Dear Diary... March 2013

Sunday 31st March - Easter Carvery

It was nice staying over at The Love In My Heart's place, and with the clocks going forward today for British Summer Time (laughable when you consider how cold it is everywhere of course) it was good to have a lie in and take it relatively easy. The Love made us a gorgeous bacon toastie for breakfast, and during that time I also sorted out our hotel for when we go to Wimbledon in late June, booking the Hampton by Hilton in Croydon. I worked out it was a tram ride to Wimbledon and the train was doable with one tube across London and a train from Victoria to East Croydon, pretty easy really.

I spent a fair bit of time watching the British Touring Car Championship and associated races on ITV4 whilst The Love In My Heart was getting herself ready - it really seemed like close racing in all classes but perhaps in the Posrche Carrera Cup the most heart warming story of all, as the winner of both races was a driver who had won Formula 2 back in 2010 but had to take a couple of years away from motorsport as he battled cancer. So take a bow Dean Stoneman, an inspiration to lots of who watched, me included.

Later on we were heading out to The Woodthorpe near Heaton Park to meet up with a fair few of her family as it was a double celebration, her Mum's birthday was on Saturday and that weekend was also their golden wedding anniversary, which has to be celebrated. Anyone who survives 20 years of marriage these days is doing well but to get all the way to fifty is very impressive, and something which I know that The Love is quite rightly proud of, and why not?

We had a drink in the bar area which was pretty busy before heading to our table which was in their function suite and carvery area, and I have to admit this was much more relaxed with lovely plush seating, a really nice open plan area with light coming in from the big windows, and friendly staff. You had the option to have two courses for a set price which included a drink, which wasn't bad value whatsoever, not least because the carvery was on there, which is what most of us were going to go for I reckoned.

I had the nachos to start and they were okay but the tortillas had been hand made by themselves - good, but they weren't crisp. Still a nice starter mind you but The Love's garlic mushrooms looked gorgeous and I do wish that I had them instead - mental note made methinks. The carvery though was gorgeous, you could have one meat or a combination of any of the three on offer - I had some turkey and some beef, both of which were succulent and lovely. The Love had the gammon and there were no complaints there either from her. Lots of nice veg and some stunning gravy, so everyone was happy with that I reckon.

It was a lovely meal all round and a really nice way to relax and celebrate with The Love's family, who always make me feel very welcome. We had a cuppa back at The Love's mum's place and it was good just to chat to her family quite a bit too. I appreciate massively the fact that everyone makes me feel welcomed just as my family do with The Love, and it's important to me to be honest. It was almost 7pm as we headed back via The Love's place to pick up her overnight stuff an head back to mine for the evening.

One gorgeous Tassimo coffee later and we settled in, first of all watching an excellent documentary on Donald Campbell before watching the first of The Village on BBC1. It surpassed our expectations massively, and really did give a feeling of being in a country village in the early 20th century, told through the eyes of someone alive now and reminsicing his childhood. John Simm was excellent as the rather evil domineering father of the household and Maxine Peake equally so as the long suffering mother, with the little boy who played young Bert also brilliant, in such a way that he was the cheeky child but also underneath quite vulnerable and emotional - all very well played. In fact we were in Hayfield where a fair amount of the series was filmed only last Sunday!

Finally, it was the Perspectives series on ITV1 as Sheila Hancock went to Haworth to uncover what she could of the Brontë Sisters and what life was really like for them. Of course having been there, we spotted the main street, the Parsonage (now a museum) and the grave of Anne Brontë in Scarborough which we've also seen. Sheila was brilliant, especially when reading the passages of prose or poetry, and it made me think of course of the Kate Bush classic "Wuthering Heights" because of the book, so tune of the day was a very simple choice indeed.

Saturday 30th March - Let's Get Ready To Rumble

It was hopefully going to be a victory for Manchester City today as we were up against Newcastle in the Premier League. With my friend and I having got our tickets for the FA Cup semi final, of course one topic of conversation today was to see who'd we would end up getting in the semi, with the quarter final replay between Chelsea and Manchester United on Monday. I suspected Chelsea with home advantage might be able to do the business, but it was definitely a case of seeing what would happen in that. All we could do in the league was simply win our remaining games to finish second - we knew that the title was way beyond us.

