Dear Diary... July 2009

Friday 31st July - Lakes Weekender, Day One

Well, it was a day off work today - and for good reason. I'm heading up to Ulverston later to meet my friend who lives there, and two of my other friends are heading there from their respective homes as well so the four of us can meet up and have a great time, as we usually do. The last couple of weekends we've done like this have been at my place, so I am sure that it was good for everyone to have a change and indeed head out to the scenic Lake District whilst we were all there, and why not?

I'd got packed and ready in the morning and so it was time to settle down and watch the cricket from Edgbaston on the second day of the third test. Overnight Australia were 126 for 1 and looking good, but wow, what a session for England! Graham Onions started it all off in spectacular fashion with two wickets in two balls and all of a sudden the complexion of the game changed. It did even more when Onions got Ricky Ponting out with a superb bouncer, then James Anderson joined the party and he also got two wickets in two balls, and then another great delivery later from a wider angle which proved to be the last ball before lunch, and it was all of a sudden 203 for 8 and England well back in it and on top. It was truly great stuff.

One of my friends was travelling over from Doncaster and so arranged to pick me up on the way - very nice of him that, he didn't have to do so just on my account. He entered the postcode in Ulverston in the sat nav, and off we headed, taking a minor route change to avoid part of Manchester city centre, and before long it was along the M61, up the M6 to junction 35, along the A6 through Milnthorpe and then joining the A590 towards Ulverston, with a lunch break stop in Lancaster Forton services along the way (which was absolutely rammed full of people I should add) and before we knew it, it was time to head to my friend's place and we got there just before 4pm.

I'd got a call from my friend in South Shields as we headed into Milnthorpe to warn us that he was going to get there around 6pm, so with that in mind and us having reached Ulverston, the three of us decided that some snooker might be ordered, and there's a great pub right round the corner from my friend's place that has a full sized snooker table, and you put a £1 coin in the meter slot for around half an hour's worth of table light time. This worked out pretty well really, and it was good that the cricket was on as well so I could keep an eye on how England were doing at the same time. With there being three of us, it was a case of us playing in three player mode, taking shots in order and each scoring individually. We all won one game each out of the three that we'd played, and although not potting massive breaks, we did hit some rather good shots all round, so that certainly made the afternoon just that bit sweeter. With time heading towards 6, we headed back. I kept thinking of Doug Wood's "Drag Racer" snooker theme as we played, so that's tune of the day easily.

Around ten minutes later, all four of us had now arrived so it was good to be able to relax in the front room, have a good natter or three, and then decide what to do for the evening. The idea would be to head into a few pubs in the centre of Ulverston that all did real ale and so we could relax and have a good night out. It worked out really well actually, starting first at the nearest pub round the corner, the Stan Laurel Inn, and they had some excellent beers on there including this one I had called Sunflower Surprise. It was a bit different and not to everyone's taste, but I quite liked it to be honest.

One thing I did notice as we headed around Ulverston centre was that some of the pubs were owned by the Robinsons brewery in Stockport, so some of the local ales were of course pretty well known to me. However, it was notable that plenty of them stocked the same one - Dizzy Blonde, which of course I had to have a try of - and very nice it was too, may I say. One of the pubs seemed quite old inside even with its low ceilings, and of course what was nice was that it was pretty cosy and managing to get a table to sit and chat at was of course a bit of a mission in itself, as you can well imagine. It was really enjoyable full stop actually, and plenty of nice places to have a good quality pint in.

We headed back to my friend's place later and he put on some lovely pizzas for us and we sat and chatted a fair bit more, and even some bottled beers that were in the house also went down rather well indeed, so that was splendid stuff it has to be said. He really did excellent there, and before we knew it, it was 1am and time to crash out to sleep. I'd brought a spare airbed and duvet with me, so I just set that up in the front room and crashed out in there, as I felt it'd be easier for everyone that way (and of course because I'm normally the first one up as well). All in all, a cracking day, and tomorrow would be even better... I just knew it.

Thursday 30th July - One Printer, Many Rooms

It was a fairly big job to be done at work today, but one I was glad to get out of the way before I took tomorrow off for a long weekend. One of the offices in the first floor of a building had acquired a new printer, and wanted people to print to it. Not usually a problem, I hear you say. But they wanted everyone on that floor to be able to print to it. By my reckoning, that was around, let me see, around thirty or so members of staff. Of course setting up the actual physical printer was easy peasy, we'd registered it for IP and once I'd removed the old static IP address and turned it into DHCP, it got the correct address and everything was rocking, big time, well on the hardware front at least.

It was then a case of methodically doing office by office to be able to do all the work needed to set up the printer and if required remove the old one in their list of printers and faxes. There were eight PCs in the main office and five next door for the lovely conference people so I did that first, and after that it was a case of individual heads and secretaries for a while till the afternoon, then the sports office and finally some more deputy heads' offices. Of course, it's a case of being polite and getting the job done and being able to deal with people in a friendly manner. All of that was sandwiched with a team meeting mid afternoon when I found out we'll have yet more work dumped upon us. Somehow, I don't think it's going to get any easier sometime soon.

It was a much happier state of affairs later though as The Sand On My Beach came over. Unfortunately her central heating boiler seems to be on the blink at the moment and is awaiting parts for a repair, so I offered her to have a shower at mine so she could freshen up, and once that was all sorted, we settled down to watch the recording of Coast from BBC HD that I'd recorded the other night. As you can well imagine, it was good to be able to watch the bits about Cornwall, although in my view there wasn't enough about that and instead it concentrated more on the Severn a fair bit, which is fine but could have been done in a separate programme. Also, I wondered if it really was a wise move for the BBC to make Neil Oliver main presenter - I somehow felt that the original host Nicholas Crane was a bit more personable and friendlier to the viewer.

After that it was a case of relaxing a fair bit more with the likes of the hilarious Mock The Week (has anyone else noticed that Frankie Boyle now doesn't do the first stand up round? I wonder if this is because he's quite close to the bone with his jokes) and as usual, plenty of hilarity there, especially during the Scenes We'd LIke To See Round. Rather predictably Aussie comedian Adam Hills on "things a sports commentator would never say" said "And England have won the Ashes!" Erm.. who's 1-0 up eh mate? It's certainly not your lot, although after today's play, who knows?

Tune of the day is the rather good "Electric Eye" by Judas Priest. It's one of the songs on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits and although the guitar parts aren't too bad, doing vocals I imagine would be pretty tough. It's a good rocking song and you can hear that Rob Halford's gone pretty high pitched here, which really does make some of the vocals not that easy to achieve, but good fun trying none the less. I really want "Breaking The Law" though, as you can imagine that'd be ace.

Wednesday 29th July - Router Rocking

Went over to see my friend and his wife after work tonight, as he mentioned to me that they had inherited a Netgear wireless router from one of their relations and wanted me to set it up so that everything that they wanted to connect to it would work: namely their two PCs, the Asus Eee which they'd recently bought from eBay, and the Wii (well of course, you have to have the Wii online!). As it happened, they had a Netgear wired router, so I knew that it shouldn't be too difficult. So it was a case of getting the settings off that and then being able to connect the new one up, log into it, set up the ADSL settings and then of course make sure that the wireless network had a suitable network name and security key.

In theory it worked, but in practice, not first go. The router decided to not have the usual username and password, so the only way to get back in was to reset it using that switch at the back that you have to press in. Then it was setting up the network and wireless and making sure first of all the two wired PCs were playing ball - and they were. Then the Eee saw the wireless network, that got set up and was working perfectly, and then it was over to the Wii. Once I'd worked out how to change just the security key, off it went and connected first go, then it was just a case of applying the latest 4.1 update for the Wii and going from there. Hurrah! It's great when things work, you know.

Once we'd had a blast of the excellent Grand Slam Tennis on the Wii (the player likenesses are good, and the play control even with just the standard Wii remote feels so much better than it does on Wii Sports tennis, good as it is) and after a few attempts we won our first match as a doubles partnership, which worked really well with Pat Cash's commentary providing some nice moments during the replays. We played each other in singles and that was good, although beating Roger Federer proved just a tad trickier to say the least - we lost every single time to be honest!

After that, it was then a case of setting up their new printer - a HP Photosmart C5380, which does copying, scanning and printing. It even does printing on printable CDs as well, which is a nice touch. Setting up the printer itself took a little time because of having to put the print head in as well as the cartridges (five of them) and then of course doing its calibration. Printing images and text worked, as did using the photo paper, but we were getting a bit stuck with doing CD printing, the display on the printer kept asking for feeding of the tray when it was aligned properly. Then we sussed it out: the printer properties needed to show CD/DVD as the media, but also in the printer properties you needed to tell it that you wanted to print CDs. Once that was done, it all worked properly and there were some happy people.

Once I got home later (my friend very kindly gave me a lift back) it was then a case of being able to have a blast on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits that arrived from Tesco DVD Rental last night. It basically features some of the classic tracks from Guitar Hero I, II, III, Rocks the 80s and so on, but in full band playable form. In any case because I, II and Rocks the 80s weren't available on the Wii, all the songs are in fact new to play for the console, so that means the repeat factor is a bit less. So that means, amongst other things, the likes of the classic "Freebird" and even "Smoke On The Water" by Deep Purple, with its of course classic guitar riff.

However, the tune I really got in to was "Killing In The Name" by Rage Against The Machine. The song and their debut album have both been defined as modern rock classics, and with good reason. There's plenty of anger in the song, the guitars are tight (Tom Morello rocking the place hard of course) and the real passion and intensity of the song means it feels right. On guitars, all seemed well, but on vocals, not so good. Not because I couldn't do it,far from it, I got a high percentage, but because of censorship reasons. Anyone who knows the song will know at the end the key phrase is "f*** you, I won't do what you tell me" repeated numerous times with more passion and anger each time. All you get for each line is "I won't do what you tell me" instead. Not one to be detracted, I sang the offensive parts anyway and it had no affect on my performance. Ha! Tune of the day just for that.

Tuesday 28th July - Absolutely Mad Busy

Well, I must admit, the week off work is catching up with me and in big style. Today I've been spending most of the day working on an updated image for the Samsung P510 laptop. We have one in that I need to get ready for a member of staff, and as there may be more to come, I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity to bring the old image down, update everything for this year, and then re-image it back as the brand new image. Thankfully, because I had documented the last update image build that I did, I was therefore able to follow most of that and document accordingly for this one, and even incorporate some small tweaks since then (such as for example the licence update for Minitable, amongst other things. This has of course meant that I've been able to really set things in stone nicely.

As it happened, the image was just about ready to finish around 4pm, so I set it up on a faster connection and so I was able to whack it up to our imaging server. That's actually quite a useful thing to do as well, not least because of the fact that if I get any more in, it'll take less time to get ready. Now of course there's more though: I've got two Macs which require looking at, on top of a potentially much bigger project later in the week. No one ever said that it was going to be easy, but there's easy and then there's just plain impractical, and this is what it feels like at the moment. I might even have to consider pulling out of a course next week - there just isn't enough time and I really need to get things done on the ground. We shall see.

Thankfully all that busy time has been more than made up with a nice brightening of the evening, as I've had The Sand On My Beach come over for tea. Hurrah! In fact, it was nice just to chat and catch up since we departed on Saturday homeward after the holiday, and later on we went to see my Mum, partly to show her all the photographs of where we'd been (Mum loves Cornwall too so I am sure that she appreciates it a lot) as well as have a chat and catch up. It was nice just to take things easy and relax a fair bit and be able to talk about all the places that we'd been as well as what we could well do the next time we go. Sometimes though Mum has no idea of distance so somewhere she might have suggested that we go wouldn't have been practical in terms of time - but maybe next time?

Tune of the day is something that reminds me of sunnier climates and indeed of the recent holiday. As we headed to Mum's in The Sand's car, she had The Icicles playing and that was certainly a nice thing - plenty of happy smiley tunes to enjoy for us both. "Snowbird" is lovely, because it says in the chorus "Please bring me summer, carefree sunny days, warm breeze across my face" and that's what we had last week but none of that currently - just rain, rain, and erm, a bit more rain!

Monday 27th July - Right, You Little Shower

Well, I was having a well earned shower this morning in order to prepare for going back to work, and about half way through the shower, the shower head came off the hose and crashed into the bath below. Not good. In fact the shower head hasn't been 100% for a while, but to be honest, I knew that it was the last straw and that I'd need to get at least a new hose, if not a head as well just to ensure everything was shipshape and good. I did manage to at least get fully clean though, but knew realistically that now was the time, so off to B and Q after work to get it all sorted.

It did feel a little strange though being back at work. Not because of any particular reason but because everyone expects you to do everything in no time at all, and considering the massive work load that we have on, it could prove tricky. Indeed because of some new printers, we had to organise the print room differently and three of us spent most of the afternoon getting it sorted out as best we could, and I even had to repatch some points in the network cabinet to at least make sure the ones we needed to be live were so, and that was a good thing to be perfectly honest.

