general knowledge, one, an IT one, and at the end one where you had five questions and had to get the closest of most exact answer. In fact we got the correct answer on the last three - two of which I definitely knew the answer to. The Isner-Mahut match at Wimbledon had 138 games in the final set, and Bryan Adams spent sixteen weeks at number one with "Everything I Do I Do It For You" - it brought back memories of being haunted by that song as well!

It had been a good night all round and it was possibly just the tonic some of us needed to be able to look back at the last few months, realise how hectic it had all been and then look forward to the next major project that we've got on and develop from there. That'll be rather tricky I suspect but I also think in a good way that it was probably better that we had a Friday night so as not to think about work and other such rubbish during the rest of the weekend, thankfully. I got home and just reflected on a rather good day all round - and hopefully more to come!

Thursday 17th February - Alchemist

I had a bit of an experiment today with the Microsft SCCM Console and how you could use it to effectively bring down an image with Windows 7 on and also be sure that all the necessary drivers etc that you wanted are loaded. Having been on a very very crash course to try and learn the basics of SCCM, I was going to spend some time today putting that into practice and seeing how it all works. The only snag was that the laptop I was going to use (a Samsung P510) didn't have any of the drivers loaded on the SCCM server and there was no driver package with them all in. Snagging the drivers and uploading them was the easy part really - that worked nicely, but I didn't have enough rights to make my own driver package so had to get one of my central team colleagues to do it for me.

Once that was done and I'd set up my own "collection" with just the one workstation in that I was going to image, I then worked on a task which would effectively partition the hard drive, bring down a Windows 7 core image and then add on anything else that I might need. In theory it was easy enough to do but needed to make a bootable CD as well as I couldn't PXE boot to the SCCM server across vLANs sadly. Once I made the boot CD, I gave it a go and it almost worked correctly, apart from the webcam seemingly showing up an error. I removed the drivers from the driver package and tried again, and this time Windows 7 detected the webcam spot on, so it looked like the drivers from Samsung's site were duff. Yeah, great (not) but glad to have resolved it at least.

I got home and then got myself in the shower and got changed, and it was a good opportunity to wear the purchases that I'd got from TK Maxx in Windsor last month, and so wanted to look my best for The Love In My Heart, as I'd be meeting her and one of our friends later on. I got myself sorted and looked the part, made sure that the washing was in the machine and raring to go, so saving me time later, and headed out and on the bus into the city centre, where we'd arranged to all meet in Kro in Piccadilly, making it easier for us all when we got off our respective buses.

It was good to see our friend as he'd been a bit poorly over the last few weeks and it was definitely good to see him back up and running. We had plenty to catch up on and so we explained about our trip to Windsor whilst he enthused about a good weekend he'd had in Brighton (and took some ace pics too I should add) and we also mentioned about our holiday as well. It was almost as if we'd all never been away as conversation's really easy all told - dead good, that. Before we knew it drinks had been consumed and we were making our way from there through the centre of Manchester and over to Spinningfields.

Our friend had been in a new place called The Alchemist a few weeks back and suggested that we head there for something to eat. When he mentioned it, The Love and I looked at it online and it did look pretty good, and nestled in all the nice shops and squares of Spinningfields, even from the outside it looked the part, and inside we got ourselves a nice table and conversation and drinks freely flowed whilst deciding what to have from the menu. I always say that a good choice of food makes for a tough but enjoyable decision. The staff were very attentive too and really polite and helpful, and that made the whole evening feel as relaxed as it should have done.

Even better was that the food was spot on and well worth going there again to try different items on the menu. I had the chorizo and cheese nachos with sour cream dip, really well made and cooked, whilst The Love had these sauteed potatoes with salsa, whilst our friend had the very nice baked camembert (well it looked good from where I saw it). For main, my friend had the sausages and mash, I had a very nice fish and chips and The Love went for the chicken in a basket, which literally was that - big chunks of chicken, chips and coleslaw all in a basket which was shaped like a chicken! It was quite novel but also looked very good too, and the price for it all wasn't too expensive either, so that's good. If you get chance, go there - you will not regret it.

We then walked back through the city centre and on to Kro for one last drink before we set off for home, and on came Kings of Leon constantly over the speakers in there. "Sex on Fire" was being played at a good listenable volume, so tune of the day right there methinks. It was good to chat a bit more and it had died down a bit since earlier so you were able to feel a bit more relaxed too. The night had gone too quick and was far too enjoyable and I felt sad when we all had to head home - but in a good way we know we'll have plenty more good nights, so that has to be a positive. Hurrah for friends and loved ones I say!

Wednesday 16th February - Rompers

It was another pretty busy day for me at work, and one where I managed to get on top of a few tasks and feel like I'm actually getting there. One such task was delivering an older laptop for one of our weave technicians. It had a serial port on it which meant that she could hook up the laptop to the digital weave loom machine and then be able to send patterns created on their loom software straight to the digital loom, and produce some really lovely stuff as well. It was pleasing to see everything up and running and working in a way that we wanted it to, so that pleased me no end.

I headed home and got things sorted around the house in good time for The Love In My Heart coming over. I was making us some piri piri chicken along with some baby new organic potatoes and some vegetables, and this did of course mean that the organic potatoes did need a bit of a clean, as well as me peeling the whole lot. That was pretty ardous even with a decent(ish) potato peeler, but I know that The Love doesn't always like the skins on the potatoes (whereas I don't mind one bit) and so it wasn't a massive hardship really. It came out really well in the end and the tea was happily munched whilst Emmerdale was on (good, cos I can't stand it, but bad because The Love loves it)

We then settled in for a game of Scrabble and Swing Out Sister's "Beautiful Mess" album being played as well. I love "Butterfly" from that album and so that'll be tune of the day, but if I had word of the day it'd be the seven letter word I played and scored 76 points from. I made ROMPERS (the blank used as an S) which was on double word, and also made SHOE at the same time. I'm not sure The Love was too happy, especially as I then made BRAKE on the next move with the K on double letter and the word on triple word, scoring 48. Mind you, I'd done OX and EX with the X on triple letter both ways before, scoring 50. So in those three moves I'd almost scored 175 points, which wasn't to be complained about really.

