Dear Diary... January 2013

Thursday 31st January - That Went Quickly

Well I do feel like the whole month went by much too quickly and it's hard to believe that I've been through all sorts, snow, wind, rain, hail and even sleet. Today had none of that apart from a little bit of wind, and I spent a fair bit of time during the day sorting out a new laptop, and helping out one of my colleagues with getting a few things set up on there so that everything was working. As we were having to leave it to finish overnight, it gave me chance to test out one of our security locks, which we locked to the table and then to the laptop itself with a suitable combination. It looked pretty sturdy and so should do the job.

I also needed to put via my managers a few issues to raise at their meeting this afternoon, one of which has been the apparent delay in consumables for our printers arriving to us. It seems at the moment that we're really short on any form of deliveries, and there's printers which we're really desperate for stuff to arrive. I wouldn't mind as much but there's supposed to be a system in place where the printer emails an address when any of the supplies are at below 30% thus giving enough time for an order to go in - and it isn't playing ball either. Cue gnashed teeth for part of the day.

It was good to get home though and take a bit of time out to relax with a coffee and then Great British Railway Journeys before The Love In My Heart arrived for tea. It was good though to see the Tarka branch line from Barnstaple via Exeter to Exmouth and see how one tiny little station in the middle of the line has all the trains stop there as well as be decreed by a landowner that this would be such back in the day. Of course now with the line being mainly single track it's a perfect place to collect a token for the line too. Intriguing stuff that.

I made us some spaghetti and meatballs whilst The Love watched Emmerdale, and timed the cooking so that it'd be ready whilst Top of the Pops on BBC Four was on. Number one was Althea and Donna's "Uptown Top Ranking" with almost every line ending "and ting", but for Pop Will Eat Itself fans like me the line "no pop, no style" was also sampled for their song "X Y and Zee", making it even more fascinating. Tune of the day for that reason alone to be honest - although there were some other good songs on the show this week. It also kind of makes you feel nostalgic as well.

Later on we watched Restoration Man which was fascinating stuff as an old water tower on the Settle to Carlisle railway line was restored into a place to live, with the top of the tower giving way to a glassed roof terrace and garden, and the inside really did show what you could do with an unusual space. It was also good to see that as the restorer was one of the friends of the line that they had Michael Portillo come along and see the house as well as explain why the line was so important - well let's face it, where railways are concerned he's the person to ask at the moment!

Wednesday 30th January - Exploring The Old Days of C86

I had a nice bit of good news today which cheered me up no end. One of the pictures from my trip to Buxton that I'd uploaded to Flickr last night seemed to have quite a few people mark it as a favourite, with around 10-15 people overnight (random people at that) marking it so. A quick check of the Bighugelabs site later and it confirmed what I thought - that my shot had made Flickr Explore - what it calls the 500 most interesting pics of the day. And sure enough looking on yesterday's Explore page showed exactly that - my picture was in there.

So with me buoyed a bit before work, I headed with some renewed vigour and confidence and the day sailed by as I nailed plenty of tasks and kept on top of things nicely. I had our engineer come out to one of the printers and we got that one sorted, and then it was a case of testing a few things out to see if it worked. We at the same time had a network outage which was preventing people logging in which wasn't good, but thankfully we got that sorted pretty quickly and it meant that we were able to carry on and get on with things too, so felt pretty positive there.

I also did some work with one of our older systems which is still used for logging calls for our property services department. It turned out that mails weren't being sent from it properly, and when I looked at it, it still seemed to be using the very old settings for the old SMTP relay server instead of using our Outlook server, so got all that changed and tested it, and mails appeared to be working rather well. Except it seemed that mailing list addresses didn't like emails being sent to it - so not 100% there but a darned sight better than what it was really.

I also checked over a Mac for one of our Architecture staff who was saying that they couldn't load up iPhoto and their library wasn't working correctly. I soon found the root cause - a corrupted preferences file. I moved this file away from the user's account and launched iPhoto - it rebuilt the thumbnails and didn't get stuck and so worked rather nicely indeed. I then worked out that there were some corrupted permissions, so fixed those, installed all the critical updates and also updated Office on the Mac to the latest release. Everything seemed to work out nicely in the end. Yaay.

I got home later and watched the latest instalment of Great British Railway Journeys which for the most part involved a heritage steam line between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead - and a beautiful line it looked like to me too. The old signage and heritage along with the steam really did evoke lots of memories for many train fans - and to see the Dunster Express take you towards Dunster Castle (another National Trust property I really do want to visit if I get the time!) and then head to Minehead and be by the sea. The coast looked lovely too and I think that it might be somewhere to go sometime.

Later on I had a bit of a 1980s retro listening session with the likes of The Primitives and The Darling Buds being played. I really liked some of the early stuff from the Darling Buds, especially as it was quite poppy but in a really good way, with the likes of "Hit The Ground", "Let's Go Round There" and so on. Out of all their songs though one of their early songs I love the most is "It's All Up To You" which just has a real bouncy feel to it especially on the version on "Shame On You: The Native Sessions" mini-album, so that's tune of the day and it's great fun.

Tuesday 29th January - Goodwood and Bore Draws

It was another fairly hectic day at work today but I actually managed to be pretty productive on the whole, as I had to report some faults with some of our printer devices but also work on a few ideas and emails - one of which was a plan I had worked out to see if we could get some form of standardised procedure for application packaging testing. The idea would be that we'd effectively try and make sure that as much as possible things are tested before release and making sure that there's some form of test material out there. Ideally I think from my own point of view this might mean me having access to at least four different machines for a test bed, something I may need to discuss further.

I also had to work out why for one user the printing system wasn't working for her. One of my colleagues suggested that we get her to try the new print via email portal, and when tested that worked pretty well, so we knew it wasn't her account or anything like that. We went through a procedure which kills off the bad printer drivers so on next login it added the correct ones, and that seemed to have done the business rather nicely, and when we tested it - badabing, it worked properly. Always good when the last job before you head home is a successful one.

The Love In My Heart headed over to my place later on and I started cooking a chorizo sausage pasta bake for tea, and once the pasta bake was in the oven, I headed to Tesco to get some bottled water and wine whilst The Love snuggled in to watch Emmerdale. I got back in good time and the pasta bake turned out well, albeit I wasn't 100% happy with the cheese on top. I'd bought the lower fat grated mozzarella trying to be good, but it didn't really crisp over the top like the normal stuff would, and also didn't taste as nice generally. It was a shame but like The Love said, at least I tried and it meant I knew what not to scrimp off next time.

We then watched more of Michael Portillo on his Great British Railway Journeys, and of course having been there it was good to see him head around Salisbury and explore the old town and how the old ditches of water around the streets gave massive rise to cholera in the early Victorian era (as you'd sort of expect really). Of course Castle Cary station is normally deserted but when a certain music festival is going on down the road in the Summer, it suddenly gets rather rammed, such a contrast really.

Later on we saw the next episode of the Great British Houses, with the bloke who made Downton Abbey a reality presenting it. We still weren't too sure to be honest about the concept as he flitted around places finding historical facts and then heading back around the house to present them. It's very easy to lose track and lose interest and it makes me wonder with no episode next week whether infact the public haven't taken to it in the same way that we haven't as much.

All of that paled into some insignificance when I found out that Manchester City had only drawn 0-0 away at QPR in the league. I kept keeping an eye on the scores on teletext in the commercial breaks on ITV and stuff like that but I just had a feeling that we weren't going to score no matter what, and with their goalkeeper apparently in top form it just made it more frustrating during the game to see that happen. A bit of a bore draw but hey ho, can't win them all. Kind of makes the Buzzcocks' classic "Boredom" make all sorts of sense - tune of the day it most certainly is..

Monday 28th January - Blue Monday

The general consensus was that last Monday 21st was effectively Blue Monday when most people would feel not at their best. That however assumed that most people were being paid at the end of the month and so still had a week or so to wait till they were paid after the lengthy Christmas and New Year period. I think also that for various reasons that it's too easy to follow the crowd and be sheep-like, and today was the day that I kind of felt a bit blue, but for different reasons.

It was quite a tough day at work today with a team meeting first off, and then playing catch up for the day whilst I attempted to get a few things sorted out for people. One of the things I needed to do was sort out a database problem where it looked like the access rights had been very much screwed. I thankfully restored the file from an online backup that had been made on late Friday afternoon and that seemed to get things going again, so was pretty relieved overall to have sorted that one so quickly.

There's so much going on though that you really do have to think on your feet at the moment. I don't mind that because it means that you're actually going to be out there trying your best to provide a good quality service, and for me that's important. It's good to be able to help people out and also make them feel valued (and it also helps when you've got to know them and are able to understand things from their point of view too.) It was pretty tiring though so I was glad when it was time to head home and relax a bit.

Later on in the evening The Love In My Heart came over, and once I'd got myself changed and ready we headed over to my Mum's for a bit of a get together. Quite a bit of the family were there so it was nice to see a lot of people, and it turned out that I wasn't the only one to have got a Tassimo for Christmas - my auntie got one too with her two sons buying it for her between them (which was good of them). She was after the hot chocolate pods so I worked out where you could get them and let her know, and also enthused about how good they were (which Mum agreed after she'd had a capuccino at mine the other week).

It was good to have some fun with the little ones, and Mum made some sandwiches and other bits of food and a gorgeous hotpot which went down a treat with most of us. Most of the time the music played was background but she insisted on playing Jeff Beck's "Hi Ho Silver Lining" at full blast - no bad thing of course even though the guitar maestro's done lots of much better stuff. Tune of the day - although I could have done without some of the family's singing during it mind you!

Later on The Love and I headed back to mine and with a nice coffee in hand we watched tonight's instalment of Great British Railway Journeys as Michael Portillo headed off from London Paddington westwards. I for one was hoping he'd have at least shown the bronze statue of Paddington Bear in the station, but hey ho. It was good to see him seeing how Crossrail was coming along and admiring the size of the engineering project taking place though - wouldn't want to get in the way of those twin bores tunnelling under the capital that's for sure!

Sunday 27th January - Mud and Roast

It was a relaxing lie in for The Milk In My Coffee and I and we had a nice little bit of brunch with some bacon on toast and a coffee, and she had to dash to sort out something family related at lunchtime (which I knew about) and so after seeing Andy Murray lose to Novak Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open tennis, I kept my eye on the Brentford v Chelsea FA Cup game. Of course as a lifelong Man City fan, it was good to see Brentford manager and former City hero Uwe Rösler do so well and I have to say that the Bees were unlucky not to win but a 2-2 draw and lucrative replay wasn't to be complained about.

The Milk arrived back and we headed out for the afternoon, and decided to head to Cheadle for a walk. On the way there we'd stopped at Tesco in Burnage so I could get a birthday card for my sister as it's her birthday next Saturday but she's heading out for the day, and so found a nice one when I was there. I'd mentioned to The Milk that I'd really love to get the Carte Noire Latte Macchiato with Caramel pods for the Tassimo, as I'd ran out and what did I find when I got to the coffee section? Yes, the ones I were after! Happy days indeed and so those were purchased as well.

