Dear Diary... January 2010

Sunday 31st January - Poor Against Pompey

It was another trip to the City of Manchester Stadium for me and my friend today, as it was City at home against Portsmouth. Admittedly, it was going to be hangover time after the Carling Cup semi final defeat in midweek, and also of course it was a case of seeing if we could get back to winning ways by beating the bottom club in the table. I didn't think that many would be there, so was surprised when around 44,000 packed in to the stadium, some of them fuelled by a cheaper ticket price as part of a two game deal with the Bolton home game.

As the build up to kick off commenced, the announcer decided to play lots of Manchester tunes over the tannoy, including Joy Division's classic "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (make that tune of the day) as well as Happy Mondays' "Step On" and other Mancunian classics too. It certainly got everyone nicely in the mood and as the build up continued, we could see that Portsmouth's fans had brought a drum with them, which they were going to bang on with all game and try and cheer their folks on. You'd think it'd be something a tad more original, but you know, that's the way it goes sometimes. They hadn't brought many and considering the distance to travel for a 1.30pm kick off, you can't say you blame them too much.

The game started and it wasn't that exciting. In fact, in truth, it wasn't that exciting for the whole game. Portsmouth's finishing was poor and that let us off the hook a couple of times, and our play wasn't that great either. We were making the odd chance here and there but nothing outstanding whatsoever. It all happened in five minutes before half time. First, a lovely ball from Stephen Ireland found Emmanuel Adebayor, and he struck it home sweetly on the volley from twenty yards. He was only just on side, but nonetheless we'd take it and that was 1-0. Just before half time a shot from Carlos Tevez was fumbled away by David James for a corner, and then from the corner from Martin Petrov, Vincent Kompany headed home, and 2-0 it was.

Second half was even more dull, just nothing happened apart from one little Tevez move that almost made it three, and to say it was a workmanlike victory was something to say the least. It just made me wonder just what we had to do to be motivated, or if the defeat had left the players tired, but it just wasn't too good. We went over to see The Stars In My Sky later and we had a cuppa and chat there whilst watching the 20 years of the Brit Awards, full of classic moments of scandal and arrivals of bands. I didn't see Suede's infamous performance of Animal Nitrate though, which was a real shame as that really gave the industry a kick up the backside. Ah well. More references to the dull as hell Coldplay. Even watching them would have been more exciting than City's game if that tells you anything.

Saturday 30th January - Going Knuts

I woke up and made sure all the house was lovely and clean and that I'd managed to have a good hearty porridge breakfast, as I had company coming later on - namely my Mum and also The Stars In My Night Sky, who very kindly offered to pick Mum up on the way to my place to save some time and also my Mum having to walk from hers to mine. It's the little things like that which make it all worthwhile and also I know that it means we get a bit more of a day out too, so can't argue with that.

We'd decided to take Mum to Knutsford as she hadn't been in ages (in fact she remembers when The Royal George was a hotel and Berni Inn, not a shopping centre as is now) and The Stars and I had told her that there were lots of lovely little gift shops which she would have much fun browsing in. They both arrived at mine and we headed out to the local train station, as we could get the train there and it meant that no hassle parking and also a more comfortable(ish) journey. So it was soon on the train to Stockport, change there and get the Mid-Cheshire Line train via Altrincham, Hale and Mobberley to Knutsford.

Soon we were walking down one of the main streets, and the little craft and gift shops jumped out at Mum and The Stars, and they were soon happily browsing away. There's so many little shops that have so much nice stuff in, and a lot of them were getting geared towards Valentine's Day, as you'd rightly expect if you worked in retail. One of them had the Emma Bridgewater Hearts collection of biscuit tins and stuff like that, very twee of course but it would appeal to the shopaholics amongst us. In fact, one of them had so many nice cards it was hard to not buy one for a certain day in the future, but a bit hard to do that when the intended recipient is there (and the same for her of course).

We soon walked up further and to a plethora of charity shops. And my, they're not like the charity shops near me. Everything is in wonderful order - in one of them the women's clothing was sorted by colour - and it meant that lots of people were browsing. Plus the stuff given away was normally pretty good make clothing as well, so you could well imagine plenty of people eyeing an odd bargain or two. My Mum got this vase stroke jug in one of them which would be perfect for putting flowers in and would be great for her dining table. And it looked pretty much as new as well, and knowing how my Mum can be in terms of condition, if it satisfied her anyone would have been happy. So a little bargain is always good.

We then walked up to one of the art gallery shops and I noticed that they had several prints of the artist Jack Vettriano that I know that The Stars loves. In fact, two of them were canvas prints and pretty massive as well, so you could well imagine them being up in her front room (well, I can anyway and that's what counts). It's nice that The Stars has an interest in the arts and culture, makes her even more intelligent and sexy you know. Maybe it's a me thing that intelligence really does float my boat somewhat because it means that the person who is that has more substance to them and is generally more thoughtful. Well, sometimes.

It was then lunch time so off to The Angel pub virtually opposite the gallery. I'd grabbed a pint in here when we were here for the May Day Carnival, but didn't have time to stop for lunch. Looking back and having had lunch today, I wish we had. They did a deal where if two people ate, it was two main courses for £8 or two main courses and two desserts for £12. As it was, The Stars didn't want anything from that menu but Mum and I did, so we did that, and got The Stars' lunch too, which just so happened to have a free starter or dessert anyway! So in all in all it was under £20 for the meal for the three of us, and in terms of what we all had, the food was absolutely yummy and well worth the wait (which we had been warned about when we ordered, so fair dos). I had the beef and stout pie, and it was a proper slice of pie (it's now ranked number 4 in my pie chart), Mum had the battered cajun chicken which looked fab, and The Stars had the beer battered cod which looked heavenly. The apple pie Mum and I had for afters was melt in the mouth gorgeous. Oh yes. We were all very happy after that and I'd gladly go back there for lunch myself to be quite honest, well worth it.

We then walked up he hill to the other main street and along the way just had to go in Fibre and Clay. My friend who's into the likes of knitting, crochet and tea had previously raved about the place on her blog, and to be honest I could see exactly why when we ventured upstairs. If you wanted any yarn possible, at any length, or if you wanted crochet hooks, needles and so on you'd find it. Oh, and there's the buttons. Shed loads of them, all arranged neatly in little IKEA pots. I'm sure if Mum or The Stars wanted to update their wardrobe and have new buttons on their outfits, they'd be well happy with whatever they'd find here. Some of the scarves were reduced in the shop downstairs were super soft, and well ace. The Stars I think also had her eye on the knitted shrug that someone had made and was on a dummy that we could see upstairs in the knit section, it was blue and looked very cosy indeed.

We walked around some more shops, including a gorgeous card shop where I managed to get a 2010 calendar at last - one based on the art of Gustav Klimt, and it was soon time to head back to the train station to get the train to Stockport and then back home. The train got into Stockport and it was literally walking from one platform to another and on the train home, so that was good. I put on Wii Sports Resort later and I thought we'd introduce Mum to some of the events, and she was actually really good at them. She nailed several mid-air catches in Frisbee Dog, and was able to score a very good total of 850 points (even popping some balloons too) and then we tried out the archery. In that, she did exceptionally well and scored 87 points for the twelve targets, including a 10 on the first target which made her well pleased. I was really happy for her and I could see how much fun that she was having, and that made me smile.

We dropped Mum off later, and then headed back to mine where I made us some chicken and all the trimmings for tea, gasped at how bloody thick the contestants were on the Lottery In It To Win It Show (I mean, that bloke who was on there all camp, what the hell was he about? I think even Dale looked at him with disdain!) and then settled back with a couple of games of Scrabble along with some Swing Out Sister and Fleetwood Mac. Tune of the day incidentally is "Twilight World" by Swing Out Sister, as it reminds us both of being there at the Lowry in 2008 seeing them still be so ace (and yes, for the record, I do still quite like Corinne!). It also reminds me that in four weeks' time we shall be seeing them in London (and that will be ace).

As for the Scrabble, I did pretty well as did The Stars. I even managed on both games to get rid of all my letters in one move, doing STOPPED which also made VENTURES, and as the former was on triple word with a blank as an E, that scored me well (97 points in total including the 50 point bonus) and in the second game I ended up doing TRACKING (blank as G and with A already in play) for 75 ponts, as the K and T were both on triple letter as well. I felt pretty pleased with that as it's nice to be able to find some way of getting rid of all your tiles, hurrah!

Friday 29th January - Rock-Off Challenge

Another day at the office, and indeed another challenge. One of the AV rigs with the PC on it had decided not to launch one of the pieces of software for some reason, but also if you tried to log on and view a network drive, Windows Explorer wouldn't have it either. The first problem was simply an out of date licence file, so I was soon able to update that and get it up and running. The second was a bit trickier: I reckoned some malware might have tried to change registry settings, so I set Malwarebytes' "Antimalware" to work and it did the job rather well, spotting a bad registry key and also seeing a possible bit of adware in the secured recycle bin. I got rid of them both, restarted and badabing, all working again. Good to see.

Headed home and then to the local Tesco, and I must admit I'm getting a little irked at the moment about the fact that you can't seem to get a trolley anywhere close to the store that hasn't had its wheels disabled. I had to go right to the other side of the car park to get one, which wasn't that ideal. It's a tad frustrating to be honest because I just want to get round and get what I need. I did manage that later and also made sure I got something nice in for tea for myself and The Sunshine In My Sky later on, only seemed fair somehow didn't it?

I had something for tea myself and then settled in for the evening, and had a prettty easy time of it, watching Tenacious D - The Pick of Destiny. I hadn't seen it for a while and seeing as I have the DVD, I felt it a good time to be able to relax and enjoy it again. Of course I remember hearing about The D's little series in the US years ago, with their super-fan Lee (hence the song of the same title on their album) and so when a film was being made I had to go and see it at the cinema. Jack Black of course rocks, as you'd expect he would, but the film does have some cameos from Ronnie James Dio, Meat Loaf and later on Dave Grohl as Satan, who does a pretty good job, not least in the end section where he gets challenged to a rock off by Tenacious D. Hehe. In fact, "The Metal" at the end credits is good fun, did that in Guitar Hero 3 as well, hehe, so tune of the day there.

Lastly, I'd promised my uncle a game of Tiger Woods 09 online on the Wii, and so I took the task up and set up a game. In fact we ended up doing two rounds, first at Westchester, which is deceptively difficult to be honest, even if you can get an eagle at one of the par fives early on, and then at Firestone, which has the legendary par five 16th hole. I say legendary because it's over six hundred yards and there's a lake blocking the front green, so getting anywhere near the pin in two is, shall we say, a tad difficult. I did manage it once by curling the ball fade style and got to the green, but then had a monster putt which I missed. Mind you, this time round on the final hole I hit the second shot from the fairway in for eagle, an impressive shot at any time that.

Thursday 28th January - Back To The Bugs and Freeview HD

I arrived in the other office that I'd been working in for the last two weeks, and it turned out that whatever cold bug I'd had looked like it had spread around the office, so all four of us were having the sniffles and cold-like symptoms. We each supported one another with cups of tea and such like, and I even headed out at lunch to get some flapjack bites to get some energy inside for the day to day stuff we needed to do, but it was clear that in a way I was responsible for them all feeling under the weather. I freely admitted it was down to me, but we laughed it off and I knew they were just kidding me back into the day job. Bless.

I had to go out in the afternoon and check out a faulty projector and AV rig. When I got there, it turned out that the whole thing wasn't faulty at all, just that whoever was attempting to use it had pressed all the wrong buttons to try and get everything on, so I got that all nicely sorted out and all was well with the world. I took the opportunity to speak to my colleagues in the office I'm normally in and find out what was going on, keeping myself nicely in the loop. What was nice was that we were able to have a good natter and my colleague let me know that he couldn't wait to have me back in the office on Monday, so felt nice to be wanted.

I also noticed that several companies were about to launch Freeview HD boxes (I was researching it for possible AV use, see I was doing work!). In case you didn't already know, Freeview HD is launching very soon this year and is already available on some areas of the UK that have had analogue switched off, like mine. What this means is that you don't have to have a satellite dish to have Freesat or Sky, but still be able to get ITV HD, BBC HD, and eventually Channel 4 and 5 on HD as well, which is a rather nice thing. Especially as it'll be free with just the cost of a receiver as well. Neat or what eh? Anyway, a potted guide follows for anyone who is curious:

Basically, Freeview HD requires a different set top box from your normal Freeview box. The reason is that currently Freeview broadcasts to a TV standard known as DVB-T. Freeview HD's standard is DVB-T2. Without going into too much technical detail, unless your box can handle DVB-T2, it can't do Freeview HD. Also, some areas can get Freeview HD and some can't. If analogue's been completely switched off in your area, then you should be able to get Freeview HD, and other areas will follow in time for the 2010 World Cup (not difficult to work out why).

