Dear Diary... January 2012

Tuesday 31st January - Don't Tell The Bossy Bride

It was an action packed day of sorts in the office today, and I had plenty to be getting on with. The main task of the day was to do with a Toshiba Portege M750 which a member of staff had brought in for us to re-image, as the machine was going pretty slow and needed a good clean up. Of course, because this laptop acts also as a tablet and only really should have had Windows XP Tablet Edition on it, not standard XP, I thankfully remembered that I had a valid image that was for Tablet Edition a while ago, and so used that as a starting block to be able to work with it.

Of course, it wasn't completely up to date (a mere 150 Windows Updates saw to that) but it did mean that most of the core stuff I needed was already on there and raring to go, which meant less hassle. It didn't take me that long to update all the software on it, as most of it I had on CD or a network-based installer, but what did take the time was one of them - nVivo 9. There's a massive six pre-requisites that need to be installed, including the SQL server it tends to use for some of its tasks, and it's a pretty slow and painful install all round. Why the hell QSR can't get something more reliable and less hefty is beyond me, but there you go.

The last things I did before finishing the job off nicely was to ensure that the tablet stuff worked, so that when you rotate the screen and place it on top of the keyboard with its swivel hinges, it actually changes the image display as to how you'd work with it. In essence this is actually pretty cool because you've in effect got two uses - the tablet for stuff like handwriting input, gestures etc and so you can use the device that way, and also a fully functional laptop too. If it was a bit lighter it'd really kick backside, but still, take that, iPad!

Back at home I spent some time on the Wii Fit doing some useful exercises including the rather difficult act of getting some yoga moves right, some of the later ones are bloody tricky if you've not got that much flexibility (yet) in your body. I did manage to set a personal best in the rhythm boxing and in the three minute hula hoop though so some form of equality was restored nicely there. And added to that rather nice feat, I also had enough time to head into a shower, have a change of clothes and start the tea on before The Love In My Heart arrived, hurrah for that!

I made us some lovely rump steak with chips and peas and even managed this time to get the peppercorn sauce mix a bit better around - a bit maybe too thick but like The Love said, better to be thick and set properly than thin and runny with no taste, so I was rather pleased with myself overall. We relaxed with that and I timed it so that The Love didn't miss a single moment of Emmerdale, cos I can. It meant that we had a half hour window of crap telly to eat tea and chat, which made for more than perfect sense.

And then - Don't Tell The Bride on BBC3, and I had recorded the Piers Morgan programme on Monaco for watching later, which we did. The couple this time were in Birmingham and I have to say that the bride to be came across as extremely bossy and rather obnoxious, sort of "I want everything my way with a kilt and tartan etc etc", and the strop that she threw when she wanted to sleep in her own bed on the night before the wedding made me think if it was actually worth her getting married at all to be honest. It really made the day complete when she saw how good he'd actually done and all her worries were for nothing.

Thing is though, if you're signing up by legal agreement to do the programme and take the £12K that they give you to prepare the wedding with the bride not knowing a thing, then you've got to expect that not everything may be as perfect as it might be compromising together, but then again let's be honest, isn't it tempting to do that and get wed with the money? Maybe that's the enticement carrot of it all, I suppose. But still, the one thing that salvages the programme immensely is that the producers actually know to pick some decent tunes for playing during the show.

Tonight's show was a perfect example of this overall. We had "We Are Your Friends" from Justice vs Simian, a kickin' bit of Dizzee Rascal, Calvin Harris' "Acceptable in the 80s", "She's In Fashion" by Suede (ah, a true classic that one!) and so on. However, what was a nice surprise was hearing the rather excellent "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper, which is a real 80s classic as far as I'm concerned, so tune of the day in the end was a very easy decision. Indeed.

Monday 30th January - Monday Madness

It was back to work and after a lovely relaxing weekend, it was definitely all systems go for me, as I wanted to start off on some work to do with the future staff Windows 7 rollout. In Configuration Manager, there's a query you can run which gets you some basic computer details, including the BIOS information. Whilst this isn't always as helpful as say a WMI query, what it does at least do is give you an idea of the machines that are out there, especially as you can output the lot to a tab delimited text file and then import that into Excel, which is what I did.

After the import, I was then able to sort by the BIOS information field and then create a pivot table of the information gathered, and from that it was then easy peasy to sort the count in descending order, so I could see what the most popular PCs were at the top and what we had plenty of. Almost all of the most popular PCs and laptops out there were ones we already had Windows 7 driver packages for, and the only one from the top list missing was the Samsung R520, so I need to see if I can borrow one of those and make sure that if I do create a driver package that it'll actually work.

What that did also show me was that one of the most common PCs out there was one that we had replaced for a lot of student IT Zone PCs and indeed staff back in August 2008, and as part of our replacement cycle that they would be replaced in Summer 2013, and with the numbers involved it would mean a massive undertaking next year, so good to know in advance I reckon. Mind you this year's going to be pretty busy on the whole and I think that it'll be good when the new kit arrives to roll it out and get it out there with Windows 7 on - well that's the plan anyway.

I also spent some time this afternoon checking over a Toshiba Portege M750 laptop - and in the end needed to re-image it. Because it has Windows XP tablet edition on there, I needed to use a specific image that I created back in the day which had the Tablet Edition version on, and then from there I'll upgrade it with the Windows service packs and indeed all the other stuff as necessary to ensure that it's up to speed with spec and everything. I might even to be on the safe side re-image it, but we'll see, as the task earlier revealed that we don't have many of them around really.

Anyway, got home and spent some considerable time on the Wii Fit, doing the extended rhythm boxing, the three minute hula hoop exercise, and lots of work on the step as well as yoga. I was pretty pleased on the whole as at the end of the rhythm boxing I was sweating quite a bit with the work I'd done - but was worth it as I'd beaten my previous best on it and that's what matters when you do these things isn't it? Well, I'd like to think so anyway and it's me doing the exercise, so there you go.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "This Is The One" by The Stone Roses, because the question came up on Pointless this afternoon about host cities who hosted the Commonwealth Games. Not that many people said that Manchester hosted it, which surprised me immensely considering the great job that our city did on putting an excellent show all round, and it was something which I was proud to be at and even more proud that it was our city which was doing the business. Anyway, when the BBC covered it on the telly it was that tune which they used as the intro tune, and seeing as they're now reformed I thought it apt to dig out their seminal debut album and play it full blast. Oh yes.

Sunday 29th January - Sunday Roast

I had a fairly leisurely but also busy day today. The Love In My Heart's been a little stressed with work and stuff lately, so I decided that she would have a long lie in and that'd give me time to do all the things I needed to do, such as watch Friday's recording of Pointless from BBC1, and also test out some more of my Commodore 64 games before I go for another sales push on eBay in a few days' time. I also watched Country Tracks on BBC1 which also was about parts of Cornwall, and as you can imagine that made me pretty happy watching that as well.

Later on The Love got up, we had some croissants and a coffee and then headed into the city centre, as she was taking one of her family up to Preston in the afternoon so that they could spend time with friends there - they'd have gone on the train but engineering works scuppered it all, so it was a leisurely ride out in The Love's car heading up along the A580, M61 and M6 to Preston, and then pretty much straight away heading back down towards Manchester city centre, negotiating the ring roads and then off out again towards Mum's, as Mum had mentioned to us yesterday that she was doing a Sunday roast for tea, woohoo!

We got to Mum's, and my brother was there along with my sister and her boyfriend, so there were going to be six of us at the table having some very nice roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, peas, carrots, potatoes and lovely gravy. And my brother had got the real ales out in advance (keeping them at room temperature in there you see) and so I had the Wychwood brewery Scarecrow beer - the same brewery make Hobgoblin and Goliath, two of my personal favourites, so I tried that with the food and that proved to be an inspired move all round. Hurrah for lovely meals!

I spent some time with my nephew once my sister had picked him up, and the two of us played Lego Pirates of the Caribbean on his Nintendo DS. There was one bit he was stuck on and wasn't sure what to do, I helped him out and he got further, which was rather good to see. I think he was worried about the batteries running out as he switched it off in a hurry later once we saved the point where we were at, but nonetheless I think he was a little happier knowing we'd got further than he had before.

Tune of the day though has to be "Re-Wired" by Kasabian, which was playing in The Love's car as we were heading up the M61 towards Preston. I quite like the band and the album Velociraptor! that it's from, and it certainly has that anthemic quality which makes you sing along in the right way, so that's good. It's also good to listen to in the car and I was half tempted to sing but thought better of it in the end as I wanted to be sure I didn't damage the singing voice and save it for a future Guitar Hero session in the future...

Saturday 28th January - Heading to Hebden Bridge

I got up relatively early for a Saturday morning as I had planned a day out with Mum and The Love In My Heart - we were off to Hebden Bridge for the day. I had previously been with The Love, but half the shops were shut, so thought it better to go on a Saturday when everything would be open and of course with parking being so horrible, the train was of course the best option to take, as you'd well imagine. First off though, a trip to the local discount shop to get some cleaning stuff for the house and also a USB extender cable for the wireless dongle I got for my Humax box, this way I could plug it in to the extender and have a clearer line of sight, resulting in better coverage overall. Clever, me!

I set off for Manchester Victoria with my Nikon F80 film SLR in tow - I felt like a change today and wanted to shoot film and I may as well make use of my film camera and indeed the Fuji 400 film I have - see how I go with it in a Wintry setting. I arrived at Victoria just before Mum and a few minutes later The Love arrived, they went off to get coffee at the Ginsters café - a mere £1 each for coffee, and I sorted the train tickets out. Because the Caldervale Valley line qualifies for certain train deals, it means that for two people, you can get a Northern Duo ticket, so the second person goes half price - neato! It worked out around £7 return each for the three of us, and that's not too bad at all.

The train was in and it was the faster one, only stopping at Rochdale and Todmorden before arriving at Hebden Bridge. It was nice to see that the train station had the very old signage and kept its real village feel rather than become another corporate Northern Rail type station - hurrah to that! We walked over the bridge over the river and took the path which ran you alongside the canal, this was rather nice and it also allowed some lovely views of the canal boats with some Winter sun reflections. What we also noticed was was the snow on the hills - there was plenty of it on the way there and it looked rather lovely.

We went around a fair few shops including one of the antiques market, and like with every good antiques market, there's always one thing I see - a complete set of NatWest pigs, that were popular for kids' savings accounts back in the 1980s no less. Some of the other antique clothes were quite intriguing and a reminder of a bygone era, so that was pretty neat all round really. We then spent a bit of time in one of the pottery shops and they seemed to offer some good discounts on bowls and other crockery, so we decided to head back there before getting the train so that we didn't have to carry them around with us all day - sensible plan that!

It was nice to just look around plenty of little independent shops, and one who did the Polish pottery not only won an award at the Manchester Christmas market last year, but also I noticed on her walls she had a picture of her with the Hairy Bikers, and indeed another one with Gregg Wallace of Masterchef fame! That intrigued me straight away so I asked her about that and the four of us chatted about it and how people nowadays come up to him and hassle him instead of just letting him get on with his every day stuff - which I can imagine that he'd rather do actually.

We stopped off for lunch at a rather nice place all round - The Watergate Tearooms. You had to enter the building via the side but when inside it just took you back to the days when tea rooms were proper places to relax. The menu looked inviting with lots of lovely choices, and I could easily go back there and try more of them, because the food was gorgeous. I had the filled giant Yorkshire pudding with pork sausages, The Love had the ham sandwich with tons of coleslaw and salad, and Mum had a jacket potato with cheese, coleslaw and salad, and it was brimming with the cheese and coleslaw when it came. If I wasn't being so good and keeping off ale during the day, then a bottle of Landlord would have been very fab indeed, let me tell you. The food was gorgeous and really well made, freshly made too, and the price was more than reasonable too - all lovely.

