Dear Diary... June 2013

Sunday 30th June - Tyres and Tribulations

I woke up this morning, almost blues song style, and then after breakfast headed to the local Tesco to get some bits of food shopping in for the week. In truth I didn't need that much so it was just a case of get in, get what I need and get home again. That also meant I'd be home well in time, even allowing for uploading the remaining pictures from the Wimbledon day out on Friday, to be sat relaxed and to watch the British Grand Prix, another must watch on the sporting calendar.

After seeing qualifying and free practice yesterday and seeing the tyre delamination and also the deflation at Silverstone that has been blighting this year's Pirelli tyres a lot, I was hoping for a trouble free race with some real racing. To an extent, with Lewis Hamilton up front, it did mean that there'd be some good times if he could get to the first corner first - and he did. In fact he headed off into the distance with Sebastian Vettel unable to catch him. That was until lap eight when heading down the Wellington Straight, the rear left tyre deflated and exploded rather spectactularly, and he had to limp back to the pits, handing Vettel the lead.

Unfortunately that wasn't the end of the tyre issues though - the same thing happened to Felipe Massa and he had spun off and thankfully managed to avoid the carnage, whilst down the Hangar Straight Jean-Eric Vergne's rear left also gave way and that exploded rather massively, sending rubber in the direction of Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus - not pretty. The safety car came out, some cars pitted, and it was revealed later that on the final corner before the pits Fernando Alonso's rear left had also given up the ghost somewhat. Now for both Hamilton and Alonso to have that happen says a lot for me. I wasn't happy one bit.

Sebastian Vettel's gearbox gave up the ghost which meant Nico Rosberg took the lead, and after another safety car due to Vettel's car being moved, some of the teams changed tyres to be safe, which meant Mark Webber surged through to 2nd, Fernando Alonso to 3rd. However Fernando was very very lucky - as he was about to pass Sergio Pérez's McLaren, the rear left of that car exploded in the same way and Fernando missed the debris by inches. It was pretty nasty that and when you've got someone like Christian Horner, team principal of Red Bull saying it was dangerous, then you've got to take note.

It's a shame that what was a good race on the whole was marred by the whole tyre issue - which in my view shouldn't happen. Back in the 1980s when tyres went off we had maybe the odd issue like that (Nigel Mansell at Adelaide springs to mind) but then you could do more with the tyres, you had different companies providing tyres for teams and it was a bit more open about what compound you could use etc. However if all the teams are in theory using the same tyre, and four different teams suffered as a result, then you do have to wonder what the hell is going on. Something needs to happen, and quickly for that matter.

Later on The Strings On My Racket Arrived and we headed out for a walk in Abney Hall Park, taking the scenic route around one of the small lakes, up the hill and then over the nature reserve, and back through the other lake and towards the back of the former hall. It was good to chat and catch up a little as we did that, and later on it was then off to the Gateway for a drink and even some food to as we sat outside in the sun a little. It was a good way to spend the afternoon and wind down the weekend rather nicely on the whole.

Tune of the day is the rather apt "Tour de France" by Kraftwerk, as the 100th edition of the race has started in Corsica this weekend. Today's stage 2 highlights were watched by me tonight and it really was a case of one man holding off the peloton to gain a single second advantage - but that was enough to earn the winner the coveted maillot jaune (yellow jersey for those who don't speak French) and I'm sure that was suitably epic. I'm particularly wanting to see the team time trial in Nice as it'll bring back familiar places I've been...

Saturday 29th June - Heading Home

It was a nice relaxing sleep that we both had in the Hampton by Hilton overnight, and we woke up somewhat relaxed and refreshed. The Strings On My Racket and I headed down to the ground floor for breakfast, and that was pretty nice - with still the queues for the toaster though. Mind you, I did have some Crunchy Nut cornflakes this time before some bacon sausage and scrambled egg, and it was just good to take things relatively easy in the morning. When we got back to the room, I even caught a bit of the Formula 1 free practice session from Silverstone before we needed to depart the hotel.

It was a relatively short walk to East Croydon station and headed to Platform 1 for the train to London Victoria. Despite there being twelve carriages the train was busy (probably with people from further beyond heading to London for the day) and we arrived at Platform 19 in Victoria. For some reason groups of the EF language students decided to hog the platform meaning everyone was delayed getting past them - not a good idea on their part really. It was then through a very congested Victoria tube station and on the train to Euston, which wasn't that packed ironically, and Euston wasn't too bad exiting (going in was total chaos however) so we made our way out without issues.

We got ourselves a Boots Meal Deal for lunch and then headed on to the 1200 departure for Manchester. The train journey was relaxing enough for us both and we arrived in Piccadilly on time, where we had a hug and said our goodbyes for now. The two days had gone far too quickly but the most important thing of all is that we had a great time, and I soon headed home on the bus and got a nice surprise when some mail had arrived - the tickets for Paul Weller in October. I'm already looking forward to that methinks.

I got back and watched some of the F1 qualifying that I'd recorded, and stopped it after Q2 to grab a coffee. Whilst stopped I noticed that BBC1 was showing the Laura Robson third round match, and she was 5-5 in the second set against Marina Erakovic, having lost the first set 6-1. The crowd support was massive and Laura turned it on and turned the match on its head, winning the second set 7-5 and going 4-0 up in the third before losing her serve at 4-1, but she kept going to win the final set 6-3. A bit of a scare considering that at 5-4 up in the second Marina was serving for the match, but she came through to be the first British woman since Sam Smith in 1998 to reach round four.

I watched the remainder of the F1 qualifying after that and headed over to my sister's place to see my sister, brother in law and my niece, whose birthday it would be tomorrow (but I knew they were going out for the day). I popped over and my niece loved her present that she received (the CD and DVD set Pop Party 11 which is what my brother in law suggested to get her). She liked the card too which was good, and it looked like she was having a good time on the whole, so that made me feel happy too.

I headed back home, and then settled in for the evening, sorting my pictures from Wimbledon out, watching the tennis and seeing Novak Djokovic win easily before the roof came on to Centre Court so that Serena Williams could play her match against Kimiko Date-Krumm and in the end an easy 6-2 6-0 win despite Kimiko playing some good shots overall. I wondered if anyone could really stop Serena now and whether the women's draw would be a foregone conclusion. Looking at the draw, Serena would face Laura Robson or Kaia Kanepi in the quarter final, possibly Angnieska Radwanska or Li Na in the semis. Of course if Laura Robson was to win her fourth round match, that'd be some quarter final to watch!

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather brilliant "I'm A Man" by the Spencer Davis Group, as recently performed live by Steve Winwood and his current band members. Seeing this at The Lowry the other night was a great highlight of course, but what was even better was that it felt rather more funky than the original and an extended workout at that too - whilst losing none of its appeal and even some extra hammond organ parts thrown in. And for that, I can't really complain.

Friday 28th June - Centre Court

The Strings On My Racket and I looked out of the hotel window, and all we could see was drops of rain. This wasn't good. Wimbledon was supposed to be on for us today and I kept thinking about what would happen. Granted, we were thankful that our tickets were for Centre Court and so we could play with the roof on, which would at least mean we'd be able to get the matches played that we'd planned to see, but it still wouldn't be nice getting there and waiting around before we could go into Centre Court either. However, we thought we weren't going all this way for nothing and so resolved to enjoy ourselves no matter what.

We headed down to the ground floor of the Hampton by Hilton for the buffet breakfast which was included in our room price. It was decent enough, and you had a hot choice of beans, scrambled egg, little hash browns, sausage and bacon. You could have some fruit, yoghurt and cereal as well as some toast. However the toast machine was painfully slow and this meant queues built up around that - but the breakfast itself was pretty nice - The Strings wasn't too keen on the sausages but I loved them - pretty herby and tasty too. Either way it was a nice little feature even if it needed little improvements here and there.

We got ourselves ready and left the hotel around 10.30am, and then headed off to East Croydon tram station. We were heading via the Tramlink service to Wimbledon, where we'd then walk to the All England Lawn Tennis Club where the tournament actually is. The Tramlink also accepts Oyster cards, so nice and easy there too. The journey via tram was actually pretty comfortable - sort of like the Metrolink here in Manchester, and with comfy seats, a well laid out tram to get everyone on, and nice low platforms, it really did work well. We got to Wimbledon in no time.

Once out of the station we noticed the massive queue of people for the shuttle buses that took them from Wimbledon station to the tennis - maybe some of these people didn't realise the shortish distance it was to walk? Which is what we did - The Strings kept dry under the brolly and we headed up the hill towards Wimbledon Village, then followed the road that led us to the tennis club - and as we got there we noticed one of the shuttle buses - but rammed full. The queue was around 500-600 people long, so eight buses would have had to been there minimum for you to get on, so I reckoned it wouldn't have been as quick - and more exercise plus cheaper to walk.

We got our tickets scanned in, went through security and noticed the covers on the outside courts - no surprise there in. We headed around one of the shops and I was sorely tempted to buy The Strings one of the official towels, as she did say she'd like one one day. £28 wasn't cheap, but I would have got it for her if she'd have required it. Lots of other tennis items and even the Ralph Lauren designed clothes that this year the ball boys and girls wear - not cheap, let's put it that way.

I also went to the HSBC stand on a tip off recommended by The Strings and as seen on the Wimbledon website. The deal is this - show the HSBC people your credit or debit card (has to be their bank of course) and you get a voucher for free strawberries and cream. I was going to get them later on anyway and so thought it a good idea whilst the stand was empty to sort that out now - and I did. Happy days would be mine later. We did walk around the outside courts too and saw no less than Rob Walker, who normally MCs the snooker, doing a media report. It was good to see him covering other sports though.

We then went to one of the food outlets, and I got myself a Cornish pasty (and it was proper Cornish with the crimp too) and a drink for each of us. The Strings got herself a Pimms No 1 Cup which was fairly large sized bu the price, ouch, £7.50! I hoped it was nice for her and it was by all accounts. She also got a programme (they do one for each day with a different inside section based on the order of play for the day) and with that sorted, we headed to the entrances to Centre Court to take our seats in block 113.

And wow, what a view we had! We were almost level with the centre of the net, but on the opposite side of the umpire's chair, so didn't have anything blocking the view. The roof was on and so we knew we'd get play and all, and we could see the TV cameras, the Royal Box and everything. In fact before the first match (Laura Robson v Mariana Duque-Marino) we could see plenty of celebrities and lots of people I spotted straight off, including some sporting legends. How I wished I was mingling with some of them, but enough of that, some tennis to watch (and so was imagining Keith Mansfield's "Light and Tuneful" in my head - got to be tune of the day that for obvious reasons)

So, the women first then, and it proved to be a good game for the British fans at least. Laura Robson was struggling with her serve at first, but soon put that right and broke back against Mariana Duque-Marino. Once that was done she kept herself going to take the first set 6-4. I think though with some crucial points it was the fist pump motivation that really kept the mind on the job, and during the second set wasn't taking any prisoners at all, soon getting it done and winning 6-1. She saluted the crowds and as the only British woman left, she had to play her third round match tomorrow. Good luck to her too.

There was an announcement that the roof was coming off for the second match, so we headed to one of the food courts, where we both got the strawberries and cream. One word of note though - the amount of cream you got was bloody minimal to say the least. I'd have even forsaken a strawberry or two for more cream, but hey ho, at least they were nice freshly picked ones. The Strings and I headed to the other food court by Court One and she had some fish and chips, which by all accounts was rather lovely and I did try some of the fish myself to find out.

We got back to Centre Court just in time for the start of the Nicolas Almagro v Jerzy Janowicz match only to see that play had been suspended due to rain. As it was it was the lightest of showers that stopped almost as the players went off, so they were soon back on for their match. Both were seeded players and so with the bottom half of the draw not having many seeds left (Federer, Tsonga and Nadal were all out) it made sense for this game to be on Centre really. I thought too it would give both players a chance to shine and show what they were made of as well.

And it proved to be an inspring decision. Almagro took the first three games but was pegged back by Janowicz as he broke back (Almagro had served first). In fact it went all the way to 6-6 and a dramatic first set tiebreak, which Janowicz eventually won 8-6 in points. I thought that would prove crucial at the time and during the second set the Pole was playing some inspired stuff with some great passing shots and backhands to break the serve again, and once he'd done that it was a 6-3 second set win, and it went by fairly quickly did that set.