To see the pictures from Freeview HD in HD on your television, you'll need to be sure that your lovely LCD or LED television has a spare HDMI socket at the back. HDMI stands for high definition multimedia interface and is basically the HD lead equivalent of what good old SCART is for standard definition. Your DVD player or blu-ray player might already have a similar connection for example. BBC HD normally broadcasts in a HD standard commonly known as 1080i, which all HD ready television sets support, so you shouldn't have too many problems. One box that looks good is the Humax HD-FOX T2. Humax are known for doing good Freeview boxes and recorders, and is available to pre-order from the likes of Argos and Richer Sounds. It's not cheap, though, I should warn you.

I'm more interested if and when a Freeview HD recorder comes out, ideally one that offers DVD or even Blu-ray recording, that might just encourage people to get more into HD I think. But exciting times ahead, I'm sure, and if it means that lots of the boxes fly off the shelves in time for the World Cup to watch the games in stunning HD (and believe me, once you've seen footy in HD you will not want to go back) then that's all good. I'm just excited to see the World Cup anyway, and with that in mind, New Order's seminal "World In Motion" is tune of the day - even with John Barnes' rap on it, it's still a classic.

Wednesday 27th January - Gutted, Absolutely Gutted

This afternoon I took the step of deciding that I was too ill to have any company tonight and to watch the City game on my own. It wasn't something I thought about lightly - normally I am more than happy to have friends and relatives of the family around so we can all cheer on the boys and that. But I had fallen asleep in the living room earlier, and felt horribly bunged up and just so full of all sorts that my body wanted to head back for sleep and stay there for the rest of the day. As such, I didn't feel it'd be right to infect anyone else with my bacteria or indeed suffer as we were going to see City maybe not win after all.

In fact I got up, had done a bit around the house, fallen asleep at 11, woke up at 1.30, had lunch, did a bit on the Wii, fell asleep again around 3, woke up at 5, and then went to sleep again at 6 and didn't wake up till just before kick off tonight. With all that in mind I certainly wasn't in the best frame of mind to be able to have anyone with me - even if The Sunshine In My Sky very kindly offered to come over and keep me company. I didn't think it was fair on her to be honest, but I appreciated her lovely gesture in any case. It was a case of cosy up under a duvet (oh how very attractive!) and see the game that way.

Half time and it was 0-0 on the night and 2-1 to City on aggregate, so far so good. But in truth I knew that if United scored, I didn't think we'd be able to keep going and keep at them for the whole game. We had a couple of chances early in the second half before some right Man U thug decided to chuck a coin at Craig Bellamy when taking a corner. It was way out of order and to be fair to Man U's goalie Edwin van der Sar, he went straight over and gave some of the fans the death stare, sort of "don't do that you idiots" - so fair play to him. After that corner, Man U broke and the ball went to Paul Scholes who rattled one in. 1-0 (2-2 agg). Then a few minutes later my Sky HD box decided to switch itself off for no reason (meh) which it keeps doing as of late. I managed to reboot the thing just as Man U scored again through Michael Carrick. Maybe I shouldn't have bothered.

That made it 3-2 to Man U on aggregate, and it meant City needed to score to hopefully force extra time, and from a Craig Bellamy cross, Carlos Tevez pulled off an excellent finish to bring the aggregate score level. The City fans went mental, I cheered slightly less than I'd usually do (I didn't want to bring on a coughing fit) and I just kept thinking "we need to get another, now". Although away goals wouldn't count till the end of extra time, at least if we got another we'd be ahead on away goals and so be able to control the game a bit more. Both sides had chances but as stoppage time commenced United got a corner. The ball came in, Wayne Rooney headed home unmarked and delirium erupted for the Man U fans - see their train journey from London was worth it then - and 4-3 on aggregate, and no way back for City.

I was gutted, obviously, to say the least. City's first cup semi in 29 years and a chance of going to Wembley and possibly winning their first silverware in far too long vanished with it. But at the same time I need to think positive: we've pushed Man U all the way (again) to stoppage time and losing gallantly, and the quality of football shows that we might not yet topple them for top dog, but we could hold our own against most of the top clubs with passion and pride in the performance. Our day will come, and winning the first leg did at least show we had some intent and were willing to give them a good going over. The league game at Eastlands on 17th April is going to prove a tad interesting. Tune of the day is "Pounding" by the Doves, as they're mad City fans, the tune is played before the game, and it was my head's feeling for most of the day. Off I went to bed and tried to get some sleep before work tomorrow.

Tuesday 26th January - I Am Mr. Bacteria

Having managed to telephone the doctor's yesterday morning before I headed home from Cornwall, it was a 9.10 appointment with them. I figured that if I needed to take anything I could start the course of tablets effectively as of now and get kicking in a bit quicker before recovering later in the week when I was due back in work. That was the theory anyway, and I soon was on the bus and then on a short walk down to the group practice that I'm registered with. I'm actually still with the same doctors I was when I was younger, which is good because they know my medical history, virtually all of the family is registered there, and usually they've done a good job with me (such as getting me to hospital ASAP when my glands were swelling like mad last year).

Anyway, I was soon to see a doctor and explained how I'd been and also that my chest had been trying to cough continually for ages. He did reassure me that there were a lot of bugs around and as well as examining and listening to my chest he also took a swab of the mouth and throat as well to see if there was anything there. His impression was that it did seem to be a bacterial infection of some sort and that it was right of me to wait till my first cold went after Christmas to see if the bug still was prevalent or not. With some antibiotics prescribed, and also with the tests of the swab due next Tuesday (and I've been reassured that if I need anything further, they'll have a prescription ready) it was off to Tesco to get some shopping done and then home to relax.

I spent a chunk of the day watching the Grand Nationals DVD I got last week and then also playing Countdown on the Wii, which I'd re-rented from Tesco DVD Rental. I got the hang of it again and soon was making six and seven letter words for fun, and doing pretty good at expert level (the third of the five difficulty levels) and winning the Countdown teapot with regular occurrence, and eventually getting to be octochamp too, which was good. I just wish it featured more of the telly set and presenters, be nice for sure to see a digital Jeff Stelling hosting and of course Susie Dent in the dictionary corner (I should shamelessly admit that I quite adore Susie, but also admit that she's not a patch on The Sunshine In My Sky.)

Anyway, The Sunshine In My Sky came over later and despite me not being 100%, it was lovely to see her, chat endlessly and also talk about the weekend we'd had. I was just so grateful that she was so nice and understanding to me the whole weekend and understood completely that I needed rest and relaxation at times even if I wanted to head out and have lots of fun. That said, she was taking no prisoners on Wii Sports Resort tonight and thrashed me at Frisbee Dog (getting her best score of 850 points into the bargain, which is good going) and proving rather good at Frisbee Golf too, even getting a hole in one as well as the under par and skip to safety stamps too (I've got the rolling goal one but the last one's really hard...) She also got her best ever at the basketball three point competition and along the way did rather nicely on the archery and on the swordplay, so well done her!

What's good too is that if you've played a few games together, on the title screen if you let it play through, it shows your Mii characters on various parts of the island having done the games, and what's nice is that when you're together each Mii does their own little thing and they even look at each other (aww, I know!) which goes to show how impressive it all is. I even noticed tonight on Frisbee Dog that if you've done the Island Flyover and got 70 of the 80 i-Points, the balloon that flies over the sand is the same one on Island Flyover (which has your Mii on the side!) so that's neat. I like little touches like that, reminds me of how good the Epyx games are on the Commodore 64 (not least World Games, hold the weight up in the weightlifting for too long to see what I mean)

As for tune of the day, an easy decision really. I was spending time today uploading the pics from Cornwall up to Flickr and wanted something nice and relaxing whilst I was doing so which would also remind me of the sunnier climate as well that we had there, and so what came to mind was 3 Daft Monkeys' rather fab "Human Nature" because a) they're from Cornwall, b) their music is ace, and c) they're even more brilliant live. And besides, they kept me going today. Hurrah.

Monday 25th January - Alarmingly Long Way Home

We had both managed to slumber to sleep when all of a sudden I was awoken by the sound of a very high pitched whining sound. I soon discovered that it was the fire alarm that had gone off and so alerted The Sunshine In My Sky that we needed to get dressed and outside quickly. Soon enough everyone was outside, a roll call was taken and we checked the time - 1.30am. Ouch! We both were in deep sleep and soon enough two fire engines came to check everything in the Travelodge over before giving the place the all clear at around 2.15am so we could go back in. Getting back to sleep was difficult as my breathing wasn't too clever with the bug I seem to have, so took me ages to try and rest.

We woke up properly later, got packed and all ready to leave and it was with sadness and a heavy heart that we left St Austell and headed to the train station to get the train home. It was at least no change required this time, although the train was a lot busier than coming down, so I finished my Shaun Goater book whilst The Sunshine got stuck into "Shopaholic Abroad" for a while and all was well with the world. I had also made an appointment for the doctor's tomorrow (good job I'm off work then really) as whatever I've had has been dormant in my system since before Christmas and whatever it is really does need to shift and do so fast too. The only good thing is that the appointment's early, so hopefully it'll mean I can get some action taken on whatever I have.

The train pulled into Manchester Piccadilly at around 5pm and the journey seemed to take forever. In reality it took less than getting there, but when you're going home the world seems to stop and go on a go slow to get anywhere. I felt so sad because it meant I'd have to say goodbye to The Sunshine In My Sky, but knew too that she would be able to get some well earned rest herself, and as I hugged her on the platform I realised something more than ever - how much in love I truly am. I felt rather emotional actually, and that has to be a good thing.

Tune of the day is pretty apt considering the journey we had to take today, and so "Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac is my vote, mainly because "yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone" is one of the key refrains in the song. It's true that yesterday as magical as it was has gone, and that we don't have to stop thinking about tomorrow, but I could have done with reminding myself of that as we left today. Awww...

Sunday 24th January - The Lost Gardens and The Found Coves

A bit more leisurely for myself and The Sunshine In My Sky today, we thought, and so it was breakfast in Costa Coffee (nice bacon toastie and coffee, perfect all round really) before heading out on the bus for the first bus of the day to the Lost Gardens of Heligan, a place I'd been a few years back but wanted to show The Sunshine In My Sky because I'd gone on about how lovely it was. Also, the local Cornwall council decided that till the end of March, any bus journey you'd make would be £1 single fare, and that's it. We worked out it'd have been at least £2 odd to Mevagissey, never mind beyond, and so off we went on the 526 which took us to the Lost Gardens.

I decided that we could walk the jungle paths first before heading back around the far side of the Lost Valley and up through the Northern Gardens, this way we could admire the Giant's Head, Mud Maid and Grey Lady sculptures before heading down to the jungle. The recent snow and cold weather had taken its toll on some of the plants in the jungle, although some still looked pretty scary even when dead and could have easily been in something like Day of the Triffids. Scary indeed. We walked along the Lost Valley and saw where the charcoal was made from the discarded wood, and after heading back up the path along Sunken Lane and to the far end of the gardens, it was to the Northern Gardens we would head.

What impressed me is that work carries on here to make the gardens even more lovely. For example, in one of the main areas where fruit and vegetables are grown, you could go into the potting shed and have a nosey in there, see one of the rare examples of where pinapples are grown by using the heat from horse manure (honestly, it's true!) and one little two storied hut revealed a secret entrance to the Italian Garden when you walked through - absolutely stunning. We also really like the vegetable garden with its iconic tunnel still intact, and best of all for both of us was the Summer house with its views across the sea. It's a really special place to be overall.

We both also noted too that all the little places to access like the shed were all detailed and still in many places a fully working garden, and certainly heading along The Ravine down to the other parts of the Northern Garden showed wildlife loved it too - one black bird was just washing himself in the water there and happily not giving a jot about any of us being there, whilst many birds would just wander along and enjoy the view from the huts, and all the chicken and sheep kept there seemed to be very content with their surroundings. And not to mention the green ethos carries on in their shop and in the tea rooms too - where a lot of the veg for the Sunday roast is grown on site - can't say better than that. We stopped for lunch and I had a very nice pastie indeed whilst The Sunshine's ham and chutney sandwich looked the part (and even some Heligan Honey ale too, bonus) before we would head off for the afternoon.

Originally, our plan was to get the 526 to Gorran Haven, wander around there for a bit and head on the bus back. After we'd wandered on the beach there and admired the view from one path and indeed seen another nice little beach hidden away, we wondered what we'd do before getting the bus back later. At first The Sunshine was sceptical of me taking the coast path, but then seeing all the gorgeous houses with views over the cliffs and the sea made us both go "we want one!" and admiring just what you would get made us both realise that the life here might be much easier if you could happily retire. The coast path then seemed to go across fields, and I was concerned it might be muddy, but it was The Sunshine who said "come on, let's go!"