We walked down Market Street in one of the little craft places, and then further along the same street, noticing that there were plenty of ethical and organic type shops, including an organic café where we had a very nice coffee and I had a gorgeous lemon and ginger cheesecake later on. We also spotted a home design shop where we found that my brother had two items of furniture for sale in that shop - I didn't even realise he'd commissioned them for there and he didn't tell us either so that was a nice surprise. If you're interested in some nice custom furniture, try Snug in Hebden Bridge - his work is there (free plug over!)

After the well earned coffee it was back to the pottery shop we went into earlier, where the bowls were £1 and Mum also got a vase, a nice jug and four of the bowls, so that was her pretty pleased with getting a nice stock of stuff for less than a tenner - no arguments there I have to say. We headed back to the train station and after a little bit of a wait got the train back just before 5pm and headed to Victoria, where it was then back on the bus to The Love's place for a coffee and so Mum could see her place (she's never been before so thought it'd be nice) and then after dropping Mum off, back to mine. It had been a lovely day out all round really.

I made myself and The Love chicken tikka massala for tea and we settled in with the Million Pound Drop where two of the sets of contestants walked away with some money, which was rather nice. One of the final questions was which famous speech came first, and straight off I knew that Martin Luther King's 1963 "I have a dream" mantra was six years ahead of Neil Armstrong's "It's one small step for man" spiel. And on the whole it was pretty good fun to see how they did. Tune of the day though has to be something by the Unthanks, simply as one of them now lives in Hebden Bridge, so "Gallowgate Lad" it is, a rather gorgeous haunting song all round and just seems to grow on you.

Friday 27th January - Elizabethan Future

I had a pretty busy day but a worthwhile one and worked out why the member of staff who was having the OneNote issue couldn't see the "open in OneNote" link from accessing the file on SkyDrive - I think it's to do with access rights. The member of staff could see their own shared file and access it with "open in OneNote" and when I checked they were able to read and write the notebook. However, the other ones from the shared drive they had read only access, and so as such write wasn't allowed. I'm suspecting that to be the case, so we shall see what happens.

As part of our testing of all the new unified communications, we now have Microsoft Lync 2010, which will be handy for messaging and also arranging video calls between us if we need to (handy if you're on different sites etc). One of my managers was in our technical group meeting today and so with the laptop had Lync talking to me, so we got a nice live feed from there to the office, and so was able to offer some input remotely. Had I thought about it more, I could have set up a web cam and then done some live video chat input in to the meeting maybe - hmm.. could be worth doing next time around!

The afternoon was mainly spent resolving problems but this meant that I knew the slate would be nice and clean for the week ahead and that I had managed to get on top of the jobs that I had set out to do, and so much so that the least I could do was go to the Cornerhouse for a nice coffee afterwards, which did the job and it was good to sit and watch the world go by as well as think about a possible nice idea for later - meet The Love In My Heart after work and then the two of us head out for tea. And that's what I did!

She was more than happy to see me after work, not least as her day hadn't been the best ever. We decided that as the weather was a bit rubbish, we'd head out to the Elizabethan in Heaton Moor for tea, not least as we had a voucher which gave us 20% off the total bill, so that would keep the costs down a bit (plus I was paying as well to treat her, the least I could do). We headed to mine first as it was on the way anyway, and I nipped in and got the voucher, and then we headed off to Heaton Moor, not far from me really.

Needless to say it was pretty busy, a sure sign that the pub is popular because it's a nice atmosphere, they do very nice beer and wine and the food's normally spot on, and that was the case tonight. It's becoming one of my favourite pubs to go to purely for all that, and a pint of the Governor was more than welcome as myself and The Love decided what to have. In fact I went for one of the specials - herb crusted salmon with couscous and seasonal vegetables, not only very nice, but also very healthy too - especially as the salmon was really fresh tasting and you could tell it was properly cooked. Delicious all round, as was The Love's fish and chips!

After The Love dropped me off at my Tesco before she headed home herself, I got the food shopping sorted in one fell swoop and then went on the Wii Fit for a bit before opening a package which I'd received in the post - well two of them actually. One was a 1.5m HDMI cable from the lovely people at thatcable, and the other was an Edimax EW-7711UmN wireless USB adapter, which I was going to use with my Humax HDR-Fox T2 Freeview HD box to go wireless and use the TV Portal stuff on there. It didn't take too long to set up and all was well, although with it plugged in at the back, the TV unit was blocking the signal, so for now it's at the front and all good. However I'll get a USB extender cable and work out a way so I can keep it in the back but in a sensible position and all would be well there I reckon. It's the future, I tell you!

Tune of the day is the rather relaxing "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails. I was talking about it to someone at work today and how Leona Lewis' version is just awful in comparison, and how the original has tons of feeling which it does. I still love NIN to this day, it just connects with me in some way and shows just how spot on Trent Reznor was with plenty of his music. I've made myself a mental note to go and get the soundtrack from the remake of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and fast, because he and Atticus Ross have worked wonders again!

Thursday 26th January - Food Drama

I had a pretty good day all round and managed to at least get a senior member of staff's OneNote notebooks up and running. They were supposed to synchronise with a shared SkyDrive, shared with them by another member of staff, but for some reason they weren't talking properly. So I did the sensible thing - check the online link on SkyDrive, see if it had changed, and then simply close the OneNote notebooks on the PC, reopen from Web using the available notebooks from SkyDrive login, and - badabing! All now synching correctly and playing ball. They used to be able to click a notebook and do "open in OneNote" but now it doesn't - I'm going to do some more investigation and find out.

We also had a delivery of a new HP Compaq 8200 Elite small desktop machine which we needed to image with the standard image, and once I'd got a new boot CD sorted which had the updated network driver, it all happily played quite well and brought down the XP image pretty fast. As staff aren't yet on Windows 7 (they will be over the next few months I reckon) it's a case of using what we have and ensuring it was speedy (which it is) and adding any extra software as necessary, as well as around fifty critical updates released since the image went to a gold build when it was made. That always takes time - adding them in, especially when it's .NET Framework type ones.

Back home, I was pretty busy with a few things: first of all getting my exercise done on the Wii Fit and went for more rhythm boxing (getting the hang of it although sometimes it misses the left hand punch with the nunchuk, annoyingly) and an extended step, as well as masses of yoga. I can feel it doing me some good in that I do feel a tad more energetic and ready to go, which is rather good all round. The Love In My Heart told me she was going to be a little late in arrival, but that gave me plenty of time to sort out the chorizo pasta bake and virtually have it in the oven by the time that she came over.

We had a good chat and catch up whilst she was watching Emmerdale (well it's soap night for her you see) and then we had the pasta bake, which tasted spot on - it's one of my little specialities really and one I've got very used to. After Coronation Street I put BBC iPlayer on the Wii and we watched Masterchef from last night, which we both missed whilst watching other stuff - had I known I'd have recorded it. Anyway, it looked like lots of drama as they were in Bath for a Jane Austen weekend, full of literary geeks who even dress up like the characters and in period costume, very different that's for sure. I must admit the chicken one team did looked ace and I'd have had that in a heartbeat.

The winning team did get to cook for a famous chef and help him do a five course dinner for some literary critics and writers who were at the same Austen weekend. The courses all looked nice, especially the meat course and even though I don't eat chocolate anymore, the chocolate parfait seemed to be a massive hit with them all and I'm sure if The Love was served that she might just have to eat that somehow (understatement) - so all was good with the world there.

Tune of the day is the rather great "Things We Do For Love" by 10CC, a classic of its era from Top of the Pops on BBC Four which I watched earlier in the evening. I always liked that song, even though by this time Godley and Creme had left 10CC and it was left to mainly Graham Gouldman to carry the flag for the band. It just had a catchy pop type chorus but still sounded like progressive rock of the era, and even now is one that occasionally makes me smile when I hear it. Ah, the things we do for love, eh?

Wednesday 25th January - Semi Final Blues

I had a bit of a busy day at work, and managed to resolve a nifty problem this morning where when a member of staff started certain applications, it appeared to be minimised and that was it. I worked out that as the person had been using a projector elsewhere that the desktop was stretched across the two displays and so was looking to be across the second display for the window. I stopped that happening by clearing some preference files and all was good to go in the end - which was rather neat all round really.

On the way home I was thinking about tonight's game at Anfield with Liverpool playing Man City for the chance to play Cardiff in the Carling Cup final on February 26th. It was going to be a tough game for City to get anything out of, knowing how well Liverpool play in cup games at home and indeed how they don't tend to lose many at Anfield either. The other thing is that in terms of history City lost the first leg 1-0 at home when we last played them in a cup semi in 1981, and the second leg was 1-1 at Anfield, meaning a 2-1 win to them. It may do the same tonight, it may not, we shall see.

The game kicked off then and I was rather nervous especially as Stefan Savic didn't look too good at the centre back position, and Liverpool were hounding him at every opportunity. However we battled on and David Silva put a ball forward to Nigel de Jong - and, what the hell? De Jong never scores usually and yet curled in a thirty yarder into the top corner. Didn't expect that and 1-0 to City, 1-1 on aggregate. However, the ball came out after a Liverpool corner, and it was hit back in and hit Micah Richards' hand. Later replays showed the ball had hit his foot and bounced up to his hand, so technically not a penalty, ho hum. Steven Gerrard scores and therefore 1-1 on the night, 2-1 to Liverpool overall.

The second half saw Savic come off and Sergio Agüero come on, but City still looked very under the cosh and Joe Hart made some rather spectacular saves all round to keep City in it. I just didn't know what was going to happen as Liverpool could score at any time, but the ball went along the left to Aleksandar Kolarov, who whipped in a perfect cross along the six yard box and there was Edin Džeko to finish it off, get in! 2-1 to City on the night, 2-2 on aggregate and if it stayed like that at the end of extra time it'd be away goals win for us. But I suspected it wouldn't stay like that.

And unfortunately, I was proved right (I'd have rather have City score of course!) - some good work with Dirk Kuyt and former City player Craig Bellamy slotted the ball home, so 2-2 on the night, 3-2 to Liverpool on aggregate. I had a feeling that Bellamy might score against us and it's just typical sod's law that it has to be now, but fair play really, Liverpool were admittedly better than us on the night. And try as we might we couldn't get another goal, so that was that. We can realistically only try and win the league now and that's got to be our focus for the rest of the season. Tune of the day is "Disapppointed" by Morrissey, sums up how I feel really.

Tuesday 24th January - Mastering The Timing

Had another quite busy day at work today and spent a fair bit of time doing some research and development. It was good for example to be able to work out just why a piece of software would fail to install for some reason, and also did some extensive testing with the new HP Universal printer driver, which we plan to roll out for the HP kit we have everywhere. In short, it seems good - devices with staplers now actually staple multiple copies printed from any Office 2010 program correctly, instead of doing them all in one go - so that's good.

I headed to Tesco on the way home to do a little bit of shopping - I needed some bread and some Bertolli spread for my sandwiches for lunch, and also at the same time got a bottle of red wine for The Love In My Heart as she was heading over later and I thought it'd be nice for her to have a glass of wine with the steak I was making for tea. I even got a mix for some peppercorn sauce and I'd have a go and see what I could do with it. No guarantees it'd work of course, but at least it'd be worth trying something different for a change.

I did my exercises on the Wii Fit and went for the six minute intermediate rhythm boxing - the instructor certainly sounds like he's from Stourbridge or somewhere similar, particualrly when he says "it's your fight against your fat" and "punch from your waist" for example. It was still a decent effort all round though, and I managed to beat my best and get the timing better for some of the punches too, so that was decent. I then got the evening meal on as The Love was heading over to mine.

The meal went well - well almost. I probably put a little too much milk in with the mix for the peppercorn sauce and as such it didn't quite get as thick as I'd like it - just a little too thin really. The Love did reassure me that it would come with practice and at least it was cooked and tasted decent enough. The steak I got was actually really nice and tasty, and worth the money I paid for it, and we settled in for the evening to watch the likes of Don't Tell The Bride at first, complete with a bride who wanted the Audrey Hepburn dress from the film Sabrina (and having consulted my book Audrey Hepburn:The Paramount Years the dress is indeed rather pretty!) but instead sung Oleta Adams' "Get Here" and recorded it for their wedding - classy! I do like the original though,so that's tune of the day.

