Dear Diary... June 2007

Saturday 30th June - Birthdays and Bridgewater

Been quite a busy day for me today really. I left for the city centre quire early as I needed to get a few things done, and it was also my niece's 2nd birthday party a bit later on and so I needed to be there on time for the do as well, only the right thing to do I think. As I headed into town I knew that I wanted to get another pair of jeans for the holiday, and needed to pop over to the Bridgewater Hall as well. When I was looking at the Manchester International Festival schedule last night, I saw that William Orbit (dance musician and producer) was doing an orchestral suite and I thought that it would be intriguing to see what he'd do.

Anyway, walked along Market Street and went down to see the very deserted and closed down branch of Fopp. I must admit I felt pretty sad yesterday when I heard the news that all their stores were closing down and they were in the hands of the administrators. I used to go up to the one in Sheffield quite a bit before we had a Manchester branch, and it was always good bargains and plenty of excellent ranges of stock in there: as an indie fan I was pretty well catered for and I could get back catalogue stuff usually for a fiver. And when the one in Manchester opened I'd often go in there and have a coffee (a mere £1 for any coffee: bargain) and chill out while listening to some great music, and often because of that buy some CDs too. I'd always tried to support them where possible by buying new release stuff from there if I could too. It just feels sad in a way that people are too happy with lower quality downloads rather than listen to music the way it should be - on a proper decent system with optimum sound quality, and in turn that's killing off the natural purchasing of music.

Went into the Arndale and through to Marks and Spencer. Why oh why though is the first floor entrance straight into the Lingerie section? Bah. I ignored that and headed for the escalator to the second floor where the men's stuff was, got a pair of their black jeans (£9.50 is bargain and they actually stay black after a wash!) and some underwear (buy one get one half price, that agreed with me too). I was also given a free bottle of Head and Shoulders Ocean Spa shampoo as I walked back through the Arndale - perfect I thought, one less thing to buy!!

After this I walked over to the Bridgewater Hall and passed the Festival marquee thing that they've got set up outside Manchester Central (some of us still like to call it G-Mex, but still) along with some Playstation 3 tent and rig that's showing off the latest games on their HD televisions too. Got to the Bridgewater Hall, and knew that there were lots of tickets left for the William Orbit gig. I wanted the side circle row A, because the view is pretty good, no one gets in your way, and you overlook the stage nicely. In addition the tickets were a mere £10 which was a bargain. Online, it was a £1.50 booking fee for the festival itself and £1.50 card charge, but when I went o the counter and paid cash, no booking fees whatsoever. I rubbed my hands a la Burns in the Simpsons and thought "Excellent.." hehe. So that now means in effect I'm pretty much on for three gigs in four nights: PJ Harvey next Saturday, William Orbit on the Sunday and (hopefully) Donna Marie at Bury Met on the Tuesday as well. They always seem to be that way for some reason...

Got home and did some bits round the house before heading over to my sister's, digital camera in tow to try and take some pictures of my niece's cuteness as she was opening all her birthday presents. Thankfully the pressies I got her (some clothes and the Lady and the Tramp 2 disc DVD) went down very well, and the majority of presents were pink in some description, or princess-like, or Barbie, or all three! I did manage to get some cute shots and it was also good to see the family as well together. The weather had put paid to my sister's plan to have a bouncy castle out in the back garden, which would have been really fantastic, but nonetheless the food was luscious (thanks sis!) and there was plenty for everyone to enjoy and just have a good time all round. I think she's re-arranging the bouncy castle day for lots of kids to be there and have a whale of a time so that's going to be pretty good really.

It's amazing though just how fast my nephew and niece (my sisters' children, one sister has a boy, the other a girl) have grown up and they seem to interact well with each other most of the time. Also, it's intriguing for me to see how their language generally has picked up a lot too, they both seem really happy to talk and communicate and they even have their own "pet" words for things that they can't always say properly. That's no bad thing in my eyes because it means that it's their own way of working things out. And as I left to go to my mum's before going home, I couldn't help but feel that at least I knew I'd have so much fun with them over the years, as I did today as they were watching the Tweenies!

I had a good listen to some old classic tunes earlier, think I was inspired by digging out the 7" "Monkey Magic" single last night, hehe. Anyway, I played some more seven inches of joy (ooer missus) and remembered that I had the 80s cult indie classic, and so tune of the day is "Charlton Heston" by Stump. It's just odd but funny, and mentions the great line "Charlton Heston put his vest on". Nothing more needs to be said!

Friday 29th June - Monkey Magic!

Had our technical group meeting at work this morning, which meant a trip out to another campus. Thankfully one of my colleagues from another faculty very kindly gave me and someone else a lift out there, which did save me some time on the 42 bus, and as the weather was looking a wee bit dodgy, not that bad an idea really. Then in the afternoon I managed to do a motherboard replacement to get a PC back up and running without any hassle whatsoever, and also was putting back together a PC that we had the board back from one of our suppliers. Except that the heatsink and fan didn't particularly like going in its desginated slots, I'll have to try again on Monday and see what happens.

But then it was home and to get myself ready and changed for a bit of theatre. Oh yes. I decided a while back when I saw it advertised that I needed to go and see Monkey: Journey To The West. Not least as this was going to the world premiere opening of the production, but also because I used to absolutely adore the TV series in the late 1970s/early 1980s, even with the really bad dubbing and stuff like that. And so I thought "I'm gonna look sharp, just in case the ladies are out there!" I did feel really good actually and looked like it, and so off I went downtown and to the Palace.

When I was having a drink in the bar in the Grand Tier beforehand, I heard a couple of the ushers chatting about the opening night on the Thursday. Apparently Jude Law was there, and Dennis Hopper too, bit of a a scoop that. Not least as Jude of course filmed big swathes of his remake of "Alfie" in Manchester's Northern Quarter, which became New York for a few weeks (yes it's true) - and the general vibe in the place seemed to be families, the regular theatregoers, and diehard Monkey fans with their t-shirts on (oh yes, I did see a couple of them, surprised I didn't see a few familiar faces who I know!)

Anyway, one word of caution if you're going: there's no interval! Honestly. It's two hours non stop, but in a way that's also a good thing as there's no immediacy lost. It did mean that people were occasionally dashing to the loo though. Must admit I was quite pleased with myself that I was on an aisle seat and so if I needed to move I could shift left and then still be able to see the whole thing. And the view from the Grand Tier's decent anyway, the steep rake (and it is very steep) allows a good view, and with a show like this, you're actually a bit better higher up to be quite honest so you can see what's going on.

After the whole thing was over, and it was very enjoyable (I've reviewed it too, you might want to read the review) I made my way downstairs, and I actually bumped into not one, but three work colleagues who work in my building. That's a bit spooky, I thought, but it was good to see them at any rate, and they all looked very nice too. In fact it was a full house last night which pleased me immensely, us Mancunians are really good generally at taking on culture and the whole Manchester International Festival is about bringing new work to be premiered here for the first time, hence me going to see PJ Harvey next weekend as part of the same festival.

On my way home the bus was pretty choc full, and with good reason: lots of people coming out of the Lou Reed gig at the Apollo. They looked like they'd had a really good time too. I was just so pleased to have gone tonight: it shows me that why the hell should it matter that I'm not going with any one or a partner or anything like that: I can enjoy myself just as much by doing my own thing. I got home, and thought "there's only one possible tune I can play now!" and proceeded to dig through my 7" singles collection till I played tune of the day - namely Godiego's "Monkey Magic" - the theme tune to the 1970s series Monkey, of course. Ah, the days of the bad dubbing and everything all came back to me, in a good way.

Thursday 28th June - Three and Six? It's About All They're Worth!

Spent a fair bit of time today at work moving out old kit, and in some cases not replacing it with anything new. Under management policy, staff can either have a laptop or desktop - but not both, which seems very reasonable to me to be perfectly honest. However, because the decision's not been made by us as such, when we do the front line work we have to do it's a case of taking the flak, fine to a point of course, but I do worry sometimes that things like this ruin good working relationships that you have with your staff. It's like walking on egg shells to be honest.

Whilst listening to SlayRadio tonight (cracking show tonight Ziphoid) I was also checking out Donna Marie's My Space page, as she tends to update that a bit as well as her web site. And her EP is now available on there for purchase. Please, do yourself a favour and buy it, because it's completely ace. Read my review and then buy it, listen to it and love it like I do. In fact tonight late on after I'd had a friend round and had a good natter I needed something just to get me feeling in the right mood, and nothing does that better at the moment than "Make You Mine" - it's utterly gorgeous. So much so that it's my tune of the day - so there. And I make no apologies for it being the second time in eight days that it's my tune. I adore it. I'd love to sing it to someone I'd like to make mine. And there can be no higher recommendation.

Was watching a classic old episode of Never Mind The Buzzcocks tonight, I did vaguely remember it because Brian Molko from Placebo's usually pretty decent when he's on, and my, didn't Saffron from Republica look pretty hot back then? I completely forgot! Anyway, they had the ID parade and Phill's team had to guess two of the members from the 1970s band Guys and Dolls, and Phill guessed "It was 3 and 6, that's about all they're worth these days". That of course got a very wry grin from number 6 which sort of gave the game away really. But still, classic. I have my all time favourite episode on a VHS tape somewhere, I'll have to dig it out and have great memories at some point I reckon.

Wednesday 27th June - Oh, Lanky Lanky..

Got home from work tonight and realised that the 20/20 game between Lancashire and Yorkshire was on. After first kicking myself off the floor for realising that I could have possibly got a ticket to this game and just gone to Old Trafford straight from work, I thought that at least the match was on Sky and that I could watch it regardless. As it was, it was fairly exciting stuff: Lancashire did pretty well early on but then kept losing wickets and had slumped from 116 for 3 to a final total of 143 for 9. Ironically, 143 is the average score at Old Trafford for a 20/20 match. So even though it might not have seemed that much, it actually was pretty useful and as such might have been hard to chase down.

And so it proved. With each over the score got tighter and Yorkshire's run rate crept up, kept by steady wickets, not least from the superb Tom Smith, who in my view should have had man of the match. His three wickets plus a run out for just 14 runs in his 3.4 overs is a miserly figure for the much shortened game, and I'm sure that he was just doing his job with aplomb for his county. Hilariously when Darren Gough came out to bat for Yorkshire, the usual cries of "you fat bar steward" (you know what I mean) came out from the Lancashire fans.

