Dear Diary... January 2015

Saturday 31st January - Record Shopping

After spending most of the morning tidying around the house, notably clearing out quite a few boxes of stuff from the office room and making that a heck of a lot tidier, as well as getting all the kitchen and bathroom nice and spotless, it was time for me to do what I haven't done for some time - head to the record shops and have a good old mooch around. I still had a HMV gift card from Christmas, so at least one of the purchases I was going to make would at least be free, so that was something.

So it was off into the city and first into the Arndale and into HMV. It was good to see that the CD section was pretty well stock, but even more nice to see how much vinyl they had. It's very noticeable how much vinyl has been having a resurgence of late and although the albums on vinyl are expensive compared to the CD, seeing the full artwork sleeve nicely, having something sizeable to hold and play on a good turntable also somehow feels very right too. Kudos for them realising this and plenty of people were having a good peruse.

Even though the store is a lot smaller than the former massive Manchester one on Market Street, there's still plenty to get. After listening a lot to the Viet Cong tracks online recently I thought that buying the album was an absolute must - granted it would use the gift card up and all, but it'd be something I really want. I did have a good look at what else was out including the new Charlatans album (mental note made to try and see what that's like) but in the end the Viet Cong album was mine to take home, and felt pretty pleased I was getting a nice new release as well.

I then headed out and to Fopp on Brown Street - always some good bargains in there anyway, notably on CD and Blu-Ray as well. I did see a large section on the ground floor devoted to Frank Zappa, with lots of the CDs based on the original analogue masters available. And.. Hot Rats! Now, I do own the first Reprise reissue of this on vinyl, and the remixed and remastered CD, but I always wanted the original vinyl release on CD as it was intended. I did get it my brother for Christmas in 2013 as it was the proper version, so I know it when I see it. And.. a mere £6 as well. Had to be done I think, and for good measure also picked up Kasabian's "48:13" for a fiver as well. Result.

I contemplated my purchases whilst sat in the Virgin Money Lounge later on, admiring the view over King Street and looking at the sleeve notes of the CDs as well. It was so good to see inside the Hot Rats cover they replicated the style of the original vinyl release, so all was good there. I then thought it'd be nice to head home and watch a bit of sport and chill out a bit before The Love In My Heart came over for tea and a nice snuggly night in.

I made us the chicken forestiere which had a nice sauce with mushrooms in, and some parmentier potatoes which had some rosemary in, and some carrots to go with it. It went down well after some nice hearty minestrone soup to start. I must admit that some of the Waitrose own stuff you get via Ocado is really nice: maybe not all of it cheap, but.. you do get what you pay for I suppose. We did see some of The Voice as well as then watching the documentary on BBC Four from last night, which was all about Kraftwerk.

It was fascinating stuff, as they not only delved into the history of the band, the iconic artwork and tracks, and their influence, but also had a few of the performances from when they played eight nights at the main Turbine Hall in the Tate Modern, which I'd tried to get tickets for but the servers crashed and didn't have a chance of getting them. It reminded The Love and I of when we saw them at Manchester Velodrome back in 2009, which was awesome to say the least. "Home Computer" is therefore tune of the day and it's still a classic of theirs it has to be said..

Friday 30th January - Long Day Ahead

I got in early this morning, with the snow pretty much all rinsed off by the overnight rain, and then headed straight to one of the rooms in another building. My colleague had got in early and was unpacking the PCs and so between us we got most of them out and on desks, and then had a couple more people unpack all the monitors and be able to make a good headway into things. We had to head back for the team meeting but once that was done it was then a case of reconnecting the final few PCs and monitors and had them imaging happily in SCCM.

I had managed to work out that just after lunch it'd be a case of being able to deploy all the applications on, and so was able to get that task sequence running, and left that going whilst all the old PCs from the room were then shuttled down to a storage area ready for collection. It meant making the most of the time and allowing the large task sequence to run - which it did. Hurrah! One application has to be installed when the user is logged in, so we got them all logged in, and I stayed back a bit to make sure that they were all done.

I then had got a birthday card for my youngest sister and was heading off to Mum's first of all - she was going to pick up all the cards from there and it was easier therefore to get there and have a coffee and a chat with my Mum and my brother as well. It was a bit on the cold side outside so it was good to be able to have a nice warming brew as well. It was also good to note that my online grocery delivery was coming later and I was explaining how useful it is for me - no shopping to have to carry around and venturing out if the weather is bad either - all made perfect sense really.

In fact later on the Ocado driver arrived early (they rang me first to check this was okay) and so had all my lovely shopping dropped off. I had already made a nice chicken kiev for tea anyway, but it meant I could pack all the shopping away and get back to the evening task in hand - which was transferring more of the old Commdore 64 disks to the PC. In fact I made a considerable number of transfers and spotted some old stuff that I thought I may have lost too - so good to get it sorted.

Naturally on a Friday night when it's on the telly, everything stops for The Last Leg. It was either brave or foolish of Nick Clegg to be on, and he did get a grilling from Alex Brooker, particularly the question about if he slept at night or not in terms of the tuition fee pledge which he reneged on in the coalition (something which I think will be reminded at various points during the election campaign) - but the prank call on Alex by him and Adam Hills was actually pretty funny at the end - definitely a case of getting your own back beforehand.

I must admit that despite the cold weather this month has gone by really quickly overall - I think this is because I've been back at work for most of it, it has been busy and overall I've also been able to really put down a few things as well. The year may yet see some changes for me though, and so as I retired to bed I had the excellent "Continental Shelf" by Viet Cong in my head as I'd heard it earlier in the day - tune of the day for me that one. Roll on the weekend I think!

Thursday 29th January - Snow Joke

Well it was up this morning to the sight of a little bit more snow. It had tried to settle overnight and indeed at around 3am it did look fairly pretty, but I headed back to sleep and when I woke up there had been some rain overnight, and the snow for the most part appeared to have disappeared. It wasn't looking completely good in terms of ice and a little slush, but a lot better than many other places. Most buses were running okay near me and I was able to get to work fine, although I did notice a bit of snow coming down.

As I spent the day at work and looked out of the window on occasion, I did notice flurries of snow and by mid morning there was a fair chunk of snow falling. It was worse heading out of Manchester though as some trains and buses were cancelled due to the poor state of the roads, and that wasn't useful whatsoever. One of my colleagues headed home as where he lived had almost a foot of snow falling and there was the possibility of trains being cancelled (in fact they were for a while later on).

It was actually a productive day though and I did manage to get a considerable amount done. We had shifted up the 23 PCs for one room which we were going to blitz tomorrow, but couldn't get into the room to start doing some unpacking of them late afternoon as the room was being used - which means we may have to just try and get everything done in one day - that might be tight that. I did though have to try and chase up the printer engineers for a couple of printer calls that we had too.

Later on at home it was lovely to see The Love In My Heart and we had these really nice pork legs with an apple stuffing together with some mash and petits pois. In between episodes of Emmerdale we did watch Top of the Pops from 1980, and it was quite intriguing to see the landscape of music gradually changing over the course of the first few weeks of the year. Ace tune though that's often forgotten in these 1980s compilations - "Living By Numbers" by New Musik - tune of the day. It is nice and catchy and the spoken word "they don't want your name" at the end really makes it a little bit more sinister at the end too.

We later ended up watching Bangkok Airport on BBC Three and again wondered just how many tourists decide to get themselves completely stranded and have to get the aid of the police there and other people to try and get back - or in the case of one Australian, get completely drunk, miss the time of the flights that his friends had managed to get on, and then take more drugs and get drunk again and almost miss the re-booked flight second time around. The mind boggles, with the VAT refund team getting their customer service awards (well no one is going to complain about getting money back I guess!)

Wednesday 28th January - Let It Snow

I was heading off to see a friend of my Mum's after work, whom I've known for a very long time myself. She had asked me if I could spend some time sorting out her laptop as it was playing up with all sorts of odd pop ups and wasn't quite sure if it was playing ball. I thought it best to head there after work because it meant that I'd at least be in the traffic heading out of the city centre, and with potentially some snow falling in the evening, I'd rather do it, get home and then be safe before the snow really did decide to hit.

The rush hour journey along the A57, I have to say, is particularly not good. In fact when I used to do my food shopping in person at Tesco Extra Gorton, I'd try to take a bus route to avoid the main road as much as I can as it'd often get me there a lot quicker. The traffic pretty much went very slow and once I'd got past the main roundabout at Denton close to the start of the M67, it was a massively lot quicker, and the bus sped onwards so I had managed to make it in good time.

It was always good to have a good natter anyway, and we had a cup of coffee whilst she explained what was up. I had soon determined that it seemed one rogue installer had then tried to dump the likes of Delta Toolbar and other things on there. I soon had Malwarebytes Anti-Malware doing its stuff, and because I'd also updated the antivirus software on there, both of them spotted the same things during the scan, so I cleaned it all up and it ran a heck of a lot quicker, so all was good.

I also looked at a few things too in terms of the deskjet printer - I'd installed all the drivers etc but couldn't get nowhere further without a USB cable, so that was on her to do list for the next day. I also checked out a couple of online forms that she had had an issue with, and worked out what was up there and got that sorted too. It was a productive evening of being able to be patient, show someone what to do, and then happily chat about all sorts in between - always good.

I left later on and there were signs of snow but not that much, but the bus back into Manchester city centre did run slower than usual as I could see it was a little slippy underneath - best to be safe than sorry and all that. Indeed as I'd just got on the bus back to mine, I heard a massive clap of thunder and saw a huge lightning bolt a few seconds before - and then the snow really did start to come down in droves. It did make me wonder just how lucky I was not to be out when the lightning hit (remember folks: any rubber tyred vehicle makes a good Faraday Cage, so generally being inside one is safe)

I got home and watched The Great British Sewing Bee on BBC iPlayer, as it was catching up with the class of 2014. They're all still so lovely, and Lynda going back to her school and doing an after school sewing club was really nice. She was my favourite, and her sense of humour shone through on the look back - notably her sign language sign for Patrick Grant. Ace. Tune of the day is the theme tune from said programme, although I still think it needs a "cha cha cha!" at the end of the tune. Make it happen!

Tuesday 27th January - Transferring Along The Heart of Wales

Another busy day at work, but thankfully not as many meetings, which was a good and positive thing, and it allowed me to get on with things. I did have one of the printer engineers for our wide format printers head along and be able to sort out an issue with each of them - and that meant things were able to be up and running properly and in good time. Certainly from our point of view we need to be sure that we can always do what we can to satisfy uptime.