So later on it was then off to B and Q to sort out what I needed. In the end I plumped for their own branded stuff, the chrome shower hose and a matching shower head, which had one position but that looked good enough to me (I can't do all these multiposition ones sometimes, something else to go wrong) and so before I knew it, I had gone through the checkout a mere fifteen pounds lighter, and got the bus back home with all the worldly goods intact. Thankfully, I'd taken off the old hose this morning and disconnected it, so it was a case of putting the washers on correctly, connecting the new one in, adding the shower head, and trying it out. And it worked - first go. Magic. So easy when it's a doddle to do, isn't it? I'll have to see what it's like when I shower tomorrow morning but at least that's one more thing all sorted out. Should have done it a while back, but got there now.

Tune of the day happens to be Judas Priest's "Breaking The Law" because it's a classic rock anthem, and why this has never made any of the Guitar Hero games is beyond me to be honest. It's got great riffs, plenty of singalong chorus "breaking the law, breaking the law" (hehe) and of course you too can be Beavis and Butthead when singing it. Or Rob Halford if you prefer.

Oh, and lastly, did anyone see that Monday Monday drama on ITV before? I was watching it and how I giggled when Fay Ripley's character was chained to a desk and was working on a report that happened to be.. the dreaded TPS report! Of course fans of Office Space like me would have got the connection straight away. You just need a manager to come in and sort of go "hmmm, yeah. So I'm going to have to ask you to work on Saturdays as well.. "

Sunday 26th July - Pictures Of You

I spent a fair chunk of today sorting through the mere six hundred plus pictures that I had taken and deciding which of them I'd upload to my Flickr stream. In the end I chose around two hundred or so and then proceeded to do all the descriptions, text, tags etc and do them in batches so that they'd be uploaded a bit at a time during various points of the day. By around 8pm tonight I'd done them all and they're now all up, so feel free to have a peekie at them if you wish to do so.

I was quite pleased on the whole that most of them had come out relatively decent and that I was really able to use the 10x zoom on some of the shots to good effect. I think too that I'm a bit more choosy about what I take but also what I upload, and certainly for me it was good to be able to get a flavour of the place in a nice to handle set of images. Of course, it's nicer when someone like The Sand On My Beach encourages you to take them and indeed to be supportive of what you do as well. That pleases me no end though because sometimes you can lose your appetite for taking images, but nonetheless there were plenty of opportunities for being able to catch some dramatic scenery along with the peaceful calm of the place.

I managed to get all the washing and ironing done (not a job I was looking forward to doing) and in fact multitasked, doing some of the ironing whilst watching the F1 from Hungary in the afternoon. Of course it was a more sombre paddock in light of what happened to Felipe Massa yesterday. An analysis of the accident shows the spring from the back of Rubens Barrichello's Brawn car coming off the rear suspension and heading for Massa following. Although freakish, the carbon fibre helmet probably accounted for a lot of the life saving, along with the increased safety measures. That said, it's still scary to think these things can happen.

Lewis Hamilton did a great drive today, it has to be said, and he really was in control from the first corner, whilst Kimi Raikkonen really gave Ferrari a good boost to finish second and dedicate that to Felipe. The Brazillian is well liked in the paddock and I am sure all the drivers wish him well, especially Rubens, who happens to be a good friend off the track as well as on, and the race and the excitement certainly was an uplift for everyone. I even watched the classic F1 races on the BBC website, and saw the epic 1989 Nigel Mansell win in the Ferrari. He was 12th on the grid and fought his way up and overtook Ayrton Senna in one of the best moves ever in F1. No wonder the Italian tifosi called Mansell "Il Leone" (the lion) because of his courage behind the wheel. He was ballsy, that's for sure.

Tune of the day is The Cure's "Pictures of You". I kept thinking about all the images that I'd taken and the song came to mind. It's still one my favourite Cure songs of all time because there's a feeling of both joy and sadness in there that really is emotional and close to my heart. It's just good. And I suppose it's also reflective, and I think Robert Smith does that really well sometimes. Now I just need to find a frame for these prints I bought in Cornwall - retro mini posters advertising taking the train down there...

Saturday 25th July - We Don't Want To Go Home

Myself and The Sand On My Beach woke this morning to the sound of seagulls and bright sunshine out of the window, which only made getting up and going home harder, to be honest. We both were all packed, everything in the apartment was lovely and clean ready for the next visitors, and we'd written in the guest book as well because everything was great and there was everything well catered for as well, which made things much more enjoyable, and a perfect base for our exploring. There was so much more we could have done and I am sure that if we go back, we'll definitely have to visit other places like Pendennis Castle in Falmouth for example.

We had some breakfast and with our bags all ready to go, said goodbye to the apartments but this time for the last time as we headed to Penzance train station to get the 0825 train back to Manchester via Birmingham. The journey back felt longer than going there to be honest, and it was the normal CrossCountry four carriage Voyager train, which never felt like enough carraiges to be honest. In First Class we were okay, but in normal standard class, it was standing room only between Bodmin Parkway and Exeter for most of the time. I did manage to get to the onboard shop during that time and get some coffee and the likes, but it was a hazardous way back, that's for sure.

The Sand thankfully had made some lovely sandwiches for the cool bag for lunch and we ate those between Bristol and Cheltenham whilst I had the iPod on and thinking of Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France, on came "Tour de France etape 3" from the Tour de France Soundtracks album - so tune of the day for the timing but also because the nature of the tune feels like along distance - something certainly that was being felt today by both of us. I think also we felt tired and in my case emotional - I hate leaving Cornwall and didn't want to go home, but knew we had to do - so be it.

Getting to Birmingham soon made me realise just why I hate the station. The lifts are in the most silly place ever - and if you go down to the subway level, there's no indicators or screens to tell you what platform you should be on, so you can't even go down there and change. What most of you do is take the lift to the main concourse which means you have to go back through the ticket barriers if you want to use the toilet (err, that's sensible eh?) and then down to the platform again once you've checked the times - or go back through the barriers. Rubbish!! We soon got to the right platform though and were on the train back to Manchester - and we were pretty much the only people in First Class, and so the coffee there was refreshingly good, let me tell you.

We said our goodbyes at Piccadilly and headed homewards and I felt really sad doing so as well. Once home though, it was straight on with the washing, and plenty of it to get my teeth into, and that kept me busy for a fair while. Mum came round with my brother and niece and I had a chat about the holiday and gave them their little surprises, which my brother said "that's me tea sorted then!". Well, you know, I aim to please and all that. Now I've just got to sort out the scores of pics that I've taken - and even discarding the awful ones, there's some six hundred to head through. Ouch!!

Friday 24th July - As I Was Going To St Ives..

Well, I didn't meet a man with seven wives (that'd be illegal in the UK anyway) but as today was the last full day of the holiday, I'd saved one of the nicest places till last - that was St Ives. With its three beaches, art galleries and small streets with shops, I thought it'd offer everything in one nice package that would be able to serve up one final flurry of the lovely Cornwall for The Sand On The Beach, so that we'd have plenty of lasting memories to take home with us. And as we headed on the bus from Penzance, the sun was coming out and was perhaps the hottest that it had been all week.

We arrived to St Ives and walked down from the Malakoff to Porthminster Beach, which looked resplendent and even at this time of morning had plenty of people walking around or sat on there topping up their tan. We even decided that we needed a bit more breakfast than usual, and so had a bacon bap there whilst having a drink too, so that was nice to set the day off and we both felt rejuvenated and refreshed whilst at the same time ready for the walk through the town ahead. We walked along the harbour front to the Smeaton's Pier, where the tide was out so you could walk to the end of the jetty and there were no seals this time to see, before heading via Porthgwidden Beach and around the island to Porthmeor Beach, where the Tate Gallery is. The town is quite narrow around Island and the beaches, so much so that a couple of minutes' walk later, we were in Fore Street and in all the hustle and bustle of the main shops!

We headed down Fore Street and then along the harbour front for a bit too, and even stopped in the amusement arcade to try out the Kentucky Derby that they have there - but it's with a difference. You see, rather than roll the balls in the holes, you play pinball with the ball instead to land it in the holes to win. It does take some getting used to, but if you're skilful enough you can win - which is what The Sand did and I didn't! She soon got the hang of it although I suspect had she been rolling the balls, she'd have won more games, but definitely worth trying something different, that's for sure.

The town has some very different shops too - one that specialises in shells and even has some shark's teeth skulls in there if you're so inclined that way, to the old off licence that has pretty much every Cornish beer you can get hold of in bottled form - including the likes of Admiral's Ale, Heligan Honey and the like. There's also plenty of warnings about the seagulls nicking your pasties, so we decided that eating them by the harbour would be a bad idea, so we'd get one from a bakery and head back towards Porthminster Beach and sit by a bench there instead. This plan worked wonderfully, and it also meant that we were close to the beach too, as after lunch we were going to head on the beach for a bit.

We both wandered down to the sea, which was out a fair way at low tide, and that was nice for us both to share a paddle or two before The Sand relaxed on the beach towel in the sand topping up the tan, and I had a nice wander and walk in the shallow waves almost to the harbour and back, that's how far out the tide was! I did though manage to walk nicely along before almost walking on to a crab - yes, a proper massive large crab. Still, that definitely felt good to be able to see nature so close up and just wished I'd had the camera with me to get a close up of the thing. Still, we both enjoyed sitting in the sun and just relaxing and watching - and as it happened I timed my move back well as the tide was coming in, so the lower part of the beach was being submerged slightly and so everyone was heading back to the upper part.

We stayed on the beach for a bit longer and had a well deserved soft drink in the beach café overlooking out to sea, which was green and blue and all shades of lovely in between, as well as just relax and enjoy the view and all that. We then walked back to the town centre to pick up some little things - such as the clotted cream fudge for some of The Sand's younger relations, whilst I picked up a couple of Cornish pasties - one for my brother and one for my Mum (my brother was looking after the house for me, so I felt it was the least I could do) and a little boxed cream tea for Mum too. We got all that sorted out, walked around the harbour and to see if we could spot any seals and then had a relaxing pint in The Castle, I had the Heligan Honey ale whilst The Sand tried out the local Cornish cider, that was a mammoth 7.2% - and tasted very very sweet indeed!

The day had gone by far too quickly as had the holiday, and I felt rather sad as I was leaving St Ives to head back to base to be honest, mainly because the holiday was drawing to a close and that meant that I'd no longer be able to be here and spend it with the woman that I love so much (and believe me, I do). On the positive side, if anyone had said to me last year that I'd be in Cornwall, that'd have been good, but to spend it with a really lovely beautiful person too? Absolutely the best thing for me. I just didn't want to get the train home tomorrow and I am sure that The Sand was in agreement. Tune of the day has to be Duke Special's "Freewheel" because I didn't want to stand still, and certainly I've moved on a lot and this is a result of me doing that. Oh, can it be last Friday again so we can both get excited?

Thursday 23rd July - The Mount and The Gardens

A bit of a National Trust sort of day today, as The Sand On My Beach and I were going to head first to St Michael's Mount and then see what the rest of the day had in store for us in terms of time. We took the bus out to Marazion and were able to see that the tide was just about out enough for us to be able to walk across the causeway to St Michael's Mount. We were of course hoping for that, although if the boat was to be an option I'm sure we'd have been fine with that. However, the causeway was pretty busy with people walking across and at one part it seemed quite surreal to be able to see the causeway and just water either side of where we were walking, a really unique sight here and one well worth viewing.

We arrived on the island where the mount is located, and after a well earned coffee, it was time to head up the many stairs and the steep walk up to the Castle at the top of St Michael's Mount. We paused around half way up to be able to see the Giant's Heart, which was placed there as a stone as a tribute to a Cornish tale of a giant who was killed there. It certainly is heart shaped and is well worth looking out for as you walk up the hill - and the work being done for the viewing area for the lookout observatory is well in keeping with the landscape, so kudos there too.

The Castle on the Mount itself is experiencing an exterior facelift on one side, but that doesn't affect your route around the inside, as you take in the living quarters, the old dining room and kitchen, and even where the servants were placed. Half way round you can see the church and chapel which still holds church services today, and that certainly felt idllyic being so high up. After the church is the blue drawing room, and that certainly looked rather good all in a sky blue similar to the site's pages! Most of the rest of the castle had different nice rooms, including the map room (perfect for someone like me!) and then a room with a full size samurai warrior costume - and that looked impressive. For The Sand, it was a chance to imagine Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai - and fighting in similar outfits.

We also had chance to walk around the gardens at the bottom of the mount (ah, the joys of NT membership!) - and that was well worth it too. A lot of the walled gardens have great views out to sea and of the castle part of the mount, and the many species of plant and flower that were growing in the hillside certainly made it impressive - especially when you were able to see the palm trees actually flowering their seeds and the many different varieties there. It was then lunch in the Island Café and a pasty for me (as you would expect) whilst The Sand had a good bacon sarnie that really did fill the gap nicely, and kept us in good stead for later.

After a quick stroll around Marazion, we headed on the bus back to Penzance, and in the town centre, we got off the bus, crossed over the road and headed on the bus that would take us to Tregwainton Gardens near Madron, another NT property. In fact, we both enjoyed these gardens immensely. If you are prepared to walk all the way up to the Terrace, you get to see the rather lovely views out to sea and you can even see St Michael's Mount from the very end of the Terrace part. If you're wandering by right now, the walled vegetable gardens also have a hidden secret extra - scarecrows, as designed by children of three local schools working with a local artist. They certainly added flavour to proceedings and definitely was a case of which one that we liked the best - you could even vote for them by the little shop near the garden entrance too.