Later on, we then settled in to watch Masterchef, and I have to say this. I hate the new series! I think that they've tried a little too hard to soup it up and the whole auditions procedure made it just like the X Factor for cooking, especially when you saw the contestant who tried to deconstruct a trifle and serve it all in little bits, which was a complete disaster in anyone's stretch of the imagination really. I just thought that particularly with the new look kitchen for future shows, it's kind of forgetting what made the formula work in the first place. The Invention Test for example made the good ones stand out as they had to think on their feet with the ingredients, and the kitchens were the right size. What of Masterchef HQ now as was, I wonder?

I think they've tried to make it like the Australian one and really put über-pressure on everyone, but what I think people are forgetting is that they're all amateur cooks and whilst passionate about it, aren't doing it as a profession. What next? Will they have Monica Galetti slating them saying "that would never be good enough fro Michel" as well? I wasn't impressed. In fact, I'd go as far to say it's put me off watching the rest of this series. I guess that sometimes it's easy to forget what makes something work and try too hard to make it more reality TV show-like, and that's the case here. Darn, another programme goes to the wall thanks to the BBC trying to spruce it up...

Tuesday 15th February - Zero

It was a day at work where I felt that I could get organised and promptly managed not only to sort out a couple of laptops and even do a fresh image on one of them, but also to spruce up the image and get it all modernised with the latest antivirus software we have and all that. At the same time I was also able to work out just why it seemed to be so quiet - everyone was either all loved up from the night before or there was some form of reading week going on that I didn't know about. Of course when the kids are on half term next week I can imagine that the traffic will also be lighter getting in to work too.

I managed to get out of work bang on time and even got the earlier bus home from work, and with good reason. Manchester City were away at Aris Salonika in the Europa League and I wanted to head home and watch the game as soon as I could. It was a 5pm kick off and although I normally finish work at 4.30pm, it's still a bit of a squeeze to get home on time for then. I made it with seven minutes to spare so that was good - getting out for that early bus on time made a massive difference! I had time just to make a coffee and then be ready for kick off.

My uncle came over not long after and we settled in to watch the game. To be fair, it wasn't that great. City huffed and puffed but didn't look like breaking down Aris at all, and with Edin Dzeko up front on his own and Carlos Tévez in a more central role behind him, not at the heart of the attack at front, for me that didn't work. Dzeko had one chance in the first half and a header in the second which brought a good save out of the Aris keeper, but we did look slightly ineffective and that did worry us somewhat. Even more amusing though was that one of their players was called Neto - not quite the discount supermarket, but still pretty close.

It just seemed to me that City were going to settle for a 0-0 draw and have done with it, which to be honest wasn't that good in my eyes, I'd have much rather seen us go for the away goal at least. Still at least we didn't lose, so that's something and in the meantime tune of the day is "Boredom" by Buzzcocks, as certainly tonight's game felt like that - wasn't too good. And of course it's an early song by the band when Howard Devoto was still around with them. I remember hearing it in the film "Control" too and thinking "very nice of the producers to put that one in!"

Monday 14th February - Hearty

It happened to be a certain day of the year today when everyone seems to go into commercial overdrive just to express their love. But does it have to be so grandiose and do people have to fall for it every year? Not really. It's sometimes the little things that count the most when it comes to love, and certainly for me, I love The Love In My Heart every day of the year, and not just today. That's how I feel anyway. And it's the little things that you do as a couple that makes you who you are and expresses how you feel as well, so for me it was just nice to have a cuddle in the morning and feel close. Aww.

What I didn't know was that as I was getting myself ready to head to work, The Love had made some toast - but not ordinarily. She'd bought a litle pastry cutter a couple of weeks back and used it to cut the toast into a heart shape! It actually was a heart cutter, but knowing how she loves things hearts anyway, I could just imagine her getting it thinking "how cute is that?" It certainly made me smile and with an orange juice it woke me up nicely - as did her lovely card to me which simply said how she felt about me in one simple sentence, and I loved that lots. It's now pride of place on the mantelpiece at home. Awwww.

Work was one of those days really - up and down. I spent a fair bit of time this afternoon looking at one PC in particular which didn't seem to have Outlook installed. As it turned out it also didn't seem to have an up to date Netware client, was also not logging in correctly due to some incorrect settings and above all of that, it just didn't want to have four different versions of ActivStudio installed, so I got rid of the lot and put ActivInspire on as that's the most up to date one. It was good to clean it up and at least make it usable for the member of staff concerned, so that pleased me no end.

I got home and made sure I popped the DVD back in the post to Tesco before the deadline and then relaxed with something for tea, and then just caught up on things on the PC. That's the only thing I guess if you're away for a while, you need to try and keep on top of things and sometimes when the words don't come freely that's not so easy. I'd much rather as well be giving The Love a cuddle right now and be next to her - somehow the last few weeks or so I've felt really close to her and that's been important to me to realise just how much I feel for her. And believe me folks, it's lots.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather lovely "Nothing Less Than Brilliant" by Sandie Shaw. It's the sort of tune you need after a Monday at work and it has that wonderful uplifting feeling that you can't always get from songs. It also shows one thing above all else: no matter what some people might think of you, there'll always be someone who realises just how wonderful you are, and you'll forever be nothing less than brilliant in their eyes. And maybe that's how I see myself sometimes - I don't think I'm always the best person but those who value me see me differently, such as The Love In My Heart. I am so lucky let me tell you.

Sunday 13th February - Never Let Me Go Without Discount

It was lovely to wake up with The Love In My Heart, and after some breakfast and coffee, we ambled about the house relatively relaxed and in a lazy sort of Sunday mode. We knew that we were eating out later before a trip to the cinema together, and so instead decided that we'd just take it easy in front of the telly with a coffee. Later on we had a game of Scrabble and I put on Amy Macdonald's second album "A Curious Thing" which I think The Love didn't mind too much at all. I still adore "An Ordinary Life" on there, so that's going to be tune of the day for me - sums up me sometimes and how I lead similar.

We headed over to The Love's place as she had some ironing to do and I could relax with her and keep an eye on the rugger but also take things relatively easy in front of the telly as well. We did notice though that it had started to absolutely lash it down with rain, and that wasn't good - not least because if we were heading out later we'd need to walk through that rain to get the bus into the city centre and then from there to the cinema too. We kept an eye out, I checked the bus times out and I was hoping above all else that the weather would stop doing what it was doing.