Also interestingly was that each time a batsman was out and being replaced, or if a four or six was hit, the tannoy would belt out plenty of Manchester classic tunes in the meantime, an excellent idea methinks. So we had the likes of New Order's "Blue Monday", "Hit The North" by The Fall, Happy Mondays' version of "Step On", Ian Brown's "Golden Greats", even The Smiths' classic "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" (how true when a wicket goes down.) But for me, tune of the day just had to be another one that they used during the game: 10cc's "Dreadlock Holiday". Not least for the classic line of "I don't like cricket.. oh no... I love it!" And the way that Lancashire are playing at the moment it seems to be so good. And in case you wondered about the giraffe that they have as a mascot, it's when the fans chant "Oooh, Lanky Lanky, Lanky Lanky Lanky Lanky Lancashire.." Also, "lanky" is Northern English slang for "tall" - hence the giraffe, you see...

Tuesday 26th June - Surrealism

It felt surreal tonight watching the 20/20 cricket game between Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, as good a game as it was with Warwickshire having done enough to win by 12 runs in the end, it was a different story not that far down the road in Worcester, as Worcestershire's home ground New Road is completely underwater, and it's not a very pretty sight really. The nearby river Severn burst its banks and there was simply nowhere else for the water to go but to the ground, and it reminds me of the tsunami a couple of years back when one of Sri Lanka's picturesque cricket grounds was completely flooded. It just feels surreal that normal life is carrying on for a lot of us when we all can see on the news is more devastation.

What's particularly worrying is a dam at Ulley reservoir just near Rotherham, that, if it happens to go over the top and the dam wall defences aren't strengthened and repaired in time is that water will rush down a valley and cause widespread chaos: in its path are three villages, one of them, Catcliffe, is already a few feet under water, also there's the M1 motorway and beyond that a water treatment works and, crucially of the lot, a power station. Literally the station would need to shut down all its power as quickly as possible and then be left off so that there isn't a widespread catasrophe ensuing. The latest I'm looking at now on the BBC News 24 feed is that the high powered water pumps are doing the job and that hopefully if they can get the levels down enough that the wall can be repaired and fixed. Fingers crossed there.

I also started to think ahead a bit as to the work I've got to do over the summer, and realistically I know that I need to start as soon as possible on a couple of major projects. First off, there's the updating of the student images for the dropins and stuff like that. Realistically I need to get our main dropin done and there's just one application which needs to be packaged which as a standard package we need. Thankfully someone I know is taking that on so we should be okay. Then it's testing, testing, testing and more testing. And that takes time. I just want to be sure everything is right and then it's a case of rolling out stuff from then onwards. I think it's a case of us taking stock and seeing how we'll do it.

As we were sat in one of our usual haunts in lunch time, we noticed that the juke box decided to play St Winifred's School Choir's abomination that is "There's No One Quite Like Grandma". And if that wasn't enough, twice within about twenty minutes. Dear dear me. Thankfully one of my colleagues put some money in and played some decent tunes instead. Hurrah. Actually it reminds me of a sketch on The Mary Whitehouse Experience when you're asked "who the hell put this on?" and it does make you wonder. And in fact tune of the day is the sort of thing you won't get on a pub jukebox: "Echoes" by Pink Floyd. Those who know the song will know exactly why that is! Regardless, it's a great track and shows off Floyd at their most progressive of prog rock and the whole album "Meddle" is just class.

Monday 25th June - Can't Look On The Brightside Today

What was an ordinary day at work turned out to be us keeping an eye on the news and indeed the weather, as several parts of the UK had record rainfalls for a June day, many rivers had burst their banks and there was flooding in lots of places, particularly Sheffield, Rotherham, Leeds and Doncaster. The pure speed of the water coming down over the river Don and through the Brightside area of Sheffield was something surreal and very scary: cars were floating down Brightside Lane, which is on the main A6109 between Sheffield, Meadowhall and Rotherham. It was reckoned that up to six months' rainfall for the area fell in one day in some parts, and as you can imagine, the rivers couldn't cope and overflowed with devastating effects for many residents.

I feel so helpless here in Manchester: even though we had a fair amount of wind and rain yesterday it wasn't anywhere near the possibilities of flooding, as the river Irwell to the west of the city centre is quite low down and most of the bridges are at least 30-40 feet over the river minimum. The more worrying possibility was the river Mersey bursting its banks and affecting the likes of Didsbury, Northenden and Chorlton. Thankfully it didn't burst, but my colleague who takes the bus through Northenden did tell me it was pretty high up at that point. Indeed at Piccadilly station many trains were cancelled, including one to where one of my other colleagues lives, and although he made his way back home okay it turned out that part of the track had flooded, hence the no service. A minor inconvenience though compared to what was happening elsewhere.

I've just heard now that a couple of people have died due to the flooding, and swept away by the rivers. It's a very scary prospect to see just how volatile the weather can be and indeed how quickly things can change. It may be too early to suggest that global warming has had the cause and effect to make the weather much more extreme, but you do have to wonder just what would happen in a few years time - would this sort of thing be much more likely to happen, and indeed would there be an added chance of many people simply moving away from flood risk areas simply because the possibility of having their lives ruined would be too great? I can only wonder and have plenty of empathy for those suffering right now: our thoughts are with you.

With that feeling of sadness around the country it only seems right that I listen to a tune of sadness and misery as that's how I feel right now thinking about these poor people: and tune of the day is therefore "Isolation" by Joy Division. Somewhat apt, especially if you're caught up on a hill and although you may be safe, there's flood water all around you.

Sunday 24th June - Back To Reality

I had a lie in this morning which was just what I needed after the weekend's jaunt out. I felt like it was the right thing to do and especially after I'd spent a couple of hours slaved over the keyboard writing my missive of Friday night's event for Remix64, so that'll hopefully be a good read. I also mailed a few people to thank them for their contributions to the evening, which was the right thing to do. And then got up, got myself ready and went over to my Mum's, mainly to see my brother and his girlfriend (it was her birthday today you see, hence the present shopping yesterday) and to generally relax a bit. Made it back later on even though the rain was deciding to try and downpour a bit..

I also spent a bit of time listening to the Donna Marie "Paint The Sky" EP I got the other night, in preparation for a review (which will happen soon as I promised I'd do one). It still sounds as lovely as first time around, and to test it out, I chucked it on my proper rig. And wow! It sounds rather good on there too. So the tune of the day is "Holiday From Myself" from that EP, because I can.

It feels like it was a long weekend and I don't really want things to end and to go back to work on Monday, where it should be a bit quieter in theory as most of the students will have left for home (maybe some via the muddy fields of Glastonbury) and the final year ones will be taking their degree show stuff down as well. It must be sad too knowing that it's the end of an era for some and that it'll be a tentative step in to the real world of work and searching for the right job. It's also hard because some of the subjects can be more specialist in terms of industry, that although a qualification in that subject is a good niche, it also means competition can be higher too. In any case I just hope everyone does okay and gets what they're after.

Saturday 23rd June - London Is My Oyster

Finally did what I should have done yesterday and got myself one of those Oyster cards for travelling around London. I just winged it on a one day bus ticket yesterday, but when I thought about it I realised that for me, as I use the bus and avoid the Tube because of the rubbish air quality and the heat (especially in the summer), this way the fares would be capped at a maximum of £3 for one day (saving on the one day bus pass costs there) as well as single fares being a mere £1 instead of £2. So if I make two trips, it's £2 with the Oyster, but otherwise I'd be having to buy the £3.50 pass instead. So there is plenty of logic there - I went to Liverpool Street station, got that all sorted and charged the card up with some credit too - which I can use when I'm next in London. Aha! Even better was that I found a Benjy's food place right near where I was staying and their breakfast deal of their breakfast muffin (I had sausage, egg and cheese) plus large cofee for £1.99 was a winner - made note for next time I'm down.

Got the number 8 bus to Oxford Street and got off at Tottenham Court Road, as the first stop was Charing Cross Road towards Theatreland. I actually wanted to go to the shop Dress Circle on Monmouth Street, but went past and they weren't open, so I walked down to Covent Garden and relaxed there for a while with a cup of coffee and took in the general atmosphere, which seemed rather bohemian, more so than usual. After a quick text from Dan stating where he, Neil and Barry were, I headed back to Dress Circle, picked up the CD I was after (Julie Atherton's "A Girl Of Few Words" - Julie plays Kate Monster in Avenue Q and her voice is great) and the on to the Moon Under Water in Leicester Square to meet up with the others: if nothing else it meant cheap and real ale, hurrah!

Spent the next couple of hours in there just having a good natter, reflecting on the previous evening and also plenty of football related chat including just what will happen if Sven takes the Manchester City's manager's job. I wouldn't be happy about that to be honest because of how passionless he was with England, and certainly someone like City needs a manager who actually cares about the club and not the size of the salary he'll be getting. But nonetheless the four of us had a good laugh and it was a shame for me I had to realistically dash off around 1pm as I needed to get a birthday present for someone before heading home on the train.

Walked up from Leicester Square to Piccadilly Circus and then on to Carnaby Street, as I knew there was a Lush around there. I went in and got what I needed to get, and the assistants were all being really nice to me - one of them even complimented me on my shirt I had on, which was very nice of them (darn, I should have got her number!) and with that done, I found a nice birthday card nearby and then walked down Oxford Street, checked out what was new in the big HMV apart from the sale stock, which there was lots of, and then went down Berwick Street to check out some of the record shops that are still round there. It's not as good as it used to be these days, but still decent enough, and at least Sister Ray's as good as it ever was. Just a shame Rough Trade isn't on the same street really.

But with time ticking away it was time for me to get the 10 from Oxford Street back to Euston and then get the 1510 departure to Manchester, and even though it went via Birmingham, so a longer journey, it got into Manchester four minutes ahead of schedule, which was rather good. It had to go via Wilmslow, Styal and near the airport though because of the track work near Stockport, but it didn't add any time on extra and I just had the mp3 player on anyway with plenty of nice stuff, including Juliette and the Licks' "American Boy" which is going to be my tune of the day - it's so darned infectious.

Watched the under 21 final when I got back and I have to say that the Netherlands' 4-1 victory over Serbia was well deserved - they were the best team of the tournament and emphatically proved it with a dominant display. It also goes to show just how well England had done to push them all the way to penalties in the semi, and for me at least it was a victory for all the right reasons. Note the letting off of flares from the Serbian fans this time, which wasn't that nice. But the right team won.

Friday 22nd June - Back In Time Live

Five years ago this weekend was the retro gaming event that was Back in Time Live 3 at Gossips in Soho, the event where I saw possibly the best ever redone version of the classic theme from Monty on the Run, as performed by Press Play on Tape with Pascal Roggyn on violin. At the time people were thinking it could have been the last one, but fast forward to today and events are still being done, and it's really about the storming live sets that tend to be happening now. And for a lot of us, a special treat tonight: the game music legend that is Jeroen Tel was going to be doing his DJ set thing. Now that was going to be interesting!