The gardens were absolutely beautiful throughout - well maintained, well looked after and even more so than that, plenty of variety, with the little bridge by the pond offering a rather serene view, and indeed as you walk past to the terrace seeing the outside of house itself (off limits though I should say - the house that is) and as you walk back down the driveway, the way that the plants and flowers line the little stream just to make it even more lovely. There's also a tree planted by the Queen Mother in the 1960s as well as a little hut to contemplate things in as you view parts of the gardens. If you get chance, head there.

We timed our exit so well that the bus came a couple of minutes' after, and we headed via Madron back to Penzance, and as the weather was still nice, we even had time to head back to Sennen Cove for a couple of hours and enjoy the view there on the beach. We were having a drink in The Old Success Inn but the rain was trying to come down, and just as we entered the main pub itself, it was then deciding to have a short burst of rain for twenty minutes or so before we headed back to the bus stop and back Penzance, but we were able to take in the sun a bit more and indeed time the walks back so that we didn't get wet whatsoever, and as the bus back headed via Lands' End, we could once more enjoy the view of Porthcurno on the way back, which was lovely.

Tune of the day has to be the beautiful "One Day Like This" by Elbow, as The Culture Show on BBC2 that was showing the other night had their effort with the Halle at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, and the song just reflects the day that we both had - "it's looking like a beautiful day" say the lyrics, and that was certainly true. Every day was beautiful in fact, and I couldn't believe it to be honest - but also feeling a little sad that tomorrow would be the last full day before heading home.

Wednesday 22nd July - Marvellous Minack Mastery

Another day and another slightly overcast morning, but Tuesday's downpour early on was to prove the last bit of prolonged rain that we'd see for the rest of the week, which pleased us both no end. The pattern was set that at first it'd look a little cloudy but clear up and be nice for the rest of the day, and today was just an example of that. The Sand On My Beach and I allowed the clouds to settle a bit and then headed out to Porthcurno, home to the Minack Theatre and the Telegraph Museum where the cables over to the USA were laid many years back - think of it as the former Internet for that generation! As we got a later bus, we had to go via Sennen Cove to Lands' End and then the bus route back takes in Porthcurno. This does mean it takes a little longer, but allowed us to try and get the good weather.

And as we headed down the hill from the bus stop to the beach, there we were, on the beach, and the clouds were lifting and the sun was coming out nicely. We walked to the sea, admired the views from there, and then sat on the beach to relax. The Sand On My Beach concentrated on topping up her tan nicely and I went for a wade in the water for a while, which was really nice and a little warmer than it had been on Sennen Cove on the Sunday. It certainly was worth taking in the view, it was gorgeous and well worth seeing if only for the cliffs on Logan Rock to my left and then the coast path up to the Minack Theatre and beyond to the right. Yaay.

After a couple of lovely hours on the beach it was time to head to the Minack itself, and so taking the coast path was the shorter option, even if it meant a few steep steps along the way. It certainly made for some lovely viewing though and before you know it we were heading to the queue of people waiting to get in for the performance. My Mum had given me two sensible pieces of advice, as she'd been there a few times: one - get to the place around 90 minutes before the performance start to get the best choice of seats: two - get the little cushion seats hired for £1 each so you're more comfortable during the performance. And I have to say her advice was spot on. We noticed a lot of the front rows had been reserved, but as a twosome managed to get a spot - third row from the front! The view was excellent from here and it was going to be good, that's for sure. The little seats made things very comfortable too. We'd also made some sandwiches etc as we used The Sand's little cool bag and bought all the stuff to make some lovely food so we could have lunch there before the show started.

The wind was getting up, with us being on the cliffs and all in the Minack's location, but with the sun coming as well, it was a mixture of the two for the afternoon. Behind us, the five or six rows that were reserved were for a lot of school children, and what a treat that they were in for! The Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on Tour were doing the production: this did mean no photography during the performance though, so I had to put the camera away (I so wanted some action shots, but I always respect the wishes). The production was absolutely brilliant, and parts of it were set with a 1920s style, with plenty of the actors playing instruments such as the banjo, drum and saxophone in certain parts, which really added to show how talented they were.

For me, the star turn was Bethan Walker as Puck. She must have been quite cold in her outfit (a little black number with black stockings) but she really did the flirtatious nature ever so well (as one man in the row behind us found out!) but also could really move daintily and sing too. I also really liked Jason Baughan as Oberon, he really did have the feel of an old master at hand but delivered his lines with gusto and grace all at the same time. In fact all the cast were great, the music really did lift the whole thing, and the classic lines of the play came to the fore for everyone to smile and laugh with. The wind did howl a little and being at the end of the row I got some of the full force of it, but I didn't mind one bit. We both agreed that it was an excellent performance and one that I was sure left us both with a beautiful lasting impression of the place.

Words really do fail you how gorgeous a setting the Minack is. A theatre and stage built into the cliffs doesn't sound interesting, but when you're able to look out to sea beyond the stage, and how all the backstage is stairs so actors can wander without you noticing, and how everyone has a good view of proceedings, and if you go in the coffee shop, a great view over Porthcurno and the sea itself, it's just awe-inspiring. It's a different beast by night too but we were glad we went during the day as it certainly showed drama on a scale and size, and plenty of good wholesome theatre thrown in. Believe us, if you're down there, you must go to the Minack - it's a definite. There's even some show pictures for you - via their official site.

After all that it was time to head on the bus back to Penzance, get changed and head out to the lovely Dolphin Inn for tea - we both had fish and it was gorgeous. I had the scampi whilst The Sand had the pollock, and both looked and tasted completely gorgeous. Even better: it meant I could have Tribute and Tinners in there, and The Sand even won (yes, won!) £1 on the quiz machine game - so getting back what she'd put in when she was playing one of the games on there. Well done her, showed me up to be right rubbish at those things and also showed that she's far more clever than me. We headed lastly to the Admiral Benbow for a pint in there, and this meant I could have the rather lovely Proper Job beer too - another St Austell lovely one - and admire the surreal surroundings in there (and believe me it is) and end the day on another high note. And talking of which, tune of the day would therefore be "The Hurlers" by Seth Lakeman. Seth played the Minack earlier this year, and the video to said single was also filmed there, and being there evoked the memories of Seth's video.

Tuesday 21st July - A Walk To The Cove

It was a very wet Penzance as The Sand on My Beach and I woke up, which did not bode well for the day. In fact it had been raining all night and that didn't please either of us. The forecast also didn't look good and our concerns were that the rest of the week might be like this. It wouldn't stop us doing stuff, but it certainly would hinder some of the things we had planned. Therefore we decided to have a wander around Penzance itself, even getting some fresh strawberries and cream from the local greengrocer, and also getting all the postcards to write out and send off to. Now I came up with a useful idea: print off all the labels of addresses before you go, so then you just have to write out the card and not the address, saving your hands. Plus a lot of these machines at sorting offices have postcode scanners, and of course print reads easier...

After all the postcards were written and we'd both munched a light lunch (in my case a Cornish pasty, it'd be rude not to!) the weather cleared up and the sun even attempted to come out, so we first headed for Mousehole. The harbour looked well even with the tide out, and the small tiny streets of the village with little hidden gems of shops and of course the quaintness of it all certainly made the place feel very homely. I couldn't live there, but it certainly would be nice to spend time there for sure. We even spotted a nice little shop which did hand made birthday cards, and as The Sand had a relation's birthday coming up, perfect to pick one up there, nifty we thought.

A fair bit of time later and it was time to say goodbye to Mousehole and head to the South West Coast Path and off to Lamorna Cove via the path. Thankfully it was well signposted and so we took the walk up to the top of Raginnis Hill (fairly steep, I warn you) after directing a German couple up that way as they wanted to follow the path for a while. We ambled along and took in the views of the sea from the path, and because of the rain, there were some parts which looked a little worse for wear and indeed a tad on the muddy side. A perfect example (and the worst of the mud) was Kemyel Crease Nature Reserve. It's mostly wooded over, so no sun was able to dry the path out, and the rain certainly made it a muddy effort. There were tree branches to step on, so we headed over those and avoided almost all of it. It certainly was a challenge there!

As we then headed over the tops and with some dramatic cliffs looking left down into rocky waters, the last part of the walk has you virtually hugging the edge of the cliffs with the pathway, it's extremely nice to look at but I imagine a right challenge in bad weather. There was a bit more rain but only a small splash and that stopped just as we headed in between houses on the path and arrived at Lamorna Cove. And it's absolutely beautiful. I'd never been here before but wanted to take a look, and the views out to sea with the cove set in made everything so much more worthwhile. I really could see why I wanted to come here.

We also spotted the two German walkers that we'd guided to the path earlier, and they were polite and asked me how to get back, so I pointed them in the direction of the road we'd be taking later and said that if they wanted to to back to Mousehole, it was to Penzance first and change buses there (they could have changed at Newlyn but they might not have recognised the stop, so easier to go for the bus station) and off they trotted whilst we noticed the little shop that served the cove and the residents who lived there by the sea.

Even better was that there was a small café on one side of the cove, with a really nice seating area so you could overlook the water and take in the sun. We both had the Cornish cream tea - we think that we'd earned it big style! Having that and being able to overlook the peaceful waves crashing in to the shore was well worth the effort, and certainly made the day really special for both of us. It was nice to be able to relax with that and enjoy the place and see the fisherman catch some fish too, before heading back up hill via Lamorna to the bus stop at Lamorna Turn to get the bus back to Penzance (no way were we walking the path back!). I suppose if we'd had more time, we could have tried Lamorna to Penberth, but the Coast Path guide did say that leaving Lamorna was very rocky and tricky, so certainly that wasn't worth attempting!

After a quick stop and walk around Newlyn and its harbour and a drink in The Red Lion with a nice glass of Betty Stogs, we headed back to the base and relaxed with a nice bit of food for tea and also the strawberries and cream that we'd purchased earlier, and relaxed in front of the telly for a fair bit of the evening whilst also having the iPod on. At random it picked a great Johnny Cash number from American IV, namely the title track "The Man Comes Around" and it certainly felt like that when I headed around a corner and saw Lamorna Cove for the first time - tune of the day, unashamedly.

Monday 20th July - Padstein

One of the things that I had promised The Sand on My Beach that we would do is to head off to Padstow. She'd been intrigued by the place since I told her about it, and my Mum loves it there too - she's even been in the über-posh Rick Stein Seafood Restaurant, which isn't cheap but I am sure is well worth it for the experience and all that. This did today though mean a change of transport ticket, and so for us it was the Ride Cornwall ticket for £10 - allowing one of you unlimited train and bus journeys on all trains plus First and Western Greyhound buses for the day. And as the latter does the link bus service between Bodmin Parkway and Padstow, it made sense for us to do that.

So it was off on the train from Penzance to Bodmin Parkway, and the journey sped along through Truro and St Austell before arriving there. Some of you may remember the station as Bodmin Road, and some of you may even remember the station being used in an old British Rail "this is the age of the train" advert with Sir Jimmy Saville, no less. What was the signal box at that station is now a small buffet café, which is cute and full of tons of character, so that was well worth investigating and we had a nice coffee in there once we arrived at Bodmin. The bus to Padstow arrived, but it was late, and the driver seemed quite flustered and not getting the hang of the ticket machine.

As it turned out, the journey on the bus was very bumpy - and for two reasons. The driver liked to try and mount the speed humps between Egloshayle and Wadebridge, and also the braking left a heck of a lot to be desired. I knew that The Sand wasn't too happy and didn't look 100% well to be honest, and was a bit worried. Thankfully, we made it to Padstow in one piece (albeit some twenty five minutes behind schedule) and so that did eat into the time that we had there a little bit, not that it was going to stop us. That said, we knew that it was lunch time and so the move would be to try and get lunch now instead of struggling with the masses a bit later on.

We walked past the Rick Stein seafood school and his fish and chip shop, which was very busy, and noted all the cyclists taking the Camel Trail path which really did seem like a popular thing to do. Within a few minutes we'd got to the harbour in the town and headed to Rick Stein's Café. There was a small queue outside but I was determined that we'd get in there - I really wanted to treat The Sand to lunch in there and I knew she'd be okay if we didn't have lunch there, but I wanted to be there. Anyway, I asked at the door if there was room for two and as it turned out, everyone else in front of us was waiting for tables for four - two point four children families with buggies central, in fact. This meant we could go straight in, which of course I imagine narked some of them off a tad, but if there's a table free for us, of course we're going to take it!

We sat down and decided to order the same main course, goujons of lemon sole with a side dish of fries between us. The goujons were spot on, as was the tartare sauce (it was home made!) which came with it, and really did satisfy nicely. Of course, this also meant that dessert was an option as we'd saved some room for that, and so it was time to munch that nicely. The Sand had the Black Forest gateau and I had the lemon tart with clotted cream, both of which were delicious. The Sand did remark that the café was much smaller than she imagined, but it was cosy nonetheless. Lunch was lovely though and it was nice to be able to share that moment together and to do such lovely things.