We ended up then taking a nice walk around Abney Hall Park in Cheadle. It was pretty sticky and muddy in places so was very glad to have been wearing my more walking boot type shoes on, and in parts the path was pretty muddy to say the least. We managed to walk around the back of the former hall's gardens, then by the pond at the bottom and then follow the path around which took you towards fields at the very back of the house and back towards the car park near the duck pond. A good little walk around really.

After we went to the petrol station close to the M60 so The Milk could top up fuel and also put some air in the tyres, it was off to the Ashlea in Cheadle for a nice late Sunday lunch together, and so we both ended up having the roast - me with the beef and The Milk with the gorgeous half a chicken (which was massive). The food was lovely and it's quite cosy in the lower part of the place so we like it a lot - plus the food's always good and the staff lovely. I had the Belhaven Robert Burns Ale which was rather lovely too it has to be said.

We got back and the FA Cup game was on between Oldham and Liverpool. Oldham had just scored before half time to go 2-1 up at half time, and so we had a game of Scrabble so I could keep an eye on the second half and then see the draw for the next round straight after. I liked the fact that Oldham have a new chant for their cult hero Jose Baxter, whom the fans had wanted to sign longer in January and he got a two and a half year contract. To the Human League's classic "Don't You Want Me?" (tune of the day of course), the fans chant to the chorus "Jose Baxter baby, Jose Baxter, woooooaaahhhhh" (you get the idea).

Oldham went 3-1 up through Reece Wabara's header, and he was on loan from Manchester City too so a nice extra link that as well as their manager Paul Dickov being a former City legend of course. Liverpool did pull one back but Oldham held on to win and got Everton at home as a reward. And who released Baxter at the end of last season? Everton! How tasty is that going to be? Meanwhile City got Leeds at home which wasn't too bad, although I can see that being a pretty high security game to be honest...

Saturday 26th January - Walking Through The Snow..

Despite the weather that had been falling around most of the country last night, Manchester seemed to have come through it relatively unscathed and all the roads around me were clear as I woke up this morning. The trains were also running pretty much on time, and so the planned trip with some of the very nice Manchester Flickr people to Buxton was still very much on. I checked that everyone was still planning to go, and so after doing the weekly food shop (had no time to do it yesterday of course) it was on the bus to Piccadilly station, and soon it was good to see some lovely and familiar faces (and a few new ones too!)

We got the train tickets sorted, grabbed a coffee or two from Costa (and I whacked up the points on my loyalty card because everyone else had forgotten theirs) and so we headed on the 1052 train to Buxton. It was nice to chat and catch up wth everyone on the train on the way there and looking outside, once we got past New Mills Newtown you could see the snow getting thicker and thicker. By the time we went past Dove Holes you could see the fields full of the white stuff, and the platform at Buxton had been cleared but you could see just how much snow had fallen.

We headed from the train station hoping to get into the dome that's now owned by the University of Derby, as the views from inside there would have been wonderful, but the security looked like they didn't want to be messed with so left that alone, and so heading back downhill and to the Opera House, which looked very resplendent even in the snow. And the snow, I should add, was very deep indeed, and more so when we walked around the Pavillion Gardens outside, in parts you couldn't see the path and the snow was at least a foot deep in places if not more. It looked very pretty though.

We walked around the gardens for a fair amount of time and even spotted where the little miniature railway should be, but you couldn't see any of the tracks for the snow, and after a good stroll around there we headed to a pub near the Pavillion and Opera House to have some well earned lunch and a drink. The Manchester City game was on the telly too so a bit of a bonus there, but the nachos I had were really good and for a mere £2.49 - happy days! The Dizzy Blonde was on form too so that was a bonus.

What made us all giggle was some of the items on the pub's menu - such as "the codfather" a large fish and chips meal - which you could upgrade to the "mega codfather" which must have been massive. And profiteroles after Fish and Chips on a Friday? A very strange combination that one. So for the rest of the day we were taking the mickey out of that and if we spotted something one of us would go "it's just not mega, is it?" and that was the theme of the day in the end - hilarious stuff and really did keep us going.

We headed around the Broad Walk and back again, up to where the market would normally have taken place but it wasn't on due to the snow and down past The Slopes where plenty of people with makeshift sleds and tea trays were sliding down the hills and having to stop before hitting the bottom, along with seeing the Weather Station and War Memorial that overlooked The Crescent. It was a shame that the Crescent itself was being renovated and so had lots of temporary structures blocking the view, would have been nice to take some shots of that.

We eventually headed to another pub, The Railway, close to one end of the town centre, and it was quite nice and relaxed in there and with a solid pint of Railway ale too. The music in there was quite good really, at a sensible volume, and even Deacon Blue's "Chocolate Girl" was played too, so make that one tune of the day really. The time went by too quickly though and soon it was back to Buxton station and to head on the train back to Manchester, but it had been a really good day out overall and one that'll inspire me to go back there when the weather is decent...

The Milk In My Coffee had agreed to meet me at the station to pick me up and that was lovely of her, and she looked gorgeous in her dress too, and we soon headed back to mine, where I made some lovely mushroom soup and then some gammon in a honey glaze with potatoes and peas for tea, and we caught up with Great British Railway Journeys (I'd love to head to Dunrobin Castle now I've seen what it is like) and also The Last Leg, which was brilliant as ever and always a good giggle (especially the bloke who wanted a man hug from Idris Elba as well!)

Friday 25th January - Snowy Snooker Shoot-Out

I had a half day in work today because of me and my friend's trip out to Blackpool to watch the Snooker Shoot-Out at the Tower Circus in Blackpool. The half day though proved to be very productive indeed as I managed to get a senior member of staff's iPhone working correctly and got that thoroughly sorted and also managed to get some network connectivity done for a project which operates out of one of the buildings, where the network connections are shared with our central halls of residence and as those connections are handled by an external company, we have to liaise with them to get it sorted.

It meant I felt positive about things as I headed on the bus from work to my friend's place, and we were both in fine form as I had a coffee from his wife's Tassimo and he had a cup of tea, and just got ourselves warmed up and ready to go for the journey ahead to Blackpool. There was no snow in Manchester and thankfully the motorways were nice and clear as we headed along the M60, M61, M6 and then the M55 towards Blackpool. I'd worked out a place to park that was only £2 for up to 12 hours, just north of the North Pier and so headed there so my friend would park up.

It was a stroll along the promenade like no other though, as it started to snow with the snow coming at you almost horizontally. Strangely though it was horizontal towards the sea, so when you were walking with the buildings to your left along the front, it was actually sheltered a fair bit till you got to a junction. We passed North Pier and headed past the tower and to Hounds Hill shopping centre, where it was warm and dry - and had a coffee and tea respectively in Costa to relax and take it easy before heading along to a pub close to the tower for tea, where my friend had the roast beef and me the gammon. Happy days indeed.

We got in to the Tower Circus and the seats we had offered an excellent view of the table, with the centre of te table almost straighty down below us. The TV commentary booth and main camera took up all of one section of seats, so what you saw on telly was everyone else sat in the remaining spaces. The crowd seemed a little boisterous and when you saw people carrying trays full of pints, I feared the worst and was proved right. Far too often some of the crowd were very rowdy, disrespectful to some of the players and almost trying to make it a darts-like atmosphere, which didn't sit comfortably with me at all - more on that a little later.

The concept and the snooker played was set by the opening Barry Hawkins - Steve Davis match. Both players forgot the cue ball in hand foul rule, and Davis' double kiss cost him when he was ahead and possibly going to cause an upset. Mark Allen easily beat Tom Ford and looked in good form, and Anthony Hamilton really was in the zone to crush Stuart Bingham. He played some great stuff. Michael White's excellent break saw him through and Marcus Campbell (who the crowd were chanting "there's only one Chris Moyles" to) beat Matthew Stevens, and Graeme Dott looked horribly not at home in the arena as despite mistakes, Matthew Selt got over the line pretty easily. Also as each set of players came on they did so to music with the Kaiser Chiefs' "I Predict A Riot" getting an airing - tune of the day there.

Mark Selby and his wife Vikki were at the top walkway of one of the sections of seating and were happy to chat to the crowd and sample the atmosphere before Mark's game tomorrow - it was good to see him watching some of the other players and getting involved too. A good win for Jack Lisowski followed by match of the night for me - Ricky Walden v Dave Gilbert. I said to my friend before the start of play these would be evenly matched, and when Gilbert hit the black with seconds to go, he was unlucky not to pot the red - indeed Walden had a go at it as the shot clock went down, but then the blue ball shootout. Sudden death really made it tense and fair play to Ricky Walden for sinking the blue with consummate ease.

Jamie Jones won well against Mark King, sensibly using almost all of his shot clock time to make sure he compiled a good break and wasn't rushing shots - a good tactic really and better to have potted the balls than not. Dominic Dale beat Peter Ebdon in a tactical battle which some of the crowd didn't appreciate - it was almost like chess to see if someone made the first wrong move, and Dale won. Ali Carter fluked two reds in a shot you won't see too often but Robert Milkins proved to be too good - and to be fair to Ali he tweeted afterwards that he fancied the Milkman to go all the way and win it and that he played well. Michael Holt beat Jamie Burnett and was playing to the crowd massively when potting balls and a bit unsportingly, when Burnett missed occasionally - maybe a bit too much playing to them?

Jimmy White got a massive reception but a lot of the (now drunk) crowd were massively unsporting against Thepchiaya Un-Nooh. He compiled a good break early on and was potting balls at high speed, and the crowd were booing at one point. That really did anger me somewhat, because I know the true fans would have appreciated some quality potting and it was a deserved win for Un-Nooh. In fact I wanted to go and have a few words with some of them because they were clearly behaving like idiots, getting in the players' eye line a lot of the time and strolling to the bar and back in between frames because they wanted more beer. Absolute idiots in my view, and to be honest they've put me off possibly going again.

After White lost, most of the crowd had left and Ben Woolaston beat Paul Davison, and neither player had the walk-on girls walking them on which I thought was a bit mean on them both. Alan McManus proved though he hasn't lost his game and beat Fergal O'Brien in a really friendly match with both players appreciating each others' shots. Some of that crowd take note: that's how you appreciate the game. It went by far too quickly though and before we knew it it was 10pm and time to head home and possibly trudge through the snow.

And trudge it was - the snow was reasonably deep but traffic was still moving and so we got out of Blackpool and on to the M55 relatively okay, and that was slow going because only one clear path through one lane appeared to be open. The M6 was clear and just wet rather than snowy but once we got on the M61 and got to junction 8 near Chorley, traffic was at a standstill and it took us the best part of two hours to move around a mile or so with mainly standing traffic. It turned out a lorry had jack-knifed on its side and effectively no one could go past, and some lorries had also broken down which didn't help.

A snow plough though had managed to get by and was clearing at least one lane for traffic, so once we got past the accident, we followed a line of cars and vans and just kept going all the way down the M61 with some very snowy scenery passing us by, and then from there the M60, M602 and A6 were plain sailing back to mine. My friend had driven excellently in the conditions I have to say and he really was careful, not going too fast and just concentrating on keeping the car on the road, and did ever so well. I'm sure we both wouldn't want to be out in those weather conditions again though...