Anyway, after getting all my stuff ready for the overnight stay I left the house and got to Piccadilly in good time to get the 11.15 train to London Euston that I'd booked. And I was dead lucky cos I'd booked the super speedy train and so was able to get to Euston around 1.30pm, and after taking the 205 bus to the Travelodge just near Liverpool Street station and close to the venue, it was perfect for me to be able to just drop off all my stuff and then head back towards Kings Cross on the 205 to meet up with some of my old chums, most notably Dan - always good to see him. It was soon to be him, me, Neil and Barry (aka Tomsk) sat in the pub like we were with a few others last August in Manchester watching footy and having real ale - good times they were!

Had a pint with them and they checked their stuff in their hotel whilst I headed back to the venue to check things out, say few hellos to people and so on before getting back to Travelodge to shower and change into something a bit more retro - the green Hey Hey 16K t-shirt that I have. Now I was ready to rock and enjoy myself. And that, I very much did. It was really good to meet plenty of people I've seen before at other events, and some new people too (there's too many to mention but you know who you are). I'm going to write about this more at length for the masses over at the Remix64 website anyway, so eventually the full write up will be there, but the short of it was that it was an excellent night.

It started off with ComputeHer solo, then joined together with 8Bit Weapon and MelBot for a really nice threesome using old school computers and consoles to make a distinctive sound, and their version of the old game theme Crazy Comets got everyone dancing! After that, it was a disco set from Danceaway which included at the end a disco dance competition, with the final two having a dance off to Karl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting" with this really lovely chick winning, she was a darned good dancer and that was one other thing I noticed: an increased number of female attendees, which was really nice to see. It's not just us blokes who remember the old days of gaming then!

Then it was on to MJ Hibbett doing a solo gig, and if truth be told, part of the reason that I went along. He did the first ever live version of "Hey Hey 64K", based on "Hey Hey 16K" but with the words changed to be Commodore 64 related. Then "Control Alt Delete" which went down very well, followed by one of the double A-sides, "The Gay Train", then "Easily Impressed" complete with audience participation, and finally "Boom Shake The Room" with plenty of audience participation. Just lots of fun and a shame he couldn't do a longer set, but it was great anyway.

Then on to Jeroen Tel doing his DJ thing, fusing together old school tunes (including his own from Robocop 3, Dan Dare 3 and the like) with plenty of dance beats which really was great fun, not least with the glow rings which had light patterns following the hand movements - and to say that the game legend did well was an understatement, he got everyone dancing! And lastly, Reyn Ouwehand, playing everything live (and I mean everything) - he'd start with the drums, lay down the track and record it, then do the bass, then the guitars etc before playing all that in with some keyboards. Awesome stuff that was. I have to say that to see each track built up even with the odd mistake showed how good it all was, built live without any sequencers or anything like that, fantastic stuff. Indeed, his version of "Flimbo's Quest" done in a blues style on the fly is my tune of the day.

It was soon 1am and time to head back to the Travelodge with a few others that were staying there but suffice to say that I had a great night all round really. It just made me feel happy inside and I know that every time I go to one of these events it always might be the last, so good to be able to treasure them and enjoy them for what they are I reckon. Not least of course because I had a few people actually recognise me and say hello, which was a bit of a shock, but also the general vibe was right, and that's so important these days. Now if only I could sleep...

Thursday 21st June - Shinawatra Summer's Day

The news came through this morning that the ex-Thai prime minister, while being up for corruption charges in his home country, has had his bid of some £87 million for Manchester City approved by the board, and it's just now going through all the Premier League dotting of the "i" and crossing of the "t". It's also rumoured that his advisors have been speaking to some bad Swedish ex-England manager about taking the managerial post at the City of Manchester Stadium as part of the deal. I'm not sure whether to laugh, cry or somewhere in between.

On the one hand, it's money the club needs and it mean we can buy a decent team at last, and learn from the mistakes of giving Keegan too much money to spend on and pay mediocrity like Fowler and McManaman. On the other, is it tainted money considering the forthcoming trial he and his wife have to attend back home? On another hand, Eriksson's club record is pretty decent and he seems to know a thing or two. But on the other, the way he mismanaged the England job, making friendlies worthless exercises, showing no passion, no emotion isn't good. My uncle made the point last night that City like to see their managers involved and out there barking instructions and really being like one of the fans, and I can see his point.

As it's the summer solstice today, I thought that for tune of the day I needed something summery so as not to feel the rain everywhere, not least as I headed off to Tesco tonight. This after me getting a ticket for Monkey: Journey To The West for Friday 29th June, woohoo. Anyway, back to what I was saying. I wanted a summery tune and what better than the rather excellent "Holiday" by Pullover. The lyrics in the chorus state "I want to find out who I am in a caravan". That says everything about English holiday seaside resorts really...

Wednesday 20th June - Paint The Sky With A Penalty Shootout

I finished off all those PCs today, they're all now zero filled hard disks and ready to be recycled when the moment is right. It's a massive wall of desktop units in that room though, it could even be conceived as art. Well, okay, maybe not, but you get the idea. I also rang the Bridgewater Hall and when I did so, got the ticket I wanted for PJ Harvey, and.. the debit card went through fine. Something's seriously up with some online retailers I reckon, maybe it's that insistance of a start date that's not playing ball? In any case I also got an email from Barclaycard about their new Breathe card, where any money they make from the card gets ploughed back into environmental concerns, and that kind of agrees with me somewhat.

Got home from work with one thing on my mind, and that was the under 21s semifinal against Netherlands. I didn't expect England to win, but I expected heart, character and passion. I watched most of the first half on my own and we kept pushing and going forward, and I thought to myself we might sneak one. A ball went over the top, Leroy Lita muscled in on the ball, turned and shot towards goal, and their keeper could only help it in the back of the net and it was 1-0. Understandably I went mental, and I was pleased for Lita because that was his third in the last three games so he's keeping up a good record and knows where the net is (take note David Nugent!)

Second half wore on and as the substitutions were made and as the odd yellow card was coming out I knew that some of the England players had to be careful, as six of them were on one yellow and another would mean that they'd be out of the final if England made it there. As it was, Mark Noble went in for a challenge and was way too late, and I knew that the card would come out for him, as it did for Nigel Reo-Coker later on in a desparate sliding tackle that he didn't have to make, not least as the dominating centre halves of Steven Taylor and, especially from my point of view, Nedum Onouha - of Manchester City - were keeping everything at bay. Well, until Taylor's ankle gave way and in a twist of irony and fate the whistle was played to and it was 1-1.

Onouha had to go off with a bad groin, Taylor played on with the ankle injury, so really England were down to nine and a half men with all their subs used, but the way that they battled on was incredible, it really was. Full marks to their bravery, and when it came to the penalty shoot out that ensued, no one can say we lacked desire. It was 4-4 after five and into sudden death, and the drama that unfolded was something else. It kept on and on and even Taylor had to take on after the Dutch coach intervened and said to the ref (quite rightly, and Stuart Pearce agreed) that as he was on the pitch at the end of extra time he was deemed fit to take one. Taylor hobbled to the spot, slotted it home and then went Pearce-like mental afterwards. I felt so much pride. And Taylor deserved all the accolades he got afterwards for showing true grit.

And the penaties kept going and it was then 12-12 and both sides missed. Anton Ferdinand then hit the bar for England and the Dutch scored the next one to leave us out and down after almost forty minutes of nailbiting penalties. But you know what? I'm still proud of all the squad that were there (apart from Kieran Richardson for being as much of a prima donna idiot as his cousin is on Big Brother apparently, and Tom Huddlestone for his stupid sending off for foul language) and as for David Bentley - the man that cried off with tiredness, well some of the players last night were literally dead on their feet, but you know what? They showed everything Bentley lacked, passion, desire and the willingness to give it all for your country. Some of the senior squad could learn a thing or two! And the players apparently love Pearce as manager and want him to stay full-time. Oh, the irony for us City fans.

When that was done (8.30pm end for a 5.15pm kick off, so there you go!) it was straight out and down to Trof in Fallowfield for an acoustic night that they have. Having not been Trof before (I don't tend to hang out in the studenty areas of Manchester much cos I work with them all day, and a lot of them are students-only which I find really bad practice) I was pleasantly surprised at how a transformation of a couple of terraced houses can make a place seem really bohemian. Two big minus points. One: no real ale! That's bad, how can anyone expect to have a nice pint and enjoy their music. Two: the bottled ale is ridiculously expensive. Want proof? £3.50 for a bottle of Summer Lightning. Needless to say, I stuck with the capuccino and the old style dandelion and burdock, much cheaper and it meant I wasn't drinking as well - which probably was a good thing for during the week.

First up I saw on the stage was Paul Oska. He was pretty good to start things off with, and he even did a rather interesting acoustic reworking of NIN's "The Becoming". A few of his songs were really quiet-sounding but that actually added to the feel that he was conveying, and I quite enjoyed his stuff, even if some of the audience weren't that interested. And then, part of the reason I came along, Ben Calvert. Even without his bass player and drummer, he did a very nice solo gig playing some of the stuff that I heard at Leeds, and a couple of ones I didn't remember. That said, he did do "Flee", which I adore, and that just set the tone for me to really enjoy what he did and have a great time.

That would have been more than enough for me, but the best was yet to come, and I really feel like I discovered someone utterly brilliant tonight. She is called Donna Marie, and I have to say that not only did she seem the most professional, but also a bit of a perfectionist and wanted to get her guitars just right before playing her songs. She actually had two of them, an acoustic one and a more electric one, and her little descriptions of the songs just got you in the right mood beforehand. And she played with verve, vigour and a smile on her face in between, and it just felt like she was enjoying herself immensely. And shouldn't that be what it's all about? She played all the songs from her "Paint The Sky" EP (review coming up in the next few days I reckon) and plenty more too, such as the excellent "Like A Hollywood Film", the luscious but lovely "Goodtime Girl" - and the full of barb and delivered with aplomb "The Other Half". She was really really good and to be honest, I'm going to try and see her live again as soon as possible. It just felt really great. I even bought her EP and had a chat with her afterwards and it was just a great end to a great night all round.

As it is, one of the tracks from her EP, which I'm listening to at the hour of 1am right now, is just perfectly lovely and is my tune of the day - it's "Make You Mine". There's just something sweet in there and her voice just transfixes you as she tells you that she's going to make you mine, in a really luscious tone. It's perfect to listen to late at night, as my 1am test will testify!