I'm so glad she did. Yes, the odd bit of mud was on the South West Coast Path here and there, but as we wandered across and over clifftops and admired the views below, we soon came down towards what looked like a very small settlement out to sea. What surprised us even more was that there was even a little beach, with lots of nice fresh water and shells galore for The Sunshine too. We stopped here for a bit and admired how nice it'd be if you lived here and had all this beach to admire, especially if you lived in the little development there, known as Chapel Point.

We carried on the coast path and then realised we didn't have to muddy the feet, we could have just followed the road along from Chapel Point which we rejoined later anyway, ah well. We soon headed down to Portmellon Cove where the beach was lovely and lots of clean water flowed towards the sea to wash our feet. In fact, it was rather nice here and with the amount of shells being washed up, a heaven for fanatics of such like. We soon left it behind and headed uphill along the road and then downhill towards Mevagissey, and thus ended our coastal walk, but it proved to be a really nice way to spend the afternoon and one I'll remember well. We had a well earned drink in The Sharksfin before heading back on the 526 to base - and it was the same bus driver for all three journeys!! He must have wondered how we got from Gorran Haven without him spotting us.

To end the day we got changed and treated ourselves to a meal at The White Hart in St Austell. The food has always been good when we've eaten here, but add the fact that they do currently (in my view) the best pie ever, then we simply had to go back in. The restaurant part was closed, but you could have the food in the main pub part no problem and after perusing the menu it was no contest for me - the steak and Tribute ale pie it was. The Sunshine went for the New York Chicken, which when it arrived had me thinking "I'd have happily gone for that myself" and the fact the plate was very empty showed me how much she loved it too.

And as for the pie? Well, seasoned veterans of this diary will know how much I rave on about the pie being the best there is. And I'm ever so pleased to report that the title is still intact, without a doubt. Big chunks of steak, lots of mushrooms, soaked in Tribute ale lovingly, and a pastry that is both melt in the mouth and firm enough to hold the pie together. Absolutely spot on and to be honest if I had room in the stomach I'd have ordered another. Quite simply my friends, pie perfection. If you're ever down that end of the country, make it an essential stop - you'll be so glad that you did. If anything ever beats this, I'd love to eat it, never mind see it. So take a bow, you lovely people in The White Hart, you've made a grown man more than happy yet again.

Tune of the day to end the weekend is the rather nice and lovely "One Day Like This" by Elbow. Despite me feeling horrid health-wise, I couldn't complain that everything about today was wonderful - the adventures we'd had, the walks we'd taken, the beauty of the scenery and the Lost Gardens of Heligan, the friendliness of everyone, all the nice food and best of all the most lovely of company to spend it with. I am one lucky man, and I need to remind myself of that and/or pinch myself to make sure it's all happening to me.

Saturday 23rd January - Where's King Arthur?

I had had a cunning plan for today which meant us heading northwards to the North Cornwall coast to explore two places I'd never been before, and so it'd be new territory to me and The Sunshine In My Sky. The plan was to make the most of a day ticket offered by Cornish bus company Western Greyhound (their buses are green in colour and are all numbered in the 500s, in case you wondered) and so be able to get to two places along the coast in one day from our base in St Austell. This did mean an early start (and we did have an early-ish night last night to be on the safe side, it was a long day of travelling too) and so after a very quick stop in McDonalds close to the Travelodge, it was time to head to the bus station for the first legs of our day trip.

As we were going to head to Tintagel first, so that we could explore the castle and be fascinated with the stories of King Arthur and explore all the old ruins, it meant that we had to take three buses to get there: first the 529 from St Austell to Bodmin, then the 555 from Bodmin to Wadebridge (with optional stop on the bus to Padstow instead if we wanted to change plans!) and then the 594 from Wadebridge to Tintagel, which would eventually carry on to Boscastle after we'd got off. I have to say that the buses not only ran to timetable, but all the drivers and staff were a friendly bunch, being very polite and efficient with everyone they dealt with, and getting us there in no time at all (well it certainly didn't feel like close on two hours or so anyway).

Tintagel itself seemed pretty dead in the Winter, but you would expect that, and as we walked down the path from the village to the castle, and got there as the castle opened, as if almost by magic the sun came out for us. We watched the opening video of how the legend of King Arthur was formed and the association with Tintagel was formed, before taking the walkway which would lead us up to the main small island where most of the castle ruins are. I have to say, I really enjoyed it all and so did The Sunshine. Walking across the island, seeing the ruins such as the little gardens, the tunnel to store food and even the well right in the middle imagined you back to a far gone time, and also being able to soak in the Winter sun as we did so just felt rather good.

We stopped and chatted to one of the landscape gardeners working on the island, who told us that they had to close access to the public the other week because of a force 12 gale (yes, that's force 12!) making conditions dangerous. He did suggest walking along a path lower down in the island to see one of the gates positioned down there, and we were both glad that we took his advice - the view was sensational and you could also imagine this being a point for having goods delivered and the island secured at the same time, so it made perfect sense. We left the main island just as a huge bunch of exchange students appeared so we didn't have the island almost to ourselves, and then headed up some very steep stairs to another part of the castle on the mainland, which even had the remnants of the main gatehouse intact, all very interesting.

No matter what time of year, if you get chance, I can recommend a trip to the castle highly. Even at this time of year, it seemed rather majestic as it was just there in the water and almost constructed mythically and enhnaces all the romance of all the legends before it. Walking back towards the village did feel sad, and we contemplated our excursion in the King Arthur's Arms pub with a warming coffee as we did so. We also spotted the old Tintagel Post Office (we'd have got in for free with our National Trust membership but alas the place was closed till mid-February) which looked really charming, and after a pastie stop for me and a coffee in another cafe to keep ourselves nicely warmed up, it was off to the bus stop for the next leg of the journey. The pub even had some decent music on earlier, so that cheered us up, and the café had John Mayer on, so make "In Repair" tune of the day - notably because my body was doing that - well sort of.

This time it was back on the 594 to Camelford, which then became the 584 to Wadebridge, but this took a different journey, via the likes of Delabole and on to Port Isaac, which was our next stop for the day. Port Isaac of course is more well known by some television fans as Portwenn for the series "Doc Martin" which stars Martin Clunes in the title role. Now, you'd think with a place immortalised by the television, you'd have more places open even in Winter, right? No. Absolutely not. We headed down the hill from the bus stop and into the village, and it was virtually deserted in terms of places open. Only two places appeared to be opened, the pottery, which was very lovely, and one pub that stopped serving food after around 2pm!

The only other place that we saw open was a fancy little gift shop run no less than by the wife of TV designer Lawrence Llewlleyn-Bowen, and we thought "the prices might be a bit dear in here methinks!" and so it proved. We did manage to find the house where Doc Martin fictionally lives, and even had a walk along the beach whilst The Sunshine did collect some shells, but to be honest there wasn't that much else do to. We found a pub with a view over the bay and over Port Gaverne which was close to the bus stop and had a well earned cuppa in there to make sure that the time wasn't wasted. It was a tricky one really - on one hand I do respect the place for not cashing in too much on its TV fame and keeping the identity intact, but on the other, people who are curious will want to come and see no matter what the weather, and if the village seems deserted, that didn't bode well.

The other thing that did concern both of us to some degree is that Port Isaac's little houses are almost all now holiday homes, with not that many locals living in the village itself (or so it seemed anyway), which could also be part of the reason for its slightly deserted feel. Surely with a view like you'd have from the harbour, you'd want to live there? Well, you would think so, but obviously not. So it was with a mixture of sadness and keeping warm that we headed out of there on the 584, which took us via the lovely beach at Polzeath, round the back of the millionaire's paradise at Rock, then down to Wadebridge, where we'd then get the 555 to Bodmin and back on the 529 to St Austell and returning back to Travelodge base as the darkness had fallen. We got take out from the Pizza Hut close by and munched inside the room and so we could snuggle up and watch telly at the same time, and eventually curled up to sleep as all the walking up and down hills plus early start took their toll.

Friday 22nd January - Cornwall Here We Come

I woke up this morning and at least did feel much better than I did yesterday, but to be honest still full of a cold and pretty much bunged up in the head and chest. However, I felt able enough to travel and I really didn't want to let myself or The Sunshine In My Sky down, not least when there's a chance to head to one of my favourite places in the world. Oh no. And so it was that I managed to get myself up and ready, grab my case and be at Piccadilly station for 8am where The Sunshine met up with me. We worked out which train was the one heading for Birmingham and headed on the first leg of our journey down to St Austell, where three nights in the Travelodge and a long weekend awaited us both.

We soon got to Birmingham New Street on time, and as much as I hate the station because it's such a depressing place, thankfully we were only changing there and as such it was a case of heading up from Platform 1, across to the other side and to Platform 10b, where the train was soon to arrive which would take us as far as Plymouth. I have to say that this train was pretty empty, even after leaving Bristol, and so it meant that we could relax, get the Travel Scrabble out and even have a couple of games as the sea rushed past to our left as we headed past Dawlish and Teignmouth and onwards past Totnes and towards Plymouth. The Sunshine had made some sandwiches and other bits for lunch, and that was very nice of her indeed.

We then had to swap trains in Plymouth for the final leg of our journey, this time what I call a "piddly" train - a two carriage local service which was to stop everywhere between Plymouth and Penzance, used more by the lcoals than anyone else. We didn't have a problem locating seating and space though, and before we knew it we had gone well past Liskeard and Bodmin Parkway and soon arrived in St Austell, bang in time and just before 3pm, so it was down the hill from the town centre and to the Travelodge to check in and drop all our stuff off, with a view of the surroundings from the window as well. No complaints here - usual Travelodge fare, clean and working bathroom and comfy bed. Two minor things though - not enough pillows (four instead of three between two would have been good) and the heater in the room didn't work. As it turned out the room got very very warm anyway, but even so.

We decided to head out to the centre of St Austell and check out the new developments in the centre, namely the recently opened White River centre. It had some nice new shops with more to come, leisure space including a cinema and Frankie and Benny's, and even some flats which were being finished and ready for rent. It really did enhance the town centre nicely, and we walked through and could tell the difference it was already making for those who live here all the time. We took one of the roads out of town, headed over the railway and to the St Austell Brewery Visitors' Centre, so I could admire all the beer and paraphenalia in the shop and even have a quick drink at their bar, with beer rather fresh from the cask it was brewed in (and The Sunshine tells me her wine was pretty good too incidentally!)

After this, we felt it would be nice to have a little trip out and so it was on the 526 bus to Mevagissey, a place we love and have been before. After a quick walk around the harbour as the dusk descended rather quickly, we headed to the Sharksfin and had a drink there overlooking the harbour, before heading into another nice pub - The Ship Inn. We both had their fish and chips and it was rather gorgeous all round, lovely fresh white fish and a crisp but melty batter, lots of chips and peas and a nice salad for The Sunshine. All tasted spot on and it certainly warmed us up nicely, before heading back on the 526 bus which dropped us pretty much outside the Travelodge and so we could have an early night before tomorrow's jaunt out. Tune of the day incidentally is "Holiday" by Pullover, because it sums up everything nice about being on holiday in a three minute little indie pop ditty. How nice is that?

Thursday 21st January - Shiver Me Timbers

I woke up and still no Internet, but I knew that it was being sorted, and so headed to work. It was to be the last day at work for a few days, because as well as this weekend, I also booked off Tuesday and Wednesday off - as The Sunshine In My Sky has also done the same, so we can spend some time together. Isn't that lovely? Well, I think so anyway. It was therefore a case of doing what I could to clean everything up and also to be sure that everything I could finish off as a job was done, so I solved some Excel spreadsheet problems, did some maintenance on databases and all that jazz.

All afternoon, despite me wearing something warm, I was all shivery inside. It didn't feel good and I was worried that all of it would mean I'd feel really horrible later. On the way home I was struggling to keep warm, thankfully there was heating on the bus which meant I was able to be all snuggly. When I got home, it was nice and warm inside and so I curled up on the sofa for a bit and went to watch the new DVD that had been delivered - The 12 Greatest Grand Nationals. You want all races in their entirety? Check. You want the legendary Peter O'Sullevan describing the background to each race? Check. All three Red Rum wins? Check. Aldaniti in 1981? Check. Foinavon's legendary 1967 win? Check. Pretty much everything was there, and more too, as two bonus races in the form of Ayala's win in 1963 and Mr Frisk's fastest ever National in 1990 are there too. So it's actually 14 for the price of 12.

I was still shivery though so I turned up the heat a bit more, made sure the case was packed for tomorrow (and it was a tight squeeze, I even had to use the expander part of the case no less!) and had something to eat for tea with Sky Sports News in the background. I also got a text from O2's broadband support to let me know the problem had been fixed and everything should be back up and running, and sure enough when I checked the router about ten minutes afterwards, everything was good to go. It also saved them sending me a new router out, as that's what they were planning to do (seemed a bit daft when I had a feeling what it was, but I guess it's procedural).

