Dear Diary... July 2007

Tuesday 31st July - Here Comes The Summer?

Well although I was lucky enough to be able to avoid most of the bad weather whilst in Cornwall recently, and had a great time because of that, it seems that after all the rain we've had in Manchester the sun's finally decided to come out. It was lovely on Sunday, really nice yesterday and today's also been a really good day. So much so that I really wish I had a bicycle at home so I could go and do some cycling outside and really take in the fresh air, but I've not got one yet. Must get around to sorting that out, even if it's just something I can try and borrow from someone for a while to get me back into the swing of things! Maybe that Irn Bru goth advert isn't actually so far fetched after all then.

Had a course this morning, and the second part of it is tomorrow, which is mainly to do with eLearning, how to upload course content, and all that sort of thing. In principle, it's all very well but in truth the system used is nothing short of clunky and just doesn't seem that intuitive. It also makes me wonder why you'd use a system so heavily reliant on certain versions of Java Runtime Environment (for example if you've installed anything 1.6esque, you haven't a cat in hell's chance of getting it running - and if you're like me you like to have the latest release). Anyway, I did pick up a few useful snippets along the way and it's always good to see people from other sites as well whilst I was there.

Got back to the office just as India were hitting the winning runs against England and a seven wicket win was theirs. Makes our inability to not finish the job in the first Test seem even more of an expensive mistake now. Mind you, a lot hinged on Michael Vaughan's wicket after he scored an excellent 124 and was dismissed in a really bizarre way, the ball bouncing off the back of his pads and on to the stumps. Just seemed to be a bit of a collapse after that and no one had the mental ability to stay around long enough to do the job to at least attempt to salvage a draw. Vaughan at least showed that for mental toughness he's right up there and he knew exactly what to do in his innings, so I should take some hope from that.

Just snagging last week's Mock The Week via the BBC iPlayer thing - yes, it's up! I'm dead pleased actually cos it was a great episode, and Hugh Dennis still has the immense humour and talent that he had years ago. I wish he'd bring back his Mr. Strange character, "Milky Milky" and all that - I'm sure if you check my Youtube channel you too can watch those classic moments. Anyway, that seemed to work as well so I'm just going to watch that shortly and have a good giggle as well as swoon over the very lovely and luscious Lauren Laverne. Lush she so is!

And talking of Lauren, I decided to dig out one of my CD compilations which just so happens to have Kenickie's "Punka" on it, of course she does her thing on that and it's just so.. bloody cheery! It almost seems a perfect song to whack on for the summer and just bound around madly to it, if that's your thing, so no contest - it's my tune of the day. Why aye Lauren lass!

Monday 30th July - iThis, iThat, iPlayer

I had a nice little surprise in my email inbox when I arrived home from work today, after spending much time configuring a new PC with all the necessary software and then imaging it ready for use later in the week by the relevant staff. It was an email from the BBC. Now unfortunately they weren't offering me a job or a nice lucrative contract (if only) but they had received my sign up for their iPlayer trial and gave me the necessary access user name and password plus some instructions, so I could see what it was like.

First things first, the bad news: you really do need Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player (preferably 11) - it's not cross platform whatsoever. This is to be honest not all the BBC's fault. Like Channel 4's 4OD service, the player and content is outsourced to a company called Kontiki, and to a point they should take the flak. Yet when C4 made their content IE only, no one complains. But still, it's just not good enough. What about us devoted Firefox users - and indeed those of us who just prefer MacOS or Linux? Anyway, I logged in to the iPlayer site and downloaded the necessary player and plugins setup, and ran it. I then tried to download Little Britain Down Under, as I'd missed it over the weekend. No can do. Tried again, no joy. A quick check of the iPlayer forums reveals that it's often down to the DRM licence content not playing ball, so I deleted my DRM folder (if you need to know where it is it's in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\DRM\ - the folder is hidden though) - but make sure you back up the folder first. Then uninstall and reinstall the iPlayer stuff, and this time.. it worked. Hurrah!

So after a couple of hours and 500MB or so later, I'd downloaded the file. The iPlayer stores the content in a folder (you can change the location) and when you click the "play now" button it opens a small separate window with the file playing and subtitles. If you select "Open in Windows Media Player" no subtitles appear, but it's in the resolution it was downloaded in (Little Britain Down Under was actually 672x384 resolution, not far off normal television 16x9 res actually) and of course if you want to you can then make it full screen. Once you launch the file once via the iPlayer, you then have 7 days to watch it before the DRM licence for that file expires. In essence it should give you enough time to watch it, but I guess if you needed to keep it for longer you'd use something like Sky+ to record it in the first place.

But overall, it seems to work reasonably well. Truth is though that in essence I just wish it wasn't Windows Media Player and IE-only, but would work for other browsers and media players. And DRM as well.. urgh! Still, I'll continue to give it a go and see how it goes in terms of other content. It'll be interesting to see what they put up there and what can be watched. As a fan of Mock The Week I'd really like to be able to have them available to watch at some point, so I'll have to keep an eye open for that and see what happens.

I whacked on some old CDs later in the evening while responding to a few nice emails, and what better than the rather excellent "Stacked Up" album from Senser? It was one of the best albums of 1994 in my view and lyrically it was intense stuff, oh, and it rocked for the most part as well. Not least the rather excellent first single off it "Eject" which is my tune of the day - I've yet to see anyone apart from the band themselves be able to deliver all of the vocals spot on and in time, and not get any of the words wrong without reading them or looking them up. Now there is a challenge!

Sunday 29th July - The Dragons' Roar

Well it was always going to be a fairly laid back Sunday to try and have some rest and recuperation after the busy last couple of weeks, and today was pretty much about achieving that. I did nip into the city centre this morning to pick up the new Argos catalogue (and recycled the old one at the same time - each store has a collection point for recycling the old ones, so take yours along when you pick up the new one, it's the right thing to do) and also with a gift card I had managed to pick up something I was after as well, so that was pretty productive really.

I was considering going to watch the athletics at the Manchester Regional Arena as well, but as I'd treated myself a little yesterday with the sporting event, I thought it best to save some money and instead have a packed afternoon of sport at home, and so after having lunch and finishing off the remaining scones for a Cornish cream tea dessert (and why the hell not eh?) it was time to alternate between the cricket and the Spa 24 hour motor race, oddly enough on Men and Motors as their big live sporting event. Of course being the F1 fan it was intriguing to see the new pit layouts and indeed the revised final couple of corners after Blanchimont, it's now a right left chicane into the lengthened home straight and way different from the old Bus Stop. In the end too all high drama with the 24 hour race as the leader spun off into the gravel, was helped back on to the track by the handy crane, and finished a minute and a half behind the winner, who could have been called in by the FIA's marshals for a dodgy back light not working properly. And the amounts of rain really was something to see - I hope when the F1 goes there it rains, cos it's such a good leveller...

Anyway it got to around 3pm so I turned over to BBC2 in preparation for the Carnegie Challenge Cup semi between Wigan and Catalans Dragons. Wigan were favourites, as you'd expect, and even recent form reinforced that somewhat. But I had a feeling that something would happen, certainly yesterday a couple of Bradford fans mentioned that there might be a shock on. And shock there was - Catalans scored four unanswered tries in the first seventeen minutes and with the three conversions were a massive 22-0 up at that point! It was unreal, it really was, but they worked hard and even with Wigan scoring a try, it was 24-6 at half time and looking fairly good for the Dragons.

Even more so after they scored another try early in the second half and sensibly then kicked a drop goal to go a massive 31-6 up. The comeback was inevitable in parts though and Wigan did score a try soon after to make it 31-12. Then came a massive turning point - one of the Catalans' star players, Stacey Jones, was rightly sin binned for ten minutes for a professional foul - blocking a quick Wigan drop out by catching it. In that time Wigan scored two more tries and almost a third but for some desparate defending, and it was 31-24 by the time Jones came back on. So then what does he do on his first play after that? He only launches an excellent grubber kick on the fifth tackle, followed up and converted into a try by Jason Croker and the game was then safe, 37-24 it finished. A bit of history all round as Catalans are the first French rugby league side to get to the Challenge Cup Final, and indeed they'll be at the first final at the new Wembley against St Helens. If I could get the train cheap down to London, I'd be sorely tempted to get a ticket for the final, but it looks like no can do. Shame, that.

Kicked back after that and watched the rest of the cricket and the athletics, and the standard of the performances in the latter wasn't that great to be honest. I can see it being a small British squad going to Osaka for the World Championships next month. Still, what did please me was at least some youngsters coming through and trying pretty hard, a couple of them gave Marlon Devonish a scare in the 200 metre final. However, it makes me wonder if we're in any good shape to win any medals of any kind when London hosts the Olympic Games in 2012.

Anyway, as I was in the most laid back mood tonight, time to kick on some Röyksopp, and what better tune to have on than "Eple"? That's my tune of the day as it just seems right for those lazy summer nights, this being one of them. Indeed, the sun's even stayed around a bit and it's still fairly nice as the night falls, not even that humid either thankfully, so let's hope for a bit more of the same as long as it doesn't get too intense heat-wise, or else I'll be wanting to head back to Cornwall for some more sun and fun!

Saturday 28th July - The Saints Are Going To Wembley

Being a fan of rugby league (yes, another sport I like) I thought it might be nice to go to the Carnegie Challenge Cup Semi Final today. I had rung up the ticket line for the RFL last night and they said that any remaining tickets for the game would be available at the ticket office in the morning, so you could go down there and get what you needed. I was actually pretty surprised as I thought it would be a sell out, especially as it's between two massive teams in terms of rugby league (St Helens against Bradford Bulls). Nonetheless, I woke up this morning and thought "right, let's go!"

Breakfast consumed, it was off to Piccadilly train station. Luckily for me, the trains to Huddersfield where the semi final was being staged was one every fifteen minutes (they go to Leeds and onward, you see) and I just managed to buy my ticket and get on the 0857 express train, which the first stop was Huddersfield. Even at this early time of the morning, bearing in mind the kick off was the early time 12.30pm , there were quite a few St Helens fans on the train - probably to make a whole day out of it and enjoy it, and why not? The weather was dry and just starting to warm up nicely.

I took the walk from the train station to the ground, dead easy really. Down the hill, keep going and following the road across the A62 and then turn right at the signpost past the old gasworks and there was the stadium approach road! I got to the ticket office and there were plenty of tickets left, so I went behind the sticks in the really awfully named Pink Link Stand (who comes up with these names?) - this way I'd be with the St Helens diehard fans, to get a real flavour of the atmosphere. My manager at work is a St Helens fan, so it would only be fair to cheer them on to be honest - and I guess because of him I've actually become a fan of them - anything except Wigan - can't stand them almost as much as the football team! I waited around the turnstiles for the gates to open, and spotted the BBC outside broadcast trucks by the car park. As I saw them, one of the vans was handing out refreshments to the OB team - including one Jonathan Davies, the BBC's summariser and ex-rugby league and union legend. Good to see him getting the co-commentator nod for today. Indeed, Brian Noble (ex-Bradford and Great Britain coach, now coaching Wigan - cue boos from Saints fans) was also there and the two of them seemed to be having a good chat about the game ahead and what would happen.

The turnstiles opened an hour before kick off and so everyone went in and located their seats. I can't complain at the ticket I'd bought: eight rows from the front with an excellent view of the sticks at the end I was in, and indeed with an all round good view of proceedings. And a fair few fans too, most in the home shirt but a lot in the very nice black away number (I was tempted to get one if I could but found out the sponsor's changing at the end of the season so hung back on that idea) so as I had a black top on I wasn't too out of place either - excellent move by me there, I thought.

The teams warmed up and you could tell the anticpation. St Helens were deemed to be the away team and were so in their all black away kit - with the new sponsor's logo on it, which is being used only for the Challenge Cup games and end of season playoffs. You could tell that both teams were really pumped up and ready for it, after all the first final at the new Wembley was at stake - and with many fans being really happy that the final was back where it belonged, the tension was also getting there nicely. Both sets of cheerleaders (the Bullettes for Bradford and the Funbus Angels for St Helens) did their thing and it was soon time for kick off. The Challenge Cup was paraded around the ground and Brian Noble walked with them, cue chants of "Who Are Ya?" from the Saints faithful.

I have to say this but definitely all the singing was only coming from the St Helens fans - Bradford seemed pretty quiet and even if you're at the other end of the ground you can normally hear the chants from there. Didn't seem to be many. And even less so after a few minutes when an excellent Saints break resulted in the first try of the match to Willie Talau, and a very neat conversion from Sean Long. Bradford did hit back and after sustained pressure a neat grubber kick resulted in a try of their own from James Evans - and to be fair a few fans by me did appreciate the skill of the kick. The conversion was missed though, so 6-4 it was. Then, a couple of turning points, a neat move from St Helens resulted in a Francis Meli try in the corner. Or was it? The referee went to the TV replay either for possible obstruction or for lack of grounding of the ball. However, it was fine and 10-4 it was. Bradford then did have a try disallowed for obstruction, which may have been harsh, but you could clearly see the offence.

Then, the move of the match for sure. James Roby broke forward with the ball and evaded the Bradford defence, laid it off to Jon Wilkin and he laid off a sublime reverse pass that fooled everyone apart from Matt Gidley who did the rest - what a move! It had Bradford shellshocked and rightly so - seeing the replay on the big screen showed just how sublime the reverse pass actually was. Sheer class, that. And just to add insult to injury right on the hooter Sean Long kicked a drop goal from the half way line to make the score 17-4. Crucially this meant Bradford had to score two converted tries and another score to get level or ahead and gave Saints some breathing space for the second half, so a very clever move from Long that was.

Bradford tried to come back in the second half, scoring in front of their own fans to make it 17-8 (the conversion was missed). Then, they shot themselves in the foot big time. From the kick off to their players, possession was lost and it didn't take long for Saints to take advantage, neat pass from Sean Long to Paul Clough and he soon scored - and with Long converting that was now 23-8. Now the gap was increasing and I felt another St Helens try would be enough - Bradford did score next though and their player bulldozed their way over the line, the conversion was made and 23-14 all of a sudden gave them hope.