Tuesday 19th June - Sheela Na Gig, Me Going PJ Harvey Gig (hopefully)

I had a bit of a brainwave (steady, that sort of behaviour is dangerous) tonight. I thought that it would be a good idea to see if I could go and see PJ Harvey at the Bridgewater Hall as part of the Manchester International Festival on the 7th July. I've always wanted to see her live and as it's about the only UK date this year that she's doing, it's got a bit of exclusivity about it as well. The other thing is that I really should try and get out to more concerts too even more than I am doing now - I do feel so much more wholesome for that, and the Bridgewater's got great acoustics, which always helps in those situations.

Anyway, got to the web site and checked the box office. Not that many tickets left (seven in all) but they were scattered around in ones, and as that was all I needed, I thought "right, job done!". I then went through all the procedures and went to put the card details in etc, but it came back as "card denied". How odd, I thought, and tried one more time before getting the same message. I was disappointed but thought that I'd best ring up the box office tomorrow and see what they can do, if all else fails I'll go there and pay cash just to be absolutely sure of going. In any case, I played her "Dress" 12" single, and that song's going to have to be tune of the day.

I decided to have a bit of a quietish day today and concentrate on working on some documentation in the office before heaidng home to watch the cricket - and I got home as England needed around 50 to win! Thank heavens for the 7.15pm highlights so I could see Monty Panesar really do the honours and again bowl the West Indies into submission. The deliveries he produced to get rid of Ramdin and later on Chanderpaul were world class, not just lucky deliveries, and he deserves all the plaudits he gets as far as I'm concerned - man of the series for England at least. And if the West Indies didn't have Shivnarine Chanderpaul, they would be in serious trouble, as the second Test win by a record margin against them proved.

Monday 18th June - Two Contrasts, One England, No Defeats

Well the proverbial game of two halves wouldn't quite describe the last day or so. After writing yesterday's entry it was a case of me inviting some of my relations over to watch the final England Under-21 group game in their European Championships, playing Serbia, who had already qualified. The maths were simple: if England won, they'd be in the last four and face the Netherlands. If we drew, and Italy drew with the Czech Republic, we'd also be through too. But relying on a draw elsewhere is dangerous stuff, and it would only be the right thing to do to go for a win, not least as Serbia had rested a few players in the knowledge that they'd safely progressed.

With everyone here, and me ordering a Pizza Hut delivery of two large pizzas, two portions of garlic bread and a bottle of 7 Up (it's some deal they have, and that would easily do the five of us to be honest!) it was a great start for England within five minutes as Leroy Lita was in the right place at the right time to direct a cross into the net with his head low down. Excellent stuff, and he was well chuffed to say the least. And it got gradually tense throughout as Serbia played pretty well, with keeper Scott Carson pulling off some vital saves.

And then, the first bit of controversy: monkey chants aimed at Man City defender Nedum Onouha. When will people learn that racism is not tolerated in any shape or form? UEFA asked the pitch announcer to make a statement over the tannoy, and that seemed to work, but it didn't need to go to that length for common sense to prevail, surely? I mean, people should be educated enough, there's plenty of banners at these sort of tournaments that clearly say "no" to anything like that. To be honest though, UEFA are too toothless when it comes to this sort of thing at the same time and they need to have more bite for it to be taken seriously.

The second controversy was in the second half: England were attacking and as Kieran Richardson missed a shot, a Serbian player went down with cramp, it looked like. Anyway, instead of going off the touchline to get treatment (he was right next to it) he then went to the 18 yard line before going down. All this did was play Matt Darbyshire onside when the ball was played through to him thirty seconds later, and he slotted it home. The ref allowed the goal, and the Serbian players lost it and went at any England player that they could. It's a tough one to call as Darbyshire could have kicked it out for the player to get attention, but then why didn't the player just go off the touchline? Also, the latest directive is that the ref will stop play for an injury and players don't necessarily have to kick the ball out. City had it done to them by West Ham last season, so I guess it was on the other foot here. Nonetheless though I had a feeling the rest of the game might turn ugly, and I'm sure whatever language the sub Tom Huddlestone used, it must have been appalling for the ref to send him off.

Then we hear after the final whistle and as players are going down the tunnel, Arsenal defender Justin Hoyte was spat at and racially abused. Okay, so the Serbians might still have been upset with the second goal, granted. But racially abusing and spitting at a player? That's disgraceful, to be honest. I have a feeling the last might not have been heard of this, and it spoiled a hard fought England win which means the host nation in the semis on Wednesday at 5.15pm. It also means Italy and Portugal, who finished third in their groups, have a play off game Thursday. Why, you may ask? Well the semi-finalists qualify for the Olympic Games in Beijing, but as England aren't sending a team (it would be Great Britain) the fourth place has to be filled, and this was UEFA's plan just in case. So there you go.

Today I spent mostly in a room with plenty of old machines and a stack of bootable CDs with different hard disk manufacturers' utilities, incluidng that all important zero fill. I actually cleared space to set up a second PC rig, and so I could do two at once, and zero fill them, then stack them up against the far wall in the room we're using at the moment. Currently there's now forty one in the stack, and when I went back to the office for a coffee, I was checking on the cricket score. In the morning, disaster as we plunged to 153 for 6. But then an excellent stand between Paul Collingwood and Matt Prior which helped enormously, and in the end I got back from work just as we were being bowled out for 400, a lead of 113. And we even got a few wickets before bad light stopped play and had them at 38 for 3 at one stage before the West Indies recovered to be 83 for 3 at the close. Now if England can get Gayle and Chanderpaul out tomorrow, then it's going to be very interesting for sure!

Tune of the day - and not least cos I'm listening to it now - is Deep Purple's "Flight of the Rat" from their excellent classic album "In Rock". It just sets side two of the original vinyl album off perfectly and you can feel those amps being cranked up to eleven when the band recorded it, and that's exactly what heavy metal was back in its early formative years, with plenty of hammond organ in there as well just to make it sound more top heavy and evil, not to mention some mighty fine solo work, especially on the drums too. It's just great fun!

Sunday 17th June - Retail Therapy Part Two

Had another lie-in, replicating Saturday, and that just felt good to do and I feel much more recharged. In fact I woke up and showered and the cricket was about to start, so there you go. But I knew I could watch that a bit later on and so it was time for me to get out into Stockport and do some more retail shopping to get more things for the holiday. In fact I knew I needed a couple of pairs of black jeans and although I saw a nice pair in Debenhams yesterday, they weren't in my size. So anyway, I thought, just on the off-chance, I'd try M&S and see what they have. And.. shock of all shocks! They had jeans, in black, and in my size, and a mere £9.50 a pair, and they looked rather good and dark black too. Excellent... of course the mandatory whizz past the lingerie section had to be done. Honestly... can't the menswear be as you go in store so us blokes can just go in, get what we want and then leave?

But still, that was a good surprise nonetheless - must note that for the future. But even better was to come. I chanced my arm in TK Maxx and actually found a light jacket that I could wear, and it was in black, and even better, it had enough inside pockets to put what I need in there. That's handy, not least as I could then carry about my stuff when I go away and if the weather isn't 100% brilliant, I've got something light enough I can throw on as a jacket. On the journey down and back, space to store the portable mp3 player and headphones neatly away too along with the train tickets and other stuff, but also something I can just wear and be summery and fit in with everything else. And even better, it was in the clearance section, so double reductions!

Went into Matalan as well, but left not that long afterwards. I hate to say it, but it really isn't as good as it used to be to be brutally honest. It just seems like they're concentrating too much on certain brands whom they've got exclusivity rights too rather than have a wide range of stuff, and if that's the case it seems a bit of a shame to be honest. Went in there and didn't get anything, which probably tells me all I need to know. In fact, oddly, the clothing at Tesco seems to be more compatible with me these days!

Watched the rest of the Le Mans race when I got back, and for a second I thought the remaining Peugeot had broken down on the last chicane on the last lap scheduled due to some horrendous rain coming down, but they were just waiting for the leading Audi to go past so it could take the chequered flag first, and I guess cos the driver didn't want to do another lap in torrid conditions - can't say I blame him for that one!! But it was interesting until Jacques Villeneuve in his Peugeot went off, because he could have possibly won it, and been only the second driver in history (Graham Hill is still the only one) to have won the F1 world championship, the Indy 500 and the Le Mans race.

Tune of the day, because the sun has come out but also because I just feel in such a good mood after all that retail therapy is the rather fab "Let's Make Love and Listen To Death From Above" by CSS. It's so darned simple in terms of its bassline and drums and hookline, but it works really well, not least those sultry vocals by Lovefoxxxxx. Ooh yeah.

Saturday 16th June - Retail Therapy Part One

I had a lie-in this morning, which actually felt really good. It was the first time in ages that I was able to have one, and I didn't have to think about going to work either, which was also a good thing. I had a bit of a mission today and that was to get myself some footwear for the holiday. I didn't want walking boots as such or trainers, but something in between that I could wear and be comfortable in and still be able to pound the streets and paths when I'm away. After a quick thought entered the head, it was off out and to find something I wanted - and in the shoe shop, I saw something absolutely ideal, right colour, right size, and even the right price, reduced from £65 to £29. Now that is what I call a result. I did see another pair which were a tenner but they didn't feel right when I tried them on, whereas the pair I got ticked all the boxes. They're also multipurpose and they're actually designed for hiking, so should be useful when I get to do the full lap of the Isles of Scilly - well that's the plan!

The weather decided to brighten up after it being horribly rainy all day, and so I nipped home with my new purchase, watched the cricket and the Le Mans 24 hour race for a while before heading into the centre of Manchester to see what else I could get. Now is it me, or is it that in every clothes shop these days that the men's wear is either located at the back of the store, so you have to go through the women's wear to get there, or it's located next to the lingerie? Well annoying. Which is why it's so nice to be able to go through the entrance at Debenhams and go down straight to menswear. I checked out the reduced sections too, but nothing that was there stood out for me - and it was the same story in TK Maxx as well. As for Primark, it's Saturday afternoon, and it's so not a good idea to go in there!

Got back but didn't get anything - and settled down to watch the F1 qualifying, then some more of the Le Mans, before switching over at 9pm for the next instalment of Seven Ages of Rock. This time around, stadium rock, and how often bands could fill stadia once they got massive, and how it evolved until U2's Zoo TV tour. Mind you, I prefer the fact that you could just fill out a place by playing good tunes, and that was more than borne out by the fact that Bruce Springsteen took ages to play stadia - not cos he couldn't fill them, but cos he needed to be comfortable with the music being played in such a venue and to his liking. And that definitely sounds the right thing to do.

After all that rocking out, it wasn't difficult to pick tune of the day simply because of the many classic tunes I'd listened to within that hour, but I didn't want to be so obvious as to select something from the show. But nonetheless Led Zeppelin got badly overlooked, even here, so time to redress the balance a bit and throw on "Immigrant Song" and rock out, big time. It's a classic track and even was featured in the film School of Rock after Jack Black's infamous begging of the band to allow them for the track to be used...