The third set was going with serve and at 4-4 I noticed that the ground staff were out and keeping an eye on the clouds. I noticed Janowicz thinking to himself "if I can break the Almagro serve I can then serve for the match and get off before the rain beats us" and pretty much put a lot of effort into doing that. When he broke the serve he screamed "Come on!" and was basically going mental, and served it out to win 6-4. He really did celebrate with lots of fist pumps, and bowed to all corners of the court almost in a Wayne's World "We're not worthy" type of salute too. Good on him I thought, and he was a very popular winner on Centre.

No sooner had Sue Barker and Tim Henman start to chat about the next match with Andy Murray due on then the ground staff were out as the rain lashed it down. The Love headed to the loo and by the time she came back, the roof had come back on and we were all set to go for the final match - Andy Murray v Tommy Robredo. The Spanish opponent had three times come back from two sets down in the French Open recently, so was no pushover, and Andy would have to be on top form to be sure to get through.

The crowd cheered like mad when Andy came on and you could feel the atmosphere building as Andy's girlfriend and his Mum entered Centre Court and took their seats, and you could just feel the importance of the match - and it would be the last one on Centre for the day. It was to prove a masterclass in grass court play as Andy broke Robredo's serve early on and that was more than enough to do it again as he ended up winning the first set 6-2, pretty convincing by any stretch of the imagination.

Tommy Robredo got better with each set, and the second set proved a bit tighter, the fans yelled louder for Andy and he did the job in taking the second 6-4. We knew it was going to get tougher as Tommy's mental toughness would kick in a la Roland Garros, but not to be. It was 5-5 in the third set and crucially Andy broke the serve and went 6-5 up and so was serving for the match, and showed the killer instinct required to close it out and take it all in straight sets, which had the crowd delirious and us both happy. We saw the last two British players win on centre, and saw a potential semifinalist for Andy Murray get through too (Janowicz does look dangerous and if someone like Tim Henman rates him, you need to be wary!)

We walked back with some of the crowd up the hill to Wimbledon Village and down again to Wimbledon station and headed straight on the tram back to Croydon, ending up in the George pub for a well earned bite to eat, with me having the fish and chips and The Strings having some chicken strips which looked good too. We both had a drink and reflected on a long but worthwhile day before heading back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep. What a day we had and it was something I'd love to do again if I had the chance to, that's for sure!

Thursday 27th June - Croydon Centrale

It was the start of a short break for myself and The Strings On My Racket today, as the two of us were heading off towards London and beyond for a two night stay in Croydon, and a full Friday planned at Wimbledon. Ages ago The Strings and I had applied to see if we could get tickets for Wimbledon through the public ballot, and this proved to be successful. I didn't expect Centre Court of course, nor did I expect for that matter a Friday on the first week, which would normally mean third round matches and usually some decent players as well, so around that we booked a two night hotel stay, all the trains etc and would make a nice little break for us both.

We headed from Piccadilly on to the 1155 to London Euston, remembering to pick up a Boots Meal Deal on the way in the station. The way the tickets were booked, we were both sat by the window on a table opposite each other, and thankfully two very lovely ladies were sat on the other seats as they were off for a girlie weekend in London but having fun doing their nails and getting themselves all good to go. They were very polite too, and The Strings very kindly got one of them out of a tricky nail polish removal situation as well. We had the lunch we'd purchased, all was good.

We got to Euston and located our little place where we top up the Oyster card (why bother queuing in the station itself when there's a little shop inside the station that does it - and with no queues!) and then headed off to the Underground. Our train tickets did give us travel through the tube - but we did need Oyster topping up for tomorrow so sensibly did it whilst we had chance. The tube was pretty busy between Euston and Victoria and that wasn't a nice part of the journey. Thankfully by the time we'd got to the platform the train to East Croydon was there and so on we went, and after a short stop at Clapham Junction, we were at East Croydon.

After eventually getting out of the station (due to the new stairs and walkway above some of the platforms offering no exit from the station despite being open to access, bit daft really) it was a short walk along Dingwall Road and to the Hampton by Hilton in Croydon where we were staying for two nights. We were soon checked in and were given a room on the top floor. The room was a little on the small side, but it was nice with a lovely bathroom, big comfy bed, 32" LG telly, tea and coffee stuff, and even a safe and an iron and ironing board too, so pretty well kitted out. We relaxed a bit in the hotel and watched some of the tennis before getting ourselves showered and changed to head out for the evening.

As the shops were open till late on the Thursday, we decided to head through first to the Whitgift Centre. It was actually pretty good, with quite a few indepenent shops to look around as well as some chains. One store we did like even though it was a small chain was Tiger, it was sort of a cross between Clas Ohlson and a much budget savvy version of Ryman, with lots of home and stationery stuff at a very reasonable price, and good fun to browse in. They really need to open one of these in Manchester really - I think it would do really well there.

We also went around the newer shopping centre called Centrale. What we did notice is how much of it was empty and not that many stores in there. Granted there was the likes of House of Fraser and Debenhams, but it really did feel a little soulless inside there for me - there was much more of a buzz inside the Whitgift to be honest. The Srings also stopped off at a Primark down the High Street for a brolly too as it was pretty much hammering it down - plus she needed one for tomorrow as the forecast didn't look so good whatsoever..

Once we'd shopped out for a while, we then headed to the pub - The Spreadeagle, located on the corner of Katherine Street and High Street. They had some lovely Fuller's ales on including a Summery one which I had and that was gorgeous. There was someone with an über-camera taking interior shots, maybe for the brewery's website to promote their pubs? Either way, the atmosphere was rather relaxed and chilled out and the big screens were showing Novak Djokovic's match at Wimbledon, so that was pretty good.

It was then on to George Street for a lovely meal in Pizza Express together. I had a voucher for two courses for £10, and so that would come in handy for a nice time but a not expensive price. I had the polpette al forno for starter this time - some lovely meatballs, and some dough sticks to dip into the tomato and chilli sauce, very nicely done. The Strings' bruschetta was spot on too. In fact she had the polpette piccante for main, and that was pretty spicy by all accounts but good with it, and I had the canelloni, which really did taste rather gorgeous actually. I even finished off with the mini dolcetti raspberry sorbet with coffee - but I got two scoops instead of one and was charged the "mini" price. Happy days indeed!

We finished for the evening with a drink in The George pub opposite which was pretty nice - busy, probably because the drinks were inexpensive, but good for it. I had a really nice pint in there too and as we walked back later to the hotel, we reflected on a good day and nice to see some of the town as well as have a nice meal together also. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "London" by The Smiths, as whenever I arrive at Euston I always think of Morrissey singing "Well do you think you've made the right decision this time?" - well I'm sure we have this time, Stephen Patrick.

Wednesday 26th June - Shock Central

Well if you blinked today, my you would have missed a lot of goings on at Wimbledon, that's for sure. I managed to catch up with most of the drama once I got home from work (more on that later) but whilst at work today it was meeting central instead. I had a total of three meetings which took up almost two thirds of the working day, so it was a case of working out what I needed to do and when really. I did have to contribute to two of those and indeed lead the other, so it was definitely me in work and organisation mode.

The second of my three meetings was the most important for me personally, and it was a good chance to chat to one of my line managers about my potential for the future and what I should be looking at. I think on the whole it also made me feel rather more positive about the work I was doing and the direction I was heading, but also I think that it's maybe been a bit of a wake up call in the fact that with a recent knockback I've had, I needed to maybe start thinking about the whys and wherefores and focus a lot more.

With the final meeting done, lots of documentation typed up and indeed keeping up to date with my outstanding workload, it was time to head home and think about a relaxing couple of days away from work, and once I'd got home BBC Red Button HD was about to head to the next match on Centre Court, with Roger Federer playing Sergiy Stakhovsky. Part of me was thinking that it might prove to be a close match, because although Federer did win easily on Monday, he might not have it all his own way here against a tall and dangerous opponent. I do like Federer a lot as a player and did want him to win.

But.. it wasn't happening. No breaks of serve for the first two sets and they were both 7-5 wins on the tiebreak game, and so at one set all and some quality tennis being played by both players, I sensed a Wimbledon classic on the cards here, with some gorgeous serve and volley tennis from Stakhovsky which a certain Tim Henman would have been pretty proud of (and indeed Boris Becker in commentary was purring, the sort of thing he used to do at Wimbledon back in the day) and Federer pulling off some beautiful passing shots.

The first break of serve happened in the 11th game of the third set, and that meant that Stakhovsky went 6-5 up, and duly completed his service game to go 7-5 up. He broke Federer in the fourth only for Federer to break back and the rest of the games went with serve before going to another tiebreak. Crucially a mini-break meant two match points at 6-4 up. An amazing pass from Federer saved one but when he hit wide on the other, that was it - game over. An amazing game and one that I watched from start to finish, and it truly had to be seen to be believed.

Consider the stats: the first time in thirty seven Grand Slam tournaments that Federer hadn't made the quarter finals or better, and the first time in years he'd lost to anyone seeded lower than 100. He also exited Wimbledon at the second round, the first time he didn't get past that stage in many years. When you also consider his seven wins here, it was a seismic win, but you have to also say that Stakhovsky, cheered on by his rather lovely wife that the cameras kept panning to, really found his top level of his game. He was at one stage inside the top 30, so some consistency in the game was probably the key for him to get back up there, but this certainly made his name in lights for today at least!

Tune of the day is the BBC theme that they still use to introduce the Wimbledon tennis coverage, "Light and Tuneful" by Keith Mansfield. Somehow it just seems to work and whenever I hear that tune kick in, I know what time of year it is and indeed where I'd like to be. And being there later this week will further have the tune in my head, that's for sure. All we need now is Des Lynam back introducing the coverage and I can go completely back to my youth then...

Tuesday 25th June - Night Bus

It was a much better day at work all round, as I managed to meet up with a couple of people in the morning and more clearly define the piece of work that we had to do and that I was effectively managing. It meant I could at least progress forward and show that I was able to work my way around any potential issues, plus it then meant that I could at least start to get the ball proverbially rolling and moving on somewhat. I also worked out some way of redefining the current workload so I could prioritise what needed to be done as well, so that was a positive move all round.

It felt good and much better and that allowed me to hit the stride somewhat, so I forged on with a couple of other issues and this meant I could try and sort those out, to minimise the workload a bit as well. All in all I did feel pretty confident that I was able to progress today, and after being stuck in a bit of a hole I was confident that digging myself out was the best way forward. I also had at least pleased a member of staff who had an issue embedding Youtube clips into Powerpoint, primarily because of the way that the embed code keeps changing and how Powerpoint interprets it, but finding the workaround was pretty cool stuff I have to say (contact me if you need help on this)

I got home and of course Wimbledon had to be put on the telly, as you do. The coverage has increased on Freeview this year with two red button channels, and one of those also being in HD! If you've not already retuned your Freeview HD set or set top box, now's the time to do so, and you'll see 301 (BBC normal red button), 302 (red button 2) and 303 (red button HD). If you add those on top of BBC One and Two (SD and HD) showing the coverage as well, you've effectively got up to four matches, three of which would be shown in HD. Now that is pretty decent stuff. Take note though BBC, the same for the snooker would be nice.

With that on in the background, I had been to Asda on the way home to pick up some weedkiller. The back yard and decking were showing signs of weeds growing, and it didn't look brilliant. I dug up as much as I could first and then sprayed some Weedol down all the little gaps I could find, and close to any roots of any weeds I could still see. With dry weather forecast for the next couple of days this would mean I should be able to kill them off in their prime right now and have a tidy back yard, and indeed think about even planting some plants in the little rockery at the back. Yaay.

Anyway The Love In My Heart had headed over by the time I was settling in to watch Tara Moore try and win her first round game, but unfortunately some dodgy line calls from the umpire along with her sustaining an injury in the final set meant that she became the second to last British girl to be eliminated, leaving only Laura Robson as the sole representative. This also meant that it was basically yet again her and Andy Murray flying the flag for Britain - a sad state of affairs in tennis for our home nation to be honest.

After I made us some tea and The Love had indulged with some Emmerdale as well as us watching the evening's highlights at Wimbledon, seeing plenty of people go through such as Novak Djokovic (he must be a good favourite to win if Andy Murray doesn't I think) and generally soaking up as much of it as we can, as we'll be there soon ourselves. Naturally The Love is gutted because Rafael Nadal has gone out, but I'm sure there are plenty of good contenders left whom I'm sure will entertain just as much.

We then watched the BBC2 documentary series The Route Masters - Running London's Roads which had been excellent in the first episode. Tonight went behind the scenes of the night buses - the drivers, the passengers and the people and stories that make up the capital at night. What was intriguing was the sheer number of people who do use the service, but also the amount of drunkenness around too. I felt gutted for the bloke who'd had been assaulted with a broken beer bottle when making his way home, and indeed that bus 25 between Oxford Street and Ilford at night certainly was a very intriguing journey.