However, then they immediately made a faux pas as they went forward. An ambitous attempt to kick the ball over a St Helens from Iestyn Harris resulted in the ball being caught by Leon Pryce, and with his pace it didn't take him long to sprint 70 yards down the other end and place the ball under the sticks for a memorable try. He pointed to the badge on his shirt and the St Helens fans went mad with appreciation (reminds me of Clive Allen kissing the Man City badge when he scored many years ago for us at Notts County). Needless to say as the conversion was under the posts it was 29-14 and the game felt safe. Even more so with 10 minutes or so to go as the Bradford fans started to leave, Mike Bennett scored another try and the conversion made it 35-14.

There could have been even another St Helens try but the video referee ruled it wasn't a score, but even so, the manner of the victory was impressive against a determined Bradford side. The difference was the finishing, Bradford knocked on too many times in good opportunities where St Helens were pretty lethal with their moves and that's what was the real difference. The fans went pretty mental and were in a happy mood indeed as they knew they were on their way to Wembley to face either Wigan Warriors or Catalan Dragons (they play tomorrow) and overall it was such a nice vibe generally - not violent, not drunk, not aggressive from either set of fans, just generally good nature. How it should be!

Got back into Manchester (got to the station and the train came in five minutes, good eh?) and there were lots of people trying to get taxis to Old Trafford cricket ground for the Arctic Monkeys concert, as the trams weren't running. You'd think some bus company would have been wise enough to lay on shuttle buses for a fixed return price wouldn't you? I did guide a couple of people towards the bus station to get the buses to the ground so that helped a bit, but still.. it was a bit manic. That said, and as they're playing tonight, "Brainstorm" by Arctic Monkeys is my tune of the day - because I can.

Friday 27th July - I Feel Like A Cornish Cream Tea, So I'm Having One

A pretty lengthy day today for some reason, not least because I had one of our meetings that I have to attend as part of one of the groups at work I'm in, so I headed to Piccadilly station to get the train down to Crewe. As I was queueing up at Costa to get myself a coffee to get myself perked up for the day, one of my colleagues spots me in the queue, and indeed by the time we head on the train there's six of us all going to the same meeting and all decided to get the same train. Spooky I guess, but good also. Meeting went well too - put some good points across and enjoyed the Danish pastries with the coffee that was laid on for us, excellent stuff there it has to e said.

After getting back from Crewe on the train later and having lunch, I had a PC which I needed to re-image with a new staff image. However, I couldn't PXE boot to the network, it came up with an error a couple of times and even the odd BIOS tweak didn't work. I had a feeling the motherboard may need a BIOS update, so off I went to the PC manufacturer's website, keyed in the serial number, and sure enough - badabing! One of the top issues is exactly the one I'm having, so I downloaded the BIOS update and ran it on the PC concerned. Once it did its thing, the PXE network boot worked first go and I was able to pull down the updated image without any problems. Excellent, I like it when things go well.

After work it was time to head to Tesco to do the weekly shop. I'd needed a few things and located them, including my now customary croissants for breakfast at the weekend (seems to be the right thing to do these days) and thought to myself "Well I've got some Tribute ale, why not see if I can recreate the Cornish cream tea experience for after my evening meal tonight?". So off I went to find the Cornish butter scones, and they were in, and located the cream. A couple of minutes of checking and I'd located the Cornish clotted cream. Although it's a Tesco Finest brand, it's actually made by Rodda's of Scorrier, just outside Redruth. You see, Cornish clotted cream is actually protected of its origin by the EU, what this means is that only if you make it in Cornwall can it be called Cornish Clotted Cream. And as that's the one I had a fair bit on holiday (and that brand too) I was quite happy to get it here. I already had the strawberry jam at home, so I was good to go.

I made myself some food and then waited a while and then got my plan into action, baking the scones for 3-4 minutes, slicing them in half (as you should do) and then making the cup of tea, and all was well, and tasted rather delicious to say the least. It just felt like I was almost back in Cornwall enjoying the cream tea that I'd had there (quite a few actually I do have to admit) and so it just made me think how nice it would be to go back later in the year, maybe November for a long weekend and just see it out of summer for the beautiful scenery and landscapes etc. Kicked back later on with a Tribute ale and watched CSI and everything felt good.

As I was watching my DVDs of CSI, I noticed that "Spitfire" by The Prodigy was playing nice and loud in the opening episode of Season 5 (I was watching the whole first disc) and as I love the original tune with Juliette Lewis on guest vocal, that simply had to be my tune of the day really. A direct contrast to the relaxing mode I'm feeling but also really a track that I could go mental to in an indie club if I fancied.

Thursday 26th July - Make Me A Tea, Make It Sweet

I got an interesting email today from someone who'd viewed one of the videos on my Youtube channel, and basically offered a video response with something else which was part of the same thing that I had recorded here on higher quality. Well, I thought, if there's going to be demand for it, I may as well upload the higher quality version myself so that people can watch that. After all, why not present stuff in the best possible viewing rather than point a webcam at the telly screen and press record (which is what seems to have happened with some clips I've seen before now.)

Anyway, relaxed a bit tonight and decided to whack on the telly for the first time in days, and wow, I was so lucky with the timing of everything. On to BBC2 first and the second of the "What Happened to.." follow ups of Dragon's Den, a show I really enjoy anyway. I was really pleased to see that the iTeddy has taken off and will be in the new Argos catalogue ready for people to buy their kids for Christmas. The guy who came up with the concept had a clear business brain and passion for the product, and Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones could see the potential in it. In fact for the recent launch at London Zoo's bear enclosure, the two of them actually dressed up in life sized iTeddy outfits! Good on them I say. It's always interesting to see what happens to people after they go on the show, and after Levi Roots' infectious enthusiasm for his Reggae Reggae Sauce last week, good to see that the Dragons do put their money and advice where their mouth is.

Then next up, Mock The Week. I have to confess I pretty much love this show, because the humour works really well, it has Hugh Dennis it, who as Mr Strange (you know, the one that would sniff milk and go "Lovely. Milky Milky!) created one of the comic characters of the 1990s, and the regulars on the panel are genuinely clever and witty with their ripostes. Of course, it helped too having the rather lovely Lauren Laverne on as one of the guests this week too and she was actually pretty funny - makes a change instead of seeing her on The Culture Show. And yes, I have "Punka" by Kenickie - the band she used to be in! I'd love to be a guest on that show and give some witty remarks out too.

And I switched over to the music channels and lo and behold, Never Mind The Buzzcocks on VH1! And not just any episode, but possibly the finest episode ever! On Phill's team were Jake Burns (Stiff Little Fingers) and Richie Wermerling (Let Loose) but on Sean's team were Bob Mills (telly presenter blokey) and Tony Wright (Terrorvision). Now Tony's always been a cracking laugh, and so was the case here, not least as he and Sean did the intros round, but the indecipherable lyrics round where the three of them had to guess the words to Roxy Music's "Virginia Plain" still has me in stitches now, and watching it tonight proved that. "I think it's a song about tea" proclaimed Tony, and his Robert de Niro impersonation "You lookin' at tea?" was just classic. Cue Bob Mills in Yorkshire accent: "Mean streets - you lookin' at tea?" - and Tony: "It's Yorkshire tea with Yorkshire water, actually".

Anyway, the lyrics that Tony, Sean and Bob made up went something like this (and yes, I actually do know the original Roxy Music lyrics - the song's a classic!):

Make me a tea, make it sweet
No sign of Seal, I'll take it
To Robert de Niro I'll show it
I hope and pray you don't blow on it
We've been around a long time
Trying and trying and trying a plate of Break Times

Note that "Break Times" used to be Asda's low priced budget version of Kit Kats before they got sued by Nestlé. Singing that along to the original Roxy tune actually fits quite well. Of course, Bob knew the lyrics and so for a bonus point he did an impersonation of Bryan Ferry's donkey (haha!). Just had me in stitches again and proves that the humour lasts if worked well enough in the first place.

Tune of the day is somewhat ironic given the state of the event at the moment, but it's Kraftwerk's "Tour de France". In the days of the 80s it was Bernard Hinault winning most years, and the song by the 'Werk pretty much explains how the route used to go ("Les Alps et Les Pyrenees...") as well as mentioning of course the Champs Elysee which always seems to be the finish too. It's just good fun, unlike some of the cheats who have been kicked out of this year's tour..

Wednesday 25th July - Comings and Goings

At last, all the washing and ironing is done from my case and so I can feel much more relaxed. It's the only nightmare about going away - you've got to come back and wash everything, hang it to dry if you need to on the airer or chuck it in the tumble dryer, and then actually do the ironing, which is the bit I absolutely detest to bits. Still, it's done now and with the house neat and tidy I really do feel like it's back to normal now, which has to be a good thing to keep me grounded. I'm seriously thinking about taking a weekend down in Cornwall in November, maybe stay at the Ship Inn in Mousehole and just have a long weekend, Friday to Monday, and take a couple of days off to enjoy myself. So what if it'll take around seven hours to get there? I'm not going to care about that to be honest, but being there with the scenery will be ultimately rather worth it. Might even plan a visit to the St Austell Brewery shop whilst there to get lots of Christmas presents for people - now there is an idea!

It was a leaving do at work today for someone who was retiring and who had been at my workplace for a long time as well. The turnout was pretty good considering it was out of term time and quite a few people who'd already left came back for the do, which was good. Even nicer was that it was the first day back for our finance officer after a long illness, and I for one was really pleased to see her back - and she's still her humourous funny self that we all like too. Trust me, I know what I'm doing, in true Sledge Hammer tradition :) But it was a good send off for our retiring colleague and I think it's at times like this you appreciate being at the same place for so long must take some dedication and guts for sure.

Anyway, here's a puzzle for you. Why the hell would a PC manufacturer put a firewire slot in the front of the case for a 6 pin firewire connection and even put the cable in if the motherboard doesn't support firewire? Was looking at a PC for one of my colleagues at another faculty today and it was clear that the firewire at the front would only work if you were to plug in a PCI firewire card and then connect the lead from the front to the card's internal connector (some actually have a standard 6 pin internal connector for that purpose). Still, I might actually have a spare firewire card in the office I can lend them, so that should sort it out.

Meanwhile, if you want to install Windows Vista, you really should take note of this video - you can install it in two minutes, honest!

Hehe. Anyway, as for listening to tunes at the moment, my tune of the day is the rather excellent "Nerve Endings" by Kristin Hersh. It's fast becoming my favourite track on her "Learn To Sing Like A Star" album as it seems perfect for listening to on long journeys and feeling all melancholy whilst at it - have to love the slide on the guitar and the emotional strings. I've listened to it on the bus down to Nottingham and back, on the train to London and back and more recently on the way down to Cornwall, and it just seems soooo... lovely.

Tuesday 24th July - Will It Flood?

One thing that always amazes me is that despite Manchester getting lots of rain is that it never seems to flood anywhere as drastically as it has been doing in other parts of the country for the last few days. Some part of Gloucestershire are still really bad, with the outside wall of a power station being a mere two inches from total disaster and chaos, and many roads cut off and people really up to their knees and above in water. I really don't envy anyone having to go through it, especially in what's supposed to be the middle of summer. It must be totally heart wrenching to see their possessions ruined by some dirty river water.

As for rivers in Manchester, we do have them: the Irwell flows through the centre of the city and is often described as the border between Manchester and Salford. However, most of the bridges over that river are at least 25-30ft above the river's surface (some are much more than that) and so I guess it would probably take a heck of a lot of rain. In South Manchester and Stockport, the river Mersey flows through going towards Liverpool and last time it almost burst its banks at Didsbury and Northenden, and that'd be about the closest to flooding we'd get I suppose. But if Manchester were to flood, then I think the rest of the country would start to worry that it could be their town next. And we can't get complacent about it either.

Had a on off sort of day at work today - managed to finish off a few jobs that I had to do, but also had a bit of a stop start in terms of managing to check out some PCs that I needed to see if there was any data that needed backing up. Well, there was, but a whacking great 35GBs worth! Methinks one of the external hard drive beasties may be required there to get the job done. And even then it's going to take a fair bit of time. It's amazing these days just how quickly and how large in size data does accumulate without you even realising it!

Tune of the day is Juliana Hatfield's "Supermodel", because the words are spot on, and the guitars rock. After all, so many people aspire to be a model and to be thin, but the reality is anything but the real world to be brutally honest. This song sums up all my feelings in a rather excellent three minutes or so, and is a great opening to her "Become What You Are" album (as the Juliana Hatfield Three, but still, it's her tune and I love it.)

Oh, and fans of Beavis and Butt-Head should watch the below - what an excellent Cornholio impersonation this is once it kicks in at around the two minute mark - well worth the wait!

Monday 23rd July - Back To The Grind

It felt very odd having to go back to work today to be honest, and took me a bit of time to catch up with any outstanding jobs that needed doing as well as any emails that I had to respond to. Thankfully there weren't many of them to do, and I guess my auto-reply had at least redirected some of the queries elsewhere to other people, which was good. I always make sure that rule is set up out of common courtesy to ensure that anyone who emails me gets a response. Of course, the trick is to remember to take it off again once you return, so that was one of the first things that I did this morning.

Had to nip into the local Asda on the way home because I needed to get some food for a staff leaving do on Wednesday (everyone's bringing something in so I'm getting the sausage rolls, the veggie cheese and onion rolls and a couple of other things) and whilst walking around I thought "I just wonder if they happen to have Tribute ale back in stock or not?" - and lo and behold, they did! And at the bargain price of three bottles for £4. Erm, did I buy three? Well, what do you think? But of course. After all, it saves me having to order it from the St Austell brewery direct doesn't it?

With that in mind I put on some Tenacious D tonight and what better song to play than my tune of the day, very aptly being "Tribute" from their debut album? Love the video (with Dave Grohl, Ben Stiller and Liam Lynch all in there) and the song's pretty good too, definitely reminds me of just how original and funny the D are whilst making some pretty kick ass tunes too. Yaay!

Sunday 22nd July - And It's GO GO GO GO!

I started to wash all the clothes and everything last night and carried on this morning, a really horrendous job and something that's always a downer after coming back from holiday. However, what cheered me up was that Radio Five Live were doing the F1 coverage as they usually do but with a guest commentator as their usual one David Croft was off with his partner as she was due her baby. So who do Five Live manage to get in? Only the one and only commentating legend out of retirement for today, and that's one Murray Walker! Well, that was that then. The TV coverage with the sound off, and the PC tuned in to Five Live to hear MW's dulcet tones once again.