Friday 15th June - A Way To Buffet City And A Way Back Into Love

We decided at work this week that as it was pay day today (huzzah!) that it was time to do something we've not done for ages - and that's head to Buffet City for lunch. Not least because the degree show was opening later tonight (which some of my colleagues went to) but because it was the first time we'd been since at least before Christmas, and certainly I guess that due to one thing or another with what's happening at work at the moment we've not necessarily had the time or the energy. But it felt right to go today and it was just a really nice stroll down Oxford Road and Oxford Street and then up Portland Street to Buffet City, and time to eat.

I actually found myself eating less than usual, probably a good thing to be honest. I had a bowl of soup, a small starter plate and then a couple of main dishes, but not that much really - I didn't pile the plate high whatsoever. I really did enjoy the king prawns in garlic butter though and they were rather delicious. In fact my colleague commented on the fact that the quality and variety of food had increased, even if now you get a 90 minute time limit to be in and out by - I think in part that's due to its popularity and the fact that they want to make sure they can get in as many people as possible to munch. After all, it's what makes them money. Mind you, the vanilla ice cream with swiss roll at the end was just the perfect tonic, and although feeling a little bloated, it was more than enough for me to take the time to relax a bit this afternoon and write a witness statement for our Modern Apprentice, so that I was able to write down some good words in Word and send that along.

After work it was time to head home via Tesco for the usual weekly shop, and it was pretty busy really although it was not the nicest of weather out there. I scuttled round and got everything that I wanted, even going for something a bit different and locating some rather delicious barbecue beef burgers from the fridge section - and got some wedgie cheese slices to whack on top of each of them - result. Might have to try that out at the weekend methinks.

And after all the hard work, the 18 continuous days of work were at an end. I'm going to try and have a relaxing weekend although I know I need to visit a couple of places tomrorow so I'm going to leave early and get it all done - the Le Mans is on I think so I can sit back and watch that and the US Grand Prix, as well as take things a bit easier. I decided to make a date with the Music and Lyrics DVD and a glass of rioja to wind down perfectly, and it did the job. I bought the DVD on Region 1 as it was out weeks before the R2 release, but only managed tonight to be able to settle down enough to watch it. And, like it was in the cinema when I saw it, I still absolutely loved it. Who cares if it's a bit romantic? It's also darned funny, and you have to just appreciate the humour, and anyone who remembers the 1980s pop charts will have fond memories. And when Hugh Grant sings that "Don't Write Me Off" song near the end, and Drew Barrymore has a lovely tear in her eye that makes her even more cute and gorgeous, then it just wins. Hands down.

And one last thing: tune of the day is the Undertones' "Here Comes The Summer". Well I know the weather's been rubbish today and there's been floods in some parts of the country, but when all seems depressing you can just watch that Irn Bru advert with the goths in it going to Blackpool and having fun, and it just makes me giggle every time I watch it. Not least as the four of them recreate the classic moment from Jim'll Fix it, except they try to drink Irn Bru on the Revolution anyway (quite apt seeing as Irn Bru sponsor the ride now) and throughout the Undertones tune plays and is just a perfect accompaniment to the whole thing! Oh, you want to see it? Well seeing as you asked...

Thursday 14th June - Throwing It All Away

After another day at work (day 17 on the trot) it was time to head home and get ready for the football later on - the England under 21s were playing Italy and it was definitely all to play for for both sides, not least as Serbia had scored a last gasp winner against the Czech Republic and so meant that they topped the group and were certain of qualification. Now all England had to do was win to put ourselves in the driving seat for the second place for qualifying for the semi-finals, and it was with some excitement that my uncle, his son and I settled down to watch the game.

The first half was definitely all England for most of it, and it was constant pressure. The look of despair on everyone's faces as Leroy Lita missed two golden chances, especially when he did the hard work of taking the ball past the goalkeeper and then missing, was something we may live to regret, I thought. But a few minutes later in came a gorgeous cross from Leighton Baines and it met the head of David Nugent (why the hell aren't City going for him? He'd be a steal at £5m especially as we've now sold that troublecausing idiot Joey Barton) and it was 1-0 at last. Even better two minutes later when Lita picked up a luscious through ball and smashed it past the goalie, a much harder chance than his other two, for 2-0. Now all was looking pretty good.. up to that point.

And from then it got no better. Italy pulled one back before half time, a bit flukey coming off a corner and then a deflection off the striker as his colleague blasted it to him, but nonetheless a goal and 2-1. I had a feeling we needed another goal to kill it off but unfortunately England went way too defensive and it was just wave after wave of Italian attacks, and sure enough a brilliant 30 yard shot later and it was 2-2, and fair play to them for coming back into it. It was pretty edgy from then on and although both teams had chances it did look like the Italians were more likely to score, unfortunately. But it was a draw which meant destiny was still in our hands - we just have to beat Serbia on Sunday, which might prove to be a bit difficult. And certainly none of us were under any illusions after watching a bit of a capitulation!

Kicked back after that and started listening to some classic old school indie goodness - just for the pure unadulterated hell of it. Not least as my brother used to claim the vocals mentioned "Sulphur chloride" instead of its intended "Sight for sore eyes" I nominate Ned's Atomic Dustbin's uber-classic "Kill Your Television" as tune of the day. I remember seeing the band at the old International 2 (not there anymore sadly, just a load of flats) and it's a real shame cos I used to love gigs there. But listening to this just reminded me of how much fun and enjoyable the band were.

Wednesday 13th June - Hey Mr. Postman!

Got home from work (after a fairly tough day to be honest - but more on the consequences of this afternoon's meeting in the months to come I think) and I literally couldn't open the door for post. It's been a case of I've not had anything through the letter box for a while and then all of a sudden everything comes at once. Let's see what I got: the renewal of my TV licence (it's so much easier when you pay by direct debit, I tell you), the documents for my travel insurance (best not leave it to chance, especially as I'm taking a helicopter flight while I'm there also), the train tickets for my jaunt to London in August, as well as a couple of bills (not so exciting) and even the odd bit of junk mail as well. I don't get it - I'm normally not this popular with post unless I've ordered a shedload of stuff off Play! Ah well.

Anyway I was glad the train tickets arrived, as that now means my little weekend away is all sorted, and all I've got to do now is think about what I'm going to do when I'm there as well as (hopefully) seeing MJ Hibbett live at a gig in Lewisham whilst there. The London Eye might need to be done, although not in the style of Avenue Q (warning for anyone clicking below - puppets acting in an adult way, so discretion required)

Anyway, whilst out at lunch at work whoever put some money in the pub jukebox went for a pretty decent rock and metal selection - with Metallica's "Until It Sleeps" and "Nothing Else Matters". But even better, tune of the day: Rage Against The Machine's "Killing In The Name". Hard to believe it's 15 years since their debut album came out, and the tunes on it such as this one are still rather good to be honest. Just repeat those last lines and mosh, and you're there back in indie and rock clubs of the day...

Tuesday 12th June - Loving The Alien

Well having trashed Fedora, I decided to just quickly test on the test rig what it would be like if I attempted to install the GroupWise client on Ubuntu. Hang on, you're all saying? GroupWise client? But that's a SUSE-based RPM package? That's never going to work. Anyway, got Ubuntu up and running and downloaded the GroupWise Client 6.5 from Novell's site. Okay, that was the easy bit. But there's a little utility in Ubuntu called "alien" and what it does is translate those RPM packages (usually from Red Hat) and can turn them into nice little Debian packages (DEB) and as Ubuntu is based on Debian, there you go.

So I extracted the tarball of the client so that the RPM was visible, and then hit the command in terminal, remembering of course the all important sudo bit, which was this: sudo alien -i --veryverbose novell-groupwise-gwclient-6.5.2-0622.i386.rpm - I guess I didn't need the veryverbose bit, but I wanted to see what the stuff was actually doing, and after creating the necessary DEB file, off it went and installed itself. All I then needed to do was to drag the desktop shortcut in the GroupWise folder either to the desktop or to the panel at the top, and launched it. I whacked in the connection information for the server, and... it worked! I'd like to thank Richard Stubbs at the Kwazulu-Natal University in South Africa for the guide online, as it worked as intended. I then tried on a fresh Ubuntu install doing something similar with the GroupWise 7 client. It seemed to do the alien thing, but launching the icon didn't do nothing. At all. But at least 6.5 worked, which was actually pretty neat.

Got home after popping over to see my Mum for a bit before she jaunts off on her holidays next week (good for her!) and it was time to whack on the surround system for a bit of DVD-Audio magic. As my friend had very kindly got me the Jonathan Richman compilation "Home of the Hits" I put that on and lo and behold! The all-time classic of all-time on there "Ice Cream Man" just has to be my tune of the day - because it's entertaining and it's also just so wonderfully happy.

Monday 11th June - Paying The Penalty

Another Linux distro was installed on my test rig at work today - the newest version of Fedora. All went well, the install went on with all the modules and everything, and it did look pretty slick and worked fine. That is until it went to trying out online updating. With the likes of SUSE and indeed Ubuntu, if you're behind a proxy you put the settings in, and then the updating works, just like it should. With Fedora 7, it didn't matter what settings you put in, it just refused to play ball with an unhelpful error message and condition saying "none". Yet browsing the web works. Hmm.. bit of a flaw there really, for sure. I might have to trash the hard disk and chuck on SUSE at some point and see what happens - just in case.

Anyway, got home and the England under 21s were on at 5.15pm against the Czech Republic in the European Under 21 championships. It was not that good a game really and England struggled to get going. They did what they could but it was a little too petty from the referee at times, booking needlessly. But what really did kind of make me think it wasn't going to be our day was that we got a penalty in the 89th minute. Up stepped Leroy Lita, and he.. missed. Darn. And with not much time left it surely would have won the game for us. So a pretty dull 0-0 draw and that meant of course that we might have to beat Italy on Thursday night which could be quite a tough task, I think. Not least as we played them a while back and drew 3-3 with their striker getting a hat trick.

I spent a bit of time taking it easy with some tunes tonight, not least as I really wanted to take a back seat and relax a bit. After all this was my 14th consecutive day at work and all, so it meant that in terms of brain power I was feeling a bit tired. And so what better to listen to than some lovely acoustic stuff? Tune of the day is therefore Ben Calvert's "Flee". It's one of the tracks on his Love:Defenestrated EP that I purchased last week after seeing his impressive set supporting MJ Hibbett and the Validators. It's a really nice tune live and hearing it done in the studio is just something else - well worth hunting.