Heading back home later, I knew both The Love In My Heart and I were having busy days so she was going to rest at home instead of coming over to see me, which was understandable after the mad day that she had had. I spent the time looking at transferring a couple more of the old Commdore 64 disks and on one of them I even managed to locate a tune I'd actually had a working version of that I composed, and looking at the approximate date I'd done so, I knew it was an early test in a different key from the finished one, so was able to do some nice salvage work on that.

Being realistic I know that a lot of the old 5.25" disks won't last forever to say the least, so the best thing to be able to do was to get what I could moved over so I knew that I could safely get them all archived and backed up in at least three places (paranoid I know.) It was really good to play some of the stuff back on the PC and realise just how much work that I had done in the spare time back in the day. I know also though there's still a large long disk box full of disks which has some of the older stuff on that I might have fun and games transferring, so there's something.

I did settle in and watch some of Great British Railway Journeys and was fascinated about some of the Heart of Wales Line - it really did seem like a more nostalgic route and today taking the nice scenic view between Swansea and Shrewsbury really did open up an idea of maybe heading along that route myself. Because of the single track line, four trains a day with movements at agreed crossing points is all you can get, but that didn't stop Michael Portillo having a whale of a time anyway.

I think for me too as someone fasincated by travel generally it always amazes me just how much there is on the doorstep of this country that not everyone realises is out there. I've done some scenic routes in my time (the St Ives Bay Line, the Looe Branch Line, Perth to Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland) but there's still lots I'd like to do and to go and see. Maybe one day I'll even do the Caledonian Sleeper. I'm admittedly getting some wanderlust now.

Tune of the day in the meantime is something I've been humming for most of the day primarily because of listening to some Renegade Soundwave last night - namely their classic bass thumping track "Probably a Robbery" which really did set the tone early on for how good RSW were even then (and still are now in fact). I do own the 12" single as well which has the really nice extended version as well as the mix of Ozone Breakdown I also liked. Happy days.

Monday 26th January - Printers and Transfers

I had four meetings today at work. Two sets of two back to back, which really did mean I had to not only concentrate a heck of a lot along the way, but also make sure that I was going to contribute too, especially to the latter of the two sets of two, where we had our printer suppliers in and wanted to try and thrash out a few things with them and get to some solutions along the way. It ended up being very good in all because there were a lot of useful ideas and things banded around.

I think too that it also meant that there were a good cross section of people who were able to put forward things together and work rather collaboratively, and long may that continue. I did have to put the brakes on a possible appointment tomorrow elsewhere because the other person couldn't make it, but I think being able to get things done is my motto now. If I am not able to be elsewhere working and doing the stuff I enjoy, then I'm going to make sure I do all I can so that everything possible is done properly where I am now, so that if I do end up going elsewhere I'll leave on the right terms.

I got home and decided to have a sort out in the office room. The old HP scanner hasn't worked for ages, so time to get shut of that and in the space thta takes up I can put the Shuttle little PC and the Commodore 64 disk drive, have it all hooked up and so mean that I'd then be able to transfer a fair amount of disks over. And in fact that's what I did for a fair chunk of the evening too - I spotted all my old work disks which had working versions of some of my compositions plus the editor that I used to create them on too.

Miraculously I also spotted that I had a backup of all eight sections of poetry I had written between 1994 and 1996, and so worked out that these were effectively a lot of the early stuff that I had written, and with various subject matters too. In fact two poems that took the mickey out of Whigfield for a certain rather annoying record "Saturday Night" for example, and others were more a reflective state of my own mind back then. I guess too that some twenty years on since I started writing poetry, they almost seem like a snapshot.

Undeterred though I also located a working version of a part finished tune I'd attempted back in 1996 - and when I spotted another file that looked like a further on version, it took a tiny amount of tidying up to getting it to be releaseable in future - a one minute or so quick rendition of "Thunder" by Renegade Soundwave, from their album "In Dub". The original is classic and has a killer bassline so tune of the day it most certainly is. Isn't it great when the old stuff works?

Sunday 25th January - Roaring Twenties and Working Retro

After a nice lie in and a sausage sandwich for breakfast courtesy of the culinary skills of The Love In My Heart, we decided that we were going to head out to Lyme Park for the afternoon, as according to the National Trust magazine we had through the door the other day, it's part of a Roaring Twenties feature for the house, celebrating its use in the second series of BBC One's acclaimed drama "The Village" as the big house. We suspected it'd be good to see.

And we were right. You could try on costumes and be a 1920s style dancer, the "flapper girl". The head pieces also looked very lovely on The Love and I suspect that I could seriously see her in one of those at the next big posh do she has to attend to. There were also plenty of pictures of the cast and the scenes around the house shot for The Village, including a small room close to the shop that had each of the cast members and corresponding actors profiled, a very nice touch that was.

We had a small walk around the gardens and around the lake before then heading back to The Love's car and heading back up the A6 to Hazel Grove, turning left and then arriving at the Fiveways, where a nice late Sunday lunch was going to be ours. I ended up having the rather nice carvery, with some gorgeous meat and vegetables, and The Love had the pork which looked a tad oriental with the noodles et al, but also because the pieces of pork were battered, also seemed a tad on the greasy side too. Still looked pretty good mind you.

We later headed home and The Love headed off, as she had plenty to do before work tomorrow. I instead thought of how I could possibly get all my connectivity sorted so I could archive some of the old Commodore 64 disks, and hatched a plan. I knew that a Windows 98 driver existed for the parallel port card I'd purchased, and so did chipset drivers for the little Shuttle PC I have with an AMD Athlon XP processor. So the plan was to swap the hard disk over and format it, set up Windows 98, add the drivers and Star Commander, connect the cables all together and see what happened.

I got Windows 98 set up and added the chipset, graphics, USB2 drivers etc, which all worked rather nicely. I then got a copy of Star Commander transferred over and configured it so it'd know which cable I had (in this case XA1541 active cable). I then connected the cable up to the Commodore disk drive and to the parallel port card on the PC (which had assigned IRQ7 even if it didn't have a legacy address). I fired up Star Commander and...

.. it read the disks! Woohoo! I therefore realised it was going to be a success after all. All I then did was add a mass storage driver too so that I could whack in a pen drive and transfer the disk images from there to the pen and to the main PC easily. I tried a few disks at first and saw that Star Commander did a very good job of doing a whole disk copy, so it meant that a fair chunk of the initial old stuff could be done. I must admit I did feel pretty pleased, saves me having to go the whole hog for some new cabling, and all that.

So with that all in mind what is tune of the day? Well actually something that I covered on the Commodore 64 back in the day in one of my old "Indie Hits" music demos where I'd do C64 version of an indie classic that was well known here in the UK. So what did I end up listening to again? No less than the rather good "Cübik" by 808 State, reminds me not only of indie nights I went to circa 1991 but also the 808 State gig in Castlefield in 1996 which had many happy memories for me. Yaay for memories.

Saturday 24th January - Saturday Shockers

I headed into the city centre to get my hair cut by the lovely people at The Northern Cutter, as I wanted the growing hair off and so I would look all nice and neat for the weekend ahead. It was interesting in that when I got there it wasn't so busy but once I was getting my hair cut it had got a lot busier. I think people had gradually headed into the city centre by that point and a quick mooch around Fopp seemed to confirm that - I was being tempted by all sorts of new CDs but resisted for now, realising I still have a HMV gift card I could use to buy myself something new.

Later on my friend and I headed to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City in the FA Cup fourth round against Middlesbrough. We had just scraped past Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 in the last round with a late winner and with a home tie I'd hope that we could perform. Middlesbrough are second in the Championship though and playing really well, so not to be taken lightly either. I could only hope that the trip out to Abu Dhabi for some warm weather training and a friendly against Hamburg wasn't going to bite us, as legendary commentator John Motson had predicted that we'd lose in a shock result.

The game got underway and City seemed to want to attack when they could, and had chances created but not taken, Sergio Agüero shooting just wide and also a couple of shots well saved too. Middlesbrough did head forward and break and looked a little dangerous, and I did have concerns about the defending at times. Something didn't seem right somehow and my friend and I were concerned as we headed into half time with the score at 0-0.

We were right to worry. Some shocking defending and a bad back pass from Fernando meant that Willy Caballero had to come out, missed the ball, and the Middlesbrough striker had anticipated which way Fernando was going to attempt to clear and made sure he got in the way to bundle the ball into the back of the net for 1-0. The Boro fans went mental and they could sense a shock was on the cards, and rightly so. City tried all they could but there was something amiss, we couldn't get going and seemed to run out of ideas in attack.

Even with bringing on an extra striker and really going for it, the creativity was lacking and Middlesbrough were really well organised, learning from how Arsenal did the same to us and won on the break. And deep in stoppage time as we were pushing men forward, they headed forward and the referee played a good advantage after a foul, and it was left to substitute Kike to score a well placed finish for 2-0. Game over, and out we were heading in one of the shocks of the day.

The only thing that made us both feel slightly better was that when we looked at the final scores Chelsea had somehow let a 2-0 lead at home to Bradford City of League One slip, and Bradford had won 4-2. Amazing stuff, and we both predicted (correctly) that'd be first up on Match of the Day tonight. Tottenham also lost at home to Leicester City, and there were other shock results too which really did give the idea of "Shock Saturday" some welly and I'm sure the press will have a field day in the morning.

I have to say I was really angry with the way not only that City had played, but had paid the FA Cup a massive disrespect by not actually training for the tie at home (in fact after the loss to Arsenal the whole Abu Dhabi trip should have been cancelled and the lads forced into training in the cold) - and we got what we deserved, nothing. I'm sure the likes of Steph McGovern on BBC Breakfast (a proud Middlesbrough lass and fan) were happy, and well I just had to have a relaxing evening with The Love In My Heart instead.

In fact the two of us ended up seeing The Voice again and I had to giggle when one of the blokes from Black Lace turned up but didn't do one of their songs, but instead sang a soul song and not too badly either. Of course once he announced who he was everyone but Will.i.am worked out who he was, bit cringeworthy seeing Ricky Wilson and Tom Jones attempting Agadoo though. Oddly enough they didn't mention their other hit from the Rita Sue and Bob Too soundtrack, a tad too risque for family viewing I reckon.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather brilliant track that is one from the album by Viet Cong, which I aim to get purchased in the next week or so. It was playing full pelt in Fopp today and rightly so, it sounds rather good. So "Continental Shelf" it is, a massive slice of post-punk with some gorgeously dirty guitars, and crunching in at a real mood and feeling too. Already I suspect this might be one of my songs of the year and we're only into January..