I'd got all of the washing done so at 1pm I kicked back, put the telly on, put Five Live on and there was Murray doing his usual magnificent stuff, introducing the race with suitable passion, and when the lights started to go on he was ready to absolutely give it everything: and sure enough.. "And it's GO GO GO GO!" - off he goes into his wonderful mode. And with rain after lap one, drivers changing to intermediates and spinning off all over the place it was manic, it really was. Cue Murray: "This reminds me of Silverstone many years ago with many cars going off at Club corner." He was right, of course. The first corner at Nurburgring reminded me of the 1975 British GP where six cars all aquaplaned off in similar circumstances.

Here's an odd thing though: the crane lifted Lewis Hamilton's car back on to the track and he was allowed to continue. Eh? If that had been Jenson Button, who also spun off, the officials would have probably disqualified him in the end. I felt sorry for Jenson - he'd battled through to fourth and was loving the wet weather conditions - he's a bit of a rainmeister you know, but aquaplaned off when the first corner was too dangerous, as proven by the red flag a bit later on. Mind you, I'm not blaming Lewis either - it seems that the powers that be in F1 are too driven by audiences instead of rules at times which is a bit annoying and will only perceive people to think McLaren or Hamilton were cheating...

Anyway, a great race and in the end a deserved win for Alonso as he took Massa with four laps left, and Murray was going mental - "Faaaaaaaantastic! And you can see the McLaren mechanics - they enjoyed that!". I have to say that for me it made the race even better, having the man back doing his thing properly. Oh, and not just that. Five Live whacked on Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" to make the man feel more at home doing his commentary, and I have to say that's my tune of the day. It felt like old times in F1, and I certainly was well pleased to hear his voice doing what he does best, showing an excellent knowledge of the sport (still!) and really giving you that enthusiasm. Honestly, words can't express it enough, I only hope the BBC make a podcast of the commentary or at least the highlights because it would be perfect!

Saturday 21st July - The Long Way Round

Got up this morning and decided to check how things were with the trains. And the prospect? Not good. At all. Turned out that the flooding hit Cheltenham and Gloucester, so even if I could get anywhere, it would be as far as Bristol on the first Virgin departure (which would have gone to Birmingham but to go there is via Cheltenham, now you see the problem) and then work out a Plan B from there. I checked with one of the Virgin staff at the station and their words to me were "Well it'll be Bristol and that's about it, I can't see us getting any further, they're advising people not to travel". I explained that I had to leave my accommodation and try to get home, and that there'd be others in the same situation so expect a busy train.

I got my stuff together and left around 7.45am to get the train, stopped off in the station buffet for a nice big bacon roll (absolutely delicious it was) and settled back down on the train as it left on time at 0805, and with more carraiges than normal. This to me indicated that they were expecting more passengers as the earlier First Great Western trains were out of synch and couldn't make it down, indeed as the train pulled out the sleeper service managed to get in, but of course that would just be there now for the weekend and not moving anywhere.

As the train carried on it got busier, and at Bodmin Parkway the reserved seats by me were filled by a woman and her two grand daughters, whom it turned out had been on a farm holiday just by Bodmin and it sounded like they'd all had a whale of a time. I explained to her that we'd be getting off at Bristol, and that the departure boards at the stations were wrong. A bit worrying for her because they needed to go via Birmingham to Leicester, but it was looking like the long way round. The guy on Virgin suggested that to go North, we'd have to change at Bristol Temple Meads, get the First Great Western train to London Paddington, and then go cross London for any trains North. Now for me, easy. I can just get the 205 bus from Paddington to Euston and get the Virgin train back. For the three sat by me, it would be cross London to St Pancras to get the Midland Mainline train to Leicester, so that'd be the plan anyway.

The train got to Bristol on time and it was clear at the station it looked a bit manic to say the least. By this time I'd got chatting with the three by me - the woman was Eileen, and the two grand daughters Chloe and Holly, both of which were positive despite the situation. As they had quite a few bags to carry around I offered to help wheel one as well as wheel my own case, and I thought it'd be best for me to help them out and to get them to where they needed to go, plus it meant that they would be able to feel a bit less stressed about the journey.

Confusion reigned at Bristol. First, we all queued up for Platform 15 for the next London-bound train. We got there, and saw a similar train on Platform 13. People were getting on despite them being told by FGW staff that it wasn't the London train. Then 10 minutes later they changed their mind and decided it was the London train after all. Aaaaargh. Anyway, I thought the safest option would be to head towards the front, First Class or not, and with Eileen, Holly and Chloe in tow I managed to get all the cases in the luggage racks and then got to the centre of the carraige. After a few miles one man gave up his seat for Eileen (very gentlemanly) and so she, Holly and Chloe took turns to sit down. I didn't mind standing, I knew many others needed a seat more than me and there were always the seat rests for a bit of leeway if I needed it. It was standing room only in some of the carraiages anyway so I guess at least I had somewhere.

The train manager said that they were hoping to get to London by 3.45pm, and with speed restrictions on the line it seemed reasonable. Even with a wait at Didcot Parkway because of the possibility of points failure ahead at Reading, it got there on time and despite the slightly more cramped conditions, people were in good spirits generally and appreciative that actually moving anywhere was a good thing. Of course at Paddington lots of poeple were trying to head out of London so all the passengers were guided onwards out of the station to avoid the crowds.

It was then a case of weighing up the options and as the queues for the tube and taxis looked ominous, plus with many cases to wheel or carry, I thought the best option would be the 205, so with Chloe looking out for anyone coming the other way, the four of us wheeled towards the bus stop by Paddington. The ticket machines at the bus stop didn't work, so I had to nip to the bus stop at the other side of the road. Thankfully that one worked, and as I didn't have my Oyster card with me (well I didn't think I'd need it!!) it was two tickets for the bus (children under 14 go free on the bus). The 205 was there so off we headed to the stop for Kings Cross and St Pancras station.

I have to say that Chloe and Holly were so well behaved the whole time, and they are a massive credit to their parents and family - they both were just taking it in their stride and looking at the whole thing as a big adventure homeward, which actually rubbed off on everyone around them on the train as well - that kind of infectious inquisitiveness that everyone has but especially as a child I think. Anyway, the 205 hit Euston and then next stop Kings Cross and St Pancras. Got off there and walked towards St Pancras station. "You see those blue signs with the arrow, Chloe? That's where we're going". And off we trotted. Because of the maintenance work at the station to do with its International Terminal for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, it was a case of going round and then in, and then up the lift. There was a train at 4.30pm for Nottingham which stopped at Leicester, and we got to the platform for them with five minutes to spare. The three of them said goodbye and wended their way home, and thanked me for being really helpful and keeping them going. I didn't mind - I think if it was someone else in the same situation who knew where to go they'd be just as helpful too - and I'd have helped anyone similar if that was them.

So it was now time for me to head back to Euston, and snagging a massive pasty to munch on the way, I got to Euston and could see on the departure boards that the next train to Manchester was the 4.45pm one, and it was the fast one too. The time? 4.40pm! I literally sprinted with case onto Platform 15 (you tried doing that at Euston? People just get in the way pandering about) and just about managed to get on, put the case in the racks and then sit down ready to get back to Manchester. I put the portable player on random, kicked back and relaxed with a diet Virgin Cola and knew that I was on the last leg home. It had rained a fair bit on the way back, but the train got into Piccadilly on time at 7.22pm, where my sister was waiting for me to drop me back home (at Mum's insistance, I may add) - but ahead of what I thought I'd be for getting home - and seeing the flooding on the telly later, I realised it could have been a lot worse to be honest. I'm just happy to have made it.

Tune of the day seemed quite portable what the player threw up on random, not least as it summed up where I was going: "Home" by the lovely Julie Atherton. It also mellowed me out nicely as the train passed Northampton and the rain started to fall in the background - everything just seemed to fit nicely. And what came up next? "Feuer Frei" by Rammstein! Hehe, randomness rocks..

Talking of Feuer Frei, ever seen that Lego animated video of the tune? It's utterly fantastic!

Friday 20th July - The Far South And The Far South West

Time for me to get going to do a tour of the far South and South West - and I hatched a plan. I could get an all day bus ticket for First Buses, head to Helston, get the Truronian T34 and buy a day return to the Lizard, head back via Helston, and then later in the day go to Lands' End and out for a meal or a drink to Mousehole in the evening. Well, that was the plan. Did it work?

Well, first off, time to get the 0845 bus number 2 to Helston, and the route takes you via Marazion, Goldsithney and the gorgeous bay at Porthleven. I got into Helston and crossed the road to get the 0950 T34 departure to The Lizard via Mullion. I got to the Lizard, and walked down from the main green in the village where the bus stops, all the way down to Lizard Point. Words can't describe the view across the sea, with the cliffs and rocks hugging the sea, and the dramatic lifeboat station set into the cliffs.

Of course, the café and the shop make most use of the fact that they're the most Southerly in the country, by calling themselves the most southerly shop and so on. It's actually quite well set in though so you can walk downhill to Lizard Point and overlook the sea, and head back up hill for the shop and café, and even further up is the lighthouse, which is quite a sight out there. It was interesting to see that the coastal paths along the cliff edge had been re-done a couple of times due to cliffside erosion. Naturally, it was also good to see that some of the paths had safety fencing just in case as well.

It was a good walk back to the Lizard village and it was definitely good to see that even with a few shops, most of the village didn't lose its own sense of identity there, with the village shop and pubs just doing their own day thing. An orange and mascarpone ice cream certainly did the job as I waited around for the T34 back to Helston and it was around 1230 at this time. It was nice at the point and certainly I could have walked round the coast up to Porthleven if I had more time, but alas, time was against me.

Got the T34 back, and it was due in Helston five minutes after the 2 bus to Penzance was due to leave, so the original plan was to do lunch in Helston. However, as I got there, the T34 got in a little early, and the 2 was late, allowing me to cross the road and get the 2 bus back towards Penzance, saving me time! Result. So I got off the 2 at Marazion and noticed that the tide was just about out enough to walk over to St Michael's Mount. Even more of a result, that. So off I trotted across the causeway and over to the island itself. Knowing that one of the cafés is before you have to pay to go up to the top of the mount, I headed there and had a rather nice pasty and cream tea for lunch, with the view over Mount's Bay and the causeway back to Marazion, and that was a pretty good lunch stop all round.

I then headed back to Penzance on the 301 and did a quick head around a couple of the shops in the town, as I hadn't done that as yet. What I did find was a shop on Morrab Road that actually did Rosina Wachtmeister cat figures, that made me pretty chuffed. So much so that I thought that treating myself was the only option to be perfectly honest, and got myself the really cute figure with the front paw sticking out, awww. I headed back to base, dropped off the little present for myself, and then headed out on the 1 bus towards Lands' End.

I decided to get off at Sennen Cove, and walk across via the clifftop path. The view of the cove from the top of the cliff was rather good, and the beach was pretty busy as well which was a real surprise to be honest. As I walked over the clifftops I noticed that there were more examples of erosion and path diversions and it took a bit longer than planned to get to Lands' End. Of course most of the more touristy attractions were shut, but I wasn't bothered about that - the main thing was to overlook the sea, the lighthouses, and be at the sign of the most south westerly point in the country as well. It was a bit windswept as well with the sun, but on the whole thoroughly enjoyable.

I then headed back on the 1A bus back to Penzance, but it got as far as the garage in Sennen before breaking down with water pressure. As the people in the van came to repair the bus, the 201 bus going back to Lands' End (and then to Penzance via Porthcurno as the 101) turned up, so it was a swap on to that - and it was an open top bus as well! So I managed to get some nice views of the Telegraph museum at Porthcurno, as well as the steep hills at Treen and at Gwavas coming down into Newlyn, and it was around 8pm when I got back to base.

One quick change later and it was out to Mousehole for an evening meal. I was either going to go to The Ship Inn and do a pub evening meal in their side restaurant, or go to 2 Fore Street, which was voted one of the best seafront places to eat. Went to The Ship Inn first, but they'd stopped serving food at 9pm and I'd got there just after 9, so I went next door to 2 Fore Street. And it turned out to be an inspired move, no wonder this place has been highly regarded. I ordered a Cornish ale and out came a bottle of this very nice Carn Brea One and All ale, which was very palatable indeed. I then ordered the plaice with some new potatoes, and what came out was a plaice - a whole plaice! I carefully got the edible portions of the plaice off the bones, and it was very delicious, the butter it was in just seasoned it perfectly. The new potatoes were spot on as well, and it was delicious. That and the ale just was a lovely meal together and I didn't even need a dessert. As it was, I headed into The Ship Inn for a pint of Tribute and there was a blues band on, who weren't bad. Massive lead singer as well.

I felt really sad going back to base, even though I'd packed my stuff, it was really like the week had gone too quickly and it was a knowing that I had to go home tomorrow. Even more so when I saw the news and saw what had been happening - flooding in the Midlands and the South. Possibly a problem tomorrow, but I'll see how that pans out and go from there.

Tune of the day is something which I put on the portable player and just summed up my feelings for the whole week really - the rather nice "Heaven" by Kristin Hersh. And that's what it's felt like this week, really heavenly. I feel sad now as I'm having to go home, but also happy that I had such a good week too. Let's just hope I can get home safe..

Thursday 19th July - I Want To Ride My Bicycle And Play Golf

A bit more of a leisurely day today after yesterday's walk in the Scilly Isles? Not a chance! I wanted to see more of where I was at, and so I came up with the idea to hire a bicycle. Even better was that right near to where I was staying, there was a cycle hire place which let you hire a bike for a mere £10 for the day. Excellent, I thought to myself. So after handing over my cash and paying the refundable security deposit, it was time for me to get going and cycle along the number three national cycle path eastwards.