Thursday 24th January - Cosy Corner

It was another pretty busy day at work but more because I'm on a half day tomorrow and so wanted to try and get some pieces of work finished that needed to be done. I had some extra time on my hands as one lecturer who was bringing their Mac in to us couldn't do so because they themselves had a deadline to meet, and so this meant I could head out and do some other work, the most important of which was getting the new badgemaker software along with camera and modern printer done for the folks in our Facilities department.

Actually it worked really well, one of my colleagues had got all the existing files ready to ship out, and I had taken the steps to make sure that the Windows 7 box had already been imaged ready. I had the software and licence and so installed that, added the project files that were needed, and then did some testing. Everything worked pretty well apart from the fact that the magnetic strip on the back of the cards wasn't encoding. Then I remembered - the software only will encode (stupidly I should add) if the printer is called exactly this: "Datacard Printer MAGNA CLASS" - no other wording will do. As I said, stupid. But it worked really well in the end so I can't complain too much.

The Milk In My Coffee came over for tea later on and we had some fresh spaghetti with Italian meatballs with herbs (Tesco Finest at half price - it is indeed the future!) - and so from that it was good to relax and have a nice meal together. I was recording Top of the Pops on BBC Four but did flick over to see some of that anyway, and it was quite intriguing to see the likes of Baccara (and it wasn't their big hit either), The Rich Kids (complete with former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock - Midge Ure would also join them later) but best of all the classic reggae hit "Uptown Top Ranking" by Althea and Donna, classic stuff and tune of the day.

We caught up with Great British Railway Journeys as Michael Portillo headed west along the Highlands from Inverness towards Kyle of Lochalsh, and all the little stations along the way. And some of them are indeed very little - Beauly being a case in point, only one door opens on the train for you to get off and of course everyone decides to have to get off there. Surely that's a case for the platform being expanded somewhat to allow for some more room? The countryside towards the Kyle looked stunning though and it looks well worth a trip out if I'm up there sometime.

It was also nice though just to cosy up with the telly on and relax together, I think sometimes it's too easy after a long day at work to feel differently and not be your normal relaxed self, but there's times when you really do appreciate how nice it is to be together. I certainly did and even with the later episode of Emmerdale (which The Milk loves being a soap fan!) and the news, it was just good to be together. It'll be a long day tomorrow though for the snooker for my friend and I, just hope this forecast snow fails to turn up...

Wednesday 23rd January - Very Long Time, No See

I had a productive day today as I was helping out with the new technology roadshow that we were organising, so that staff and students could come along and have a play with all the new kit that is out there and which they may have bought themselves at Christmas and don't know how to get working properly. We had all sorts too - an iPad, a Microsoft Surface, Google Nexus 7, and the HP Spectre XT Pro laptop which is the current staff issue machine.

We had a demo in the morning by a couple of our colleagues in another campus and it seemed a good opportunity to have a hands on go myself. I was actually surprisingly impressed with the surface, the keyboard was more tactile than you think and also acted as a very good cover, and the way that the back flipped to make a stand, built into the device, was also good. However, what wasn't good was the fact that to connect it to a display (either HDMI or VGA) you need a proprietary display adapter which is £35 for each one. The more touch type keyboard is also a staggering £110, and the pricing of those alone might be enough to put some people off.

Overall though it was good to get those tested out before we went over to the new building first, set up a little stall at the top of the stairs so as people came up to the second floor they'd see us, and we were able to demonstrate stuff to quite a few people and that worked pretty well. A lot of people were intrigued by the Surface, and the fact that there's a standard USB port to hook up any device (and most likely be supported) was a really good feature too, in fact that alone could well be a killer in being a more useful device.

It was good to have feedback from there and indeed from the building I'm based in too and it was good to see people have a go and see what they thought of the devices. One academic was that impressed with the Surface he's going to try and get the powers that be to get it on our approved devices list so that you can buy it and have it set up to connect to everything that we use, so it was a good surprise to have that feedback. I must admit the day went well and I was pleased with how it all turned out.

Later on I had something to eat for tea, caught up with Michael Portillo heading out over the Culloden Viaduct as he headed from Inverness to Aviemore, which was a rather good trip all round, and then took the bus into the city centre. I was going to meet a friend whom for various reasons I'd not seen in over two years and I was a little nervous how things would turn out - as a lot has happened in that time and part of me does think that losing touch isn't always a good thing, but we'll see.

Anyway, we met up and headed to the Waterhouse pub close to St Peter's Square, even getting the comfy chairs and having a coffee at first as we relaxed and chatted. It seemed fine and having plenty to talk about at least made things flow a fair bit. I thought that as well it'd be good to see what was happening and how the future may hold too, so good to maybe gauge things a little. The evening did go quick and it turned out we have another fan of Pointless (side note: the jackpot of £20,250 was won earlier) as well as someone else who went to the Yorkshire Dales for their 40th birthday!

The time went by, I even had a pint of Buckeye which was gorgeous, and I think it was good to see my friend face to face anyway as I think naturally you feel more comfortable than you do say on the phone or whatever, so with the weather outside being cold, I'm hoping some ice might have been broken - but I'll see. I headed home with a fair bit to think on but also couldn't get one song out of my head for some reason - Joey Ryan's excellent "As It Must Be". I played it when I got home and suddenly everything made sense why, so tune of the day it simply has to be.

Tuesday 22nd January - Feeling All Cosy

There are times when the weather is a bit cold, and all you want to do is snuggle up to the woman you love. That was very much me tonight to be honest. The day had been fine work wise and I did manage to get plenty done, but I was getting a little worried that there was stuff building up which I needed to try and get sorted out. I've got a half day off on Friday but I always like to leave myself in a position where everything works and I know that I can relax when I'm off work. I have tried to switch off these days as much as I can but there's times when you simply wish you could.

I decided that the solution to some of the woes of the day was a bit of rock as I put on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock on the Wii. Amazingly there's still a number of people who play the game online, so sure enough I was soon in a four player band, getting the guitar slung to some of the toughest songs in the game such as Megadeth's "Holy Wars (The Punishment Due)" as well as Atreyu's "Ravenous" (tune of the day that one). Mind you, it's sometimes nice too just to try out solo challenges and so I did a couple of songs to see how they'd turn out.

The Milk In My Coffee came over and I made the tea whilst she watched a double episode of Emmerdale back to back. I made some piri piri chicken with new potatoes and vegetables and that did work out pretty well in the end, it was very nice as I did the chicken really well done so that the topping was crispy, yaay. I even made sure that The Milk would be able to see the rest of Emmerdale as we ate the tea, because sometimes you've just got to be the kind and caring one. If it was me, soaps would be banned (apart from Brookside in its heyday)

We cosied up after that and watched the recording of tonight's episode of Great British Railway Journeys. It looked a really lovely trip up the Scottish East Coast as Michael Portillo went from Dundee to Aberdeen, stopping at a mill on the way in Dundee and soon realising why a lot of people who worked there went deaf, followed by a stop in Arbroath for what else but the Arbroath smokie, which amazingly one restaurant owner has managed to make into an ice cream, and it did look very nice I have to admit.

What wasn't as good as we thought it'd be as we snuggled on the sofa though was the programme Great Houses with Julian Fellowes (the creator of Downton Abbey if you need to know). It seemed a little over-indulgent as he painstakingly researched the history of the house, often going to some library archive in London, the National Portrait Gallery and so on. That for me made it feel a little disjointed and not as enjoyable as it might have been otherwise, I suppose it's just the way it turns out sometimes.

Monday 21st January - Coffee and Cornwall

I had a pretty busy day at work today (as they always seem to be at the moment). Thankfully despite some snowfall last night, the weather wasn't that bad and the roads were clear, so getting to work was a breeze really. In fact it seemed to be quicker than normal to get into work because some of the schools may have been closed, so less traffic around. Hurrah. I got straight into things and managed to get a fair few things done, including finalising a Mac that I'd had repaired for a member of staff.

I also had to head to the new building today as my colleague and I were investigating a network point which wasn't live for some reason, and we soon found out why - the socket seemed to have been pushed in and so the faceplate wasn't quite right. I managed to get it sorted and as such it meant that we could get the socket made live for the printer vLAN and make sure it all worked. I suspect that when the new cupboards were fitted everything was moved and so might have had something to do with it, but we'll see.

After a hard day's work it was good to head home and watch Pointless to see if anyone could win the jackpot, which stood at a massive £18,000, but the prize questions are proving really tough at the moment, and Colin Farrell films wasn't exactly an easy subject to get obscure answers on. Mind you, it could have been any movie star and it's the chance that you take. I do seem to remember it hitting a £20k jackpot once before someone winning it, but it's always good to watch and that whilst eating got me in the mood for a relaxing evening on the whole.

I watched Great British Railway Journeys which had a nice feature on the Tay Bridge and how it had to be properly rebuilt after a rail disaster claimed so many lives, but also seeing the structure now shows how much of a massive engineering task it was. It also had the Highland Games featured including the caber toss event which for me at least reminded me of the event on World Games on the Commodore 64, a great favourite of mine even now, all good fun that.

Later on Mum came over with my brother and his girlfriend and we had a coffee, and I gave Mum some pictures that I'd printed out for her whilst she was here. They were all impressed with the Tassimo machine and my brother said that the Costa latte he had was just as good as if he bought one in there, and my Mum had the last Costa capuccino (need to get more) which she really enjoyed massively too. I also kept an eye on Cornwall with Caroline Quentin and was fascinated with the idea of cream tea ice cream - not sure how it'd work in reality but good fun attempting to make it anyway.

I had a bit of an electronic music session for the rest of the night, listening to the likes of Bigod 20, Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb. I have lots of their singles on 12" and CD (more so on vinyl!) and on the "Getting Closer" 12" and CD single is the trance mix of the song, which I adore, with a killer bass underpinning the whole thing, punchy drums and some vocals which just work well with the track, and it's instant hit all round with me - tune of the day and it still hasn't lost it's coolness after all these years either.

Sunday 20th January - To Be The Master

The Milk In My Coffee had a bit of a lie in and woke up feeling refreshed after a good night's sleep, and she headed homewards as she was heading out to a friend's later for her birthday and afternoon tea with gorgeous cakes were planned for lots of lovely ladies - a perfect Sunday afternoon really. However, the day didn't get to a perfect start as she arrived home and realised that she had a flat tyre, so rang me to see if I could locate any tyre places that were open on Sunday - and thankfully I found one close to the Apollo (where people were still camping outside from yesterday for the Gary Barlow gig tonight, sad people!) and they did the job for her. Phew!

In the meantime I spent some time watching the F1 season review on Blu-ray, which looked pretty good. Interestingly all the race highlights are now on disc 1, with no mention of qualifying or the technical bits during the season, just the coverage of the race with BBC's Ben Edwards narrating. Disc 2 has a 90 minute "Story of the Season" which would have probably been the bits tucked on each race, lots of onboard highlights from each race including the first lap mayhem at Spa and Monaco, and also other nice features. Seems to work okay, although I do prefer the way that the 2011 review was done - but the surround sound is very very nice here too!