Friday 23rd January - Cambridge and Cabling

After a productive day at work, and being able to get the PCs that we put out yesterday on the desks with monitors, imaged and then all the additional software added on without issues, it was also good that it all worked first go. I also then was able to see if I could finalise the remainder of the PCs that needed a particular version of the printer admin software rolling back as we use it to debit accounts for materials payments, and that worked rather nicely when tested too.

So I did feel productive as I headed home, and more so when I was able to relax, watch some of Great British Railway Journeys with the likes of Alnmouth and the Farne Islands featured, and then from there switching over to BBC One to watch the FA Cup fourth round tie between Cambridge United and Manchester United. As the former side are in League Two, the cameras were of course there just in case a potential giant-killing happened, as you can imagine.

And for the first half I thought it was going to happen, honestly. Cambridge played well and from a corner and a bit of a scramble the ball was headed just over the bar, but it was mighty close. Their right winger Donaldson was impressive, he really didn't care who he was up against and played for the team too, chasing everything and not giving Manchester United's players any time on the ball whatsoever, was really good to see that. In fact at half time you have to say that 0-0 was a little bit on the harsh side.

It was backs to the wall for the Cambridge United players though second half as the red side of Manchester decided to camp themselves in the opposition half. Only the excellent goalkeeping was preventing a goal along with a glaring miss from Robin van Persie when he came off the bench. Luke Chadwick, lifelong Cambridge fan and former Man U player came on late to change the game, but not much happened there. However, there were still signs on the occasional break that they could cause an upset.

0-0 it finished, and for them it was a great result - heading back to Old Trafford for a replay and therefore also a chance to raise the coffers with some more money as well, which for clubs in League Two is always appreciated. I also think that it shows the magic of the FA Cup too - it's all about on the day and what happens, so I need to remember that when I head to the Etihad Stadium tomorrow to see Manchester City up against Middlesbrough I think.

I did try later on to see if I could get all the transfer stuff from the Commodore set up, but it didn't work and I soon realised why. The PCI parallel port card works fine, gives you an LPT port and seemed nice and easy to install. However it doesn't allow for the address spaces used by the ports to be reassigned to the legacy ports such as 0x0378 which the printer ports used to use. As such any transfer software which is looking for that refuses to play ball as it doesn't know where the parallel port is properly or what cable you have connected (even forcing the cable selection didn't work).

I suppose there's now three options: see if I can track down a parallel port card where you can assign the legacy addresses, see if The Love In My Heart has the old Shuttle PC still and see if that had the parallel port cable add-on attached to it (will check that) or bite the bullet and have to spend some serious cash on the ZoomFloppy, which means I can connect the drive up via that and USB and have it work that way on my existing PC with no issues either. Decisions, decisions.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather luscious "Midnight in Tula" by Tangerine Dream, and for a very good reason or two. First of all, Edgar Froese, the founding member of said band passed away in the late hours of the night, and that is sad considering the TV and theme tunes they wrote and their influence on electronic music in general. And said track was also covered very well in the Commodore 64 game Last Ninja 2, one of my favourites from that machine, so there you go.

Thursday 22nd January - Carry Me

I had spent a fair bit of time this afternoon with a colleague and a couple of our IT Rovers, mainly working on one of the rooms which were having new PCs delivered and that we were going to install. As it turned out, the PCs were delivered not before the start of the term, and so it meant we needed a free day in order to be able to get them in and imaged, and in truth, a fairly tight schedule. Effectively we did have some time this afternoon so with the four of us there, we dismantled the existing kit and loaded it on to a trolley or two, then unboxed all the PC base units so the power supply, keyboard, mouse and network cables were all connected, and had all the monitor boxes on desk ready for the morning, so we could unpack and then image.

It made a lot of sense and I think the time we saved today will definitely help for tomorrow. Really tight deadlines like that certainly are going to be ones where you have to do all you can to show some initiative and be able to make constructive use of any other time. I also had to spend some time today testing out a possible fix for some issues with network drives, and had to be sure that some of the software concerned by any changes wasn't going to be impacted - and thankfully it wasn't so that was a good thing.

I headed home later on and The Love In My Heart came over for tea, so I had something nice in: some chicken wrapped in proscuitto ham with a red pepper and Gruyere chese filling, and some dauphinoise potatoes to go with it. It actually worked pretty well and timed it so it was in between episodes of Emmerdale so that The Love didn't miss a thing. In fact in between both episodes I headed over to BBC Four for the weekly edition of Top of the Pops from 35 years ago, and Pink Floyd's classic "Another Brick in the Wall" was still number one, and rather ace at that. Tune of the day? Absolutely. Be rude not to.

I mentioned to The Love that it would have been a really good claim to fame if I had been one of the kids in the video who of course sing the second verse along with the Floyd. Naturally of course The Love responded "But you wouldn't have known Pink Floyd back then!" - not realising a) how massive the track was even before the single had been released, b) the influence of members of the family at the time who were into the band would have encouraged me to do the session, c) even if I wasn't Floyd aware, singing on a rock record would have been a pretty good thing to do anyway. Hehe. Even now it's still superb.

I suppose too that when I started composing myself on the humble Commodore 64 back in 1991, I didn't truly realise how difficult it can sometimes be to get flashes of inspiration and to be able to write a track that is tuneful, full of emotion and also could inspire others. Naturally 99% of the people who do this sort of thing are still looking and it's the very tip of the iceberg who do actually make it. That might sound a little harsh, but even think about the music out there in the shops - do you like all of it? Really? Most likely not.

For me though it was always about doing something creative, and one of the things I did was make the humble Commodore sound like an old school Nokia phone and compose something based on some of their classic ringtones. Unfortunately no Commodore emulator can still play the song as I intended, so recording it from a real machine is the only option. There's also a few other good reasons why being able to transfer the old stuff from the 8-bit wonder might be good - especially if I wanted to get back to composing at some point and actually write on the real thing before heading them up to the PC.

Wednesday 21st January - Transferring

I realised tonight that in order to really archive some of my old Commodore 64 stuff to the PC, I wouldn't be able to do so easily. In the old days when the PC had a parallel port, it was a simple matter of getting the trusty cable connected between the Commodore disk drive and the PC, and using the likes of OpenCBM to do most of the work. However, the PC I have these days has no parallel ports, and it's either a case of spending a fair chunk on a much newer transfer cable, or seeing what else I had.

I checked the bits of PC parts I do have, and there was a parallel port card, but.. ISA bus. I think I got this when I had my old AMD K6-2 machine and for some reason the parallel port on the board refused to play ball after a time, so I whacked that in and had all my transferring goodness working there. Of course that's really old technology so it won't work, and one eBay purchase later, and a PCI port parallel card is mine and on the way. I do have 2 PCI ports in the PC beastie, so should be fairly easy to get that sorted.

Then after that it's just a case of making sure that all the drives and transfer stuff works well on Windows 7 64-bit, and I can then get some more stuff archived over. I suspect that somewhere lurking amongst the many old disks I have are some stuff that may need to be archived, but on top of that, there's also the possibility that one of my really rare Commodore 64 creations might get a full release on the 25th anniversary of its original release - just to tempt people a bit. We shall see.

I have though spent some more time collating together some of the stuff that is out there and getting it all categorised on the Commodore Scene Database, as if anywhere's going to have it for posterity, it's there that seems the most likely. It also means I can basically be editor of each of those releases and make sure that the info is right. I even found a way to be able to convert back the scrolltext messages into a text document readable by the PC, so that did work out rather nicely..

I suppose it's taken the mind off the other things going on at work (lots of them) as well as being able to think how my logical mind works in terms of coding. The fact I can still after all these years put a bit of 6502 assembly code together to take a chunk of memory, change the bytes in each and then be able to change some but not all of the bytes too - proper hardcore that. I suppose too that in a way it means that if ever my old disks die I know that I've backed up the contents and they won't be lost forever. And that's a good thing.

With that in mind, I'm going to nominate tune of the day as "The Bog" by the Industrial band BIGOD 20. It's a pretty stomping tune, and it also featured one of the guys from Front 242 on guest vocals as well. I ended up doing a Commodore 64 version of this musically, and using all the bits from the original single, album versions and the single remixes to try and get a good remix of it going. I thought at the time it worked well and the person who I did it for was most pleased if I remember. Ah yes, "I'm taking you down there, back into the bog.." those were the days of Industrial EBM at its finest.

Tuesday 20th January - All The Cute Little Kitties

Both The Love In My Heart and I had had a pretty long day at work, and I think to be honest that even though my day is pretty long at times I think there are occasions such as today where she beats me hands down. I guess too that although she is very good at what she does and is focussed, there are only so many hours in the day to be able to do the things that you want, and she's finding some of that out at the moment. It therefore made sense to take some time out to listen to the stuff she's had to go through today.

And then whilst doing that, give her a nice glass of wine and make the tea. I had some nice pulled pork with a apple sauce on the go, and that took some time to cook but was rather nice and melt in the mouth when it was done, and that added to some Cornish butter mash and some rather nice petits pois, all was good. Very good in fact, so that was pleasing. I even gave her hers so she could watch the dramatic trial in Emmerdale come to a conclusion, I thought it only fair really.

Anyway, we decided then to switch over to Channel 5 and see the rather cute cats on a programme which showed all sorts of cats doing all sorts of rather odd and funny things. There were plenty of "awww" moments or where the cats reminded us both of the two lovely cats that The Love has, Jô and Brian. In fact one of the cats featured seemed to want to take anything it found from the local neighbours in the night and bring it on home with him, and the CCTV cameras the cat owners had proved that it was him doing all the pinching. Rather odd I know.

We also switched over later on and saw the Animal Orphans with Paul O'Grady. I'd like to say that I think he's much better doing this sort of show than either being a chat show host or even his former Lily Savage guise. I think the love of animals is there for all to see, and the face of despair especially when he saw the rhinos effectively either being poisoned with the water or where the owners in the wildlife reserves have had take most of the horn off to prevent the animal being poached was extremely sad to see.

Nothing of course may be as cute as a cat but the aardvark in tonight's episode gave it a really good go, snouting out the termites and wandering around for fun. And of course even having the cats for company in the nature reserve too. Double aww for that. It made us both realise that both the cats The Love have are very nicely looked after and pampered, although I think she'd like me to get one as well, but I'll resist for now. Somehow "The Love Cats" by The Cure just had to be played later on and it's therefore tune of the day.