Masterchef followed, and the twelve finalists had to cook for former winners and finalists of the normal and celebrity Masterchef. I kind of knew that last year's winner Tim was going to go for the oriental starter, and that was very nicely done - I thought that Aki deserved to go through, as did the Southport bloke who did the scallops, really paid attention. Both The Love and I guessed the two to go - the one that mucked up the dessert and went to pieces, and the one whose main course held up everyone else because he got the timings wrong and was just too slow and finicky. You can't do that when people are waiting!

Monday 23rd January - Back To The Grind

It was back to work today, and it did feel a little surreal heading back to the office after a week off, especially as I'd had such a relaxing week. I did have to spend a considerable amount of time this morning catching up on my emails and seeing what had gone on during the past week. It was a real chore reading through them and sorting the wheat from the chaff, and sorting out which ones had been done or not. I wouldn't mind, but when staff email you directly and then again expecting an answer pronto, it probably shows that my away message hasn't been read I think.

Anyway, got to work on a new PC that arrived and we needed to do certain things with it in terms of imaging. It worked pretty well and before long I had one of our standard builds on there, and added in all the custom software that it may ever need. It didn't take too long to import the machine into ConfigMgr either, which for me at least was a big postive, it saved me plenty of time and effort all round. It was also good to be able to run some tests with it to ensure that I'd done everything right, and it seemed pretty good at getting things done. Hurrah!

We had the team meeting in the afternoon and I was able to contribute quite a bit to that before meeting with my manager and discussing where the new printers in phase three of the print project may be going. Realistically we had to make a firm decision on some things but also be sure that we had to try and accomodate the needs of the users out there at the same time - so we were armed with building plans and that meant we could accurately get an idea of what was where. We may need to do a walk around at some point though but it'd be good at least that we have an idea of what we're doing.

I spent some time in the evening on the Wii Fit and did a personal best in the ten minute rhythm boxing which actually is pretty tough going when you get into it - you've really got to nail those punches spot on and keep track of the rhythm at all times as well. Strangely I manage better when it goes faster than I do on the earlier levels, that's probably because I'm more used to the faster pace of life maybe? In any case it reaps its own rewards and it's good to know that I'm trying at least to get some valuable time in there.

I road tested a few more of my old Commodore 64 games, including the epic Platoon from Ocean. It's one of the first movie tie-ins that worked properly as a good game in its own right, and you got a package with a fold out poster, a cassette single fo Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears" (a Motown classic so tune of the day it is then folks) and all that sort of thing. And playing the game proved it's still as good as it was on first release, with the tense atmosphere of the tunnel section in particular, particularly when someone sneaks up with a knife and you have to be quick... intense stuff.

Sunday 22nd January - Last Minute Epic

It was a relaxing morning of sorts as I spent some time exercising on the Wii Fit before making The Milk In My Coffee and me breakfast. For some reason I didn't sleep as well as I could have done - the wind was howling outside and it seemed to keep me restless although by all accounts I was supposedly out for the count and asleep! Mind you, it didn't bode well for the Manchester City game later, and I just hoped that City could do the business and win against Tottenham and keep the gap between us and them to an extended eight points, which would be rather useful later in the season.

So the tension mounted, and as the teams came out I had that sense of really wanting the lads to do well but at the same time bricking it inside. I know that Tottenham have been playing well and I just really wanted us to turn up the heat a bit. You could feel the atmosphere on the back of your neck as the teams came out, and as you can well imagine, it was cat and mouse. In fact it was that way for most of the first half with both teams just sizing each other up and working out what to do when the right moment came. City came close a couple of times but it just eas a tad cagey.

The second half was ready to start, the teams came out to Joy Division's "Transmission" (make that tune of the day - it's a true classic) - and then it all got underway again. And in ten mad second half minutes four goals were scored. First off, a lovely run by David Silva saw it end with a delightful through ball through the middle to Samir Nasri, who blasted it home for City to take the lead - a wonderful goal. Then a corner came over from Nasri, Edin Džeko flicked it on and Joleon Lescott bundled it over the line for 2-0. All was well there and I honestly thought that we needed to then try and keep it that way.

No chance, sadly. First of all a real defensive howler from Stefan Savic let in Jermain Defoe, who rounded Joe Hart and slotted it in for 2-1. And a few minutes later some good work by Aaron Lennon down the left, the ball was passed to Gareth Bale who curled home a beauty to equalise and make it 2-2. And Tottenham looked more likely to win as the chances went their way a bit more. City brought on Mario Balotelli who was first booked for a bad tackle, and then (I'm saying this even as a City fan) should have been sent off for what looked like a nasty tangle with Scott Parker. It's to Parker's credit he didn't make a meal of it but I don't think we'll have heard the end of it somehow.

Stoppage time was mental. First off Gareth Bale bombed it down the left, put the ball right into the danger zone and if Jermain Defoe had scored it would have been 3-2 and good night Vienna. However, City in one last attack lofted it forward, the ball bounced up, Balotelli got it under control and was then scythed down by Ledley King for a penalty - with I reckoned around twenty seconds left. Balotelli took the penalty himself and confidently stroked it home for 3-2 and the City fans like me went bloody mental! It also showed those who leave early that it's not the thing to do somehow - this is what happens if you leave, you miss the best bits.

Understandably talk was of our win afterwards, but many people were complaining that Balotelli shouldn't have been on the pitch. In moments that can change seasons, his non sending off and then his penalty might just have helped shift the title a little bit more our way and away from Tottenham - how tight the season can be and moments do rest on things like that. In truth, the win was a little lucky but you won't hear me complaining, that's for sure. Three points in the bag, and even though Man U did win later, that still keeps up top by three points, so it's all to play for!

Saturday 21st January - Foxy Telly

I had a nice relaxing morning, sorting out a lot of eBay purchases from buyers, wrapping up the items and then sending them off. A few of them didn't fit the post box and so I dropped them into the Post Office, where I re-weighed them just to double check that the postage was correct, which it was (I knew buying those digital weighing scales were the right idea) and all was good to go. In fact I had to nip to the local discount shop near me to get some more padded envelopes as I'd almost run out of certain sizes which were the right size to send the appropriate games.

Once all that was done, I made a quick phone call to Richer Sounds and headed into the city centre. I'd been after a Freeview HD hard drive recorder for some time, and the one I'd been looking at, the Humax HDR-FOXT2 was in stock. I went into the store, they'd reserved one for me and I then got them to price match a price I'd seen online which was £15 less than what they charged. It was good that they matched it and I had no hesitation in taking the five year extended warranty with them either - with a hard drive in the box that could go and I'd rather be covered under warranty. Plus their warranties aren't expensive in any way - very fairly priced in my view.

I avoided the rain by getting on the city centre metroshuttle and was soon on the bus back home to mine, where I unpacked the box and set it all up. It was a nice easy unpack and set up overall, and soon I'd be watching the channels and the Freeview HD ones too, plus of course be able to record as well. I might take some time over the next few days to write a full review, but in short it seems nice and simple and be able to do the job properly, and recording seems very easy indeed. So easy in fact that I'm sure that anyone could work it - and it'd come in handy later on.

I spent the afternoon flicking between the Masters snooker and the Channel 4 racing, but I was clever and recorded the racing whilst seeing the snooker, so I could then play back the racing and skip to the actual races without all the in between stuff going on, which made a lot more sense to me. My sister and her boyfriend came round and I updated my sister's CV as she was applying for a job and so wanted it to be sorted, so spent some time with her and did that - and with The Milk In My Coffee heading over as well, all four of us had a good chat before my sister headed homewards.

I made The Milk and myself some tea - some mushroom soup to start and then pasta with meatballs for main,and that went down rather nicely. I also had a bottle of wine for The Milk and she enjoyed that whilst I had an Old Speckled Hen whilst watching The Million Pound Drop. As the lottery show was on at the same time I recorded that so we could just flick to the draw in between breaks on Channel 4 which worked rather well all round really. We didn't win the lottery, but had to giggle at some of the poor contastants on the Million Pound Drop - one pair lost shed loads as they didn't know the bird in the old Guinness adverts was a toucan. D'oh indeed!

The Milk had also brought round a tape with the first episode of the new series of Mad Dogs, which her father had recorded from Sky1 for us to watch. I have to say it's as good as the first series and certainly carries on nicely from where the other series left off - and so has the four of them in more hitches than you realise. Not least at the end of the first episode where they finally get their hands on the exchanged money but then their car is blown to bits - thus really setting it up for the rest of the series. And who just is that mysterious woman who was watching them at the casino? More will be revealed I'm sure.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Theme From Sparta FC" by The Fall, which I wish the BBC would reinstate for its final score rundown. For me the song just suits the programme really well and it just shows that sometimes change is good, but sometimes you keep to formula and get something which works, and that certainly does. The drawl of Mark E Smith with the guitars really does add something I reckon. Well worth checking out if you've not done so.

Friday 20th January - Here They Come, Through The Rain and Wind

It was a quiet and relaxing day today and in some ways a nice way to wind down some of the week off work. I went to Tesco first off and got all the food shopping in, I thought it'd make perfect sense in the end as I wanted to be sure that I had all the food I needed and whilst I had the time to do it. Tesco was nice and empty and so it meant I could get what I needed and be out of there within around ten to fifteen minutes, possibly the quickest that I've ever been in and out. Mind you, I did have to put a trolley of stuff through the quick pay tills so that was a bit time consuming!

I headed home just in time to meet the postman who had a little package for me - the film and photos that I'd sent off to DS Colour Labs to be developed. As per usual they did a wonderful job with some lovely crisp and clear images, and of course a CD with the images on which meant I could transfer them to the PC and work on a couple of them. One in particular was an image I took of the former slaughter house when at Dunham Massey, and that certainly was something to transform to black and white and make rather evil all round, which is what I did.

I also started to load and test more of my old Commodore 64 games in another push to get some more games out there on eBay. It was good to make sure that they all worked, and in fact it was quite good to have a play of some of them - notably the lkes of Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja, Cobra, The Great Escape et al. I've pretty much got down to the large box stuff now which means that hopefully I'll be able to do one final push to shift them. It's been good too keeping an eye on the auctions finishing today with many of them being purchased, and a lot of them to a good few purchasers.

I then headed out into the city centre to first of all get my hair chopped to bits - it needed doing and the lovely people in The Northern Cutter did their wonderful job, and it felt good afterwards. I was heading around the Arndale and got a call from The Milk In My Coffee as she had been out with Mum and so were going to meet me for a coffee. Mum had been with The Milk to a press launch for a forthcoming musical in the city which features the songs of one of Mum's favourite bands of all time, The Monkees. The four main actors even performed some songs by all accounts which must have been decent.

We went for a coffee near by and Mum was telling me about how it went and how it seemed to be a rather good time all round - and of course the songs were in her head, understandably. It was rather wet and windy out there so was good to be inside, in the warm and with a warming coffee so all felt good there. Afterwards Mum headed round the city to get some pictures of her own developed, and myself and The Milk headed around Next and a few other shops before we went to Kro in Piccadilly for a well earned drink. It was nice to relax in there and just start the weekend off in a leisurely fashion before heading home.

I spent some time in the evening checking out more games and putting them on eBay, and the remainder of what I'd put up earlier seemed to sell pretty well so can't argue. I also spent some time listening to some music as well to wind down nicely for the day and had on Seth Lakeman's recent album - it's still one that I come back to because it's much more stripped than his previous releases. So, tune of the day is therefore "Blacksmiths Prayer" with some really nice sparse sounds in there - really does work well.

Thursday 19th January - Home and Hail

It was a leisurely wake up for myself and The Milk In My Coffee and we both took our time to relax and waken and freshen - and I nipped out to one of the cafés close by as they did a bacon roll and coffee deal for a mere £1.90 each, which actually was very nice indeed with posh Italian coffee and nice back bacon on the roll too - so everyone's a winner, effectively. It was good to have that in the room and just see the world and the busy London central day head around us. The Milk asked me if I'd like to live in London and to be honest, I wouldn't - not because of the place, but it'd be nice to just take the pace a tad slower sometimes.