In the afternoon I made myself a coffee and put BBC2 on which would be on for most of the day as it was the Masters snooker final between Mark Selby and Neil Robertson. The Alexandra Palace looked very busy despite the snow in London and all looked well inside. However, Mark Selby went off to a flyer as he won the first three frames before Neil Robertson managed to sneak one before the mid-session interval. The next four frames were shared and so Selby was up 5-3 going in to the evening, and it was pretty good stuff all round with both players going for it.

After the snooker was Ski Sunday, and it was the downhill from Wengen, the longest and for me the most iconic downhill race there is. You name it, it's got it, fast corners and big jumps (such as the Hundschopf over one of the big rocks) and a tiring finish S which really does take it out of the skiers. To win here you've got to be fast and strong, and Christian Innerhoffer pulled off a superb run which did the business. One of the skiers even topped 100mph as he headed down the Haneggschuss, which was pretty awesome to see. It really did bring back memories of watching it in the 1980s with David Vine commentating mind you.

I then did a bit of rocking on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock on the Wii, which I've got back into massively at the moment. I managed to beat some of my personal best scores on quite a few of the songs, and played a fair few on bass as well including "Epic" by Faith No More, which is always good to rock out to anyway, so that one's tune of the day and would probably describe aptly the Masters snooker final as well, which proved later on in the evening to be just that.

And epic it was. Mark Selby took the first three frames to lead 8-3, but Neil Robertson wasn't going to give up and after getting one back before the mid-session at 8-4 won the next two and so was only 8-6 behind. The next frame was massive in the context of the match and it see-sawed a bit before Selby took it, and then wrapped up the next one to win 10-6 overall and on the whole a well deserved victory on the day. It finished just before midnight though so I was definitely glad to be heading straight for bed and be ready for work in the morning, but an excellent match all round really.

Saturday 19th January - Cruising To Victory

It was a productive Saturday really, and first stop for me after cleaning the house was heading into the city centre and in to The Northern Cutter, where the ladies weaved their magic clippers and did their usual wonderful job on my hair, cutting it spot on and making it all short and tidy. It does grow back rather quickly and so it's a case of having it done every few weeks to make sure that there's nothing clumpy about the hair. I even had a quick mooch in Vinyl Exchange but decided against buying anything for now.

Back at home, I relaxed with Football Focus and a well earned coffee before my friend came over to pick us up and off we were to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City take on Fulham. We decided to get there a little earlier in case of the bad weather, but that gave us time to mooch around City Square as well as peruse stuff in the shop too before heading in to the ground, and grabbed ourselves a well earned cuppa. There's places to sit down too so it means we can relax and have a chat away from the biting wind that was entering the stadium at the time so did feel better for it to be honest. We even had a bet on - I had £1 on Pablo Zabaleta being first scorer for the sheer hell of it.

Anyway, what we didn't expect was an early goal, but we got one. Edin Džeko fired in a long range shot which their keeper Mark Schwarzer could only parry and it went straight to David Silva who tucked it away for 1-0. Simple stuff. That was the score for most of the game and apart from one header which hit the post, Fulham were pretty anonymous to say the least and it was a case of how many chances we could take. I got ourselves a pie and some chips at half time, and the peppered steak pie was on form so that felt good really.

It was then the second half and City pushed on. What we could have done without was a potential injury to Pablo Zabaleta as he went for a ball with Brede Hangeland but came out worse, and he bravely tried to carry on after treatment before realising that it wasn't going to work out. The City fans chanted his song massively as he went off, and I think it goes to show just how much the fans appreciate what he does. We'd also wrapped up the game nicely with a gorgeous David Silva finish, and he could have had a hat trick moments later. 2-0 it stayed and an easy three points really.

After a coffee at The Milk In My Coffee's place, my friend headed home whilst The Milk and I headed to the Trafford Centre to pick up something from Pandora. I got The Milk a nice ring from there for Christmas and I got it in the size that The Milk asked for, which turned out to be too large, so the nice staff there said "no problem, we'll order in the right size for you and swap it" and had telephoned The Milk to say it was ready. So we headed there to pick it up, and it's much better now. I even went into HMV and got the 2012 F1 season review on Blu-ray, the last copy that they had. Result, again.

Back home I made us some gorgeous butternut squash soup followed by some chicken with bacon and cheese sauce and some mash and vegetables to go with it, which did the job rather well. We kept one eye on the lottery draw and then kept the other on the snooker semi final at the Masters, which we ended up staying to watch till a conclusion (which was rather late!). In the end Mark Selby beat Graeme Dott 6-5 in a tactical battle with long frames and a real cliffhanger at the end. It did make me pine for the proper snooker theme (Drag Racer by the Doug Wood Band - which is tune of the day) and all that, but still..

Friday 18th January - That Friday Feeling

Today was another on the whole positive day, as I spent some time with our temporary new member of our team going out and about patching some network sockets in, primarily for a printer and indeed for an IP phone on the 8th floor of the tower building. We actually managed to find one free network socket that was already set up for the printer vLAN, so adding that was a relatively easy task on the whole, but there was also a bit of head scratching as we needed to locate a socket which was available on the same floor to re-use for the phone, and we did indeed find one to be of use.

The snow was attempting to come down and it did do with a flurry this morning, but The Milk In My Coffee and I had made it unscathed into work and without any problems - we were both probably too early to head to work but there you go. It did mean though that I was keeping an eye on things during the day but it wasn't sticking whatsoever, and to give you an idea of how well the city was running the bus I normally get home was bang on time and indeed I had to make sure I ran across the road to catch it in time.

I did make a trip into my local Tesco and that was good, purely for the fact that I had managed to get all the food in for tomorrow night's evening meal with The Milk that I had planned, and also get any essentials for during the week. In fact the snow had held off and it was more about the possibly icy conditions underneath as the temperature dropped, but on the whole it was okay and I rewarded myself for tea later with some smoked haddock and lemon rice as I watched the latest instalment of Great British Railway Journeys.

A fair bit of the evening was spent on the BBC Red button watching the Masters Snooker from Alexandra Palace with Mark Selby facing Mark Williams in the quarter final. Mark Selby has changed his walk on music recently, it used to be "Underdog" by Kasabian, but whilst it's still the same band, it's now "Fast Fuse" (in case any of you wondered). It's a top tune anyway so tune of the day was a fairly easy one to decide really. It certainly helped him get pumped up as the first four frames were pretty tight and could have gone either way, but Selby won all four to get 4-0 up, and duly completed a 6-1 win over Williams. Really good tactical snooker though.

In the mid session interval back on went Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock on the Wii. Amazingly there were some online players around, so at one point I was part of a four player band who scored over 2 million points on one song, and then four became three as we tackled Jethro Tull's "Aqualung" with a massive amount of points too. It's actually good fun playing online and it does work pretty seamlessly when you do so, with lots of people managing to play some of the more tricky songs on expert (I still wonder how to to this day as it's pretty tough!) - and all good fun to end the evening with.

Thursday 17th January - Let It Snow

It was a pretty busy day at work, but mainly doing some behind the scenes type stuff. My colleague and I were heading around one of the buildings getting the network sockets ready for the new printers going in, and as a lot of them were brand new sockets this meant that we needed to patch them in and make sure they were set to the right speed and vLAN etc. It was quite good to be out there testing stuff and seeing quite a few people that I know along the way, certainly made us both feel much more at home too.

I also managed to sort out a few things in the afternoon such as raising the orders for some replacement laptops for ones which had unfortunately been stolen. This time around though I also specced in some locks for the laptops as well - we'd already used them in one location along with a combination that it has on it, and because it pushes the lock in twice to twist lock, it means it's a heck of a lot harder to try and get off. The same ones will do the business too I hope, so it'll be good to see them all arrive and be configured accordingly.

I managed to get home and although there looked like bits of snowfall during the day, it wasn't really sticking. That was changing in the evening though as a very light dusting of snow started to stick a little. That said though, it's like someone dusting some icing sugar on top of a cake to give you an idea of its lightness, and that really wasn't enough to be able to make any problems for transport and such like. Good job too really as The Milk In My Coffee was heading over for tea and to stay over - she thought that if the snow was bad and she had to walk to work, my house is nearer to her work than hers is - makes sense.

I made us both some spaghetti with meatballs - and the Tesco Finest Aberdeen Angus meatballs at that. She had a surprise too in some lovely lemon souffle mousse desserts which really were ever so light and fluffy. We watched Great British Railway Journeys for a while and then settled in with a bit of the Masters snooker. It was John Higgins v Shaun Murphy - and The Milk isn't a big fan of either but as the score went to 5-5 she pinned her hopes on Murphy getting over the line which he did - and it was a nail biter in the final frame as well.

It was also nice just to snuggle up, keep our eyes open for any snowfall and generally cosy up a fair bit. I did watch some of Top of the Pops on BBC Four as well and that was pretty good - 1978 didn't seem that bad for music after all. Of course Wings were at number 1 (meh) but what was most fascinating were the power pop band Tonight, who were playing their eventual number 14 hit "Drummer Man" for the first time - absolutely a breath of fresh air. Tune of the day was a pretty easy decision really.

Wednesday 16th January - Wii Love The Secret Strike

It was another good positive day at work today with plenty of stuff going on with regards to the new building. It was a little bit quieter on the whole as it normally is on a Wednesday generally, but this meant that I could spend some time getting a few things done and making sure everything where possible is up and running correctly too. I even managed to locate a few IP phones which we thought might have gone missing during the move and together with a colleague put them back in situ accordingly for the staff members.

After work it was straight off to see my sister at her place as it's her birthday today. It was nice to head there and have a good natter with her and indeed hand her a nice card and present - which was the gift card for Bank that she wanted - she's seen a purse to go with the bag that her husband bought her as a present (he must have taken note of the hints that she dropped!) and so that'll work really well for her. It was nice to settle in and have a brew whilst my brother in law and me got to grips with sorting out why their Wii wasn't reading any discs, bizarrely.

We got the Wii up and running and soon my niece and I were on Board Game Island with Wii Party. It was actually a lot of good fun to do that together and she loved the steps game where you have to pick 1, 3 or 5 and hope no one else picked it to go up that number of steps. She was pleased when she won and so got the most dice numbers to roll, and she won another little minigame where you have to bash people off the platform, Gladiators style, with your little contraption you have. Good fun too!

Later on we fired up Wii Sports Resort as my niece wanted to do the 100 pin bowling. She did well on that and then my brother in law and I had a go, and we both beat the previous record held by my sister. In fact he broke the record with his final bowl, only for me to go and beat that with my final attempt, so all good there. He asked about the "secret strike" which you can get, so I tried to see if I could do it again, and I did! Now at least he knows what to do and so can have a fair few goes later giving that one a blast.

My sister was pretty happy all round as my Mum and nephew had spent some time making a little cake for her, which we brought in and got her to blow the candles out on it - we tried the cake and it was rather good too. Time had gone by too quickly and so it was time for me to head home, have something to eat, keep my eye on the snooker and the FA Cup games and generally relax and chill out a fair bit tonight, with the brilliant "I Hope You Know" by The Floe being tune of the day - it's just lovely.