Monday 19th January - Getting Somewhere and Everywhere

It was all go at work today, and a constant source of being rather busy. I think too in a way that because everything seems to be happening at once at the moment, it's a case of playing catch up too. I was pretty pleased though to have got to the bottom of a couple of issues last week, one of which was one that had been bugging me for some time, and so I decided to then see what the feedback was from a fix I was testing out. That was positive too so I did feel rather pleased that I was getting somewhere.

No rest for me though: I've been working on a couple of things and one of which was a case of looking at the approach of how best to package up AppInventor, which is used by a couple of courses mainly for invention of Android test applications to learn programming. It also transpires that it comes with a little Android emulator, and some of the commands needed to be run. My colleague at another site did mention to me that when you launch from the web to the emulator, it sometimes asks for the emulator files to be updated, so best to get them and incorporate them into how it would be distributed.

I also had a couple of ideas to bring forward and decided to think about writing some useful info and documentation: but basically that plan had to go on hold a tad due to a couple of system issues which were affecting stuff. Thought it best to focus on the job in hand and instead see what was happening and fend off any other issue which might occur. Often too when I am focussed it's good to be able to spend some time hanging back and then spend some time seeing what I can do.

I eventually got home in the evening and spent most of the evening writing through two or three job application forms. They all do take time primarily because the selection criteria is always a bit different, and there's always that underlying need to make sure you meet the person specification as well - which can be difficult. For me though it's always a case of making sure that where possible you can really sell yourself. I do find that hard though primarily because I don't like bigging myself up a lot, I'm much rather a get on with it quietly sort of person.

Anyway, it seems somehow right that tune of the day is something 1980s that maybe might be the motto I need to adapt when looking at things like that in future: "Play To Win" by Heaven 17. After all if you aren't going to give things a go, then you might not win as well mightn't you? I also think too that because it's a classic piece of 80s pop from a classic 80s group (and I've seen them do this live) it also brings happy memories from when me and The Love In My Heart have seen them live too. As you do.

I also decided to go retro and see if I could update the info from some of the old music demos which I used to make on the Commodore 64 many years ago, as I had an email from someone asking about them as well, which was intriguing stuff. I even managed to find some of the files I'd transferred up to the PC so I was able to get some of them uploaded and provide some useful information as well which may be useful for archivists of that kind of retro stuff.

Sunday 18th January - A Kick Up The Arse(nal)

It was off to the Etihad Stadium with my friend for the next home game for Manchester City - this time a difficult game in the Premier League against Arsenal. We had ventured to the Emirates Stadium in early September to see us get a creditable 2-2 draw there, and with Chelsea thrashing Swansea 5-0 yesterday, it was key that we needed to win and get some points on the board in our attempt to chase them down. Hopes were further raised with the fact that Sergio Agüero was starting and back from injury, as was Vincent Kompany.

It was a little on the cold side but with not that much wind as we arrived, and despite a flurry of snowfall earlier in the day it was at least good that it had stopped and so with it being a little wet underfoot, we thought that the pitch should hold up pretty well. In fact we were hoping that with the players mentioned back in action that we would be able to turn it on somewhat and do the business, and with the City's EDS squad having thumped Schalke 5-1 at the new City Academy Stadium earlier on, an example to be set hopefully.

Well, it was sort of hopeful, but as the game started and wore on during the first half, we couldn't seem to get going as we should. Arsenal were playing much more defensive this time around, and attempting to hit us on the break with the likes of Alexis Sanchez giving us grief constantly. It was from such a break that Santi Cazorla headed forward and as the ball was played in Vincent Kompany collided with Nacho Monreal, and although he did make a meal of it, it looked a penalty to be honest. Cazorla scored the penalty and it was 1-0 to the Arsenal, as their fans liked to sing.

City couldn't get going second half either and to be honest it was worrying: are we really a one man team in the league in that we have to rely on Yaya Touré so much? I think too that the change in tactics for Arsenal was working wonders for them, and when they did break they were dangerous. The final nail in the coffin was that a free kick was given away rather needlessly, and from the resulting Cazorla free kick, the ball was headed in rather well by Olivier Giroud, and that was 2-0. And to be honest, nothing more than Arsenal deserved as well.

It was possibly our worst performance for a while and although many fans left before the end, as ever we stayed till the end. I never and will never understand people who leave minutes before the final whistle, just to either get to their car, beat the traffic etc. Would the same people have left when that Agüero foal went in? You'd hope not. Would I leave a gig before the encore was played? Definitely not either. It's just plain daft if you ask me personally.

I got back in good time for the evening session of the final of the Masters, having seen the first four frames earlier in the day before heaidng ot the football. Shaun Murphy was in top form and him snatching the first frame of the evening from Neil Robertson's grasp was the final nail in the coffin, as Shaun got easily through the next three frames as well with some impressive breaks and play and won the match 10-2. It was a thoroughly deserved win as well and it showed that he really was back, a year after in the same tournament he could have quit the game.

He also became only the tenth player ever to win the Triple Crown (UK Championship, Masters, World Championship) and is in illustrious company: not only with his opponent Neil Robertson but also Mark Selby, Mark Williams, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Alex Higgins, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Terry Griffiths. Some line up that is. His walk on music is still pretty classic so "Disco Inferno" by the Trammps is again tune o the day - it seems to have motivated him a lot lately, and well done Shaun!

Saturday 17th January - Toothache and Tiredness

I didn't sleep at all well last night, primarily because the right side of my mouth was in considerable pain. I know that there is a gap between two teeth on this side, and normally it's usually okay, the gum is fine and I'm always careful not to eat anything with too sharp an edge that could really give it some exposure to the nerves. However, for the last day or two it's been considerably more painful and last night it was just a case of trying all I could to be able to sleep properly, which wasn't easy.

I needed to head into the city centre anyway and so decided to see if I could get anything at the same time, and did manage to find an A4 certificate frame in Wilkinsons, which I needed to get for the certificate I got for my staff award at work. The existing one was a cheapish one and when I returned back to the office with it the other day, it fell off the shelf and the glass front broke, so managed to get a good one which had a blue frame similar to the work's corporate colour, thought that would make a lot of sense.

However I'd got some painkillers but they weren't doing much, and so spoke to The Love In My Heart. She recommended me something she used if her teeth were playing up, and so brought it over later. I must admit I was sceptical at first, but once it kicked in and numbed the pain I felt a lot better for it. I suspect I might have eaten something which upset the mouth a bit, or maybe it's just a case of there's something in there (possibly a chipped tooth) which may have to come out. Either way it may be a case of seeking a dentist (I don't usually have one, as I had a bad experience as a child of having teeth removed where the anesthetic wasn't strong enough and it's put me in fear ever since) or seeing if the pain subsides and gets back to normal without using any painkillers.

I did manage to make some tea for myself and The Love, namely some butternut squash soup to start followed by some chicken with mash and petits pois for main, which was okay. I indulged The Love with The Voice and I guess there were some decent contestants out there - the classically trained mirror twins were certainly a pair to take notice of for example - but I thought too that there's times where it's almost a bit too clichéd with some stories, falling into the X Factor trap of "ooh look where he/she has come from". Somehow it doesn't need it.

I did see the remainder of the semi final of the Masters with Shaun Murphy winning six frames on the trot to beat Mark Allen 6-2 and also the lottery show (where we didn't win the lottery) but the questions that were being answered by the couple somehow didn't quite work out the way that they wanted. Classic poor answer to this: "The Millennium Stadium is in which Welsh City?" - answer - "Wales!" - haha, but sometimes it's also the pressure of facing you going in to the red which probably does it.

Tune of the day needed to be something relaxing, notably as I headed to bed earlier than normal due to me feeling very very tired after the lack of sleep the previous night, and so with that in mind you can't get much more relaxing than a bit of classic Dummy-era Portishead. I played that album earlier in the day and the gorgeous "It Could Be Sweet" is still wonderful from that. In fact it's twenty one years since that album came out - my that makes me feel old!

Friday 16th January - Friday Fixing and Friviolity

It was another busy day at work today, with team meetings and then me attempting to sort out a printer issue that a member of staff had reported, where when you tried to send a document via email, it was coming up with all sorts of digital signature issues. I seemed to remember I had this occuring before, where it seemed to want digitally signed and encrypted emails. I also knew that I had documented how to do this as well, so back at base I had a quick check through my sent emails and found it.

If anyone else ever comes across this situation for a HP Colour Laserjet CM6040 MFP, here's effectively what you need to do: log in to the printer remotely as your admin account, and from there go to the Digital Sending tab. Then on the left, click Email Settings. On this screen, you'd then need to click on the Advanced button and a new screen appears. You will see then on the right hand side the settings for S/MIME. Set them to "Do not encrypt" and "Do not digitally sign" and apply those, and once done it's effectively immediately and it all works correctly.

I also responded to an email from a student who had a mobile device with Android Lollipop 5.0, where setting up their student email was slightly different than on previous versions of Android. I did a bit of research and found out that effectively all the mail applications were in one (namely the GMail one) where you added your own account, and once I'd worked out some instructions and mailed them over, they tested it and it was spot on - I think the key thing was they were using their named, not numbered, email alias. Hurrah for fixing things.

After work we were heading out to one of the local pubs for a couple of drinks as one of the colleagues in our team were leaving and heading off to the University of Bolton for a new job. It was a good atmosphere as several of us went, and indeed my former manager came along as well so it was great to see him too. It was cosy to say the least with the low roof but the beers I had were spot on - isn't it nice when you have a pub where the real ale is properly looked after?

I headed home later in the evening and settled in to watch the Masters snooker, with this time Stephen Maguire up against Shaun Murphy. It was a titanic contest all the way and only in the last few frames with Maguire banging his cue on the table in frustration could you tell there may only be one winner, and sure enough The Magician created some quality breaks to win the match 6-4 and be up against Mark Allen in the semi - and seemed to have a much better temprament all round. Tune of the day is Shaun's new walk on music, no less than "Disco Inferno" by the Trammps.

Thursday 15th January - Building Birthdays

After a long day at work I headed home a slightly different way. I was heading on a different bus and off to my sister's place, as it is her birthday tomorrow. However I knew that she was going out with her family for a nice meal together and as such didn't want to delay them tomrorow, and on top of that there was a leaving do at work as well, so thought it best to pop over today instead. It's not that far a walk off from the bus stop and before I knew it I had arrived with my nephew excited as ever to see me.