Sunday 10th June - We're Talking Lewis

And not the bloke who finished third on Any Dream Will Do last night either. Oh no, we're talking Lewis Hamilton who just now has written another incredible chapter in his F1 history. Not only has he finished in the top three in his first six races (bit of a record) but now he's got his first win, and deservedly so - he led from the front all the way, and that despite the fact that there were four safety car periods, including one with a horrendous crash involving Robert Kubica - how he only got away from that with a broken leg is testament to the strength of Formula 1 cars. Lewis was calm and controlled and kept up the pace - every time it looked like he'd got away from Nick Heidfeld the safety car had to come out and it was all closed up again. That said, Lewis got on with it and at the end was a very deserved winner indeed. Not least as Fernando Alonso had a nightmare at turn one several times, and both Giancarlo Fisichella and Felippe Massa were rightly black flag disqualified for leaving the pit exit with the red light on (and both passed Kubica, who was waiting for the light like a good driver should) - it was an eventful race to say the least.

That was a perfect end to the day for me - had to be up early and have breakfast and then be in work for 10am (on a Sunday morning, I know!) so that was something. The day went well though and I was able to get plenty done in terms of installing Ubuntu and even trying out the Live CD of Fedora 7 as well (although I really need to use the install DVD instead to get the best out of it I think, as the likes of Firefox and OpenOffice were missing from the installer - grrrr) but also kept my eyes out for stuff going on - and it was pretty quiet. So if I have any students complaining tomorrow that they missed a deadline - the word is tough.

Tune of the day for the pure hell of it has to be Judas Priest's "Breaking The Law". I saw part of the video on Seven Ages of Rock last night, and although the video is quite a bit cheesy (the band basically rob a bank and the security guard is a Priest fan so he lets them get on with it) - for its time it was (and still is) a metal classic. And if you don't agree, then why else would Beavis and Butthead sing along to it in their own way yelling out the chorus occasionally?

Saturday 9th June - We're Talking Lee

And before you ask, not the Tenacious D song (or else I'd have had to put a swear word in there for righteous effect, of course). No, I'm talking another Lee, but more on that later. Today was another day at work, and it ticked over enough but allowed me to get on with a few things in the office. I zero filled all the remaining hard drives left, and then set up one of the old PCs on my desk and burned both versions of the Ubuntu 7.04 CD (the text-based one and the graphical Live CD). Tried both, and neither of them seemed to work. On the off chance it was something duff, I opened it up, and thought "hmm.. maybe the CD drive might be faulty?". Swapped that and off Ubuntu installed first go. Shame I had already tried an install three times but still, good to see that I got there in the end.

The day was done and I had a bit of time to kill before the F1 qualifying was on ITV4 later, so I went into town and into The Northern Cutter where I had my hair chopped to bits - it was getting long and to be honest with the warm weather wasn't making me feel so well. So a bit of a wait in a queue later, and that was me with big clumps of hair taken off, much shorter now. I must admit it felt good as well, and got home and washed it just to get any remnants of hair out, so I could then settle back and watch the F1 - and didn't Lewis Hamilton do brilliantly to thrash Alonso? I thought so, and also Nick Heidfeld did very well in his BMW - he could yet prove to be the dark horse of the race.

Killed a bit of time after the F1 by watching the cricket highlights on Channel 5 (excellent move by them to pick that up) before hitting BBC1 for the final of Any Dream Will Do. Over the last few weeks to me Lee stood out by a mile, both in the qualities of his performance, singing and general stage craft. If he didn't win it would be a traevsty, I thought to myself. As the first show went on, and they did individual songs and then their own big band numbers, it was going to be pretty tight. But as the votes were being counted, I had a feeling Lewis would be off first - been saved by Andrew too many times when the public wanted him voted off, and sure enough, he was first to go.

Watched the second half show later on, and the two finalists each did their favourite song of the series. Lee very wisely chose Paint It Black, which he'd made his own earlier on in the competition and destroyed the rest with how good it was. But you know what? It was even better this time. I thought "now that's the song that's won him the competition" and then realised I'd actually better vote him to win, just in case. So I did. Kind of wanted to make sure. And as it got nearer to the announcement, it got more nervous, but when he was announced as the winner I thought "thank heavens the public can see that talent shine". So he's now got a mere five weeks' worth of practice before the show starts in the West End, so that's going to be intense. Not to mention an appearance on BBC Breakfast Monday morning!

In between all that, the excellent Seven Ages of Rock on BBC2 and it was the turn of heavy metal this week. Nice to see some nods in the direction of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, and of course Iron Maiden, the archetypal metal band for most kids in the 1980s to be honest. I actually have the original first release Black Sabbath album, on spiral Vertigo label and everything, complete with scary graveyard sleeve and spooky woman on the cover. It's an undisputed classic, that is. But tune of the day just has to be Deep Purple's "Black Night" - it's a song that they weren't used to writing as they just made it up as they went along (the words anyway) and back in the day it was only ever a single to promote their "In Rock" album - it was never on the album until it was tacked on with all the 25th anniversary CD releases. And it still sounds like rock genius, with the opening riffs and everything.

Friday 8th June - I'm Never Going To Aldi's

Another Friday where I know it's not going to be the end of the week for me. I've been asked to work this weekend as well, and although I am questioning whether we need to be in for this particular weekend, nonetheless I've gone and offered my services. Not least because I have a feeling that I can get on with some other things, such as testing out Ubuntu Linux on one of our old PCs to see how viable it might be to run it, as well as being able to actually try and write the odd bit of documentation here and there. So it's not going to be something that I waste, methinks.

Anyway, that aside it was an odd sort of day really. I managed to get plenty done but was constantly interrupted by external phone calls - normally we don't get that many as such because most of them tend to be internal ones from staff. I did also though take the time out to reinstall Microsoft Office 2004 on a Mac - and that was pretty seamless stuff. In the end I just got on with things and cleaned out plenty of old hard disks along the way, and before I knew it, it was time to head out homeward and do the food shopping. And.. I even managed to get round in double quick time, get a delayed bus home (but still earlier than the one I'd normally get) and be home in pretty much record time. Which was perfect as I could then sit back, watch the rest of the cricket unfold and then have a pretty quiet night in.

Although a nice bottle of white wine was tempting (and believe me, I looked at it in the fridge and thought about it before deciding it wouldn't be a wise move at the moment) I settled back with a coffee and just had a pretty lazy night, with me playing plenty of tunes from the CDs in the collection. I decided that it would be a darned fine idea to play the latest MJ Hibbett and the Validators EP, which is what I did, and I absolutely adore "Never Going Back To Aldi's" - so that's my tune of the day. It's so darned right though: a fridgefull of nice things is definitely some equivalent to bling - I thought to myself as I had a nice Onken strawberry wholegrain biopot.

Thursday 7th June - Travelogic Meltdown

I got an email yesterday from Travelodge which basically said that from tonight lots of their rooms would be available from a mere £15 per night - and that was perfect timing for me as I was planning a jaunt down there to see the MJ Hibbett gig on the 18th anyway, so that would be rather nice to make a weekend of it and see the gig too. Of course I can imagine how many people got that email and so I envisaged that it might be fun and games to try and get myself a room on the cheap. Even more so when I noticed that the trains to London and back on Virgin were a mere £25 return if I went on the Saturday and came back on the Monday, which would be pretty doable to say the least.

I kept checking periodically at work during the day, but I had a pretty sizeable task on - not only was I completely re-imaging my PC so it had an up to date(ish) build as well as then me adding all the administrative stuff I use, but also making it so I set up a user and workstation policy for our staff, and I made myself and my workstation a member of both - and everything worked as I'd intended. In fact, part of the reason of me doing the updated build was because it contained all the software that we use with the students, and so if anyone comes in, I've got it there to run - most of the licences are concurrent, controlled by NLS (Novell Licencing Services) or by a specific server running the licence control stuff, so that's all good. I then transferred lots of data I needed off the old hard drive, and job pretty much done - and dead on home time too!

Got home, watched some of the cricket, where the West Indies seemed to be making more of the conditions this time around (the cloudy weather was making the ball swing a bit and so England finished the day 296 for 7 - about even stevens in terms of who has the upper hand at the moment) and after munching something for tea it was time to go and check the Travelodge web site - and sure enough, it was slow. In fact I frequently was getting the message that the server was too busy and to try again later. I have a feeling they themselves weren't sure how popular it was going to be - but for a short stay weekend it would be ideal for lots of people, after all two nights for £30, what more could you ask for?

Anyway, I kept trying and whilst I did I double checked the train fares to make sure my chosen dates were available for the bargain price of £12.50 each way, and they were. So all good to go, and eventually got to select a Travelodge in London. A quick check revealed that the one in Liverpool Street (I'll be there in two weeks time myself as it's really close to the Back in Time Live gig) was available, and for both nights I wanted at £15 a night. Thankfully I managed to get through the slowness of the web site, click click and then book it - and it was done. A couple of minutes later the trains were also done, and that was me well and truly sorted. So it's me in London in August for a weekend, seeing MJ Hibbett live on the Saturday. And I thought to myself that it might be a good idea to do the London Eye on Sunday as well as see a few other things while I'm there. I was tempted to see Avenue Q again, but there's no theatre performances on a Sunday. Mind you, the 5pm Saturday show could be doable, depending on what time the MJ Hibbett gig down in Lewisham starts... hmmm. now there is an idea! But nonetheless that'll be something else to look forward to for later in the year, and with the accommodation and trains sorted, it should be a good weekend all round no matter what I do - and it's just so good to be able to have that independence and freedom too - because I can.

Tune of the day is one of five that I decided to play in the jukebox whilst having a relaxing mocha at lunch time - and it was a quality selection of classics. For the pure choice of one, I had to just pick The Pixies' "Monkey Gone To Heaven" and that still has the same power and rawness that it always had - and it still makes me want to yell "and if the devil is six then God is seven". Except I didn't, because that would have been rather embarrassing to say the least. The others I ended up choosing were Blondie's "Heart of Glass", Ian Brown's "F.E.A.R", Arctic Monkeys' "I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor" and PJ Harvey's "Sheela Na Gig". I own all five songs on CD, but I didn't care, was just good to hear them all back to back and made the mocha more enjoyable somehow.

Wednesday 6th June - A Win On All Fronts

Well it was the England game tonight and after doing all what I needed to do at work today (including plenty of zero fill formatting drives) it was time to head over to see one of my relations first, as it was their birthday today, and drop a present off for them so they could enjoy it - after all it's what birthdays are about. That done I headed over to my mum's for a quick visit and then back home to get myself ready and psyched up for the forthcoming game - with my uncle, two cousins and brother all popping round to watch the game too.