As it was, the rain had relented a little by the time we'd got changed and were heading out. We walked from The Love's place to the bus stop, and then we didn't have to wait too long for the bus (and under shelter too thankfully). We then arrived in the city centre and walked to where we were going to have something for tea. We noticed that one of the nicest pubs in the centre were doing a deal for two courses and a bottle of wine for £25 between two people, and that worked out quite nicely. We both went for the ribeye steak for main and I had soup to start, and The Love had some fried brie which looked pretty good from where I saw it. And the wine happened to be Wolf Blass shiraz as well, so no cheap stuff either to be fair. It was good to be relaxed and have a nice meal together.

We then walked through the rain and headed towards AMC Cinemas, as we both get discounts there and get admission at student rate instead of the full rate, saving us a nifty £2 per ticket, so that's decent. There wasn't much of a queue and to be honest hardly anyone in the cinema either, and so it was a case of getting the tickets, heading up the escalator and on to screen 1, where our film was showing. I remarked at how empty the cinema was and that Sunday nights might be the way to go to see films in future if you wanted some peace and quiet.

We saw Never Let Me Go, and that was a really good thought provoking film, based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro. Having not read the book, I can't comment on how well the film follows the book, but as Ishiguro had a big hand in the film I'd like to think he wasn't too happy unless it was reasonably followed well. It was good to see Mark Romanek direct it - I remember he directed the controversial video for Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" as well as the bleak yet wonderful video to Johnny Cash's version of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" too. And certainly the film had all the touches of Romanek's direction - beautifully shot yet simply put - no extras needed, just let the actors tell the story.

And it was a great story too - and certainly once you'd worked out what was going on with the three phases of the film representing key parts of the story of the three main characters, then you could see how well made it was. Some people actually got up and left the cinema before the end which I thought was a bit rude to be honest - maybe they didn't understand it and it was too hard for them, or they thought it was a romantic film and it wasn't that sort of romantic, if you know what I mean? Anyway, we both enjoyed it and it certainly made us both think afterwards. I can see why the Cornerhouse are showing it too - this film's right up their street. I'd say go and see it and prepare to watch with an open mind and with a massive heart to feel all the sadness as the story develops. We headed home and it was dry as we left the cinema, and got back to The Love's place in pretty quick time, but both of us had had a wonderful evening.

Saturday 12th February - Derby Day Blues

I got up and set about doing plenty of stuff around the house, and also took a quick walk outside and did some test shots with the 55-200mm lens I picked up for my camera on Friday. The results seem to be that it's pretty clear at long zoom ranges, with plenty of vibrant colour. I actually thought one of the shots I took looked better in black and white and that's what I did in the end with it. I was pleased though that it does seem to be easy enough to work with and that'll come in handy when I next try it out - possibly at the football.

Talking of which, I headed over later in the morning to my friend's house, as he has Sky Sports and very kindly asked me if I wanted to come over and watch the derby between Man Utd and Man City. Well of course, I thought. It was very good of him to ask and over a cuppa we chatted before the game about all sorts, but once the game got underway we were both cheering City on, even singing on occasion along with the City fans and really getting behind the lads. It seemed pretty good during most of the first half and at least it looked like we were having a go, which was good to see.

Disaster struck five minutes before half time though. A City attack was cleared and before you knew it Ryan Giggs had laid on an excellent ball to Nani, who went past Pablo Zabaleta and then buried it past Joe Hart in the corner for 1-0. A little unfair considering our balance of play maybe, but this is what happens when you switch off at Old Trafford as well - something for other sides to note and be aware of. We looked very edgy and to be honest I was pleased to get to half time with the scoreline still the same. We could regroup and try and fight back and at least show some heart.

And to an extent that's what City did. Two substitutions were made and with Edin Dzeko up front with Carlos Tévez, we really were going for it in a big way. And that helped enormously as City went forward in search of the equaliser. The ball came to Dzeko who put a shot in, it deflected off the back of David Silva, who'd been a menace all game for us, and ended up in the net. 1-1 and I was going mental as was my friend, as I thought that we might just for once go on and win the game.

But alas, not to be, and to be fair if you're going to be beaten in a derby game you may as well be beaten by a goal such as this. Nani crossed from the right and Wayne Rooney's overhead kick found the top corner. It was very well executed and I am sure that tomorrow's newspapers would have the press masturbating about how good it was, how Rooney is back etc, but it was an excellent finish I have to admit. It seemed to knock the stuffing out of City who didn't seem to manage to push on and equalise again, although at least an effort was made to draw level during the rest of the game.

I was gutted but at the same time proud that at least we'd taken the game to them a bit and made them work for it. It was no consolation as I knew I'd be facing some stick on Monday morning at work, but nonetheless as I headed home later I knew at least it wasn't a thrashing and that it showed some positives for the future. It was a seamless journey home and I had the added luxury of Gilette Soccer Saturday on Sky Three for about the only time ever to watch and that kept me up to date with all the scores up and down the country.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over, and I made us some tea. We had some minestrone soup to start followed by some lovely sirloin steak, chips and peas for the main course. It went down very nicely and later on as we were watching the new lottery show in the hope that we'd actually win something, we had some cheese and crackers too. This meant I could try the Wallace and Gromit cheese I'd got for Christmas, and the Wensleydale I had was gorgeous - completely. I could just have that and no other, but some of the other soft cheeses in the little cheese net that The Love brought over were also good.

We settled in after not winning anything and watched a DVD I'd rented from Tesco - Eat Pray Love. It was actually quite fun in parts and Julia Roberts was pretty good too - playing an author who had not had the best marriage and wanted to find out how to rekindle her love again, eating in Italy, finding religion in India and then spiritually heading back to Bali where she'd met someone who read her fortune, and eventually finding someone in the shape of Javier Bardem. It was quite nice really, and I know that The Love loves those sort of films (part of the reason why I admittedly got it to be honest) so all was well.

What was nice was that in one of the earlier scenes, you could clearly hear "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac playing in the background, and Stevie Nicks' voice was instantly recognisable for myself and The Love - and I must admit I was really pleased that it was the original version and not the horrible Corrs cover. For that reason alone I've got to give the film writers some credit and make it tune of the day - after all, it's good to see that some of the old classic tunes are used in a good way and of course it kind of sums up what I wanted the night before, I was dreaming of a derby day victory!