I had a good chat with my sister and my nephew was playing with a number of Thomas the Tank Engine trains along with a couple of the sets. We both joined in seeing which train would go down the bridge and around the corners the fastest which was good fun, and then got the box for all the trains and asked him to put them away by colour, so red first, then green, then blue etc. It was actually good to see he was able to sort them all out and it by disguise meant that he was also tidying up, method in the madness and all that.

My sister then fetched from the dining / playroom another nice toy box which had Mega Marble Run in it from Galt Toys (I'm sure The Love In My Heart would approve) - you effectively build up the pieces to create a long run from the top where marbles then come down the chutes, through all the vortexes, all the little sliders etc. There's plenty of support columns so you can build it really tall too - I went to around 4ft tall at the very top and it took the marbles a fair amount of time to come down.

The other good thing with that is that at least you're able to chop and change as you want, there's no fixed instructions and so it allows plenty of creative play along the way - maybe trying something different or even having two different starting points so that there's effectively a race on if you drop in two marbles at the same time. It was good fun and I think my nephew was rather pleased on the whole that there were lots of opportunities to get building and for him to have some fun.

I headed home later and avoided some of the rain and then relaxed for the rest of the evening, watching more of Great British Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo as he headed around London, and then settling in for the evening with some food and having a blast of Pastry Paradise on the Hudl2. Darn, the game is a tad addictive but also well worth noting that your lives refresh after a time period, so rather than buy more lives there and then (this is how the money's made of course) you just wait for a while, do something else, and then badabing, sorted. Always good to avoid paying for stuff.

Naturally I've been watching the Masters snooker all week too, and tonight Neil Robertson was up against Ali Carter. I was rooting for both, as I've always liked Neil and Ali, and after Ali's winning battle from cancer, the standing ovation he got from the crowd was first class. Neil though was a proper machine, getting a massive 97% pot success and winning 6-1. And Ali didn't play badly, at all, it was just any chance left was taken and usually with a frame winning clearance. I'll nominate Neil's walk on music "Heart of Courage" by Two Steps From Hell as tune of the day - it is ace.

Wednesday 14th January - Wind and Working

I made some sort of breakthrough at work today and was pretty pleased to be able to have done so. I especially noted that one of the issues we've been having for a while with swipe card reading looked like we may have a solution, and so when I tested this out on one of my machines in the office, it worked, and so also wanted to get it tested out there in the live world, and so had a willing volunteer for me to try things out on. And it seemed to work there as well, so I'll see how that goes before moving onwards with it. Nonetheless, pretty pleased really.

I did mainly today head out and about mainly to fix printers. One of them had a damaged fuser from what looked like had some sort of weird non approved acetate paper through, and under high temperature not only had damaged the orange roller, but in some cases it had actually disintegrated into little pieces inside the printer. As you can imagine, that wasn't ideal whatsoever, and so when the replacement arrived I first cleaned out everything I could (this took time) and then put the new fuser in place, all working. It's the only thing I suppose with printers being open access: people will feed all sorts through it..

I also spent some time during lunch heading to the Cornerhouse to pick up a nice birthday card. I did feel sort of sad heading in there too as I know that it'll close in the next few months when it all moves to its new home, which is called Home and is near First Street close to the former Hacienda building. For me though, not seeing even someone take on that building as a nice bar would be a shame - it is an ace building and one that I've spent many a happy time having a drink in and enjoying the view, even a bit of people watching from above.

In any case on the way home I could feel the weather picking up somewhat, and for most of the night I've been hearing the wind outside as it seemed to be much more windy than even the wind we had last week. Thankfully being inland in a city does slightly prevent you from the worst of it, but even so it's definitely noticeable how much the wind has got up. I know during parts of tomorrow it's going to get a little windy too, so for me it's a case of making sure all is okay. I now realise that getting all the roof at the back of the house sorted back in August when the last bad weather hit, and getting all the repairs done I needed to do because of that, was a very wise move indeed.

I did watch the football between Ipswich and Southampton in the FA Cup, but it was sadly a dull game with the Saints winning 1-0, so I kept flicking over to the Masters snooker - much more exciting. You don't normally see a frame won 81-80 but this happened with a classic between Ding Junhui and Joe Perry. Ding was 34 points ahead with 25 on the table, but Joe had snookered him on the green. Ding missed the green and hit the black, so foul and 7 points conceded, but then left a free ball as well. Joe potted the pink as the free ball and then cleared up the remainder of the colours and snatched it, and that for me was the turning point.

Tune of the day is the classic Skunk Anansie single from way back in 1995 (it's actually 20 years ago in March of this year), "Selling Jesus" the opening single and indeed opening track of their debut album "Paranoid and Sunburnt". I really got into them a lot and when the album came out, it was mine, and I think I saw them five or six times in the next year or two when they played Manchester, and of course live they were rather excellent it has to be said. Oh yes.

Tuesday 13th January - Two Into One

It was a day where I was attempting to catch up fully from yesterday and do everything from then as well as today, which of course was going to take some time to say the least. I was catching up on the emails at first, and once those were done, it was then a case of being able to work on a few jobs and make sure that they were all done. It was though also a case of some of our newer rovers were joining us today and so I and a couple of colleagues gave them a tour of their respective buildings and got on with things nicely, which was good.

We also were hosting a little event in one of the buildings where people could come along with their mobile devices (laptop, phone, tablet etc) and get some advice if they needed to. It seemed to me like the majority of people had been able to get themselves set up for the wireless access and their email okay, but we did have one person who had downloaded Office 365 but for some reason it wasn't activating properly. My colleague and I managed to work out why and then resolved it very nicely for the person concerned, so they then went away pretty happy, always good that.

Later on I stayed back and got a few things done but also showed one of the evening staff around the building that they needed to look after, along with where everything was. This then meant that most of the rush hour traffic had died down but it still meant I got home pretty late, but thankfully The Love In My Heart was also working pretty late as well. I got myself home and sorted and The Love came over around 7pm, and we were straight off to my Mum's.

She had organised a little family and friends get together for my brother, as he was heading back home to Japan later this week. It was mainly a few sandwiches, nibbles and cakes along with some drinks as well, and it was good to catch up with some of the family and chatter to them. My uncle is always really good to chat to and I think that he's always made The Love really welcome too, so we both were happily chatting there, as was I to my brothers and sisters as well.

We stayed there for a while and everyone appeared to be leaving, so we did too, and then got back to mine to watch some of the Great British Railway Journeys, as Michael Portillo was heading around Deptford, but also Greenwich and spent a considerable bit of time on the Cutty Sark (been there, it's ace) and then on to Woolwich Arsenal and all the weaponry that was made there. In fact it was notable when one of the Victoria crosses that he was shown was made out of the very same gun barrel that he was leaning on.

It'll be sad when my brother flies back but I know that he's really loving life with his wife over there and that for him at least it was the best decision that he made for himself. I'll certainly hope that with his work he becomes like the classic 80s Alphaville song "Big in Japan" (hence that's also tune of the day as well) and that the weather clears up enough for him to fly okay (via Helsinki with Finnair) too. It was a great night out bowling and I think that he really appreciated the quality time (not to mention when out on Sunday he found the same pulled pork nachos he had the other night too!)

Monday 12th January - Going Down To Liverpool

As The Bangles once sang, I'm going down to Liverpool, but unlike their song, not to do nothing. Oh no. I was meeting one of my colleagues from work in Liverpool Lime Street station and visiting two universities in the city, with a view to seeing how they handle their wide format printing and what they use etc. It was good that my colleague had managed to set up some meetings, and so meant we could get everything done in one day. So it was off to Manchester Piccadilly station to collect the tickets from the machine, and then off to Platform 14 to get the train.

It was the fast Northern Rail service this time around, so stopping only at Newton-le-Willows, St Helens Junction and Wavertree Technology Park before arriving on time at Lime Street. I headed to the Costa there and got myself a coffee, and with the new Old Paradise Street number 5 Roast at that too - which was really nice, in fact better than the number 3. My colleague arrived and we had a good chat before we had the first appointment, and so walked up to the campus site of Liverpool John Moores University.

It looked a pretty good site, and their John Lennon Art and Design building was an intriguing one, quite a long building and a hive of activity all round. Their printer room had various HP Designjets and looked a nice setup, although I couldn't help but think that if it wasn't a supervised room that it would be subject to people maybe messing with the printers and settings. That said the staff in there were lovely, and it really does go to show that a bit of attention goes a long way. It was good too to get an idea of what happens elsewhere.

My colleague was meeting for lunch with a few other women in IT (she's part of a group that regularly meets) so I headed back into the centre of Liverpool to grab a spot of lunch, and once done, I then headed back to the Costa coffee close by to Liverpool University, had a nice latte, and then met back with my colleague. It was nice to see some of the staff there and be able to see what their experience was, although I noticed that some of their printing was more of a bureau service rather than self-service, so a different approach really.

It did feel quite a productive day and so it was good make the most out of it and head back to Lime Street to get the train back to Manchester to be able to really digest it all in. It was the East Midlands Train this time, so passed by Liverpool South Parkway, Widnes and Warrington Central before arriving back in Manchester to head home, and at about the usual time I would have got home had I been in work, so that was a pretty good effort all round really.

I spent a chunk of time tonight working on what to do next as I'd been refused an interview for one position that I was applying for, so I think I'll work on why I didn't get that. I am also going to see what needs to be done in terms of a couple of other applications and see what's out there too. I know more than ever and especially after today that a change of scenery and job might be just what I need, and it's a case of doing what I can to get there, and as my colleague mentioned to me, getting some contacts might not be a bad idea! (actually that's very true, it's sometimes who you know as well as what you know..)

Tune of the day in the meantime isn't the Bangles song I mentioned earlier, but instead the rather good "There She Goes" by The La's, which is one of my favourite songs by any band from that region. It's just a really good simple tune but somehow captures the essence of the post-Madchester era wonderfully well with some classic guitar based indie pop. Even now I'm sure that I could probably sing along to it once I hear it being played, and well worth checking out if you haven't already.

Sunday 11th January - Snooker and Sunday Lunch

The Love In My Heart and I would have had more of a lie in, but for the two cats deciding that earlier in the day was their playtime. One of them really loves this little toy and plays with it between his front paws all the time, and even to the point where if we throw the toy, he goes and gets it, picks it up and then drops it close to The Love, hinting to her to throw it again. Somewhat dog-like I know (or maybe he's paid attention to those O2 adverts with the cat who is always wanting to be more dog, just a thought!) - but still pretty cute, although maybe a bit later in the day would be nice..