And for a change: a professional England performance! Once Joe Cole had hit a rather nice shot into the corner and made it 1-0 after the half hour, it looked like only one team were ever going to score. My uncle, brother and I discussed the merits of Michael Owen being back in the team - my brother thinks he shouldn't have been there because of a lack of match fitness and any club form, although the riposte was "well who else do we have?" with some very reasoned arguments, as well as "he'll get one, you watch". And it was definitely a case of seeing what happened every time Beckham got the ball.

To be honest, Steve McClaren dropping him from the England team was a move at the right time - and after he'd then been dropped by Real Madrid and had to battle back into their team, his club form meant he had to be recalled, and people shouldn't berate McClaren for that - if a player's in form, the door should be re-opened, and his decision over Venables to bring him back was fully vindicated (about the only decent decision McClaren's made, mind you.) This was proven first as an excellent cross was met with an equally good header from Peter Crouch (you know, I can't believe so many Liverpool fans slag him off!) and similarly a cross later on was met and placed in by Michael Owen - proving my brother wrong.

3-0 may not have seemed that much against Estonia, who haven't scored a goal in the qualifiers, but you have to bear in mind they pushed Croatia very hard indeed on Saturday and the Croats had to work very hard to win 1-0, so winning by three was a case of job done. Also, everyone realises that the important fixtures are to come - mainly Russia home and away but also Croatia and Israel at home - and they're going to be really crucial in terms of qualification - only the top two make it with no play-offs whatsoever, so it's definitely a case of making sure no mistakes are made from here on in. In any case we all enjoyed the performance, solid enough to do the job but also professional. None of us are getting carried away really but it was good to see just a workmanlike effort and professional job done - let's hope for another victory or two in September.

After that I watched the rest of Challenge Anneka on ITV1 - in typical Anneka fashion she was running around everywhere - this time she had to get together enough artists to record a charity album for children's hospices, as well as organise a concert with a choir from the kids (The Rainbow choir as they were called) from the hospices who would perform on the album and in concert - and they were all such sweet little stars. It was really good to see so many people helping out, and for me it was especially lovely that Myleene Klass was just sat in the studio, playing her piano parts, and really being professional but with such consideration for what the kids were doing. Her words near the end "I feel really humbled people are asking me for my autograph. I want to get the autographs of the children, they're the real stars here" struck a chord with many of us watching.

When you saw the concert at the end with a full orchestra, Duncan James (him who used to be in Blue) singing, Myleene playing the piano and the Rainbow Choir singing, you couldn't help but have a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye. It was one of the most moving things I've seen in a long time and it was also a very special moment when the children really gave their all - and you could see the sheer happiness and pride they all had. I just felt like I had to do something myself and so I'll probably be buying the CD over the weekend - all the songs are from musicals performed by a variety of artists. One such song just has to be my tune of the day - the cast of Avenue Q with Richard Fleeshman doing "Consider Yourself". Not least as Julie Atherton got her puppet Kate Monster to flirt with Richard during the recording - must have been an absolute blast!! Simon Lipkin was there with Trekkie Monster, and Jon Robyns with Rod too - which was so good of them to drop in and do their thing. Much kudos to them and the likes of Cerys Matthews, Bonnie Tyler, Lesley Garrett and just oodles more. And of course, Anneka - still showing she has what it takes.

Tuesday 5th June - Beyond The Zero

Spent a fair bit of time today imaging some of the last bits of new kit that we've got in the recent roll out - we had nine of them to image and by the end of the day, complete with interruptions from students, staff and general sorting out of other things, we were down to one to go, which made for a good day of progress all round. I've also started on some of the hard disks in the old kit and got to zero fill format them. For those not in the know, it does what it says on the tin: fills your hard drive with zeroes and securely eliminates any trace of data on it as best as it could. It also means that if the older PCs are donated to charities etc then we know as much as we can be sure that there's nothing on them and they can be then reinstalled with their operating system of choice - maybe even good old Ubuntu to keep the costs down.

I also invited round my relations over to watch the England game tomorrow night, and so far the responses have been "I'll be there!" so it's going to be good fun tomorrow night as we all curse at the telly and scream like mad at Frank Lampard to actually get off his back side and actually perform well for England for a change. Since his heroics at Euro 2004 he really hasn't played that well for England I'm afraid, and I can only hope that we get the result we need against Estonia tomorrow night. They played against Croatia Saturday evening (actually saw some of it in Carpe Diem) and as Croatia only scraped by with 1-0, it might not be that easy.

Anyway, nipped down the road to Netto (about the only sort of supermarket left round here now - bah!) and managed to get some crisps for tomorrow, as well as those rather lovely Benelli choc ices that are a mere 49p for ten, the best ever bargain in Netto - honestly. In fact I got two boxes as there wasn't many left and I was also thinking that if I had relations round I could share a few of them out tomorrow night and so if it was a warm day they could cool nicely with them. I'm thoughtful you know sometimes!

That all done it was then time to get home, do some domestic chores and start planning a possible weekend to London on the 18th/19th August. No, not for the possible first game of the Premiership season (although that may well happen to be a Man City away game that day - even though I'm gutted that we didn't get Claudio Ranieri as manager) but there's an MJ Hibbett gig in Lewisham, and my plan would be to stay at a Travelodge in London cheap (ie: £26) and then book the train in advance and see how doable that is. There's Travelodge rooms available, and.. the train going there is cheap but not the Sunday trains back. Might have to see if I can find out off Virgin Trains why that is - the other alternative is to take the Monday off and make it a long weekender, which could then mean I could see Avenue Q on Sunday evening and watch it again. Now there IS an idea!

I fancied a bit of girl rock tonight, seeing as Patti Smith was very much at the forefont of true girl power around the mid 1970s and her work has very much stood the test of time. So it was on with the likes of Sahara Hotnights (and if you haven't heard of them you really should), The Murmurs and best of all, Juliette and the Licks, not least "Shelter Your Needs" which is my tune of the day. The guitar riffs are melting, the power is there for all too see and Juliette is in really fine form vocally, showing she's actually much better at the rock chick thing than her acting!

Monday 4th June - Just Another Manic Monday

And I don't wish it was Sunday! Turns out that everyone who had a deadline on Monday all came in today instead of over the weekend, and so all the large format printers were pretty much on the go since this morning. Thankfully my loading them all up with paper and ink on Sunday made a lot of sense - and they'd all printed out their work beforehand and so was able to at least be collected. Mind you, for some reason it was rather humid in the office all day and if there's one thing that makes me not perform at my best, it is that. I did what I could and I also spent a fair bit of the day looking at Access databases and making sure everything was present and correct - as well as fix some printers and also endeavour to do some fixing of PCs as well. Just a bit manic.

Went round to see a friend of my Mum's after work as they'd asked me to sort their PC out for them - and it was sensible for them to call me and see what I could do with it. I had a few useful tools with me and after a short while it was clear to see what was up: a lack of hard disk space wasn't helping, but neither was the fact that one of the kids had installed Messenger Plus on it. For those of you not in the know, three words: don't install this! The whole thing's actually a scam to open up your PC to viruses and infections, most notably the Lop series of spyware that is an absolute pain to get rid of. Whilst the author maintains his innocence, it was his choice to distribute the Lop spyware with the installer, so ultimately he is responsible - end of. Needless to say it took a fair bit of time to do a complete scan with AVG and then with Ad-Aware, but between them I got that and other threats nicely trashed - as well as sorting out the hard disk space issue as well.

I got home and it was quite late, but had this very nice lemon sole and some wedges on the side, set me up perfectly for the rest of the evening. I decided that to continue the punk spirit on Saturday's Seven Ages of Rock it was time to get out the punk classics, of which I have quite a few on vinyl and CD. However, still hearing the riff and the introduction gets me going so The Sex Pistols' anthem "Anarchy in the UK" gets my vote for tune of the day. It just hasn't aged that badly at all and there's still so much anger and passion in it even now that you do have to appreciate it. If only the band had realised that the song wouldn't be half of what it was had it not been for Glen Matlock..

Sunday 3rd June - Hot, Bothered and Tired

After the euphoria of yesterday came the realism of today. And some realism. I got up at around 8.30am, and tucked into my usual weekend breakfast of croissants and yoghurt (raspberry Onken biopot - half yesterday and half today) and also had a blueberry Actimel to drink to keep my bio cultures ticking over nicely - which is probably what I needed as I faced a long day at work. And it certainly felt long. Whether or not that was because last night was fab stuff, or because I still felt a bit hot because of the humidity in the office, I don't know. Still, I got on with things.

What took time was getting people out of the building at closing time - it seemed like everyone wanted to do one more thing before they went and in the end I didn't leave until 4.15pm, making sure that security knew I'd tried to get as many out as possible and for them to double check before locking the building. Mind you, it was busier than yesterday as well so that meant it was plenty of things to do, people to assist, things to check etc. I even had to nip upstairs and restart a couple of our servers - one of which was on the verge of a mega crash, as it had already crashed a few times, so that was well worth a command or two to get it back going again. The humidity felt really close and with the building I work in having no air conditioning it felt really horrible - was glad to get some fresh air and walk to the bus stop to get the city centre bus into town - did that and got a birthday present for one of my relations before heading home and relaxing with a nice cold drink, as you do.

I noticed that today was a rather busy fund raising day for those involved with the Race For Life - the women's only 5K events which raise money for cancer research. I'd just like to congratulate all who take part in these events and make a difference - it's amazing what you can do when you're together and you all have a common aim - and it's just good fun for them too. And it just made me think that I wish I could do more stuff for charity like that.

Tune of the day is The Smiths' excellent "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" - after listening to "The Lesson of the Smiths" last night I decided when I got home I'd play some back catalogue Smiths, and this song's just very dear to me. It says all sometimes that I'd like to say in three and a half minutes, simple really.

Saturday 2nd June - Today Was GRATE!

The above line is just a little summary of the whole day, and I spelt the word great deliberately wrong, because folks, that's how MJ Hibbett always does it in his blogs, and as I saw him and the Validators last night, it just seems a very good summary of how it all was. And any time I use the word today, I'm going to say GRATE instead. Because I can. What started out to be a tedious Saturday at work ended up being a rather excellent day all round in terms of a great gig and even a good pint or two, which I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed.

Anyway, first stop work. I must be certifiable to be in on a Saturday morning, but I kept thinking of the overtime and that kept me going. As it was, the day went along fairly nicely and all the students that came in were very laid back and appreciative of the fact we were here. In fact one of them said a thank you at around 3.45pm to say it was really a godsend that we had opened - so that was nice to know. In fact, the ones that work hard were the ones in getting all their stuff done prior to their deadline - I can just see Monday morning being rather busy but if they didn't come in over the weekend, then it's their fault really.