We then went around the town for a while, noticing Rick Stein everywhere, including the shop and the deli, but also noticing that the harbour was very busy and full, and that plenty of people were tucking in the pubs and eateries along there and happily enjoying themselves. Some of the shops were really nice and full of little things which The Sand likes, so it was good to just mooch around for a while. We then decided it'd be nice to head on the little ferry over to Rock and see what it was like from the other side of the Camel Estuary.

Rock certainly looked like a millionaire's playground, from the houses that overlooked the river to the long walk up to the village itself and the houses that just smacked of expense. I was hoping that the Sharp's Brewery would be close to hand, but there were no signs for it, so we headed back downhill towards the part of the village near the river. It was good to have some nice views, and one of them was when we were sat in one of the bars there, and I had a seasonal Sharp's brew, namely Honey Spice, which did what it said on the cask. The Sand had the glass of wine, and the cost of both at the bar didn't bear thinking about - let's put it this way, it reflected the house prices in Rock!

We headed along back to the point to get the ferry over from Rock to Padstow, and had another look around the town, and the rain was setting in a little, so we decided that we'd head to one of the pubs there and have a drink before heading back to the bus to get the 6.30pm bus back to Bodmin Parkway. In fact, we found a very nice pub where I had a difficult choice to make - Doom Bar, Tribute or Betty Stogs? It was a tough choice, and so I went for the Betty Stogs, as I'd already had the other two this week. Plus as it was a Skinner's beer, chance to give them a blast - and very nice it was too. The rain looked set but it stopped briefly enough for us to get to the bus and head back to Bodmin - and the driver this time was spot on. The journey was quick (even allowing for a petrol stop outside Wadebridge) and got into Bodmin Parkway well on time.

Not long after the train arrived, so it was off to St Austell for tea. We'd both enjoyed a lovely meal at The White Hart before, including of course my favourite ever pie of all time, and so to make this a truly culinary day, it was to there that we would head. Thankfully, all was well there too, and I had the steak and Tribute ale pie, and it was still as good as ever. No rubbish pastry case on top, just the proper shortcrust stuff and lots of steak, tons of ale gravy, and plenty of vegetables and chips to come with it - a proper meal that. I'm pleased to report that it's still my number 1 pie of all time, and as you can well imagine, that made me smile no end. The Sand enjoyed her meal too, and we sat relaxed with a coffee afterwards as the rain was set in. It wasn't a long walk to St Austell station and the train came to take us back to Penzance and base. Tune of the day meanwhile has to be "La Ti Da" by The Icicles, cos that's how I felt being able to enjoy such lovely food and to share it with such lovely company. I know!

Sunday 19th July - The Cape, The Tin Mine and The Cove

It was a reasonably early rise today, if only for the fact that we knew that the buses didn't run that late on a Sunday and we wanted to make the most of the first day that we were going to have there. I even (shock! horror!) had my shorts on, hoping that the sun would come out and that we would be able to have some lovely weather whilst walking around. The plan was to try and head to Cape Cornwall first and take in the views of there, and if we had time, go to Sennen Cove later, and possibly one of the tin mines. We'd brought our National Trust memberships with us, so we could go to Levant Mine if we had time and get in for nothing.

We headed on the bus to St Just, which took in the villages of Heamoor and Newbridge before heading up to Pendeen and Boscaswell Estate before heading on the road down the hill, up again and into St Just itself. It was clear but a little windy, and we could certainly feel the wind blowing quite strongly as we headed down the road to Cape Cornwall. As we headed downhill, we noted the golf course which was almost on the edge of the cliffs and I imagined would be posing a suitable challenge today. The sea views, even in this inclement weather, looked gorgeous, and we were able to get right down to the path that took you the gentle way up to the top of Cape Cornwall.

The views from there were pretty spectacular, you could look out to sea from all sides, and over to the South as you looked you could actually see Sennen Cove in the distance. At one point, the Cape was thought to be the most westerly point in the UK till it was proven that Lands' End was otherwise. It's also one of only two capes in the country (the other being Cape Wrath up in Scotland) which makes it pretty unique in terms of location. Intriguingly, Heinz had sponsored some of the work of the maintenance of the landscape there, and so their logo is emblazoned on to the small monument that marks the top of the Cape's summit.

We walked back up the hill into St Just and got ourselves a well earned coffee in this small lovely café. St Just itself is supposed to be the most westernly town in England, and it is pretty small. They'd had their annual Lafrowda Festival parade the day before and so many of the town's people were doing some clearing up of one of the greens and the town centre square. Just as we were going to head for the bus, the rain absolutely came down in spades and so when we did get to the bus stop, we needed to make a quick decision: whether we went back to the apartment and headed to Sennen Cove later, or stay out and see if it stopped raining by the time we got to Trewellard for Levant Mine. As it happened, the bus that came allowed us to make the decision on the spot, so on we got.

The weather seemed to ease up by Trewellard, so we got off and started to walk down the hill to Levant Mine. The sun decided to make an appearance and really did come out, which pleased us both. It was still a little windy, but seemed to be easing slightly. We got down the hill to Levant and had a look around: it's not as big as Geevor Tin Mine, and in truth if we weren't NT members the admission fee would have been expensive to be honest. However, seeing the mine shafts and being able to look down them as well as seeing the steam engine steaming up and working (it usually does that on a Sunday) was worth it, as was the dramatic views over the clifftops and seeing how the shafts would be working into the ground and under the sea. Some of the ruins make for dramatic scenery too.

By this time it was lunch time, so we walked from the mine along the coast path and then up to Geevor Tin Mine. I knew there was a café there, so we were able to do lunch as well. Unsurprisingly, it was a Cornish pasty for me, and it was gorgeous, and The Sand On My Beach also had one too, which she thought was okay but too much pastry for her - fair enough, really. I can understand that to be honest. We did have a coffee as well to keep ourselves refreshed and sat by the new water wheel looking out to sea before heading on the open top 300 bus to take us back via St Just and to Sennen Cove.

I had wanted to give The Sand a taste of the beach as well as all the history and views of the area, and Sennen Cove does both. The beach, Whitesand Bay, is heaven for surfers and families alike, and the little cove it rests in is picturesque and dramatic in equal amounts, not least when you consider that the tacky Lands' End isn't that far away. The lifeboat station is still in operation here and it still a little port for fishing, and you can see that heritage in part of the small village. The beach and scenery there though - well words fail me. It was gorgeous, and as an added bonus, the sun was really out now. The Sand had brought a beach towel in preparation, and she was more than happy to sit on the beach for a while and take in the sun. We both even tried a paddle in the sea, which was nice to do. The sea was cold at first but you got used to the temperature too, so that was nice.

We left Sennen Cove later on to head for the bus back, and it took us via Lands' End (thankfully when The Sand saw it, agreement was with me in that it looked far too tacky for what it should be really) and headed back via Porthcurno and Lamorna to Penzance and base. We relaxed in the evening with some food, and took it relatively easy with the iPod on blasting out some tunes. In fact, the apartments had a stereo system with an iPod dock, so I didn't actually need to bring my charger for that at all - just let that do the work. Cool. The iPod played its stuff, and tune of the day has to be The Icicles' "A Hundred Patterns" - just the sort of cheery tune that you need when you're away on holiday. And seeing as The Sand likes them too, well, just has to be done. I think she was quite taken with Sennen Cove...

Saturday 18th July - We're All Going On A Summer Holiday

Well, it's finally arrived (and not before time too). All my work is done, all the things I needed to do have been sorted out, everything is packed and ready and I've got all the train tickets and so on to hand, as it is off to Cornwall for myself and The Sand On My Beach. We booked a nice apartment some time ago, and also the trains, so it was just a case of us meeting up at Piccadilly Station and then heading on the train down there. Now, as we knew we needed to change trains at least once, I managed to book the train there so that we'd change at Cheltenham Spa, a much easier situation than having to faff around at Birmingham New Street, which as anyone will tell you is not the thing to do if you can help it.

I had also booked first class on the train there and back. Now you may think "ooh, that's posh!" but to be honest if you book early enough there's bargains to be had. It was around £50 there and £55 back for each of us in First, and considering it's almost an eight hour journey, and add to that that last time I went to Cornwall for the week it cost me £46.50 in standard class going there, well you can imagine that it was a much easier task to be able to travel with a bit more comfort and style. Admittedly, it's free refreshments and the odd biscuit at the weekends, but still, that saves some hassle. Thoughtfully, The Sand brought a cool bag with some lovely sandwiches and crisps in, which was very nice of her indeed.

We boarded the first train, the 0800 to Paignton, so we could get off at Cheltenham and swap there. I noted that it was a longer than usual CrossCountry service, and worked out why. They've basically bought a rolling stock of HST trains and completely revamped them inside. For us this meant a nice big comfy seat with tons of legroom, and a woman came through with a trolley so that you would get the complimentary refreshments etc. It was very clean and new and shiny and I felt that it was a great revamp, everything worked well and I was sure that it'd get more passengers on board, which has to be a plus. It got into Cheltenham Spa a little late, but was basically well in time for our second leg of the journey, the 1052 down to Penzance. As the train had passed through Birmingham New Street, the iPod which I had playing in shuffle mode elected to play MJ Hibbett's "Hell on Earth (Birmingham New Street) so that was tune of the day for obvious reasons!

The train arrived a few minutes late and the First Class carriage was right at the front, but we got on fine and a very lovely hostess almost as we got on offered us coffee and biscuits. She mentioned she might not be walking through the train again until close to Plymouth, when catering stops on CrossCountry, so we elected to have the entitled water and so on, just to be on the safe side. The train sped through Bristol, and then to Exeter, and onwards along the shoreline via Dawlish to Plymouth. The Brunel bridge beckoned and soon it was in Cornwall itself, taking its usual two hours or so to wind down through the likes of St Austell and Truro before the final stop of Penzance - and as a bonus, it even got in a few minutes early. Again like the previous train it was a revamped HST, and very comfortable and lovely. We even snuck in a few games of Scrabble too..

It wasn't very far to the apartment from the station, and so we soon arrived there, the owners helped The Sand take her luggage up to the second floor and we arrived at the apartment. And wow! It looked gorgeous. A new kitchen and bathroom had been put in earlier in the year and you could tell, it was lovely, with a big posh shower, very well equipped kitchen and big fridge freezer, with even a washer dryer if you wanted to wash your clothes whilst you were there - all good touches that. We then noticed a bottle of red wine which had been left in the kitchen for us, which was a really nice thing and something we both would appreciate later on in the evening. We unpacked and headed outwards to get a bit of shopping in (the apartments are self-catering).

We decided to head on the bus to Tesco close by, and this also meant we could get a weekly bus ticket. I'd worked out that we were able to get a weekly family ticket for First buses (it's 2 adults and up to 3 kids travelling together) and that would be £47 for the week. It's normally £31 for an individual one, so you can see it's worth the effort to get one. Also, for most of the week we'd be travelling on their buses anyway, so it made everything well worth the effort to do so (that's what we reckoned). Before long we were on our way to Tesco and got all the food in we needed, and even some white wine for later in the week, then headed back to the apartment.

We settled in, made some tea and checked out everything and made sure that there was nothing we didn't need, and it was then a case of some relaxation before heading out to Marazion and having a drink in The Godolphin Inn, overlooking the causeway to St Michael's Mount. I thought it'd be nice to wind down gradually for the day and it meant that we were able to take the sight in and enjoy that as the sun started to set with the mount over. There was the odd drop of rain here and there, but not as bad as it could have been, which I hoped was the tone for the week. The weather was forecast not so great, but we were determined to make the most of it if we could.

Friday 17th July - But Mum, We're Too Excited!

Some of you may remember ages ago when Disneyland Paris first came to the public attention, and how the advert had your average family trying to get to sleep the night before they departed for the place. The two little children couldn't get to sleep and just kept going "But Mum, we're too excited!" throughout. Well, take the Mum bit out, but I too am excited, and for a good reason. I've got a week off work, and it was the last day today and a chance to get everything well and truly sorted that needed to be. In fact I cleared nine jobs outstanding in one day, which might yet be a record for me.

First off, I repatched some network points for one of the current moves going on (mainly a swap or two in the network cabinet to switch them between networks easily, which made life easier) and after that it was then over to another building to solve several problems there: a piece of software needed to be installed on two laptops, a network printer needed to be set up and patched for one PC, one user had a problem with their email and calendar that they wanted me to look at, and finally a user couldn't log in for some reason. Thankfully that problem was due to a network cable coming loose and one reconnection later - all sorted.

Back at the office a replacement all in one PC had arrived for the dead on arrival, so I was able to then image that with the correct image so that all five of those are now ready to go, so that was that one solved. I then went to an office where the member of staff required their Blackberry software installing, and that was an outstanding request where the user wasn't clear what they wanted and I was finally able to speak to them today and establish what needed to be done, and do it. I also managed to sort out why a user couldn't connect to the wireless network and solved the issue and demonstrated what had to be done, and last of all I completely reinstalled Mac OS X Leopard on the Mac Mini in the office along with Office 2008 for Mac so it could be used as a test rig in the office for next week. Phew!

I had managed to get all the jobs done well in time so I was able to leave the office and feel like that I was ready to take the week off. I got home, went to Tesco to get plenty of food in for the week ahead, and then had to go again later as I'd forgotten replacement batteries for the door chime, and in between settled in to watch the Ashes cricket. And wow! England were playing pretty well to say the least. Andrew Strauss had made a superb 161 yesterday but was out early on and at one stage it looked like England wouldn't make 400, but a great last wicket effort from James Anderson and Graeme Onions did the job and got us to 425. There was plenty of swing for the bowlers to think about though, so it was no surprise that Anderson and Flintoff were given the new ball.