Tuesday 15th January - Feeling Arty

It was another early start to the day for me as I headed straight to the new building and set off a task sequence in SCCM which would deliver lots of additional software that was needed for the first floor PCs. Previously because they were used in another building they only needed the core software plus Adobe Design and Web Premium CS6, but of course now they're in a more open space they need similar software to what runs on other machines, and as that takes time it made more sense for us to start it as early as possible, and that helped massively.

Whilst that task sequence was running I also had a few of my Region 1 DVDs with me to test out the two Blu-ray players in the seminar and screening rooms to make sure that they were multiregion for DVD playback. Sure enough they were and it meant that I could enjoy the sights and sounds of Finding Nemo with a nice massive amount of 7.1 playback which I have to say really did do the business massively. I also tried out The Chase and the classic that is Office Space, with Geto Boys' "Still" blasting out at around 8am - obviously I didn't play that too loudly during the infamous printer scene - tune of the day that still is though.

Most of the rest of the day was having a walk around, checking things were working to the best of my ability and making sure that the staff themselves were happy enough in the new surroundings. I also assisted one of our weave technicians setting up the laptops which are connected via USB to serial adapters to the weave looms that run off serial and also run a little piece of software which you then control the looms with. It's all very smart and does look the business, and all secured down too which makes things even better, hurrah!

It felt pretty productive and when I got home I felt that the day had gone by quickly but had been a positive one, and I must admit it's actually nice to be back in the building that I learned most of my current trade in and indeed being with the staff which I've spent a lot of time with over the years. I think the important thing for me as a people person is that I like speaking to people, seeing how the world is for them and what they do and having some form of empathy with the work that's carried out too, so always good to have a keen eye on what's going on. As one member of staff said to me, they'd be lost without me which was really nice.

Later on The Lens on My Camera came over and I made us some pork loins along with some mash and vegetables, which was just the sort of hearty meal needed to keep us both warm during the cold spell, especially outside as the temperature had dropped a bit. We watched Great British Railway Journeys and admired Kew Gardens a fair bit, saw Michael Portillo play a bit of croquet at Wimbledon (not many people realise it's actually a lawn tennis and croquet club!) and also end up at Clapham Junction, wrongly named seeing as the station's actually in Battersea!

What we both really did enjoy later on though was a programme on BBC Four - "The Riviera - A History In Pictures" - this was part two which had the golden era of artists who made the French Riviera their home. Focussing on the likes of Henri Matisse, who used to have an apartment overlooking the Cours Saleya and the old town in Nice, and used to use a film studio close to what's now Nice airport, Pablo Picasso and his love affair around Antibes including donating lots of his artwork to what's now his museum in the town and so on.

Of course during the likes of the 1920s when the rich people really did have money, and Nice was rather opulent, it meant it became a creative home for artist. Seeing Richard E Grant walk the same streets that The Lens and I have had over the years really did make for a fascinating watch, especially when you delve more into what made it such an artists' paradise. I really enjoyed it and it's given us a few ideas what to do when we next go to Nice - which we definitely will, that's for sure!

Monday 14th January - Opening For Business

It was a very early start this morning as I was in work for 7.30am. A fair few of us were getting in early, and after some bacon barms and a coffee in one of the cafés, it was time to head to the new building and get as much as we could do done before everyone arrived. It was literally touch and go whether it'd be open on time, and entering the building at 8am certainly showed that plenty of work still needed to be done. However, what felt positive was that with a considerable number of us we were able to blitz a high number of rooms.

A lot of us were tasked with making sure that in certain rooms the tables which were complete with power and network on them were all cabled in to the floor boxes underneath, keeping things as neat as possible. It wasn't too bad in most of the rooms but in some of them it really did feel like the floor boxes were in the wrong place, and also just not where you'd expect them to be. We worked around a considerable number of issues and did what we could to get things working, and we were pretty pleased on the whole that we managed to blitz it pretty well.

A fair amount of the day was spent walking around and checking things were working, being visible to the staff and students and helping out as needed, and also for me directing a fair few of them to where stuff actually was - as a lot of people couldn't find their way out once they'd gone in (although to be fair, the exit signs weren't marked massively so you could forgive that). Some of the rooms with their surround sound and Blu-ray setups for film screenings were massively impressive though and that was already being one of the most well-used rooms out there.

I think on the whole although it was a long day, the day went pretty well and I know it'll be a fairly long week as we get things settled in, but I do feel like we're actually moving in the right direction. There are times when you know you've just got to get everyone out there and being present and actually showing willing to be around, and I think too that we were able to be responsive and polite and professional at the same time. For the first time in a while I felt really proud to do the job that I do - maybe because I'd been speaking to the people I often used to and have got to know well over time and I was able to do that and be helpful, who knows?

I headed home later, and stopped by off the little Asda near me - and to my amazement they had Costa Latte pods for the Tassimo, so I did the decent thing and got myself some (I ran out last night!) and that worked out well. I did see that they had to take a couple of people to their back room after they'd used the quick pay till but were sneaking stuff into the carrier bags that they had no intention to pay for. The staff were on alert and considering who they were, weren't intimidated and dealt with it professionally.

Once home I made myself some fish for tea, and then settled in for the evening with Great British Railway Journeys and then Cornwall with Caroline Quentin. The North Cornwall coast was featured in the main and it was good to see the Padstow lifeboat crew doing their training and performing so well. I must admit though I can see where The Lens On My Camera comes from when she says that Caroline is annoying - there's a bit of smugness and self-satisfaction there which doesn't always attract the viewer. Ironically despite him being a massive Tory in his day, I never get annoyed at Michael Portillo during Great British Railway Journeys - I think because he's genuinely passionate about the trains in general and always lets the people he talk to get the most time to speak, which works well.

I finished the evening with a bit of rocking on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock on the Wii and at one point managed to get a three player online game going with two guitarists and me on bass, blitzing the likes of "Graduate" by Third Eye Blind for example. I did manage pretty well on bass on "If You Want Peace, Prepare for War" by Children of Bodom though despite the tricky open notes that are in there (that alone makes it tons harder than Rock Band 3) and becuase of that, it's tune of the day for me. I can still do 100% on it on expert vocals too..

Sunday 13th January - Thank You Laurent Koscielny

After a nice relaxing morning, The Lens In My Camera got up and I made brunch (well it was too late for breakfast to be honest) as I did some sausages on toast, and with them being some really nice Lincolnshire sausages it really did hit the spot. I had a Kenco Columbian from the Tassimo whilst The Lens had a normal coffee, and it was just the thing to have whilst getting ourselves up and about. It felt nice and so with the weather being a little cold but at least dry we headed out to have a nice afternoon stroll.

We decided to head to Fletcher Moss in Didsbury, and so walked down to the tree lined avenue which leads you towards the River Mersey, walked along the river path for a bit and then followed the path around the back of Stenner Woods, and noticed that the flood plain was not only pretty waterlogged but it was also iced over from the ground frost last night, it looked very wintry but also not the place to go and try and walk across in a hurry. We walked through one of the paths back towards the gardens, but the grass field was very muddy (probably from a previous flood) and so it was a good job I'd changed my footwear!

We walked back to The Lens' car, got changed out of the muddy footwear into our normal shoes and then headed to the Didsbury pub for a quiet post-walk drink. It was nice to take it easy and have a good chat and we noticed that their Valentine's Day Menu wasn't that expensively priced and the food looked decent - we've never over-done that day to be honest and find that being together and being happy all year round is far more important than making the effort going OTT for just one day, so we'd just treat it as a normal meal out for the two of us anyway. Either that or one of us will cook - we'll see.

We then headed over to The Lens' parents, as it was her father's birthday tomorrow. A lot of the family had given him the money so he could put to and get himself a Kindle Fire, as he fancied a little tablet to do all sorts with - mainly to view pictures but also to use BBC iPlayer, browse the web on the move etc. He ended up getting the Fire HD, and wanted to know a few things so I took him through how to transfer some pictures from the PC, showed the app store working and got hold of iPlayer etc, and all was good there.

The Manchester City away game at Arsenal was also on Sky Sports in the background, so I had one eye on that too when I was there. City getting a penalty there was one thing, but seeing how Laurent Koscielny basically rugby tackled Edin Džeko to the ground, he can't have complaints about the penalty or being sent off, but that gave City a massive boost and even if Džeko missed the penalty (makes me wonder why Carlos TÚvez didn't take it to be honest) I knew that we could get a win here.

And win it we did - with a great move resulting in James Milner smashing one home for 1-0 after twenty minutes and ten minutes later good work from Zabaleta and Milner resulted in a cross which Tévez almost turned in, but as the keeper parried it, there was Džeko to finish it off for 2-0. Even a Vincent Kompany red card later on (which was never a red card ever) didn't stop the progress of City today and a 2-0 win was massively deserved, and after Man U's win at home against Liverpool, the win keeps the gap at seven points, and as we sung last season "we'll fight to the end".

I got home later and watched the BDO World Darts final, and to be honest, it was a one-sided affair. Scott Waites played his good game he'd been playing all week and Tony O'Shea struggled really, he couldn't hit a double and his scoring suffered and Waites really did hit everything well. Even with a slight wobble as O'Shea took the last set before the interval to be 5-1 down, it didn't take Waites too long to get back into the swing of things, and even with an O'Shea 158 finish to take one leg, Waites finished the match off with a quality 110 finish and so win 7-1. He only dropped five sets all tournament and really was on top form all week.

With that in mind and despite the likes of DJ Otzi's version of "Hey Baby" getting a partisan crowd cheering on O'Shea, I'd like to nominate Waites' walk-on music, "Chelsea Dagger" by the Fratellis, which no doubt you've all heard but probably won't associate the name of the song to the "der de der, der de der, der de der der der der der" chorus, as tune of the day. It's a really good tune to get yourself pumped up to and it clearly worked for Scott, being "2 Hotty" as his nickname goes, for the rest of the opposition.

Saturday 12th January - Latte Glasses and Harry Brown

I got up relatively early this morning and headed off to the large Tesco in order to get the food shopping done - and it proved a useful trip for a couple of reasons. I'd actually ran out of change for the trolley and so took along all my loose change I'd accumulated over the last few months (mainly 1 and 2p pieces) and emptied the jar into a little carrier bag. I used the Coinstar machine at Tesco and found I had £4.73 or so, so this meant that I could get that changed for cash and then have a £1 coin for the trolley - but also meant I'd cleared out clutter at the same time.

I also had taken along my Clubcard vouchers as I was going to use them towards purchasing Brave on Blu-ray, as I'd been after it before Christmas and thought it'd be a good gap to fill in the Pixar collection of mine. In fact the 3D version on 3 discs (3D, 2D and bonus disc) wasn't that much more expensive than the 2D one, and with a sizeable chunk off due to the Clubcard vouchers, I thought "why not?" and so purchased it. I managed to get something nice for tea tonight for myself and The Lens On My Camera, so all good there too. It meant too I could get back home in good time.

I spent some of the morning cleaning the house and noticed that my trusty Dyson DC07 wasn't picking up stuff like it should. Under closer inspection undereath I found a crack in the small hose that sits just above the floor part, and so managed to tape it up with masking tape for now so I could at least use it. Thankfully Dyson still stock all the spares and it was around £5 for a replacement small hose, so I've ordered it online and will then fit it when it arrives - it just made a lot more sense rather than having to faff around for now. It should be pretty useful to have as well I think.