Friday 11th February - Shopping Through The Rain

I don't normally spend the Friday night shopping and walking through the Mancunian rain whilst doing do, but tonight was an exception. I'd spent the day at work and needed to head to one of the stores in the city centre to collect something that I'd ordered. I can't reveal too much about it because it's something for The Love In My Heart's birthday in a few weeks time, and as you can well imagine that's something that I want to make sure I get her something lovely. And I have. It was a case of heading into town, into the store, going to the collection desk and the lovely staff there were wonderful.

I then passed London Camera Exchange and thought that it'd be nice to get myself something, and spotted a nice little Nikon lens that'd fit my D3000 camera - no less than a 55-200mm one. It really does long zooms rather nicely when I tried it out later on, and it's also pretty light as well. And it fits into the side pocket of my camera bag, so I can take that and my 18-55 VR one as well. The staff in the shop were just as helpful as when I got my camera from there, even bubble wrapping the lens über-style to be sure that I'd have no accidents with it on the way home. The price was good too and although I know there's a VR version of the same lens, it's not necessarily that cheap. Besides this way I can always learn with it and learn to keep myself steady when using it too.

I got home and noticed in the post that two parcels had arrived, and they were both the other presents that I'd ordered for The Love. I knew then I'd have to head back into the city centre as I wanted them all wrapped before she would come over tomorrow. I had a cunning plan too that I'd go to the Tesco Metro on Market Street and do my food shopping there so that I could do everything in one trip. I managed to get some lovely wrapping paper along with some other wrapping bits, and it looked classy so I felt pretty pleased.

Tesco Metro was pretty busy but it wasn't too manic, so I went around getting the stuff I needed for the weekend and for next week. I already decided I was cooking The Love steak tomorrow night and so headed to the meat aisles. Interestingly, there were the same packaged sirloin steaks but one was at half the price (and it wasn't even in the reduced to clear section.) The other steaks I wanted were less fatty and were in the more expensively priced pack (but the same stuff basically). I asked the assistant there why that was the case and he explained it was promotions that probably just started, but they were really nice and gave me the cuts I wanted for the same price as the other one, saving around £4 in the process. Well done them - if you don't ask, you don't get, do you?

I got home and spent the rest of the evening wrapping presents (including the ones I've got for my brother's birthday next month) and watching Mad Dogs on Sky Three. Sky have got a weekend where they're showing the best of Sky on that channel, as a tempter for those on Freeview to switch I reckon. Best of all this even includes Gilette Soccer Saturday tomorrow afternoon with Jeff Stelling! Be interested to see how many people watch it and if it makes Sky realise that even if they don't bring Sky Sports News back full time, maybe just have Soccer Saturday on Sky Three..

Mad Dogs was brilliiant though but then I expected it to be. With John Simm and Philip Glenister reunited for the first time since Life on Mars (say no more) but also Marc Warren and Max Beesley in throw (so an obvious swoon fest for the ladies, not least The Love In My Heart who's rather keen on Max Beesley!) and it seemed pretty intense. The four of them are four friends who go on holiday, stay with a friend who seemed a little wayward and unsettled, even to the point of taking a boat, and then getting promptly shot at the end of it, which meant splattering blood all over the other four, and by a man in a Tony Blair mask! Surreal.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Nightmare" by Avenged Sevenfold. It's felt like a nightmare at work this week but also for many people who work for local councils who are facing the harsh reality of what massive cuts are going to do to them. And becuase the album as a whole rocks, not least the title track. You can tell that the drums are all the hallmarks of Mike Portnoy, whom the band hired to do drums after the unfortunate death of Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan but the whole track sounds epic and really does have that feeling of rocking pretty hard. And just the thing to mosh to after a hard week I reckon!

Thursday 10th February - Form Filling Central

Spent a fair bit of time today sorting out a few issues with laptops and indeed covering for other members of staff dealing with the calls as they come in - partly because it's been a busy time for some of the team as the new PCs have come for one of our student rooms, and we've been putting them all in and getting them ready as soon as possible so that people can start using them to their fullest. Of course this has meant shed loads of donkey work as well so it's been good fun and games. If that's meant me holding the fort a bit and letting them get on with it, not a problem really.

I've also spent some time this evening filling out some forms that I needed to do - mainly for stuff at work. It's one of those where I have to think about stuff and although most of it I've done in my lunch break at work I wanted it finished off so that I could at least send it over to the powers that be and at least get the ball proverbially rolling. I know that I have to knuckle down and get things done and I'd rather take some consideration into where I want to be but also how I want to progress too, so it's a case of writing things in a balanced and professional manner. I've also tried to avoid the wishy washy "I feel... blah blah" as sometimes it doesn't come across strong enough.

It was lovely though to walk up from work and meet The Love In My Heart and her work colleague in Rain Bar for a well earned drink and generally chat about stuff going on. It meant of course a nice pint of Brewers Dark was mine to enjoy and I wasn't saying no to that of course. It was good to do that and later on the two of us headed to Kro and I had a very nice large mug of coffee, which went down lovely. It's sometimes lovely to just chat and relax after work but still be out and take it easy.

We headed back to The Love's place later where she made some very nice garlic dough balls and a really lovely ham mushroom and mascarpone pizza, which was lovely and crispy too. Went down rather nicely. I showed her a couple of possibilities for the holiday including some villages in the mountains above Nice, and she seemed quite pleased that it looked lovely. It was a good way to really relax in the evening and chatter for a fair bit as well and the time as usual went too quickly before I ended up heading homewards.

Tune of the day is "Carry On" by Ben's Brother, which seems pretty apt at the moment with all the doom and gloom that seems to be around me. It's a beautiful song from the band's first album and Jamie's voice is in very fine fettle indeed. The chorus really does give some hope to you and really has that singalong uplifting feel to it and has that feeling that you're not alone, and that's special. "Let me count the ways that I love you" I can imagine saying that to The Love In My Heart when I was giving her a cuddle earlier. It's that sort of beauty.