I went to bed early, and wanted to make sure I got a good night's sleep before travelling tomorrow. I woke up in the middle of the night and thankfully didn't feel at all shivery, so it looks like the paracetemol I had before I went to bed had kicked in nicely, so that felt rather good to be honest. I'm excited as ever about being able to travel to places and I know too that The Sunshine loves to come with me and have a wonderful time, and that's what it's all about. We've got some special times planned and I for one really know that it makes me feel very special deep down. Tune of the day is "Shiver" by Coldplay, seems quite apt somehow.

Wednesday 20th January - Get On T'Internet, Or Maybe Not

It was another good day in the other office I was working in, and good to be able to use some initiative to solve some problems along the way. We even had to set up three laptops and projectors in other rooms so that lecturers could do their spiel easily and quickly, for which they were very grateful indeed. What also made it quite intreresting was that one of the rooms was a bit awkward in terms of where the power adapters were, so we had to head back and get a longer extension cable to do the job - and even then prevent people from walking across it for the usual Health and Safety reasons.

I got home later and tried to pick up my email and do a bit of web browsing. Eh? Not working. Not good. I saw that the lights were flashing instead of being a solid green and that immediately alerted me to something. So I did what everyone else would do - restart the router. And again. And again. And no joy. Not good whatsoever. I decided to leave it for a bit and start making the chorizo sausage pasta bake for myself and The Sunshine In My Sky, as I felt it'd be best.

We relaxed later after tea with a couple of games of Scrabble and some CDs in the background, first of all the Fleet Foxes album, which she thought was okay but nothing special, and then I pulled a masterstroke - Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" on DVD-Audio. After a while The Sunshine was like "I know this one, and this one" and had to explain to her how much the bloody Coors had ruined "Dreams" compared to the wonderful original - so that's going to be tune of the day. In fact when The Chain came on, I explained the background behind the track and said to her "wait for the famous bit", and sure enough that bassline came on, and she went "Oh yes, that's the F1 music!". Classic.

I did okay in the Scrabble, even managed a seven letter word or two, doing UPLIFTS in the first game and REALIST in the second one, which proved to be quite useful. The Sunshine to be fair even got her best ever score for a single game and that pleased me no end that she's improving so well. It's all that concentration and being able to think outside the box that's helping I'm sure. Good for her, I say, and one of the many reasons I love her to bits - she's intelligent and sexy all at the same time. How lucky am I?

After she left to head home, I rang O2 support to see what the problem was with the Internet. Their customer support person was very good and I explained the stuff I'd already tried. Immediately he was aware I knew what I was doing so he tried a few things at his end, no joy, and sadly he couldn't run a BT Fault report either. I did mention something I noticed yesterday in that some BT people were outside on the main road near me and were tinkering with cables. What if one of them happened to be the one to my house and they'd interfered with it slightly? Well, I was on the case with that one and so I let them know, see what happens.

Tuesday 19th January - Fergie, You Should Have Signed Him Up, Ha Ha

It was off with my friend to the City of Manchester Stadium tonight for a game that we'd been waiting for for the last two weeks - the first leg of the Carling Cup semi final against Manchester United. It had been postponed when we had all the snow here in Manchester a couple of weeks ago and I'd been chomping at the bit to see what City could do. All the hype was being built up too, with several United players (most notably the absolutely loathsome Gary Neville) saying that they didn't need their former striker Carlos Tevez and that they could manage perfectly well with what they had. All this of course stoked up the emotions a bit.

As kick off almost came upon us, the lights descended and we were to hold up the Blue Moon placard posters we'd been given as we walked in. Some of us did, and that looked good, but some idiots in the Man U end decided that lighting a flare seemed to be a good idea, despite the fact that they were all searched before they got in the ground. Still, that in a way made it a little bit more like a real cauldron of atmosphere and so the game kicked off as a first leg full of fire and passion, and I'm sure that was the plan that'd be the same next Wednesday in the second leg too.

City didn't start too well and it was no surprise when United took the lead to be honest. A run down the right wing from Valencia found its way to Wayne Rooney, and his cross was only deflected into the path of the oncoming Ryan Giggs, who couldn't miss from a yard out to make it 1-0. Heads were bowed and initially I thought "here we go again" but then thoughts stemmed back to the Chelski game, where we came back from a goal down early on and went on to win. Well, I thought, if we can do it then, we can do it now, and after a dodgy opening spell we started to make some headway, with Nigel de Jong's fearsome shot parried out by Edwin van der Sar.

Then came the turning point of the first leg. Craig Bellamy got clear of Rafael da Silva, who pulled him once outside the box and who appeared to pull him inside the box, Bellamy went down and it was a penalty. The United players were incensed, two bookings were given out including one for van der Sar for time wasting, and up stepped Carlos Tevez to take the kick. We all knew what it would mean for him to score against his former employers, and not least when he didn't feel wanted there, so he smacked home the penalty and almost took the net off with it, it was driven so hard Francis Lee-style. 1-1, game on, and he ran to the City fans and then the bench, where Neville showed him the finger and Tevez responded with a "yakkety yak blah blah" gesture to say "shouldn't have spouted off before the game should you?".

In fact it reminded me of the 2002-03 derby at Maine Road, the last ever league derby. Gary Neville was boasting about how he'd never lost to City in a Manchester derby and I'm sure that rankled with all the City players. The rest is history. Shaun Goater chased a hopeless ball from the late Marc-Vivien Foe, he robbed Neville on the touchline and slotted it in past Fabian Barthez from the narrowest of angles. The City fans mocked "There's only one Gary Neville" and he was taken off later on to save him the embarassment of more City chants. You'd think he would have learned something from that, but oh no, just proves what a nonce Neville really is.

Anyway, 1-1 and half time and all is well, and second half City pressed like mad. Corner after corner came in at one point with Micah Richards unlucky not to score himself, and eventually we made the pressure pay. Shaun Wright-Phillips put the ball forward towards Craig Bellamy and it got the faintest of touches off Rafael to get a corner. The corner was initially cleared, it broke to Pablo Zabaleta who headed it towards the six yard box, but was going wide before Vincent Kompany drew three United defenders as he hooked the ball back in to the danger area, and only one man was going to get that and score - Tevez. Pandemonium broke out for the City fans as he put the ball in, did the cupped ears gesture pointing to the United board, the United fans started kicking off because they couldn't take losing, and it was intense.

United did press for an equaliser, but despite Wayne Rooney's best efforts (and to be fair, he worked his socks off) Shay Given was equal to it, a shot was cleared off the line by Nedum Onouha and we held on a bit, especially during the five minutes of injury time at the end (how it was five minutes I'll never know). The referee blew for time and we'd done it - taken a slim lead into the second leg. It wasn't pretty at times, and certainly the reports of fans kicking off outside the game didn't exactly endear either club too well, but it was a victory for City that tasted sweeter as we headed home. It is only half time though and the tough part is ahead at Old Trafford, but to see Tevez shove it up their noses? Absolutely priceless, let me tell you.

Tune of the day is an obvious choice, but considering the manner of the performance, pretty apt too - Manchester City's "The Boys In Blue" which played after the final whistle. I remember this from an old vinyl record my grandad used to have, and of course because it's true in what it says "the boys in blue never give in" - and we certainly didn't tonight. I feel proud to be a blue, oh yes I do.

Monday 18th January - Another Week, Another Building

This was the start to another week where I'd be based in another building. I was able to first of all fix the laptop issues that I was having at the back end of last week where one laptop just wasn't allowing any antivirus scans to complete whatsoever. After doing some research I worked out that whatever worm had crept into the system had indeed tried to trash all the Windows Installer security settings etc, so if you tried to install any form of antivirus program, the virus would indeed spot it and prevent you from installing it. I had therefore agreed to re-image the laptop and all was well afterwards.

It was getting to know the room and the people in there a bit more today and even head out to a couple of jobs as well so that we'd be able to get an understanding of how things work. What was most impressive was the way that the resources for all the foreign language television was set up and how you could assign the inputs to the receivers, but also how you'd then make the display all work correctly on each one. It's also nice that they have plenty of recording possibilities for if anyone wanted to archive a programme for educational use, and certainly the staff there made me feel very welcomed.

I headed to the city centre during my lunch break, as one of my colleagues had some great news at the back end of last week - his wife had given birth to a baby girl. As he was based in our office for years and I'd worked well with him over many years, I knew our manager was going to see him later, so I nipped into the Early Learning Centre and got them something which would be fun but also provide a good stimulus. I even found a good little card, although not Forever Friends, as it seemed nowhere in Manchester had a Forever Friends baby girl card, only those pesky me to you imposters. Meh to that is what I say!

Tune of the day could have been anything, as I've been busy filling up the trusty iPod in preparation for the weekend's trip away. I thought I'd get it all done now so I'm able to at least have everything all worked out rather nicely, and spent some time listening to contenders as to what to put on there. In the end I'll nominate the excellent "All I Want Is You" by Roxy Music, because it's a classic single of theirs, The Stripes On My Shirt quite likes Bryan Ferry, and it's still in their great album phase too, and representative of where they were at the time. So win win.

Sunday 17th January - A Meal In The Countryside

It was a day out for myself and The Stripes On My Shirt today, as we were both heading out and joining her family to celebrate her father's birthday, which was last Thursday. As it was a momentous birthday year we thought it would be good to go somewhere different for a change for a meal, and so we suggested The Midland at Marple Bridge, because the food's always nice in there, everyone is really helpful and they serve real ale (bonus of course) as well as a really relaxed atmosphere. Of course, the tricky bit would be to get everyone there on time.

In the end, The Stripes suggested that her sister follow us, as she was picking up her Mum and Dad and as her sister didn't live too far away, they could follow us as I knew the way from their place. Her other sister knew where she was going and so with all of that sorted, I arrived at The Stripes' place in good time so we were able to head to her folks and get the two of them. It was nice to see though that making the effort to put a nice shirt and trousers on meant that I felt in place, as everyone did look very nice as they were heading out. With The Stripes' sister's car behind us, we left their place, headed to the M60 by Hollinwood and then down the M60 to junction 25, round the back of Bredbury and then along the A627 and A626 to Marple Bridge, and The Stripes parked up in the Brabyns Brow car park nearby.

We entered in, I got a nice pint of Doom Bar and soon The Stripes' other sister had arrived with everyone else in tow, and so all eleven of us were here and ready to have a nice meal together. It was a little slower than usual in getting some of the food, but it was very very busy and to cater for a large number you'd want to have everything cooked from fresh and cooked properly. We noticed a deal for the Sunday roast where it was two courses for around £10, so I went for that so it'd keep the cost down a bit (and I've had the roast in there, it's rather lovely). So as a result I had the mushroom soup to start (gorgeous) and roast turkey with lots of extras, also very gorgeous. The dessert I had was a baked cheescake and that was also very nice too, downed with a latte to finish off - I had at least had some Doom Bar so didn't want to overdo myself.

Everyone seemed to like the food in there and The Stripes' eldest sister said that although it was a bit of a wait, to have the fresh fish in the sole goujons was well worth it, and indeed her younger sister had the battered haddock which was also delicious. And to be fair to The Midland, they even fulfilled the request to do the batter as a more normal style instead of beer battered, which was rather good of them to do all round really - top marks for that. Everyone had been well fed and time and conversation went by very quickly before noticing what time it was - almost 4pm!

We headed back to The Stripes' sister's place, and there a few of her father's friends were waiting for us as a nice little surprise - and we had some more drinks and even the Wii came out as myself and The Stripes' brother in law went for a bit of a pool fest, and I eventually won the battle on that one. Game Party went on later and a bit of a darts contest went on, with her father absolutely kicking backsides off everyone else. Fair play to him too, if I'm half as active and up for things at his age, I'll be well pleased, let me tell you. We left later and headed back to The Stripes' place, I even saw some of the Masters snooker but didn't stay up to watch it till the end, shame because of course Mark Selby pulled it back to win 10-9, and all was pretty much good.

Tune of the day has to be something I was listening to in the morning before setting off. Last night my friend and I discussed John Mayer as someone I wanted to see live this week but didn't manage to get a ticket for (I did for the last time) and I thought I'd give the albums a re-appraisal. In fact, "Heavier Things" is better than what I remembered it last time I listened, so "Bigger Than My Body" definitely sounded much better and more raw here. Hurrah!