And just as I left the hire place, down came the rain! Although it was very on off for the next two hours or so, it did help in a way because as soon as the sun came out a bit, the rain then decided to kick in, so it was either cooling or warming, and certainly meant I didn't feel out of breath either. So first off, along the coastal path towards Marazion, and I spotted that the tide was in, meaning that a walk to St Michael's Mount in the morning might not be doable. From there the cycle path heads off the main road and cuts through country lanes and gets you to St Erth, before the road passes Penwith Pitch and Putt, under the main railway bridge and on a path that gets you into Hayle. From there, I kept going and the path takes you along the Hayle Estuary (you do have to cycle on the main road for a bit though, and it is busy!) and then crossing the main road, I then saw a pretty steep hill that was very challenging for me, to get to Ventonleague. I managed it and was pretty proud, especially as the next bit was downhill.

I carried on through there and on towards Angarrack, and followed the route right and up an incline towards Gwinear. At this point I'd done some 11 miles or so and felt that I needed to turn back and go back the other way along the route, so I did that and stopped off in Hayle for a steak pasty for a quick lunch. That done, back towards St Erth and just after I went underneath the railway bridge, I thought "well the Open golf starts today, why don't I get into the swing of things?" - and that's exactly what I did. I stopped off at Penwith Pitch and Putt, and decided I'd give it a go doing a round there - well worth it too at £5 a go.

It was good to get back into the swing of things with the golf actually, and I really enjoyed myself. I'd done pitch and putt years ago now and also played a few full courses, but wasn't that good, but fun it was. And certainly I felt that today. The course was challenging only becuase of the fact that several trees were in the way of your approach to some holes, and on others there were little streams of water that you had to either avoid or hit over, and in all it was a good and fair course, that. I was most pleased to get round in the first nine holes in 39 (six over the par of 33 that the course had set) and thought I'd done reasonably well to achieve that, not least as I'd taken a disastrous seven at the ninth!

But by the tenth hole I was getting better, and my tee shot to the 12th was one I was very proud of. I saw that previous players had overhit the hole, and as there was a sizeable hump behind the back of the green it meant that getting up and down would prove pretty tricky. So what did I do? I hit it pin high and about eight feet left of the hole, to see it land spot on for a chance of a birdie three on this hole was special, and my putt for eagle only just missed, but still birdie it was, and that made me pretty pleased to say the least. In fact, despite bogeying the par three 13th, I parred every other hole on the back nine apart from the 17th, so one birdie, two bogeys and a back nine of 34, just one over. I was chuffed to bits and was so tempted to go round again but the rain was starting to kick in!

So off I cycled back through St Erth and off to Marazion, and indeed when I got there I noticed the tide was out, so it seems if I wanted to walk over to St Michael's Mount it would be the afternoon, noted. I then cycled back into Penzance and on through Newlyn to Mousehole on the cycle route 3, and turned round at Mousehole and cycled back. This meant by this time it was around 4pm in the afternoon and I'd done around 30 miles of cycling, that was more than enough for me. I had a well earned afternoon pastie and a pint of Skinner's Cornish Knocker to boot in the Tremenheere to sit and watch the world go by before heading back to base and watching the Open Golf and the cricket. I then headed back to the Tremenheere in the evening and had a pint of Sharp's Special, which was also rather delicious too. Excellent day!

Tune of the day is Queen's "Bicycle Race" - apt? Oh yes, not least of course because of the way that you'd want to ride the bicycle where you like, and also because it just came to me when cycling downhill from St Erth that it would just be perfect to listen to whilst riding. I did think about the golf too, but.. there's not really that many good songs about it is there?

Wednesday 18th July - Don't Be Scilly, Go To The Islands

Today was my day in the Isles of Scilly. And my chosen method of getting there was the helicopter. Ah, you see, Penzance has a heliport, and it's from there that the longest daily running scheduled helicopter passenger service runs from (since 1964, in fact). So there you go. I had booked the flights in advance to make sure that I was there and able to go, and after a quick breakfast it was off on the walk to the heliport and to check in for my flight.

I saw a newspaper and started to read it, and it had a review of Amy Winehouse's concert at Eden Project the night before, which was pretty damning to say the least. Spitting at your fans? Mumbling? Forgetting your vocals? It's pretty clear that in the lines of her own song, she needs Rehab. And fast. Her drinking is taking its toll and if anything like last night's shambles were anything to go by, I was so glad that I didn't pay to go and see her, I'd have been demanding my money back big time, and that is a master of the understatement. Anyway, waited around in the heliport depature lounge with some cheesy music playing in the background, and then it was time to head for the depature gate, watch the safety film and then on to board the helicopter.

The black Sikorsky S61 made light work of its journey, taking off and heading over Penzance town centre, before Newlyn and Mousehole became visible as we flew overhead and then soon, nothing but sea. And it was like that till the Isles of Scilly came into view. The helicopter was landing at St Mary's, the largest island, and the airport was just about big enough to have one long runway for the Skybus airplanes that go from Newquay, Lands' End and Exeter. The helicopter landed and it was on time, and it was really a great flight, luxury comfortable seats on the chopper and it just felt like the really executive way to travel. One day when I'm rich and famous etc...

My plan was to walk round the whole island so I could see all the sights and views and also just take in the scenery, as most of that looked gorgeous from the official tourism web site. First step though, get to the beach. Unfortunately the coastal path from the airport was closed, so I had to head out of the airport, down a country lane northwards, and then head down a path via a couple of bird watching points to the beach. And wow, what a view from the path of Porthhellick Bay. It was a lovely little cove and full of blue sea, lovely white sand and just an idyllic setting. With portable player in pocket it was time to play tunes and walk around, feeling nice and chilled out about the whole thing.

I carried on walking northwards, the path got narrow at times and had to dodge a couple of stinging plants, but on the whole it was well worth it. Especially Watermill Cove, which had a stunning beach and quite busy with sunbathers, and on to Innisgidden, where a burial ground is preserved for historical purposes. Actually what I did notice was that lots of people were here at this point, probably as it was the most north-easterly point of St Mary's, but it was a defining moment in there somewhere. With that in mind, I headed westwards now towards Bant's Carn, another ancient burial ground, and that had plenty of old and ancient monuments to pause and admire.

Feeling flushed with the walking efforts, I went just next door to Halangy Down, which was an old village in prehistoric times and only the rocks and part of the place remained. Lovingly preserved though, and it really did make for an appreciation of the history. A bit further on and the path crossed by.. a golf tee! Yes, St Mary's has a golf course, and the 13th tee is literally on the edge of a cliff hitting the ball back inland over the path. I was glad no one was playing that hole at the time just in case of any stray golf balls, but it was pretty dramatic stuff. I then walked on for a while and I could see Hugh Town in the distance, and it didn't take me that long to eventually come down on to the promenade and the harbour and see the small formed town (well more of a village but still) come up. The two buses used for the bus tours were there and present, as was the rather nice feel of the place - beautifully unspoilt.

I walked around the castle garrison just west of Hugh Town as I knew that I'd have to loop back on myself in the town when I got back. The old castle walls looked imposing and part of what used to be the castle is now a posh hotel - I bet it wasn't cheap to stay there. Still, I managed to walk all the way around and headed back in to Hugh Town where it was time to hit lunch - and what better than a nice cod and chips downed with a pint of Proper Job at the Atlantic Inn, with lovely views over the harbour. It felt relaxing, it felt lovely and I felt as one with myself - the most I'd felt for a long time to be honest.

Once lunch was done, I walked along the south coast of St Mary's, via Peninnis Head, with its dramatic scenery and lovely coves, to Old Town. Now there isn't much there in Old Town, but there is a nice beach for families overlooking the sea in a little cove, and a couple of cafés as well. One of them is nestled just off the coast path at the top of the town and on a hill, and it was there that I plumped for the Cornish cream tea, and very nice it was too to have that and overlook the beach and sea, and just chill out. And after that well earned tea break, time to walk around, and I found a really lovely little spot that I'm going to come back to if I can. It has a couple of rocks you can sit under in the shade, and it overlooks a really lovely little cove too. I spent half an hour there just taking in the views before carrying on walking along.

I then encountered a green light. Bit odd, I thought. Then as I walked on, I realised why. The path passes by the very end of the runway at St Mary's airport, and in order to be safe, the lights would stop you walking in to the path of the plane! That made a lot of sense, and as I carried on walking I could see the flight path literally hugged the edge of the cliffs at the end of the runway, so that's something! I got to my start point at Porthellick and walked back the way I came to the airport, where I arrived 10 minutes before check in opened for my 1755 flight back to Penzance. I had a great time, and got back and just relaxed in the evening - the walking really had taken it out of me but in a good way and I felt I'd seen much more of the place by walking, well worth the trip for that alone.

As for tune of the day, well the portable player came up with Suicidal Tendencies' "Pledge Your Allegiance" as I headed into Hugh Town, which seemed seriously appropriate for some reason, I think more so because it meant that I wanted to be part of the islands I was on and wanted to pledge that I'd come back there and want to stay there, maybe even longer and do the other islands as well, and walk around them all. It certainly was a very warm day too and I was really pleased with my efforts.

Tuesday 17th July - My Time In Eden

I'd always wanted to go to The Eden Project, I think primarily not because of the plants, but also because of the work that they do in terms of environment and how a lot of their work is educational about climate change - and today's children can take that on board and be more friendly to the world around them, which has to be a good thing. Also though there's plenty of things to see in there anyway, and it's certainly helped rejuvenate the local economy as a result, also a good thing. The even nicer thing is that if you travel by public transport, not only do you get to be nearer the front entrance, but with a combined ticket of train travel to St Austell, shuttle bus from there to Eden Project, and admission, you can avoid all the admission queues, excellent eh? So that's what I did, and it did work out a little bit cheaper too than getting all three separately.

So it was again on the 0930 Virgin train, and this time off at St Austell. I had nine minutes to get off, go to the bus stop on the road that runs parallel with the station, and then head on the T9 bus to get there. Once I'd got there, a 200 yard walk downhill into the admission area, showed them my train ticket, and got the sticker which you get when you pay and go in. There was a sizeable queue too so being able to walk straight in made good use of the time and also made me feel rather happy that I wasn't waiting for ages, too. It did look busy already and it wasn't even 11am yet.

First things first, I headed for the dome, and in the ground floor, one of the newest features, the seed, a massive stone sculpture. Seeing is believing just how massive it really all is to be honest. It's an impressive piece of work and apparently the heaviest stone sculpture ever commissioned. If that's the case no wonder that they had to lift it in through the top of the dome downwards into its current slot. Just outside that was a very intriguing wall of hands, with hand prints a plenty laid out in square tiles and a full wall tiled everywhere. Very neat, that.

Walking along to the biomes I spotted a very clever sculpture, WEEE Man. No, he's not Scottish. The sculpture's actualy a reminder of the new WEEE directive which came into force on 1st July this year, which basically puts the onus on manufacturers and retailers to recycle more electrical goods. Also, a useful information sheet for householders (PDF format) tells you what it means to you as a householder.Anyway, cleverly the sculpture was made of all things that the WEEE directive covers, and was a striking figure. I spotted an old Dyson DC01, several computers, a couple of widescreen televisions, washing machines, tumble dryers, all cleverly put together. I thought it was a novel way of sculpture but also a very educational reminder to everyone to explain what WEEE is. Good for them, I say.

The biomes were pretty intense going. The tropical one was very humid indeed in parts with temperatures over 30 degrees inside, if you're not that good with heat, don't spend too long in there. Thankfully I went in there first and went around, which was fascinating stuff, not least the coconut palm tree complete with mock beach and the way that there was an educational display about bananas for the kids, good move that. The Mediterranean biome on the other hand was much more cooler, and had plenty of explanations in terms of plant and vegetable growth and how it all works. There was a lot to take in but it was interesting nonetheless.

By this time it had got to lunch time, so I headed into the restaurant bit in between the two biomes and had a pasty in there, which hit the spot. There was an ice cream stall outside so of course a nice clotted cream vanilla cone was mine (as you'd expect) afterwards, and I then headed along the walk outside, which was definitely well worth it if only to see some great sculptures and people heading down this rather long zip line downhill, I would have had a go myself for the adrenalin buzz you had to pay an extra £10 for that and to be honest, that's a little bit too much in my eyes. I also noticed that the stage was being prepared for the Eden Sessions concert that evening, and that was Amy Winehouse. Now some of her tunes are okay, but she has a serious drink problem at the moment and unless she sorts that out she's on the road to rack and ruin. Wonder if she'll actually turn up tonight?

Anyway, I went around the shop and very nearly got myself a t-shirt, but resisted, but couldn't help but smile at one of the displays which had a big lettered quote from Kermit The Frog: "It's not easy being green". Hehe. Good old Kermie, he gets everywhere doesn't he? But it was a trip out well worth it and definitely if you're in Cornwall I can highly recommend a trip there just to take in so much in terms of what's happening in the world and also as a good educational aid for the kids.

But my day was not done, oh no. I headed back to St Austell on the T9, and just round the corner from the train station is the St Austell Brewery, which makes the very lovely Tribute, Tinners and HSD ales amongst others - all very nice. The good thing now is that you can actually go on a tour of the brewery so you can see how they make their ale, and what processes you need to do. What amazed me was the small gaps that were for the staircases and sometimes the low beams you had to duck under - clearly when the brewery was made it was for smaller people in height (in fact people in Cornwall were traditionally smaller than most of the UK - hence the mine shafts at Geevor also being tiny) but also just how much work and dedication it takes to give you a good pint. In fact, a lot of the barrels that get delivered to pubs to be properly hand pumped from the cask only have a shelf life of around a week or so - good job it's so tasty!

Hazel, the guide, was very informative, and friendly too, and it was really good to see that care and attention had been paid to when you were being shown round that lots of information was readily available, such as the museum where you got a nice wall of history about the place, and all the vats that were used to make the ale on a daily basis. The smells were just like you'd expect, but what was also nice was at the end of the tour you got to sample some of the beer yourself, either a proper cask pulled half pint, or a sample of some of the bottled beer. I tried out the Free Beer (St Austell's version is 3.2) which is Open Source beer, yes, really, and also the HSD, which was fantastic stuff. No wonder the locals call it High Speed Diesel (its true acronym is Hicks Special Draught, in tribute to Walter Hicks who formed the brewery back in 1851) and it was very nice indeed.