I went into Stockport later mainly to get my sister's birthday card and present sorted out (which wasn't too difficult) but also headed into Costa Coffee for a nice coffee to keep me going. The Lens' sister had told me that you can buy their latte glasses from them if you ask, and so I asked. The very nice assistant in there not only was very helpful but carefully wrapped the two glasses in some very nice red tissue paper and bagged them in a nice Costa paper bag so they didn't break either. They were £3.99 a throw (just in case you fancy buying one yourself) and the medium sized glasses are absolutely perfect to fit the Tassimo as well - I'll have to concoct a latte in one later and see how it turns out.

In the afternoon I spent some time watching the first of the BDO World Darts semi finals, in which Scott Waites hammered Richie George 6-1 and deservedly so, and also kept one eye on the football scores as well, and with Man City not playing till tomorrow I was most impressed by Reading's comeback from 2-0 down against West Brom to win 3-2 - which could prove a vital victory for them and shakes up the bottom of the table somewhat, especially with Aston Villa losing at home to Southampton in another real scrap and a half.

The Lens came over later on and I made myself a latte with the new Costa glass, and it worked really well, the latte looked all layered and lovely and when mixed with a spoon just looked as good as if I was getting one from the real thing. She tried one of the tea pods (after Victoria Coren's rant on Room 101 last night I'm refusing to call it English Breakfast tea - it's just tea!) and it looked good, if a little on the strong side (no problem for me as I like the tea strong anyway). We settled in, I saw some of the second BDO Darts semi final and then we watched last night's Great British Railway Journeys before making the tea.

The Lens and I watched Britain's Brightest on BBC1 whilst food was being cooked, and in the end we had some really nice breaded chicken with a lemon pepper filling, some horseradish mash and steamed vegetables, which hit the spot really well. We saw a non-win for us again on the lottery draw afterwards and settled down to watch Harry Brown on Blu-ray, which she had borrowed from one of her relatives, whilst we had some Tesco finest cheese and some crackers to go with it - the Manchego one in particular was rather lovely.

So, Harry Brown. What did we make of it? Actually a very good, if violent film, as Michael Caine was superb in it as the old man on the council estate who tries to avenge the violent killing of his friend and chess partner. As Harry Brown, he was a former marine and so knew what it took to kick backside, and did so in a variety of situations. Emily Mortimer was very good too as the police investigator who realised what the game was and the final scenes in the pub were dramatic. The bloke who is Plan B was the main bad guy and looked the part it has to be said, and really did come across as pretty sinister and evil, so well done him too.

The closing song off the movie and indeed part of the film's soundtrack, "End Credits" really does have that gritty urban feel to a tee too - so full kudos to Chase and Status with Plan B for concocting that one up - a deserved tune of the day from me there. It also goes to show that when you've got an actor as good as Sir Michael Caine, who knows how to kick backside and look immensely cool doing so, you've got yourself a winner on your hands. Well worth a watch if you get the chance to.

Friday 11th January - Moving On Up

It was all hands to the pump today a few times, and notably this morning where five of us moved a high number of PCs and Macs from the tower to the new building, and we were pretty nifty in how we did it. Two of us got kitted in all the safety gear, and the other two were in the tower loading the trolleys with what was needed. This meant that through the only entrance between the two buildings on the ground floor, we could take the trolley from there in the new building and therefore go to the room where we were storing the kit ready for distribution.

It felt much more positive with the kit in there, and in the afternoon it was back on with the safety gear as we were given a demonstration of the AV kit in the rooms by our AV supplier. One of the rooms which is used for a cinema-like screening has a full surround system with Onkyo AV amp and two of the rooms also have a high end Pioneer LX-55 DVD player, very nice indeed they are let me tell you. I think those rooms will get used in the right way too and be a focal point for lectures and massive show displays, hopefully. The more things fit into place, the more you see.

I must admit though all the concrete and glass just leaves me a little cold architecturally. I know the idea is to make the spaces light and open and the open plan feel of the central areas does give that feel of being a more hub-like work area, but maybe I'll feel differently when we actually see how the spaces will look with people in, giving it a more vibrant feel. It's hard when there's everyone in hard hats walking around everywhere as it then feels more like a building in progress rather than one opening early next week, but there you go.

After work it was time to head out for a drink or two with one of my colleagues who works in another department - it is his birthday on Sunday and so had invited a fair few of us along to the Footage pub for a drink. Thankfully a few of us also had the ubiquitous Yellow Card which meant discounts on drinks and stuff - for example £2 for a pint of John Smiths. Granted it's not proper cask and all, but it was about the best of the bunch out there. It was good to chat to several people and enjoy some good background music including Massive Attack's "Safe From Harm" - tune of the day there.

I headed home later on, made myself some smoked haddock with rice for tea and settled in for the final two quarter finals in the BDO World Darts at the Lakeside. I was pleased that Bobby George's son Richie continued his excellent run with a great 5-4 win against Jan Dekker in a bit of a classic as the game toed and froed between both players, but as Bobby would have said "scores for show, doubles for dough" and Richie had the slightly better finishing power when it mattered. Scott Waites also won 5-2 against Paul Jennings, who looked a bit shellshocked after going 4-0 down - the fourth set was a killer for him really.

In other news, The Lens On My Camera informed me that Jessops, the photography shop, closed every single store at the end of today. Considering they only went into administration early this week, that's a pretty rapid closure and goes to show that no one is safe from this horrible biting recession right now. I guess some people see cameras as luxury items and as such are one of the first things people don't buy, but there's also the way that the stores seemed to change for me - sometimes more about sales than actual knowledge and helpful advice depending on which staff you encounter. It does leave a void though as if you want to buy a camera now (especially a DSLR) you're even more narrowed down for choice, mainly having to resort to the web.

I think also that it's all very well having smaller cameras with some new fangled and fancy features, but the real photo buffs will tend to buy a DSLR, get a few quality lenses for it, and then build on that collection over time, buying new bodies and trading their old ones in as time goes by. As it's not an every day purchase (and with good reason if it's full frame) it's not something you're going to rely on, so I'm guessing they were trying to cover the point and shoot bases too - which might have been a bit of a risk considering how many smartphones have half decent cameras in them...

Thursday 10th January - Getting On With It

It's just a few days till the new building (partially) opens, and so today I've spent some time patching in some of the wireless access points in one of the main network cab rooms. We do try to colour code some of the cables, only because it makes life easier when we can spot what is what, and so we thankfully had enough yellow coloured cables to go round and get those all patched in. We did spot one potential issue where we think the socket that one access point was connected to was labelled incorrectly, but found out that it was the one next to the one labelled instead and so got that up and running without too many issues.

Of course each time we enter the new bulding, because it's technically still a site where safety is paramount, it's the full hard hat, boots, hi-vis jacket, gloves and goggles that need to be worn to make sure that you're properly as safe as you can be. To me at least that makes perfect sense and seeing how the building is coming along on a daily basis also shows the mammoth task that it actually was to even think about creating the new space, never mind getting to the point where it is now. There's going to be some interesting times ahead, that's for sure.

I got home later on and was keeping an eye on the quarter finals of the BDO World Darts Championship from the Lakeside, with first of all Wesley Harms beating Darryl Fitton and that wasn't a surprise, although it would have been nice if the local Stockport blokey would have won (with me living a few miles from said town of course). Mind you, in the second match of the evening Tony O'Shea did not disappoint and won well against Robbie Green with the crowd afterwards doing a mass singalong of O'Shea's walk on song, "Hey Baby" (the DJ Otzi version sadly, not the original, but hey ho)

Before the darts and before The Milk In My Coffee came over for the evening I was getting back into rocking on the Wii and on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock. I've really got back into the game now I've played it for a bit, although in terms of difficulty it's much more difficult than Rock Band 3 - some of the songs on medium on GH: Warriors of Rock are pretty hard indeed and it really does reward you for doing well, but you've got to concentrate massively. I did manage a couple of songs on hard bass too, including Pantera's "I'm Broken" so that's tune of the day.

The Milk and I had some spaghetti with meatballs for tea and settled in to watch the latest instalment of Great British Railway Journeys, with a nice trip around the Black Country before travelling from Kidderminster on the Severn Valley Railway all the way to Bridgnorth, which looks a pretty nice place and featuring its own funicular railway which links the high and low parts of the town in one easy fell swoop. It actually might even work out as a good day out, as I worked out that to get to Kidderminster you could change at Crewe then Smethwick Galton Bridge, and there you go.. all for around £7 each way if you book in advance. Tempting...

Wednesday 9th January - Are You Ready?

It was another busy day in the office today, and I had to spend a bit of time checking over my 64-bit repackaged Dropbox MSI after a colleague reported that the installation worked fine, but it didn't put an icon in the Start Menu Programs. Having checked this myself, it was completely true, so one quick bit of editing with the EMCO MSI Packager later and that worked really well to sort that out. Sometimes you've just got to take things a little more slower, be calm and collected and check everything once and twice over to be sure it's right.

I also spent some time in the afternoon sorting out a few printing issues including working out that one of the printers didn't like one of the trays for some reason, so re-seating the tray as well as printing from the other trays saw to that one. One of the ladies in the office is a big F1 fan (particularly a certain driver from Frome no less) so I was chatting to her about the little cartoon series "Tooned" that the McLaren folks made last year with Lewis and Jenson, and it did look impressive for her, yaay!

Once I got home it was on with the telly and first on with Pointless, as is my wont, before seeing another episode of Great British Railway Journeys as Michael Portillo headed to Stoke-on-Trent, going around Trentham Gardens before heading to Kidsgrove and to the top of Mow Cop (which looked a really good place to go, I need to check that out myself sometime) before then heading to Crewe and spotting some trainspotters before heading for the salt mines of Winsford. Fascinating stuff, as always.

One place to be tonight though was the Lakeside for the BDO World Darts Championship. The atmosphere's always good there and the telly coverage across BBC and ESPN has been good too as it is every year. Seeing Paul Jennings really apply the Bobby George mantra of "scores for show, doubles for dough" in devastating fashion proved the point that you can score as highly as you like, but if you can't finsh a leg of darts off with the double, you won't win nowt.

Earlier on there was Garry Thompson against Jan Dekker, and of course Garry has the honour of having his walk on music written for him by a local Yorkshire band, Geoffrey Oi! Cott. Written in the style of the Oi! punk style (as if you couldn't guess) it has a Sham 69-esque punk chorus and some verses that of course refer to the Lakeside in Frimley Green and how well Garry's going to do - and even on his birthday it wasn't enough as Dekker won 4-3. Still, I'll make "Glory Glory Garry Thompson" tune of the day as it gets the crowd warmed up nicely for the action ahead. Right, back to Richie George v Jimmy Hendriks...

Tuesday 8th January - All Systems Go

It certainly felt that way today as it seemed everything was gradually kicking back in to some form of normality, with lots of stuff to do and not that much time. I did however prioritise a few tasks that needed to be done and took it on myself to make sure those were actioned, and myself and my colleague spent a fair bit of time in the network cabinets of the new building unpatching all the sockets that are going to be used instead for the wireless controllers - that took some time to do but it was a good bit of teamwork that sorted it all out so I did feel pretty positive after that.