So my friend and I headed to the Etihad Stadium and we were soon having a well earned cuppa in the stadium and my friend also put his bet on, £1 for City to win 4-2 and 40-1. I guess if it does come up it's worth having a go, and you don't lose out too much. I was going to be tempted to put on first scorer to be Edin Džeko but decided against it just in case it wasn't going to happen, even if he was in the starting line up. I suppose I don't like to jinx things now and then.

So the game kicked off, and City did have their chances, with the best one falling to Gareth Barry who shot over when it was easier to score. For Newcastle Papiss Cisse hit the post from a well delivered ball and if he had have scored it, then fair play as he took the volley well. I suspected though it was only a matter of time before we scored as the likes of Džeko had already gone close and forced some good saves out of the Newcastle goalkeeper Robbie Elliott, who was standing in for the injured Tim Krul. In fact Elliott was to prove their man of the match to be honest.

Five minutes left to half time and a well worked move from City saw a delightful ball from Gael Clichy which went across the six yard box, and Carlos Tévez slotted it home sliding in at the far post. The City fans chanted "He drives when he wants" in celebration and all was looking good. Even better before half time though as a string of passes resulted in Samir Nasri linking well with David Silva, and the Spaniard slotted the ball low and hard into the bottom corner, and right on half time City went 2-0 up. Game over, I thought.

Newcastle came out in the second half much more full of life and were unlucky with a couple of chances that went wide, especially from Yohan Cabaye who looked genuinely gutted to have missed the target. City though went forward and another Džeko shot was well saved. City later forced a corner, the ball came out to Gareth Barry who struck it much better from outside the box, and Vincent Kompany, making his return in the centre of defence and as skipper, directed the ball home for 3-0, which was a really good thing to see. Yaay our captain!

Not long after that a powerful run down the right from Yaya Toure resulted in a shot deflecting off Newcastle's James Perch for an own goal but nonetheless it was 4-0, and that was how it stayed for the remainder of the match. It was a really good win and one which at least keeps us second by a few points, not least as Chelsea were beaten at Southampton thus keeping them well below us in the race for second place. All good, and the Newcastle fans were still good humoured even with the heavy defeat as we had several of them walking back with us to their coaches.

Later on at The Love In My Heart's place, I had a lovely evening meal of pork with stuffing balls along with some potatoes and vegetables. It was gorgeously yummy, and with a nice beer in hand we settled in to watch The Cube. My, the contestants were so thick tonight. The first woman took a fair few attempts on a simple maths test, and then followed that up by being rubbish at balancing, and I mean rubbish. She had to use a simplify and even then took more attempts to do it. And as for the next game, even worse and to be honest deserved to go home with nothing.

We then saw some of the Jonathan Ross Show, and it was great to see Depeche Mode on to be honest, and they were even interviewed before playing their rather good new single "Heaven" which really felt quite reflective. Tune of the day was a very easy decision therefore. It was also good that Warwick Davis was on and he was actually pretty funny but also talked about the documentary he made for ITV about the Auschwitz dwarves. Could have done without that annoying model on there though to be honest...

Friday 29th March - Walking The Canal

It was a reasonably early rise for me as I wanted to spend some time doing a well earned walk to keep fit but also to see some of the scenery around the countryside not too far from where I live. I had a plan that I'd walk the Peak Forest Canal from Marple Junction (where the top of the Marple Locks are) all the way to New Mills, and the idea being that I'd be able to enjoy the fresh air as well as being a four mile or so walk around, so definitely keeping fit as well, hopefully.

I got the bus into Stockport and the bus to Marple arrived not too long afterwards, and I'd saved the bus timetables in the phone so I could get an idea of what time I needed to be and where. With Good Friday being a Bank Holiday service on the buses (normally mirroring the Sunday service) it was important to time it all right, and getting into Marple just before 11am meant that I was giving myself just under two hours to get to New Mills to get the 358 bus back to Stockport. I arrived in Marple and walked up from locks 13 to 16 and arrived at the Top Lock House, which was at Marple Junction and looking rather majestic it has to be said.

It was then a leisurely walk along the canal, past the Marina at Marple Locks and soon following the road towards Strines, and it was apparent just how much the canal actually stays level and is above the road itself. Once it gets towards Strines though the canal veers off to the right and follows a route down towards StanleyHall Wood and around the back of Disley Golf Club (indeed one of the bridges over the canal even directs you towards a couple of pubs in Disley itself if you felt energetic).