Left the centre and headed back to the train station to get the train. Only that the train before the one I was going to get was late, so late I got that - then the train manager announced that it'd be terminated at Truro. Had to get off there and chatted to three local women who had finished work and were waiting at Truro for their normal train back to Redruth and beyond. It was good to get a flavour of the everyday local person, and I think that in itself was part of my reasoning to come here - to get a feel of how it really is. They told me that First Great Western were rubbish and their trains were never on time - and that how summer panders a bit to the tourists. I could see their point, but it's the same with any destination like that - in winter they tend to get forgotten which is a bit rubbish.

Anyway, eventually got back into Penzance around 7, and just chilled out for a while and wrote my postcards, but then off I went to The Star Inn for a pub quiz! It was free to enter and I thought I may as well test the old brain as well as have a very nice pint of Sharp's Doom Bar (Sharp's brewery is based at Rock, just over the river from Padstow) to boot as well. The four rounds of the quiz went by very quickly and in truth I did okay but didn't win, I'd rack the brains over a question sometimes because I thought I knew the answer but in fact got nowehere near, really frustrating. I didn't finish last though, and got a respectable 24.5 out of 40. The winners got something like 29, and that was a group of eight of them sat opposite me, so I guess that I did reasonably well. Mind you, the question I got right and they got wrong sticks in the mind: "what's the only letter in Scrabble worth five points?" - well you know I love Scrabble, so it wasn't difficult to work out that it was K. Hehe.

As for tune of the day, the Star Inn had some good tunes on in between the quiz rounds which was good to see, including the classic by Depeche Mode, "Just Can't Get Enough" - and that's how I feel about the whole holiday thus far. It's Tuesday night already and I don't want it to end!

Monday 16th July - Something Fishy In Padstein

Another day, another trip out, this time taking advantage of another discount travel ticket - Ride Cornwall. For £12 this lets you have unlimited use of the trains and the buses of the three main bus operators, First, Western Greyhound and Truronian. Now considering the latter two's day tickets are £6 each, this represents good value, especially as the train fares alone could make up a sizeable portion. As it is, you just have to start after 0900, not a bad thing really. The plan was to go to Padstow first, then on to Newquay and see how time went from there.

First off, getting to Padstow. Now until the 1960s there was a branch line which started at what is now Bodmin Parkway station, going along the valley of the river Camel to Padstow. Today only part of that line survives which is the Bodmin and Wenford railway. So what you now have to do is get to Bodmin Parkway by train (nice and easy, got the 0930 Virgin train) and then the 555 bus to Padstow. As the train got into Bodmin Parkway on time, I had 40 minutes to kill before the bus, so I went into the old station signal box which is now a small café and watched the world go by with a latte. That certainly got me relaxed too and even if the bus was a little late, I didn't mind, and it was soon off to Padstow on the 555, and got there around 1230 after an hour's bus journey.

The locals call the place Padstein, and in truth it's not difficult to see why. As you walk down into the harbour from where the bus drops you off, you'll see that one of the first restaurants you come across is his The Seafood Restaurant. And then there's the deli, and towards the back of the village, the café and shop. I hadn't found the fish and chip shop yet, but I'm sure that was by the harbour and bus stop. The village itself looked more of a port and very nice because of it, at the mouth of the Camel, with the village of Rock on the other side of the river too. In fact I walked towards the beach north of the village and I got some rather spectacular views over to Rock from there, which just looked picturesque indeed.

After a quick dash into the Post Office to get the stamps for my postcards to send to people, I thought "let's see if I can do lunch in Rick Stein's café?" and enquired if there were any seats available for me. I managed to get in, get a good spot and have a lovely coffee with some bread whilst perusing what to have. I went for the goujons of plaice with some chips, and you know something? It was the finest plaice I've had in absolutely ages, cooked spot on. And indeed the chocolate sunken cake for dessert was also very luscious, and I really didn't want to waste any of it, it was all so lovely. I think if you get chance to eat in there - do. In fact my meal, dessert and coffee came to around £18, not bad value at all really.

On the way back to the bus stop I spotted the large wooden structure that was the Rick Stein school of fishery (or something like that) which featured another shop with his stuff in, and the fish and chip shop, where you could eat in or take away. The queue for the takeaway was rather large, glad I went into the café now to be honest! It was just also pleasing to see that fish and chips were still popular as a dish at the seaside as it ever was, and that was further proven later on as I headed from Padstow to Newquay on the 556 bus, going alongside the coast and via Newquay Airport along the way. Each little seaside village seemed to have a little takeaway and they were doing rather nicely.

On to Newquay then and I mainly wanted to walk via Fistral Beach (cue lots of wannabe surfers everywhere) along the headlands and to a point isolated from all the commercialism, to then go via the white gate house on the edge of the cliffs and then to the harbour front. It was all quite nice and warm feeling, especialy sat overlooking the cliffs watching the world go by. After a while all I could see was people under 25 with their surfboards heading either homewards or outwards, and it made me feel a little out of place somewhat. I consoled myself with a bit of an arcade blast though: first off kicking ass on Dancing Stage Euromix (yes, a bit of Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping" at full blast to stomp along to, just had to be tune of the day) along with a futile attempt to win a Bagpuss on the grabber machine, which after a few goes I realised it wasn't going to be a winner and hence walked away, wisely.

From there, I had time to kill as I didn't want to wait forever for the 2039 train to Penzance via Par, so I hatched a plan, I got the 597 bus to Truro via St Columb Major (where the bus decided to swap with another bus) and then via Western Greyhound's depot (cue swap to another bus there as the driver fully fuelled the second bus!) and eventually into Truro itself, the only city in Cornwall and hence the capital as such. The cathedral though is a shining example of great architecture and not even the pics I took can do it justice. And on the way back from the centre there to the train station, a nice pub with friendly locals and a real ale out of the barrel - rather nice pint it was too! And to finish the day off, I went from Truro to Redruth on the train, then took the bus to Hayle and went in one of the pubs I'd spotted on the 301 back yesterday, had a good pint of Tribute whilst watching the darts in the pub itself, then got the late train back to Penzance. All in all, a busy but good day!

Sunday 15th July - Geevor and St Ives

I had a cunning plan today. One of the major bus operators in the area are First Devon and Cornwall, and they do a bus day ticket that lets you go round Cornwall for £5.50. With that in mind, and with the very handy Cornwall timetable book I have which has every single timetable in it, I worked out that I could get up at a reasonable time, and get to Geevor Tin Mine at around 11am, and then the rest of the day was mine to do as I needed (sic). So it was a stroll to the bus station in time for the bus to Lands' End (didn't stop there as it's a bit too commercial to be honest) and then to change there for the 201 bus which would go to Geevor via St Just. And, the even better thing is, unlike the 17 bus, it drops you off right by the visitor centre instead of walking 500 yards or so down from the approach road, so that was good.

Anyway, I really enjoyed Geevor Tin Mine. It was one of the last (if not the last) tin mines to operate, when during the 1980s the price of tin crashed and it was no longer viable to mine for it like they used to do. The historical information about the mine first off was pretty well laid out and showed you some good segments of history, including a scale model of how the mine used to work, and indeed a video for you to watch as well. Then it was outside to some of the old machine rooms that they used, with all the old equipment being lovingly preserved when I saw the workers hard at it, and down to the mill where the simple element of gravity was used a bit to actually process the tin through its various bits of machinery. It was really fascinating to see how it all worked, and not least how many processes there were.

By this time there were a group of people ready to do a tour of an underground mine. Now at its peak, one of the shafts at Geevor went down 21 levels, way below sea level! Of course as the shafts were allowed to be flooded when the mine closed, couldn't go down there. But the workers did uncover the Wheal Mexico mine, and that's the one you go underground for. I have to say that Dave, the guide, was very knowledgable and also explained things very clearly. He actually used to work on the mine too, so it was pleasing to see that he was able to carry on working there in a different capacity. He did mention about why Cornish pasties have their crimps (true story that) and also gave you a real insight as to what it'd be like working the mine. That for me was really good - you could tell it was genuine history from someone who'd enthusiastically been there and that came across well.

That done, and having walked back up the hill to the café (word of note: it's quite a steep slope back up, so just take note) and time for a spot of lunch. No contest for me when I saw the size of what they had on - a proper Cornish pastie with steak and all that, for lunch, and a cream tea for dessert. Now, for those of you not in the know, a Cornish Cream Tea is basically two plain scones (or if you prefer, a "split" a sweet white bread roll) with a side pot each of jam and clotted cream, and of course a teapot with some tea. Most people slice the scone in half, and this is where the controversy comes in. Some put the jam first, then the cream, the others the cream first and then the jam. Me, I'm a jam first person! In any case the food at Geevor's café was delicious, I really was spoilt. In fact after going round the shop I had a bit of time to kill before the bus came, and so I had a very nice latte in there too. Perfect.

As was the very lovely scenery as I got the 201 bus to St. Ives. Once you leave the tin mine behind, it's then on to some really rugged coastline and small but epic villages such as Zennor, and before I knew it I was at the Malakoff and time to get off the bus, and into St. Ives I went. The weather had been dry and pretty good all day, and it was with a little disappointment that it started to chuck it down. However, I spotted one of the arcades and went in, and there was a Kentucky Derby thingy! Well of course I had to have a go didn't I? It was different from normal, in effect up to six players could play, but instead of rolling the ball into the hole, the ball came down from the top and you had to play pinball to aim it into the hole. Now of course with me being a pinball fan, right up my street. I put my pound in for four goes, and promptly won three out of four times and a fair number of tokens in the process which I could have swapped for prizes. However, I saw a couple with their child and gave the tickets to the father so that they could get the child something - they'd been competing against me and lost, and only fair that someone else gets the prizes - I got the glory by winning after all!

I headed out to one of the many beaches, and before I got to the end of the harbour it started to rain, so I took shelter. However, I started to move out of the shelter when I spotted something bobbing in the water. It looked like a seal, and as I got closer, it was a seal! I was pretty pleased to have snagged a good photo of the seal too, right up close to the edge of the water and I guess the rain wasn't making that seal's day anyway. I headed to the little cove at Porthgwidden beach, very lovely that looked, and just beyond that Porthmeor beach also looked fairly busy. I found a nice ice cream place by Porthgwidden where they did a cone of nice Cornish clotted cream vanilla for a bargain 90p! Now that was rather good, I have to say. I walked back through the centre to the beach at Porthminster, again busy, but it also showed just how clean the whole place was. That for me said a lot in that everything just felt right.

I love the old streets, the old style cottages and the fact that despite the tourism, the place hasn't lost any of its traditional charm, something which I was pleased to see. Too often you see some places just turn into identikit towns, so to speak, but thankfully not here, which was a definite something. I also noted that rather excellent shop that specialises in Winnie The Pooh, and if you're a fan you would love it in there, sort of like a dreamland for all Pooh fans. I also really like the laid back feel though too - here you could tell it was just a relaxing place to be. And as I got the 301 bus back to Penzance, the whole day was worthwhile. Even more so after tea, as I got the 6A bus to Mousehole and had a well earned pint of Tinners in the Ship Inn. And rather good it was, too!

As for tune of the day, what better than the excellent "Beautiful" by Barenaked Ladies. Sums up everything nice in one little cute song, and certainly I felt like I'd been some beautiful places today.

Saturday 14th July - Hooray, Hooray, It's Time For My Holiday!

Yes, it's finally here. The time that I have for myself to have week of rest, relaxation and cram as much as I can into seven days whilst just appreciating everything. And where better than Cornwall? Although most of the UK has had rain, rain, and yes, you've guessed it, more rain, the far west of the country hasn't fared that badly, and so it was with this in mind that I'd decided to book to go there a while back. So it was up at a really early hour so I could get the train from Manchester at 0724 (yes, that early!). The train I was getting would take me as far as Plymouth (it was heading for Newquay but I wasn't going there) and then I'd change for the service to Penzance. Doddle, I thought.

And it turned out to be so. The first leg was on a Virgin train, and it was one that it looked like they'd hired from Midland Mainline, so it wasn't a posh fancy Voyager, but an older style train but with more carraiges, but, hurrah, air conditioning! So with the portable player set to random, I kicked back, relaxed and generally just took it easy as the train headed through Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter and then to Plymouth, and despite picking up lots of passengers with a fair amount of luggage, it arrived in Plymouth on time, allowing me a bit of time to snag some lunch there before going o the First Great Western for the rest of the service. Even better was that what I found was a Spar in the station that did hot snacks, and they'd reduced the price of their breakfast rolls and the price of their pastry bakes, so I actually got a sausage and egg roll and a ham and cheese bake for under £1.75! Now that was a bit more like it! Got on the FGW service from Plymouth, which came in 10 minutes late, and by the time it got to Penzance it was around 25 minutes late. However, this still meant I arrived there at 1545ish, which wasn't too bad.

This also gave me the rest of the day to unpack, get some food in (the place I'm using as my base is self-catering) and then venture out in the evening if I fancied it. So, got to the place I was staying, and everything was lovely. Very lovely. Even with an LCD Freeview telly lovely. Oh yes. I was very pleased, me. At least if the weather did turn foul I knew I could have something to do. I unpacked and gave my clothes a quick press over, although most of them had survived the journey and didn't need a full-on ironing job, thankfully. Went about half a mile to the local Tesco and mainly got stuff for breakfast, some more milk (a new pint bottle had thoughtfully been left for me along with tea and coffee though!), some soft drinks, and some food to make up in the evening if I needed to. All seemed set fair and by the time I'd arrived back at base, there was stil plenty of time.

So what did I do? Head out along the promenade, of course. And before you know it, I actually found an amusement arcade. And what greeted me was pretty good - a Simpsons Pinball Party pinball machine. And it even played half-decent (although it's not one of my favourite tables) - just good to see that there's still a demand for pinball somewhere. Had a go of that as well as the old classic Sega Manx TT Superbike (I'm sure you remember how you had to lean the bike in the corners!) before heading back down the promenade and to the local pub, where a rather tasty pint of Tribute ale awaited me, along with the Amir Khan fight. Wish someone would tell ITV1 though that taking a commercial break in between rounds meant that we all got to miss the surprise conclusion to that one. Ah well.

Tune of the day was something generated at random by the portable beastie, and it was the rather enjoyable "Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. For no particular reason as such but it just was enjoyable listening to that as the train was passing through Cheltenham Spa...