The Love made some nice bacon on toast for breakfast and we pottered around for a bit before I noticed that the Masters snooker was coming on BBC2, and so turned over for that. We were going out later in the day but thought it'd be good to watch a bit, as it was Shaun Murphy against Mark Selby. Interestingly, Selby's changed his walk on music again and this time it's another Kasabian song, namely "Eez-eh" off their most recent 48:13 album - so tune of the day. I did spot someone in the audience, front row, with said 48:13 t-shirt as well.

I got to see the first four frames or so with Murphy taking a 3-1 lead in to the mid session interval (he would go on to win 6-5) before we'd got changed and ready and were heading out, first to the centre of town to pick up one of The Love's relations and then off to The Woodside pub, just off the East Lancashire Road (A580) near the Ellenbrook area of Worsley. It seemed pretty nice from the outside and was also rather cosy inside, and most of The Love's family were there. It was her father's 75th birthday this week and the Sunday was the nearest day that we could all go out.

The food was really nice in there it has to be said: I had the garlic breaded mushrooms to start which were really nice and The Love's paté also looked decent too. You could have a choice of fish for the fish and chips main: either sustainable cod or pollock. I went for the pollock which was massive, and it was really lovely, nicely battered and with some chips and mushy peas. The Love went for the Sunday roast pork which I have to say also looked rather good too, and everyone really did enjoy their meal too.

The Love's sister had bought a nice birthday cake for her father, and all really based on bingo, with a bingo card of icing, icing sugar dabbing pens, the works. Inside the cake was a really lovely sponge and that was rather nice. We had that and as part of an offer for said pub we were also getting a bottle of champagne to share as well, which went nicely with the cake actually. The time flew by but it was really nice to see everyone and it's always a pleasure to be honest. We sped off home later and I got back in good time for the rest of the BDO World Darts final.

It was a good final too, I'd joined it at 2-2 and it was going to be a classic in the end. I could just tell. Scott Mitchell and Martin Adams were trading blows and trading sets, and even though Wolfie wasn't at the top of his game, he was getting crucial doubles when he needed to do keep pace with Scotty Dog. In the end it deserved to go all the way to a deciding set and the first leg checkout by Scott of 158 was crucial, and didn't look back from there to take the final set and win 7-6 - a great match and well worth watching.

Saturday 10th January - Sport and Snuggly

I decided to spend most of Saturday indoors, mainly because I didn't fancy heading out in the windy weather till I needed to, but also as there was a fair amount of sport on which I fancied watching, and on top of that I was catching up with a few people online as well. I of course was waiting in for the driver for Ocado to deliver the week's food shopping and to be fair they were completely spot on - everything there as promised, all nice and neatly packed and a very friendly driver as well to boot, so just as I'd wished for really.

I did flick this afternoon between the Channel 4 racing and the BDO World Darts semi final, which in the end proved to be a more one-sided affair than I thought, with Jeff Smith not keeping up his good form during the week, and Scott Mitchell really turning it on, putting in some good finishes when he needed and really being ruthless, winning 6-0 and going through to tomorrow's final. I was also keeping an eye on Final Score too as Manchester City were at Everton. That ended up being a 1-1 draw which wasn't the best scoreline for us sadly.

In any case I'd switched over to BBC2 and the women's BDO World Darts final was on, and an all-English affair between Fallon Sherrock and current champion Lisa Ashton. Lisa's finishing was really good and that was winning her the crucial legs as she stormed ahead to a 2-0 lead before Fallon started to back up her scoring with some finishing herself, and pulled it back to 2-1 before Lisa then picked up another gear and completed a 3-1 win and the world title was hers. She's only become the third woman to retain the title, so up there with Trina Gulliver and Anastasia Dobromyslova as well - high praise indeed.

I then headed off to The Love In My Heart's place and she'd asked me to pick up a lottery ticket for tonight's draw along with some wrapping paper if possible along the way. I'd already got a bottle of wine for her and at request was taking my camera with me as we'd be out tomorrow. It was nice to time the journey so that the rain wasn't coming down at all and meant I wasn't getting wet either, a definite plus that one as you can well imagine. The Love and the two cats greeted me and we had a very nice little evening in.

The Love excelled herself not just with the gorgeous chicken with potatoes and vegetables and a nice gravy that really did taste luscious, but she'd only gone and made some frangipane jam tarts as well, and had got some creme fraiche to go with it. Spoilt or what? I definitely was. And so with that all nicely eaten, we settled in to watch The Voice on BBC1, and I have to say that it was intriguing to see how the judges would decide to pick the ones who were good, and the ones not so good. I quite liked that woman who had performed with Rudimental, even if she went a little over the top in parts.

I also got to see Match of the Day later as we both snuggled and the two cats were just resting themselves on the sofa, which was nice to see. They're so cute when they're well behaved. Of course I was disappointed in our drawn game but did note for my fantasy league team that I'd done pretty well, goals from a few players and assists from others. Also, some of the other games at the other end of the table proved intriguing: QPR cannot win away from home and West Brom under Tony Pulis all of a sudden look a different proposition now. Tune of the day though is the rather classic Match of the Day theme tune, still an iconic staple of Saturday night isn't it?

Friday 9th January - Bowling Brothers

It was a decent day at work although the weather overnight was anything but decent. I could hear the whistling of the wind around everywhere which wasn't good, and that actually woke me up this morning. It wasn't raining on top of that but I could definitely tell that it was pretty strong. Although when I saw the news and saw how blowy it had been in parts of Scotland, I did wonder about how much worse it might have been. I wouldn't have wanted to be inside the van that blew over on the Forth Road bridge for example.

Anyway, the working day seemed to go pretty well: I remembered to bring in some Tassimo pods so I could have a nice coffee during the team meeting, and then head out to see a member of staff who wanted to conduct an interview over Skype with someone next week. I gave her lots of useful information about what she needed to do but also showed her the Skype room we have set up, and she thought that it would be rather good to use that instead, so that's definitely a positive and I think she was impressed with how I managed to just be extra nice and helpful. Well, that's what I like to do.

I spent the earlier part of this evening defrosting the freezer, it had got a little bit too icy in there and I suspect it was wasting more energy than it needed to in order to try and keep things cool (damn it next time I'm going frost free all the way) and so that took some time. I didn't actually have that much in the freezer itself which meant it was also a good time to do it and get it all sorted out nicely, notably with my delivery from Ocado coming tomorrow which should be nice.

My two brothers came over around 7.30pm and it was off out for the evening on a bit of a boys' night out before my youngest brother flies back to Japan next week. I'd booked a couple of games of bowling down at Tenpin in Parrs Wood, as they both thought it was a good idea, and so we headed from mine to there. As it's quite a large entertainment complex, we'd allowed time for my middle brother to get the car parked up (even with a decent car park it's always difficult to find a space) and then headed up to Tenpin.

I'd booked the two games each as part of the Friday Frenzy offer (25% off when you book you see) so we could see how that went down, and it went down very well. At first we were all trying to find the feet a bit and get used to whichever ball we felt comfortable with and as a result the scores were incredibly close, two points between all three of us at the end. We were starting to find the groove though and as a result improved a lot, with more strikes happening and spares too, and high fiving each other at regular intervals when this happened.

We decided that we were enjoying ourselves far too much, so paid on the night for two extra games - granted we needed to move to another lane, but no biggie really. It was just good to have some quality time with the three of us and my youngest brother scored a strike at the end of the final game to pip me to the win - it was some quality stuff all round and he was really getting good at it by the end of the night as well. It was also good that the atmosphere was spot on as well.

We spent some time in the arcade part too, notably with kicking backside in Time Crisis 2 (well my youngest brother did) and I showed the way on Guitar Hero Arcade playing Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" (albeit a different version of it as it wasn't fully licenced for the game, still tune of the day though) and then having a three player simulataneous race on this good racing game with up to four players at once. I didn't come last so still was showing the odd bit of driving skills somewhere.

We headed over to the pub and a couple of us were peckish, and food was still being served, so we both in the end went for nachos with added pulled pork, and it was stunningly nice actually. I felt like Beavis and Butthead: "Nachos rule! They rule!" as we were having them, and they even had a beer brewed in the UK by a Japanese brewer, which my brother had had before so he made a beeline for that and I had the lovely Mary Jane session ale too. Happy days all round really, and a great night it has to be said!

Thursday 8th January - Sorting Stuff

I had a pretty productive day at work today and found out a few things just why for some reason some of the SCCM installations appeared to be failing when I know from past experience that it shouldn't be happening whatsoever. I did some investigation with a colleague and it seems that the client CU5 upgrade patch for the SCCM 2012 client doesn't quite do what it was supposed to do, and it seemed that the only definite way to move it forward to was to effectively get the SCCM client to launch its own repair, which then works. Odd I know, but once that was done on a couple of machines I could push out plenty of apps to them with no issues.

I also had a one to one meeting with my manager which actually proved to be really productive too. I was pretty surprised because I didn't think I was performing as well as I might have liked, but the opposite appeared to be true. It also meant that at some point I might have to look at something internal to apply for as well which could be something that I could potentially do and with some time left till the closing date, it might well be as be something to try out. We shall see.

My colleague has also been finalising some visits elsewhere so we're able to have a look at home wide format printing is done elsehwere and how they address the complex needs of their customers. I think it'll be interesting to compare and contrast but also to see how they have managed to gradually increase their efforts to support their base too, which is what ideally we would like to look at. There's a lot of things involved and my colleague is doing a really good job at managing it and also delivering expectations too (and I think she is pleased I'm onboard too)

Later on I headed home and I set to work making a rather nice chorizo pasta bake for me and The Love In My Heart, who was heading over later. I think for me that it's good for us both to have some me time, and whilst there I also sorted something out for tomorrow night which should be good for those involved. I indulged her with both episodes of Emmerdale (not my favourite at all but hey ho) but then we did see some of the Phil and Kirsty house hunt around Bournemouth, and of course having been there to see my cousin we spotted plenty of familiar spots such as the pier, beach and what have you.

I re-watched some of the FA Cup's 50 Greatest Moments from BBC Three with her too, and partially to see the likes of Russell Brand tearing into the Anfield Rap by Liverpool FC. Dan Walker of Football Focus mentioning the rhyming of "John Barn-es" was good, but Olly Murs' disgust at the fact that it actually charted (and number three at that!) was hilarious. However, what you might not know is that Mary Byker (now of Pop Will Eat Itself) had a hand in it as well. So for that reason I'm actually going to play PWEI's "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" very loud, not least as it was Clint Mansell's birthday the other day - tune that it is and tune of the day.