Just after Roach Hey Wood, you get to see the Manchester - Sheffield train line run almost alongside you - it's been through the Disley Tunnel and is now very present as you head along the canal path. Dryhurst Wood would be where you'd want to walk to Disley itself but carrying on, the canal path follows the path of the houses on the outskirts before you arrive at the Swizzels Matlow factory where they make the likes of the Love Hearts sweets before you then head to the Marina close to New Mills Newtown station, marking for me at least the end of the walk, getting off to walk to New Mills itself.

If I felt even more energetic I could actually follow the canal all the way to Whaley Bridge, another few miles down the road, with the canal following the Manchester - Buxton railway and the main A6 road, but decided to admire the marina and then walk along the road and up the hill to New Mills itself, which actually looked quite gorgeous in the blue sky. I walked down and did a quick lap of the Torrs Riverside Park, stopping to admire the Torrs Hydro and the views looking along the River Goyt before heading back up to the bus station in almost perfect timing for the 358 bus back home.

It was a good day all told and I spent the remainder of the afternoon listening to some classic albums including Traffic's "John Barleycorn Must Die". If there's ever a side one as good as this album, then it'll be instantly classic for me. "Glad" starts things off really well as an instrumental, but "Freedom Rider" really does show Steve Winwood for me at his creative peak and the flute lead by Chris Wood in the middle interlude is just pure genius to be honest, showing that when you put everything together (including the spot on drum percussion by Jim Capaldi, especially at the end when it gets manic) is just ace. Tune of the day easily.

Thursday 28th March - Watching The Axeman

It was my last day in work before Easter (well a half day to be precise as I was using up my leave for the year, and have next week off as well). It was good though to clean up several loose ends, test a potentially faulty Mac laptop and find out that after I'd done a disk permissions repair and connected several devices to test the ports that it was stable - might well be the device that the member of staff is connecting to their Mac which may be faulty instead to be honest. I also spent some time updating the graphics driver on some machines because I found an issue where Photoshop CS6 wouldn't use some of the filters due to a lack of graphics acceleration.

It was good to have everything all settled in which meant I could leave for Easter with a good clear conscience in that all I needed to do was done, and so headed into the city centre. Part of my reasoning for doing so was to see if I could get any of the Bosch descaling tablets for the Tassimo anywhere. I tried quite a number of hardware shops, especially around Shudehill and the Northern Quarter. One bloke at the end of High Street is a Braun approved dealer, and as Braun owned Tassimo before Bosch took it over, I thought I'd try there. He did say that it may have been that Bosch only wanted to sell it online, so fair dos to him for being so honest there.

I did take a walk to the Arndale anyway, and when I was in Clas Ohlson I didn't spot the proper Bosch descaler, but I did spot a holder for the Tassimo t-discs, that can hold up to 32 discs in two rows of 16 each. There was no price tag for it on the shelf where it was so I thought "well let's just see what it is" and went to the checkout. It was a mere £4.99. Well it just had to be mine really didn't it? I'm sure it'll look good and much better than using an Ikea biscuit tin to store them all in, and of course you can then see easily which ones you want at any time. Ooh yes, that's good.

I also had a well earned coffee in the Virgin Money Lounge as well and the staff in there are always lovely. In fact I traded the card in temporarily to borrow one of their iPads, and had a browse of the web whilst having a rather lovely coffee all round, so can't complain whatsoever there really. I then headed back into some more shops before deciding that I wasn't going to find the descaler and head home instead, and from there I grabbed my recycled shopping bags and headed to Tesco (which was rammed) to do the food shopping, which worked out pretty well on the whole.

I arrived home later on and realised that I'd forgotten a couple of things so headed to Asda for them, and they had a suitable descaler in there so I got that (as I can always do my kettle as well) and then order the proper Tassimo Bosch one online, having found a suitable retailer to do so (not Amazon I should add!) and so when I got home I tried it out. I ran the descaling programme, with the descaler in with 500ml of water and let the programme run. I then used the cleaning disc and let that do its thing to give everything a rinse, put some fresh water in and all seemed good so far.

The Love In My Heart had come over by this point and so we settled in for the evening and so she was relaxing with some episodes of Emmerdale whilst I was making some spaghetti carbonara along with some gorgeous rustic artisan garlic bread that I'd picked up from Tesco the other day. It was all lovely and we snuggled up later so that she could watch the remainder of Emmerdale and we then saw the Martin Lewis money programme. It's basically an extended advert for what he does on his website I guess, but at least there are some handy tips for people who may have never read it. I know all about train compensation though, having actually had to use it on occasion and be suitably rewarded.