Saturday 16th January - Put The Biologic To The Tree

It was a pretty good day all round today, spoiled only by Man City's 2-0 defeat at Everton (and to be fair, they deserved to beat us too) and I'll try and sum it up in a few paragraphs, but the basic gist of it was it started ace, finished even more ace and meant that I got to spend time with one of my best friends and one of the real heroes of my life too. I know, amazing how these things come together isn't it? I woke up and pottered around the house for a little while, and made myself and The Stripes On My Shirt some breakfast, some croissants and juice for us. I even had a bowl of Special K red berries that I bought from Tesco last night and it was actually more tasty than I remembered it from back in the day. Good, that'll be my breakfast during the week sorted then. I couldn't do the whole diet thing where you eat a bowl of that for breakfast and lunch though, that might be asking a little bit too much of me.

We then headed over to see my sister, as it was her birthday today. It was lovely to see her and her husband, and my niece, who was in hyperactive mode to say the least. I think she was all excited about going to a kids' party later on and so as you can appreciate it was a case of her getting herself readied for much fun. My sister liked the present I got her - she's collecting these Disney Traditions figures at the moment so I got her the Dumbo one, which sees him flying over the circus and looks rather cute and lovely. Now I just need my brother in law to build her a shelf to put them all on, and all is well with the world later.

It was then over to Matalan in Stockport, as I wanted to get a couple of t-shirts for when we go away soon, and also to see if there was any nice jumpers and/or outfits for us both. In the end, she didn't see much she fancied apart from one black woolly top which looked lovely, but had every size except hers. Aaargh. I did find myself two white t-shirts (ideal for wearing under jumpers for a bit of insulation), they were two for a fiver, and also this nice plain purple jumper for a mere seven quid as well, so no complaints there really.

It was sad when The Stripes headed for home, but I know we'd had a good evening and morning together and I'd be seeing her tomorrow, so that was good. I spent most of the afternoon in a bit of a sports-fest, switching between the racing from Huntingdon and Kempton on Channel 4, England's woeful cricketing display on Sky Sports HD2, the Stoke-Liverpool game and then Gilette Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports HD1, and all that sort of thing. Stoke's draw against Liverpool was well deserved and the chants to Rafa Benitez of "You're getting sacked in the morning" really were rubbing it in, big style.

Later on my friend picked us up around 6.15pm as we were heading to The Lowry. We'd not been there for ages for any sort of show (the last time was Sean Hughes back in September, which was brilliant) and it was good to head back there. We like the main theatre in there - you get to see no matter where you're sat, and the chairs are also very comfortable. Also if you do what we do and get Row K, you also get tons of legroom which is handy, particularly as what we were about to see was a good two and a half hours at least without a break - so we were prepared.

We had a chat in one of the bars at the Lowry and it was good to catch up a bit and generally chat about all sorts and keep an eye on the football result (bad) but it's always nice to spend time to be able to take time out too, I had a latte and we both got a soft drink that we could take into the venue to keep ourselves suitably refreshed during the snow, as with no interval whatsoever it was a case of getting what you could now and be ready for what was to come. And was it good?

Well, let's put it this way - it's the sixth time I've seen Henry Rollins (official site) do his spoken word thing, and he never disappoints whatsoever. For the next two and three quarter hours you got humour, wisdom and wit and plenty of travel anecdotes from the former Black Flag front man. It's very hard summing up a show where you have him almost at rant pace the whole time and talking to you about all sorts, but he's indirectly pretty funny and also isn't afraid to speak his mind about all sorts. I always remember the first time I saw him he said that we should all have Mark E Smith from The Fall as your best friend, because then no one would touch you - ever, because you'd have Mark going "I'm going to kick your head in-uh."

Anyway, tonight's show detailed his starring in season two of the US TV series Sons of Anarchy and how he started getting all sorts of weird fan mail about it later when the press release for the show came out, and how the role as a white supremacist was challenging because although it was acting, it wasn't his view of the world. After that, it was a whistle stop tour of the places he'd been to over the last few months, including an escapade to try to get into the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India, and also the time he was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and ended up hanging out with someone who was a bit of a speed freak and decided to head through traffic and take Henry on a tour at immense speed. Oh yes.

Best of all though was definitely his travelogue about Thailand and about the person called Ai, whose English had been learned over time and was definitely a case of winging it a lot of time. One morning he'd come up to Henry and go "What's your life?" in a sort of a karate cross kung fun move at the same time, and later on he'd pronounce Henry as "Mr Curve" because of the road trip they'd taken during the day that involved lots of turns in the road. When they needed to visit the toilet and had to pee by a tree, Ai said "put the biologic to the tree" which was the phrase he'd coined for doing that very thing. It was delivered in the usual wonderful way and it just had everyone giggling, and not least also the thought of some teenager in Saudi Arabia getting off on The Stooges. Oh yes. One down, the rest of the world to go. Sort of.

The two and three quarter hour show didn't feel like that at all - and that's always an indication of the best gigs around when that happens. Oh, and William Shatner inviting him to Thanksgiving dinner in only the way that Shatner can (and with Henry's impersonation of him being spot on) and it just made for a great show. Tune of the day though has to be something by The Ramones, seeing as Henry mentioned them a lot, so "Blitzkrieg Bop" it is, a classic tune of its time and even now. I'm sure the man Henry would approve.

Friday 15th January - Compilation of the Week

It's the end of what's been a long week, and today was an example of how perseverance can pay off rather handsomely. I had managed to get all the images done for the new kit earlier in the week, but unfortunately for some reason it wouldn't bring down for some of my colleagues at my usual office. A quick bit of investigation revealed why - when I imaged them up I used a bootable CD that seemed to have Zenworks 10 files, and if booting to a Zenworks 7 server or boot CD, it'll never retrieve. So what I ended up doing was bringing down the images again, cleaning them up and reuploading them but using the Zenworks 7 boot CD, and that worked perfectly. Handy for me to spot and for others to know.

I did also have a bit of fun and games as I was heading to Tesco later to do my food shopping. All of the mid-range trolleys seemed to have had their locks put on because they'd been attempted to be wheeled outside, and so didn't have a single one to take around. I spoke to an assistant who managed to locate one for me that I could use, and so was good to go. Didn't take me long to sort my lunches out for next week and indeed be able to get all the stuff I wanted to as well. I decided that I'd make a nice meal for myself and The Stripes On My Shirt later and so got what I needed.

I took some time out with Wii Sports Resort after I'd cleaned up the house (and did some ironing too!) and concentrated on the Air Sports, notably the island flyover. I've now got a massive seventy six of the eighty available iPoints, so need to find the other four somewhere. I've got an idea of where one of them is (it's the skydiving team) and so need to get that and the others. Some are in really crafty places though, such as one in the tunnels under the mountains, one on top of the lighthouse and one in the road tunnels, places like that, as well as the obvious ones like the road bridge, the electricity wind turbines and others. It's all good fun though and that was good fun too when The Stripes had a go whilst I was cooking tea.

Tea was served and I'd done some fresh chicken along with roast potatoes, carrots, peas, broccoli and gravy. I felt gutted I'd not remembered the Yorkshire puddings that were in the oven, but at least I'd managed to do everything else, and well. I think The Stripes was pretty impressed, and later on the Wii went back on as we did the Frisbee Golf event (even did the special three holes and I got one under par, woo!) as well as the rather nice and nifty archery too. Best of all though is that it's so much fun when you're playing together I reckon.

We had a game of Scrabble later on as she had a glass of wine and it was a pretty good game all round - it was her best score ever, and the only thing that was the difference was the one move I played where I did EQUALS down the board, with the Q on double letter and it scoring double word, scoring a massive fifty points. The points difference wasn't far off that so you can see that those sort of moves are the ones that really do make a difference. She was very consistent too and that goes to show just how much that she's improved, I'll have to up my game or she will beat me, I know it!

Whilst playing that we had the excellent Bad Lieutenant album on (make Sink or Swim tune of the day because it's bloody ace) and after that we were browsing play.com to see the offers that they had on various compilation CDs. What amazed us both is that how many obscure 80s songs that we remembered, such as Fiction Factory's "Feels Like Heaven", Wang Chung's "Dance Hall Days", Animotion's "Obsession" and many others. Not one of the compilations were consistently good, apart from the Ministry of Sound's "Anthems: Electronic 80s" which had lots of great tunes on. Some of them admittedly aren't electronic which kind of disqualifies it somewhat, but nonetheless a solid compilation of 80s stuff on there. And it even has the full 12" version of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" which segues into "Where Did Our Love Go" at the end. Class.

Thursday 14th January - Elementary, My Dear

After another long day at the office it was nice to be able to wind down and head for an evening out with The Stripes On My Shirt. We'd planned it on Tuesday in that we wanted to go to the cinema (not been for ages) and we could get something to eat for tea along the way. As she was working her early shift, this meant it gave her time to head home and get changed before meeting me in the city centre later, and that's what we did. It was lovely to see her to be honest and we were able to have a good chatter as we walked along the streets and decided that heading to Ra!n Bar might just be a good idea to get something to eat there.

Normally Ra!n Bar on a Friday night is pretty busy, but on a Thursday it was relatively quiet. We got a nice cosy spot with a table and perused their food menu, which all looked pretty good. Now their reputation for having decent cask ale is well known, but it was so lovely to see the Brewers' Dark back on cask, and, I'm pleased to report, on tip top form too. I had a relaxing pint of that whilst The Stripes went for a glass of wine, and all was well with the world. And the food? Gorgeous. The Stripes' gammon steak looked huge, add to that two fried eggs, chips and peas and it was a hearty meal. I went for the New York chicken, and the chicken breast was cooked perfectly as were the chips and peas I had with it. It all felt right somehow.

We looked outside from Ra!n Bar to the canal that flows outside, but it still wasn't flowing whatsoever. The theme of the day was ice, ice and more ice, and although it did look rather pretty, I was hoping people didn't think that it was safe to walk on and ended up falling in - that would be disastrous to be honest. It did start to get a bit cold as we left though and headed in the direction of Deansgate and the AMC Cinema, where we both get discount rate on admission, so we can still go and save money at the same time - good, eh?

Anyway, we both fancied Sherlock Holmes and went to see that. And what did we think? It was very good, actually. It's at a good pace with a good storyline, and the two hours plus running time certainly doesn't feel like that whatsoever. Robert Downey Jr is superb as Holmes, having plenty of eccentricity and wit along the way, Jude Law dons his best English look and feel to be the sidekick Watson, and Mark Strong is absolutely perfectly cast as the rather evil Blackwood. The plot may seem a little far fetched at times and there's a little bit too much reliance on special effects at times, but it does work.

What we both noticed is that several of the scenes in the film were actually filmed inside the Town Hall in Manchester, notably the parliament scenes because you aren't allowed to film inside the real one, and often before Manchester has been used as a suitable replacement, as was the case here. It was nice to go "ah yes, I know where that is!" and parts of the Northern Quarter were used too, so it did make me feel quite warm inside that a rather big film at the box office is using parts of our fair home town, so that pleased me no end. It was hard to say goodbye to The Stripes as we headed home but I'd had a lovely evening, and it just gives me so much happiness to say how much I enjoy it.

Tune of the day is a cover version today - notably Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins' version of The Travelling Wilburys' "Handle With Care". I actually heard the original song in of all places Wilkinsons the other day, and when I got home I started to think about the cover, because it's pretty faithful to the original but also has a nice feminine touch with Jenny's vocal parts in the song. Oh yes, and because it's got a gorgeous harmonica bit in it too which makes it slightly more countrified and folk sounding, but still good. If you ever get chance, get hold of the "Rabbit Fur Coat" album - you'll love it, I promise it.

Wednesday 13th January - Wuhu!

After a fairly long day a work it was time to head home through the sleet and definitely warm up a bit. I'd started rowing on the rowing machine again as of this Monday, and having done a bit before I left for work this morning, I did some more so that I was able to really try and take the weight off a little bit. I've been a bit semi-conscious that I have been putting a little weight on at the moment and particularly with the festive period now over it's time for a more mean and lean me, well that's the theory anyway.

With that in mind, Wii Sports Resort also went on and I had a good go at the basketball, beating my record for the 3 point shots with a total of 24, one up from my previous best of 23, and I also did the frisbee golf too, which was good fun once I'd discovered how to aim really well. In fact getting a hole in one on one of the holes meant I earned one of the extra stamps available too for the Mii, so that was pretty nice, not to mention my third shot on the par five that skimmed the water and bounced over to land close to the green, that made me smile a lot I can tell you. I wonder if you can get under par for the whole course or not, we'll have to see!

I did however manage pretty well to get round the Island Explorer part of the Air Sports, where you have to locate the various iPoints around Wuhu Island and its surroundings. Some of them were in tricky little caves that you've really got to find and be able to make a move on, and some involve a tweak of the controls here and there to be able to find what you're after, but it's really playable. You've also got the added fun of being able to burst baloons with a popper weapon once you find your first few island points, so the repeat value is also there to find different ones and to see what can be done too.