Friday 13th July - Unlucky Rain

Well it's the supposed unlucky day, and if you're in Manchester, then the weather made it an unlucky day for sure. Rain, rain, ooh, let's see, a bit more rain maybe? That's exactly what I've had for most of the day. Mind you, I did get a replacement PC imaged (the previous one we had was dead on arrival so I actioned a swapout from the manufacturer) and also sorted out anything outstanding that I needed to do, so that felt good. As we sat having a coffee at lunch just watching the rain fall very heavily outside we all wondered if it was going to stop in the next day or two. Truth is, probably not actually, which means I might have a rainy couple of days when I'm off, but to be honest it's the break that I'm going to make the most of more than anything.

I headed straight to Tesco from work and made sure I got any essential shopping in. I did need something for my tea tonight though and managed to spot a little bargain, the Tesco Finest Aberdeen Angus burgers reduced from £1.99 for two to just a pound. I thought "I can give them a go and try them with some ketchup on, job done!" I don't know if the rain brought everyone out doing their food shopping, but it did seem much busier than usual. But I managed to even get all the fruit and vegetables I needed as well with minimal fuss (although it's always a pain to have to check the sell by dates of a lot of stuff, c'est la vie I guess). But that done, homeward bound and out of the rain. The burgers, by the way, were rather delicious!

I was thinking for most of the day about how the non smoking ban has really come into effect. Wherever you go now, any pub, any bar, anywhere like that, it just feels a whole lot cleaner and fresher than before, and certainly having already been to four gigs this month (and one scheduled for next month, ordered my Amy Macdonald ticket online just now!) I have felt the difference. Of course you still might feel quite warm and sweaty if the venue's in all black (as several of them tend to be still) but I do feel like I'd go to more now. It's just a case of who I want to see, where and when now!

Anyway, with some irony I've been listening to tune of the day, Electronic's "Getting Away With It". I love the song, but the opening line was one that I always used to hum to myself on the way from indie nights in the pouring rain, which is "I've been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose". It just seems so bloody right to sing along to it right now actually, cos I can!

Thursday 12th July - Raining At The Dry Bar

Another night, another gig. And as I decided that I'd done enough of the stuff at home to get myself ready for the break I'm taking, I thought "you know what? I'm going to treat myself and go to a little gig!" - which is what exactly I did. I knew from Tuesday evening that Donna Marie was filling in for someone who pulled out of a gig at Dry Bar, and all the pieces just nicely fell into place so that I could go along. I even found a nice shirt in one of the local shops near me for a fiver to wear tonight, bargain, and so got myself ready and headed out into the centre of Manchester.

Unfortunately, I had the misfortune to have a very drunken man decide to sit next to me on the bus. He decided to rant and rave and go on with himself about his Irish roots and how everyone else can "f** off, win lose or draw" which he must have said around 20 times in the journey, as well as hurling racist abuse towards some of the passengers. Then he got up to get off and as he was waiting was looking around at people going "what are you looking at me like that for? I'll smash your f**ing face in!". Truth is, he was probably too drunk to know if anyone would hit him or not, and I really thought that he needed a fair bit of rehabilitation. That might sound a bit harsh, but when people have a drink problem they really go off the rails and this was an example - and I know that rehab does work because I know someone who helps to get people back on their feet, and does a wonderful job too.

It was trying to rain again as it had done for most of the day, so I decided to head straight up Oldham Street, past Night and Day (considerable queue outside there it has to be said) and then next door to Dry Bar. I'd not been in there for years, primarily because it used to get full of scallies who would just want to pick fights with each other. It's a fair bit more chilled out now, I thought, but it still needs something that just seemed a bit lacking, didn't feel like it was giving itself enough chance, especially when Night and Day just has that ambience about it that I've liked over the years. Anyway, after the bemused look on the staff as I asked for a latte (look, if you're having to read a manual on the side of the machine to make a latte, then don't have a coffee machine and charge a mere £3 for a bottled beer instead, bloody rip off merchants!!) I mellowed out for a while as the doors in the downstairs bit where the gig was happening wasn't opening.

Headed on down at the right time and it was very small, the stage dominated the room a bit really and the small bar on the right wasn't even open, which meant that you had to go back up to get a drink and then back down again. Hmmm. Anyway, I spotted Donna Marie and said hello (only polite after all) and we headed back upstairs for a drink before she went on. One thing I've always found with the more indie artists out there is that they're always willing to make time for you, because support and encouragement is a good thing, but also because there's none of that big rock star with entourage attitude, they're just their normal selves. Which is a darned good thing.

Phil (the organiser/promoter) went over and had a chat with Donna, he seemed like a good bloke who was trying his hardest to get people interested in the bands and to go down and enjoy themselves, and also sorted out the very dodgy mic stand by whacking tons of gaffer tape on the stand to hold it down. He also seemed to really believe in the artists he tries to get playing, and he mentioned to me that when you see crap like X-Factor on telly it makes his blood boil because it's an easy cop-out way to get into the music industry without trying. I know what he means. When you have the likes of Donna playing her heart out several nights a week just to try and get the word spread around it makes you realise just how shit the industry can be - oh, and the labels are mainly in London.

Still, there wasn't that many people when Donna went on and did her thing, and if nothing else, it was good to try and see how the sound would be in a small venue, especially as she's playing The Roadhouse next month supporting Amy Macdonald, which is a similarish underground type venue (and I've enjoyed many gigs there, Bennet being a great example) and so the set list went a little something like this:

The Other Half
Make You Mine
Perfect Fit
Sinking Deep
Like A Hollywood Film
Holiday From Myself
Imagine
Goodtime Girl

You'll notice that she threw in a cover of Imagine in there, for the hell of it. And actually it sounded pretty decent. Even without the lovely piano bit that Oasis ripped off for "Don't Look Back In Anger". But for some reason tonight, Goodtime Girl hit all the right spots more than it usually does and I really enjoyed that - so that's my tune of the day. I think it was probably because she was enjoying herself so much and that comes across to you when you're watching!

It was pretty much time to leave after a couple of songs from the band, Loki. To say that they were crap is a master of the understatement. To have a lead singer who acts drunk and tries to be all Madchester-like and have that swagger is one thing, but to have most of it sequenced from a very old iMac with a guitar player who wasn't in tune either, and it just smacked of total unprofessionalism. Not least when the singer decided to start swinging the mic around in the crowd - I was worried he was going to let go and smack us one! And for some reason he took off all the tape to the mic stand, then tried to use the mic and knocked the stand over, and had the cheek to complain that the stand wasn't taped up either. Well... duhhh! Anyway, to be honest I was very non plussed and decided to leave.

But yet again Donna Marie was on great form, and it just makes me wonder what the hell she has to do before someone in the industry takes note, signs her up and gives her the promotional platform to do really well like she deserves to. I pondered that as I headed towards bed and sleep, thinking that I've seen her live three times in less than a month and each time it's been a darned good gig all round.

Wednesday 11th July - Clearout Time

I spent a bit of time this afternoon clearing out any unnecessary paperwork from my desk drawers. It always seems to accumulate over time and it was high time I needed it all sorting out and prioritising into the stuff that I actually do need, rather than the stuff that I don't, and it was actually quite wholesome to see the back of some things that I'd probably never need to refer to or use again. No point, so why did I need them, so to speak. Sometimes it's just a good plan to do that before you take a break, so that when you come back you feel that you've not come back to millions of things that you need to do within the next five minutes.

I've also been thinking about my holiday - in a way I'm looking forward to it a lot, but in another I'm also a little worried that I'm going to enjoy myself so much that I won't want to go back home as well! I know that might sound strange, but it's got to the point where I cherish each escape that I have. I mean over Easter going to Windsor and including an ambition to go and see Avenue Q was just something special, and that weekend went by far too quickly, but was so enjoyable. And because my Mum went to Cornwall last month and had a wonderful time there, she was telling me how she didn't want to go home, and I can see where she's coming from!

I think also because of the impending work changes (long story, can't really say much about that) it's also a case of me being able to enjoy any moments I have where I feel completely at ease with myself and relaxed. I can still be a little shy at times and it's something that I know I need to work on a little so that I don't feel so non-confident in certain surroundings and situations. I'm sure it'll all work out in the end though so I'm not worrying too much about that yet - but instead to look forward and note how much I've changed but yet retained the old me that I like over the last few months. It's really been a journey, and in a way I might come to some important decisions when I get back from my break too. And I mean, important decisions!

As I've been in the mood of being relaxed today I've whacked on the Godiego "Magic Monkey" CD. For the uninitiated, it's basically the album with all the songs that featured in the first series of the "Monkey" TV series - bad dubbing and all! "Havoc in Heaven" is here and it's my tune of the day - not least because it's the tune that plays when Monkey fights (cue "I love to fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!" and "deeeeeeeeemons" speeches from Monkey of course). I almost bid on eBay a while back for the BBC UK release of the same album with suitable pic of Monkey, Pigsy, Sandy and Tripitaka on the front, but to get the CD from Japan was the preferred option, as it was the proper thing! Now, where's that The Water Margin soundtrack album?

Tuesday 10th July - The Limelight At The Winelight

Two nice things happened today. First, it was my uncle's birthday, and so as I was heading out to a gig later this evening, I went round to his place after work to see him and his wife, and hand over the card and pressie. As he'd recently got a laptop quite cheap he wanted a little USB mouse to use, rather than that nipple mouse thing, which I can completely agree with him on being a right pain to use. I got the Microsoft optical one because I know that it would be reliable, plus it's quite dinky and perfect size. He was very pleased and it was good to see them both. I think in the last year or so I've really taken stock that family should mean a lot to you, but not being an overbearing influence on the life that you have for yourself.

Then, straight off from there, into the city centre, and to take the Metrolink replacement buses up to Bury. As the trams are having work done on the tracks at the moment, no services are running north of Crumpsall on the Bury line and as such this means that it's replacement buses, which take longer. Thankfully one of them, the X1, only stops at Cheetham Hill, Bowker Vale and then heads up the M66 and A58 into Bury, shedloads quicker. It took around 35 minutes as scheduled but that meant I got into Bury just after 8pm, and was just hoping that the gig at the Met (in their fancy Automatic bar downstairs) hadn't started off without me. Thankfully for me, it hadn't!

So I got myself a table away from the diners and chilled out with a massive latte, well worth it for the two quid it cost. I should mention at this point that the night is called the "Winelight Club" where you can if you like book a meal, and watch the acts perform on the stage in front of you whilst having dinner with friends or loved ones. It actually make for a really intimate atmosphere and full of people who wanted to be there for all the right reasons, and let's face it, you don't get that very often at gigs (even at PJ Harvey where there were idiots sat by me - check Saturday's entry). As such one side had tables with dining cutlery and so on, and I didn't want to be over that side incase I was taking anyone's seat.

So as I'm chilled out listening to tunes over the speakers (which I think was the album by Foy Vance if memory serves me correctly) in walks Donna Marie (official site) (myspace) - part of the reason I'm here tonight. I'm actually pretty surprised she recognised me, but nonetheless it was lovely to see her and have a chat with her before the first act started. There were meant to be four acts, but one didn't turn up for some reason and so it was down to three. Not for me that it diminished any enjoyment of the whole gig though - it was all rather lovely, warm and fuzzy which just made it for me and everyone else. And.. no people talking during the performances!! Now that made a very pleasant change indeed.

The way they do it in this night is that the acts do half their set in the first half of the show and the other half in the second, in a different running order. Actually this was quite a cute move. First up was Rangan (official site) (myspace) (pronounced Wrong'Un), a really tall bloke from Wilmslow. He was pretty good, and his songs of emotion and pain came across well. Of course being tall the mic was positioned rather high for him, but he just did his stuff really well and it was a good start to proceedings.

I could tell that Donna was itching to go on, I guess it's the waiting that really is the nerve wracking thing, but I know full well that she wanted to go and enjoy herself and do her stuff. I suppose when you think about it, it's actually the adrenalin as well that gives you that impetus. On she went and did the first half of her set - and my, was it excellent? It sure was. I did my now recent thing of noting down the songs as being played in the phone (set to silent, natch) so I could remember the set list without having to ask for a bit of A4 paper with it all scrawled on. So the first half went a little something like this:

Paint The Sky
Like a Hollywood Film
Make You Mine
The Other Half

The acoustics sounded really good for all the acts as well, not the most complicated rig, but the right size for the place and at the right volume, with an attentive audience, which helped considerably to say the least. I think Donna was really pleased with herself - and of course there was more to come in the second half as well. Then, third up was Lee Mitchell (official site) (myspace) and he was very good too. The nice thing was that as well as doing songs about love that weren't trashy (difficult to achieve, that) he also kept his Northern Irish accent in his voice when performing. I thought that was an excellent touch, it made the whole thing much more intimate and believable purely because he hadn't lost his roots where he came from, and delivered subtle nuances with aplomb. Shame I didn't have much dosh with me, cos I'd have probably bought his EP at least (in fact, mental note made to do that when I got back).

Anyway, had a bit of a break and chatted with Donna Marie for a while, and with a bit of luck there may be an eight track mini album out later in the year. That would be grand of course, but her production side of things (she's also a dance music remixer/producer you know) is keeping things busy too. The host then came back on and said a few bits of his spiel before getting things back underway with Lee Mitchell's second set, which was again very good - lots of songs about love and a bit more whispery vocals this time around. Turns out he had to dash down to Coventry as he's playing there over the weekend, so he requested he was on first the second time around. Donna Marie went back on and stormed it (again) with another four song set, which was:

Sinking Deep
Holiday From Myself
Perfect Fit
Goodtime Girl

So everyone got all the tracks from her Paint The Sky EP plus more, which was rather nice. Donna even sold a couple of her EPs (incidentally quite a few people from South America have bought her EP online, excellent news that!), one that she sold to a woman in a very nice white top who assumed that yours truly was her other half. Erm... no!! Still, she did chat to me afterwards and seemed pretty nice on the whole. Then it was Rangan on again and due to a lack of time remaining (apparently all the acts have to finish by 11pm or so) he did another three songs, which were all pretty good too. What I did notice was that the audience seemed generally pretty pleased with what they'd seen, despite there being only three artists. Of course for yours truly, it would have been a great gig had it been Donna Marie on her own, but to get two thoroughly good people as well was like three for the price of one. How good is that?