What did sadden me too was the fact that a number of homeless people use the night bus as a way of getting some sleep and actually having somewhere warm for a period of time overnight. Of course if they've loaded up an Oyster card, like one person did, you take the N9 night bus from Aldwych all the way to Heathrow Terminal 5 (a fairly epic journey even at night, that) and then back again later on in the same night, and as the journey takes normally around an hour and a half, you could see why that might work.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather epic "Freedom Rider" by Traffic. I was thinking about how much I'd enjoyed the Steve Winwood gig last night (despite the fact that some people at work hadn't even heard of him) and so played the John Barleycorn Must Die album in full to remind myself how good it is. The second track on the album is this, and it just has a brilliant instrumental middle section as well as a dramatic end part with Steve Winwood's voice on top form. Still in my view a massively under-rated album as well.

Monday 24th June - Staring At Empty Pages

It was a fairly stressful and horrible day at work for one reason or another, so the less said the better really. However, what was going to cheer me up no end was seeing Steve Winwood at the Lowry. I'd only decided pretty much last minute having purchased the ticket online yesterday, and thinking that he might play some stuff from the band Traffic that he used to be in, I thought it'd be good to see him with his current band of musicians bring some of the old and new songs to life live. Also the main Lyric Theatre in the Lowry normally has good acoustics so it should also sound good in the hands of a good engineer.

I headed somewhere close to work to grab something to eat for tea, because this meant I'd avoid some of the peak hour traffic but still get to the Lowry easily. In fact as the 50 bus now is extended all the way to there, it was simply getting on that and staying on it through Salford Central, to Pendleton Precinct and along Langworthy Road before skirting around the Quays and to the Lowry itself where it terminates, with a thirty second walk to the theatre itself. My kind of transport, that, and even closer than the tram takes you (and with my pass, effectively free, so cost saved right there).

I got to the box office, picked up the ticket and then headed to one of the bars for a coffee, so I could sit down and relax before the support act came on. I noticed that most of the audience were older than me, which made sense considering the 60s and 70s era that many people regarded as Steve Winwood's best years (even though ironically during the 80s he sold more records and in my view made some great songs too.) I for one of course was influenced a lot by my father musically, so what was good enough for him was also the case for me as I respected why he liked a band or artist - always about the music.

So on came the support, Joe Summers, and he was pretty good all round. Just him and an acoustic guitar which he played with gusto and with some excellent songs too. I really liked his war protest song delivered with some real feeling in the playing, and also "This Holy Fire" which really did sound perfect in the acoustics. He was also quite chatty in between songs without overdoing it as well, which always of course works to get the crowd involved more. And to be fair, the crowd did like him as did I, and he spent time in the interval signing copies of his EP for people, a real down to earth bloke. Good for him! There was an interval so I went and grabbed a bottle of water to have during the gig (The Lowry allow you to have plastic bottles inside) and that meant I could keep hydrated and enjoy myself.

On came Steve Winwood and for the next two hours it was a quality show to say the least and already a contender for me for gig of the year. It wasn't just Steve playing his heart out with the hammond organ and guitar as well as his vocals, but all of his band, José Neto on guitars, Paul Booth on sax and occasional hammond organ as well as vocals, Richard Bailey on drums (he in fact played the drums on Jeff Beck's epic "Scatterbrain" back in the day!) and Café da Silva on percussion (mainly tabla drums) were tight, knew their stuff and played the songs with passion and virtuousity. It was like they were jamming live without it ever sounding like it, honestly.

He opened with the Traffic song "Rainmaker" which sounded less folky and more funky than it did on the album back in the day, and then second song in, and I worked out from the lengthy intro what it'd be - yes, the Spencer Davis Group's "I'm A Man" which really did make me smile - still under-rated in my view. Of course he did some more recent solo stuff as you'd expect, but then I didn't expect what was to come. Out he came with the guitar and on with two Blind Faith songs back to back, first off "Can't Find My Way Home" which rocked the place, and then he cranked it up another notch with a superb rendition of "Had To Cry Today" - and that was just for starters.

More Traffic stuff was to come in the form of "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" with some excellent guitar solos really giving the song room to breathe, and that led straight into the hammond organ intro that I recognised a mile off - "Empty Pages" from the John Barleycorn Must Die album. Suffice to say, I love that album and that song in particular is just brilliant, so needless to say I had a big grin on my face at that point and even sang along to the chorus - tune of the day in amongst a plethora of excellent tracks. The instrumental workout in the middle really did feel massively even more funky and it just gave everyone the chance to shine wonderfully. Steve's distinct vocal was on top form too.

Out came the mandolin for Steve and he did a beautiful version of "Back in the High Life Again" which sounded somehow more folk-sounding but all the better for it, and not to disapppoint the 80s fans, a funked up version of "Higher Love" was also there for them too which sounded ultimately cool followed by an extended Traffic classic "Light Up Or Leave Me Alone" where all of the band got their own solo parts, and that worked superbly to make it an extended version accordingly. Oh, and just to really get the crowd up and at them, a really fast paced version of "Keep On Running" by the Spencer Davis Group, and believe me, there were people stood up dancing around which was actually really nice to see - once a classic, always a classic in my view.

Some people left before the encore in front of me (like, why?) and they missed two great songs during the encore. First up, Traffic's "Dear Mr. Fantasy" with Steve massively rocking out on the guitar and giving it some, with the whole band really supporting well and keeping that rock element going. Steve headed back to the hammond organ, the bass line kicked in, Paul got everyone up on their feet and the classic "Gimme Some Lovin'" was played with a real power and passion that just had everyone thinking "oh yes!" as they sang the chorus en masse. A perfect way to end a brilliant evening and one that I know from up there my father would have been proud to see with me.

Sunday 23rd June - Chorlton and the Wheelies in Castlefield

My brother had alerted me to the fact that in the Museum of Science and Industry there was a small exhibition of animation, and within it was apparently the original puppet from Chorlton and the Wheelies. Of course, being a fan of the programme as a child and unashamedly owning it on DVD (what's not to like?) I thought it'd be worth a little trip out and indeed around the museum too. The Love In My Heart came over about 1pm and we headed off in the direction of Castlefield where we'd end up spending the afternoon together.

First off we noticed that despite the bad weather the Artisan Market was still on, so we had a look around there first. The Love did spot a couple of nice vintage dresses but she was unsure whether to get one even though they were her size, as there was nowhere she could try them on first and see if they fitted fine. There was a very nice cake stall though and it was admittedly sorely tempting to buy lots of cake, but I attempted to resist and be good - for now at least.

We headed to the Museum of Science and Industry and after asking at the desk, we had to go to the old station building, follow our way through the historic Manchester exhibit (which was well worth a look at anyway, lots of old maps of the city as all the little villages at the time became suburbs of the city overall) and then to one room where all the animation stuff was. It was small but really well formed, with amongst other things original animation film cels from no less than Danger Mouse - with cels of him and Penfold. Awesome!

Not just that - there was a wall panel that if you looked one way, it was Danger Mouse, and looking the other way, Chorlton from said programme. Add to that an original clay puppet of Bob The Builder (plus his cat Pilchard) which lots of children were like "ooh Mummy look, Bob!" and that was cool. But the best thing of all was undoubtedly the original puppets from Chorlton and the Wheelies, with two different figures of Chorlton, one in his "Bye bye, little old lay-dee!" pose, as well as two of Fenella the Witch as well as the little Toadies as well. I could have just imagined an episode there and then.

What did make me chuckle was one Mum and Dad went past with their daughter, and the Dad was in remembering it mode and was trying to explain just what it was about, and even did the "'Ello, little old lady!" speech too which made me smile massively. In fact the theme tune by Joe Griffiths has to be tune of the day because it's bouncy, catchy and really got you in the mood for watching the programme, plus I've even transcribed it on a Commodore 64 no less back in the day - told you it was ace.

After that we headed to Dukes 92 and had lunch in their grill. We managed to get a table and they had a two course Sunday menu on which looked good, so we went for that. I had the tomato and basil soup to start and it was nice, but kind of wished I'd gone for the chicken wings that The Love had, they were fab and it looked like lots of people were having them. For the main I had the beer battered fish and chips which was really nice and The Love had the Sunday roast pork which was also good. I was full though so no dessert but nonetheless nice food.

However, the service was nowhere near the standard you'd expect. When I asked the waitress if they had any cask ale, she looked puzzled what I was asking and so I opted for a water. I did notice they had a cask ale at the bar so clearly there's a staff training or awareness issue there. Also the bread roll for the soup was forgotten (a table next to me also had the same issue too so it wasn't just me) and it seemed like they were fishing for compliments a bit too much. The manager was walking around a lot without doing anything either. And it wasn't even full, so there was enough staff to cover. I felt sorry for the chef who clearly was making consistently good food but was let down by his front of house people.

We ended the afternoon in Cask on Liverpool Road, and I felt at home there with lots of bottled beers from everywhere plus four beautifully looked after cask ales, any of which I'd have been happy with. I went for the Phoenix Brewery's "Monkeytown Mild" which was a dark and creamy mild ale and just really did taste very palatable indeed. The jukebox had already had some money put in, so lots of Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Nirvana, Pixies etc, right up my street. Now this is the sort of place I could hang out on a Saturday evening, chilled out with an ale. In fact I might just do that!

Saturday 22nd June - Sporting Saturday

I was all alone today as The Love In My Heart was off to the Etihad Stadium to see Robbie Williams with her sister (yaay, got out of that one, hurrah!) and so I decided to make the most of the day. First off was a visit to Mum's to have a catch up and chat and also help her out with something that she wanted to do on the laptop, and so it was good to have a coffee as well as a sandwich or two and a cake for lunch as well, which was just a very pleasant way to spend some quality time. I had got my brother's girlfriend a birthday card and gift card, so dropped those off at the same time.

I headed back into the city centre and went into HMV, and it's gradually getting back to its former glory. In a nice move all the music is now downstairs, and for me that worked really well because you can find shelves of music all together, with the specialist music now where the gamerbase bit used to be. With all the sales and promotions up top, it meant you could find much more what you wanted, and with the Ministry of Sound's Anthems: Electronic 80s 3 compilation for just over a fiver, I thought "got to be done" and purchased that to go nicely with the other two.

Back at home I tuned in to BBC One to watch the athletics for the afternoon, which was day one of the European Team Championships athletics from Gateshead. There were some good performances, especially the 1500m race where our young British entrant fought valiantly to get second place and some excellent points, but in the 5000m Mo Farah was just toying with the field in a slow race, and then with 400m to go, off he went and burned them off with a fifty one second last lap (almost as fast as Perri Shakes-Drayton had won the 400m in earlier in fact!) and it was a great crowd pleaser to see.

In between that and the football, I indulged on the golf and the tennis on Wii Sports, with the hitting the green game on the golf giving me lots of fun and a good challenge. I even managed to beat my best on the day so that was good, and I did the nine holes of golf a few shots under par too. It's simple but it works and it really does give you that feeling of being on the course without having to faff around too much as well. Sometimes the easiest ideas work the best don't they?

I also put on the Ministry of Sound compilation I'd got earlier, and was a little gutted that it was the 1987 remix of New Order's "Confusion" on CD3, as well as Frankie Goes To Hollywood's cover of "War" (why? Was "Rage Hard" not good enough to be included?) but on the whole some solid stuff, such as classics like "Chant No 1" by Spandau Ballet, "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" by Soft Cell, and "Rockit" by Herbie Hancock, a real classic and massively under-rated that one (tune of the day in fact). I could go on, but the good does outweigh the bad a fair bit, so well worth snagging for that price if you get the chance.

To finish off the evening, I watched Brazil v Italy in the Confederations Cup football, and that was a game with goals, and quality goals too. The first Italian equaliser had a beautiful flick on by Mario Balotelli, Neymar scored a great free kick for Brazil before Fred got in on the act with two well taken goals, and in between that Italy might have had a penalty only for the ref to call a good advantage and award the strike hit goalwards by Chiellini. Maybe a little bit controversial as the ref had blown, but still, a good match and that even could be a possible final depending on the semis this week...

Friday 21st June - The End of a Midsummer Era

I did feel a little sad today as one of our colleagues, who's proven himself to be a vital cog as part of the team with us, is having to head over to another campus to assist there. Part of me was gutted because it's more travelling for him and that it'll also mean that we're a good worker down as well, which had to be something to note for us all I reckoned. At least we had drinks later in the day to look forward to, so it'd be good to at least head out.