As I'm typing this, the FA Cup replay is still on between Reading and Liverpool as it went to extra time. It makes me feel pretty pleased that City did a professional job in their tie and got it settled with within ninety minutes at Middlesbrough and the fourth round awaits. In fact, Reading scored in extra time, Liverpool have gone out and that is pretty disastrous for their season to be honest - but it could also give City an incentive that they're there for the taking and that fourth place just might be on the cards somehow. Let's face it, if Liverpool play like this for the rest of the season they might just finish mid-table!

Tune of the day has to be what the Liverpool fans must be feeling - "Disappointed" by Morrissey. It's a great B-side that should have been an A-side and it's one of the finest Moz songs ever written. It just has all the feelings of being down in the dumps but at the same time plenty of dry wit at all the same time. "This is the last song I will ever sing" he croons, "no, I've changed my mind again, good night and thank you". And maybe it's good night and thank you to Rafa Benitez after tonight? You never know...

Tuesday 12th January - Out Of The Blue

It was another day in one of the other buildings today, where I was able to help out a fair few people who'd come to the window in the office of the building I was in asking for assistance. I was really able to give some sensible advice and also to put a little bit of common sense into proceedings. You could see the panic in people as their deadlines were approaching, and as it turned out later we all got a memo which stated that some of the deadlines had been extended because of the bad weather - some students hadn't been able to make it back to Manchester through the bad weather and so it was a sensible and needed decision in my view. I just hope it works out.

I was pleased too that at the end of the day we were able to get the workstation image finished and uploaded ready for the rollout - at least for our side of things. The rest should be pretty plain sailing from here though and we should be able to get things well and truly sorted for later in the week and have them all done, so that'll be promising. It was nice though to have a change of surroundings but at the same time I think that it might be useful for others to do the same - if nothing else it gives them an idea of what else goes on and indeed just what needs to be undertaken across the whole thing. I must admit though at the same time I do like where I am most of all and when you're working with people you've worked with for over ten years, you do get used to it somewhat!

I headed home later and noticed that most of the snow had melted here and seemed to be pretty much working well in terms of almost going, with a little slush on the side roads that would probably soon go if the temperatures stayed above freezing and if no further snow fell. I must admit though I've been keeping an eye on the bus operators in Cornwall just to see what it's like down there - I'm heading there with The Stripes On My Scarf soonish and want to be able to get around if possible, but if that's not doable then at least we might have to come up with Plan B to still have a great time there. There are some cancellations and diverted services but full credit to Western Greyhound in particular who are really keeping their local public up to date with what's going on. Fingers crossed it is all well.

Tune of the dayis Roxy Music's "Out of the Blue" from their Country Life album. It's often said that although their first two albums were classics, Brian Eno who left after the second album said that the next two afterwards were just as good, if not better, because the band really understood their musical direction. Certainly Country Life works out nicely and this track is full of flanged effects throughout which really add to the piece and make it quite arty. And of course there's tons of violin mixed with the flange too. Oh, and yes, it has one of the more controversial album covers of its time too.....

Monday 11th January - Everyone's Back

Well it was the first official day of term and everyone and the world was heading back - but not just that either. With the weather being as it was, it seemed that it was the perfect excuse for Mummy and Daddy to take their children in the car to school too, despite most of them now being open and being pretty safe to walk to as well to be honest. The traffic was pretty busy as we headed to work and it was quite a relief when I headed off the bus and to the office. Of course this was the start of three weeks of me being elsewhere and at a different building than I'm used to, but still being part of the team that we're now in. It gives me a chance to work in a different environment and see what the state of play is.

Of course it was pretty manic where I normally am, and popped in over lunch to see them and to also resolve a problem with one of the pieces of software. The licence had expired, but to make sure you had a new licence file you had to install the software and then when asked point it to where you'd want to store the licence information on the server. From that you then have to make sure that the new licence file information file which points to the server is brought down to all the PCs. It's one of those tasks that thankfully I can pretty much nail and so I managed to get things sorted out pretty well before heading back for the afternoon, where myself and my colleague was working on an updated image for one of the new PC deliveries.

On the way home my friend let me know that due to them being unwell they couldn't make it to head to tonight's game, which was a shame but to be honest health comes first in those situations. This meant that my plans were to change and so instead of seeing the game, it meant that I'd be either locating a pub for ESPN or watching the game over the web, or of course keeping tuned in to Sky Sports News. I chose the latter, and when on the phone to The Stripes On My Scarf later, it turned out that Carlos Tevez had made it 1-0 to City, so all a good start there then. In fact Micah Richards' excellent run and follow up finish after Benjani had hit the post to make it 2-0 was also good.

The second half seemed to be all City by the radio commentary, and after Tevez scored City's third and then should have had the hat trick, the team seemed to ease up, and Blackburn scored a pearler of their own. This didn't go down well with the man Mancini, and so the game was upped, on came Robinho, and indeed the firepower started to rain down on Blackburn's goal. Tevez's third goal was the best of his three, a lovely curling shot to make it 4-1 and another good display for the new manager. Indeed that's three wins out of three in the league, an FA Cup third round win and one goal conceded in those four, and of course now fourth in the Premier League. I have to say that both this and the Wolves away games would have been draws under Mark Hughes, so to me it's clear the decision, albeit tough, looks so far to be right. But let's judge that at the end of the season and see what happens.

Tune of the day meanwhile is the rather excellent "Eple" by Royksopp - it's pretty much everything an instrumental should be if possible, and it was the perfect wind down tune after a hard day at the office and before seeing the mighty Manchester City do the business. Of course, if every tune was as nice it'd be a lot harder to pick them, but hey, I'm not the one who has to do the making of such bliss.

Sunday 10th January - Hungry Like The Wolfie

It was nice to have a relaxing Sunday of sorts and after having a nice breakfast, getting up and deciding what we were going to do with the day, myself and The Scarf On My Snowman made the necessary phone call and it was off to her sister's to look at their PC. I didn't mind seeing what the problem was and I'd rather try and see what the score was than they take it to PC World and maybe not get the advice that they were after. Once I arrived there I had a chat with one of the family and soon worked out the problem - the power supply had started to become defective, and so the fan inside the PSU wasn't going, but it wasn't supplying enough juice to the rest of the PC either. I suggested a new PSU, and so we managed to get one ordered from a local supplier which they'd get in the week and be able to install, and I showed them what to do.

After that it was time for some Sunday lunch so we decided to head over to the Sheldon Arms near Ashton-under-Lyne, as their cask and carvery was usually on. It was pretty busy but it was nice to be able to have a relaxing late-ish lunch there, and the carvery was spot on. I had roast beef with some potatoes, vegetables, gravy, Yorkshire pud and stuffing, and The Scarf had the honey roasted ham which I'd had before and she said was delicious. In fact, it was nice to have a good pint of Coronation Street beer as well which pleased me no end to have either, so that was rather lovely. Hurrah for real ale pubs that serve good food, that's what I say.

We had a game or two of Scrabble at mine later in the afternoon and it was good to see that we were able to keep the brain ticking over nicely when we were playing. She pulled off some good moves, notably when she did SIZE on a triple word, and indeed also a move with JOY with triple letter on the J, scoring a fair few points as well. I know the little tricks with some moves to score well, but it's good that she's really upping the ante with every game too, and I feel pleased for her to be honest. We had the Brett Anderson "Wilderness" album on when we played the second game and that was rather lovely too.

She left for home later on, and I did feel rather sad as we'd been together pretty much since Thursday evening and it was so nice to spend so much time with her. When you wake up and feel all snuggled up, it's a wonderful feeling. When you hold someone close that you love, that's a wonderful feeling too. But when you're able to have such great times and really enjoy them and be full of fun, laughter and happiness, then that's also wonderful. I just consider myself very very lucky and I try not to forget that and make suitable effort to make sure that I know how lucky I am.

Later on it was the BDO World Darts Championship final, between Martin Adams and Dave Chisnall. Martin Adams, aka "Wolfie" had won the title before in 2007 and as third seed was overwhelming favourite, although Chisnall had played well all week and beaten the likes of Ted Hankey and Tony O'Shea to get to the final, so not to be under-estimated. Martin came on to "Hungry Like The Wolf" by Duran Duran (make that tune of the day) and the stage was set for a classic, and that's how it proved to be, with Adams winning 7-5 and plenty of drama. Adams did a 10 dart leg (almost close to perfection, excellent stuff all round) and also did a 170 checkout as well, ensuring he got more prize money for the highest checkout of the tournament. Can't argue with that really can we?

Saturday 9th January - Walking The Snowy Line

Myself and The Scarf On My Snowman woke up this morning, looked outside and thought "hmmm.." as you do. It was still pretty snowy outside and we certainly would have been quite happy to stay at her place all day and just hibernate. But we had stuff to do and at least with the weather subsiding somewhat, we could head out and do a few things, such as see her folks and also get the windscreen wiper repaired on her car, which had come off the other day. I was thinking that just in case we get any more snow or sleet in the next few days, we wouldn't want her to be thinking the worst.

We had a lovely breakfast thanks to The Scarf and we decided our plan of action, first stop was the City shop. She wanted to check something out in there and I wouldn't mind a walk around either, and so we headed there pretty sharpish. The roads into the ground looked relatively okay and you could hear the sound of trucks everywhere clearing the ground and main car parks of any snow that had fallen, and working on a plan of action to be able to try and get the game going on the Monday. It did look pretty bleak elsewhere around the ground but you could see the effort being made into making sure the game went ahead, so we'll have to see what becomes of it.

Then it was off to Halfords in The Fort shopping centre to get the windscreen wiper all sorted. It was just the actual rubber blade part that we needed, and making sure we knew what length it was for her car, we managed to get the right one and have someone from there fit it as well, even if it was out in the snow slightly. The good thing was that the Bosch one she got was almost the same price as their own branded one, and so we thought "well it'll last longer" so we didn't mind one bit. A quick test before we left the car park, all was working, and so then off to her Mum and Dad's, as I know her Dad wanted me to check all the wiring on the television etc.

The Scarf's Dad had got a new LCD telly for Christmas, and so wanted me to make sure everything was spot on. As it turned out, it was just a case of getting the SCARTs the right way round (one from Sky box direct to telly, one to video and then from video to telly) and making sure the HDMI cable from DVD to telly also was spot on too. Once I made SCART socket 1 RGB on the telly remote control and told the Sky box to enable its SCART control, it meant that when they turned the Sky box on, the telly went to the AV input for that SCART socket. Result, methinks. I then found the remote code for the Sky remote so that it could do the basic functions of the telly as well such as the volume control, which I know that they appreciated.

Continuing the theme of heading outwards, it was then over to Wilkinsons in Droylsden, as I wanted to try and get those A4 picture frames as they were two for one, and got a set of two which matched the existing A4 frames I had. The Scarf also got a tea strainer for the rather nice tea set that she'd got at Christmas, which was proper tea leaves tea, and so that was all sorted too. I was toying with the idea of a new dinner set for dining with, and although I saw one I liked, I wasn't quite sure about it.

As it happened we needed to nip into Tesco so went to one on the way back to mine. There not only did I see a set which I liked, but it had also been reduced too, and so for the price it was well worth it and I purchased it with suitable happiness. It was mainly white with little black swirls and lines around the edges and looked rather classy, co-ordinates well with my cutlery and just looked the part all around. It felt good to refresh the kitchen a bit and later on we got a bottle of wine and a cake for dessert so we could have a nice little three course tea later on, because we can.

As the main was cooking, we had some breadsticks with cheese and chive dip and had a good play of Wii Sports Resort again, trying out the archery (we each got three tens in one round and so earned an extra stamp, go us) and The Scarf had her first go at the table tennis, beating the computer opponent by whacking the ball towards their face from time to time. We did do the returns game and I did smash my own personal best by some degree, scoring a pretty massive 187 points in the process. We also tried the jetski type racing which proved a little harder than it looked to be honest!

The main was served, a nice chicken with tomato and mozzarella with a crispy crumb and I did some new potatoes, carrots, broccoli and peas to go with it, so that felt good. I had a nice glass of England's Glory beer whilst she had some wine, and later on we settled down with some Victoria cream sponge cake and decided that as there was nothing on telly that we'd get round to watching the Walk The Line DVD that she'd borrowed a couple of weeks back, and as we'd been wanting to watch that, it made a lot of sense.

And it did, especially because the film was excellent with two great main starring roles. Reese Witherspoon is surprisingly good as June Carter, giving the right amount of sassiness, country drawl and also a pure feeling of emotion, and Joqauin Phoenix really excels as The Man In Black, really having the same kind of coolness but also showing the self-destructive side inside really well. The musical performances are spot on and you can tell a lot of work went into them to make it feel as realistic as possible. It made me want to dig out my Cash American Recordings series of CDs, which I did later because they're so good - so make "Solitary Man" by him tune of the day - it's an excellent track.