Wednesday 9th February - On A Much Happier Note

After yesterday's black Tuesday for lots of us Mancunians, I've at least brought a bit of sunshine in for myself and The Love In My Heart as we made an important decision last night about or Summer break. We're going away a bit later in the Summer than we may normally do, but with good reason and indeed with a much happier both of us once everything was booked. We're going to head to Nice for five days and that'll be rather lovely. We found a really nice hotel that had good reviews all round, and certainly from our initial enquiry onwards the staff there have been really helpful, which is always good.

It was then a case of sorting out who we could fly with there from Manchester, and also what would we get for the price. Although Jet2 do fly directly there, they don't fly there every day and by the time you've added all the extras on top such as the luggage, paying extra because you're paying by debit card etc, it was worth me sorting out an alternative with one change. I had a crafty ruse though: check on Expedia, see who the flights are with and then go direct to the airline to book it. Hehe. Not daft, me. Part of us were thinking BA but with another cabin crew strike pending we thought that might be a risk, and after weighing up some more options including Lufthansa, we actually found that in terms of value for your flight, Swissair were the best of the lot.

And with good reason. The cost of carrying luggage is included, ladies can take a handbag as well as normal hand luggage, you get in flight drinks and snacks without extra charges as well, and on top of that, the whole booking process was easy peasy. Granted this means a change at Zurich on the way, but when I looked at their airport website the transfers would seem rather seamless and easy to do, so I thought that it would be the right thing to do. It's all booked now and the flights weren't that dear either, so it's given us both a boost and something to look forward to later in the year.

I watched the England game before against Denmark at the Parken stadium in Copenhagen. The stadium had the roof on so the capacity was a little reduced, but it was actually an exciting friendly for a change. England did go 1-0 down with an excellent Daniel Agger header, but soon Theo Walcott was on song and put a lovely low cross for Darren Bent to make it 1-1 not long after. Even with the substititions, the team seemed comfortable and midway through the second half a lovely ball from Glen Johnson fed Ashley Young, and he slotted it low and placed it well in the bottom corner for England to record a 2-1 win. I was pleased that the City players who were on show didn't get injured what with Saturday's rather big game ahead of them.

Tune of the day has a title which sums up my mood of feeling but also is a perfect instrumental opening track of the album that it appears on: "Glad" by Traffic. As an opener to their "John Barleycorn Must Die" album it has all the hallmarks of progressive rock and even infused by some jazz style as well, with some neat piano playing punctuating each starting instrumental verse before breaking into some more freestyle mode. Usually when the band played this live this track was somewhat extended, but even the album cut showed just how you could open things with the right mood. And of course then straight into "Freedom Rider", which is also superb. Ah, albums, they don't make them like they used to, let me tell you.

Tuesday 8th February - Cuts, Cuts and More Cuts

This morning Manchester City Council announced a massive swathe of cuts that will indirectly or directly affect everyone who lives in the city. The cuts that have had to be made have been partly forced by slashing of Government grants for certain areas, but also becuase of the current austerity measures that are needed. That said, I don't think anyone would have forecast that it would be this bad. The list reads like a proverbial death knell for services in general and makes for some grim reading. Locally to me for example, the swimming baths, which is a vital community resource, will have to close.

But further afield in the city, there's much more to it too - bins will now only be collected once a fortnight instead of once a week and no mention's been made of how this'll also affect recycling collections. All the public toilets apart from the ones near to the town hall will also close, the street sweeping will take place less often, and children's services will be basically sold off - particularly the Sure Start nurseries. All of which to be honest makes for worrying times for everyone. And it's a vicious circle too - if you're in one department which services the needs of another, and they have redudancies, then the department you're in may need less resources too, and so the circle begins.

I must admit the whole thing saddens me somewhat as it seems to be Labour-run councils who are getting hit with grant cuts. Manchester still has pockets of deprivation and the Government grants meant that those who are poor would still be able to get to and use vital and essential services that the council provides. Now there won't be any of that. I found it sickening that one of the ministers seemed to want to focus on one person's pay within the council instead of actually admitting that as long as your council was Tory, you were okay. Intriguingly as an aside, the other nice local councils in Manchester have organised a petition for you and me to sign to say that the cuts are bobbins, and yet Trafford Council opted out. They're Tory-run. You work it out.

All of this of course means a worrying few months ahead for those who work for the Council to see what will be agreed, but the proposals don't make for good reading. I for one would be sorry to see these cuts, especially as the Environment on Call team are absolutely brilliant and always have been helpful to me in getting things done, the planning office actually do take your objections seriously when you raise them, and in addition to that, the push to recycle more certainly has been a big positive as well. All of that work will now possibly be undone and that's something that doesn't really go down well with me.

As you can imagine, when I saw The Love In My Heart later on, this was a topic of discussion, not least because we both are very proud Mancunians and all that. We chatted about it for some time and worked out if these cuts would affect us, and even we contemplated about not going on holiday in case stuff happened. As such, we had a think about it and realised that if we didn't have anything to look forward to at all, then that would be pretty depressing, so the thing to do was book somewhere and go as least then if it was, we know the money's spoken for and been used whilst we still have the chance to.

After I made us some gammon chips and peas for tea, we then settled in for a game of Scrabble with no less than KT Tunstall's first album on. It proved to be an inspiration for us both with some good scoring, and it was nice to have a re-listen of that before I'd go and see her live in two weeks time. I still adore "Another Place To Fall" as well so I'll make that tune of the day - it has a lovely lilting feel to it as well. I remembered too that I'd actually drummed quite well to "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" so it brought back memories of playing Band Hero with friends. And those sort of things are what you need to do sometimes.

Later on after The Love had headed for home after we'd listened to Beth Rowley and even some Novelle Vague whilst all snuggled up, I got out the drums for Guitar Hero and had a quick late night drumming session, with me taking on some Metallica songs. I was very very pleased to have done "Sad But True" on expert drums, which is massive progress for me. Some of the other songs are tricky so to do any of them on medium I'm pretty pleased with - I did "Master of Puppets" as well and that's not the easiest one to nail properly. That said, I think once I get the hang of the bass foot pedal on the hard songs I'll probably do a lot better...

Monday 7th February - Organised Mode

It was just another manic Monday today, as I had plenty to do and not that much time to do it either. During the morning I was working out a plan of action for jobs I had to do, and put one of them into practice when I managed to work out just what Project 2007 licences had been ordered and for whom, and set about doing all the installations this afternoon, so that was good. I also worked out that in fact I wouldn't need to change a bit of hardware on the server as it seemed much more stable today, so I reckon what happened was that it was a temporary glitch, I hope anyway.