We then, talking of trains, watched the Ian Hislop Goes off the Rails programme on BBC Four. I may have seen this before, but with it being around the 50th anniversary of the Beeching Axe, where the start of the decimation of some of the railways of the UK commenced, it seemed highly apt. Of course due to the nature of the way that the train lines had been built originally there were a fair few overlaps of course, and you could see how you'd want to modernise things without being too gung-ho. However, it was clear that some lines didn't work even despite the rudimentary way that passenger numbers were collected.

When you look now though, it was in some cases a step too far. Imagine if some of the branch lines had closed and you weren't able to get to some parts of Cornwall, or for those visiting Ikley Moor and so on? Sadly though there's towns like Ripon which I am sure would thrive a lot more if there was actually a railway passing through it, which it doesn't - and it really did feel a tad isolated when I visited there last year. Also highlighted was the closing of the line to Padstow. Imagine if that was open now? It'd bring a whole load more tourists there instead of having to get off at Bodmin Parkway and get the 555 bus for example.

It does make me mad when you saw whole swathes of line cut, such as the Waverley line between Carlisle and Edinburgh. If that was still open today journey times would be a fair bit quicker from Manchester (and thus avoiding Carstairs) and in addition, Hawick would have had a great service to the Lakes and the North West as well as Edinburgh, well worth thinking about. It's somewhat ironic part of this line is being rebuilt and reopened too, and closer to home parts of South Manchester are using the old railways lines axed by Beeching to make the new Metrolink tram lines.

Anyway, tune of the day was featured in that programme, as a humble but well written tribute to old stations which had closed down as part of the Beeching Axe - "The Slow Train" by Flanders and Swann. It's a fitting eulogy and written with a piano in an almost defiant way and mentions several stations which closed down (and some which survived the axe such as St Erth and St Ives which were earmarked for closure originally) and it's very cleverly written. And of course affectionally covered by Armstrong and Miller on their show too, in case you wondered.

Wednesday 27th March - Catching Up Time

It's always good to catch up on some telly that I've recorded and not had the chance to watch, and even more so when I had to do a retune of the Freeview HD box (as prompted by the box itself). It's apparently part of a two stage process, the next one being on the 10th April, to ensure that the frequencies that Freeview transmit on are the right ones, freeing up the availability of 4G mobile broadband for the North West. It also means that of course the two should never interfere with each other (famous last words). It did mean though that I needed to note the schedule of recordings so I could set them up again, but no biggie that one really.

Once all that was sorted, I then settled in for the evening to watch last night's CSI. The Love In My Heart isn't a fan of the show and I can't expect her to like all the things I like, and so I have it set to series link record so I can watch it at a more convenient time. I quite liked the episode though as Nick got to have a dog help him to solve the case of his owner, a police officer, being murdered. It was good to see Nick and the dog bond and in the end him ending up taking care of the dog full time, with a colleague of the murdered officer's approval. It was also good to see Morgan looking rather lovely as she and Finn solved a case of a murdered man - and I suspected from the start who the murderer was. My Cluedo head rang true there then!

I also spent a bit of time sorting out my Tassimo, as the red descaler light came on. I thought for the time being till I could get hold of some descaler to run a water cleaning cycle through it, and this seemed to at least stop the light coming on for now. I checked online and the proper Bosch descaling tablets, specially made for the likes of Tassimos, aren't cheap, but if it's the official stuff then if possible using those is a must. I'm going to see if I can get them tomorrow though and do have Plan B if I can't get them then - order them online but get something in place for now so I can still have some lovely coffee.

I must admit that it's been one of the best Christmas presents I've ever had, getting one of those, and as Easter draws near, they're back on offer in some stores and the T20 model I have is a mere £49.99 again, which to be honest is all you need, unless you want a larger water tank etc where the T40 model is more than enough. Well worth considering if you've not already done so, because you can get Costa coffee for it, so have them at home and save going to an actual one to get your coffee fix (well that's what I do a lot of the time now). Great when things work as intended I reckon..

Tune of the day in the meantime is the epic "The Root of All Evil" by Dream Theater from their Octavarium album. Somehow even at eight minutes this track actually doesn't feel long enough as it builds up at the start from a single piano note to lots of drums before the guitars kick in and get rocking. The second half of the song is much more reflective but with a great guitar solo before it ends on an almost defiant note. If you've not got the album yet then to be honest you really should.