We left the Travelodge and headed on the bus back to Euston, and soon got on the train back to Manchester. I have to say it was lovely and really quiet - maybe this was because it goes via Crewe and Wilmslow, I don't know. Nonetheless it was speedy and efficient and it was good to have a whole table to ourselves without anyone next to us (something The Milk loves let me tell you) and then it was soon back to Manchester, and four minutes early as well thrown in to the bargain. It was hard to say goodbye to The Milk as it always is, but that's because we had a lovely time and also because it just feels more complete when she's around. I know. Awww.

Anyway, I headed home and spent some time in the afternoon checking out the rest of the pics I took from Liverpool on Monday and uploading them, and that worked out pretty well overall really - with some good stuff coming from the camera. I also spent a fair bit of time testing out a load more Commodore 64 games before they were going for sale on eBay. I suspected that it'd be better to make sure they load and work and that would of course mean that I'd know that everything worked properly then.

Of course this did mean playing some a bit more longer than planned, especially as the hail outside was absolutely hammering it down and that didn't do much to really cheer anyone up - it looked foul weather outside and it wasn't the best really for being out, so I didn't go anywhere really. It was a good test play of Impossible Mission and of course everyone remembers the iconic speech from that one: "Another visitor, stay a while, stay forever!" and with evil laughs and screams when you fall down the platforms, it's a game that really does take time to master even now, but in a really fair way as well which is good.

And on top of all that I even had a good blast of the arcade conversion of Klax and found myself to be still half decent at it too. It's always good when you're able to really still have a knack of game playing and for that one it's working out where the pieces go and how to make the diagonals to score a shed load of points as and when required. It's quite tricky really in the later levels but it's still all good stuff, and thankfully as I've got picture in picture on the telly I could at least see what was happening with the Masterchef stuff at the same time.

Tune of the day though is "So Easy" by Röyksopp, which I heard out and about whilst in London heading to Euston - think it was in a shop as we passed heading to the bus stop. It made me want to go home and dig out their album and then play it full pelt whilst waiting for the old games to load, somehow it just seemed to work and be blissful and relaxed, thus ending the day on a nice relaxed feel all round. And I've got another day off work to look forward to - hurrah!

Wednesday 18th January - Walking in Windsor

The Milk In My Coffee and I had a very relaxing time of it this morning, just getting ourselves up and ready, and having a croissant with coffee thanks to my neat idea of taking a walk to Sainsbury's nearby and getting two fresh ones in there - and there was coffee in the Travelodge, so all was well with the world there. It was good to take it slowly, and we left around 10.30am to head towards the British Museum so that we could take the number 7 bus to Paddington. From there we'd then be getting the train to Slough and changing for the little train to Windsor and Eton Central.

We arrived in Windsor without any issues, and it was a nice simple change at Slough station too. It's always nice to walk through the really nice shops in Windsor, but we did notice that one shop we liked last time, Oliver Bonas, closed. We saw it had a branch in Westfield White City yesterday, but somehow felt that it'd be better suited to Windsor instead like it used to be. We walked past the statue of Victoria and then to the castle entrance, where we were informed that not all the rooms were open today and it would have been reduced admission. We had however gift aided our trip there from last year which meant that we actually had free admission, excellent.

We walked through the main castle area and alongside the outer battlements heading to Queen Anne's Dolls House, which always inspires me when I go there and see it - it just really is so intricate and yet on such a large scale as well, makes me wonder just how it was done. The main thing that The Milk wanted to see was the exhibits with images of Prince Philip, and to be fair, lots of really classic images from a bygone era were there and you could see how he'd grown up and become the man he was, and what was a nice touch was that there was a shot of him and Queen Elizabeth shortly after their wedding, and the same pose taken later on their 60th wedding anniversary so you could compare and contrast. Rather nice all round that.

We walked further along the castle and around the chapel inside with all its historic figures buried there. You can feel the sense of history as you walk through where the choir sits with a big slab in the middle telling you you're above the remains of Henry VIII and several of his wives and feel that history. For me at least it shows that you can preserve history but still make it accessible for people to appreciate and understand, so all was well with the world there methinks. What was also good was that the staff were attentive to anyone who wanted to ask a question or find out more and that was nice.

We left the castle and headed to one of my favourite pubs, the Carpenters Arms, for lunch. We had a voucher so it was two main meals for £10 in there, and even better - eight cask ales including Tribute! Woo!! I never usually see it outside of Cornwall so it was a no-brainer to have it really. We both went for the fish and chips and I have to say that it was rather lovely all round really - perfectly cooked fish, some lovely skin on chips and some mushy peas as well, which went down a treat for us both. And the beer of course was on top form and a perfect accompaniment all round.

After lunch we had a nice walk around a lot of the shops and perused many places for some lovely items. It was very tempting to buy all sorts of stuff in some of them especially the Daniel department store, but resisted, and even took in a walk over the bridge to Eton to go in the Really Fab Cards shop we also like. I was in Richer Sounds for a little while and The Milk went and got some cards for herself, so that was good to do. We finished off the afternoon in Costa Eton, overlooking the river bank and having a very nice coffee to boot. Life, as Natalie Merchant once sung, is sweet - and so her song is tune of the day for that reason.

We headed back to the train station and got the little train to Slough, and Slough was rather busy with commuter types as you'd expect. We did get on the fast train to Paddington and indeed got a seat each, so that was good and we sat and relaxed rather nicely on the way back before taking the 23 bus back to the Travelodge via Marble Arch, Piccadilly Circus and then Aldwych, with a small walk through Covent Garden on the way back to refresh up and then head out later on in the evening together.

It was nice to change and look lovely, and The Milk looked gorgeous in her burgundy lace number (I love her tons in that top, so glad I bought it her now) as we headed out. In the end after mulling over several places to eat we went to Bella Italia close to the Theatre Royal, primarily because we both fancied the menu and also because it wasn't über-expensive. In the end it was a rather good move all round with the new menu - we both had the Funghi Arrosto, which had massive mushrooms with some lovely creamy cheese and spinach, and just melted in the mouth so well it was unbelievable.

That was just the start, I had the spaghetti carbonara for main and it was stunning, and the Pollo Cacciatore that The Milk had was like, wow! It was chicken in a bacon mushroom and tomato sauce with mozzarella topping, and the fresh vegetables and potatoes to go with it was a great compliment. I'd have been tempted to have that myself and I think I might just do that next time we go there I think - always good to try something different. Oh, and I had cheesecake, baked with a nice blueberry and blackberry compote. Far far too nice and whilst I'm trying not to have desserts at the moment, it was too good to resist let me tell you.

We headed back to the Travelodge and snuggled up and I ended up watching the documentary Talhotblond on Channel 4, which was actually pretty disturbing and shows just how when you chat on the Internet, people aren't all that they seem to be - not least when one of them was pretending to be her daughter and in fact was the Mum instead, meaning that she had put her own daughter in the middle of all what was going on without her knowing. Needless to say the daughter's completely disowned the mother and it all seemed very mental. If you're in the UK, do watch it on 4OD as it's a really well made piece of documentary film.

Tuesday 17th January - Pointless Shopping

It was a bright and early(ish) start to the morning for me today, as I was heading off for a couple of days to London along with The Milk In My Coffee. I'd booked a Travelodge cheap a while back, primarily as we could go back to Windsor Castle for free, because we have a one year pass, but also I'd got audience tickets so that we could go and watch the quiz show Pointless being recorded. I'm quite a fan of the show but I'm not so sure that The Milk likes it - however she agreed to come with me and we could see how it all pans out when it's there - plus of course it's effectively something to do when we get there at least.

I headed on the bus into the city centre and met The Milk at Piccadilly train station, being there for the second time in two days no less. I went to the Fast Ticket machine, collected the reserved tickets and got all our bags and stuff on the train, and as we had some time, I headed to Costa, got us both a nice coffee and then with ourselves all comfortable, we headed out on the 1115 train to London Euston, which was nice and painless and got us there on time with minimum of fuss as it sped through the countryside at a rather high speed all round. Why can't everything be so efficient, I wonder?

From Euston we headed towards Euston Square as we wanted a nice little bit of lunch and we found that nicely at The Crown and Anchor, one of our favourite little places to go. They did a deal where it was a pub sandwich and a drink for £7, and that included Doom Bar on cask, nice one! We both had the pork with caramelised apples, and I have to say they didn't skimp on the pork one bit and that it was rather nice all round, and that set us up nicely for the afternoon. We then headed on the bus towards Holborn and then to Drury Lane, where the Covent Garden Travelodge is located.

It's actually two separate buildings opposite the road from each other, and we were in the older building. However we could smell the newness of paint as we walked along the ground floor of the bulding and our room had recently been done up. You could tell because the decor was spot on, the bathroom appeared to be virtually brand new and that it had been specced up to their latest style. The only thing was that the window was tinted and was a little bit small for letting natural light in, which might not be handy when you need to get up in the morning, but nonetheless, nice enough.

It was then a case of a quick unpack and heading to Holborn tube station where we'd get the Central Line tube all the way to Shepherd's Bush, getting out there and walking around Westfield for a while. It made sense to do some shopping close to the BBC headquarters, and also because it meant that we both could treat ourselves a little after pay day. The Milk had some vouchers for Debenhams, and she found this really nice dress in Coast which meant she only had to put a few pounds towards it, and I found this nice striped purple, grey and black Jeff Banks jumper which was reduced to £19 - and it looked very smart indeed.

We stopped for coffee and relaxed whilst still in the relative warmth and then it was on to Wood Lane and BBC Television Centre, where there was no queue, we showed our admission tickets at the gate, got ourselves checked and searched, and then we spotted something rather well known - the one and only Audi Quattro as made famous by Ashes to Ashes. I used The Milk's camera later to try and get a pic but it was just too dark outside. However, seeing it in the flesh was enough for me and that certainly was a nice surprise that I didn't expect whatsoever.

More surprises were abound as we waited in The Foyer and realised we could have had a coffee in there, but hey ho. We were all called in and the runner announced that this evening's recording of Pointless was in fact a celebrity edition - turned out that some of the evening ones were those but we just hit lucky with one. That perked up The Milk somewhat, not least when we saw the line up - eighties pop icon Paul Young (whom I've never forgiven for his awful version of Love Will Tear Us Apart) and his wife Stacey, Ray Quinn (ex-Brookie and X Factor) and his fiancee Emma, whom he met when they both were performing in Grease in the West End, Chris Kamara and Martin Ofiah (cue classic Kammy quote: "Unbelieveable, Jeff!") and finally snooker player Shaun Murphy with now ex-Egghead and snooker fan diehard, CJ de Mooi. Not a bad line up all told.

Of course as The Milk had never seen Pointless, the warm up man explained things for her and everyone else, so that was good. The four rounds went by pretty quickly, even with a howler during one round where it was supposed to show six answers on the pass, and only five came up for some reason. It was soon corrected mind you. What was clear to see was that the chemistry between presenter Alexander Armstrong and his sidekick Richard Osman was plain to see - and they were just naturals at everything on the show. In between rounds the warm up man chatted to us, and to explain the rules he had asked the question about Tom Cruise films. Now as The Milk likes Tom, she could rattle off some obscure films easily, hehe!

The recording all was good and ahead of schedule around 8.40pm we were all done - it had been a good experience and I think the celebs that were on helped The Milk to enjoy it that bit more, which was good all round. We then were going to eat in Jamie's Italian in Westfield, but there was a long wait for a table and so instead it was to Wagamama where I had the very nice chicken and prawn cha han with miso soup and pickles, which did the job rather nicely. It did feel a little cold in there though, something The Milk observed too, but the food was good and before long it was back on the tube to Holborn and a short walk back to the Travelodge.