Wednesday 7th January - Click and Collect

Isn't it great when things just work the way you want them to? I was thinking this earlier today when I was doing some more software testing and found that all I needed to try out appeared to be doing exactly what I wanted, and not only that, but I was able to get everything all up and running the right way round, including working out just why someone's Mac wouldn't display a certain web page correctly (turned out to be a Safari related issue, using Firefox showed that was the case as the page worked spot on) and then sorting out a printer.

On the way home I stopped by my local Tesco in order to pick up a click and collect order. Tesco expanded their Tesco Direct ordering so that you could collect your Tesco order next day in any Tesco store that you wish, and of course this meant that you could pick your local one to collect from rather than (as previous) having to collect from a Tesco Extra. The other nice advantage to this is that you don't have to worry about which courier service may be delivering your items (Yodel for example) and it's also the knowledge that the store staff are the ones you normally see.

And it was exactly the case. I went to the customer service desk, the staff did all the right checks for my ID etc, and then off went one of them to fetch the delivery from the back of the store, make sure I signed for it, and it was mine. Easy peasy. In fact I had even used a £3 Clubcard voucher which was stored in my online account but I thought I'd lost to get some money off, so all good. In case you're wondering it was a Sandisk 32GB Micro SDHC card which even before the voucher off was a mere £11.54, pretty cheap at the price. Of course the plan was to add that as extra storage to the Hudl2, which detected it no problem when I tried it out.

Actually I did do the grocery online order on the Hudl2, but not for Tesco. Oh no. I think Ocado are attempting to woo me with not only one of their passes for free online delivery for the next three months, but on top of that a nice 20% off my order this week with a voucher code. Naturally I thought this might be a good idea as you'll get nice Waitrose stuff that way, and once I'd downloaded the Ocado app (which worked really well too) it was a breeze to get the stuff ordered and use the code. To be fair whenever I've used Ocado their service has always been spot on, so see what happens.

In all of that I then watched the second round BDO World Darts Championship match between Allan "Chuck" Norris and "The Dazzler" Darryl Fitton. Obviously as the latter is from down the road in Stockport I was hoping that he would win and was avoiding all news and sport bulletins during the day so that I could watch the match as live on iPlayer. Of course Darryl comes on with shades and does all the Madness moves to the classic "One Step Beyond" as he walks on so that's tune of the day for obvious reasons.

It was a cracking match and I'm sure Allan Norris will be ruing the missed doubles where he could have won the match (notably when he could have won the match 4-2) but with the match going to a final set and indeed Fitton taking it 4-2 (you have to win by two in the final set) it was a really high quality and tense affair all the way through, certainly for me the best match of the tournament so far. It's just a shame that the BBC coverage is during the day when I'm at work and the BT Sport is in the evening (which I don't have) but nonetheless, quality stuff.

Tuesday 6th January - Headaches and Puppies

It was good to get another day back at work under the belt, and indeed one where I was finally able to do some testing on an updated piece of software that was planned to be rolled out sooner rather than later. The licence dongles on our network server that the software talks to needed to be updated to support the later release, and we finally got the right file to sort at least that version out this morning, so once applied I was then able to get things running and try to familiarise myself with how it all works.

I must admit though that I've been feeling a bit under the weather today, and I just got to the point at home where I really needed to lie down for a bit, and then try and dose myself up with paracetemol before The Love In My Heart arrived for tea. It is mainly on my right side of the head, and I either feel headachey or have the odd sudden pain through. I haven't had this sort of feeling so I'm hoping it might be a one off or just heading to a bit of a cold which I'll do what I can to ward off.

I did make some chicken in a leek and bacon sauce together with some potatoes, carrots and petits pois for the two of us, and once that was done we settled in for a relaxing evening with some telly. In fact one thing that we were both intrigued by was on BBC Two at 8pm, "Six Puppies and Us" which followed the story of six random puppy dogs of different breeds and their owners as the puppies started to go through their development phases. I was particularly touched by the story of Colette who wanted her dog, a labradoodle (labrador and poodle cross breed) to be trained enough to be her assistance dog to help her around.

The other puppies had their own traits, such as Ralph who was rather hyper, kept biting (notably the family's other dog as well) and that was becoming difficult to handle, and the dog Stewie, who was really small and yet seemed to want to interact with everything it saw after a while too, with the gay couple doing all they could to try and nurture it with walks and so on. Of course there were plenty of "aww" moments too, but I couldn't help but think if this programme was on ITV1 they'd have had Paul O'Grady narrating it and would have done a better job than Neil Morrissey.

Straight after that we saw another in a series of programmes BBC Two were doing about the super rich, and in this one they went to Necker Island, which is privately owned by Richard Branson, and on certain times of the year, the individual rooms are let so that anyone can visit (provided you stump up a massive amount of cash of course). It did seem like every whim you wanted was catered for, with the staff from the neighbouring island doing the domestic work and some of the staff living on the island as well as working (with one family's children heading to school on another island).

Part of me thought that for a super deluxe enjoyable holiday to chill out and if you can afford it, it'd be rather nice, and the more casual relaxed feel (most likely Branson inspired) seemed to be the way forward. I think too that it would be good to be able to take it so easy as well. Still, for those that can't, there's always the loveliness of Cornwall and before I headed to bed I listened to Metronomy's excellent "The Bay" which really does evoke memories of lovely days by the beach, so tune of the day was an easy decision.

Monday 5th January - Back To Work Then

So after a lengthy time off, it was back to work for the first working day of 2015, and indeed my first for close on three weeks. I did have a few things planned for today including a mass upgrade to SketchUp Pro 2015 in two of the PC labs we look after. Unfortunately, although the network licencing for the new version means no need for our own licence server, it does mean that you have to activate all the PCs with the licence manually rather than have an easy activation or looking for a licence server. I had a couple of colleagues assisting me with that so it was quite good between us to get it all done.

I also spent some time this afternoon working on some plans for the next few weeks and I think too where possible I'm going to attempt to document more stuff as well where possible to make it easier for everyone, and have put some future things on our board as well to keep everyone in the loop. I also had to try and work on a couple of software packages to see how they would possibly deploy, and so it was good to get back into the swing of all that as well.

I also had to remember to take off my out of office phone message, make sure my out of office email reply was turned off, the usual stuff really. I think because not everyone might have been back in today to be able to take the time out and just get everything in a state of some form of normality was good to do, and that generally I did feel a lot more relaxed about things. I think come next week I may not be thinking that but it's good to get that first day out of the way.

Later on I settled in to see the third round FA Cup tie between AFC Wimbledon and Liverpool. I must admit that I've really liked the way that AFC rose from the ashes of the FA's mess of allowing a move for the former Wimbledon to Milton Keynes and to rename themselves, whereas the true spirit of Wimbledon carried on and founded AFC, gradually moving through the leagues till their current position in League Two, and at their Cherry Red Records Stadium (shared with Kingsmeadow) the fans were packed in and cheering them on, and with good reason to as well.

Steven Gerrard put Liverpool ahead with a good header, but that didn't deter the Wombles, oh no. In fact they went forward and with each corner they had were putting Liverpool under real pressure, and from one corner, the ball bounced back off the bar and their big striker (aka The Beast) Adebayo Akinfenwa reacted quickest to the loose ball to poke home for the equaliser, and certainly at 1-1 it was nicely poised at half time. However, form is temporary but Gerrard proved class is permanent with a cracking free kick on the hour which proved to be the winning goal.

I must admit though it was a spirited performance from AFC Wimbledon and well deserving of all the plaudits that they got from the pundits, the fans and everyone else. I thought a real team spirit and attitude was shown there, and with players prepared to take people on, push forward and create some good chances, and certainly their recent good run of league form carried over here. I'm sure that anyone who saw their mascot Haydon the Womble crowdsurfing (yes, really!) would imagine he'd been listening to some punk or something. With that in mind "Hurry Up Harry" by Sham 69 is tune of the day.

Sunday 4th January - Up for the Cup

So it was the FA Cup third round for Manchester City today, and a home tie against Sheffield Wednesday at that. Of course, after the League Cup tie earlier in the season which saw City score seven in the second half to win 7-0, hopes were of a win but I realistically knew that a repeat scoreline was out of the question. It was fairly cold outside so I wrapped up warm, as did my friend, as we headed over to the Etihad Stadium to get our seats in time for the kick off, with me putting my friend's usual 4-2 bet on.

What we didn't expect was that the City performance in the first half was well below par, and Sheffield Wednesday broke down the right, the defence was split with a very good pass and in came their tall striker Atdhe Nuhiu to score the opener with a low drilled shot past Willy Caballero. It was a deserved lead and even though City had more possession, we weren't doing much with it to be honest - it just seemed that we were attempting where possible to walk it into the net past a tight and organised Wednesday defence. Plenty to think about at half time we thought.

The scoreline stayed the same till the hour mark and then the changes came. On came David Silva and Samir Nasri, off went Frank Lampard and Stefan Jovetic, and this then meant that James Milner was pushed forward as the striker. A few minutes later Nasri passed to Silva and his perfectly weighted pass allowed Milner to drill it through the legs of Chris Kirkland in the Wednesday goal for the equaliser and 1-1. I was mightily relieved and I suspected that I wasn't the only one in the ground feeling that either.

So the game went on, and it was still frustrating with a few chances going astray. One good chance was set up for Silva and his shot was well saved by Kirkland, and on the break occasionally Wednesday had a chance or two as well. I really did want the game settled this time though and no replay at Hillsborough to clog up the fixture list, and literally as the announcer was about to say we had four minutes of stoppage time, the ball went to Jesús Navas on the right, his low cross found Milner two yards out and he beat the defender to score the winner and put City through 2-1.

Thank heavens, we both thought, and I was relieved to survive that scare. We headed back homewards whilst keeping one eye on the late kick off on Radio 5 Live, and I'd watch the remainder of that game at home as Arsenal beat Hull City 2-0, which did look comfortable. Manchester United had got past Yeovil Town 2-0 as well and with Chelsea beating Watford too, it looked like there wasn't that many major shocks this time around to be had, with Rochdale's defeat of Nottingham Forest along with Sheffield United's away win at QPR being the two main ones from the weekend.

Later on after I made some tea I watched a documentary on BBC Two about the life of the motor racing driver Graham Hill, which was thoroughly fascinating. With the strains of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" in my head (tune of the day) due to the F1 related footage, seeing the man they called "Mr Monaco" win there five times, also winning the Indy 500 and Le Mans as well (the only driver to do that in fact) and having Jeremy Irons drive some of his former cars with the watchful eye of son (and of course former F1 champ himself Damon Hill) was ace. As was seeing David Coulthard take Irons around Monaco at 4am!