Tuesday 26th March - Disappointing England And Rocking Out

Funny how things happen all together doesn't it? I still felt pretty sore in the back department so was trying where possible to take it easy, but had to take a print cartridge to another building today to make sure it was fitted on time as it had ran out. I also had to carry my laptop with me to a job where the user concerned was getting some very weird pop up which you couldn't close whatsoever, and seemed to me to be some weird trojan which was attempting to want you to pay money to have the message removed. Not a chance folks - that's what I'm here for - to sort these things out (and I did, hurrah).

I headed home via Tesco and managed to get a few things in for the evening meal tonight but also got The Love In My Heart her Easter egg - a rather lovely limited edition Lindt Lindor egg with lots of the lovely Lindor chocolate. I gave it to her tonight when she came over so she could take it home and enjoy it over the Easter break and let's say that she was one very happy (Easter) bunny. I set off making us my legendary (ish) chorizo pasta bake and all seemed pretty well with the world.

We saw the Great British Easter Bake-Off with lots of lovely ideas to bake stuff for Easter, and most of which filled me with some form of food envy. How I wish I could be half as good as Mary Berry cooking most of that, especially the meringue nest with the home made lemon curd and cream at the end - that just looked far too gorgeous not to eat lots of it right there and then - well I think so anyway. Mind you, those hot cross buns weren't too bad either and I think they'd be scoffed well with a coffee also.

I kept an eye on the England game and although England were 1-0 up at half time in the second half the team struggled a bit an when they switched off, a goalmouth scramble or two resulted in a Montenegro equaliser and 1-1 was the final score - not a disaster by any means but it does make qualification that bit more difficult for us now automatically and we could face a playoff to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. However three of the last four group games are at home so if we do win them all, we will be through so it's not quite over yet...

I was reminiscing later once The Love had headed home and we found out that we actually hadn't won the £90 million plus Euromillions rollover, about how Saturday nights were for me when I was younger. The days when Manchester had Rockworld and you could go there, rock out, enjoy yourself and listen to the sort of music that you wanted to listen to. The days of Rage Against The Machine, Metallica, Prong, Rollins Band, Suicidal Tendencies, Nine Inch Nails, Faith No More, Pantera, Machine Head and many more. In fact when you listen to a lot of that stuff now it just has not aged one little bit.

With that in mind tune of the day is Pantera's "Walk" which was also for a while used as the theme tune to ITV's late night rock and metal show "Noisy Mothers". The intro part just is a perfect example of a metal riff drawing you in to the song before the verse and the chorus, with its epic "are you talking to me?" question through it. It just rocks hard and even now I can play the CD single of that with a massive sense of pride knowing that was me kicking backside back in the day. That was how I rolled, folks...

Monday 25th March - Back(ache) At Work

It was back to work after a week off and to be honest, I woke up this morning in true Blues song style and really wanted to head back to bed. For some reason my back felt really sore and stiff as did my left arm, and it felt like a bolt of pain had just shot right through me and stayed there. It didn't feel pleasant and I took some painkillers before I set off for work hoping that they'd do the business and stop the pain from feeling worse. Not the ideal situation to be heading out in the cold weather and wind chill to work, but I knew I needed to be back and heading to sort a few things out.

In fact I got in early and caught up with numerous emails that I needed to do, as there were lots happening last week that I needed to catch up with. By the sound of it, a lot happened and so it was good to try and get back to speed as quickly as possible. I did have some testing to do with some applications as well so it was good to hit the ground running and try to get that all sorted as soon as I could. I also spent a fair bit of time despite the pain typing numerous emails to get back into the swing of things and reply to what I could.

The day went by peacefully enough and so managed to get home reasonably early(ish) and so spent a fair bit of time during the evening finishing sorting out the pictures that I'd taken from the visit to Chatsworth the other day. I must admit I was really pleased with how some of the shots came out from inside the Sculpture Gallery where in tricky light conditions I'd pulled some good ones there, and also the outside shots of the likes of the Canal Pond and fountain came out well - that polarising filter I have on the end of the lens certainly seemed to keep the colours a little bit more natural, so all good there.