And soon enough, Anderson had removed both Hughes and Ponting (the latter albeit controversially, but as it turned out, it would have been LBW anyway) and at lunch the Aussies were 22 for 2. Richie Benaud was in the crowd today - wonder what he'd have had to say about that? Although Australia recovered with Simon Katich and Mike Hussey, when Katich was caught out superbly it sparked a collapse. Yes, you did hear me correctly - it was an Aussie collapse - for once. Flintoff bowled a peach at Hussey to clean bowl him, and with Anderson then getting his third wicket with a good catch from Alistair Cook, 102 for 2 became 111 for 5. And there was no let up either, with Stuart Broad taking a couple of wickets and Anderson a fourth and at the end of the day it was 156 for 8. Wow!

Needless to say, I'll be trying to keep an eye out on the day's play tomorrow, which might be difficult, but I'm going to give it a go anyway and see how I get on. In the meantime though, tune of the day is "Friday I'm In Love" by The Cure. Well it is Friday, and I am in love, so easy really. Plus listening to that track reminds me of the Summer of 1992 when their Wish album came out and that was the song of the summer for me - so I'll have to think of something which will replace it this year...

Thursday 16th July - Now That's Magic!

I had a small PC problem to sort out today for one of the lovely people in the Conference Office. It turned out that after some recent Windows Updates, they were getting constant messages about their hard disk running out of space, which to me at least seemed fairly odd. I had a meeting to go to in the afternoon with regards to online enrolment, and so I thought that I'd sort everything out after that, which was fine by the member of staff concerned, as they had a meeting to go to themselves.

I headed back over there later in the day and soon discovered what the problem was. When the PC was originally imaged some time ago when they were based at another site, it was partitioned in such a way so that the main C:\ drive partition was a mere 10GB and the rest of the space was for their D:\ partition. As you can well imagine, that wasn't such a good idea now and so I weaved the magic with Partition Magic to do the job, simply by booting up from the CD and then sorting it out to be able to tweak it. I split it up 50/50 so it was 40GB on each, and that certainly helped a lot when it booted back up - it seemed a lot happier, that's for sure.

It was chucking it down by this time, and I was pleased that I'd had my hooded jacket on so that I was able to stay reasonably dry, because otherwise it'd have been a right pain to get drenched beforehand. It was though a sign I didn't want to see - both The Flowers In Her Hair and I are worried that it might rain a bit next week, which wouldn't be that good considering we'd both hoped it'd be sunny and bright and that we'd get a good week of weather and be able to enjoy the time together. If it rains for example when we're at the Minack, that'd be a nightmare, although we would still go if that was the case anyway - nothing's going to stop us!

I rocked a bit later with Guitar Hero Metallica, and sure enough I had a right blast at Slayer's "War Ensemble" again, this time with me rocking hard on the bass, which seems a little harder than the main guitar for some reason. I managed it well though and so it's tune of the day because for a thrash tune it's pretty tuneful and actually you can hear every word whilst it rocks very hard indeed. Oh yes.

Wednesday 15th July - St Swithin's Superstition

Some of you may be aware of the superstition and tradition that is today - St Swithin's Day, where if it rains today it's supposed to rain for the next forty days or something. It did rain this morning as my friend headed home and I headed to work, which wasn't good, but I wasn't going to let that bother me as long as it was drier later, as I had some PCs to deliver later to a department, and I knew it was an all afternoon job. Well, thankfully the rain stayed off so we were able to do the job and do it well, even if the fact was that it took ages - mainly due to some software that I had to re-install afterwards. I was pleased that we'd invested in a portable external hard drive though: backing up data from the old machine and restoring it to the new one used to involve copying up to the network drive, which was slow sometimes.

I got home and felt the need to put on some classic rock tunes, so with the help of Youtube I spent a bit of time mellowing out and watching some classics on Youtube. Amongst them was Judas Priest's classic "Breaking The Law" which my friend and I discussed last night - we both agreed that if ever there was a Beavis and Butthead Rock Band (MTV, who are owned Viacom who own the Beavis and Butthead rights, own the Rock Band name with EA Games, so it'd never be B&B Guitar Hero sadly) then the tune would have to feature, not least as the two would sing to it sometimes - tune of the day easily. In fact we had fun last night thinking of a potential track listing for said game.

The Flowers In Her Hair came over later, and she was a bit worried and had rung me earlier. Her mobile phone wasn't charging whatsoever, and it just kept running out quickly. It could have been the phone, but I had my suspicions about what it could be, and soon my suspicions were right. The charger has two pins sticking out which connect to the phone at the power cable end, but one of them looked like it'd been snapped off or pushed into the cable itself. A quick trip to the pound shop near me later and all was sorted - we got a replacement adapter for a mere two quid, and as my iPod power charger I got from there still works after three years of use, I knew they'd only sell decent stuff. We plugged it in and it started charging properly straight away - so one happy bunny there.

After tea, I opened a bottle of red wine to de-stress a bit and we watched The Young Victoria on DVD. We'd both wanted to see this at the cinema but time was lacking, so we decided it'd be nice to rent it and watch it. It proved to be a good decision all round, it was an excellent piece of costume drama and thoroughly well acted. Some of it was predictable, but the scenery was lovely and Victoria herself seemed serene and beautiful, and it was a lovely way to spend the evening winding down. Well worth getting hold of methinks, if you can.

Tuesday 14th July - Say Hello NIN, Wave Goodbye

It was off to the grisly domain that is the Manchester Evening News Arena tonight, as I was fulfilling an ambition of mine. You see, ever since I discovered Nine Inch Nails (or NIN for the fans) I've always wanted to see them live, and it's either been a case of not getting a ticket or them not playing Manchester in the past. However this year was a definite must get tickets job because a) my friend was coming down from Ulverston to see the gig with me and b) it could well be the last NIN tour, especially as the tour is titled "Wave Goodbye". As such it was a case of getting online and if need be on the phone when the tickets went on sale to ensure that we were going - albeit this time around in the seats of the place.

My friend managed to time it perfectly so he pulled up at mine around 20 seconds before I arrived, having just got off the bus home from work after a hard day's toil. It was good to be able to chatter for a bit and over a drink we caught up, as well as whacked on Guitar Hero Metallica - of course having two guitars helps in this instance. I mainly did the bass while he did lead guitar, and did pretty well on some of the slower songs, just to get us in the mood for the one we really wanted to do - Suicidal Tendencies' "War Inside My Head". My friend is a big fan of ST and has even met Mike Muir (the lucky so and so!) so when of course I mentioned about ST being in the game, you can imagine that he was well chuffed.

As is our wont, and rekindling old times when he was at Salford Uni and we'd meet up regularly, it was off from mine to Babylon on Oxford Road for pizza for tea. I'm glad to report that Babylon was as good as ever in terms of their pizzas, and the chicken and sweetcorn one I had was absolutely rammed full of big chunks of chicken - and my friend's meat feast looked rather splendid as well. I mentioned about Michael Jackson to him, as he was a fan, and said that it was just bizarre seeing all these über-obsessed fans who were just basically weeping for days - sure, it was upsetting and all, but life does kind of go on, you know?

After food we headed into Piccadilly and then followed the tram lines (of course they're under repair at the moment so being hit by a tram was not going to happen) to Victoria, where the entrance to the MEN Arena is. What disappointed us both was that there were so many touts selling tickets as we walked through Victoria station, it made me wonder how many real fans might have missed out instead. The last laugh would be on the fans though I reckon, cos I had a feeling that it didn't sell out, as tickets had been available pretty much up to the day of the gig.

As we entered the arena, mooched around the merchandise stall so my friend could work out what to get later on, we noticed that there were black curtain like screens around the second tier of the arena, from blocks 204 to 213. This only meant that it hadn't sold out, and even in the lower tier, there were still swathes of seats in part left over. To me, this wasn't good - it might have been better playing the Manchester Apollo and having a full crowd, but there you go - hindsight is a wonderful thing after all. We could only hope that the ripoff drinks prices (I mean, £3.50 for Carlsberg? Come on!) weren't going to be an indicator of the gig to come.

Worries surfaced more when Jane's Addiction (official site) (myspace) came on - albeit with the classic line up. Dave Navarro was rocking well on guitar and you could tell that his craft was excellent. The bass player was happy enough to bound around in circles and just act like a loon, but Perry Farrell - never know what to make of him. On the one hand, his voice sounded good. On the other, he was a bit too pretentious in between songs particularly and that soon got people's backs up. And whoever did their sound mixing deserved to be shot - it was way too boomy and wasn't controlled, and I think a lot of people gave up because of that.

All this led to us both hoping that NIN was going to be okay - you can play your heart out but if you have a rubbish sound mixer or the rig's not up to it, it lets the side down very badly. We contemplated this and other issues over a drink before heading back to our seats for NIN. As we were back row of the bottom tier, and with a suitable gap above us, this meant that if we wanted to stand up and go mental, we could do without any fear of anyone asking us to sit down and be quiet, sort of. Well, it is NIN, and we did want to go mental.

Nine Inch Nails (official site) (myspace) thankfully were absolutely brilliant. The sound mixer deserves full credit for producing a really clean controlled loud sound where you could hear every nuance, and it was controlled passion from the band too. Crucially, it was a stripped down to a stage to some extent - just lights around their stage area, and it concentrated more on the music than on flashy images. With someone like Kraftwerk, the visuals work together, but I've always thought of NIN of rocking way harder than that (as you do) so it would be better to concentrate on that. And they sure did.

A lengthy and varied setlist meant plenty for everyone to be happy about, that's for sure. One highlight for both of us was when they did their cover of Gary Numan's "Metal" and absolutely made it watertight and clinically Industrial, yet sounded clean and crisp. It really did come across perfect and if Numan does that as good when we see him in November, then cool. There was also the co-op tune that Trent Reznor did with David Bowie, "I'm Afraid of Americans" which also sounded spot on, as did "Terrible Lie" right at the start of the set, and literally everyone shouted out the song title at the right part.

What was killer was the three tracks from The Downward Spiral album played on the bounce, so "Heresy" was followed by "March of the Pigs" and then back two tracks to "Piggy", which worked ever so well. During the chorus of Heresy we both blasted out the key line "God is dead, and no one cares" which really felt good to do. The more calm stuff got a nod too, such as "La Mer" and "Gone, Still" which broke up all the really heavy stuff spot on, and helped us both last the course of the gig - as it was getting pretty warm in the arena, it has to be said, that.

Mind you, the best stuff was still to come - and as soon as we heard the opening noises, we knew what it was, and belted out every word of the song to "Wish" - has to be tune of the day. It sounded loud and controlled, and everyone was singing along, notably the line "I'm the one with this big f**ing hole" which you could hear everyone go for it for. Mind you, that followed nicely with "Suck" (in itself a cover of the original song by Pigface, which Trent Reznor was a member of pre-NIN). But for the last three tracks, how's this for every NIN fan's dream: The Hand That Feeds, then Head Like a Hole, and finally, a moving version of Hurt, where everyone sung along gently and then allowed Trent to belt out the chorus parts with real feeling, before they all left as the final line crescended down. The lights came on, and that was it - but it was bloody excellent, let me tell you.

We walked back from the Arena along the tram lines to get the bus back to mine, and to finish the day off in grand style, we whacked on Guitar Hero Metallica, nailed the ST song we were struggling with, as well as showing Slayer's "War Ensemble" who is boss. I put on World Tour, but noticed that we were missing notes when we shouldn't have done. One look at the calibrate lag settings and they seemed odd, so I stuck in manually what works in the Metallica game, and hey bingo, spot on now. In fact on two player bass and lead during "Beat It" we missed one note between us. Okay, so it was in easy mode, but still... we rocked, we did. And "The One I Love" got similar treatment before the night ended, which just meant that we had been rocking all evening. Ah, you see, you can make me older, but you won't stop me rocking!

Monday 13th July - Every Little Does Help

It was a fairly busy day in the office today, as I was getting plenty of things sorted out, including patching a couple of network points in the network cabinet with one of my colleagues so that staff that have moved could be able to log on to their PCs, and then working on a new image for one department - it's like our normal admin image but it has extra software on, so it just made more sense to include that all in the image and then see what can be done in terms of how it's configured. We shall see, but it seems to be doing what it's supposed to be at the moment. Just need to get the profile all sorted out and it should be good to go, as they say.

After picking up a couple of bags for life at home it was off to the reopened local Tesco for a little bit of shopping. I had really missed being able to walk to my local supermarket, especially as some idiots decided it would be a good idea to try and burn the place down with a fire or two. However, the speediness of the local fire service plus the construction work that's been going on has meant that it was only out of action for a couple of months and finally reopened today. It's really good news for the local community, as it's really about the only supermarket that we do have without having to trapise everywhere, plus the staff were all locals so it felt much more friendly.