Tune of the day is "London Calling" by The Clash, which for some reason I had in my head as the train was pulling in to Euston. I didn't sing it of course but had it running around my head for most of the day as we were heading around on the tube, through Westfield and then on the way back later. It just seemed apt somehow and I'm sure if Clash singles came up on a Pointless round tonight, that would be far too non-obscure to score me well in the game I reckon.

Monday 16th January - Going Down To Liverpool

It was the start of a week off work for me today, and so I'd arranged with a couple of my friends from Flickr that the three of us would head to Liverpool, see some art and photography exhibitions along the way, and also take some shots along the waterfront, the docks etc. I thought it'd be nice to head elsewhere for a change and also that we could have a good day off work as well doing stuff we actually like to do. So it was off towards Piccadilly station for me this morning so I'd meet them there at around 9.45am. I was a little delayed getting in to the station because they've started work on strengthening one of the railway bridges close by, but got there in plenty of time.

We got the train tickets and a coffee and headed to platform 14 to take the 1007 departure to Liverpool Lime Street, which sped towards Warrington and then towards Liverpool South Parkway, the station nearest the airport. It seems that all the express trains stop there too now and does mean at least that the airport is better served - although the train station isn't that close really. It soon sped off to Lime Street and we arrived there bang on time, so that was good, and plenty of chatter on the train about Wii Fit and also how the kung fu trainer on Wii Fit Plus is a laugh - and that I should get it. Hint dropped methinks.

Having arrived in Liverpool, it was off through the city centre, past all the shops and indeed some of the street artists along the way who were playing guitar, and towards the Pier Head. It was good to see some of the new buildings come up so well including the Museum of Liverpool, and yet for all the new stuff the Liver Building still stands the proudest of the lot - even more so now it has a glass reflection from one side of one of the new galleries. Also, close to the ferry terminal is a building that houses part of The Beatles Story now and a shop full of everything you could ever want Beatles-wise, even a karaoke CD to sing along to their songs. It reminded me of how indie nights would play their songs, and usually "I Feel Fine", so that's going to be tune of the day.

We headed along the river waterfront, and noticed outside the Museum of Liverpool close to the Mersey were more of the infamous lambananas. Some of these had been sculpted when Liverpool was European City of Culture back in 2008, and plenty of them are now dotted around the city. They're effectively a lamb but sculpted with a banana shaped back end and tail, hence the name you see. One of the ones that caught the effective three pairs of eyes was one which had the faces and names of some of the best bands to come out of the city, including the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen and The La's, so simply had to take a shot of it.

After walking a bit further down the river side, we headed slightly inland and to the pub for lunch - and very nice it was too. I had the hand battered fish and chips which came on a wooden block plate, with lots of really nice fish, some skin on chips and mushy peas. And the pub even had Old Speckled Hen on cask - I mean, how spoilt am I I wondered to myself? Needless to say that was eaten rather slowly but with every mouthful tasting good, and we all had a good chat about all sorts over lunch, and it was much warmer than outside as well which had to be a plus.

For the afternoon, we headed in the Tate in the Albert Dock. One of us wanted to check out the Alice in Wonderland exhibit, and by all accounts that was good, but of course it was expensive, so I checked out the free stuff including the sculpture exhibits, one of which was inspired by the written word. You could even use some magnetic words on a board to compose your own poem or write one in the lever arch file provided, which is pretty much what I did - and felt quite cathartic doing so it has to be said. Later in the Tate shop, we noticed a new revision of Alice in Wonderland with illustrations by Tove Jansson - who of course is the creator of The Moomins. Yaay!

After all that we walked over to check out the Liverpool Wheel and see a rather nice sun setting over a bridge which looks more like a Japanese pagoda which links the Echo Arena with Albert Dock and walked back through the shops in Liverpool One towards Lime Street station to head on the train home, with all of our cameras having some really nice shots in them. For me it was great to see that the city really has had the investment in its culture pay off and with the waterfront looking better by the day, it shows that civic pride there is well and truly intact.

Sunday 15th January - Deer On Film

It was a leisurely morning for myself and The Love In My Heart, as I went through all the pictures I took of the pantomime rehearsal yesterday. There were lots to check through but several I wasn't too happy with, so those went in the bin, and once I'd worked out how many were half decent, I picked the best forty five and placed them in a nice little set on Flickr, which you can see here. It was good to try something different and the way that some of them came out was rather pleasing all round, and the experience certainly taught me a few things - including possibly needing a flash gun with some soft reflectors to just get the feel and the mood right.

After some late breakfast and a coffee and some more pottering around sorting a few things out in the house, we thought it would be nice to head out for a walk in the afternoon, and after our aborted attempt at going to Dunham Massey on New Year's Day due to the rain, we thought it'd be good to go there today instead and see what it'd be like. It was rather busy all round, but we noticed that from the car park there was another path we could follow. This takes you over a cattle grid but on the other side of the old houses and towards the mill, avoiding therefore the gate that everyone queues at just past the pond. Result!

We then walked along one of the main grassy paths, headed towards the old slaughter house, thinking it'd be quiet, but there was a guide taking lots of people around and into the house. I timed my moment well with me to take a pic though (I had my Nikon F80 film SLR with me) and I'm sure I can make it look sinister when it's developed by giving it some evil black and whiteness when I do. We then walked to the far end of the deer sanctuary and found that there were indeed some deer grazing out, but in small numbers. You couldn't get close enough to see them as you normally would, but they were there at least.

A nice steady walk back to the Stables restaurant ensued, and we managed to get in the queue, get coffee for me (and hot berry cordial for The Love) and a cake each. The ginger cake I had was rather lovely and as the place was nice and warm it meant that we were out of the cold wind for a while. It'd also keep us going till tea as well so that was good. We also headed to Mum's as we needed to drop some stuff off for her and have a coffee and chat there, and she was naturally excited about an event she's been invited to go to later in the week, so we were discussing that and the lovely holiday she had over New Year. I'm sure too that it's got her really up at the moment and that's lovely to see.

It was then back to mine with Come Dine With Me on More4 for The Love whilst I set to work making the tea - effectively the spaghetti carbonara that we were going to make last night. It turned out rather well even if the pancetta was a bit more crispy than planned. The Come Dine With Me was the celebrity one, and it included Anneka Rice, you know her off Treasure Hunt back in the 1980s. Well I had to laugh at the end as the guests encouraged her to put on one her famous jumpsuits, and so did Roland Rivron - in fact he wore it all the way home! Madness, I tell you.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Daydream Believer" by The Monkees, just for Mum! She was talking to myself and The Love earlier about her New Year break and how the DJ when putting on some sixties music on New Year's Eve, without any prompting from Mum, put that one on first. As you can well imagine, that pleased many people but knowing what a Monkees fan Mum is, expected it to be her influence, but it wasn't. Just goes to show that the old classics never die really...

Saturday 14th January - Oh No It Isn't!

I had a rather busy day all round today, but I like it that way at times - certainly makes the time fly by. First of all, it was time to get a good session done on the Wii Fit, and I tried the 10 minute super hula hoop exercise, where it's five minutes going right and five going left in a circle. It was tough work and by the end of the ten minutes I was flagging a little, but was rather impressed with the end score and really did show that I was getting better. I also quite like the torso and waist twists exercises too and I can certainly feel the muscles working hard on that one - and of course the jogging too, always worth a go that one.

It was then a time to head into the city centre as I wanted to get a birthday present for my sister as it's her birthday on Monday. I did manage to get two nice items actually, one of which will compliment what I got her for Christmas, and so made a perfect choice all round really. It's nice when you see little surprises that aren't expensive either, and I guess with a fair few of the sales still on and in full flow, I could in theory do plenty of my Christmas shopping as of now and then hide all the presents away till December - maybe that's not so much of a bad idea.

I got home and then headed to the Royal Infirmary to see my friend, as he's in hospital at the moment. Thankfully he's on the road to recovery and certainly having a good chat with him cheered him up and at least made the time in there a little bit more soulful and less being alone - and with his wife heading there later he knew he'd have a steady flow of visitors. I nipped into Costa Coffee close by, got myself a medium Americano to be going on with, and then headed on the 42 bus towards East Didsbury.

I was meeting a few fellow photographers from the Manchester Flickr group as we had been asked by one of our fellow folks on there if we fancied a different sort of task - shooting the dress rehearsal for the pantomime that he was a part of. So, we all met at The Didsbury pub and soon walked down Millgate Lane and turned left at the bottom on to Parrs Wood Road and to East Didsbury Methodist Church where the rehearsal was taking place. It took us a little bit of time to work out which room they were in, and then we found it, a reasonably sized hall with a stage area at the front.

There were enough of us to get different angles but not get in each others' way, and as the production started off I did some tests shots to see what sort of light we'd have. Armed with my 50mm f/1.8 lens, I worked out what ISO rating I needed and the apertures I could get away with, and started to have plenty of fun both observing the panto in rehearsal but also seeing whereabouts in relation to the stage I could get some good shots from. The stage lighting was bright but you didn't want to be too close to it or the white balance would be shot to pieces when shooting faces and people - pretty tricky all round actually.

Certainly the Celesta Players were trying to hard to add some contemporary touches in - with one scene having Jessie J's "Price Tag", another having Vic Reeves and the Wonderstuff's version of "Dizzy" (make that tune of the day as I was singing along happily) and the start and end having Elton John's classic "Step Into Christmas" with different words as Step Into Panto (get it?). Of course, you had to have the classic panto lines of "he's behind you" and of course the audience participation of "Oh no it isn't!" "Oh yes it is!" etc, so that was all present and correct.

You could tell it needed a bit more work before they open up next Friday for three performances over the next weekend, but on the whole, promising. The lady who played the princess had a really lovely voice, and so did the woman who played the cook as well - and really acted her part out well. The bloke who played Jack's mum (it was Jack and the Beanstalk in case you wondered!) was really camping it up pantomime dame style, with a purple wig and everything, and that certainly got people's attention. At around 7pm everything was done and we left them to do another dry run of scenes from the second half and headed for the pub (almost mandatory for Flickr meets, this!)

The Love In My Heart joined us in the pub, and over beer and wine we had a good chat about all sorts - and it was nice to do that in a relaxed atmosphere, and in the warm too as it was rather cold all round! Time went by too quickly and we soon realised we might need to get something to eat, and even though I offered to treat The Love to a meal in there, we decided to head homewards, and stop at Oriental City close to mine, which does some rather nice Chinese food. The Love went for the crispy shredded rainbow chicken and I went for the chicken in lemon sauce, both with egg fried rice, and I have to say it was on top form. The Love enjoyed it tons and said she'd happily get take out from there again if need be, so that was good.

The evening ended with us both watching the Million Pound Drop, and I got the final question right in terms of which Internet firm started first, amazon.com or eBay. (It was Amazon in case you wondered). It felt good to know that but I also know it's much different watching it on telly to being there too. The next lot were pretty thick though, I mean imagine not knowing that out of all the reality shows, Cheryl Cole was the earliest of the four. Logic would have worked that one out and they even thought it was her when the question was asked - so why only put a measly amount on it. Oooops!

Friday 13th January - Triskaidekaphobic

It's Friday the 13th, an early unlucky day for 2012 I think. I'm not normally superstitious but I do think I've got triskaidekaphobia, which is an irrational fear of the number 13. I used to always believe when I was younger that something bad would happen on or around that time, and I had to sometimes convince myself that actually it wasn't the case, and by thinking that something was going to happen that in fact I'd sort of make it happen, if that makes any sense. The bus did seem a little emptier than normal so it did make me wonder if in fact people were in that much fear that they wouldn't bother going in.

It was a busy day though all round as I delivered the five netbooks I'd been working on, and spent some time this morning working on something on my recently re-imaged Macbook Pro. I now have OS X Lion (10.7) on the Mac and part of the reason for that is that I can do some testing and see if several things work or don't work. One thing I did spot is that certain aspects of AFP (Apple File Protocol) don't work correctly, meaning that on some of our Netware staff servers which support it, staff users can't view shared areas anymore. I did some research and found a fix, and after trying it, this seemed to work rather nicely. Hurrah!