I also spent some time watching the Indy Car race that was held in St Petersburg, Florida that I'd recorded from ESPN earlier in the day when they showed a full repeat. It looked like a mix of a long straight on an old airfield and tight twisty streets, but with a massive 110 laps' worth of action on a short circuit, anything could happen, and it did, including a car getting airborne and vaulting another car. It was also interesting to see the likes of former F1 driver Takuma Sato drive around at a good pace, but also that the overtaking was helped with the "push to pass" system that's been in use for a while now, with only a certain number of boosts allowed per race, still a good way I think.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather loud and metal sounding but somewhat fitting for the day "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" by Prong. Certainly I felt like I'd actually been moshing in a rock club overnight, that's how sore I felt this morning. Not really the sort of feeling you want to wake up to, but when listening to this it all kind of makes sense in my own little way. It also reminds me of something else which I'll think about more tomorrow...

Sunday 24th March - Sett Valley Snow

The Love In My Heart came over last night and the three course meal we had really did taste gorgeous, and having the cheese instead of the dessert was a very welcome and pleasant change. She really did love the Quirky Bird wine too, so I've made a mental note that getting more of it in the future should be a good idea. It was good just to snuggle up later and take things easy, and we did plenty of that this morning as we just took our time getting up and out and about.

After some well earned bacon toasties and a coffee, we headed out (having checked bus times etc) first as we were going to take the challenge of the three mile Sett Valley Trail, which takes you between New Mills and Hayfield. The plan was that The Love would park in New Mills (free on a Sunday), we walk to Hayfield and if the weather was okay, walk back or if not take the bus back, so either way it'd work out okay. What we didn't expect was to see a fair bit of snow.

As we were heading past Lyme Park on the A6 towards Disley we noted that the park was closed, primarily due to lots of snow but also by all accounts high winds (wouldn't want to be caught up on The Cage if that was the case) and as we then headed out of Disley and towards New Mills, we noted that the snow was on the sides of the roads but the main roads were at least clear. We managed to get parked up and headed on to the trail, with the path covered by a layer of snow and occasional ice, which looked pretty slippy it has to be said.

We took our time and as the path climbed steadily upwards through the likes of Thornsett and Birch Vale, we could see the snow on the hills in the distance looking rather beautiful and serene. It certainly wasn't the day to be outside though as the wind was rather biting, and blew in at a fierce rate of knots as we headed upwards. It was a relief to get to Hayfield and we saw the little bus station, knew what time the 358 bus was back to New Mills and so thought about having a restful drink in Hayfield itself, and so went to the pub (as you do)

In fact, the Pack Horse pub was very nice indeed, with lovely decor, four real cask ales on (and all different ones I'd never tried before either!) along with a really nice cosy atmosphere. In fact some lovely relaxed chilled out music was also playing too and so really made for a lovely afternoon just relaxed there. The Love even had a mulled wine which looked very nice and warming indeed, so that certainly had her ready to brave the wind later on as we headed back to catch the 358 bus which was on time and lovely and warm too.

Once we'd got back to New Mills and got the car it was then back along the A6 to Hazel Grove and down the road to Poynton, where we stopped off at the Kingfisher pub for a well earned late lunch / early tea. The Love had the Sunday roast pork, I had the gammon, and the food was lovely as was the decor too, it really did feel warm and inviting in there and certainly somewhere we might have to visit again in the future if we can. We then headed back homewards and it was time to say goodbye for the weekend, not something I enjoy simply because I love The Love so much, but there you go.

I spent the evening watching the F1 highlights, and my, was that a controversial race. The whole spectre of team orders raised its head once again with Sebastian Vettel not winning over anyone with the way that he ignored everyone in Red Bull and overtook Mark Webber and stayed there, yet it seemed that the team weren't too happy with giving him a going over, which they should have done. Contrast that to how Ross Brawn ensured that the Mercedes drivers brought their cars home and did it sensibly. Still, going to be some fireworks next time around. Tune of the day was an apt choice by the BBC to end the coverage - "You're My Best Friend" by Queen. Somehow I don't think that Mark Webber would think that of Vettel right now...

Saturday 23rd March - Where's The Snow?

It seems that plenty of places close to me and outside Manchester seem to have plenty of snow, with lots of people posting pictures online of how deep and nice the snow is next to them. I seem to remember back in early April 2000 when there was a fair bit of snow that fell overnight and caused all sorts of fun and games in some part of the country, and having snow this late in March usually is a bit more freakish than you'd really expect. I was considering a walk out from Marple to New Mills via the canal, but wasn't sure if the weather was going to be too snowy or indeed if any transport was running, so thought it best for now not to chance it.