The wind got up a bit today and I was glad that I was in the office for the most part and/or heading around staff offices with not much distance to walk between them either. What I did find out was that the wind had got up in some parts of Manchester and a lorry had overturned on the M60 motorway close to Barton Bridge. If you've ever been over that bridge you know just how high up that is and how easily any high winds can effectively make driving over it pretty dangerous. Of course if that motorway is shut it can lead to pretty bad traffic jams everywhere!

I managed to get home and it wasn't too bad to do so, and then set about having a bit of a sing song on Guitar Hero Van Halen which I'd rented from Tesco DVD Rental. I guess I'd probably never buy it as a game as I'm not a massive fan of the band in question, but instead wanted to play some of the other songs on there, such as Tenacious D's "Master Exploder" (make that tune of the day as I managed to get 100% on expert on it and got the equal top score too) and also Offspring's "Pretty Fly For A White Guy" and also Judas Priest's "Painkiller" (just a bit annoyed that the opening drum riff appears to be missing for some reason!)

That certainly relaxed me a fair bit and got me in the positive mood, especially once I'd booked the trains to make my trip to the snooker complete in April. I've got the week off after Easter, and so it'll be a few trips to Sheffield to see the quarter and semi finals of the World Snooker Championship. I feel happy that when I work hard, I can do things with my life that I like, and I know that heading to the spiritual home of snooker is always a good thing. Now I just have to work out if I can possibly get tickets for the final!

Sunday 6th February - Floody Hell

Before you start panicking after reading the title of today's entry, no I wasn't flooded. However, all will become clear. The Love In My Heart and I decided what we'd like to do today and we though that it'd be good to go around Dunham Massey and see if we could spot any deer. I of course had the trusty Nikon D3000 to take with me as well so hopefully if I was able to get any good shots they might show rather nicely. It did look a little windy as we set off from here, but I guessed that was because it was still blowing from the night before.

Anyway, we got to Dunham Massey safely enough, parked up and noticed that the parking was now a mere £5 for non National Trust members (it's at times like this that membership has its advantages let me tell you). As we passed the duck pond on the left and walked towards the house, we looked right, and what normally is fields beyond the park was actually full of water. As we walked down past the water mill and looked at the stile that you go to the path to Little Bollington, the path was virtually submerged and both sides of that path were completely flooded. I think both the local canal and river had flooded over, creating massive pools of water everywhere.

I think too as a consequence of that, the deer had been moved to higher ground and a safer part of the deer park sanctuary away from all that, as most of the grass and ground off the tarmac paths looked pretty saturated to me. Indeed, getting to the old slaughterhouse was like wading through treacle in parts, and it was good to get there with a view but it just showed just how much water had fallen in terms of rain. Some reports reckoned that Manchester got one months' worth of rain in just one day, which is pretty scary stuff be told.

After walking around parts of the deer park and indeed the gardens, we retired to the little restaurant which wasn't too busy and so I had a nice cup of tea and some ginger cake, whilst The Love went for some water and a Victoria sponge that looked massive and properly home made. That was pretty good, and in the shop we noticed the Dunham Massey brewery ale - but did I want to pay a massive £3.50 per bottle? No. I had a brain wave in that we could check out their own brewery shop later as it wasn't far off.

We found out where the brewery shop was, and at first thought that it was closed as it looked a pretty desolate place in the Winter - one barn with not much around it. I did see the sign for shop and wondered if it was open, and then the door opened. We both headed up and it was literally the top of a barn, but with a very welcoming person from the brewery who chatted to us and indeed showed us the view from the barn window - right towards Manchester. Very nice. I couldn't resist and got some bottles for myself, especially the Dunham Dark which looked like a proper old school dark mild. Yum yum yum.

It was then back to mine for some Scrabble and Ben's Brother's second album in the background, which I still enjoy now. The title track "Battling Giants" seems to fine Jamie in fine form, so that's tune of the day for me, mainly becuase it just has a really nice flowing chorus to it. Mind you, the Scrabble game was tough with a difficult board to play off and lots of Is coming right near the end. Still, it was good fun and certainly having good music to listen to helped, as well as lots of hugs later on. Awwwww. And even some nice pasta for tea - I know, good isn't it?

Saturday 5th February - One Neil Young, Forty Goals and Two Steaks

It was a sad day of sorts today as Manchester City were playing West Brom, but it was the first game since the death of the City legend Neil Young. Neil amongst other achievements was the top scorer for the club in their 1967-68 league winning season, the scorer of the winning goal in the 1969 FA Cup Final and also scored the opening goal in the 1970 European Cup Winners' Cup Final. I'd say that was good to be starting with, but he was a local lad who lived near Maine Road and was always one to give his all for the team he supported as a boy. Of course many fans were saddened to hear of his battle with cancer and the red and black scarves at the cup games recently have shown just how much the fans appreciate the history.

As City took to the field this afternoon I had my retro 1969 FA Cup shirt on, the red and black one, so I could pay tribute to the great man along with many other City fans having the red and black - even the mascot Moonbeam had the red and black kit with the scarf - nice touch that. Plenty of his fomer team mates and fellow City legends such as Francis Lee, Colin Bell, Tony Book et al were out there on the pitch as well, and the minute's applause was a lovely touch. Now all we needed was a win to really give the great man a send off like we should do.

The first half was all City and it wasn't long before we took the lead, not before Carlos Tévez had hit the post with a rather wicked on the volley shot. City surged forward down the left and Aleksander Kolarov was bundled over in the box for a penalty. Now, Tévez had missed the last couple he'd taken, but this time it was low and hard into the bottom right of the net as I looked at it and that was 1-0 to us. West Brom had their chances and did look lively, but it wasn't long before Tévez made it 2-0 with a lovely 1-2 with David Silva before passing past a West Brom defender and then slotting it under their keeper with ease.