Entering the store, it really did feel like it hadn't gone - it looked all the same inside and everything was neat and tidy. Some of the shelves had been moved around in terms of location, but crucially everything that needed to be there was there - and even some added extras like they've started to sell some games for the DS and Wii as well as CDs and DVDs, and plenty of emphasis on making things easy to find - plus, as an added bonus, less cluttered aisles, which for me certainly makes life a heck of a lot easier. As it turned out I only really needed some washing powder, fabric conditioner and some Lynx (so I can take some on holiday with me) but it was good to see that it felt like it was saying hello to an old friend again. Every little does help after all.

I decided too that it would be a good idea to have another blast at Guitar Hero Metallica, as it seems that if you do the game on vocals instead of guitar, you have to play the tracks in a different order to progress (apart from the first two, which always seem to be For Whom The Bell Tolls and The Unforgiven). Of course, this does mean that you might have to try different songs and unless you happen to be an expert at singing, some of the songs might at first seem hard. I managed okay on some of the Metallica ones though, so at least that's some progress there. Back on guitar, I even did the Slayer track.

However, tune of the day is Judas Priest's "Hell Bent For Leather" as it really summed up what the Priest were about in their heyday. Of course now when they perform this live, Rob Halford comes in on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, which just adds to the whole feeling of the grand appearance of the metal maestro, oh yes. But even back then it's a classic rock anthem, and even though some people see it fit to complain about the inclusion of some tracks, they'd best remember that Metallica themselves picked the songs by other bands, so it was clear they wanted people who helped influence them in some way (hence for example Thin Lizzy's classic "The Boys Are Back In Town"), so good for them!

Sunday 12th July - Fighting To Draw

It was a real day of sport, music and spending time together for me in that order. I made myself and The Berries On My Cheesecake some croissants and coffee for breakfast, and as I'd got showered and changed earlier on, The Berries showered and got herself ready whilst I went headlong into Guitar Hero Metallica, tearing up some of the classics like "Seek and Destroy" and really giving it some on the old guitar controller (as you do). Later on in the day I even tried some of them on vocal and found that, because you can shout the vocal out, that I did really well on Slayer's "War Ensemble" and managed it later on the guitar too, seems a bit fairer than "Raining Blood" does on III - so tune of the day for that one, methinks.

And war was the theme of the day in the Ashes, that's for sure. England's top order batsmen were, let's face it. rubbish, and it was soon 70 for 5 and humiliation stared the team in the face. Only no one told Paul Collingwood and the tail enders that. Colly battled and battled and stayed in virtually all day and was ably assisted by Andrew Flintoff and Graeme Swann in particular, and as the day wore on, it was still in the balance, but the more the day wore on, the more you could sense there might be an escape on the cards. The Aussies were spurred on too by the news that Mark Webber had taken his maiden F1 win in Germany, which was a well deserved victory to be honest and completely dominant from start to finish - even with a drive through penalty.

You could just tell it got more and more tense as the end of the day drew near, and with the score on 233, Collingwood tried his first risky shot of the day and was dismissed. So, the scenario was this: England were 7 runs from making Australia have to bat again to win, but one wicket remaining. The last forty minutes or so were pure theatre as James Anderson and Monty Panesar hung on for their cricketing lives. Anderson knew when to cut loose though and hit a well timed four which took England ahead, meaning that effectively ten minutes would be knocked off the proposed end time (as there's a ten minute change between innnings). Time wore on, then Panesar managed to get a boundary and at around 6.40pm, everyone knew it'd be the last possible over before time would be called, and Anderson stuck it out, took a single from the last ball, and after a quick check, everyone shook hands.

Although it was a relief that England survived and I'm sure it'll be a massive confidence boost (similar circumstances against South Africa at Old Trafford in 1998 meant that England turned round a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 series win) we have to be honest - England were second best for the whole game and the fact they've got away it shows that they need to work much harder on the game. Psychologically though it's a massive boost and I'm sure if the English batsmen all had the resolve of Collingwood, then we may be in for a more exciting series throughout the rest of the Summer. We shall see.

Saturday 11th July - Gregg Wallace Isn't The Only One Who Likes Dessert

Well, it was time to get the hair cut today, as I knew I wanted it to look all neat and tidy for the holiday, and of course because it was getting way too thick and clumpy for my liking, which isn't really what I wanted. So, after having some breakfast and settling in to check the weather and what have you, it was off to the city centre, and after a bit of a look in Vinyl Exchange to see what CDs they had and how much I'd be tempted (I didn't get anything though!). Once that was done it was off to the Northern Cutter where the lovely people in there even offered me a coffee whilst I was waiting, and did my hair and got it all looking like it should, as per usual.

I wandered down to Fopp and took a look at the CDs in there. I was tempted a little and so I bought two albums for the total price of a fiver: Jesse Malin's "Glitter in the Gutter" and the second Franz Ferdinand album "You Could Have It So Much Better". Part of the reason was I could put both of those on the iPod to listen to on the train etc, but also becuase I wanted them to play on the rig here, and I'm sure that the Jesse Malin album had the Boss Springsteen on there even doing bits on a track, so I was intrigued about that. It turned out to be a good album too - lots of solid songs and plenty of intelligent lyrics too, my kind of thing at times.

I had cleaned up everywhere in the house and done all the domestic chores, which gave me a bit of time to have a blast of Guitar Hero Metallica and get a bit further in the game. This amongst other things meant that I could even have a blast at Motorhead's seminal "Ace of Spades" and give that a go. It took me a couple of attempts to get it pretty right, but get there I did and felt pretty pleased - tune of the day there for sure. I even had a go at Judas Priest's "Hell Bent For Leather" and although I struggled at first I soon got the hang of the chords and managed to get there - wouldn't mind trying that on vocals. I kind of wished that they'd put "Breaking The Law" on there though - I so want to play that one!

The Berries On My Cheesecake came over later, which was as lovely as ever. The two of us were heading out later to meet one of my friends for work for something to munch on, so we got changed at mine and I got myself all looking good and ready. I put on one of my black and white shirts that I'd not worn for a little while but I did feel good in that with the trousers and shoes and felt really good, and The Berries looked lovely in her trousers and top and just looked gorgeous. So, we headed out to Sale, and as we got there pretty early, went over to the Kings Ransom for a drink, which was all very nice sat outside by the canal, and before you know it, it was time to meet my friend.

My friend looked really lovely in her outfit I have to say, and I am sure she felt good too. The three of us headed in Oca, and had a rather nice meal in there. I went for the mushroom pizza, and that was baked spot on, with a shed load of mushrooms on there and a nice tomato sauce base that really felt moreish. The Berries' main of a tuna nicoise salad looked really good - especially the massive piece of tuna steak that was atop it, and I tried a bit of that and it so approved. Conversation flowed and in between the mains and the garlic dough balls, everything felt rather nice all round. The only dilemma I was going to have was dessert - and here's why: as some of you will know, I've not had chocolate for ages, and I don't want to start now, so..

Thankfully although plenty of the gorgeous desserts did have chocolate, I spotted a New York cheesecake with a raspberry coulis and vanilla ice cream that was to fill the hole nicely. The Berries had a tiramisu and my friend had the sticky toffee pudding. All three of them looked gorgeous and well worth the dosh and that certainly filled everyone up nicely. My friend had invited us back to her place, and I had brought some wine with me, so all was set and we had a rather nice rest of the evening chattering away, having some wine and snacks, and just generally having a good catch up, and that was all rather lovely. You know, sometimes, it's just as important to spend time with friends, and this is that sort of time.

We headed back on the bus to Sale, then the tram back to Manchester and the bus back to mine, which didn't take too long really. The only nightmare was the rain - and there was a bit of it to say the least - but that didn't put a dampener on a really enjoyable evening, which certainly set the tone nicely for me. I'm hoping that we'll have to meet up again soon and I might even cook for the three of us at mine - that'd be pretty nice to do, actually!

Friday 10th July - The Screen of Death

Now normally when someone like me talks about a screen of death, it's normally referring to a blue screen which sometimes Microsoft operating systems (notably XP and Vista) throw up whenever something goes pretty badly wrong. But it wasn't that screen today, oh no. I had been working on creating a standalone image for a department that has some specialist kit attached to the PCs and with some software on, so I needed to make it as vanilla as possible so that it was the bare minimum needed to be run. Now of course, having created the image, it was then a case of bringing that down to all the PCs that I needed to so that they could be ready to go. They're an all one in PC with the monitor standing in front of a small base unit, nice pieces of kit really.

But of course with an all in one, you have the conundrum that if the display goes, then it's not so hot. And this is what would happen to me on the fifth of the five units. I was able to fire the PC up, and I could hear it going through its startup sequence and all, but nothing at all in terms of the display coming up. Bit odd, I thought, so it was then a case of seeing if I could coax it into life, but no joy whatsoever. It was then a case of seeing what could be done elsewhere, so I hooked up an external monitor to the graphics output port of the all in one (which had a cable from the monitor part attached to it). The external monitor fired up perfectly.

Of course this meant that the base unit part was perfectly fine, but the monitor for some reason was just dead. Even pressing the menu button didn't show the on-screen menu, so to me that's a DOA (dead on arrival) piece of kit, which I've logged a support call with the manufacturer to see if we can get it shipped out quicker rather than later, as that would be pretty useful to be honest. But it did mean that I'll have to wait to finish that one off and get it done like the rest, mightily frustrating that.

It was then off to Tesco after work to do some food shopping, and it'll be hopefully the last time that I have to venture out to one further away from me, as my local one, after it had a bad fire two months ago, will be reopening as of Monday. That'll come in rather handy full stop and I'm sure that it'll save me time and effort in getting all the shopping in, not least as I can take my time to go round and get what I need and saunter homewards with the bags for life shopping in hand, so all is well there let me tell you.

Around to my uncle's later as it was his birthday and most of the family were over as well, so good to see people and to have a good natter. He was pleased with the Manchester City book and the season review DVD that I'd got him, so that was the right idea after all. Lots of nice food temptation was everywhere including plenty of cake and stuff like that, so it all made for a good end to the day as I walked home later, relaxed, put on some Ryan Adams (got to love New York, New York - that's tune of the day for me) and took things easy (although without the Cadbury's Caramel as I'm off chocolate, remember) and then that was the day done.

Thursday 9th July - On The Hunt For Guitar Hero Metallica

Well, after a few weeks of thought, I decided that it would be a good idea to get hold of Guitar Hero Metallica for the Wii. I had put it on my rental list as high priority from Tesco DVD Rental, but alas, no chance of actually being able to get hold of it. I knew that I could get it online for around £30, so that was the benchmark that I had to aim at as I went into the centre of Manchester after work. And believe me, that benchmark was proving difficult to match, let me tell you.

First stop, the massive HMV on Market Street - price there a whopping forty quid. No thank you, siree. Then on to Gamestation in the Arndale, and they didn't have any copies, although if they did it'd also be forty quid there too - although they did have Guitar Hero Greatest Hits for a much more reasonable thirty. On to Game in the Arndale, and same price there as everywhere else. Lastly, just on the offchance, the smaller HMV at the bottom end of Market Street, and they had it for thirty five, which begs the question why two stores just a mere 200 yards or so from each other can charge different prices completely. However, the price everywhere was still too dear, so I headed home and recharged the batteries with something to eat for tea before heading out to Stockport.

I decided that as they had all the shops in the Peel Centre there plus a big Tesco and Asda, that I might imagine some price competitiveness going on there. Well, so you would think anyway, but absolutely not. Went into Game within Borders, same price of forty quid. Went into Comet and PC World - they didn't have it in stock, even. And the same with Toys R Us, although at least they also had Greatest Hits for a bit cheaper. Into the über-Tesco, and it was the same thing there too - Greatest Hits for less than thirty, but no chance of Metallica. Surely the band are either more popular than I thought, or it doesn't feature on their "top thirty" charts because it'll scare the little kids with the music within? Who knows?

As one final last resort I headed back to the Asda just to see if they would possibly have it. And they did. And not just one copy, but several. But best of all, the price, a mere £29.71, cheaper than I've seen it online and indeed meant I could pay for it and take it away kind of nowish, which is always good. So money handed over, game in my hand and that was me feeling like one very happy little person, let me tell you. It's just a sign of the times that although you can guy games in more places, they don't always have what you want. And they ask why online shopping has become so popular?

Anyway, got home and of course whacked the game straight on. For me, one of the main reasons of getting it, apart from the Metallica stuff, was the extra tracks which claimed to have inspired the band well. So, for example, you get the likes of Motorhead doing Ace of Spades, and the excellent Suicidal Tendencies track "War Inside My Head" which was one of the main reasons I wanted the game to be honest - I want to do ST on Guitar Hero so I can officially rock. Hehe. So, it was on to the career mode and on with the songs, and the nice touch here was that you just have to earn a certain number of stars to unlock other songs, so the unlocking works pretty neatly. I was even having a go at "Sad But True" (make that tune of the day later on, might have to blast that on vocals sometime.)

But of course the nicest thing of all is that all the songs are unlocked in quickplay mode, so you can just crack on with doing well on plenty of the songs and getting an idea as to what the hard ones will be for later on (Slayer's "War Ensemble" of course a definite candidate, I'm sure they'd have had Raining Blood if it wasn't in Guitar Hero III) so that's all good. I stopped to watch the return of Mock The Week, which was excellent as ever, and then played on a bit more to get the hang of it, and all good stuff of course, so it seemed a wise move to me.