Mind you, maybe it's me, but I do feel slightly unimpressed by Lion overall. I've dabbled with it before on other Macs but I just get the impression that going online for everything can be a little on the dangerous side, notably if for example you've paid the fee to upgrade the OS and then your hard drive decides to die (which on more recent Macs happens to be just as common as it is on Windows PCs, if not more so). Not just that, but I don't want the Mac to decide for me which folders that it wants me to see (for example, favourite folders in the finder) and I do want some level of control there.

It was good to wind down though overall as I'm off all week next week, which will be a nice break of sorts. This time unlike Christmas I've got some plans for a little bit of travel, and it'll be good to do that. It's also a case of using up my annual leave as well which I need to do, and as The Love In My Heart is also off for the whole week, it makes perfect sense for us both to have that time and do things together too. I'm looking forward to it, and always spending some quality time with her is rtaher special, it has to be said.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "No 13 Baby" by Pixies, which I thought to be highly appropriate really, not least because of the day and subject matter, but also because it's from one of my all time favourite albums ever, "Doolittle". It also has a pretty lengthy extended instrumental at the end which just lets you drift away with the song as it reaches a more dramatic and slightly edgy conclusion, rather neat that. How I wish I could see them live again!

Thursday 12th January - Rat Eating Rollins

It was a pretty busy day at work, and I finally got to finish off five netbooks that I'd been working with earlier in the week. As they're the same specification for all five, I cleaned up our current laptop image, removed all the HP gubbins that we didn't need whatsoever, and also removed all the unrequired drivers to make it all speedy, and then it was just a case of adding the relevant Samsung drivers along with the extra little bits of software to make it all work, and then image that up to one of our servers, and bring it down to the other four. On the whole I was pretty pleased, and even came up with the idea of a little start up sheet to help them locate where the ports and buttons are (the on button is quite hard to find unless you know!) and what to do when.

I headed home and knew that I had a little bit of packing to do before heading out for the evening. One of the items I'd sold on eBay was my old Pioneer DV-646A DVD player, and it sold for more than I expected, so was quite pleased really. I had managed to get a good sturdy box that was just the right size to fit everything in, and armed with lots of bubble wrap I went about making sure that the player was securely cased in tons of the stuff, as was the remote etc, just to make sure that nothing had a chance of being lost or breaking. It took some time but by the end of it all was very pleased with the results and had managed to pack it all securely.

I made myself some fish for tea and then set off on the bus towards the city centre, then walking down Mosley Street towards the Bridgewater Hall, where tonight I'd be seeing Henry Rollins do his spoken word thing. I reckoned it was the seventh time I'd be seeing him do this - four at Manchester Academy 1 and two at The Lowry (I missed the one at the Opera House as it clashed with something else, typical isn't it?) and the first time that I'd see him here. My seat was pretty good - Row J, right in the middle, so would have a great view of the man out front doing his thing. As I sat in the stalls café with a coffee, in the plan that I'd then go to the loo before the show starting, I wondered how good it would be.

Well, in the end it was a little shorter than some of his spoken word shows (2 hours 20 minutes, he sometimes gets on for 3 hours) but what it lacked in time didn't lack in quality whatsoever. He observed how some people coming into Manchester Airport looked like they should be in some reality show "Crims on Hols" with certain people looking like criminals coming back in terrible fashion sense yet still looking pretty hard enough to carry it off, and then how those same people just whizz through passport control without a care in the world.

He also talked about his trip to India, and how he ended up having to eat parts of a rat that had been burned after being caught by some of the locals, and feasting on rat tails just made his mad Australian director decide to really laugh evilly at what was going on. Henry also mentioned his trip to Thailand and how the locals informed him that they eat dog, and then he could out-gross them by talking about the whole eating rat experience, said with such gusto, passion and real feeling of "I will outdo you, I will!" and that certainly got the crowd cheering and giggling in equal measure.

He also had a lengthy monologue about his manager Heidi and how they often row almost like a married couple on a daily basis, including a notable trip to Costco in Burbank. He thought he'd got away with not going as he didn't have the membership card you need for there, only for Heidi to produce one and give Henry a look of "we are going in there!". The whole experience of being in such a place really did come across well to the listener, and meeting up with an old man after picking a ladder to purchase just had a lot of us really with big smiles on the face.

The time went by way too quickly as it always does, and I headed home happy knowing that it had been another great gig to go and indeed my first of 2012, and long may good gigs continue. Tune of the day is "Disconnect" by Rollins Band - as it features Henry in full on mode, and indeed the video really shows him looking pretty hard and tough at the same time. Even Beavis and Butt-Head approved of the video and proclaimed him as that "Liar" dude, because of that song. It's also a full on rock number that really sounds dark and dirty, and when Rollins goes for it in the chorus you can feel that intensity and passion. Oh yes indeedy.

Wednesday 11th January - Two on the Trot

After another day at work, it was off home and to do some exercise on the Wii Fit. I worked out that if I did a session on there, I'd then feel more active heading off to the football to see Manchester City take on Liverpool, but also that it would make perfect sense to try and at least do half an hour every day. I really do want to see the benefits of the hard work and exercise that I'm doing, and I think the key thing is to be motivated and want to keep working hard. I know that it's my own fault that over the last year or so that I've put some weight on, and only I can control how to get the weight back off again.

My friend came for us and we headed off to the Etihad Stadium in search of the real Man City turning up tonight with a bit of luck. We fought valiantly against Man U in the FA Cup game but wondered if that had taken the energy and drive out of us for tonight, and with no Vincent Kompany for four games and with David Silva injured, the worry was that we weren't going to be as fluent as we may have been otherwise. Time will of course tell, but this is when you stand up, be counted and proverbially die for the cause of your team (well in theory anyway.)

The game kicked off and to be honest, Liverpool were after an initial flurry all over City. Joe Hart had to pull off some good saves to deny the opening goal, but was powerless when Daniel Agger went down in the box under a challenge from Stefan Savic, and the referee pointed to the spot. Steven Gerrard slotted the kick in the bottom corner which Hart almost got, but not enough. Mario Balotelli tried hard but he got frustrated and was sure to have had words and given Charlie Adam a punch after a challenge only for James Milner to sensibly step in and hold Mario back - which probably prevented a red card.

Mario went off not long after that to be replaced by Samir Nasri, whose first shot brought out a good save from Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal. We got to half time 1-0 down and to be fair we played pretty awful. It did get better in the second half, and we did have some chances, but Liverpool did defend resolutely enough, and prevented the likes of Edin Džeko getting any sort of shot in. Sergio Agüero had a header just over the bar close to the end, and a couple of free kicks might have wormed their way in, but Reina was also in very good form, stopping a Micah Richards header from going in, I reckon.

My friend and I headed to The Love In My Heart's place for post-match coffee and chat, and we both realised that it was a poor game and one to get out of the system. The only good news was that it was only 1-0 down after the first leg, a deficit which could easily be overturned if need be at Anfield provided we actually turned up and started to play a bit. What I did see later though was a rather horrid tackle by Glen Johnson on Joleon Lescott. It didn't look great at the time but seeing it again does make me wonder if it was any worse than the one Vincent Kompany got sent off for...

Tune of the day in the meantime seems quite apt, all things considered. I got home and had a couple of songs in my head, not least "Loser" by Beck, because it felt like that tonight, that we were on a loser and it just wasn't going to happen no matter how loud I shout for the team or how much I try and get the fans near me singing along and getting everyone going. Sometimes, I really do wish I was with the real diehards and going for it every game...

Tuesday 10th January - Sandie Not The Mastermind

Another hard day at the office and yet another meeting, this time to do with wireless networking and some of the things we've been experiencing with it and the setup we have. On the whole it does work well but I suspect it works actually a bit too well in that there's now expectations that it's reliable and solid, despite the fact every single iPhone and Blackberry device seems to want to connect as well as laptops. It's a tough job, but I guess somewhere along the line you have to try and make improvements, and some of the ideas along the way meant that we are making some progress, steadily.

Spent some time in the afternoon with some Samsung NC110 netbooks, and they look rather good all round. They're really nicely configured, seem to have a quad-core Intel Atom in there (yes, in a netbook!) - as well as 2GB of RAM, 320GB hard disk and all sorts. I suspect strongly that in fact once I've got our image on there, and have all the software that the staff need to run on it, it should still be pretty nippy. One thing I've always liked about the Samsung netbooks is that like their laptops they use one software utility for all their hotkey stuff - just one, and it's universal too. This means that it's much easier to configure and make work across the board.

After all that, it was back home and to an hour or so on the Wii Fit. Today it was mainly concentrating on the advanced step exercise (quite good fun), the longer advanced hula hoop as well as plenty of yoga including the cobra move, which actually you have to be really careful with and so not damage the back, so be warned on that one. I did however also do a lengthy jog, more rhythm boxing, the heading exercise and even did the table tilt rather nicely. Gradually I'm starting to feel the benefits methinks.

Later on The Tiles In My Rack came over and I made us some steak, salt and black pepper wedges and peas for tea, and it was nice to chat with her and catch up on how things were for her, and then we settled in to watch Don't Tell The Bride on BBC3, where the stag do was the lads dressing up in 1980s day glo gear - very kitsch! And for extra brownie points, New Order's seminal Blue Monday was being played, so tune of the day for me right there no question. It in the end proved to be a nice wedding but it makes you wonder if £12,000 is enough anymore? And what's with Ruth Jones now narrating it I wonder?

Anyway, The Tiles then proceeded to tell me that the other night Sandie Shaw was on Celebrity Mastermind but we'd missed it as something else was on instead. Aaaargh! Straight on with iPlayer on the Wii then and we watched that. Admittedly Sandie didn't do that well on the show, coming in last of the four, and having plenty of "it's on the tip of my tongue!" moments. I think people might have noticed her showing a fair bit of leg though and it was no surprise to me that her specialist subject was something to do with buddhism!

Later on we then had iPlayer showing us the first show of The Sport Relief Bake-Off, as that had clashed with something else earlier. I quite like Mel Giedroyc, I have to admit, and so makes it worth watching for that. The celebrities did okayish, although I have to laugh when Sarah Hadland used the mixer and her mixture (somewhat red) went all over the place, causing a right mess. I wasn't surprised that Angela Griffin was pretty good all round, but kudos too to Joe Smith for doing Gardener's World proud (apparently he's on that, which I didn't know till The Tiles inofrmed me.) And so the day drew to a close rather nicely..

Monday 9th January - Everyone's Back

It certainly felt like a quite rude awakening when I got to work this morning, as all the students were all back in and with the first week of term also being a time of some major hand-ins along the way, it was definitely a case of getting down to it and getting on with a few things. Not that I had time to, though. I had three meetings today and more of my time these days seems to be getting taken up by meetings. First off I had the team meeting to go to, and that was pretty quick so it meant that I was then able to leave, head straight to the next meeting, which was with some of our paper merchants.

I later on did some tests on one of the printers close to the office with the representatives from the paper merchants, and I learnt more about mass paper production in that time than you'd ever think possible - how moisture content is key when printing through a laser printer, how the different paper mills can be identified with the codes on the side of the box and also what types of paper curl can be caused along with how easy it is to see along the way - and well worth seeing all of that first hand to understand it a lot more.

In the afternoon I also spent some time with a manager who had just purchased a new iPad2 and so was going through the relevant settings with them, and also what needed to be done in terms of setting up access to their network drives using the Safari web browser on the iPad, and also how you could also use Dropbox to read and sync files from their workstation as and when required, which they quite liked the idea of as well, so that was good all round really. By the time all that was done the day had literally flown past and I'd been trying to recover from all the meetings on the way home.

Later on I settled in for the evening after a brisk session of fitness on the Wii Fit, including the free jogging which was around ten minutes of going around the island (the same one used in Wii Sports Resort, folks!) and then the rhythm boxing, which I'm gradually getting used to - in terms of when to throw the punch and how to be more accurate in terms of the way you punch as well. I'm sure that one day I'll get the elusive four stars on it but even getting three would be rather nice!