At the same time though I did also have to report quite a few faults with some kit to one of our suppliers - in total there were two laptops with faults (thankfully the parts have been ordered for both of them and it means I can relax and not worry about those) as well as a printer which wasn't responding to any requests, despite my best efforts to get it up and working. A look at the error log reveals that there may be an issue with the formatter board, which to me makes a heck of a lot of sense.

After getting home, watching Pointless and then seeing the next instalment of Great British Railway Journeys, with some excellent insights into the likes of Tamworth and Rugeley along the Trent Valley Line in the run up to Stafford, it was lovely to see The Milk In My Coffee as she came over for tea. I made us some lovely chicken in a cheese sauce with bacon along with some mashed potato and steamed vegetables, and that went down rather nicely indeed. We both felt it was good to relax after a long day at work.

The Milk even tried out a Costa Capuccino from my Tassimo machine - it worked out pretty well although the coffee was a bit strong for her - even if I pressed the manual override button to make the espresso side of the drink just that bit less strong. It was nice though and I had the Carte Noire latte macchiato with caramel, which actually tastes really nice and does feel like a different coffee to have. I do wish I had some nice latte glasses though so the next time I am in Costa I'm going to see if I can buy some.

We did watch a bit of telly last night but the most fascinating was a documentary on BBC2 which was to do with the polar bears in the Arctic. Following them around was one thing but seeing how they were reacting to their environment was another - and indeed that look of them approaching the crew and seeing them think "bloody hell, we'd better get out of here folks" as they quickly decided to peg it away from any possible danger. It was good to see nature being captured in such a way and the cameraderie between the crew on the ship really did make for some great viewing.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather excellent new David Bowie single - and yes, he is back! I heard it earlier in the day and it really did feel like a more reflective mood, but one that was also pretty brooding too. If the new album's anything like this, then I'm definitely going to have to get it. I do have a fair bit of his more recent output as well as some of his classic 1970s albums, and so "Where Are We Now" really does fit in well - just a shame that the single's apparently inelegible to chart - what the hell?

Monday 7th January - Cornish Summer in Winter

It was a tough day at the office today, not because it was busy (which we all expected) but because of the realisation that not just over the course of late Friday afternoon but also early Monday morning when two of the academic staff went to their office and found that their door had been smashed in, that there had been a few thefts going on around the building. It wasn't nice whatsoever and whenever it happens you always feel a little more insecure about your surroundings. I for one am pretty anal when it comes to that sort of thing: locking everything twice and three times over, making sure there's nothing within sight or view, and generally keeping my workspace tidy and so on.

As staff came back so did the number of requests to update Dropbox because of the way that the software now complains massively and tries to update every single time you launch it when you're 0.2 versions old. A while ago we packaged Dropbox as a nice installer for version 1.4.11. Of course 1.6.11 is out and that seems to have triggered its own update mechanism (which you can't stop, annoying!) - and so I packaged up that version late last week, and so it means that by the power of SCCM I can get that distributed out there on a need to basis, which worked pretty well.

Once I got home I had some exciting telly to look forward to, as two of my favourite series were back on with new series tonight. First up was Great British Railway Journeys on BBC2, and after the jaunt around Continental Europe recently, it was good to get back around the UK with Michael Portillo and his Bradshaw guides. Tonight it was from High Wycombe via Banbury to Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon, mainly on the Chiltern Mainline. Banbury actually looked a nice place to visit, and of course having been to the latter two places, I recognised the gardens in Leamington Spa and the river, the theatres and the station in Stratford too - all very lovely and well worth a visit if you get the chance to.

Later on ITV1 it was Cornwall with Caroline Quentin, and as someone who loves the place almost as much as Caroline seems to, it was nice to see that she focussed on different people and places this time, such as Trebah Garden, which in parts reminded me of the Lost Gardens of Heligan for some reason, the seal sanctuary at Gweek and the work that they do, as well as Roskilly's Ice Cream in Coverack, pretty close to The Lizard. They make the gorgeous orange and mascarpone ice cream that I've had far too much of when on the beach in Sennen Cove for example..

All in all a good evening's worth of telly then and I really do like the fact that the series is just as much about the people as well as the location, giving you an insight into how life really is than any tourist brochure would give you. I think that's important to give you a real feel of how something is and it actually makes me want to go there more and sort of get to know the locals rather than just be another tourist to be honest. Tune of the day is "Bring Back My Happiness" by Moby, which apart from being a top dance tune, just sums up how I feel about Cornwall, in that my happiness comes back when I'm there, and the vocal sample in the song says "It's hard to let you go" and it's how I feel when I'm there too. Yaaaaay!

Sunday 6th January - Through The Mud To A Late Lunch

After having a lie in and feeling relatively relaxed, The Love In My Heart and I decided that heading out for a walk would be a nice thing to do, so we decided to head out to Lyme Park. It was actually much busier than I expected, considering the bad weather we'd been having lately, and we decided that we'd take a walk around the far end of the park, first doing a loop around the timber yard and then following the path up the hill towards the woods at the far end, then turning left, clambering the hill, down the other side towards a gate and then following the path back down by a small stream.

It was quite a nice little walk really, although with all the rain that had been happening recently the paths were often muddy and pretty sticky, so it was a case of carefully walking through most of the paths to try and find the bits of grass or dirt which were less affected by the weather, and getting through those with suitable aplomb. We did head into Disley and into the Ram's Head pub for a little drink afterwards, we felt we'd earned it and with the park busy with plenty of children enjoying the last day of their Christmas break, best to leave them to it we reckoned.

It was then after a very quick change at mine off to Mum's to have a late lunch/early tea, and Mum hadn't disappointed one bit by making a Sunday roast complete with lamb, potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, bread sauce, vegetables and gravy. It was lovely, and good too that my brother and sister were there so we could all have a good natter and catch up, so that was good too. Mum told us about her New Year holiday and how that went, and my sister bemoaned the fact that her husband wasn't taking her away for her birthday (which she would have liked, and it wasn't as if she wanted to go somehwere mega expensive either!)

Dessert was lovely too, a really nice almond and cherry cake which felt pretty light as a feather and with some cream it just felt rather good indeed - that with some coffee just was so right somehow. The five of us chatted for a while and it was good to do so - and my youngest sister popped over with her son later on, so we were finding out how his Lego building was going on and my sister told me what she wanted for her birthday too - which is in a few weeks, so good to get all of that sorted out too.

Back at home it was time to watch some of the BDO World Darts Championship from the Lakeside in Frimley Green, with Jan Dekker having a pretty tough game of it against his Dutch colleague Jeffrey de Graaf, with the usual brilliant atmosphere there. There was even the defending women's champion Anastasia Dobromyslova who beat her doubles partner Lorraine Farlam, and a 180 plus a 144 finish was pretty impressive it has to be said. No player can beat Garry Thompson's walk on music though, specially commissioned by local Yorkshire band Geoffrey Oi! Cott for him.

After all that darts action it was on with some Swedish electronic rock, no less than K-Pist's excellent 1997 album "Voltage Controlled". It had some big beats and killer bass lines, and the vocals sung in English sort of semi hip hop style. It's a winning combination and with the likes of "Cocmoc" really bringing in some dark moods and drama, and the full on "Uncle Sam" it's a winner. However, my favourite track of the album has to be "Outer Space" which has bags of pounding bass and drums and electronics all over the place and it's pretty evil sounding too - epic and a deserved tune of the day.

Saturday 5th January - Up For The Cup

I had a relatively relaxed morning, sorting the house out, getting it all neat and tidy, changing the bedding etc, and then decided to head into Stockport to see if the branch of HMV there would have anything worth me spending my gift vouchers on - I knew what I wanted but it was a case of seeing it and getting it, which I hadn't been able to do anywhere before. Mind you, last time I had some vouchers for HMV I ended up spending them in the Stockport one, the stock just seems to be better managed to me for some reason.

One quick bus ride there and one quick visit later, and that was me sorted - in fact I got two Blu-ray discs that I was after - Up and the Pixar Short Films Collection Volume 1. I only had to put a few pounds towards the cost of them both, and that meant two more gaps in my collection were nicely filled. I had neither on DVD anyway, so to be able to get them straight on Blu-ray was pretty satisfying. When I got home too I realised that the discs had the Disney Movie Rewards code in (well, Up did at least!) and so when I entered the code it meant I had enough points to also get Toy Story 2 on Blu-ray for free, hurrah to that eh?

Later on my friend and I headed off to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City start off their FA Cup quest with a home game against Watford in the third round. Originally the top tier of the ground was to be closed, but due to the club's sensible ticket pricing (kids going for a quid with adults) it meant that the whole ground was sold out (including some 9,000 or so who were coming up from Watford) which hopefully meant a good atmosphere and plenty of action to watch and adore. I think the club should be applauded for keeping the costs down and getting bottoms on seats in this instance, times are hard after Christmas and all that.

The atmosphere was pretty decent with the Watford fans getting behind their boys, but I had a feeling that with City playing a virtually full strength squad available (minus possibly Costel Pantillimon in net) it looked like we were taking things seriously - and we didn't have to wait long for a goal either. City got a free kick and Carlos Tévez smashed it through the hole in the wall and into the top corner for the opener. Watford had a chance almost straight afterwards, a one on one which Pantillimon did well to save. I felt that had it been a Premier League striker, it'd have been 1-1 to be honest.

Just before half time and City scored a killer goal, with a lovely flowing move involving David Silva and James Milner, who was brilliant all game with his workrate, passing and overall determination to win the ball cleanly. Milner crossed for Gareth Barry who headed home from close range with a minute to half time, and that knocked the stuffing out of Watford for a bit (although their team of mascots beat the City mascots in a small football match 3-1 at half time, and some of the little ones rightfully milked it, bless!)

City looked comfortable without having to do too much in the second half, whilst Watford huffed and puffed but didn't take any of their chances, and with twenty minutes or so to go City brought on Mario Balotelli. Considering all the supposed antics this week maybe this was Roberto Mancini's way of saying "right, go out and prove yourself now". He had a couple of shots on target but also was showing his demeanour sometimes in a way that frustrates the fans somewhat.

City did bring on the youngster Marcos Lopes for a few minutes at the end of the game and everyone around us in the ground was delighted to see him be the first to react to a well saved Mario Balotelli shot and calmly as you like slot home the rebound low and hard and into the corner to make it a simple 3-0 win, but what a great moment for the youngster. Good to see that we made relatively simple work overall of getting through to the next round, and that felt positive it has to be said.

Later on The Love In My Heart and I headed back to mine where I made us some chicken in garlic with mushrooms and herb potatoes with garlic and bacon along with some vegetables, and that was spot on, and we watched Up on Blu-ray, which looked very impressive in high definition, especially the house with all tbe balloons being floated in the air like it does. I must admit the soundtrack's main theme really does set the scene well, so Michael Giaccino's score is tune of the day for me at any rate.