Work done, got the bus home, dived into the shower (well not literally as that would have been embarassing) and then got myself ready to head out, complete with my green "Hey Hey 16K" t-shirt that I bought the last time I saw MJ Hibbett and the Validators, back in 2005 at the Back in Time Lite retro gig. That evening that song was played twice, and yes, I was one of those singing along - as you'd expect. Come on, this is me you're talking about, of course I'm a retro gaming fan on the quiet, who at my age frankly isn't?

Got back into town and used the quick pay machine to get my train ticket sorted. It made me wonder why people queued up at the ticket office when there were lots of quick pay machines unused. Seemed a bit daft to me, that. Anyhow, legged it to platform 13 as the next train to Leeds was leaving in five minutes and got it without any hassle, a quick stop at Stalyvegas and Huddersfield later and I was there in Leeds again. I'd not been there for some time, my cousin used to live there for a while when she worked at one of the hospitals, and we had GRATE times there.

Knowing I needed something to munch for me tea beforehand, I thought that Pizza Hut would be a good and safe option cos I'll know what I get. One meal for one for me was an easy solution - wedges to start, individual tuna and sweetcorn for main, and for a change, strawberry ice cream cake with raspberries for dessert. I'd had my wedges and it got to the main and out came a medium pan pizza. The guy explained to me that they'd run out of individual pan bases and so gave me a medium for the same price. GRATE! This day's getting better all the time. Nonetheless I scoffed that and had my dessert later, and that was me nicely sorted for the evening.

I headed down Park Row and along the Headrow to find Calverley Street and Carpe Diem. I located it and realised there was the BBC big screen in the square up the road, so I decided to head there. As I walked along I spotted someone in a "We Validate!" t-shirt going to the gig, and I kept thinking "I've seen her somewhere before, but where?" - anyway good to see there'd be at least two fans there tonight. Headed into the square, sat down and chilled out and Doctor Who was on the big screen so I didn't actually miss any of it. It was also a life saver as I'd forgotten to set the Sky+ box for that (I did for Seven Ages of Rock though thankfully) and so it was good to see the lovely Jessica Stevenson do her thing too. Jury's still out on this series, nothing wrong with Freema Agyeman as the new assistant, I think the weak plots haven't helped the show and it doesn't feel as good for some reason.

Back to Carpe Diem for the gig, and got myself a pint of Theakstons as that was the only real ale that they had - but £1.80! GRATE! It's a nice surprise to get a decent pint for less than two quid. The day keeps getting better and with prices like that for ale, no wonder quite a lot of youngsters were in there (well I mean students actually) - and security was around checking for people's ages and turfing them unceremoniously out if they were under-age. I guess they have to, but it seems a bit sad that in this day and age the bar staff can't make the decisions to serve for themselves. But nonetheless everyone had a bit of a practice run and all was good.

Mark (MJ) Hibbett spotted me at the bar and said hello. I was quite shocked he recognised me, but I did mention I'd be coming along, so that was good. We discussed how since Rob Manuel's beta newsletter was emailed to people the other day Mark's ukelele version of Boom Shake The Room had massively increased in hits. It's sooo cute and fun but you can't help like it. Darn, I'd have done the audience participation bits had I known :) Anyway, sales of the new single were going reasonably okay, but he hoped he'd shift a few copies afterwards. Tim Pattison and Tom McClure were at the bar too and Tom deserves full credit for his Black Sheep ale t-shirt, showing his allegiance to the real ale fraternity. Mark also introduced me to Ellen, the fan I'd spotted earlier. And then it all came back to me - she was at the Back in Time Lite gig at the front! Aha... I wondered where Emma Pattison was though - surely she was here too?

Anyway, you really do need to watch the Boom Shake The Room thing - so without further ado, here it is! It is GRATE!

 

Before long it was time for the first band to come on, called Lusk. They were fairly new in terms of that it was their first proper gig, and with a cute chick on drums and a female lead, with two bloke guitarists hammering out licks they weren't that bad at all. Be interesting to see what they do from this point but they were in tune and didn't sound too bad either. One little tip though: please introduce the song titles so that we know what you're listening to - always a good plan when you're starting out.

Ben Calvert came on next and he had a backing bloke on double bass and one on the drums whom I'm sure was going for the Bonnie Prince Billy look but with a bit less facial hair. Nonetheless Ben himself was pretty fine, but in this sort of venue where the amps are turned up a bit loud, his acoustic folk style may not have come across like he would have wanted to. Real shame, that, because from what I could hear he actually sounded good and had a few interesting songs along the way. He was also very laid back about the whole thing and was just enjoying himself anyway regardless. Might have to track down an EP of his though - or take a peekie at the official web site.

But of course it was soon time for MJ Hibbett and the Validators to do their thing. I knew already that "My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once" could well be part of the set, as that was their little practice number. And a few minutes before starting proper, I spotted a very familiar face in a print dress - yep, it was Emma Pattison! So the four fifths of the band were there, just as I imagined, and it was now time to get Carpe Diem enjoying their sound. Starting off with "The Gay Train" was a good move, and allowed Mark to do his John Cooper Clarke intro - which I know all the words to as well :) Well, I would do. I was a big fan of JCC back in the day so got used to reciting his stuff, so doing the opening bars of The Gay Train was easy in comparison.

That went down well, as did "My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once" and then he introduced "Hey Hey 16K". Ben Calvert had alluded to the song earlier, and Mark went "the tune we even made a t-shirt out of, as someone's wearing over there" and pointed to me with my t-shirt on. If only I wasn't half visible behind a pillar, ah well. Still didn't stop me moving down more towards the front and belting out the words though, brought back fond memories of the Back in Time Lite gig all over again, but nonetheless it was my five seconds of fame and I felt GRATE! Hence I have no alternative but to make "Hey Hey 16K" my tune of the day.

More ace stuff followed, including "The Lesson of the Smiths" which sounded just as good as it does on record (and it's still probably my favourite song of theirs right now), along with the old classic "Billy Jones is Dead" and another of my favourites "Never Going Back To Aldi's" - and it's so darned true. Why shop there if you can afford somewhere a bit nicer?. "Do The Indie Kid" also got an outing, and Emma had a massive grin on her face as the chorus was being sung - why? Well a few members of the audience (me included, the Theakstons must have kicked in nicely, well that's my excuse) decided to join in with the words and do the actions too. For those you wondering, it goes "hands behind your back, bounce your hips, move your feet around and do the indie kid" - and in essence that's what people do do at indie discos. Mark had warned us of the "music of the future" during the middle part and sure enough there was an avant-jazz freakout thing two thirds of the way through, which I imagine several of the audience had no idea of what was going on. Their loss, I guess.

The set closed nicely with "Easily Impressed" - which features a bit of audience participation at the end of the second verse, only Mark forgot to mention the first bit until Ellen and I shouted "Oi! Hibbett!" which is what comes first. Then he soon realised and re-did the whole participation speech so that people could follow along, and shock, they did, and it was quite a loud shout too from the crowds, took him by surprise a bit that did. It was a really good set though and definitely well worth the trip up. Even despite their being only four fifths of them it sounded tight, it sounded professional and above all else, darned good fun. It was definitely GRATE!

Had a quick chat to the band and said my goodbyes - it was really nice to see them all, and nice to see Ellen too - and it was good just to chat about music and stuff before the gig got going. Was amazing to see a fellow fan travel even further than me just to see them, that's dedication for you, but also someone who knew their stuff and was just enjoying themselves - was really good to see. So a big hello to you, wherever you may be. One other thing I need to mention - Mark was surprised at two people wearing the different band t-shirts and insisted on getting a picture of Ellen and me with t-shirts on his age-old cameraphone for posterity.

Left Carpe Diem and walked down towards the train station - it was kicking out time for a fair few of the pubs so there were a few sights, and several hen parties who were making their way to a night club near the station. I got to platform 16A (the other side of the station, always the way isn't it?) and got the 2335 service into Manchester. As it's the last train, it was packed full of people making their way back to Dewsbury and Huddersfield after a night out, and I didn't get a seat till Dewsbury. Still, the journey was fine enough, got into Piccadilly at 0029, and then headed straight out and caught the night bus home, meaning I was actually in bed and asleep just before 1am. Rock and roll eh? Seriously, it was a GRATE day and I just wish sometimes that I could have more days like that.

Friday 1st June - I Can C For Miles

Another month, and a day of thought and contemplation a bit today, as I was in our Help Desk all afternoon helping people out (cos I can, and because our colleague was off for the day having a well-earned break). I was thinking that realistically with a few weeks to go till I have my break, and also because of the fact that I'm working this weekend, I needed to get things done when I got home and make sure that I'm all set. Not least if I'm going to Leeds tomorrow after work to see MJ Hibbett and the Validators at Carpe Diem (it's a full band set now, thanks for that Mark!)- although I'll probably go home from work, get showered and changed, then go out, seems a better idea, not least if it's going to be as warm as today. Dead excited about that though, even if it might be a late night tomorrow.

I felt really positive this morning after giving a student some assistance with managing to pull off some data off a laptop that they desparately needed - not least as some of the keys had decided to constantly stick themselves down and so the "c" key was being constantly pressed all the time - ouch. Still, I had ways around this and after extracting the hard drive out, attaching it to another machine, and reading what was on there, a mere 8GB of data was backed up to a couple of DVD discs, making for one very happy little soul. It's at times like this that you feel like you make a difference and it gave me a bit of a confidence booster for the whole day really.

Whizzed around Tesco tonight in record time as I knew what I wanted and I needed to get back home and make something to eat before the England game - and of course I also needed to type this missive (as you do) - so it was very worthwhile to get round there. In fact what interested me is how often couples argue when they go supermarket shopping - it's amazing to notice sometimes that even one little item has them scurrying around and having endless discussions. I also notice the ones who are single like me - they end up with the stuff that they can cook easily if they need to or with a trolley full of stuff "for one". There's a great sketch on Coupling where Sally (who else?) mentions it and it'd be too funny for words if part of it wasn't actually true. Mind you, I do miss that show. Thank heavens I've got all four series on DVD to watch when I feel like it.

I got home and felt in reflective mood, so much so that Roy Harper's fantastic 1971 album Stormcock went on. And there's nothing more dramatic and epic than the album closer "Me and My Woman" - which just has to be the tune of the day. The strings are beautifully arranged by David Bedford and it just has so much passion and emotion in the whole piece, the guitars are marvellous and Roy's voice has never sounded more reflective and yet soft at the same time. It's just.. one of those songs that makes you realise just how good the whole progessive era actually was.