But first, it was time for a couple of meetings that we had to head to. First off was our Platform Team meeting, which considering it could have been via our internal messaging and video conferencing system software, nearly all of us decided to just turn up at the venue where the meeting was instead, almost like kicking it old school which was good. I think because of that the meeting actually ended up being a lot quicker, so maybe there's something to say about that?

I had another meeting after lunch in the afternoon which is something that I was asked in the morning to head to and become part of a current project. I think some of my skills were identified there and it was nice to be asked, even if it did feel all a little last minute really. I know though that this will add considerable challenges to the ones that I already have, so I may have to plan my time very carefully over the next few weeks and make sure I can get done what I need to in the meantime.

Admittedly it was good to therefore head out after work and there were six of us heading to the pub close to work for a few drinks. The pub concerned didn't have real ale, so spent a fair chunk of time with a diet Coke, but then I did notice that they did have Brew Dog Punk IPA in bottled form, so I treated myself to one of those later in the evening. It was good to chat to the folks and generally let the proverbial hair down a bit after work as well - a good wind down and start to the weekend as well. One good thing we also noticed was how much quieter it felt with less students around, so we could hear ourselves talk and chat amongst ourselves.

Tune of the day is from the film Office Space that myself and my colleague were chatting about earlier on, and seeing as I have the film on USA Region 1 Special Edition DVD as well as the soundtrack CD, I think you get he idea that I like this film just a bit. One classic moment is when Peter decides to come into work whenever he feels like it, catching fish and putting their innards all over the infamous TPS reports, stuff like that. In the background is the Geto Boys' "Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta" which just works superbly, it's chilled out hip hop and yet has the right vibe.

Thursday 20th June - Training and First Date Nightmares

It was a case of another productive day of sorts at work, but in a good way. Me and several other colleagues from sites were on part one of a course called "Train the Trainer" which effectively arms you with some suitable skills to be a better person to train people. It was actually quite nice taking some time out from being in the office to actually doing something else and making the most of it. It was also especially good as one of my nicest colleagues ever from work was on the course with me, which always makes it rather lovely.

It was pretty good stuff throughout the day, with lots of exercises to do (not physical) including a questionnaire which gave you an indication of which learning style you are - visual, audio or kinaesthetic (ie: touchy feely). I knew I was the latter sort of person but it was nice to have that confirmed so I knew for definite that's how I would have been. It was also good that we had to give a little presentation all based on how we'd start off an introduction to a learning exercise, that worked out to be good fun too.

The day went by far too quickly as you'd expect and for me it was rather good that at least there was some form of structure but it wasn't too rigid, so we were allowed to think things through, discuss them and manage to get some information together between us to make us better people overall too. I felt rather good at the end of it and then managed to get plenty done in the hour and a half or so left of the day before heading home. After some knockbacks I'd had this week it was pretty good to feel positive about everything for once.

The Love In My Heart headed to mine later on and I indulged her with Emmerdale whilst I made the tea, and then once that was done we snuggled up for a bit, relaxed and whilst she was watching the soaps and then the Paul O'Grady Dogs programme, I switched over in the commercial breaks to see that Spain were doing what I expected and giving Tahiti a good tonking, and occasionally when I switched over I even saw Spain score another goal, and then another. By the end of it all it'd end up 10-0 to Spain with David Silva scoring a couple. More promising for us as City fans of course was that he and Jesus Navas seemed to combine pretty well.

However, we had the most fun watching the Channel 4 programme "First Dates" in which a posh restaurant in London, close to St Paul's Cathedral, is used and where people are going on genuine first dates. With cameras all around the restaurant it might also be hard to necessarily be yourself on a date like that, primarily because you're more concerned sometimes with how you may look on the telly instead of actually concentrating on the date in hand, but nonetheless it was good to see that some people did at least have a lovely time.

Mind you, one of the dates proved to be nightmarish. The Lancashire lass Fayhe was on a date with Will, and she was lovely, but he seemed to get more nervous, spout gibberish and really end up being quite a pain in the backside. Part of it may have been the nerves and feeling like he had to say something, but it also sounded quite creepy and I'm not sure if that would have been the intention originally when they met. I for one noted that some of them whose dates didn't work out could have applications going in so you at home could date them, which was intriguing - would people respond? We'd see next week I guess. Tune of the day in the meantime is the wonderful "Stringy Acid" by Orbital, which late at night just sounds so bloody perfect as you drift off to sleep (or in my case, attempt to!)

Wednesday 19th June - Wii Will Be The Best

Another lengthy day at work, but this time mainly spent with a colleague of mine working on some application packaging, including setting up a possible SQL database and seeing if we can get a piece of software that needed it set up to be connected to it. On the whole that was a good learning experience and I'm sure it's something that I can build on for the future. I also did lunch with my colleague before heading over to one of our central teams to try and help sign off the latest beta of our Windows 7 build image, as you do.

After work and in reasonably lovely weather it was time to make the journey on the bus from work and to see my friend, after we'd arranged I'd pop over there one evening this week. Usually the traffic on a Wednesday evening is quiet(ish) and I was even going against the masses of people heading to the Etihad Stadium to see Robbie Williams, but for some reason the journey took a little longer than normal - getting stuck on Princess Parkway waiting for the lights to change at Wilbraham Road seemed to slow everything down but once past that it was fine - bizarre really.

I got to my friend's place, settled in with a cold drink, and we had a chat about the Manchester City fixtures for next season and how they work out - we've got Newcastle at home first game and the Manchester Derby comes in on the 21st September (watch that be moved for the telly) and also at home for the last game as well. In a way it'll be interesting to see how we fare in the Champions League and checking the draw dates for that it'll mean a fair number of games being played on a Saturday which is better for us really.

On went the Wii, and for old times' sake but also because it's such simple and effective fun, on went Wii Sports. We went for the normal bowling first and my friend was soon getting the swing of that and hitting strikes and spares as was I and I had a very respectable 231 game in there. We switched to the training type modes, including the bowling game where you have to use spin control, and later on doing the one where you get more pins to knock down each time till you get 91 pins at the end round - which was all good fun.

We switched over to the golf and did some of the training stuff in there - which proved to be superb fun - especially the chipping to the green with ten increasingly difficult shots to pull off. My friend proved to be really good at this and beat his all time record and get under 50m in all, thus getting the gold medal. It was some really good shot making and little delicate chip shots out of the bunker to achieve it, and not miss any green whatsoever. It's good fun when you get into it and sometimes the simplest things work if it's playable and actually does what you want it to.

The time went by far too quickly and I was later on heading home via the city centre on the bus, and admiring the view heading towards the city, seeing how the night skies really do give the city a different angle. If I felt more brave, I'd do some long exposure night shots in the city but always feel like people would think I'm being weird or geeky or whatever to be honest. Tune of the day is "Shadowplay" by Joy Division as that was in my head as I was walking through the city to head back homeward.

Tuesday 18th June - Keeping You Moving

It was another day of hard work for me today, mainly because I spent a fair bit of time sorting out various issues with our current Windows 7 build that is in beta but also checking over the configuration I'd put together for Firefox as well. To keep things nice and stable we're going with version 17 (the ESR release) because there's extended support available, and it's also reliable too - think of it like the long term support versions of Ubuntu Linux if you will. It was good to put together everything and work it all out properly, so that felt positive in the long run.

I was still feeling a bit run down though - I've had a bit of a possible infection and it's mainly been affecting the glands close to the throat. It's not normally too bad but if they're swelling then I feel the urge to have to cough a lot of the time. I just sort of wish it would go away, but I suspect I might have to let it run its course. I did toy with the idea of seeing the walk-in surgery, but headed to the one inside Boots in Manchester Arndale and was informed there was a two hour wait, and the one in Manchester Royal Infirmary was a similar delay time. I thought that it'd be best to leave that to people who needed it more than me and so headed homewards.

I had the lovely company of The Love In My Heart later on and after I'd made us some spaghetti with meatballs, we relaxed with a comfortable night of cuddles, and then some Scrabble. Oh yes. We'd not played it at mine for a bit (we did get a couple of games in whilst on holiday, sunning ourselves on the apartment balcony at the same time which was cool) and so it was good to have a good game. I don't know if it was the Ministry of Sound Electronic 80s Volume 2 3-CD set that was making The Love play well, but she was on it from the start including ZOUK on double word and also a triple later with LOUVRE (and double letter on the V to boot) so that was all good.

It was nice listening to the 80s music on that CD set of course, and one I've enjoyed since I received it on my birthday from my brother last month. Lots of classics I remember such as Duran Duran's "Girls on Film" (which every adolescent my age remembers the very naughty video that accompanied the 12" version of the single - make it tune of the day actually) as well as Spandau Ballet's "Instinction", the Yazoo classic "Only You" (thus ruined by the Flying Pickets a year later) and the vastly under-rated "Souvenir" by OMD too. The Love and I disagree on Midge Ure's cover of "No Regrets" - she's not a fan, but I like it (then again I've seen Midge do this recently and he's still ace)

After that we watched The Route Masters which is the start of a fascinating series on how lots of people behind the scenes attempt to keep London on the move if stuff happens. The Blackwall Tunnel proved just how critical it was to getting across the Thames and how much it's used, with people panicking before they enter the tunnel, but also I really liked the bloke who effectively runs the breakdown service and lives in the portakabin within the grounds of the tunnel a lot of the time - that's dedication to the job to say the least.

I had to laugh at the way that the road was being resurfaced with the pothole emergency repair kit (sort of what Wile E Coyote would have done, ACME style I reckon) and how the passing woman couldn't help but effectively say that it was rubbish. It made me giggle, but to be honest after the day I had and one negative part of the day which I need to bounce back from, what mattered most of all was a nice long cuddle from The Love In My Heart to instantly make me feel much better.

Monday 17th June - Fn and F12 Equals Error

I spent a fair bit of time today at work mulling over a problem - and it was related to the new Samsung Series 5 Ultrabooks which we'll soon be getting delivery of as the new staff laptop of choice. Usually there's a piece of software which controls the function keys, and that previously was Samsung Easy Display Manager. The version that we have which worked on the Series 5 only seemed to work properly if you were logged in as an admin user, and if logging in as a limited user you got all sorts of prompts to run stuff as an admin, which wasn't good. The Samsung Easy Settings for that laptop in question also did the same thing.

I'll have to look at this in more details during the week but to be honest I suspect that it's a combination of the software using Windows calls to run stuff as an elevated administrator user, plus the fact it might not be the best programmed that could be the cause of the problem. I'm going to do some more work on this later in the week and see how it goes, but I'm somehow not convinced about it. I even tried different methods of installing just to be sure it wasn't me, and it did the same thing. Boo.

I headed over to another building this afternoon as we've had one department who have moved to where we look after, and it was good that we were able to at least get everything wired up and connected as well as logged in. I think on the whole it's gone pretty well and I think it's been good also that there's been a positive reaction there. I think too that it reinforces my view that if you're willing to take the time out to produce some excellent customer service then that reaps its own rewards.

I had a fairly relaxing evening on the whole, and that was good really. I did however have to watch Only Connect of course, and that was pretty exciting. I usually end up being pretty good on the missing vowels round, particularly if it's a subject I know something about. I'm still not sure about how the whole format of who qualifies and who doesn't really works (is anyone?) but it's all good fun, especially when it's the music round and that confuses the hell out of some of the contestants. Tune of the day is actually from that music round no less - "Mr Jones" by Counting Crows, which not only did I get straight away (woo) but also worked the connection out from that (double woo)

Sunday 16th June - Degree Show Sunday

I was coughing a fair bit during the night with this bug and whatever it is I have, and I wasn't happy. I just can't shift it and it doesn't make life easy to be honest. I was coughing a lot and managed at least to stop it during the morning as I had taken some medicine, but even so I didn't feel 100% till I'd got up, had a shower and got myself ready. I then started to make us some sausage on toast for breakfast, using some rather gorgeous Cumberland sausages I'd got from Tesco that did the job.

Whilst The Love In My Heart was getting showered and ready, I watched a documentary I'd recorded from BBC Four from Friday evening - that about Steve Winwood - titled English Soul. It showed how Steve got into music at an early age, joined the Spencer Davis Group and was soon singing the likes of classics like "Keep On Running" and "I'm A Man" before the band disbanded, Steve formed Traffic and the band went and lived in an old house in the country writing their music. It was fascinating stuff with regards to that whole era and how it worked out that their best stuff was written in between being on drugs!