I instead spent a bit of time (an hour and a half actually) exercising on the Wii Fit instead, and along the way setting a few good efforts for the likes of the rhythm boxing and the super hula hoop exercises, really giving me the competitive streak as I wanted to then go and push to beat that as well. I'm determined as much as I can to try and lose the weight and now I've gone back into some form of routine I think that'll help me quite a bit too - nothing like being disciplined when you've got things to do.

I watched the F1 qualifying later on and certainly if you thought that the snow was bad, then the rain and humidity in Malaysia is another challenge as well. You can either be roasting hot with the closeness of the humid air, or be hot, wet and then somewhat clammy with the rain when it comes down. And it did, with the second part of qualifying needing a good time early on and the final part needing the right timing on a slightly damp track with intermediate tyres. Might prove to be very interesting tomorrow. By the way, for those of you who may have noticed, BBC presenter Suzi Perry is actually wearing a necklace which has a map of the track on, and by all accounts she's had them made for each race. Nice touch, that.

Must admit though seeing all the snow elsewhere has got me wondering though just how lucky on the whole we are in Manchester to avoid it. Of course now that the snow has hit the South East suddenly all the news channels are in overdrive with regards to the weather. It also makes me think whether all the incessant reporting makes people panic more than they would normally do. It's the end of Winter, we're a country that does get snow each year, it happens, and we should where possible get on with it. You see other countries with far more than we do managing pretty well (or maybe they don't but we never hear of it) so it also does make me wonder just how much the whole Health and Safety lark has actually done for increasing everyone's normal panic level - sort of "the roads have to be shut" and then no one being able to actually get to work because of that, or having to take time off school because the school has been closed.

Food for thought, and food is what I'll be having later with The Love In My Heart for sure, I've got some nice hearty mushroom soup and some gorgeous chicken with some garlic and bacon potatoes, and there'll be an optional cheeseboard with crackers for afters. Oh, and some wine for her too. In fact when I was in Tesco yesterday I saw this new wine which was worth a try at a decent price, not least because it looked a little different on the outside - it's called Quirky Bird and it's a sauvignon blanc, which is The Love's second favourite sort of wine behind pinot grigio. Be interested to see what she makes of it.

Tune of the day is "Human Nature" by 3 Daft Monkeys from their "Social Vertigo" album. If there was ever an album which pretty much made you want to bound around the room and feature some lovely violin and fiddle playing, then this is definitely for you. The track is possibly the best one on there as the slow intro just warms you up for the fast paced interludes and the choruses which you want to sing along to. Having seen them live, I can vouch for how much you'd enjoy it too...

Friday 22nd March - The Joy of Eight

I had a relatively calm Friday and the last day of my time off work (for now, I'm using the rest of my leave up pretty soonish). I headed out to the larger Tesco pretty early because I didn't know what the weather was going to do later, and thought it best to try and go when it was quiet. What I didn't realise was that half of Burnage seemed to have the same idea and also go on a Friday morning to stock up, which inevitably meant getting past hordes of people just mooching around whilst I was trying to get some shopping done. That said it wasn't too bad and I was able to get around there and get all the bits I needed in a pretty relaxed fashion.

Once I got back I had a light(ish) lunch, as when The Love and I headed to the farm shop in Chatsworth yesterday, I got myself a lamb and mint pasty to see how good their food actually is, but also because it would make for a nice little meal. In fact the pasty was gorgeous, the pastry went all lovely and golden when baked, the filling inside had a chunk of lamb inside and you could taste the mint, and even some peas in there as well just to add to the overall earthy flavour. I have to say it was rather lovely and I wish even at £1.95 each I'd have purchased a few more of them. Oh well.

I headed via my auntie's to drop a birthday card off for my cousin, and then off to Mum's for a coffee and a chat. It was lovely and warm in Mum's compared to the biting wind that was outside, and it was definitely nice to just relax and catch up too. It certainly was nice to see that Mum was making the most of her time online with some friends that she's met, and I'm really pleased that there's definitely been signs that it's helped her with a few other things as well, so all good. I also noted that a lot of talk was about a couple of forthcoming weddings, one of which I found out might be sooner than I thought (and no for the record, it isn't mine before you ask..)

I headed back home and spent most of the rest of the afternoon giving the house a good spring clean, filing away or shredding papers appropriately and also making sure that I gave everywhere a good going over, as I always like to really give things a go and keep the place tidy. The less mess you make, the less time to clean up and more quality time is then spent. There's method to the madness let me tell you. Not before long and after I solved a couple of document issues over the phone for The Love In My Heart, I was all set and ready to have my friend over for the football.