During the 24th minute the City scoreboard showed a picture of Neil Young (his FA Cup final goal was scored in the 24th minute you see) and the City fans all stood up and applauded, again a lovely touch and one that I'm sure was appreciated. And a few minutes later City had a chance for a third. A cross came over, it rebounded off a West Brom defender and another of their defenders stuck an arm out blatantly - definite handball and I'm surprised the referee took no further action apart from that. It was left to Tévez to finish off his hat trick and slotted it the other way in the top corner, and so 3-0 and that's how it stayed to half time, and indeed to the end as the second half was pretty dull to be honest.

Mind you, it was goals galore elsewhere too and we couldn't believe some of the final scores when they came up on the scoreboard. Newcastle were losing 4-0 at home to Arsenal at half time and yet came back to make it 4-4, Everton beat Blackpool 5-3 (they were 3-2 down too, and Wigan beat Blackburn 4-3. By the time Wolves had beaten Man U 2-1 later (a massive shock, that) it meant that the eight games had produced over forty goals in the Premier League. Wow, that does take some beating methinks, and I think that Match of the Day might prove to be an essential watch later on at night too.

My friend and I headed over to see The Love In My Heart and had a coffee there, and a good chatter as well, out of the incessant rain. Seriously, it was hammering it down all day and how the pitch stayed in good condition I have no idea. I wondered as well just how much rain had come down and whether it'd be tricky driving conditions for some people too. Thankfully, The Love went slower later as we headed back to mine and we got there without a hitch, although it was clear to see that there were large puddles of water on the way.

I made us a nice little three course meal for tea tonight and I think it set the tone off for a lovely relaxing evening. I made us some mushroom soup and served that with a warm granary baton, which filled the gap well. It was then out with the frying pan and did some rump steak with chips and peas, even doing the steak well done for The Love too. It was then a chance to relax and watch the lottery show, see that we hadn't won anything, before heading to dessert which was a lovely little lemon tiramisu that I'd got last night, they were very lovely indeed and far too moreish to be honest.

It was then on with the Million Pound Drop Live, and we saw two teams do well and get to the final question and also win some money. One husband and wife combination had the final question of who had the number one single first, was it Elvis Presley or Cliff Richard. It was Elvis by two years, which I figured would be the right answer, but when you're up there it seems a whole lot different in terms of the pressure and the stress. That's what I reckoned at least. Some of the questions did seem easy and I did know a fair chunk of them, and they even had Chris Kamara asking one of the questions which was pretty cool stuff.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. I dug out Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock this morning and decided that I wanted to drum a bit more before getting changed for the football, and that song came to mind as one to do. A couple of attempts later and I'd actually completed the whole song on medium level without missing a note, which made me feel pretty pleased that I'd managed to do. I might not be the best drummer ever but I like having a bit of fun and playing it anyway, so for me that was a good achievement. I rock (well sort of...)

Friday 4th February - Drum Mania

It was another long day at work today (I keep saying that, which is a slightly worrying sign to be honest). However, this one did have a good reason. Normally I'd have been at one of our technical group meetings, but recent changes mean that now I can't go anymore, and it's left to other people to attend instead. It's a decision I understand and respect why it was made, and I suppose that it'll mean that I get time to do other things, but it does leave me wondering that we're being possibly left behind in a technical development gap when in fact there should be development for us all in making sure that we can keep up at the same level.

Mind you, I did at least get to do some training on SCCM (System Centre Configuration Manager) this afternoon, which is basically one of Microsoft's equivalent of what Novell Zenworks can do. It did seem like a pretty easy to use graphical interface other than the fact that there's plenty of options what you can change and plenty of things which could in theory go wrong as well. What I did like the look of though was the ease of use of how you could layer a PC machine image, starting with a vanilla Windows 7 build and adding all the necessary drivers etc that you would need on top of that. It looked decent enough to be able to do.

I then headed home and went off to Tesco to get the shopping in, and thought ahead about what I'd make for The Love In My Heart over the weekend. I managed to get a good mix of things to cook and also treated the two of us on a little dessert for Saturday night, as well as some wine for her. I knew too that I'd have some real ale to possibly drink and so wasn't too meithered about getting anything for me. I must admit it's taking some getting used to to have to remember a £1 coin for the trolleys now. I guess too many of them were going missing and so this way there's an incentive to put them back. It does seem to be doing the job at least so that's something.

It was then after having some tea and also ringing a few people time to do a bit of rocking. I'd not played on the drums for a while and thought that it would be a good use of energy and dealing with frustrations during the week if I was able to do some rock performance. I tried a few songs on Rock Band 3 on drums at first and that was fine, although I had to remember that only four of the five pads of the Guitar Hero drum kit was used. I even tried Pro drums on a couple of tracks by pretending I had the yellow cymbal and thankfully as a normal yellow note wasn't used in one track, I did a pretty good score on the Pro drums too, hehe.

But on went Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock and once I got myself into a comfortable position I was ready to drum on that one. Of course as the kit I have is more suited to that game it meant I could really go for it, and as I've imported all the songs from the other games in, I've got tons of choice. Once I got things into gear I was able to do some good stuff, such as Blur's "There's No Other Way" which I'd downloaded recently. I did do Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" and did well on that (make that tune of the day) as well as "The Hand That Feeds" too. Mind you, some of the tracks on drums are bloody hard work, and I must admit that the challenge of Arctic Monkeys' "Brianstorm" is worth persevering with once you get used to it - I have and it rocks!

Thursday 3rd February - Service, Please!

It was a pretty long day at work for one reason or another and so it was good to get home and try and relax a bit. I had plenty of domestic chores to do and wanted most of them done before I had the company of The Love In My Heart a little later. It was good therefore to do plenty of ironing and also put some stuff in the wash as well before thinking about what to have for tea and what to make. I did notice I had some pork loins and I ended up doing them with some potatoes and vegetables, simple but did the job wonderfully well for us both when she came over.

It was then on with BBC2 and on with the final episode of Michel Roux's Service on BBC2, which we've been enjoying these last few weeks. To see the youngsters transformed into those who felt pride in the service that they offer and also a real feeling of self-confidence and belief showed in the two final challenges that they had: first serving the elite at Wimbledon under the watchful eye of none other that Michel's father Albert. That was pretty daunting but it was good to see the enthusiasm come out and how they really wanted everyone to have a good time. I must admit that Brooke's personality was quite infectious and you could see how she has progressed and matured.