Anyway, it was good to see that Steve still had it, especially as they recalled the way that the band recorded "John Barleycorn" from their "John Barleycorn Must Die" album and formed the basis of a folk song and devloped it brilliantly - tune of the day in my view. Nice to see the likes of Paul Weller giving him massive respect as well and explained how the band really were trying to fuse together all sorts of music and make it a sound of their own, and for someone like him to appreciate it showed a lot, and even Steve's later stuff when he became a three time Grammy winner in the 1980s got an airing too. He's touring at the Lowry soon, I might just have to go.

Later on The Love and I left and headed towards the city centre, but towards where I work, as the New Art School Building (to give it its current title) was housing the Manchester School of Art degree show, where lots of students show their work off and the whole building effectively becomes one large art gallery. The transformation really did show just how much effort goes into the show set up and how much also that the work seemed even more inspired in their new setting.

It also meant I could show The Love all of the building and places like the roof garden, the large open vertical gallery space and the like. We both really enjoyed the fashion stuff (The Love especially) and the photography was in parts quite thought provovking. I particularly liked the sets of images in the Link Gallery that reflected the state of many pubs being closed down, and the reasons behind it. Some of the pubs were in North Manchester and The Love and I recognised them - it was a shame to see them so derelict but it was also good that it was being documented for photography use as well.

I also liked the interior design work, with some focussing on the Northern Quarter and Manchester International Festival, and the textile designs pleased The Love, notably some of the scarves that were made that to be honest she would probably want for herself if she was able to purchase them. I for one felt massively pleased that so many people were there, the café was doing a roaring trade it really felt so much more of a space that was being utilised - it all made sense to be honest. Yaay.

Saturday 15th June - Pay Day Is A Three Course Ale Day

I headed out of the house reasonably early this morning, as I had a package to collect from the APC courier depot. They were the couriers who were delivering my order from the St Ives Brewery, namely a mixed case of 12 of their real ales - four each of Boilers, The Artists Pint and Knill by Mouth. They had put a card through the door on Wednesday to say that they'd tried to deliver, and so visiting their website, I arranged to collect it from their depot, which was close to the Premier Inn in Old Trafford, a stone's throw away from the football ground (boo! hiss! etc). However this meant it was easy peasy to reach by bus too.

Off I headed into the city centre and then out of town on the X50, and so was at the depot at around 9am. I handed my card over and showed my proof of ID, and they headed into the depot to locate the parcel for me, and out it came - all nicely packaged and safe. I headed back on the 250 bus back to the city centre and was soon home before 10am, not bad all things considered I had to go cross town and all. I unpacked and admired all the lovely real ale and I'm sure I'll enjoy some of that over the next few months or so.

I then headed back out and off towards Cheadle and had a quick look around the shops there as well as grabbed a coffee from Costa (whoever the lovely manager is with the nice neat black hair take a bow, she was really cheery to everyone and that was good to see) and then headed on the bus to Cheadle Hulme, as I wanted to check out Waitrose. Apparently we'd been informed on our Camel Valley vineyard tour that Waitrose do apparently stock the wine - but when I looked, not there. I even browsed Waitrose's wine guide and went to the English and Welsh selection - not there either. Darn! Looks like there's a place in London that does stock it though, and we'll be there soon, so... you never know.

Anyway I headed home and spent most of the afternoon sorting out the house and listening to some classic Cabaret Voltaire, including the brilliant 12" mix of "Sensoria" (make that one tune of the day) before The Love In My Heart came over. We had a cup of coffee and a chat and caught up a bit on our respective days before I started to cook the evening meal. Having my shopping ordered from Tesco meant that I was able to get the Finest Meal Deal in, and that's what we had.

So it was the mushroom soup with some nice bread to start, followed by a gorgeous chicken and mushroom puff pastry lattice together with some horseradish mash and vegetables for main, and indeed the orange and passionfruit tart for dessert. The deal also comes with a bottle of white wine, so The Love was happy with that and I had the very nice Artists Pint and Knill By Mouth from the beer selection I had earlier, so all was good there. We even watched the Million Pound Drop although I'm not really sure with the rubbish rule changes...

Friday 14th June - Friday Foodie

It was a productive day at work today as I examined our proposed new base image build in detail, and discovered a couple of issues which needed to be rectified. One is with QuickTime and to be honest it's primarily because of Apple's rubbish programming for Windows. Now to be honest, I don't mind Apple stuff whatsoever - we support tons of Macs and I don't mind using them one bit, and it's certainly the case with their mobile devices too. However, since the start of QuickTime 7, there's something rather annoying.

When you've set the preferences for QuickTime, it saves a preference file QuickTime.qtp, but rather than save it in the user profile where you'd expect it to be, it gets saved in AppData\LocalLow\AppleComputer\QuickTime instead. When you normally export a profile out in Windows, for obvious reasons it doesn't back up the LocalLow, as they're meant to be temporary preference files only locally cached, not as part of the profile itself. So after you've backed the profile up, you then have to manually copy the folder path and the file.

There's something else to note too - before you export the profile out, you've also got to clear a registry key which points to the folder path of the preferences file. The location in the registry is hard coded to the user profile in this key which is no good, so you effectively have to make sure you've deleted the registry key first. This way the user's preferences is in the correct location (the file has to be saved) and the registry key will be created based on that file location when the user logs in and the profile is created for their account. I found this out with a colleague a few years back and it still seems that the same method has to apply.

Once all that was mentioned, I spent some time sorting out some last minute stuff before tonight's all important opening night for the degree shows, where students show off their works to the masses, and then it was off for an afternoon meeting I had planned, which proved to be very useful for a considerable number of reasons. First off, it proved that I am doing a good job and that I would be valued not just by my current employers, but what it also told me was is that I'm also doing a lot of things in a positive way and that they are being noticed. More on this in the next few months or so.

Later on I headed into the city centre, and The Love In My Heart was already in the city and heading into HMV to get a present for Father's Day - and she couldn't find what she was after there. I suggested heading over the road to That's Entertainment, and what she was after was in there after all. By this time I'd headed on the bus and got off by Kro, where we'd be meeting up with some friends. I got to the front entrance and I could see The Love there, so it was lovely. We got a table in a quieter part of the place, our friends arrived and we had plenty of chat as we caught up - and it was remarked that one or two of my pictures were really good, which was nice to hear.

We then walked through the city and headed to Olive in Lloyd Street, which I'd booked for the four of us. I'm a member of their dining club which means you get 40% off the food bill when you book in advance, and judging by the fact the restaurant was very busy, I was glad that we had booked. We soon were shown to a nice cosy table, and conversation and drinks flowed freely as we spent some quality time with some quality food, and some nice ambience generally, which is always good.

I had the crispy mushrooms to start, which were two type of mushrooms crispy coated and with a nice garlic mayonnaise on a wooden board. It looked and indeed tasted gorgeous, as did the spaghetti carbonara that I had for the main meal as well. The Love equally had some lovely food too - with a beautiful chicken liver paté to start followed by the Italian sausage and mushroom troflette pasta, which I must admit I'll have to try next time - it looked really good and smelt beautiful too. I even had some ice cream for dessert.

Later on once our friends had headed homewards, The Love and I headed back to Kro for a final late evening drink together. It did seem much more chilled out and it was nice just to be all cosied up and enjoying the company together. The time went by far too quickly though and it was soon time to say goodbye to The Love as she headed on the tram home and I took the bus, with for some reason New Order's "Confusion" having been in my head all night, playing again - tune of the day that is, and the original 1983 12" version at that no less.

Thursday 13th June - Cough and Splutter

For some reason I had all sorts of difficulty in sleeping last night. I did feel a bit bunged up but it was more in the throat department, it felt a bit dry and tickly but also like there was something stuck in the throat but not effectively moving, which wasn't good. I made sure later on the way home that I managed to get some mucus cough medicine, which I took when I got home and will do before bed, and see if that'll clear anything and get things shifted out of the way.

It was a productive day all round though - I spent some time with Mozilla Firefox 17.0.6 ESR and endeavoured to get it all packaged up for use in our next Windows 7 build. As it turned out, it wasn't too bad but I wanted to make sure our reading aloud software (Texthelp Read and Write) could read web pages in the browser. The version 10.0.1 of the software had to be updated to 10.0.6 so it even recognised the new version of Firefox to start with (noted for our build people) and then I had to add the Firefox extension - pretty easy to do. One final thing was that it was better to have Read and Write running first, then the browser and so you'd then be able to select the text and read it - which worked properly. Hurrah.

I also then looked at our Group Policy shortcuts for Adobe Design and Web Premium CS6 for the student builds - if they're going to go with 64 bit then it's important that we have the shortcuts actually working. Now, normally if a program is 32 and 64 bit native, it'll install to C:\Program Files\vendor name\program.exe or something similar. Unfortunately Adobe decided that for its 64 bit native stuff, it'd go to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop (64 bit)\Photoshop.exe which effectively meant that it would need a different shortcut (as they're all item level targeted based on the executable being present to stop wrong shortcuts appearing)

Anyway, with some of the remaining programs installing in a different location on 64 bit (C:\Program Files (x86) of course) then I ended up being crafty with the Group Policy Management editor. You can actually copy and paste the shortcuts, and then modify the copy as needed so that the path to the file is the right one, as well as the dependency on that file in the item level targeting. However it keeps all the targeting intact when you copy it, so how much easier did that make the job? Very much so let me tell you. It didn't then take too long.

Later on when I got home I was waiting in from around 6pm as I had my online Tesco grocery delivery. I asked for no bags this time and so had to unpack from the boxes on to my dining room table, when I could then sort out and put away. However, the advantage was some extra green Clubcard points, so everyone was a winner on that score to be honest. It is just a fair bit easier to do, saves me having to spend more than I need to or be tempted by other stuff, and also means I don't have to traipse around - a winner all round really.

Tune of the day comes from the New Order "Retro" box set, which I have the 4CD plus limited edition 5th CD of. It's always good to pick some classic Manchester sounds, but especially on this first CD because you get stuff that wasn't at the time on CD, such as the original 1982 12" version of "Temptation" which sounds a bit more immediate and punchy than the smoother 1987 Substance version - and it's a tune, so that's the one I'mn picking. And indeed we're talking on the same CD the 12" version of Confusion (the original one!) too as well, so epic win there. Read my review from back in the day..

Wednesday 12th June - I Want To Find Out Who I Am, In A Caravan

I had had a pretty long day today at work, primarily because all of the network sockets that I needed to patch in the afternoon. I had spent some time getting our cable contractors back out to finish off the remaining work, and once that was done I was then able to get them all patched in and tested at our socket end. It was also rather warm inside the network cab room and so was glad of the more fresher air when I headed to the first floor of the building, and found that the printer was also being delivered that I'd asked to be taken over.

I then realised of course that although all networked up and connected, the printer wasn't going to talk because the printer's network address was going to be different - it was on a different network to the one it had been moved from, and so as such needed to be amended. I emailed one of my colleagues to let me know what address we needed to be changed to, and then I knew I could instigate that in the morning. I then finalised the day off by spending some time amending my diagram of the room layouts by adding the new network points and so Photoshop was just the ticket for that.

I arrived home and sorted out a few things around the house, including the mass of more washing of towels I needed to, and then kicked back with a bit of telly, and no less telly than this series of the Apprentice. To be honest I haven't been too meithered watching it but I did see a bit last week and had to gasp at how lacking in common sense and nouse the contestants actually were. I thought "let's just see if it was a one off for some reason", and I was soon to find out that it actually wasn't whatsoever.

The task was effectively to head to Birmingham, decide on three different price ranged items (including a caravan, trailer camper etc at around £10k!) and then try their utmost to sell them for the supplier. As it turned out, one team got the two smaller priced items they wanted (the kids' camping box and the electric assisted bike) and sensibly picked the folding tent trailer, which had sold the most out of all the über-expensive items. One sales woman from the team that lost the smaller items was clearly trying too hard to drive a bargain and annoying the hell out of the representative of the company concerned - I was surprised she wasn't in the boardroom at the end.

So with items picked, one day of hard sell. And I have to say the selling went pretty much as I thought - the ones who had got the items they wanted to sell and had worked out what to do, won very easily - in fact so much so they won on their small items alone and had sold three of the folding trailer tents for around £30k. It wasn't that much of a surprise due to the sheer margin of victory that in the end the losing team had two people fired - and in fact it was a case of knowing that even with a tactical move to have one woman put in thinking he'd be safe because of previous boardroom encounters, it was satisfying that they both were axed - although to be honest I'd have axed the whole lot.