I then watched the Arsenal v Leeds game on ESPN, and as soon as you saw Thierry Henry warming up you felt that if he came on he might score and change the game. On he came off the bench and a few minutes later a delightful Alex Song through ball was being played to Henry, and he slotted it home in the bottom corner with a rather nice finish all round. The Arsenal fans went mental, Thierry himself felt it a bit emotionally and even the goalie ran to the centre touchline to join in the celebrations. Not every day a legend comes back for a second stab and makes that sort of impact. I can only hope he sticks one past Man U in a few weeks time! Tune of the day in the meantime has to be "Norgaard" by The Vaccines, a perfect example of a great track from their debut album and shows just why the band should be held in high regard right now.

Sunday 8th January - The Not So Magic of the FA Cup

The Tiles In My Rack and I got up reasonably early today, as we were spending some time getting a few things done before getting to hers later in preparation for myself and my friend heading to the Etihad Stadium to watch the Manchester derby FA Cup game. One of the things to do was to take the Christmas tree to the recycling tip near me, as the Council were supposed to be collecting it on green bin day but failed to do so - was rather annoyed especially as I'd followed their instructions to the letter. Thankfully The Tiles offered to take me there and so I disposed of it with a shedload of other trees there too, so they'll be converted into compost for future use, so that does make me feel better.

Back at The Tiles' place, whilst waiting for my friends to arrive, I was flicking through some of the channels and noticed the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie on ITV3. I love the film, one of my all time children's favourites, and Gene Wilder is rather superb as Willy Wonka. I like the fact they heighten the suspense of the golden tickets, have the reporters all round the world and even the likes of Roy Kinnear and Tim Brooke-Taylor have parts in there somewhere too. I should add that I do have the soundtrack CD to this, and Diana Sowle's "Cheer Up Charlie" is a real sad point in the film, yet beautiful at the same time so tune of the day for me that.

Anyway, my friends came over and whilst the two ladies had some shopping and chill out time planned, my friend and I were off to the Etihad. Of course I always get nervous on derby day and the 6-1 win at Old Trafford counts for nothing in my view - these games are always one-offs and you don't know what's going to happen. The big news before kick off was that Costel Pantillimon was starting in net for City and Paul Scholes had been asked out of retirement by United to be on the bench for them - that shows something about their squad injuries etc.

The first half was disastrous if you were of a Blue persuasion. After a few attacks by us, United went forward, the cross went in and Wayne Rooney powered a bullet header home for 1-0. Things got much worse when Vincent Kompany went in two footed for a tackle, which to be honest was only going to result in one thing - a red card. So down to ten men, what could we do? Not a lot. Danny Welbeck overhead kicked a rather neat finish for 2-0 and with a few minutes left in the first half United got a penalty, which I have to say was stonewall. Rooney had his penalty saved by Pantilimon, but followed up with his head to make it 3-0. Noooooooooo!

I was really worried that we'd get panned but then I remembered that we'd been 3-0 down with ten men at Tottenham a few years back, and came back to win, so you never know - an early goal and all that might make a difference. And after Micah Richards' soaring run resulted in a free kick, Aleksandar Kolarov fired a free kick into the bottom corner beautifully, 1-3 down. Mid way through the second half, City pressed forward with James Milner really showing his mettle to battle for the ball, put in a gorgeous cross and although Sergio Agüero's first shot was saved, he followed up his own shot to make it only 2-3 down. Could we do it?

The second half wore on, United had brought on Paul Scholes and City battled hard, but no matter what we did couldn't get another. We even had a free kick in stoppage time which was frantically cleared by the United defence, and for the final corner Pantilimon came up, got his head to it but the header went wide, but who knows? If that had gone in, 3-3 and a replay would have been ace. No matter. We may have lost, but the way we battled back in the second half and took the game to United shows a lot about what we're made of, and quite a few United fans were bricking it near the end I think!

We headed back to The Tiles's place where the ladies were watching the Take That Progress Tour - which of course was filmed at the Etihad Stadium. She couldn't see herself on there but the two hours plus of the DVD certainly showed you just what it must have been like to be there - if you were a fan, I know you'd have loved it to bits. I'm not one for all the showy stuff and would rather more music be played, but as a spectacle and an event no doubt it was something rather nice for The Tiles and many others. It was a nice way to wind down after the football for them actually whilst my friend and I also chatted about all sorts, so all was good really.

Saturday 7th January - Marple Meal

I had a fairly quiet day during the day today - and spent some time sorting out more items which could go up on eBay, including my Pioneer DV-646A DVD player. It was quite a high-end player for its time and it also plays surround audio in the form of DVD-Audio discs at full advanced resolution. It even has plenty of outputs, 5.1 audio, 2ch audio, optical and coaxial digital, video and s-video out as well as 2xSCART too. Of course, I felt it best to actually test it before I put it on there so I ran a few discs on it - including some US Region 1 discs just to make sure that multiregion still handled okay, and it did. All well and good then.

The tricky bit was getting some decent shots of the front and back of the player as it's black, but managed okay and then merged the image into one so at least when it's in auction the buyers can see all the connections of the player and go from there, which makes perfect sense of course. And the way I see it, for anyone who's looking at buying such an item, knowing what can be used with it is essential, and also filled out all the description properly too to help buyers. After all, I do want to sell it and it means less being gathered in the house instead.

That done, I spent some time cleaning the house but also watching the first round of the BDO World Professional Darts at the Lakeside. Of course it's not the same till you hear Martin Fitzmaurice's intro: "Are you ready? Ladies and gentlemen, let's play darts!" and then you know you're there. Martin Adams (nicknamed Wolfie) is the current champion and he did more than enough to qualify in his first round match - even pulling out a couple of very nice finishes indeed, especially the 132 where he cleverly thought of 25, treble 19 and then bull to pull it out. Very nice!

Later on The Tiles In My Rack came over, we got ourselves changed and ready and headed out for the evening - to The Midland in Marple Bridge. We've eaten there quite a few times and the food is lovely, and I'd suggested for a change we eat out this Saturday night. The Tiles spotted an offer on their website where you get two main courses, a large sharing dessert and a nice bottle of wine for two, all in for £29, which can't be argued with really. I like the ambience in there too, no annoying loud music, just good food, excellent ales and where conversation is the order of the day.

We got the bus there (which drops you off very close to the place) and then got to our table, a very nice rustic feel was complimented by how gorgeous The Tiles looked, in her lacy top from Warehouse that she loves, some gorgeous jeans and her rather nice Kurt Geiger wedged shoes. I had some nice jeans and a shirt on so hopefully looked the part for her. We ordered the food and a very nice bottle of white wine came over in its chiller, and I have to admit it was really nice, and made more sense us both sharing it between us.

As for the food itself, where do I begin? I had the sticky chicken which was marinated in lemon, honey and chilli and really did taste slightly oriental, but with perfectly cooked chicken and some gorgeous chips too, and The Tiles' steak looked great, especially with the big mushrooms and some thick cut fluffy chips too, gorgeous. The sharing dessert was something else - lots of little desserts to have between you, including some strawberry ice cream, vanilla cheesecake, black forest cake and a chocolate mousse where you could smell the dark chocolate a mile off, and some poached pear which was stunning, perhaps the best part of it! That all went down very nicely indeed.

We had a drink in the bar afterwards and that was nice, sat by the window looking outside in some very comfortable chairs indeed and having lots of chatter about all sorts. I had this beer which was very red and had quite a distinct taste to it - the name doesn't come to me right now but if I think of it, I'll have to search for it again. The Tiles had a very nice Kia Royale drink with cherry licqeur and prosecco, and I think that hit the spot for her rather nicely, and we timed our exit to the bus stop outside nicely so we weren't waiting too long for the bus to take us back.

Back at mine, I put on something on BBC iPlayer on the Wii - namely a look at 1977 through the eyes of Top of the Pops in the day. It showed how punk started to gain influence as well as disco - Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" being one of the massive hits at the time. Of course as more of a person who likes music with guitars in it, seeing The Jam and the Sex Pistols on there was rather ace, and so "In The City" by The Jam is tune of the day - not least as The Tiles rather likes Paul Weller herself, only seems fair to me that!

Friday 6th January - Invade-a-Load

I spent some time this evening checking over more of my old Commodore 64 games before putting them up on eBay for sale. Realistically it's a bit of a clearout but there's quite a few games that some people might find to be of interest and collectors out there always want something which effectively works, hence me making sure that they all loaded and played okay. It also meant that if I wanted to, I could have a bit of a retro gaming session at the same time should I wish.

I fired up Mastertronic's little cheapie "Night Racer" and before long, the loading border bars came on and the game started to load up. A minute or so later, up came the music from One Man and His Droid, and Invade-a-Load was present on the screen. Effectively, it was a cheap and cheerful version of Space Invaders which you played whilst the main game itself was loading, and that certainly at least passed the time beforehand. I could still get through the first level before the game loaded, with some accurate shooting helping me along the way, along with the great Rob Hubbard soundtrack of course.

Playing Night Racer reminded me of good old Enduro on the Atari 2600 for some reason - the night stage of that looked very similar. However in Night Racer you effectively drove four rally-like stages, making sure you kept within distance or being ahead of the yellow rival car, and careering around some difficult bends and passing slower cars along the way. If you were too far behind the yellow car when it finished, a gauge starts to fill up. If that fills up then it's effectively game over as the car then breaks down in spectactular fashion!

Another game I had a blast of when testing was Pac-Mania, based on the arcade machine of the same name. It's effectively good old Pac Man but in semi-3D with an isometric look about it, and you had the ability to jump so you could dodge the ghosts by jumping over them if you wished, although in later levels the ghosts jump too making it harder to just dodge them with a good jump! Had good fun with this, and a decent Ben Daglish soundtrack keeps you going as you play, always well worth it. It was pretty slick too and I got to the sixth level before losing my lives, not bad considering I'd not played it for so long.

I finished the evening with a second session on the Wii Fit, and that was all good all round, as I managed to do the advanced step class pretty well, remembering the rhythm and keeping the speed going, but also then doing the ski slalom with some level of efficiency, as well as a few yoga and muscle workouts. The extra session meant I did over an hour today having done some in the morning, but realistically I know this is only part of it if I want to try and lose the weight off, I've got to think about food in a more healthy way as well.

Tune of the day though is the rather excellent "The View" by Lou Reed and Metallica, as it really does drive you on when you listen to it, and actually makes for quite a good piece of music to take your anger and aggression out on, so maybe next time I should listen to it when doing the rhythm boxing and see how I go from there - maybe that might be something well worth considering? Nonetheless the full on spoken word from Lou Reed and the crunching metal sound of Metallica do actually work very well together, more so than you think!

Thursday 5th January - Quack Quack

It was a slow day at the office but it meant I could do some testing, and with the new build for Windows 7 being uploaded by one of our central technical people, the least I could do was try and give it a go on my test laptop, so I put all the wheels in motion using ConfigMgr to make sure that on next boot, it would therefore pick up the PXE boot and go and download the task sequence including the new build. Thankfully that seemed to go quite well and at least hopefully the rest of it I can take care of tomorrow (such as all our site applications, I always like to test them with a build!)

Back at home the wind and rain wasn't pleasant and was glad to get out of that as soon as possible. Thankfully unlike some bad winds a few years back, the roof tiles have stayed intact and the aerial on top of the house has also stayed up. I have to have a longer pole than others as the line of sight for the aerial is blocked by a local church, and so this way the longer pole means no signal blockage and all of the Freeview channels work without issues, which is good as you can well imagine.

The Tiles In My Rack came later, and we relaxed with a warm drink and I put some food on - namely some spaghetti carbonara. I always do it with more bacon lardons as you never get enough bacon or pancetta in the carbonara sauce, and that works a treat all round. The fresh spaghetti is always rather nice to have and Tesco's ingenius idea of splitting the pack into two pouches means that if you're cooking for two (as I often do) then you can keep the rest fresher for longer, a win win situation there I think.