The final challenge was taking over service at none other than Le Gavroche, the rather lovely and well known restaurant that Michel currently is known for. It's a pretty daunting place to go at the best of times, but as you can imagine, the challenge had some of their mentors along the way to eat the food and also be watchful of any mistakes. What was good was that some of them could see the progress made, especially Fred, who's been a real star to everyone and given everyone a real sense of purpose. Everyone played their part and once they got over the fact it was Le Gavroche, they performed admirably really.

At the end it was time for Michel to hand out the two scholarships, but in the end he handed out three because two of them as front of house people were so close. Danielle got the sommerlier scholarship, and I was pleased as she really felt the enthusiasm for the wine and that came across, and James and Ashley was a surprise but I could see where Michel was coming from. I must admit I thought Brooke might win one, but then a little surprise came her way in the form of Fred - who offered her a place to work at the restaurant he looks after - Galvin at Windows. He obviously sees the charm and bubbly personality and also sees potential too - and you could tell she was overjoyed.

It was then on with the Scrabble and on with Gene's first album Olympian as I wanted to play that, partly to show The Love the voice of Martin Rossiter, lead singer of aforementioned band and also touring solo later this year (and yes I want to go!). She immediately thought that his voice sounded a little like Morrissey, which to be fair a lot of people would do. Mind you, there's some cracking tracks off that first album anyway and "Sleep Well Tonight" is still a classic even now - so tune of the day it most definitely is for me. And sleep well tonight I definitely did, cuddled up to The Love. Awww.

Wednesday 2nd February - Slipping Away

It was a pretty busy day in the office today and I managed to do a lot of the work from my desk in the afternoon, as I was rotaed in to cover any support calls that were assigned to the team. I managed them pretty well but I also worked out something that had been bugging me and another member of the team for a fair while. We'd recently replaced a PC in one of the rooms with another one, and they use a swipe card reader to read the magnetic stripe of our student ID cards so they can identify the student etc. This on their old old kit worked well but on the new one it failed to play ball. It turned out that for some reason the particular model of PC didn't like having this PS2 wedge card reader connected, so I did some investigating.

What I managed to find out was that there was a BIOS update for the motherboard in question (Intel DQ965GF) and this was a recent (ish) Intel BIOS update. I ran the updater and then let it flash the motherboard (my own PC in the office, no less) and then did a restart after that. Once everything was connected it played ball rather well and really did work properly well with the card reader and the keyboard connected via the PS2 wedge. And it also swiped the cards every time that I tried, proving that the functionality was spot on, even ensuring the configuration so that it would read just the information from the card that it needed.

Feeling flush from that, it was then a case of heading on the bus over to my Mum's, as it was my youngest sister's birthday today. My nephew (her son) was at Mum's being looked after whilst my sister was in work, and so it was good to have a bit of quality time with him and see who could throw little round sweets into a glass from distance. I explained to him about arcing the throw correctly and seeing how well you'd do by aiming straighter. The result was good for him as he threw it in nicely - yaay! Always good to see a smile on a little one's face for sure. Even better was that my sister loved the card I got here too so all was well.

After a coffee and a chat with Mum I headed homewards and then had the BBC Final Score on the red button whilst I was sorting out some household chores as well as typing up some stuff on the PC. As it turned out City were doing okay against Birmingham, especially after Aleksandr Kolarov scored a screamer of a free kick to put us 2-1 up at half time. However we faded badly in the second half and even with a controversial penalty that Birmingham got and scored from, we couldn't feel that hard done by in the end as we were clearly not that bothered in the second half and a draw was a fair result.

It does worry me that City are slipping away from the top places and that others, especially Chelski and Tottenham, are catching us. We have to make sure that we're in a position to at least challenge for a top four slot but the more games go on, the more precarious that becomes. A win on Saturday would help enormously but it did concern me with the lack of effort from some of the team to be honest. In the meantime tune of the day is "Born of Frustration" by James, as that what supporting Man City can be like a times!

Tuesday 1st February - The Madness of the Transfer Window

I woke up this morning and after having headed to bed reasonably early the night before, I wanted to see what moves had been completed during the January transfer window. Normally it's pretty frenetic right up to the last minute to see who has been signed from whom, and I was fairly relaxed as Manchester City weren't getting involved in any last minute activity, nor should I add were Man Utd or Arsenal. A sign of settled times for those three teams? Maybe, but it made me wonder as well just out of touch the football world is from the reality that's out there right now.

The two main cases in point were two transfer deals totalling a mammoth £85m, which saw the British transfer record being broken twice on the same night. Andy Carroll left (apparently reluctantly according to him at least) from Newcastle to Liverpool for a whopping over the top price of £35m, and part of the reason Liverpool did that was because that they were losing Fernando Torres to Chelski after the Spaniard threw in a transfer request. Now considering how disinterested and bobbins Torres has been for Liverpool during most of this season, it makes you wonder if he really is worth the £50m that Chelski ended up paying. I think not.

But I bet if you were the agent of either player, you'd be laughing all the way to the bank if you made sure that part of your agent's contract was a percentage of any transfer fee. That's a few quid right there methinks. But it does also bring into question just what loyalty means as a footballer these days - is there any? Probably not. Does it mean the game is too money-orientated. Probably does. Does it give Sky Sports News carte blanche to add numerous rumours during the day to try and make people tune in? Definitely does. And did I as a City fan particularly care a toss? No. I'm thankful we did our transfer business earlier in the window.

I had a pretty good day at work anyway, solving plenty of problems and even getting to the bottom of an address book problem for one user and one shared account, and seeing what would happen from there. It seems to have really been quite useful for the user though, so that's good. I also worked out a few things for the future that needed sorting, so it's all been good stuff and I guess I feel like I'm much more on an even keel with things as I head into this month all refreshed (sort of!)

I ended up calling the World Snooker tickets box office today to order a couple of tickets for the snooker for me and my friend. We discussed it on the Sunday before Punt and Dennis, and I've got us tickets for the Friday afternoon 22nd April (Good Friday that is). Should be good methinks, especially as it'll be into the second round and that the tickets are still £15 for the morning and afternoon sessions by that time, so that's decent enough. It made me think of the Snooker Loopy song by Chas and Dave with the Matchroom Mob, so there's your tune of the day. Granted it's cheesy, but you name a better song about snooker itself... well there you go!