Anyway, a tune came into my head and a tune I have the CD single of no less - "Holiday" by Pullover. It's a great little indie pop song from 1996 and basically describes lots of things about being on a seaside holiday in the UK: "I want to eat chips, and sit on the prom" along with "Go to the fair and win a toy, and call it Monkey" - you get the idea. But the best line of all is in the chorus and did remind me of how those on the Apprentice should have known it: "I want to find out who I am... in a caravan". Complete with The Wedding Present-esque guitar jangle during the chorus, it's hard not to like it really. Tune of the day obviously, and there's even a corresponding video (check the lead singer - very Mari Wilson inspired hairdo!)

Tuesday 11th June - A Partridge on CSI TV

I had another fairly hectic day as work, and some of the ground work I was doing today was getting things in place for the forthcoming move of a department for next week, where they'd be looking at moving stuff over, and I wanted everything to be in place for them to be right as much as I could. I did in fact have to spend a bit of time patching in some sockets that had been made live, and all was well there. It does look much more like an office that'll be used, so I'm hoping that it'll be all good for the rest of the week just to finish things off.

I also spent some time working on a couple of things including packaging the newest versions of Dropbox for SCCM. Bizarrely though, on a 32 bit machine it's 2.0.23 and on a 64-bit machine it's 2.0.25. Still, I followed our usual way that we've worked out to package it, and set up a task sequence to do the job. What it does is prompt the user to make sure they've closed Dropbox within 90 seconds, and they can click OK if they have. After 90 seconds the Dropbox task will be killed anyway, and then either the 32 or 64 bit version will install, depending on OS. Simple to execute in the end but it's all the prep work that makes it happen.

Later on once I headed home I got everything cleaned up and ready for the visit of The Love In My Heart, and whilst she was enjoying Emmerdale I cooked up some tagliatelle carbonara, which worked pretty well on the whole. We ate that in between seeing the second half of The Apprentice from last Wednesday (as it was repeated on BBC Three) and it was intriguing to see just how bad the contestants were at sorting out a corporate awayday - too much faffing, not enough doing to be honest.

We then saw a repeat of Don't Tell The Bride on BBC Three (although Sandown Park racecourse as a wedding reception venue looked pretty cool with the way that you'd overlook the course) and then on to Channel 5 and CSI. It had David Cassidy in it as a poker player who was murdered, and The Love said "Isn't he from the Partridge family" (before she recognised who it was) which made me smile - as that's what I'm sure Mum would have remembered him from as well.

It was a great episode, and particularly so as Greg was in his mode, recalling the great gamblers of Vegas and how it transpired that some of the folks were elaborately cheating to make sure they beat someone, who would find it all too much. Of course it was then a case of working out who did it, and in the tense finish, Morgan did her bit and had to get the gun out. Lovely touch more so when he and her dad (now Sheriff Ecklie no less) decided to do dinner together after her tough day, and more of a sign of their closeness coming back which was a beautiful thing. Naturally though that's some light after the darkness of Sara and Grissom's divorce being official...

Tune of the day though has to be something that made a lot of sense to listen to when I got home tonight: "Lament" by Ultravox. I was remembeing when I lived at home and how that album (and title song) was played quite a bit when I was a teenager - we had the limited vinyl release with the book with the lyrics and pictures, and the title track was one that was played quite a bit on one holiday that year - I think it'd been recorded on to tape from vinyl and then played in the car at the time extensively. Always makes me smile when I see Midge Ure solo do anything from that album and this especially.

Monday 10th June - Back To Work

It felt a little unusual getting up at the normal early time of day and having to head to work, it has to be said. I think primarily because I'd been so in the zone having got used to heading out for days out in Cornwall at whatever time we saw fit, and also because we'd had such a good time. Still, I knew that everything happened for a reason and so I headed off on the bus to work, full of thoughts in my head and thinking of stuff I had to catch up on when I got there.

I sifted through a raft of emails and basically spent most of the morning doing that, before moving on in the afternoon to check over the poorly Macbook Pro I'd been looking at before I headed on my holiday. In fact I knew I'd give it a good go of copying some more data over (namely the user's videos folder) by using the cp command in Terminal, effectively browsing to the main user's folder on the broken hard disk and then doing a cp -r Movies - and then pasting the backup drive folder name by a drag and drop into Terminal thus giving it the correct path even with spaces involved. I set it off overnight knowing there may be some salvageable data there.

It was good to head home and I then later on headed over to Tesco near me. I didn't actualy need much as such to be honest, it was mainly just some small bits such as bread for my sandwiches for lunch, as well as some ham, and also some milk, water and a few other little bits. The good thing was that quite a bit of the shopping I'd got two weeks before was still usable in the house, so it meant I didn't have to head out and purchase even a quarter as much as I thought I might have had to do otherwise. Happy days, obviously.

I settled in the evening and did a bit of catch up on the telly, watching last Tuesday's CSI that I'd recorded. It was a really good episode all round, not least because of that weird stalker being back and setting everything up for Sara to fall into some form of trap (except of course her sleeping pill drugs had been altered so that she'd be completely asleep and not remember anything). However, it was good to see Nick and Greg stick by her and soon realise it was all a set up by the stalker, and Officer Crawford kicked backside at the end in a way that Brass himself would have been proud of.

It was also good to finish off the shed load of ironing that I'd had to do over the last couple of evenings as well, so effectively everything on holiday had been washed, cleaned and ironed and put back in their places, meaning I could put the large case back for another few months or so at least. In fact to be honest I've probably got a large case too many now, so I might have to look at getting rid of that one. I felt better though for finishing all of the ironing through so it's another task done. Tune of the day in the meantime is "I Know It's Over" by The Smiths, for a few different reasons!

Sunday 9th June - Afternoon Tea In The Back Garden

The Love In My Heart and I had in invitation from my Mum to head over in the afternoon for a spot of light lunch / stroke / tea and some drinks, and with the weather forecast for being nice it meant we could of course sit out at the table on the back porch and enjoy the back garden as well, so that was quite a good idea. In the morning, I had finished sorting through the many pictures I'd taken during our week's trip to Cornwall and had at least worked out the ones I was going to upload - of which there were a few.

Looking back there were considerable memories from the week that we'd had, but certainly it was nice to see some new things and as such the Camel Valley Vineyard tour was one really enjoyable day (even if the buses did let it down slightly in terms of not being on time) but also the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum and the gorgeous house and gardens at Godolphin were other highlights as well, so all good there I think. I do want to go back - and sooner than I'd like to think, hopefully. We shall see.

We headed to Mum's and it was a nice time all told as we spent the afternoon with her, one of her friends and my brother, and we had some lovely food, and a few drinks too. It was good to catch up and chat of course and I showed Mum the pics from the holiday - and you could tell that she was thinking that we had had such a great time and caught the sun too. The Love looked rather lovely in her dress of course, and that just really did make me feel even more proud and special because she was there with me.

Later on I watched the Canadian Grand Prix, which was on proper telly (ie BBC1) and everything. Even though Sebastian Vettel won pretty easily, the battles for the places (especially Alonso and Hamilton for 2nd) were really good and even lower down the order plenty of racing was going on. Whatever has been done to improve the tyres for this race worked too - drivers on the limit a lot more and to be brutally honest, I want to see that. F1 should be about drivers on the limit and going for it, and just a shame that they had to interview Ross Brawn of Mercedes just as Alonso was getting past Hamilton, darn!

Anyway, it was good to see some proper racing and if it's like that at Silverstone in three weeks time (and it's also on proper telly) then that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Whilst I'd still rather that the BBC have all the races live and do a proper job of showing them all in their glory and still haven't forgiven them for that, I do think that they've still got David Coulthard, who to be fair knows his stuff and works superbly as an excellent pundit (he and Ben Edwards really do work nicely actually) - and because of course he's been there, done it, knows the people to talk to, and all that sort of thing. Tune of the day was easy - "The Chain" by Fleetood Mac. Whoever made the decision to have that back as the theme tune when the BBC regained coverage way back in 2009- I salute you!

Saturday 8th June - On Our Way Home

I felt rather sad as I headed home today - sad to be leaving Cornwall behind and its beautiful weather that we'd had all week, with only a few drops of rain on Friday afternoon, which soon went away. However, today was rather different. It was cloudy and threatening to chuck it down, and there'd also been an electrical storm close to Falmouth overnight which meant that some of the branch line trains there had been cancelled for safety reasons, with the rain being particularly concerning.

We left the apartment and walked down to Carbis Bay station and boarded the St Ives Branch Line train back to St Erth. As this train was heading to Penzance, it meant we got off the same platform as we'd get on for the train to Cheltenham Spa, and the guard at the station informed us that the first class carriage was at the rear. We'd get on, put the luggage in the rack and be sat in two comfortable seats with a nice view out of the window. I have to say the Voyager was better than the HST in terms of comfort, but we were also glad that we booked first clas too.

By the time the train left Plymouth, standard class was rammed, as lots of people were heading to Newton Abbot (to get off for Torquay) and Exeter, and we were able to sit back in comfort. After Plymouth our train manager Carrie (who was lovely and calm and polite to everyone she met, even with her announcements) asked us all what drinks we'd like and brought us over some coffee and biscuits, well welcomed by us. She did the same as we headed from Exeter to Tiverton before she left at Taunton, but did a really good job in encouraging passengers to use the large luggage racks, not to block seats etc, and was a real credit to CrossCountry. Can we have all your staff like her, please?

The train eventually emptied a fair bit when we got to Bristol Temple Meads, but First Class had never been full and to be honest was well worth what we paid just for the comfort factor. CrossCountry need to look at the 0825 Penzance to Glasgow train though and think about either using a HST or two Voyagers back to back to ensure enough room for everyone, not just First Class ticket holders. Our journey was very relaxing though and we got to Cheltenham Spa right on time at 1309.

I went over to the café on the other platform and got us both some lunch, and we then headed back on the 1341 departure to Manchester from there which went via Birmingham New Street, and indeed Bournville on the way into Birmingham. At this point the iPod played Metallica's One, which almost timed itself so when in New Street the "darkness, imprisoning me" line from that song played. For that alone I need to give it tune of the day - it was almost as if the iPod knew something was amiss.

We got into Manchester Piccadilly at around 4pm, right on time, and it was hard to say goodbye to The Love In My Heart, but a nice big hug helped massively. She had to contend with the masses heading to the Bon Jovi gig at the Etihad on her way home and I missed one bus but another one came soon and was empty, so a nice smooth ride back homewards. I watched the Canadian Grand Prix qualifying later and reflected on a lovely week with the most lovely woman, and a perfect way to celebrate our five years together. Now to see how the pictures came out...

Friday 7th June - On The Beach

The Love In My Heart and I were going to make the most of the last day, and so first off we headed into St Ives, as she wanted to get a gift for her parents, as did I for my Mum. It was lovely to peruse the shops, and I had an ice cream although that almost went wayward when a seagull decided to try and take it from me - it did surprise me somewhat but there you go. We walked along the lower pier and you got a lovely view of the fishing boats and the harbour too.

With our purchases done, it was time to head back to Carbis Bay, drop almost everything, and then walk down the steep hill on Beach Road which took you to Carbis Bay Beach. The little café sold all sorts of food, including pasties and paninis so later on I got myself a pasty and The Love a cheese and ham panini - which looked lovely. Even more so when I had another seagull decide to swoop down low and attempt to swipe the pasty off me - which it definitely wasn't doing. There's some good lunch in that you know!

We spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach, with me having my iPod Nano in for some tunes, which meant I could lie back and relax even more. I did go for the occasional paddle in the sea, which initially felt cold till I got used to the temperature, and that was rather nice. During one paddle I got an unexpected but welcome sight - a seal in the distance swimming along - which I quickly pointed out to The Love, and that for both of us was a lovely thing to see. Who would have thought it eh?

My music was on shuffle, so lots of different tunes were being played but one of them which really made a lot of sense was "Sunshine" by The Icicles, a perfect happy song for a happy day - and that just gave me a big smile on the face, so tune of the day was pretty easy really. In fact the time whizzed by and before we knew it, we'd been on the beach for four hours and it was 5pm. We were heading out in the evening so we headed home up the hill but safe in the knowledge that the afternoon on the beach was all lovely, which is what we want.

We decided that it was no more walking up the hill on Porthrepta Road, and so it was down to the station in good time for the 1856 train from Carbis Bay to St Ives, and The Love looked beautiful in her gold dress, and I'd put on my long sleeved Fred Perry shirt and was looking smart. The plan was to head to the Lifeboat Inn for tea as the pub looked lovely when we went in earlier in the week, and the food was also looking good. The Love was spot on with her decision to go here and although I would have treated her to the Porthminster Beach Café (supposedly really epic food) this suited us really nicely.