I really thought that "The Other Half" came across wonderfully well, with plenty of gusto, and because of that it's my tune of the day. Much kudos must go to the organisers of the monthly Winelight Club night though, it seemed a very relaxed atmosphere with plenty of nice people (including Chris the sound engineer, who knew when to tweak the dials and when to leave them well alone) and definitely it's the sort of night that you could take a partner to and have a lovely warm time together. Certainly there were plenty of couples in there last night (not that I was bothered!) and it just had a warm fuzzy feeling all around.

Said my goodbyes and then headed to the bus station to get the Metrolink replacement bus, which got me into Shudehill. One quick dash to the bus stop and I made the second last bus homeward bound, and crawled into bed a bit later on knowing full well that I'd had a really nice time in some wonderful surroundings with likeminded people, and added to that I'd seen someone I really believe in and hope that she goes far. When I see all the crap in the charts these days I can just listen to my increasingly more obscure indie stuff like her, MJ Hibbett and the Validators, Hooker, etc, and realise that I've not lost it yet.

Monday 9th July - We Could Be Packing Heroes

Had a fairly strange sort of day, in that there were lots of "bitty" jobs at work where it was a case of just getting things either finished off or started. I was also working on a new PC for the Landscape research room where they have software to deal with plant information and indeed to look up building regulations. Turns out with the latter every time you install the software on a different PC (in this case, a replacement one) you need a new unlock code, so I was on the phone to a very nice Geordie lass who talked me through the procedure and within minutes I'd got everything up and running, including ensuring that the correct rights were given to users so that they could use the program.

Anyway, got home and started the one thing I hate about holidays - packing! There's always so much to remember to take with you, not least this time around as I've got to remember anything I've pre-booked in advance and take the confirmations with me, plus make sure anything I'm going to wear is clean and ironed, so that was something to sort out. Oh, and not forgetting all the chargers you have to take with you, phone charger, battery charger for the digital camera, all that sort of thing. By mid evening I'd pretty much got everything sorted and only needed to iron a couple of tops once they'd been washed and then it was pretty much done, so I shouldn't have to last minute panic now, that's the theory anyway.

I spent some time transferring stuff to the portable player, and it was there that I played tune of the day - namely Philip Glass' version of "Heroes" from his Heroes Symphony album. It just sounds so different from the Bowie classic but at the same time it's been lovingly done in such a gorgeous way. It's also quite good chill out music even though it's full on orchestral, if that makes any sense whatsoever. I was just really pleased to be able to take that in even more especially after last night, because I now appreciate that cinematic film score type of music even more..

Sunday 8th July - The Orchestral Orbit

Another day, another gig. Isn't it funny how all these things happen around the same time? As you may recall back in March I had four gigs in four days, and this was the second of three in four.. I must be certifiable! Anyway, a bit of a difference from PJ Harvey last night: this time it was the world's first performance of an Orchestral Suite as composed by.. William Orbit! Hang on, I hear you say. But isn't he a dance musician and producer, and didn't he also court controversy by that "Pieces in a Modern Style" album where he remixed classical tunes and made them all sort of dancey? Well, yes he did, but he is actually influenced a fair bit by classical musicians, so why not make a suite of your own to be performed and match them at their own game?

Actually, talking of games, I was playing the demo of Joystick Johnny today, and it's well worth checking out. The demo gives you an idea of the full game and really does play well, you have six minutes to clear four different arcade games, and each time you play one you have to clear an increasing number of levels. The games range from asteroids (Pizzaroids) to space invaders (Shape Invaders) to frogger with a pig (Hogger) which I'm sure one of my friends who likes pigs would absolutely enjoy. It's darned good fun and as I said, it plays really well. There's some excellent music in there as well which just sets the tone perfectly for those 1980s gaming sessions that you used to have in the arcades (well if you were like me and were a demon on Track and Field, anyway). Do check it out, and at the time of writing I'm number two on the top scores list, so something for you to aim at...

I also watched the British Grand Prix earlier today as well and I had a feeling that Ferrari would come out on top, they've literally been the best at Silverstone for some time. Sadly for the many Lewis Hamilton fans, today was no exception as Kimi Raikkonen leapfrogged Hamilton after his first stop, only to see Fernando Alonso re-take the lead after his stop. But the key thing was that Alonso's second phase was quite low on fuel, and so this allowed Raikkonen to go longer, and he made up the time he needed to get back in front of Alonso after his second stop and then control the race for the win from there. As for Hamilton, the pressure for once finally told - he almost went too early during his first stop after not waiting for the lollipop man to move the stick away - he was just flipping it as they normally do in the stop so that the driver would engage first gear and be ready to go. But nonetheless third was a solid finish, and a ninth podium on the trot. Crucially he's only lost two points to Alonso and four to Raikkonen, and because of his stall off the grid and by only finishing fifth, Felippe Massa was also two points worse off than Hamilton. So in truth it wasn't that bad, but a sure sign that the expectation level is being raised all the time and it'll be a case of how he handles everything from here on in.

After spending some time over at my Mum's in the late afternoon with a fair bit of the family, it was time to head into the Bridgewater Hall for the second night running. Interestingly I spotted that the concert was being recorded for BBC Radio 3 transmission at a later date, and so to make sure everything like mobiles were switched off, and to save any applause for the end. After a quick drink and a visit to the loo (as with quite a few of the Manchester International Festival events, no interval!) and I was ready to take my seat in the side circle. I had a good view of most of the orchestra on the stage, which took up all of the very large stage, and I noticed also the choir singers to the very far left, actually in the rear of the choir circle, with their overhead mics hooked up ready to record their subtle nuances and "ahhh"s.

So, what did I think? Well, it was certainly different, and reminded me somewhat more of a film score. I don't know if that was how Orbit intended it to be, but it was certainly of that ilk, with lots of gentle movements with the harp as the lead, to massive full blown releases of energy and suspense with the drums and violins at absolutely full throttle, drawing the user in with deep breaths and plenty of substance. I guess from his own experiences of doing those Strange Cargo albums probably emnated a lot on what he tried to achieve, and throughout the eighty minutes and nine movements, the mood changed, the subtleties changed and it was a rollercoaster ride of emotions and feelings. I think it actually worked well, and the BBC Manchester Philarmonic orchestra were in superb form all round to be honest. It was nice to see the conductor invite Orbit on stage at the end to take the applause, certainly it worked pretty well. Oh, and it might be the only time it gets performed live - ever. So I might just have to see if I can snaffle the Radio 3 recording when it's transmitted - a true "I was there" moment if ever there was one.

One thing that did upset me - where was everyone? Although the side circle seats near me were fairly full, I could see swathes of gaps in the stalls and in the circle and gallery, and I reckoned it was about a third full in total. Bitterly disappointing that, considering that it was a new and exclusive work, and as the tickets weren't that expensive either (especially compared to PJ Harvey the night before which was full) - I guess that classical music of any form still has that "class" factor attached to it, despite the fact a fair number of people weren't in suits or trousers that were there. It just makes me wonder at times whether it's the elitism of the people who go to such events and frown upon anyone who wants to take it up, or if it's just the fact that if you try and be cultured and go that your peer group will think that you're being snobbish. I pondered that as I headed over to the Festival Pavillion for a coffee and a chill out afterwards.

In any case, tune of the day is the first movement from tonight's Orchestral Suite. It was pretty lengthy but it really did set the scene for the rest of the evening, and also had plenty of dramatic moments throughout that opening. I guess if it was a film it'd be the opening scenes with a lush background and just plenty of emotion. I liked it at any rate, and as I said, it was something different from what I'd do, and feel mighty cultured now.

Saturday 7th July - Beautiful Girl, Love Your Dress

If you happen to know what song has that opening line (in the title above) contact me and fame and fortune will be yours. I actually know of course, but just a bit of a brain teaser for you. And no cheating by looking it up on the Internet either! But anyway, today was a rather good day all round really. It was a case of going into the city centre three times, but the last one was the most worth it and it was rather spectactular to say the least. But more on that in a short while.

First off, I got up this morning and decided to dig out all the weeds that had decided to grow in the alleyway by the side of the house. Since the alleys have now all been gated, responsibility for upkeep technically lies with the residents, although I did ask the council to tarmac the alley first beforehand so it wasn't cobbled. Not that I got a response, boo. Anyway, as some of these weeds made the alley look a bit unsightly, I decided the best thing to do was to dig them all up and bin them, and make it look a bit tidier. Surprisingly it didn't take that long either, and with my trusty pair of garden gloves (60p a time from one of the local pound shops by me - they have great grip too) I was soon done. I was going to spray the weedkiller just to be sure but then it started to rain a little and I timed by run back inside pretty perfectly.

Next up, a first visit into the city centre. I needed to get a few toiletries for the forthcoming break, and as well as that possibly another pair of jeans as well. Oh, and a birthday card as it's a relation's birthday next week as well. I hit the city centre, got the card sorted (pretty easy) as well as the stuff from Bodycare (again, pretty easy) but what was nice was that when I went into M&S to get their regular fit black jeans (really nice, and a mere £9.50 a pair, plus they don't fade in the wash - hurrah), it was buy one get one free. Needless to say of course that I got myself a couple of pairs. After also venturing in a couple of clothes shops to see if they had anything I liked (they didn't, boo) it was time for me to head back home and watch the F1 qualifying.

I made myself the mushroom and garlic burgers for lunch (I'm not turning veggie by the way, it's just that these are filling and wholesome) and watching Lewis Hamilton snatch pole right at the end and hearing James Allen go mental made me reach for the volume control until the team radio was on so I could hear Lewis going mental instead. Sorry James, but you can't cut it as the main commnetator, you're just too annoying by half. Martin Brundle is coolness personified and maybe someone at ITV should see sense and now make him the main man? I do miss his chemistry with Murray Walker when MW was the legend of commentary - they worked so well together. But Lewis did great for sure, only snag is that Raikkonen's on the front row too, could be pretty hairy stuff going into Copse tomorrow. Then, back into the city centre and off to get my hair cut, as it needed doing anyway but thought it would make sense so I could look good tonight while I'm out.

Pottered around the house for a bit when I got back, saw that England had capitulated in the one day game against the West Indies (there's a surprise) and got myself showered and changed so I could head back into the city centre, and before you know it I was on the bus heading towards Oxford Street and then on to the Bridgewater Hall to see PJ Harvey. The ticket clearly said a start time of 8pm with no support, so I made sure that I got there on time - only to be greeted by a note that was pretty much everywhere in the hall that said that PJ wouldn't be on until 9pm. I had a quick drink at the bar and then headed out for a walk.

Got back from my walk (and noticed that quite a few people who were going to the same gig had decided that a Big Mac was the weapon of choice for them - McDonalds never looked so busy at 8pm!) and scoped out which entrance I was in (Side Circle row D, I was) and then spotted one of our lecturers at work along with his girlfriend, and had a quick chat to them both. It was nice to see them actually, and they were surprised that someone like PJ Harvey was my thing as well as the other alternative stuff I like. I must explain one day that I'm probably the most cultured out of our team (in my completely unbiased opinion of course) and I do like to get out there and enjoy my little self.

It was soon time for PJ Harvey to come on at 9pm, and even though she was all done by around 10.20pm, including an encore, it really was an excellent gig. She had set up all the instruments she was going to play in the centre of the stage, and they had little lights on all of them. So when she came on, all the lights in the hall went off and just her stage lights were on, and it felt even more warm and intimate because of that. What I was expecting was her to try out lots of new stuff from her new album "White Chalk", out the end of September, and plenty of it aired tonight was for the first time ever (exclusives!) but what I didn't expect was her to belt out plenty of her old stuff.

Looking absoutely stunning in this white dress with what looked like three words in black written on, which looked like "grown", "like" and "cat" from where I could see, she changed instrument from electric guitar to piano, from there to piano with harmonica, and some other odd instrument, as well as keyboards and even bashing the cymbals on one number. Oh yes, and not forgetting of course the acoustic guitar during the very last song of the set "The Desparate Kingdom Of Love", delivered to beautifully too.

Most of the audience were enjoying it, really being polite and silent while she was playing and taking in all her new stuff. That is, except four blokes immediately to my right. They had got tickets for free (corporate thing apparently) and were talking throughout the first couple of songs. A couple or two below looked at them with disapproving sneers, rightly so in my view, before they started to shut up, then all left to go to the loo half way through the set. I must admit it disappointed me as prior to the gig they seemed friendly enough to talk to, but you don't talk during a gig - it's so bloody disrespectful. Lots of people around me were pleased when they left it had to be said.

What I did expect was the new stuff, as I said. What I didn't expect was a smattering of her old stuff from her back catalogue, and not just any old stuff, her really good songs. So we got "Man Size" and a beautiful rendition of "Down By The Water" played on some antique instrument that was charming. We also got a gorgeous "Send His Love To Me" early on, played electric with lots of passion, and an emotional "Rid Of Me", but what was nicest of all was when she got out the electric guitar, and as soon as the opening chords came on I was so happy. She was playing "Dress" - her first proper single and still to this day my favourite song of hers - it reminds me of happy times going mental to it at indie nights and thinking at the time that I'd want to take her out dancing and she would wear her dress for me. Ah, happy days. So really nothing else apart from that classic could be tune of the day - it just sounded really perfect and the acoustics in the Bridgewater helped a lot.

It was simply a stunning gig and I was so glad that I decided to go and get myself a ticket. I might have to get the new album when it comes out too, cos lots of it was played on piano only and it sounded really emotionally intense and moving. I kind of like that style anyway so it's going to be on the diary of stuff to purchase for me I reckon. I've got back home now and of course whacked on "Dry" on CD so I could hear "Dress" again. Oh, and "Sheela Na Gig" which didn't get played tonight but I'm not going to be fussy. Far from it. To get a world first live hearing of the new stuff was great, PJ was so lovely with the audiece and I could tell she was really happy and surprised too, and the atmosphere was just right. Next time I won't wait so bloody long to see her live though...

Friday 6th July - Sven Boring Eriksson - We're Knackered Now..