After the tea we settled in, The Tiles watched some of the soaps as is her want of course, and in Emmerdale it was finally revealed who attacked Cain - but we were both shocked when it was revealed. The Tiles of course was well into that and I did some other things around the house as she was watching that and later Coronation Street - soaps just bore me but I know that plenty of people like them, so each to their own really. I don't think The Tiles was too happy with the goings on with a certain Frank from Coronation Street, that's for sure!

It was then time for Scrabble and I put on Seth Lakeman's original release of "Freedom Fields" as the version of "Lady of the Sea" is the proper original one (I got changed for the reissue you see). The Tiles was playing pretty well all round, came up with PIXIE as an opening move for 34, but excelled that later on with a massive QUACK for 60 points (Q on double letter, word was double word) which is impressive stuff to say the least, well done her! I didn't match her best move score but kept the scoring ticking over nicely. Tune of the day though is "Band of Gold" by Seth Lakeman as I know that is a song she loves lots, and why not?

Wednesday 4th January - Howling

I had a bit of a mixed bag today at work. I went back to see the new lecturer and sort out Outlook on their machine. It turned out that the PC didn't have Office 2007 installed whatsoever, never mind Outlook, so I spent some time installing that, updating the Novell client, the Novell Zenworks client et al so at least logging in should prove to be a satisfying experience and that the programs all work correctly. Thankfully it also nudged me to update the likes of Flash Player as well just to round off getting things up to date, so that was at least something rather good all round.

I then during the afternoon looked at the new core image and deployment task sequence for deploying Windows 7 on to PCs and laptops. I spotted that one driver package I created for one brand of system we have a fair few off was missing for some reason, so I got in touch with my colleague who looks after that side of things and he got it done - great when you have people to rely on, methinks. What also proved to be rather useful was that I tried it on my own rig, so my Samsung P510 laptop should hopefully tonight have brought down all the necessary sequence and got up and running. We shall see.

On the way home from work, on the bus, there was someone sat nearby who had their iPod on, and even though you're not supposed to be able to hear what they were playing, it was on at a decent enough volume to hear it. Thankfully it wasn't some R&B gangsta (c)rap, but instead the more delicate sounds of The Smiths - and "Hand in Glove" at that, which I wasn't arguing with, so tune of the day right there I reckon. You could see from upstairs on the bus though just how much wind and rain was coming down, and that wasn't pretty whatsoever.

As I did my little bit of keeping fit along with some step exercises and even a bit of yoga, I noticed that the post had arrived too and inside was my rechargable battery pack for the Wii Fit, so I can just plug that in via USB to the Wii, let it charge and then simply plonk the unit in underneath the Wii Fit where it's supposed to go, and badabing! Lots of power and less hassle all round getting 4 AA batteries together. I should add that I did at least beat my personal best on one of the aerobic games tonight so that was rather good all round - I want to get fit and be able to lose weight and with the new food regime I've got planned, who knows?

More wind and rain howled outside and it's really foul out there. I have to say though that I was ever so pleased that Newcastle tonked Man U 3-0 which meant that City are three points clear at the top of the table. It's the derby in the FA Cup on Sunday so hopefully both results together should mean that City will do the business then but you never know with a derby to be honest. I do note though that we've not lost at the Etihad since 21st December 2010 - yes that long ago, so here's hoping. Well done to the barcodes tonight, they played rather wel!

Tuesday 3rd January - Who Put The Ball In The Scousers' Net?

It was back to work today, and admittedly it was very quiet indeed. Not many people had made the move back to work and I suspect quite a few people may have taken the week after New Year off with their families, not least as some schools aren't due back till Thursday 5th January, but also the students aren't due back till next Monday 9th, so it did feel rather quiet and eerie going in to work this morning, but that was to be expected really - it's just the way that it is. It was nice too to see people and see how their Christmasses had gone.

I spent some time this morning with one of our new academic members of staff who is teaching in the Languages department - they had moved into a room with a PC there but for some reason it had been disconnected and was in a corner, so with some cabling and putting together, it got it all up and running for the member of staff and this seemed to do the job quite nicely. They were settling in nicely and it was good to see that being personable and friendly really did make them feel welcome too. Mental note to myself: be nice to people and they'll be nice to you.

After work it was off to The Tuna In My Sandwich's place as she was very kindly making us both tea before myself and my friend would be off to the Etihad Stadium to see Man City take on Liverpool. The Tuna was settled in for the evening and had managed to avoid the wind and rain that was pelting around everywhere and on the bus to hers there was a minor hailstorm which I avoided walking through, thankfully. It was a very nice chicken tikka massala with extra mushrooms, some lovely fluffy rice and naan bread, all sorted.

My friend came over later and we were both wrapped up well to avoid the bad weather, and with very good reason to be perfectly honest. I had the hat and gloves on as the rain started to get worse, and we'd just got in the ground before the really awful stuff hit, and no one was taking their places in the stand as yet because the wind lashed the rain right against where we'd normally be sat. It was not pretty at all, and it subsided a little before kick off so we could take our place.

I knew it was going to be a rather tough affair to play some decent football in the bad weather, but keeping it on the deck away from the wind seemed to be the best way. We got forward regularly and had a few good chances, before finally nailing one midway through the first half. The throw in went to David Silva who put a lovely ball through to Sergio Agüero, whose shot bounced in front of and underneath the Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina to make it 1-0. A soft bit of goalkeeping maybe but we deserved it for our battling on. On a wet night, always hit the shots on target and you never know..

A little while later we'd earned a corner, and the cross from James Milner resulted in Vincent Kompany's header forcing a good save from Reina. The next corner came in from Silva, this time Yaya Toure got his head to it and it was 2-0 City. The City fans started singing "Who put the ball in the Scousers' net? Yaya, Yaya Toure!" to really wind them up a tad and the rain continued to pelt it down. A shame really as at half time the former player Jihai Sun came and was introduced to the fans, and he said "Even back home in China, they knew it was 6-1" which got massive cheers from the fans as you can well imagine.

The second half deteriorated like the weather did and the key talking points were all in two mad minutes. First off, Gareth Barry was booked for a second yellow (and therefore red) for a challenge that merited nothing (as did his booking) whilst the likes of Charlie Adam for them had been fouling all over the shop. Ironically I'd said to my friend to substitute him for Adam Johnson, and it had been Agüero who had gone off for Johnson two minutes before. Aaargh.

However, Edin Džeko found Yaya Toure, and "the tank" (as we call him) went off for another awesome powerful run and was fouled in the box. Instant pen, but why no card for the defender? What part of goal scoring opportunity did the referee not understand? James Milner stepped up to take the ball despite some protestations from Džeko, but Milner proved he was right by putting the penalty beautifully into the top right hand corner for 3-0 to City. Excellent, and we closed the game out with another clean sheet, can't argue with that now can we?

Tune of the day seemed pretty apt considering the wind and rain, "Stormy Weather" by the Pixies, and that it most definitely was tonight, with lots of howling at night and me not being able to sleep very well because of it. I played the song and sang along: "It is time, whoooooah, it is time for stormy weather" which you repeat throughout the three minutes of song. Simple but with some cracking guitar playing, rather effective actually. Now to try and dry off!

Monday 2nd January - Walking, Avoiding Defeat

Well, after I wrote the New Year's Day entry, in typical fashion my prediction of a Manchester City win went undone by the very last kick of the entire game. That was rather unfortunate really although what's more worrying is that we've not scored in the last two games. Thankfully tomorrow night we've got a chance to rectify that massively against Liverpool, so here's hoping at least that we can do the business and that we can get back on track.

After a relaxing morning doing some exercise and also sorting out lots of washing and ironing, I took the bus into the city centre and spent a leisurely hour or so taking an extended walk around there, walking all the way down Market Street to Deansgate, down the full length of Deansgate to Beetham Tower and then from there walking underneath the bridge by Deansgate station following the canal and Whitworth Street back to Piccadilly train station to get the bus back home. It was nice to look in a couple of shops down Deansgate as well at the same time - even though some of them were a little on the busy side to say the least!

I got back home and checked through my large box full of Commodore 64 games that I'd taken out of storage - the plastic box has kept them all in excellent condition and there must be a good one hundred and odd plus games in there (and more) that I don't play anymore. So I thought to myself that it might be a good idea to start selling them on eBay and therefore seeing if I can raise any money for myself for some future plans for me. The good thing was that they were all in their original boxes, cases etc and all neat and tidy, so it meant that I didn't have to faff around any.

It was a case of then taking some box shots with the digital camera or in the case of some tape games scanning in the front inlay cover so that those who collect these sort of thing know what they are looking at - it only seemed fair to me. Indeed, some of the time I spent later in the day was firing up my trusty C64 with tape deck, joystick etc and making sure that the games actually worked, which thankfully they did. It's always best to make sure though because then at least you know they've been tested rather than get some feedback later that they didn't load!

For those of you interested in such retro stuff, then this little link will help - it's straight to my eBay selling page so you can see what's what! You might not necessarily find the game you're after, but stay tuned over the next few weeks as I intend to put quite a few up for grabs on there, and all of which are ones that I've played over time and enjoyed in one way or another. Ah, the days of when you could get a game for £1.99 down the local newsagent or local shop when times were hard.. and some of them were corkers too!

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather nice "The Bay" by Metronomy from their album "The English Riviera". There's a very good reason why this album featured in one of my albums of the year last year (feels weird saying that even though it is 2nd January), simply because of its wonderful pop sensibilities and lots of joie de vivre as it's sung "this isn't Paris, this isn't London" and that if you want to go, "I'll take you back one day" - and a special place such as Torbay has memories of lots of people. Get your disco moves on for that "it feels special" hookline too. Smart.

Sunday 1st January - Happy 2012!

So the New Year has set in, and The Love In My Heart and me continued to watch the remainder of Jools Holland's Hootenanny. There were some good acts on, not least The Vaccines, who charged their way through the rather cool "Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)" which is tune of the day simply because of its short sharp shock, just the thing to get you up and rocking if you so felt like. Sandie Shaw was also good, changing her outfits between her songs and doing a storming version of "Long Live Love" which made me a happy man and reminded us both of Jools Holland's gig last year (I can say that now!)

Thing is though, why have so many celebrity hangers on in the audience? For some reason the camera kept focussing on Carol Vorderman, who seemed to like the Vaccines quite a bit. She just was embarassing and why the camera kept on her is beyond me? Haven't they realised that she alone invented the phenomenon I call "Carol Vorderman Syndrome" (that's copyright me by the way) where you end up being on lots of different television programmes and become annoying as hell to everyone, and she was just doing exactly the same her? It was nice to see Nick Park there, but Jo Brand got on my wick as well.

After a well earned sleep it was up and at them on the Wii, and I did the full Island lap on the jogging, not for the faint hearted as it takes around fifteen minutes and also takes you around the same island later made famous in Wii Sports Resort no less, so if you ever did wonder, now you know. It was good though to push myself a bit and later on do the rhythm boxing which I actually find quite entertaining, as the bloke who teaches you sounds like he's from Birmingham, especially when he says "Alright! Let's do it together!" and really pushes you to go for it big time.

And added to that I also beat my personal bests in the tightrope walk (both easy and difficult levels) and also the table tilt, as well as the bubble balance. But I didn't go without doing a fair bit of yoga and muscle work either. Although I don't actually make New Year's Resolutions as such, my key goal which I started work on before New Year is to lose some weight and keep working at eating better, doing more walking and hopefully cycling if I can get myself a bike sorted. I want to be healthier and happier, which can only be good all round methinks. I also managed to order myself a rechargeable battery pack for the Wii Fit for less than £3 on eBay. Result!

So, with City playing away at Sunderland here's hoping for a happy start to the New Year for everyone. No doubt that I'm sure that it'll be rather good if we get the three points and that'll just add to an already lovely start, spending lots of quality time with The Love and generally being in a much happier place. And this year, I've got the Olympics and the prospect of possibly Man City winning another trophy to look forward to - and you can't say much better than that.