We started off with a starter, what they called a light bite. To be honest if you'd had one of these for lunch you'd have not been disappointed. The Love had the duck and chorizo bruschetta, which was crammed full of the two meats, hoi sin sauce and spring onion, all on nice thick bruschetta slices. I had the garlic mushrooms, served on two large pieces of garlic bread, and that was just delicious - the garlic bread alone would have happily sufficed to be honest, never mind the rest of it!

The main meal was even better (and believe me that took a lot of doing). The Love had the Cornish Pasty, which had won awards, and you had the option of having a jug of gravy or not. She decided to, and I think that helped, as the pasty was nice but for her it would have needed more moisture, so the gravy did the job and by all accounts was very lovely. However, mine was even nicer. It was the steak and ale pie and effectively it was part of a massive pie, real pastry, proper pie and all that, and crammed full of steak and mushrooms, soaked in Tribute Ale.

Put it this way: it's now my number one pie of all time, even beating The White Hart in St Austell (which I thought never would happen!) and it was just too delicious not to enjoy and take the time with it, and a pint of Tribute even helped more. If you're in St Ives, my recommendation is to head to the Lifeboat Inn and have that pie, or indeed anything else off the menu. It was a great meal all round and it wasn't even that expensive either, so you get great food, great beer, really friendly attentive staff who are polite and lovely - what more could I want? Nothing really. It's pietastic!

We headed for one final drink at the Castle Inn where I had the Sharp's Special Ale, and then before we knew it, it was time to head back to the Malakoff to catch the 17B bus back to Carbis Bay and then down Porthrepta Road and back to the apartment. We both felt really snuggly as we retired to sleep but I also felt really sad knowing that it was soon to be the end of our holiday and one that we'd enjoyed massively. I would love to go back to this apartment again (but as The Love said, maybe she'd hire a car next time) and just to sit by the window to admire the view was more than enough.

Thursday 6th June - Porthcurno and the Epic Bus Journey

We had a long lie in this morning - as all the travelling yesterday had made us both pretty tired. It did mean though that the sleep did us the world of good and we therefore were up and ready for action. We decided it'd be nice to head to Porthcurno, head around the Telegraph Museum there and then on to the beach for a lot of sun, sea and sand in that order. We knew we could do it with the right bus timings and so just before 12 noon we headed on the 17A bus out of Carbis Bay and into Penzance, where we'd get the open top 300 bus, the Cornwall Explorer.

The open top bus took you through Newlyn and towards Lamorna Cove, past the Merry Maidens in Lamorna, through the pretty village of St Buryan with its church and down the steep slopes towards Treen and back out again before making its turn down the road which leads you to the valley where Porthcurno is - a beautiful village and one that you could very easily fall in love with (and let me tell you, it's not difficult to!). We could see the Telegraph Museum from the bus stop and so headed there, fresh and renewed from our sleep.

The Love In My Heart and I really did enjoy the museum, with lots of informative exhibits in the main museum building and plenty for families and children to do, especially the uses of light and how that even was used to transmit signals, dressing up in old costumes and looking like the staff back in the day, and informative history of the cable station and how it eventually became part of Cable and Wireless in the 1930s. Their foundations in laying undersea cables for communication still happens today with fibreoptic cables, and the principles apply in equal measures.

We then went into the tunnels, which were built to keep the instruments and equipment safe during the second world war in case the site was bombed. In fact three bombs exploded at a nearby farm and as such the telegraph company and the Government knew that to keep this vital hub safe it needed to be underground. The tunnels are housed with plenty of equipment which translated signals sent via the cables into telegrams and messages, and seeing how these all operated was fascinating stuff.

And you simply have to climb the escape stairs. Yes, I know there's 112 of them, but when The Love and I headed to the top, the view was simply beautiful, with the mast behind us and the Porthcurno valley below, and you really did feel like you'd climbed up into another world, almost. The hard hat is handy too as some of the rocks protrude quite low, and you don't want to hit your head on them. We then saw the rest of the tunnels and the radio room as well as admire the sculptures in the sculpture garden, including the Lissajous Wave Ring, which was a fascinating combination of mathematics and astrology. Epic stuff.

With that done, we headed down the beach at Porthcurno, with its deep blue sea and headlands either side, it really felt inspiring to be there to be honest. We sat there despite the odd wind and enjoyed the sun, and I headed up the coastal path towards the Minack Theatre but also to get a more dramatic view of Porthcurno itself which was well worth it. The Minack seemed busy with people taking the tour of the theatre (the show wasn't on till the evening) but I couldn't help but think they missed a trick by having the café only accessible to theatre visitors..

We had also had some lunch from the Porthcurno Beach Café too by this point - I had a gorgeous pasty and I got The Love a ham sandwich which looked very good indeed. The café had won awards for its food and cream tea and I was tempted to have one later but resisted, only because I'd had the pasty and that was enough to keep me going to be honest. It was nice though to stand on the beach, hence the Cure song "Killing an Arab" came into my head - tune of the day right there simply because of that.

We then left Porthcurno and headed back on the Cornwall Explorer 300 bus again, this time staying in the clockwise direction, so we headed via Polgigga (where the driver got his eggs from a local farm and used the honesty box) and then to Lands' End, where a woman was waiting at the first and last bus stop (depending on which end to ender you are!) for the bus the other way, and then it headed to Sennen, down to Sennen Cove and back again before going past Lands' End Airport on the way to St Just.

The journey from here meant that the B3306 was taking on some fairly narrow roads as it headed towards Pendeen and Geevor Tin Mine, Boscaswell, and then Morvah before turning at the Gurnards Head Hotel and off towards Zennor. The landscapes were rocky, the wildlife was out (lots of rabbits, I noted) and it felt epic. Eventually we started to head on the long downhill run into St Ives, and got to the bus station at the Malakoff. We stayed on till the Tesco in St Ives, where we'd get a Tesco Finest Meal Deal for our tea, which we enjoyed later on.

It was an epic journey though - it took around 1 hour 40 minutes all in all and some breathtaking scenery. The Love stayed downstairs out of the wind but I was on top, soaking in all the views (and wind!) but it was massively worth it just for that. The Love did say that it took ages although some of the sights were worth it, and certainly if you ever are down the far end of Cornwall, you could get on at Penzance and do the 3 hours 20 minutes or so that it takes to do the whole loop - believe me, if you like scenery and buses, you're in. It was truly a wonderful thing to do and in some ways one of my highlights!

Wednesday 5th June - Camel Valley Vineyard

Today was a planned day that we had, due to me purchasing the tickets online in advance to make sure we were able to do so. I know that The Love In My Heart adores wine and so what better way to spend the day than to head to a vineyard that's actually won awards for its wine? Yes, the Camel Valley Vineyard was where we were heading, in Nanstallon close to Bodmin and Dunmere. I'd worked out that we needed to get the train from Carbis Bay to Bodmin Parkway, then the bus from there to Dunmere and walk the Camel Trail towards Nanstallon and the vineyard.

To do that none of the buses were First buses, and so it worked out better to get the Ride Cornwall ticket for the day. This allowed unlimited travel on all the Cornwall buses and trains for £10 each, and as the train fare would have been £9.50 to Bodmin Parkway return anyway, it did make plenty of sense for us to do that and have the flexibility in the travel options too. We got to Carbis Bay, and it did seem a little cloudy at first, which we hoped wasn't going to prove conducive. By the time we got to Bodmin Parkway, all was well and the sun was out - so hurrah to that.

We waited for the 555 bus which normally takes you to Padstow, and we'd be getting off at the Borough Arms in Dunmere for joining the Camel Trail. The bus was late, and as it turned out, it was down to the Royal Cornwall Show taking place at the Showground near Wadebridge. The bus happens to pass there and so as stall holders etc were setting up today, this inevitably meant a traffic queue and so the bus was effectively late playing catch up. The driver sped back to Bodmin and had to really brake sharp as it headed down the hill as we got off at Dunmere!

A very nice sandwich and drink in the Borough Arms followed before we joined the Camel Trail at what used to be Dunmere Halt station, heading westwards past Boscarne Junction (one of the termini of the Bodmin and Wenford Railway) as well as Nanstallon Halt, where we walked up a steep hill and from there followed the signs along a country lane and up to the vineyard. We made sure we got our little card tickets for the tour, which meant we were able to have a glass of wine at the end, and sat on the terrace admiring the view over the Camel Valley.

We were taken on the tour by Sarah, who was very lovely and knowledgeable and was keen to answer any questions. We did think one person was asking too many questions - sort of like he wanted to set up himself but get the ideas off those who had done it first. It was good to see the many fields with the vines in, all South facing, and how they'd be carefully looked after to grow the grapes needed, and indeed the barn where all the rest of the wine making and machinery was kept - many of it sourced from Italy - and the whole process of what they did was explained succinctly. The whole thing lasted an hour and was very interesting.

We got back to the shop and the terrace, and I tried out the white Bacchus, whilst The Love tried the sparkling red, which she said was gorgeous. We sat on the balcony, admired the view in the sunshine, and just relaxed - could life get any better than this? We even got another glass ourselves - I went for their orchard cider, which was stunningly lovely, and The Love tried another wine which met with her approval. It was nice just to sip slowly, take in the sun, and not feel like a care in the world.

We left around 4.30pm and headed back down the hills to Nanstallon, following the Camel Valley trail back to Dunmere and waiting at the bus stop for what seemed like much longer than we should have done (In fact the Kinks' classic "Tired of Waiting For You" is tune of the day as it aptly describes Western Greyhound's 555 service today). Eventually the bus turned up and some passengers dared to ask how late it was, which was met with a brisk stern response by the driver.

We did get back to Bodmin Parkway just in time for the train which would take us to St Erth, and we changed there, headed to St Ives and then to the Harbour Café for some lovely fish and chips for the evening, which were rather good. I had the apple crumble with clotted cream for dessert, and that was the best dessert I had all week - the crumble was luscious, the apples just the right side of moist, and the clotted cream to go with it even had some of the top layer on. I could have gone back and had that again and again to be honest, and marked a perfect end to another lovely day - and still the sun shone. I commented to The Love on how lucky we'd been with the weather.

Tuesday 4th June - Godolphin and Good Bargaining

It was a more leisurely sort of day for us today as after breakfast we headed up the hill on Porthrepta Road to the bus stop, and this time took the 14 bus to Camborne, where we then changed and got the 39 bus towards Helston, which would take us through the very pretty villages of Reawla and Leedstown, then Townsend before the driver very kindly dropped us off right outside the entrance to Godolphin - a National Trust property we'd never visited and where the house is on average only open one week in four. This happened to be the week it was open, so too good an opportunity to miss really.

The house itself had mainly been converted into living spaces which you could rent, but keeping in with the building itself, so all very well there - and the money raised would at least help maintain the outbuildings such as the barn, with the cockerel and hens in the gardens of the barn, and indeed the beautiful gardens, which alone are well worth the visit. They're also encouraging some bees to pollenate so one far corner of the garden is effectively where the beehives are. The bees are plentiful so if you don't want to get stung, stay away. I didn't, and I got stung on the head for my troubles. Maybe a protective head net might have been nice?

The hidden ponds and the gardens date back many years and you can see why anyone would love to preserve it so well, it was being maintained by the gardener and that really did show the love and care. We even sat outside with a little café close to the exit of the house, where I had another gorgeous pasty and The Love had the rather nice sandwich, and with a coffee that was just the thing for our early afternoon's visit. We had a couple sit on the same bench and they were very nice to chat to - just normal everyday people out on a day out, like we were. That's the sort of thing I don't mind!

We then timed our exit well so that the 39 bus would stop for us and head back to Camborne, and when we did get on the 14 we got off at Hayle and had a quick wander around the shops there, and indeed the little estuary harbour that housed a number of boats, and also a little floral arrangement that depicted it a world heritage site as well, good to see. It was then back on the 14 to Carbis Bay, and we spent the afternoon relaxed in the sun on the balcony, playing a couple of games of Scrabble with Swing Out Sister's gorgeous music in the background - "Beautiful Mess" seemed appropriate somehow - just a lovely song, so that's tune of the day.

We got changed to head out in the evening and had a plan - I'd had an email from Pizza Express on Monday with a voucher code to show which meant two courses for £10 - plus we could have any starter, any Classic or Leggera pizza or even a pasta for the price, no complaints there. There was one in the centre of St Ives overlooking the harbour, and we got a table there too. The Love had the new bruschetta with mushrooms, and it looked divine, and I had the risotto d'Oro, which was a creamy white wine sauce with butternut squash, and actually very tasty! I had the La Reine pizza for main, and The Love had the Pollo Pesto, which looked rather good too.