Wednesday 8th July - Let Battle Commence!

Today is the first day of the Ashes cricket series between England and Australia. As a cricket fan, I'm normally glued to the telly, but even more so when it's the Ashes. It's the pinnacle of Test cricket if you support either team and getting one over on the old enemy of course has to be rather special. I remember with great fondness the 2005 Ashes, and how the excitement and close games meant that everyone tuned in to Channel 4 to watch the full days' play unfold, and how the great Richie Benaud closed his UK commentary career at The Oval with some great moments once Kevin Pietersen hit his 150.

Of course, the England test matches aren't available for free anymore, so good job I have a Sky Sports subscription. I wasn't able to watch the full day's play, as work of course was required, but when I got home it was straight on to Sky Sports HD1 and I'd found that since I left the office and checked the score, England had lost the vital wickets of Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen and were a bit wobbly on 241 for 5 when I got back. Up stepped Matt Prior and Andrew Flintoff who both made useful contributions, not least a half century from Prior, but the tide did turn Australia's way a bit near the end of the day. First, Peter Siddle bowled to Flintoff, whose inside edge redirected the ball right on to the stumps with a resounding thwack. Then in his next over, he clean bowled Prior. Had both of them got to the end of the day, I'd have said advantage England but it's about honours even with England 336 for 7 at the close of play.

The big discussion point was the dismissal of Kevin Pietersen, and I have to agree with most of the commentators that he was sussed out by the Aussies and they knew he was going to swing at any spin bowling slightly wide, so they bowled one a little wider, Pietersen stretched for it and hit it to a happy Australian t get him out. It was a well excecuted plan, but Pietersen should have left the ball rather than go for it, and then he could have gone on to make a century. Interestingly though, all the first seven batsmen hit double figures at minimum, and with Paul Collingwood, Prior and Pietersen all making half-centuries, it didn't turn out that bad, I guess.

I'll be getting home as soon as I can from work tomorrow to see the next instalment, as I do, but it was good to see that the usual sporting challenge which it is has got off to a solid start, and must be a fillip for the SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff (or Sophia Gardens if you prefer) to host the Test Match. That said, that does mean there'll be no Test at Old Trafford this year, which makes me a little sad, as that's usually a good ground where plenty of supporters come along to see England when they play. There is a one dayer later in the year, but even so...

In the meantime, I really wish that the proper cricket theme would be restored to our TV screens - you know, the one that used to be on with Richie Benaud introducing the day's play on the BBC. In case you ever wondered what it was, it's "Soul Limbo" by Booker T and the MGs, and it's full of reggae vibes, steel drums and yet just captures the spirit of cricket somehow when you were watching the coverage back then. Tune of the day it most certainly is.

Tuesday 7th July - Let's Ski In Summer

I know, I know. That sentence just sounds odd, doesn't it? But not necessarily. You see, my latest rental had arrived from Tesco DVD Rental and it was Family Ski for the Wii, and as I had a bit of time spare tonight, I thought I'd give it a go, especially as The Sunshine In My Day was coming over as well and she would give it a blast. I soon created the character, using my Mii of course, and once it was all kitted out, time to hit the slopes. The mission orientated single player mode seemed to work well, although it had to be noted that some of the moves weren't that well explained as to what to do, but I got the hang of the downhill race and slalom events quickly enough, and started to then build up points as I completed various missions and such like.

When The Sunshine arrived, I made us something to eat for tea and then put the Wii back on so that she could have a blast as well. I created her character using her very cute Mii (it's really like her too, aww) and then hit the slopes, first in single player so she could get the hang of playing the computer opponent on the downhill and the slalom, which worked very well and she won a couple of times, then it was the two of us against the computer opponent on various downhill courses. One of the courses involved a lot of missing trees and once we both learned the course and missed the trees, we were getting pretty good. It seemed a lot of fun and the nice replay you can watch after each attempt is really neatly done - definitely one to consider to buy at full price anyway!

We had a good chat about the last couple of days at work etc and started to look at all the places we could be going to when we go away. It was nice to see for example that some of the trips out to see the seals etc aren't necessarily that expensive, and you can really make a good go of being out there and enjoying yourself nicely. You could even do a fishing trip, if that's your thing, although to be honest I wouldn't really fancy that - too much waiting around and not enough seeing places for me. The seal one looks good as apparently down the coast from where we'll be, there's a well known cove that tends to be quite popular with the seals and on rare occasions even a dolphin has appeared - which sounds rather good.

We're both hoping that the weather will hold - which it certainly didn't do tonight. When The Sunshine was leaving, it was absolutely bucketing it down and before I went to sleep I could hear thunder - not good really. However, I think it best to get all the rain out of the way now and hopefully when it's time to go away, it'll all be all sorted out and ready to rock and roll (well that's the theory anyway). And talking of rock and roll, I did put on Guitar Hero World Tour earlier, and managed to go Fleetwood Mac's classic "Go Your Own Way" on guitar pretty well. I'm getting the hang of the riffs nicely and thought I'd done well on it, so tune of the day for that, methinks.

Monday 6th July - Dictation Dedication, That's What You Need

A few weeks back I was helping someone out with installing Dragon Naturally Speaking on their PC and getting it to work, which of course it didn't, due to the software company Nuance forgetting to mention on the box that you needed a processor capable of SSE2 instructions and all that. Anyway, Nuance were eventually very good with their customer service, and offered a downgrade to version 9.5 so that it would work on their PC, and once that was approved, they sent the download link and serial number, and I downloaded the installer and burned it to a DVD disc ready to rock.

Tonight I went back over to see them and do the install of 9.5, which of course was absolutely spot on and worked first go. It was a doddle to do and soon enough it was a case of plugging in the headset microphone and getting them to read through a fair few sentences to get the computer to start to be trained on their voice. Certainly after some training exercises and some practice tutorials, it was then a case of heading on to trying it out in Word. It did work pretty well, although I think that the headset microphone, as good as it might be, is too small for some people's heads somehow. I did also try a dry run on Word and dictated some sentences about Manchester City, and it did well, failing only on Robinho, as you might have expected it to. However, the rest of it was spot on and we both seemed pleased that it worked out perfectly.

I do think though that with such software you need to be prepared to have a good practice at it and find a speed which suits you and your own style of speaking. I tend to use a more BBC-like announcer voice when dictating and if you get the speed right, it works wonders. However, as you might have guessed, it's not always so easy when you're having to try and say difficult words or if you stumble mid-sentence and then go into a flap without saying "microphone off" or something similar. It did get better the more you used it though, and I am sure that if I really wanted to get book writing, something like that might actually work really well in the end for me, provided that I can actually imagine all the text as I'm going to say it. We shall see.

Tune of the day is Slayer's "Raining Blood". I know what you're thinking - they're thrash metal and all that and that some of their songs are controversial, but this is their signature tune, and they always do it at every live gig. The sheer amount of speed and the fact that it is in tune does at least put them above many of their lesser rivals, and of course it's possibly the hardest song on any Guitar Hero game ever - even doing it on Easy during Guitar Hero III for me is pretty tough going. I might have to see if I can get Greatest Hits - if only so I can try it out on vocals and be Tom Araya - I have a feeling that might be a tad easier than the drums!!

Sunday 5th July - Now That's What I Call A Car Boot Sale

Today was a day that's usually quite a difficult day for me, for personal reasons, but there were a couple of things to definitely keep my mind from thinking about events past. My mum was having a bit of a get together at hers later in the day, and I decided that it would be a nice idea in the morning to head out to one of the car boot sales not that far from me, the idea being that I could have a look around and get some possible bargains, especially in terms of the vinyl department. I used to love picking up stuff at the car boot and get home, consult my Rare Record Price Guide and suddenly realise that what I'd bought for 20p was worth.. well usually 20p, although I have had some good luck sometimes.

Myself and The Wheels On My Bicycle got up and headed out to Styal, as one of the more popular Summer car boot sales is in a large field by Holly Lane. It's 50p per car to park up and peruse around, and the sellers are charged a fixed fee for having a space. Unlike certain places like either Bowlers or New Smithfield Market, this on the whole is a proper bona fide car boot with plenty of everyday people flogging off their old stuff, and not traders everyhwere that are just doing a Sunday trade as well as a Saturday - which is why the likes of Bowlers aren't places that I can really recommend as a proper car boot sale place.

We got there and had a look around, and I was quietly reassured that even in these recession hit times, plenty of people were still trying to sell stuff for more than it's realistically worth, and keeping up some form of the tradition, and on the other hand, some selling it at virtually giveaway prices to be quite honest. I did, however, see a couple of people being rather naughty and were selling knock off DVDs (I wonder if their name was Nigel?) and I'm sure if the people who run the car boot were to see that, they'd be reporting them straight to Trading Standards (in fact there's a big disclaimer to sellers when you go in which tells them they will be reported etc).

On the plus side though, I did see a few people selling vinyl, and after a check of what everyone had, I went back to this seller that seemed to have a decent sized collection of 1980s singles and albums. I had a flick through again and narrowed down the choices to what I wanted, and the albums were 50p with the singles 20p, bargain! I didn't want to get something I'd too easily get on CD, but there was the nice nostalgia of having a 7" single, so ended up buying three singles and two albums. The three singles were Soft Cell's version of Tainted Love (which The Wheels loves to bits, so make that tune of the day as I played it for her later), Ultravox's clear vinyl gatefold 7" of "Lament", and A-ha's re-release of Take On Me (the re-release actually charted due to of course the classic video.)

As for the album, well I bought a very small piece of musical history. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, compilations were usually by K-Tel or Ronco (shudder) and weren't always that good quality in terms of track selection and/or the original artists who performed them. The public opinion was changing though, and sure enough December 1983 saw the first in what was a long line of such compilations, and is currently at volume 72. Yes, you've guessed it, I got Now That's What I Call Music 1 on vinyl! It's got eleven number one hits out of thirty tracks, which was pretty impressive stuff (also bear in mind it was a longer period to select the hits from and so was easier to compile, argubaly). It's even got a re-release on CD in January of this year..

Anyway, some excellent tracks on that, including some more obscure ones, such as Men Without Hats' "The Safety Dance" (classic), Malcolm McLaren's ode to skipping "Double Dutch" and even The Cure's "The Love Cats" is on there as well. It's seminal stuff, and The Wheels really liked one track on side three: Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack's "Tonight I Celebrate My Love" which has all the hallmarks of 1980s soppiness, but you know what, it's cheesy and all, but hey... it's for its time, somehow.

Later on we went over to my Mum's and had a relaxing afternoon and early evening there, with plenty of food on (including some curry as well) and a fair bit to drink, although not much in the real ale department. In any case it was fairly warm so nice cold drinks were the order of the day for me, and it was a really nice little get together, with a fair chunk of the family and some friends of Mum's there during most of the day. The Wheels got asked constantly about when we were going to tie the knot and all that and one of Mum's friends did tell me that I was really lucky to have such a lovely girlfriend. Like, tell me something I don't know already!

The day went by very quickly and I even timed a quick blast of the telly just to see Roger Federer nail match point at long last against Andy Roddick - the fact that the final set went to 16-14 should show you how epic the game was and how impressive both players were to really battle it out all that time. I also was keeping an eye on the weather as it was threatening to rain, and later timed our walk back to mine so that we didn't get wet. It was good to see lots of people and most of all it meant a lot for Mum I think too. Of course, it was sad later when The Wheels had to go home, but we both do have work to go to and all that...

Saturday 4th July - Confessions Of A (Bargain) Shopaholic

I decided that it would be nice to get a couple more nice shirts for the forthcoming holiday, in that a) it'd refresh the wardrobe so I had plenty of nice stuff and b) it's always nice when you've got something new to wear to take with you. With that in mind, the plan was to go to the Lowry Outlet Mall in Salford Quays and pick up some possible bargains there, as well as pick up some tickets for a show just announced yesterday (and thus avoid any charges other than the actual tickets, crafty me eh?). I had a feeling that the Marks and Spencer Outlet might be a good move all round in that there's a few nice shirts in the main store, but they're a fair bit dearer and I wanted not to pay lots.

Before I left home though, I checked out Debenhams' website, just in case there was anything in their Blue Cross Sale and there was this nice Sonetti short sleeved number. When I looked at the price (reduced from £35 to £10.50) I thought "that's pretty decent" and so made sure that I set up an account and then ordered it - the plan being I had at least one I had sorted and that would also be the back up plan in case I didn't get anything in Marks and Spencer a bit later on. It's quite a cunning plan I suppose, but that's the way it is.

I then left on the bus to head towards close to work, as there I can get the bus that heads out towards the Trafford Centre. For the Lowry Outlet Mall, I then get off this bus close to the indoor karting track, walk down the road past the big Rank Hovis miller factory and the Imperial War Museum, then over the bridge over the river to the Lowry Outlet Mall. With all the work going on the trams at the moment, it made a lot more sense plus I got a nice little walk in either way. I got to The Lowry and first stop was in the centre itself, and the very nice and friendly assistant there dealt with my enquiry efficiently and with a smile. Whoever you are - thank you. Why can't everyone be as nice and bubbly and take pride in their job? Anyway, that meant that me and my friend are off in January to see Henry Rollins do his spoken word thing there - which will be my seventh time in all and the second I'll see him there (the others were at the Academy 1).