Friday 4th January - Patching The Floors

Contrary to what the title might tell you, this doesn't mean I was up to some emergency carpet repairs at any point during today. Oh no. In fact I was in one of the new buildings with one of my colleagues effectively patching in two massive network cabinets on two different floors in this building. As it's still effectively a building site, we needed to be signed in and then make sure I had all the appropriate PPE type safety wear, so hi-vis jacket, boots, goggles, hard hat etc all had to be on before we could proceed.

It turned out that we were supplied a batch of network cables but even at 0.5m they were too long - as the way that the cabs had been laid out we'd be patching switch to port either above or below each other, so in effect 0.2m would have been enough, meaning a shed load of cable was going to stick out of the cab doors, which were very near to the switches themselves. The first floor cabinets had some 300 plus sockets which we all managed to patch in, my colleague undid all the individually wrapped cables as I patched and we then cable tied them periodically to make them at least look neat and tidy.

We went back in the afternoon and went to the second floor, and we did another 700 or so in the couple of hours that we spent there, and again it was just a case of getting cracking on with it. We actually ran out of network cables and we weren't able to close the doors properly because of the mass of cables sticking out, but it was a pretty impressive job well done. We're back there on Monday to do a proper Health and Safety induction which means we'll be able to sign ourselves in and get geared up whenever we need to..

After heading straight from work to do the food shopping and manage to get some lovely food in for tea tomorrow night, it was good to kick back and relax. It had been a three day week at work but it really did feel like a longer week than that because of so much going on at the moment, and I have a feeling that next week will be pretty mental, so just got to be out there and be ready for what's happening. I made myself some tea, relaxed with a nice coffee, and then settled in for some retro music to be watched on BBC Four.

It was a look back to 1978 and how Top of the Pops was back then, some thirty five years ago. It was a fascinating insight into the songs and sounds of the era and just how seriously some bands actually took it if they were to feature on the programme, with the irony for some such as the Rezillos whose song was actually taking the mick out of said show. Naturally it was good to see the likes of those, Sham 69, Kate Bush, Siouxsie and the Banshees etc all get some much needed airplay and screen time to introduce their music to the watching public.

After the documentary there was then another programme with an hours' worth of classic appearances on said show, which included Jilted John's self-titled classic hit with the infamous line of "Gordon is a moron". It was a fun and great punk pop song which even now I can happily sing and recite all the words to - simply because it's a classic for its era. Tune of the day was an easy decision really, and I had to dig out my 7" vinyl single and play it again simply to get the feel of the song right as I'd have listened to it many years ago... ah classic.

Thursday 3rd January - Trafford Centre Thursday

I had a relatively calm but busy day at work, working out why the hell for no apparent reason Dropbox on numerous machines decided to want to perform an update (and of course need us to be an admin to do it) - and I think I discovered why. We re-packaged 1.4.11 for distribution quickly and easily via SCCM, and the newest version is at 1.6.11. I think the updater, having seen this behaviour before, checks if the version numbering is more than 0.2 too old and then tries every half hour to force an update on a user - completely unacceptable in a corporate environment. And you can't turn updates off either - I guess if people were that serious they'd purchase the Dropbox For Teams application, but the costs are astronomical for what it provides.

I did however manage to package 1.6.11 for distribution the same way - and in effect it's relatively straightforward. Install the original executable with the /S switch, and then when done, copy the application files in the user's App Data/Dropbox/bin folder to somewhere more appropriate like C:\Program Files\Dropbox\ and then use a suitable MSI building application (we use EMCO MSI Package Builder) to package that up as an MSI, and include a suitable start menu shortcut too (again, fairly easy to do). We've found it's a nice and quick and easy install via SCCM and it also means that it's less hassle because if multiple users share the machine, they can all use Dropbox without any problems. Ha!

After I got home, I noticed that there was a box lurking close to my blue and brown recycling bins, so thought I'd better take it in before it was taken. There was a note through the postbox from those people at Yodel. I wonder who pays this company for delivering considering their service (or lack of). It's all well thinking that hiding a big box behind a bin and supposedly "out of sight" is considered a safe place, but previously they put one in my paper recycling bin - and the recycling was to be collected the next day! So one cardboard box of stuff could well have been shredded without realising it.

Anyway, what was in the box was what I thought it'd be - the delivery of all the Tassimo coffee pods that I'd ordered and taken advantage of my £20 off when I registered my Tassimo. I'd ordered numerous coffees (and even some tea) including Costa capuccino (and more Americanos too), Carte Noire Vuluptuouso Kenya and Carte Noire Latte Macchiato, Twinings English Breakfast Tea, Jacobs Monarch (I think it's a German coffee brand so thought I'd give that a blast), Kenco Cafe Crema and Kenco 100% Colombian. So I don't think I'm going to need any pods of coffee for a while then!!

Later on The Love In My Heart came over and we headed straight out and to the Trafford Centre, as I wanted to nip into HMV and see what I could get with my vouchers, and also I know that The Love had some vouchers for Zara so she could nip in there too and see what was what. It's much better shopping there in the evening, it seemed relatively quieter and relaxed, but straight away I knew why I didn't like shopping there in the first place- no air circulating around, just hot and horrible, and full of people who either walk really slowly or faff around too much.

Still, I went into HMV and nothing I wanted was actually in stock, bit of a nightmare really, but I'd rather wait and get something I'm really after instead of spending the vouchers on anything and regretting it afterwards. The Love did manage to get her dragonfly scarf that she was after in Zara, and so because she had enough gift vouchers for there and because it was in the sale, it was free (yaay!) I was gutted when it was originally withdrawn from sale because I was going to get it her for Christmas, but so pleased she managed to find it.

Later on we went over to the Swinging Bridge (it's one of those Table Table pubs) for tea and I had this very nice crumble pie with ham, mushroom and chicken in it which tasted fab. A version of "Wishing On A Star" was playing in the background which made us both think of Paul Weller's cover on his "Studio 150" album, which we both adore (we were talking about Paul's gig that we went to last year too) - so Paul's version is tune of the day for that reason. It was nice just to mellow out and chat too and it felt really quiet and peaceful in there - as it normally does on a midweek night I guess.

Wednesday 2nd January - Back To Work For 2013

It felt surreal this morning as I headed on the bus towards the city centre and to work, primarily because it seemed rather empty, no queues at any of the stops whatsoever, and a general feeling of peace and quiet everywhere, even within the offices at work itself. I reckoned that quite a few people had taken off the rest of this week and so were giving themselves a longer holiday off, and you can't blame them really for doing so. In fact come to think of it I wish I'd have done the same.

The quietness of the day did allow me to do a few tasks, including moving some of the larger Autodesk apps that are on one SCCM distribution point to another one, in order to free up some of the load on the main server (which is the main distribution point too) - on the whole it's seemed a pretty painless task when I've done so before, and it's definitely been the case here too when you consider just how large the packages are. I set them off to copy to the new distribution point whilst visiting a colleague to sort out some odd Windows search indexing issue, and when I got back, almost all of it was done - happy.

I also attended to a few jobs and had to keep remembering the new combination lock for our office door - just before Christmas we had someone take stuff from the office, and so to minimise the risk we changed the combination lock. Of course every time I nipped out of the office and nipped back I had to remember to put the new number in - something all of us in the office were doing most of the day when we got back from jobs. A necessary thing we needed to do though, and I feel safer in my work place because of it.

I got home pretty early(ish) and noticed that two of the items I'd recently put up on eBay had both sold, and so made sure I got the postage labels sorted as well as packing them in padded envlopes that I needed to buy ready for despatching pronto. It's good to be able to clear out some of the stuff as you need to, and one of them I'm only selling because I've now got the same thing on Blu-ray, which of course makes sense - why have two when you don't need to. I think over time I'm going to try and upgrade some of my collection to Blu-ray, but only if the original was filmed in high definition to start with - no point otherwise to be honest.

Tune of the day in the meantime is Johnny Pearson's "Heavy Action" which of course for people in the UK is most well known as the theme tune to Superstars, and rightly so to, it just suits it perfectly. We were chatting about it at work today and how good it was to see it back on the telly - and let's be honest, the BBC would now be daft if they didn't look at a full series with heats and everything for 2013 - I'd love to see it, and if we get enough notice, I might even have to go and watch...

Tuesday 1st January - New Year's Stroll

Myself and The Love In My Heart had a relatively quiet and peaceful New Year's Eve, as we stayed in for the evening and cosied up on the sofa - it just seemed the right thing to do somehow. I made us some chicken in mulled wine gravy with stuffing balls, horseradish mash and some vegetables, which did the job rather nicely, and we had some cheese with crackers later on which we could just nibble on as we were watching the telly and seeing the evening unfold. Of course no New Year would be complete without Jools Holland's Hootenanny, and so that went on to see the midnight chimes in.

It was quite a varied show really, with the likes of Petula Clark putting a very different spin on Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy", Kevin Rowland from Dexy's Midnight Runners showing that he wasn't quite the force he once was when singing the classics like "Gino", Jake Bugg showing his promise, Emeli Sandé being on and being decent enough I suppose, althought she's been on everything at the moment, and best of all, The Hives. They played some new stuff earlier on but after midnight I was a happy bunny as we got "Hate To Say I Told You So" and that's still a classic (tune of the day there) and later on too "Tick Tick Boom!" as well, so all good there.

The Love and I had a bit of a lie in and then headed out of mine and to her place, so we could be ready for our friends coming over later. My friend and I were off to see Man City hopefully beat Stoke City whilst the two ladies would be having a girly chat with some wine and cheese (I think that was the plan anyway). The weather was a little on the windy side as we got back to The Love's place, but on the whole it wasn't too cold and so we settled in with a warming coffee first of all before it was time to head over to Fortress Etihad.

It was good to see that everyone around us had wrapped up warm and good to see the usual friendly faces, bar one who wasn't there - and she normally has a bet on Pablo Zabaleta being first scorer. I sincerely hope that she put the bet on still, because just before half time he combined well with James Milner down the right hand side, and after Stoke had cleared Milner's initial cross, the ball fell to Zabaleta and he did the rest and scored for 1-0. The fans' reaction with his name being chanted told you all you needed to know - he's a bit of a cult hero is Zaba and he always gives 100% - and as a fan I appreciate that loads.

It was pretty plain sailing for City after that to be honest, with Stoke putting up little resistance and still playing with ten men behind the ball. If I was a fan of theirs I'd be upset that they didn't have more of a go at us to be honest, but I wasn't complaining when Sergio Agüero made a run forward, forced a good save from Asmir Begovic and Edin Džeko was first to the rebound to tap in for 2-0, and later on David Silva was fouled for a penalty (although on later replays it did look as if it was just outside the box to be fair) and Agüero slotted home the resulting penalty for 3-0. The only bad thing was that Agüero pulled up with a hamstring strain not long after which means he may be out for a few weeks.

Back at The Love's place it was cheese and crackers all round, and we chatted about our Christmas and how well it had been for us all (mostly!). I headed home later on and as the Christmas trees were being recycled with the food waste this year and as they were coming tomorrow, the best time to take it down was now. So with one eye on the World's Strongest Man final on Channel 5, I took down all the decorations and packed them away safe before taking the tree outside ready to be recycled. Looks like Christmas is officially over then...