Friday 8th January - Nice Day For A Corrie Wedding

Myself and The Scarf On My Snowman headed to work together this morning, which was rather nice. I got off the bus for my workplace and then she got off the same bus later to head to her works, and it just felt nice to get up, get ready and chat to her on the bus, that did feel good. I managed to even sort that stupid framedyn.dll error for sysprep, and it's Windows being silly. If you look at the environment variables, there's one that points to a folder called wbem, it's to do with system restore and other related stuff. Anyway, if your path in the variables says Wbem and the folder's called wbem, it throws a strop! Easy solution, change the path name to lower case and all is well, and also take out any paths to custom sound card drivers as they also don't like to play too. Hurrah, I have everything working!

I was hoping myself and The Scarf would meet on the bus on the way home too, but the bus I got was the one that she just about missed from her stop, and so she was on one around fifteen minutes behind me. I did however then think it'd be good to make us a coffee so it was nice and warm for when she got home, and I did that, and we had a nice warm cuppa as we headed home. It was enough to get us warmed up before we headed out to Tesco to do the food shopping. Because the car park was pretty bad, I suggested we walk it, as it's what I usually do and it's around the corner, and she was more than happy to do so. It was a brisk(ish) walk, and I soon got round and got what we were after.

I even got some nice meatballs and pasta sauce so we could have pasta and meatballs for tea, and even these lovely strawberry tarts for afterwards, which felt good to have, so all felt rather nice and warming when I made that later. We then came up with a cunning plan, after tea and the first dose of her beloved Corrie, we head back to hers and check the water - if it's okay, we stay, if not we come back to mine and stay. Fair enough, and so once food was consumed for tea and we happily scoffed the lot, and she saw the potential next husband for Gail in Corrie, then it was a dash over to her place to see what the scenario was.

We switched on the taps, and water came out of the kitchen, the bathroom sink and the shower. We did let the water run a bit before making a brew though as the water didn't exactly look fully clean, but a few seconds later it was all good. So it was time for a brew and strawberry tart and then she could settle in the for the next instalment of Coronation Street, where Gail did marry Joe and the bloke who's been haunting Joe for all that money turned up at the reception and made it well clear that he was going to do something about the money or even involve his daughter. Eugh. In fact what gets me is that I can't think of the new Nicky without thinking of the role he used to play in Footballers' Wives, as Conrad Gates. Ironic of course because Laila Rouass (Amber) and Zoe Lucker (Tanya) have both been in Strictly recently. It's as if Gillian Taylforth is all set for a comeback (ahem!)

We had a relaxing rest of the evening after that and it was just nice to chat and take things easy and with the snow everywhere, probably a very good move to do all that I reckoned. Tune of the day is the rather apt "Ghost Town" by The Specials, because not only is it a classic of its time (understatement) but it also seems to be what the centre of Manchester has been for the last few times - in fact The Snowman's sister was even able to get into the changing rooms at Primark Manchester, which has to be a world first, if that gives you any indication. Also of course at the time of The Specials' song, it was at the height of unemployment and riots during the Summer of 1981, so it really did hit home for its time. Classic it most certainly is.

Thursday 7th January - Winter Warmer

It was back to work for me today, and it was still pretty cold and very wintry indeed, but work was now open for business and intelligently, the powers that be had got the staff to carve out clear paths to each building in order to avoid the snow, which can only be seen as a good thing. It meant I was able to go between buildings if needed and do make sure any jobs that needed to be done could be done. I got back to doing my revised image for the new PC that I had, and on the whole most of it now worked properly including doing sysprep, apart from the fact that it was coming up with some weird error code at the end of the sysprep first boot install - but I think I know what that is.

I also worked out that when sysprep boots and does its thing, as well as looking for any drivers that you've put the locations to in sysprep.inf, it also checks a Windows registry key for installation sources, so for example if you've installed a driver from CD, the path remains there, and it can be a potential problem if the path is to a CD or whatever that isn't in the machine when you boot it up. The easy solution is of course to clean out the registry key, which is at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup - the one you want to look at is Installation Sources and basically just clear out the ValueData so that there's nothing there. Do that and it can't look to any of those sources for drivers. Nifty, eh?

Anyway, during the day I had a text from The Scarf On My Snowman asking if she could stay over at mine. It turned out that the water pipes at her place had frozen over and so no water was coming out of anything, and so if she wanted a shower it was a no-go. I didn't mind one bit and of course if I get to see her then I'm happy, so I was more than happy to have her over and we basically arranged that she head to mine after she got home from work and she could drive over - the roads were passable enough for her to do that. It was lovely to see her of course, and we soon managed to get some food on.

I had some fresh pasta and some sauce in, and did that for tea, which was really appreciated. We then had a pretty relaxing evening to be honest, just keeping nice and warm and snuggly and also having a good go on the archery on Wii Sports Resort, seeing our latest prediction on the Everybody Votes Channel, and also then having a bit of telly on as well - I did indulge her a bit with the soaps but I know that's what she would have been doing at home anyway, so no problem there for me. Tune of the day is the rather nice and lovely "Snowman" by The Icicles, as the band name and the song name seem pretty apt. Oh, and they're having a new album out this year, which I might, just might, have to buy on import,cos myself and The Scarf love them!

Wednesday 6th January - Golf In The Snow

Okay, well not quite, before you ask where I managed to get a dayglo orange golf ball from! The first thing to do today was to check the website at work and see if we were going to be open or not today. The announcement only went up just after 7am, which meant some people might have attempted to set off already to try and get to work, bit poor that. Also what was poor was that every building except one was closed, and the one that was open was mainly open for one thing only - you'd think it'd just be a blanket of everything closing, I mean who wanted to trudge through the snow anyway. Thankfully I didn't have to head in, so spent a fair bit of time in the morning relaxing.

In fact I took some time out to avoid daytime telly and instead go headlong into the Festival mode on Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games on the Wii. It worked out to be good fun really, but one thing I really wish I cold do is just play it without those stupid Dream events. Some of them work but some are pointless and it's just like a game of Mario Kart but on snowboards or skis. If I wanted to play such a game, well I'd get Mario Kart Wii, you know? The proper events themselves work really well and they also have some excellent touches too, especially the curling, which is about the only ever playable curling simulation I've come across to be honest. I did take it to an extra end, but lost. Aaaargh.

I went for a walk out in the afternoon and to one of the local parks, and that was still very very full of snow. So much so that I reckoned around a foot of snow had fallen near me over the last few days, not the best to be honest. Lots of snowmen had been built and I was sure I saw one family attempting to build an igloo in there as well. It did look very pretty though and I am sure that there'll be more built if any more snow comes down over the next few days or so.

I visited my Mum, who was also off work with the snow, and ended up building a Lego house with my nephew, as his school had been closed for the day as well. It was good to be in the warm and have a good chat about all sorts, and I saw my brother later too, so that was good too. I also notice how deep the snow was in Mum's back garden, and thankfully the cat was in the shed outside in a nice warm blanket with plenty of food, so at least she was able to evade most of the cold - good job too as it's going to be a mere minus seven later. Ouch.

After tea tonight I did what I did last night, and that was play a round of golf online. I already had my Wii and Tiger Woods 09, and my uncle and brother in law both got Wiis during the Christmas period and both bought the game so that we could all play each other. We did eventually do so last night as I discovered that my brother in law's router wasn't allowing certain network ports to communicate outwards so that he couldn't connect to either of us. With a bit of help from me, I got it all sorted and we tried a round last night, but tonight we played in earnest and really got going with an eighteen hole round around TPC Scottsdale, a pretty fair test.

It was pretty level for the first few holes, and I started to get the odd birdie here and there and keep my form throughout the whole of the round. The key thing was to not overdo the shot and just make sure that you get the accuracy right with all the wind, then account for the power and hit it. When playing online, you have to hit the shot within thirty seconds too, so that does make it a tad more fun. I won in the end, but my uncle and brother-in-law ended up with the same score after all eighteen holes, thus making them pretty much closely matched all round. Hurrah to that eh? Tune of the day therefore is Brian Bennet's "Chaseside Shootup", known to many of us as the proper golf theme. Now if only they could licence that for a future golf game...

Tuesday 5th January - The Long Walk To Work

Overnight there had been plenty of snow in Manchester and indeed it hadn't stopped for most of the evening. I had put the bins out for the bin men including the blue and brown recyclables, and at that time there was a light dusting of the white stuff everywhere. However overnight it just kept going with more and more snow, and when I woke up this morning you could see the tyre tracks with a massive gap between them where you could see just how much snow had fallen - I reckoned a good foot's worth of snow at the very least, if not more.

I was taking no chances and put on my Timberland walking boot/trainer hybrid, and that proved to be the smart move to be honest. It was grippy with them on but you could see on the roads the slushy black ice was making driving conditions not the easiest. The amount of people at the bus stop had told me that there wasn't a bus for a fair while, so I walked down to the local train station to try and get a train into the city centre. Apparently there hadn't been a train for some forty minutes and the next one actually didn't even stop, it just want past absolutely rammed full of people which didn't sound good whatsoever.

So I walked back to the bus stop, informed a few people that by all accounts the buses had been pretty much suspended, and decided to walk to work. It's a good three to four miles or so, but at least it's mainly main roads to walk along, which if nothing else meant that it was walkable. My manager rang me up, he was stuck in snow up the top end of Ashton, and my two colleagues who live in Stretford were also walking in, and that was a fair distance for them to head along too. At least I wasn't the only one walking, as The Crunch In My Snow was also having to walk to work from her place - admittedly not as far as I have to go, but still enough distance to make it pretty hairy.

As I walked down towards the Royal Infimary, the gritter was out in force and at least attempting to grit some of the roads and make them all a bit more passable, but I saw only one bus along the way - a bus that I would have got to work going the other way out of town. The local bus companies had for a time suspended all services due to the poor conditions and so it wasn't a surprise that plenty of us decided to walk along and at least try that out instead. I did eventually get to work around 9.10am, which wasn't bad going at all and I felt relieved when the heating was on full blast.

Almost immediately though anyone who had made it thought that we might be getting sent home early, as the conditions were getting worse by the second and even with some of the gritters working on the main roads, it wasn't to be chanced too much, and a flurry of emails continued to flow about it. In the meantime I'd worked out my problem with the image from yesterday and managed to nail the problem so I can work on it tomorrow and get everything ready and up and running in good time with it. It was looking for an Intel graphics driver which must have been installed from CD, so was looking for the CD for the install source. I made a CD with the same folder information for the driver, popped it in, and it all worked, hurrah!

Anyway, confirmation came that all staff were to leave at 11am, and we had a senior manager ring me and my two colleagues who'd made it in, and then a fair few emails to say the same thing that everyone was to go home. I checked with The Crunch and most of her staff had made it to work but it was touch and go if they were going to be staying the whole day or not, so a case of playing it by ear to be honest. I did at least suggest to send her a link to both the main bus operators' websites to see what the state of play was with all the buses and what have you, so she could advise her staff accordingly, and so if they could get home safely or not.

We were asked to leave at 11am and my colleagues headed home and I headed into the city centre, as I knew the main bus route from there to mine was running and I wasn't sure if the one I'd normally get was (it was reinstated later) - this did mean I could check that The Crunch was okay and that everything was fine there and then head around the Arndale, which was deserted to say the least. I did manage to get my sister's birthday present in the end and the assistants in there said that the centre was closing early allowing people to get home, not least as one of them had driven in from Saddleworth. Ouch, that was going to be a long drive home!

Headed home, and rung Mum to let her know I was home safe, as she had to have the day off work because it was closed, my auntie got to her work and was sent home for the same reason, my brother decided that going in would be stupid and so he and his girlfriend stayed at home, and that was that. In fact The Crunch let me know later she got home safe and that we agreed that as much as I wanted to see her, going to mine in these conditions just wouldn't be right somehow and to relax at home tonight. I did want to give her lots of hugs and cuddles and kisses, but hey, I can save them for when I next see her.

I switched on Sky Sports News and it all went off within an hour - first of all Burnley manager Owen Coyle decided that he was going to leave and manage Bolton instead (which I think, despite him playing for Bolton years ago, is a bad move, he'd be better off staying at Turf Moor to be honest) and then it was announced that Man City's Carling Cup semi first leg against Man Utd was called off. The pitch was playable, but all the roads around were treacherous, and added to that, the police and emergency services' main priorities is to help those in the bad weather, so that was understandable. It's been rescheduled so the first leg's on 19th Jan and the second on 27th, which means that City's game at Stoke due on that date has to be moved too - see what happens I guess. And added to that, Flavio Briatore had his F1 ban overturned. See, told you it was all happening!