That all sorted, it was a stroll around the Lowry Outlet Mall and after checking out a few shops, time to hit the Marks and Spencer Outlet store. Their stock has got pretty good as of late and plenty of the stuff is more than wearable and doesn't look old biddy-ish, if you know what I mean. Anyhow, I always go right to the back first where the clearance stuff is and found this really nice Autograph short sleeved number for a mere fiver. They had no medium, so it was realistically going to be the large size for me, but when I saw who the designer was, I know that his sort of fit tends to be a little more snug anyway, so large wouldn't exactly be too much of an issue (and it allows for shrinkage of course). So I picked one of those up and went back towards the normal menswear bit at the front.

I did see another nice shirt, white background with various colours and shapes, and looked quite good - and a little bit more loud than I'd usually wear. But I could get away with it on the beach, of course, hehe! And it was soft to the touch, which I'm sure The Wheels On My Bicycle will be more than pleased with, let me tell you. That had been reduced from £22.50 to £9.50, which wasn't bad at all, and so I got that as well as these nice dark blue jeans which had been reduced to £11.99 from £19.50, and they were the stormwear ones that wash really well too. So I thought "well, around £25 for two nice shirts and a pair of jeans, that's pretty good."

There was a queue at the till and temptation to buy biscuits stared me in the face, but I was good and didn't have any of it, as you'd well imagine. I just wanted to be able to get through the till and go, I don't mess about, me! The assistant was ringing the items through the till, and it turned out that the shirt at £9.50 had actually been further reduced to a mere £4.99, so both shirts were under a tenner in total! Now that's what I call a good day's shopping all round, methinks. I was well pleased and walked out of there fairly contented - it was a good move to go there today and the weather wasn't mega muggy, it was bearable and with a little milkshake to celebrate, I sat by the canal and just watched the world go by for a bit.

When I got home later, it was time to crank on Guitar Hero World Tour for the Wii, as I had some unfinished business to attend to. Even though I'd got to the end levels and indeed had the Heaven level where the band play on Valhalla pulled by some massive eagles, I'd skipped some of the earlier ones, so it was back to try and do some of them again. I'd done the Tool one late last night with three lengthy Tool tracks, and that was okay but nothing special (mental note: must avoid buying Tool albums, not on my priority) and wanted therefore to crack on with some stuff. Interestingly, one of the tracks by 30 Seconds To Mars (The Kill) was a track in Rock Band Song Pack 1, and it's also here in Guitar Hero World Tour, which is probably why I knew how to play it!

Mind you, time pressed on and as I progressed throughout the gig, I got to the end of the set, and it was full of Ozzy Osbourne numbers, with "Mr Crowley" first, and then "Crazy Train" which has some solo parts which are great fun to try and nail. I must admit though that I prefer singing that one for some reason, maybe it allows me to unleash the metal rock god in me (or maybe not, hehe). In any case, tune of the day is another tune found in another of the gigs, namely "Kick Out The Jams". Originally it was by MC5, with the classic opening intro vocal of "Kick out the jams, mother *** ers" which of course for the late 1960s was controversial. Here, it's been re-recorded with Wayne Kramer of MC5 doing his stuff (in fact he's done stuff with Rollins Band too, cool). So because of the pure fun of rocking or singing that opening line, it has to win. Oh yes.

Friday 3rd July - Let It Rain

I took the bus into work this morning with The Wheels On My Bicycle, and that was a nice feeling, especially as I walked down with her to her workplace and saw her into her office before heading out of town towards my work. It just felt like such a couple thing to do, but all in a good way. I think the more time we spend together the more we both realise that it's nice to appreciate the time we have, and certainly I could have quite easily walked slower just to make some more of it. I managed to walk all the way up Oxford Street and Oxford Road and got to work on time, so that was a good workout.

At around 11am or so, the heavens opened and it started to rain - however, it was actually pretty nice because the rain felt quite cool as opposed to the really hot and sticky humid rain that had been coming down the last few days, so that helped enormously, let me tell you. It was nice to be sat by the window at my new desk, and getting a few things sorted, including the new admin base image and having that all sysprepped and ready to go. It felt good to be able to do all that and get everything up and running nicely, and that meant another task done and ready to go for the summer. In fact I've got something handy lined up for next week too, so we shall see what that brings forward.

I spent a fair bit of time later in the day getting some documentation written up as well. It's always good to be able to note down what you do but also to share that information with the team and be able to follow it in a concise way and get it all down into a simple to follow Word document. For me, it's handy so that I don't have to keep all of my hand written notes but instead have them in hard copy, which needs to be done anyway if you ask me.

I went via Tesco on the way home to do the food shopping, and managed pretty well to get all I could into two of the Bags for Life (and I bought two, as I'd forgotten mine, thinking that I could always re-use them again at a later date if I needed to). It was just working out what to have when and also get some ingredients in for making something nice to eat for tea tomorrow night when The Wheels is coming over. Then it was a case of a bit of a workout with the tennis, baseball and bowling on Wii Sports, with yours truly beating the bowling record of mine and getting 243, which was pretty good all round.

It's got a bit more humid and sticky but nothing as bad as it has been, so I've been able to relax and chill out a fair bit more and listen to some good tunes whilst getting the house in ship shape condition. Tune of the day is another Kraftwerk number, "Home Computer" as the visuals reminded me of some of the things that I was churning out when doing endless type ins from the computer weekly periodical Input back in the mid 1980s, ah those were the days...

Thursday 2nd July - Tour de Velodrome

Well, tonight was something that I was looking forward to and had been for some time. It was the start of the Manchester International Festival and the opening night gig was one I was heading to with The Wheels On My Bicycle, as it was the legendary Kraftwerk that were playing. Now, they didn't pick a normal gig venue for staging this occasion, oh no. As Ralf Hütter of Kraftwerk is a fan of cycling, he wanted it somewhere different and so it was the Velodrome that would house the gig. In essence those who were sat like me would be round the outside of the track, then the bit in the middle would be standing with assumedly the band at one end of the stage. It'd look surreal, but I'm sure it was going to be good.

The Wheels made us both something to eat, and we were both attempting to have plenty of liquids to keep each other cool as the temperature was searingly hot, and with the humidity going round as well, you can well imagine how uncomfortable it was. We were both hoping that the Velodrome would be air conditioned which would be of use, but when we got there, we could feel that it was just as warm inside as it was outside. We showed our tickets and got in, and were given some 3D glasses. A quick look showed that they were to be worn around 9.30pm and they had Kraftwerk's name down one side with 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 down the other. It'd be interesting to see what they'd do for that. We walked past someone selling pasties inside and thought how hot they'd be and how no one would possibly want one in the weather, managed to get a drink on the far side bar and headed to our seats.

First up before Krafterwerk was Steve Reich (official site) (myspace) who was premiering his new 2x5 work, performed by the band Bang on a Can, who had done stuff with Reich before. For some reason a lot of the twenty minute piece reminded me of The Durutti Column, with plenty of flowing guitars and a sound that was minimally sparse in parts and populous in others. I don't think everyone was necessarily that convinced to be honest, but it actually was a good warm up of what was to come and certainly it was a good contrast as well to the electronica of Kraftwerk to come.

The weather was ridiculously hot still and sensibly people were being allowed outside to get some air, so what we did, making sure we had our tickets to get back in, was to walk back along to the McDonald's and get something cold to drink there. This had two advantages: the drinks were colder than the ones in the venue (as the really cold stuff had sold out) and there was no queue, so we were able to get a quick drink, have it outside and then head back in the venue before Kraftwerk came on. It was the right thing to do and I'm sure it helped us to avoid getting dehydrated later on.

And good job too, because Kraftwerk (official site) (myspace) were nothing short of awesome. I didn't care it was unfeasibly hot in there, the way that they played and kept everything neat and tidy, especially the controlled sounds, was just the tip of the iceberg for me. There were certain songs I wanted to hear, and I got them, including my all time favourite Showroom Dummies. It all started off though with some solid stuff and plenty of good usage of the gigantic video screen behind: the likes of The Man Machine, Expo 2000, Homecomputer mingled with It's More Fun To Compute, and then..

.. then, my friends, the whole piece de resistance of the whole evening, and one which apparently was a one off. They started off doing Tour de France (which is what I hoped for) and played it, but not only played the single version bit, but the whole three parts of the tune from the Tour de France Soundtracks album. I spotted one of the security people walking down the velodrome track, and where myself and The Wheels were sat, I spotted somone coming up the ramp to the track itself. Surely there can't be cycling during the song, can there? Oh yes there was! Out came four of the British cycling team including Jason Kenny and Jamie Staff, announced by Ralf as they started to make their way around the track. They cycled around in waves and formations almost in time with the song itself, and it was absolutely stunning. Tune of the day it simply has to be - and one of those gig moments that I am sure I'll be talking about for years to come. Don't believe me how good it was? You might want to watch this..

In fact, my only concern was that if anything the gig might have peaked too early, but then again, this is Kraftwek, so no they hadn't. They went on and did The Model, straight into Neon Lights and then headlong into the fuller version of Trans Europe Express, complete with the Metal on Metal and Abzug parts (it was The Mix version that was played, hence it's three parts, but then again so is the original German release!), which really did come on. The noise of the car reverberating around for the start of Autobahn and then going full on in to that, and we'd only reached half way.

More was to come as the curtains closed and then opened again and out came the four robots, doing their movement of arms and heads around and The Robots sounded really good and crisp, with lots of background animations to keep everyone occupied during the track. The curtains then closed after this and some people near me thought it was over, but I knew different as their set was supposed to be close to two hours. They didn't disappoint, out they came and it was time to don the 3D glasses for the likes of Numbers, with the numbers on screen really coming at you in full three dimensions. This worked rather well for Aerodynamik, with the arrows pointing downwards and along, and for the intro of Radioactivity, with the scrolling message about Sellafield really hitting home in a good way.

Perhaps the best use of the 3D came towards the end as they played Vitamin from the Tour de France Soundtracks album - the various vitamins and pills really projected themselves on screen in all directions and looking at it through the glasses was a massive difference - it really was live and loud. And closing the set was an impressive version of Music Non Stop, which really did close things perfectly - each of the band took a bow as the song drew to a close till there was just Ralf left to play the final part and he then waved goodbye and thanked everyone for being there. Well, all I can say really is thank you to them. Honestly, this is now gig of the year, eclipsing even the lovely Duke Special gig back in January. It might even sneak into my top 10 gigs of all time, so if I ever redo that list...

We met up with a couple of The Wheels' friends after the gig, as they'd been in the standing area, and they were even hotter than we are, so any fresh air outside was appreciated. The four of us had a drink back at The Wheels' place, and we were all in awe of how good the gig was and also just how lucky we felt to be there and to make the most of it. I may never get the chance to see the band again, but you take your chances, you make the most of it, and it was nice to see them all too afterwards and have a natter. Made the day complete and all lovely. Awww.

Wednesday 1st July - Humid Stats Abound

When I woke up this morning I could already feel the humidity everywhere in the air, and even a nice cool shower didn't do that much when I got changed and ready to head out to work this morning. It just wasn't cool enough at night to make everything seem that little bit less sticky, and I'm sure that as the day went on, it got worse and worse and with me not really coping with the humidity, I was glad that I had plenty of water and soft drinks at home for later so that I was able to just try and where possible keep the heat off me.

Anyway, as I usually do before I head to work, I check my email and this morning I also checked my Flickr! stats for my account. And it was surreal. Normally my pics get in total around 200-250 hits per day between them all, and that's okay. However, one of my pics alone yesterday got 890 hits, and that's way and above anything I've normally ever had before. One look at the referrers and I soon found out why - it turned out that someone posted a link to one of my images on reddit.com, and people were clicking that to take a peekie, which of course meant that the views were going up. I didn't realise the site was that popular or that people were being so nosey as to want to have a look at the shot.

As I'm typing this, a glance at today's stats reveals the same image has had a massive 336 hits as well, which mean that it's now number two on my all time viewed images list. Hmmm.. the things that a mere web page link can do for you, I thought to myself. I've had small blips of hits around the 100 mark as well, such as Michaela Tabb when it was the snooker world championships (particularly during the two days of the final as she was the referee of course) but still, there you go. I don't know how these things work, but I do know that one of my contacts had some 70,000 views on one image when it was linked via Digg, so I always think it's a bit weird in a way that people want to look at what you've created..

Elsewhere, the Manchester City website was overhauled today and got a new look and feel, although the site was delayed going live by supposed "technical difficulties". A quick look in Firefox seems to me that the new site does one nice thing, it looks fresh and clear and concise, and all the stuff that might not work does work, the video feeds with the teaser for the new kit, interviews, and it looks slick. Whoever the club have got in to do the web design have done a cracking job and is a lesson on how it should be done. Who'd have thought that, eh? Well I guess the club can pay a decent webmaster now :)

In the meantime, tune of the day has to be the rather fabulous "Getting Away With It" by Electronic. The opening line of the song is "I've been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose" and as I went over to another office today, it was clear that as it was raining, I had almost designed the timing so that I'd get some rain drop on me in the futile attempt to try and cool me off. Not that it worked, mind!