Saturday 3rd January - Blink and You Won't Miss It

I headed over to my Mum's early afternoon to have a good chat and a coffee with her. My brother was also there with his girlfriend too, so good to see them both, and my other brother was still there, so managed to have a good chat with him and work out what he needed to try and get rid of or sell on eBay before he flies back to Japan later this month. I think he's slimmed down quite a bit as well over there, maybe it's the diet that does it? Either way though I wasn't going to say no to a nice coffee and a warm fire to have a good catch up, that is for sure.

I got back home later and I was spoilt for choice with Channel 4 racing on one side and the BDO World Darts Championship on the other. I kept flicking between the two to see the races on Channel 4 and then back to the darts once that was finished. It was a pretty good first round match for the women, with a repeat of the final. Lisa Ashton once again overcame Dita Hedman, but not before both players did 150+ checkouts to win a leg, which I have to say was pretty impressive stuff from them. There's also 16 women in this year's event too so should be pretty competitive.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over and we settled in for the evening. The FA Cup special edition of Celebrity Pointless was on, and I quite liked the way that Richard Osman mentioned a fact on each team (but it's not Robbie Savage, haha!) which was ace. There were some good questions and in the end I would have had a couple of pointless answers myself - I got one in the number 1 songs with love in the title at the end (why didn't Phil Neville and Mark Chapman pick 1992 I do not know!) but nonetheless pretty good.

After seeing the Frank Sinatra Our Way show (not so good) and then some of the lottery show which once again meant that we didn't win, it was then a good move to redeem the Blinkbox credit that I got with my Hudl. You actually get a code for £10 worth of credit, and that even applies if you have an account already - sensible that. I signed up for an account anyway and soon was able to add the voucher code in, so £10 credit. I perused around and found most movies were £3.49 to rent or around £10 to buy digitally, which was reasonably sensible - not least as the rental lasts 48 hours from first watch.

I also though checked my Samsung smart TV, and it had the Blinkbox app on it, woohoo! So what I did was sign in to that with the account, and then purchase the movie we wanted to watch on that, so we could view it on the telly. I could have done that on the Hudl and connected my Micro HDMI to HDMI cable to the telly too, but no need when you have that option. In any case, we decided what to watch at first and paid the £3.49 to rent it (of course free due to the credit) and began to watch.

I have to say that I wasn't expecting to enjoy it so much, but we both enjoyed Jersey Boys. Based of course on the hit musical and the songs of Frankie Valli, the film version directed by Clint Eastwood of course had a real sense of direction, the New Jersey mob feel straight off, and a top mob man superbly played by Christopher Walken as well. The people who were the band and Frankie Valli himself had some excellent voices throughout and gave real life to the songs, so I'll nominate "Big Girls Don't Cry" as tune of the day - they had the feel right. I am not surprised of course the stage version is popular and that with careful direction, the film version was pretty enjoyable.

I also did notice that you could buy Toy Story That Time Forgot, so you know what? I did. And as it was an outright purchase, I could download it to the Hudl for safe keeping and playing whenever I fancied it (and in fact to more than one device too). I did that, and then connected it to the telly, and away you go. It was of course enjoyable as it was a nice little plot, with some new characters such as Reptilus Maximus in there, and Trixie got some star billing this time around. The more I see, the more I like the fact that Bonnie is such a loving owner to them now (love the "bye toys!" line whenever she has to leae them) and it's all good fun.

Friday 2nd January - Walking With Deer

I had a fairly relaxed morning today, and must admit I was quite pleased not to be back at work. Our work place had made this day a day off for everyone, simply because it seemed a bit pointless opening everywhere and then closing all down again for the weekend, so it made more sense. The Love In My Heart's place of work also had the same idea as well, and so I could well imagine that not everyone would be out and about anyway, but maybe spending time with the children off out on a final day out before the weekend.

As I was heading out with The Love later on, I had some time spare so I settled in and watched The Lego Movie on Blu-ray, that I'd picked up from Tesco the other night. Of course, it was awesome. I can of course understand why the main song from the film "Everything Is Awesome" gets into everyone's heads due to its repeat play during the film (it's still cool though,so tune of the day for the Tegan and Sara track), but the plot's really good and to be fair, plenty of decent voice acting talent too. Liam Neeson I recognised straight off, but you also have Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell and so on. Even the voice of the Lego C3PO in one scene was done by Anthony Daniels, the proper C3PO in Star Wars. Couldn't argue with that of course.

Later on The Love arrived and we first headed off to get some petrol, so we could use the FuelSave thing I had. In fact it worked out 12p a litre off, so with the petrol being pretty cheap at the moment anyway, the discount meant it was a massively cheap 96p a litre! Naturally The Love was more than happy to fill up at a good rate there, and we then headed off along the M56 and to Dunham Massey, where a nice walk was to take place around the deer sanctuary.

Despite it being a Friday, plenty of people were out and about, and following one of the paths around the deer sanctuary, you could see plenty of the deer in there, just resting and grazing mostly. Some were right near the very far end of the park (where a brick wall is an abrupt end) but even there the deer were just wandering free. Sticking to the path we followed a lengthy trail around to the end and then back along one of the main paths towards the house, and it was just nice to take a walk and have some quality time together. In fact I had the camera and a decent zoom lens on so I was able to get a couple of shots of the deer as well.

We then headed back out and to the Axe and Cleaver pub in Dunham village, and it was nice just to be sat on a sofa by a cosy fire. They even had the Dunham Massey local ale on so I had a pint of the Little Bollington, which went down rather well it has to be said. It was also nice to see the place quiet and peaceful and so we were able to have a lovely chat together and snuggle up, before we then headed back homeward after what was a lovely time all round.

Later on I saw the Top of the Pops Story of 1980, seeing the fact that a strike took place because the Top of the Pops Orchestra were dropped in favour of proper performances, which was a bit more like it. It was definitely the year when some of the 80s stars started to get noticed too, and some excellent interviews with the Piranhas, the Human League (yaay Joanne Catherall!) and the like as well. Some quality tunes also of course which always help, with the Piranhas' "Tom Hark" (you'll know it if you go the football!), along with OMD, Human League, Spandau Ballet, Adam and the Ants etc, a classic era.

Thursday 1st January - Seven Minutes of Madness

The New Year's Eve was spent at The Love In My Heart's place, and we saw the New Year in with a mixture of Jools Holland's Hootenanny and also Queen with Adam Lambert at Westminster Central Hall. It looked a great place to see such a band actually, and a small venue like that must have been really good to be. I must admit that there's plenty of people who won't see Queen without Freddie Mercury of course, but it looked a decent combination, with him able to hold his own style vocally and fitting in nicely.

We had a glass of prosecco to see the New Year in, and had a really nice moment just watching the fireworks from Central London all snuggled up together. I must admit if we'd have gone into Manchester city centre and had a stray tram delay the fireworks in Piccadilly by some four minutes or so, I would not have been happy whatsoever so possibly a good reason to stay in anyway. In fact after midnight Queen with Adam Lambert belted out some classics, including (curiously) a big chunk of Killer Queen in the middle of Bohemian Rhapsody. Not sure I was quite a fan of that to be perfectly honest.

What I did really like though was the mix of artists on Hootenanny, and the way that there's always a different take even on the artists' own song. I actually really enjoyed Ellie Goulding with Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra taking on the Jacksons classic "Blame It On The Boogie" and giving it a groove and a half - that was gorgeous. I also liked Hayseed Dixie's country take on "Eye of the Tiger" as well, very different and somewhat good fun also.

Paloma Faith really giving it some with the full orchestra singing "River Deep Mountain High" was an unexpected treat too (saw that later on iPlayer as we were watching Queen at the time) but also Clean Bandit with Jess Glynne and the orchestra doing a storming version of one of the songs of last year, "Rather Be" was a massive fun highlight, and a song we both appreciated a lot, so tune of the day - it had a bit more added funk and depth with the orchestra with the backing of Louise Marshall, Mabel Rae and (I spotted her!) Billie Godfrey also joining them in backing (she normally sings with Heaven 17 these days and is ace) so that was also cool.

Had a good lie in this morning and The Love made a lovely breakfast too and with the weather looking decidedly dodgy with rain and a bit of wind, best to stay in. Of course lots of Esacpe to the Country had The Love sorted, and later on I headed down to the Etihad Stadium to meet my friend and see if the two of us could see a City win against Sunderland, so at least we'd be level on points with Chelsea before their game with Tottenham later on. I didn't want to see a repeat of the second half against Burnley, that was definite.

The first half was almost as if everyone had still felt hung over from the New Year celebrations - Sunderland defended with ten men and try as they might, City couldn't break them down. It was rather dull so the less said about that the better. I suspected that a goal from us might be the catalyst for the game to open, it would just be a case of when really. And eventually the ball was worked down the left, and Stefan Jovetic found Yaya Touré on the edge of the area who blasted home a shot into the top corner for the opener, in his final game before African Nations Cup duty.

A few minutes later the ball was well worked down the left, and Jovetic found Gaël Clichy, who crossed low into the box and a stunning touch from the Montenegran striker meant it was 2-0. This was the start of seven minutes of madness, as Sunderland almost from the kick off forced a corner, and the corner was met by former City player Jack Rodwell for 2-1. It was a sickening blow, and yet City went back up the other end and Jesús Navas had a shot well saved by Costel Pantillimon but the referee didn't award a corner.

Sunderland then went up the other end and after a goalmouth scramble, a mistimed tackle from Pablo Zabaleta left the referee no choice but to award Sunderland a penalty. And another former City man Adam Johnson scored from the spot. It was notable that he didn't celebrate in front of the City fans, which I thought was rather nice of him to do. So 2-2, and we'd once again thrown away a two goal lead, not a happy bunny really. I just hoped there was enough time for City to win it.

And we didn't have to wait long to find out. City once again headed down the left hand side and this time the cross from Clichy met the head of Frank Lampard, and well, he doesn't miss those sort of headers does he? 3-2 it was, and a great finish from Super Frank. In fact, the boost we'd got knowing he'd be here till the season end was something great beforehand, and that certainly showed he could still cut it at this level as ever. Despite all our efforts (my friend had a 4-2 win at 40-1 as well) we couldn't score a fourth goal, but 3-2 was enough to put the pressure on Chelsea. See what happens later..