Went to lunch at work today, and not any old lunch. It was time to hit the Chinese buffet at Buffet City and really enjoy the food there, and I did as I always do. Interestingly they had the Cantonese chicken there, which is usually only in the evenings, as well as beef and mushroom and this other chicken in honey and pepper sauce which was rather nice to say the least. Still can't believe they only charge £5.50 as well, it's such excellent value for what you get and you can literally choose what you like. I normally always have the sweetcorn soup just to get me nicely started.

Anyway, got back and found out on BBC News the news that I'd been dreading as a Man City fan - after Thakshin Shinawatra managed to get to 75% of City's shares and delist the company from the Stock Exchange, and after being seen at the training ground earlier in the week, it's now been confirmed that Sven-Göran Eriksson has been appointed as Man City manager. I had a feeling that it might happen, but in truth I was hoping that it wasn't going to come to fruition.

To say I'm actually not happy with this is a master of understatement. Whilst his previous record at club level before managing England was pretty good, the way that he completely ruined the England team, made it lose its pride and passion, had meaningless friendless with 20 substitutions, and relied on one tactic but didn't know Plan B if things went wrong left me feeling angry and frustrated as a football fan, knowing full well that his legacy still lives on in the England side as Steve McClaren. Okay, so he's a "big" name, I grant you. But as a passionate Man City fan the one thing you want to see from your manager is to emnate that pride and passion from the touchline, so it feels like the boss cares as much as the team as you do. I still feel that the City board gave Stuart Pearce a rough ride leading to his sacking.

Granted, we didn't score very much at home last season. But until the second half of the season, we also had the best unbeaten home record in the Premiership. Go figure. If the board weren't willing to support Pearce and buy a decent striker, instead of resorting to cheap crap llike Bernardo Corradi (argubably the worst player ever in a City shirt -and I've seen plenty of bad ones over the years let me tell you) and indeed not publically supporting him, then it's their fault also. At least Pearce actually had the passion and pride, and the way the England Under-21 team performed recently at the European Championships is testament to how Pearce got them motivated. Indeed, several of the players have spoken highly of him, and I remember a friend of mine, who's a Doncaster fan, saying after we lost at Doncaster in the League Cup that their fans had nothing but respect for Pearce after his post match interview, where he was honest enough to say on the night the better team won.

But back to Sven. What City fans need to see is a determination, passion and pride to see the job through, and not just rely on the money from Shinawatra to buy a team but to buy players who actually gel well with who we already have. We've got England's future right back (and argubaly centre half also), we've got a respected captain who stars for the Republic of Ireland. We've got Sweden's number 1 goalie. Defence wise, we're sorted. It's mainly the creative midfielder and strike force we need. Sven must see that and get players who will actually fit with the team ethos and also perform week in week out, and give their all. Us City fans have always said that even if a player isn't the most skilful in the world, if they give 100% for the cause they'll always have the fans' backing - Shaun Goater being a case in point. (Ah, those two goals he scored against Man U to reach 100, poetry they were!)

I'm just worried that Sven's going to target players he's known under the England set up that he rates that most of the country doesn't, Stewart Downing being an obvious case in point (he's bobbins!), Jermaine Jenas is someone else I can think of, and Alan Smith is another. And that doesn't fill me with excitement. He also needs to make sure that he actually keeps the passion where it belongs - on the pitch - and not in the bed of some female worker at the City of Manchester Stadium (some of the staff are pretty hot!), or, if he's going to follow his trend of local weather girls, Dianne Oxberry.. I'd love to be proved wrong, of course, and if so then I'll be the first to admit I was wrong. See where we are at the end of the season, I reckon. But £7.5 million for a three year deal? Sheesh... that's almost as much as he was being paid for mismanaging England...

Rant over. I had a relaxing evening tonight after defrosting the freezer and then doing the food shopping afterwards (made perfect sense as I had freezer stuff!) and then chilling out with some very laid back music to get me in the mood for the weekend. John Mayer's "The Heart of Life" is my tune of the day because of the lovely guitar playing, and the vocals are just in excellent form. It also just seems nice to go to sleep to as well, probably because of the really gentle main guitar with occasional bluesy feel, and it's just.. well..nice. There. I said it.

Thursday 5th July - Three In Four It Is Then!

Well, when I got home from work, after pouring my head in an Excel spreadsheet and updating it so that it lists all the Group Policy settings that you can set now IE7 is installed, and indeed noting down what we've set (thankfully I should add that I just tweaked our existing file and added the IE7 specific stuff, I'm not that mad!) - and there at home was an envelope waiting for me for a ticket for Tuesday night's "Winelight" gig at Bury Met. Admittedly, the reason I'm mainly going is to see the wonderful Donna Marie again, and that'll be a rather nice thing to do. Even nicer was that when I rang the box office, the people there were really friendly and helpful, and courteous too. Why can't everyone be like that?

Must admit I'm really looking forward to seeing PJ Harvey this Saturday as well though. I still can't believe in all those years I've never seen her live, and in a way I've respected her musically for what she does (I even have "Dress" on 12" single so there you go!) but it's always either clashed with something else or I've not felt that confident to go it alone. And now, it's just a whole new lease of life for me and I really am taking the bull by the horns at the moment, so to speak.

Watched that "Imagine" thing on BBC1 last night too about the making of Monkey:Journey To The West, and it was absolutely fascinating stuff. Not least to see how it all came together musically for Damon Albarn, including an update to a very rare instrument, the klaxophone (which Damon didn't invent, kids! It was actually invented by the composer Henry Filmore way back in 1929). I just had to love the arcade buttons and the joystick on its panel for its control, and the way that it actually resonated perfectly in time to the other bits of music going on. Oh, and that grid system for the instrument players must have been confusing as hell!

But what it did show you is just how tight everything was to actually get a working show together: so much so that Albarn and Jamie Hewlett were both worried as hell. In truth, they needn't be - the fact that they both admit inspiration from the TV series showed that they had the interests of the original book at heart too, and it certainly comes across wonderfully well when I saw it. Allan Yentob was a masterful genius here (as he has been with other Imagine documentaries) by asking the right questions but not being a pain in the bottom. Hurrah!

Anyway, as I was listening to some tunes as I was transferring them to the portable player in preparation, and amongst them was the rather lovely first Placebo album (add to the fact that I saw an old Never Mind The Buzzcocks recently with Brian Molko on it!) - and so it was time to play it loud. Needless to say it's still as good as it was then, so "Bruise Pristine" is my tune of the day - simply because it can be. And it has a bloody great hook line which wants me to air guitar, but if I did that I'd look a bit of a nonce...

Wednesday 4th July - Heading Onwards With A Headset

One of the things I also got last night was a reasonably cheap headset mic that plugs into the soundcard of the PC. Ideally, I would have loved to have got a rather top of the range USB Sennheiser one, but they're around the £50 mark and so it'll be a case of me saving up. Part of my reasoning behind getting one was, believe it or not, Skype. Thought that ideally it would be good to see if the headset and the webcam would all work fine with it, and it did, even if I did have to snag the latest Logitech driver for the webcam, all seemed good. The headset mic wasn't as bad as I'd have thought either, sensibly I got comfortable ear pads so I could concentrate on what I was hearing, and an in-line volume control, as well as a handy mic off or mute button on the thing too. It does the job for now, and I'm sure if I really wanted to be some little DJ one day I'd probably get something a bit more professional. But that's for the future I think...

Back to the good news: BBC news correspondent Alan Johnston was finally freed today. It feels strange timing considering it's American Independence Day today, but nonetheless it was good to see that common sense had prevailed and that something had been done in the background somewhere to sort it all out. If I was his family, I'd want him home for a bit now so that they can all spend a bit of quality time with him. Clearly it was tough going and it feels a bit odd taking a BBC reporter hostage: the Beeb is seen by many people worldwide as a highly respected and fair news source, taking no sides or bias. Hence it does all seem a bit weird. Nonetheless, I wouldn't want to be held captive for 114 days, that's a horrendous amount of time.

Just finally got some time now to actually sit down with a cup of tea, so I'm going to have that and play something ambient in the background I think, and what better than the original vinyl album of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells"? That's going to be my tune of the day. Don't you just love the bit where Viv Stanshall introduces all the instruments in turn near the end of side one? And the bit from the start of side one that everyone remembers not from the album but from the movie The Exorcist? I know, strange world we live in...

Tuesday 3rd July - Late Night Shopping Is Me

After a hard day at work battling with more Group Policy stuff (see yesterday) it was a relief to get home, despite the occasional and incessant rain. Makes the decision not to play on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon seem all the more pathetically daft to be honest, they could have got lots of games out of the way and been able to keep to a schedule - no wonder some of the top bods are complaining, and rightly so in my view. After all, you want the best players to be at their best and if they are too tired to perform then you aren't going to get the sort of tennis that the public actually deserve really. Complete nightmare!

Anyway, with the work done, it was time to reserve some stuff at Argos. I needed a birthday present for me uncle (knew exactly what he wanted) as well as some new towels for the bathroom (nice cream tower bale) and a new bath mat too, as the old one was looking a bit worse for wear. It's only a rubber one to go in the bath so I don't slip when having a shower (as that would be disastrous) but nonetheless always good to replace these things. A quick scoot around the online reservation thing, and they had all three in Stockport at the Peel Centre - which opens late. So that was me off to there and to get all that sorted, and noticed too that the branch of Comet there was undergoing some major refurbishment work, so they had a little portakabin giving people advice where to go etc. Oh joy of joys...

I got home and realised that - dang! I'm almost out of washing powder and fabric conditioner, and that's not going to do one little bit. So it was back off out and up to Tesco this time, and it was around 10pm by now as I'd needed to munch food and take some time to chill out. Anyway, got there and I have to say it was nice and empty and quiet, which meant I could whizz round without any problems whatsoever, always good to do. I got what I needed, and also got a couple of bits for the hols, namely some socks (handy seven pack, one for each day, easy peasy) and found this really nice cotton shirt, in white of all colours, reduced by half price to four quid! I'm good at this bargain hunting lark sometimes, you know. But I got home around 10.30 in a pouring downpour and was glad to get home and just take some time out before I went to sleep.

And in that time out I simply put on a couple of singles and played those plus the B-sides. One of those B-sides is no less than my tune of the day - the rather brilliant "Will Never Marry" by Morrissey. I echo the sentiments in most of that song, especially the line "I will live my life as I undoubtedly die - alone". Seems quite of right at the moment but I guess it's just the way things turn out sometimes and that you really just want to be able to wallow a bit. It's how I felt..

Tuesday 2nd July - Internet Exploder 7

Well, it was time to try and configure the Group Policies at work today, and all to do with IE7, which the powers that be have decided needs to go on the new builds. Anyway, it wasn't that difficult to locate the new adm file that I needed, and it quite seamlessly integrated into the test policy I was using. However, what is clear to me is that there are lots and lots of new options which may require setting. And of course that also meant that I had to install the thing on my work PC as well so any customisations I do can be done with the browser actually present, so to speak. One thing I did notice was the gold bar come up with "Intranet settings are turned off by default, click here for options". Erm, that's not clever, Microsoft. Most companies want to use their intranet for the right reason and doesn't want every single web page to be treated as an internet zone. Tsk...

Anyway, it was clear from the time I spent with the browser and the policies is that to be quite frank, IE7 is still as I saw it in beta - not that good. Microsoft can say all it wants about tabbed browsing and RSS feeds, but, erm, hasn't some browser called Mozilla Firefox on Windows and Safari on the Mac been offering those type of things for ages? Oh, and searches in the top right. Woo bloody hoo, give them a chufty badge while they're at it eh? Still, I think I've got some ideas of what settings need to be set and what doesn't, and also what actually works for a restricted user. Oh, joy.

I got home and was mightily relieved to be able to chill out with some good tunes. I thought it might be a nice idea to actually play stuff that I've not done so for a while, and so without further ado I decided to put on the often under-rated album "Super Natural" by Bennet. Oh why, you may ask? Simple, it has one of the catchiest tunes around on there, "Wanker" which is my tune of the day. The words are infectious and the hook is great, and the end lines just say all you need to know about lots of so-called "laddish" cultured louts out there who treat women like rubbish. You know, they were really so under-rated...

Sunday 1st July - Indecisive

I wouldn't have wanted to be at the cricket at Old Trafford today, which admittedly I was tempted to go to. The weather yesterday was a bit stop start, and today, well in the last hour alone it's been downpour, sun, wind, sun, downpour, sun and downpour in that order. It was very hard to decide what to put on this morning as I left the house to take a look at a PC and see what was up with it, because I didn't want to get drenched but at the same time I didn't want to have that boil in the bag effect. Oh, the indecision of it all!

Anyway, managed to sort out the PC problem I had to contend with. It looked like there were remnants of the AOL software plus remnants of a faulty driver to do with some DVD burning software which looked to be spoiling the flow of the system somewhat. Once I got rid of those I started the system up, ran a few tests, and all seemed not to be too bad. I also checked the graphics driver and updated that as well as browser plugins just to sort that lot out, and all seemed pretty well. Did a few restarts just to be sure of no crashes and job done. I had a feeling that when the PC was purchased AOL was installed, and even after uninstallation it was left dormant and starting up a service on machine startup, which was in turn interrupting with the BT Home Hub stuff as well as Norton Internet Security that comes bundled with it. Why can't AOL still get their install and uninstall programs to actually do the job properly?

Still, that sorted, I headed back into Manchester where within twenty minutes it rained, got warm, and rained again. I did manage to get a couple of things I needed for the house, so that was pleasing, but I'd forgotten that I had some Argos vouchers to use and left them at home so I couldn't get what I was going to get - duh! I'll have to nip in one night after work I reckon. I did notice though that the city centre was pretty full of people probably getting the odd bargain in the summer sales - they seem to have started early this year and plenty of people with multiple carrier bags were around.

As for tune of the day it was a fairly easy decision, thus unlike the weather not being so indecisive. I was checking through my 7" vinyl singles (again!) and found another gem in there that I have and absolutely adore, so what did I do? I played it of course. No less than The Primitives' seminal C86 indie classic "Thru The Flowers". And yes, the opening word is mis-spelled, but who cares? It's just such a fun tune, and reminded me of just how good indie tunes were back then. Today's crop of corporate label whores have so much to learn..