Spent most of the afternoon glued to the telly and setting up a game of Tiger Woods 09 online with my uncle and my brother in law later on, should be good fun that. In the meantime, "Everything's Dead Pretty When It Snows" by Pete Green is tune of the day as the local parks and all that did look rather nice in a coating of the white stuff it has to be said..

Monday 4th January - Back To The Grind

It was back to work today and really difficult to get myself completely motivated - it's what two weeks off does to you I suppose. The conditions were a little on the icy side getting in, but on the whole it wasn't too bad and I was able to catch up with what had happened over the Christmas period. It was nice to see some of my colleagues and we were able to have a chat about all sorts. One of them had bought a Wii so I mentioned about the online capabilities, and the other had had a good time too and was really looking ahead to the New Year, so all felt rather positive.

We had taken delivery of some new kit over the Christmas period, so I set up one of the new PCs to have a look at it and see what it would entail to be able to get things up and running. I tried one of our recent sysprep images and that seemed to image it, but then was playing silly buggers when looking for a driver during the process of sysprep later. I'll have to investigate why that is and how the issue can be resolved (I think I have some ideas anyway) and work on that in the morning, but it was good to get my teeth into something and work on possibly resolving something a little further down the line for everyone.

I went home later via the city centre, as I had had an idea that getting a DVD recorder, possibly with a VCR built in to archive stuff from tape to DVD could be an idea I had. However, I had an even better idea tempting me when I looked further into some of the electrical shops. Panasonic have a rather nice recorder that records stuff from Freesat HD to the hard disk, but as well as recording DVD, it also records Blu-ray. Woo! High definition recording and all that? Bring it on. Of course the price isn't cheap whatsoever (it's around £600, ouch) but it does mean I could play and record both formats and use the hard disk as initial storage before mastering the discs as necessary, and with Freesat HD stuff I could potentially if I wanted to sack off Sky. Let's be honest, the football and stuff in HD is all very well, but do I really use it enough to be worthwhile? That's the question I need to think about carefully before making any form of move. Failing that, a DVD recorder with hard drive which I could connect the VCR via SCART might also be useful. We shall see.

Later on I arranged with my uncle to play Tiger Woods 09 online on the Wii, which worked out pretty well. We did a couple of rounds and then did the back 9 at St Andrews, and he was knocking shots in very well indeed, so much so that we were both a few shots under par when we headed to the last with me a shot behind. Well, what happened next was amazing, I hit the second shot and pitched it up and in the hole it went for an eagle, whilst my uncle went out of bounds off the back of the green and ended up bogeying the hole, which meant a win for me, but it was very close and my text to that later pretty much said the same thing - he is improving with every game and it's good to be able to do that.

Tune of the day is "Take Me To The Hospital" by The Prodigy, because of the fact that if you'd slipped on the icy conditions and fallen over, injury was a definite possibility and you could use one of those accident claim firms to sue (where there's blame, there's a claim etc) but also because it's a stonking dance track and one of the highlights off their excellent "Invaders Must Die" album too, which has to be all good fun. I must admit I'll have to try and see them live at some point in the future, I bet it kicks backside too.

Sunday 3rd January - Sunday Afternoon Of Snow And Roast

Had a bit of a busy day really. First thing this morning I was up and out to Wilkinsons in Droylsden (again!) When I was drawing my curtains for the dining room last night, the curtain track appeared to come off on one end and it meant that I had to do a balancing act just to make it look like I'd closed them - not good whatsoever I reckon. With that in mind, I thought it was perfect time to head off and get a wooden curtain pole and then attach the curtain to that, and I knew that Wilkinsons had them at not a ripoff price, plus they gave you all the proper fixings to do a proper job with it, which is what you want.

I headed there, and checked out the curtain poles, and the one I'd seen on the web site was there, so that was good. I also picked up some 6 x 4 inch picture frames, as I wanted to replace my little signed pictures that were in clip frames and put them in nice wood effect ones, similar to the oak ones that I've got my old school A4 sized Cornwall posters in. I found those too right opposite, so got all that and some curtain hooks, paid at the till and away I went homeward, a nice simple shopping trip with everything in that I wanted at a price that I wanted too - why can't everything be that easy eh?

Got back home and swapped all the picture frames over first and put the new ones up, and the pictures I had looked very good in their new homes. Then it was to the old curtain track - which I unscrewed the base parts from the wall and soon had the curtain track and the curtain in my hands, so I took the curtain off and all the old hooks for the track too before focussing attention on the new pole. The ends that I had to screw in even came with rawl plugs for the wall too, so put a couple of those in and then screwed the ends in using two of the existing screw holes with the plugs now inserted - as these screws were much longer and so would be deeper in anyway. And added to that I also managed to then get the pole dead center, put the rings on, attached the end finials and screwed from under the bases to the pole so it was all nice and sturdy. Curtain on new hooks, put it up, job very well done.

The Biscuits In My Cheesecake was pretty impressed with the handiwork when she came over - she was pleased I'd done it myself and was able to do the job as I wanted to. I had asked her to bring her handy IKEA toolbox just in case and she had done, what a star she is eh? It was getting towards lunch time and we came up with the idea of heading to the Midland at Marple Bridge to have a Sunday roast, and why not? The roads were all clear but coming towards Marple Bridge down the hill, the car park for the pub wasn't the safest place to be and we got out of there quickish after seeing someone else struggle to get out, and simply parked in the public car park a little further uphill.

It was well worth the trip out though as the Sunday roast, for the price, was spot on. I had roast gammon with some potatoes, gravy, a massive Yorkshire pud and a selection of fresh vegetables, nice and crispy carrots for example and some perfectly cooked broccoli too. We had a good chat and I found out that Man U had lost at home to Leeds in their FA Cup tie which made me smile no end - considering Leeds are two leagues below at the moment it's a pretty big shock result and just proves what can happen. The magic of the cup is still alive then. Oh, and the Midland now has Doom Bar on cask, served in proper Sharp's brewery glasses. What is there not to like about that? It was nice having a meal together and I always enjoy it when we're able to have that quality time.

We headed to Mum's later on and had a chat and a coffee whilst Mum told us about her New Year that she'd had - she went away for a few days with a friend and by all accounts had a wonderful time of it. I was really pleased too, it was nice for her to have a break but also to try something different, and certainly her joie de vivre attitude is so positive at times, it's infectious. I saw my brother and his girlfriend too so was lovely to chat to everyone and be able to spend a bit of quality time doing that. What was also lovely was that The Biscuits is always really chatty in those situations and it's nice for me that to be honest, no awkwardness or anything.

I felt sad later as she left home but it's back to work for us both tomorrow (noooo!) and that does mean an early night and all that, but well worth it so I can face the New Year back at the office and see what it brings me. Tune of the day on the other hand is a complete contrast to that: "I Don't Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats - possibly the finest thing Bob Geldof ever wrote before devoting his time to ask everyone to give him their money for the likes of Band Aid and Live Aid. And so say all of us.

Saturday 2nd January - A Bit On The Cold And Snowy Side

Had a rather nice time with the The Biscuits In My Cheesecake as we headed to her sister's, as I mentioned, and we had a rather nice time of it on the Wii with Wii Sports Resort (which I'd been asked to bring with me) but also getting their Wii set up for Internet access for online play, and also to boot earning us both a nice 500 Wii Points for the Connection Ambassador promotion thing. If you help someone go online with their Wii, they put in your Wii number as your helper, you then put in the Wii number of the person you helped and soon enough - badabing - 500 points each to use in the Wii Shop Channel. Handy, that.

I got up this morning and was greeted with the rather lovely sight of more snow that had fallen everywhere. It did look a tad less flurried than it had done just before Christmas but nonetheless it still was fresh and new out there. Most of the main roads cleared later in the day due to some rain and also due to the volume of traffic, but going off the main roads wasn't the ideal thing to do by the looks of it - it was certainly slippy enough walking never mind anything else! I made my way homeward later as The Biscuits was a bit full of a cold and I wanted to make sure that she'd got some rest and peace and quiet, cos I try to be nice like that.

I used the Wii points in a good way, as I had some from helping my uncle's Wii get online, and of course the assistance I gave last night too, so it was time to get some WiiWare, and what did I notice but TV Show King 2? Well, I loved the first one even if it was a little limited, and the second one I'm pleased to say is a massive improvement. Online play if you're on your own and want to hook up with friends? Check. Better graphics? Check. Different rounds and questions? Check. Less of a porn star dance when spinning the wheel? Check. Still can use your Miis as contestants? Check. All good then.

However, what's even better is that you can submit your own questions, which can then be used in other people's games when they download question packs, nifty or what eh? I had a go and submitted a few questions, which apparently are going to be all checked for validity. Not sure how that'll work, but I made sure that they were good questions and that the answers were all good and correct, so fingers crossed. What was nice was that it was a fairly easy feature to use and to enter the answers - one small improvement would be though if you could have used a USB keyboard to type the questions in, a bit like on the Internet Chanel where you can type in web locations or enter information on forms. Still, not a massive complaint though and nice to see a game that's improved, and still keeps the fun of that dreaded spinning wheel, Wheel of Fortune style.

I kept my eye on Sky Sports News later and thankfully City won their FA Cup third round match against Middlesbrough with a classy finish from Benjani. It was at a good canter all told and keeps us fresh for the Carling Cup Semi Final against Man U on Wednesday, which is what we want to see and want to win if we can, a trip to Wembley may just await us if that's the case and can win the first leg and keep the lead in the second at their place. All positive though in that three games under Roberto Mancini, three wins and three clean sheets, all of a sudden it looks a bit better. Maybe tactically he's more astute or is it new manager syndrome? Time will undoubtedly tell there methinks.

Tune of the day is the rather neat "Never Miss A Beat" by Kaiser Chiefs, as I had a good go of some more songs on Guitar Hero 5 on medium guitar and that was one of them. I managed it with five stars and followed that up with a five star performance on the epic thirteen minutes and forty seconds of Peter Frampton's "Do You Feel Like We Do" which seems to go on forever and ever with lots of different parts to it. It's thankfully not as difficult as good old Lynyrd Skynyrd though and that bloody "Freebird". Back to Kaiser Chiefs, must try that on vocals sometime: "What do you want for tea? I want crisps..." oh yes.

Friday 1st January - Welcome To 2010

Had a wonderful New Year's Eve last night with The Biscuits In My Cheesecake, as we had a night in to celebrate New Year together. I made us a really nice meal, with garlic mushrooms to start, a main of chicken with stuffing inside, roast potatoes, carrots, peas, Yorkshire puds and gravy, and a tiramisu for dessert. I think she was impressed by my cooking but also rather impressed that I wanted to do three courses for her too. I also had a relaxing evening as we saw the old year out, and I must admit I don't make any New Year's Resolutions, but instead I'll carry on one that I made during 2009 - giving up chocolate. I haven't eaten any bars or choc biscuits since April 2009 and I feel better for it that's for sure.

In fact as the New Year approached, the annual Jools Holland hootenanny was on the telly, so we ended up watching that. It's always usually pretty good and has plenty of celebrities (this year including the whole of the BBC F1 team!) as well as bands and artists performing. Everyone was very good - Kelly Jones off Stereophonics with Tom Jones doing "Mama Told Me Not To Come", and then Tom on his own doing an acoustic version of "Green Green Grass of Home", Dizzee Rascal after midnight doing "Bonkers" and really showing that you don't have to do rap songs about killing yo' bitchin ho' to make a good song, and Kasabian doing the likes of "Fire" and "Underdog".

What we did agree on in the early hours though is that Boy George has lost it big time. He did "Church of the Poison Mind" and his voice was all over the place and then did "Karma Chameleon" and ruined that too. Thing is now I won't think of the 80s classics that they were, I'll think of that performance and how he ruined them. It's just a shame that Jools couldn't get Rage Against The Machine to come on and do their stuff, that'd have been ace, and having the guests yelling "F**k you, I won't do what you tell me" would have been even more ace wouldn't it?

It's a bit frosty outside but at least there isn't any snow, wouldn't have fancied heading out in the snow otherwise that's for sure. At least though it does mean that we'll be able to head out later, as The Biscuits' sister is planning a little get together, so that will be good. I am sure too that it'll be nice to see everyone, and I've been asked to take Wii Sports resort and the Motion Plus controllers with me, so it'll be good to see how everyone manages with that one. Must admit I did quite well on the frisbee dog last night and scored a pretty good total, so that pleased me no end let me tell you.

Tune of the day is something played post-midnight on the Jools Holland hootenanny, so therefore it does count - it was the rather nice version of "Empire" by Kasabian, with full string backing as well. It sounded rather epic and much more appealing than even the single version, so definitely one that they should record as a future b-side or extra on an album. It's nice when bands do something a little different isn't it? And a close runner up would be Florence from Florence and the Machine doing the Nina Simone classic "My Baby Don't Care For Me" along with Jools' band.