After that it was a short walk down to the Lifeboat Inn, where I had a pint of the St Austell Brewery's Trelawny ale - and that was gorgeous! The food in there looked lovely so we might have to visit there one night I reckon, and the atmosphere was lovely. We ended the day by walking to Smeaton's Pier where a tall ship had docked in the bay for the evening, and we were able to see it relatively close up. It was almost like a scene from the Onedin Line (if anyone remembers that!) and a perfect end to a lovely day. Was it really half way through the holiday already?

Oh, and one final thing. We passed the arcade, The Love put a £1 coin into the grabber machine and first go, she managed to get a really nice soft teddy which looked lovely, with little patches on its paws. Quite a few of the locals were impressed with her prowess, saying that they'd put a fair bit of money in. When she told them it was the second soft toy that she'd won on the same machine, they were even more impressed. Woo! Get my gorgeous lovely girlfriend being super skilled, eh?

Monday 3rd June - St Michael's Mount and Mousehole

After a leisurely breakfast, The Love In My Heart and I headed on the Cornwall Explorer 300 open top bus to Marazion, where St Michael's Mount resides. The Mount is a true iconic landmark and when the tide is low you can actually walk over the causeway to the Mount. However, the tide had already gone in and you could see most of the causeway submerged, so no chance of us doing that today. We instead headed along part of the causeway to a rock, where steps took you to a small landing harbour where little boats ferried you across to the Mount itself - a quick and pleasant journey all round really and certainly a different way to arrive.

We headed in to the main entrance and up the Pilgrims' Steps, past the Giant's Well and the Giant's Heart (which I eventually found on the way down after looking again) and to the top of the Mount, where the impressive cannons would have protected the mount back in the day. We stepped into the house, and as befitting a household that's been there for centuries, you could feel the history as you walked in, from the Chevy Chase dining room, the library with comfortable chairs, to the stairs to the servants' kitchen, and the North Terrace with its inbuilt lookout post.

We also liked the Samurai Warrior's outfit as well as the hidden tunnels which would come in useful if the house was bombed in the war too - but seeing them so well preserved is a credit to both the family and the National Trust, who work together to keep it so well - a good partnership there and long may it continue. We also got to see the chapel and inside it, with its small seats but inspiring stained glass windows - really lovely all round to be honest.

We then headed for some lunch, I had the Cornish pasty which was spot on, and The Love had a sandwich but also had some nice St Ives Brewery lager, which actually tasted spot on and was one she'd want to try again. Feeling refreshed, we hit the gardens, checked out the almost hidden lookout positions which helped guard Mounts' Bay during the second World War, and then up the steps and along the many gardens in the cliffs. We both loved the Walled Garden and that really was a delight, sitting at a bench there and admiring the view massively.

We headed back down and the tide was now at its highest, so unless you fancied a swim over, it was back on the boat, landing at another landing point because the tide was now too high to get to Chapel Rock where we'd set off earlier. It was then a short walk back into the centre of Marazion, and before too long a bus arrived to take us to Penzance, where we'd then head on another bus which took us out of Penzance, through Alverton and Newlyn and to the very pretty little village of Mousehole. It's a small bus for a reason - the streets are narrow!

We had a walk around the harbour, the lovely shops and indeed the views from there were lovely over the bay. We also spotted an honesty box where you'd put a pound in the little slot in the door and take away some sea shells - and as The Love likes them, she did just that, which was a nice touch all round to do. I even went to an ice cream shop that did the Roskilly's orange and mascarpone ice cream - my favourite flavour ever - and so that was me being one happy little bunny to be honest. We headed back to Penzance, took a quick walk around a couple of shops and headed on the bus back to Carbis Bay, and had some tea in the apartment and admired the view and sunset.

Tune of the day is a somewhat poignant one, as the bus headed from Newlyn to Mousehole we passed the lifeboat station at Penlee, which is where a tragedy was to befall some of the crew in 1981 as they struggled to save a sinking ship and many of them gave their lives in doing so. This is commemorated beautifully by Seth Lakeman in the song "Solomon Browne" and as the bus entered the village I had that in my head, and somehow it just fitted - as pretty as it looks, it's good to respect the history of the place too.

Sunday 2nd June - A Coastal Walk to St Ives

We decided that it'd be nice to take a leisurely walk into St Ives by following the South West Coast Path from Carbis Bay, meaning we'd get to see the coastline in a different way and also meant a good bit of exercise to boot. We had some breakfast and left the apartment, headed down the hill past the train station and down the steep hill that is Beach Road to Carbis Bay Beach, where we stayed and admired the view before heading back up past the Carbis Bay Hotel and up the steps to the left, and along the path, up the steps over the railway bridge, and along a relatively flat path for a while.

We got to see some of the beautiful houses situated close to Porthminster Point and only accessible via a road that doubles as the coast path - pretty hairy at night I imagine - and when you got to the point itself and admired the view from the Huer's Hut there, you could see just why people would love it so much and want to be there. It was a gradual downhill walk from here as the path headed over the railway bridge so it was back on the coast side, and then down a hill and some steps before hitting Porthminster Beach, with its lovely café. We had a coffee and sat on the tables in front of the cafe and on the beach. This is the life, indeed.

We headed along the path, and on the main seafront road in St Ives, Beach Road. We even went into the one amusement arcade there, I did well on the 10p falls, but not as well as The Love In My Heart, who succeeded well on the grabber machine and managed to get herself a lookalike Me To You bear with a life guard's outfit on! It did look cute and he would sit in the top of The Love's bag for the rest of the day as we walked around. We got to see a lot of the harbour and indeed the very pretty Smeaton's Pier, where I walked to the end to see the lighthouse and admire the view of the harbour from there.

After a quick rest, we then walked back along the shops just behind Wharf Road in the very pretty Fore Street, and on this narrow street there were plenty of art and craft shops, places that sold beautiful produce, and even a shop that stocked all the local Cornish ales and ciders, which was a very popular place to go for many - us included! We then headed into a few shops to peruse, and after stopping off at a little café for some lunch we headed to Porthmeor Beach and had it there.

We also did both the Tate places in St Ives - the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden was first. I really liked the way that her former house and studio was being so well kept, with informative displays about the artist and a guide to her work (some of which we have images of in the apartment) - and outside in the garden, in the sunshine, it was simply lovely to see some of her original works being given the pride of place in such a beautifully well kept garden. I really liked Spring, which was an oval object with string to look more like a musical instrument - inspiring and thought provoking at the same time.

We got a ticket for both museums and in fact we could go back and visit the other (Tate St Ives) within the next 7 days, but we decided to do both in one afternoon as it meant we could enjoy the art and have an afternoon of it. In fact you were given special permission to take a picture of Curved Form (Trevalgan) as it faced the front of the Tate with a view of the beach beyond, and it was too good a view to miss. The museum itself even had some works by Linder (Linder Sterling that is, formerly Morrissey's photographer) which of course as a Morrissey fan I found pretty inspiring!

We headed to the Tate café upstairs and I was pleased to note that they had local real ales and local ciders for purchase to drink on the roof terrace, which we did. The Love had the Polgoon pink cider, which was a light cider with a hint of raspberry, and that was gorgeous by all accounts (I did try a bit). The Polgoon orchard is near Penzance, so pretty close. I had the St Ives Brewery's "Boilers" ale and that was gorgeous - even The Love said that she would easily have that with no problem. It was stunning and just to sit there in the sun with the beach in front of us, what more could we want?

We headed back along the coastal path to Carbis Bay, where we even saw the St Ives Branch line train as we crossed the railway bridge, so that was good timing on our part, and we headed back to the apartment, where we got changed and headed out on the bus (we bought a weekly family ticket, two adults and up to three children for £35 on all First buses in the area, so £17.50 each effectively) and into Penzance, where the Dolphin Inn was waiting for us. I had some lovely real ale, as you'd expect, including the Dartmoor and the HSD, and we also had the Sunday roasts. Wow, they were gorgeous! Good to se that one of our favourite Cornish pubs still is as good as ever really.

After a couple of drinks we headed back on the bus to Carbis Bay and walked down the hill and to the apartment, and all I had in my head was the Levellers' "Beautiful Day" which summed up what it was. Sunshine, seaside, art, and some lovely beer and even lovelier company. What more could I want? Tune of the day for all of the above reasons and another one I've gone mental to at a gig when I've seen them live. I feel massively in holiday mode already and it's only Sunday!

Saturday 1st June - Cornwall, Here We Come!

To say I've been waiting for this moment is an understatement. The Love In My Heart and I haven't had a full week in Cornwall since July 2009, and so having booked for a week to head back there, I was understandably like the kids in the Disneyland Paris advert when I got up this morning (you know, "But Mum, I'm too excited!". That was me as I left the house, safe in the knowledge that my brother and his girlfriend were looking after the place for me, and off I headed to Piccadilly Station to meet The Love, who looked as gorgeous as she ever does. I was a happy bunny just for that, regardless of anything else.

I had done a crafty one with the trains, and booked separate journeys so first was Manchester to Cheltenham Spa, then Cheltenham Spa to St Erth where we'd change for Carbis Bay, our final destination and close to the apartment we'd booked for the week. Part of the reason for doing that was to avoid changing at Birmingham New Street, and because Cheltenham Spa only has two platforms - one in each direction - and so changing there is a relative breeze. It also worked out cheaper because of the way the ticketing system worked, and we could go First Class on the second leg for not much more dosh! So it was on the 0807 to Paignton in standard class, and the journey was fine and unfussy, getting to Cheltenham Spa bang on time on 1023.

We had a half hour wait or so there and then came the 1052 to Penzance, albeit six minutes late. Our First Class carriage was at the front, so had to walk down the platform, but once on with luggage we were all good, with two seats facing each other with a table. It was a converted High Speed Train (HST) and it looked like although the interior was done up nicely, CrossCountry could have done with the exterior being overhauled, it was pretty bumpy at first on the way down to Bristol. First Class at weekends isn't as generous as during the week, but comfy seats, a less packed carriage, complimentary coffee, mineral water, biscuits and crisps did at least prove useful. Considering it's close on five hours, comfort is a must of course.

The coastline always looks very pretty as you pass Exeter and from Starcross to Teignmouth, you are right along the coast, next to the sea with just the sea wall separating the two, and the odd tunnel through the cliffs as well. We soon were at the Royal Albert Bridge just west of Plymouth, still one of the best pieces of work ever by the genius that is Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and crossing that meant we were in Cornwall. Yaay! Knowing that there was no catering after Plymouth, I made sure we got a bottle of sparkling water for the last leg, which proved to be very useful.

We got off the train at St Erth, over the bridge and to Platform 3 for the little branch line to St Ives, where we'd get off at Carbis Bay. From there it was up the ramps out of the station, and then up a really steep incline (I wish I'd have known it was this steep!) to Headland Road, where our apartment was - it was the former home of the sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth in the 1940s before she moved into St Ives itself. We were greeted by the housekeeper for the apartments, who showed us in and around before leaving us to unpack and relax.

And wow - we were not disappointed. It was everything that it said it was in the description - and then some. The view over Porthminster Point to St Ives from the front window - wonderful. The gardens with the benches and view - wonderful. The cosy bed, balcony and beautiful kitchen and comfy sofas in the front room? Just as much. I could easily live here without any problems and as we unpacked we realised that it was just a really lovely place to be and well worth the cost of what we've paid for the apartment. And when we looked in the fridge - a cream tea in a box! Four scones, lots of clotted cream and jam. Methinks we'll have to have that after our evening meal.

We decided to spend the evening in the apartment relaxing after a long journey and so I headed up Porthrepta Road, uphill to the main road, where not far away was Beck's Fish and Chips, supposedly really good. And it was. For around £5.90 you got a massive piece of cod, a generous helping of chips, and it really was battered and seasoned well throughout. I headed back and we ate happily, and really did feel like we were on holiday. We had the cream tea later with a coffee (The Love had got some packs of the Millicano sachets, yaay!) and chilled out with the telly. But wow, what a lovely start to the week.

Tune of the day is a simple one really - and had to be something Cornish, so "One Fine Day" by 3 Daft Monkeys is the choice. I love the song, I've gone mental to it when seeing them live, and they really do give their all when playing. It also hit the iPod on the way down and it reminded me that they are from round those parts, and just got me even more into the mood for the holiday (if it was at all possible of course!) - and yaay them for sticking to their local roots too.