England played San Marino away and on paper at least it seemed England should easily win, the only sure fire bet was what score. I went for 5-0 and my friend surprisingly went for 4-1. As if San Marino were going to score, I thought to myself! As we chatted and caught up, England pressed, and once the first goal went in with an own goal, the floodgates opened and the team really did carve up the San Marino defence at will. There were some cracking strikes too, Ashley Young's being particularly sweet, and with the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also getting on the score sheet, it ended up 5-0 - at half time!

Job very much done, and this allowed the England manager Roy Hodgson to make some changes in the second half and keep some key players fresh for Tuesday's clash with Montenegro away, but there was still time for Wayne Rooney to score as well as Jermain Defoe getting a second. In fact the first seven goals on the night were by seven different scorers, and only the eighth goal scored by Defoe broke that run. It might have even been double figures but for a couple of misses close to the end, and in simple terms - job done and a most professional performance done by the team. All that could be expected really to be honest.

It was then time for Rock Band 3 on the Wii and my friend and I had a good couple of hours of hard rocking, with the likes of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" being played a few times (I had a go on vocals too and was pretty pleased with myself, so tune of the day it most certainly is) and we also tackled the likes of REM (with my friend doing "Losing My Religion" on hard vocals and doing an excellent job) as well as "Gay Bar" by Electric Six and also some Queen as well, although some of their songs on vocals is pretty tricky, and even "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, which I managed to do on expert bass. Woo!!

Thursday 21st March - Chilly Chatsworth

It was lovely as ever to see The Love In My Heart this morning, and when we had chatted on the phone last night we were thinking of somewhere to go for a day out, and we both thought that Chatsworth House would be a lovely idea - not least because the last time we went there, it was hammering it down with rain in the afternoon which meant we didn't get to see as much of the gardens as we'd like, but also meant that the day was somewhat curtailed. With the forecast being cold and at least dry, we thought it might be better going midweek when it'd not a Bank Holiday or a school holiday too.

Off we set down the A6 through Stockport, Hazel Grove, past Lyme Park and Disley and along the dual carriageway skirting around Chapel-en-le-Frith before turning left on the A623, heading up to Sparrowpit and down to Peak Forest before eventually arriving through the trees at Baslow and turning up the road that would take you to the entrance of the Chatsworth estate. In fact when we got over the stone bridge and just before the car park, we had to pause by the cattle grid as lots of sheep were heading across the road beyond and to a field to graze, but it was quite a seminal sight nonetheless.

We soon were heading to the house and inside and in the warm - and the very nice lady in the ticket office gave us a few leaflets including one which means you get 2 for 1 entrance in other houses around the country, including Castle Howard, so we're going to make sure we get use out of that later in the year methinks. We walked around the gorgeous hallways and rooms of the house itself and immediately were taken back in time to when the servants would see to your every need and the beds were big, all four poster, and comfortable (although people were shorter in height back then I think).

We spent a fair bit of time in the house and went through to peek inside the library area, where people were actually sat down and reading books - although we wondered how they managed to get into that area as it's normally fenced off for the public. In the same room on the route that you go, there was a man playing the piano there and indeed playing it pretty well, he was rattling off all sorts of tunes including Diana Ross' "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" which we both recognised, so tune of the day was an easy decision before the pianist decided that music from Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals was his next port of call as he tinkled the ivories.

The sculpture gallery at the far end of the house is always an inspiring place with such lovely light and wonderful pieces of art. The Love commented on how in the film version of Pride and Prejudice this is where Keira Knightley walks through and finds the statue of the head Mr Darcy. And guess what? When we walked through the gallery and into the shop, there in the corner was that same statue. She was understandably rather pleased and imagined herself in the film there and then. Unsurprisingly of course there was a plethora of film related stuff in the shop.

We did notice too that the shop had a lot of items based on the really nice green coloured Chinese wallpaper that adorns some of the guest bedrooms - a jigsaw, magnet, cup and so on. What we thought though that a scarf in that design would look rather lovely and fashionable for the ladies, so The Love filled in a comment card with that idea for them to consider. Interestingly, they don't do an online shop presence which was a bit of a surprise to me because that meant you really had to buy there and then if you wanted anything (apart from some of the books of course).

We headed out of the house and then up to the stables where lunch was well overdue and needed. It was very nice too - The Love went for a small salad with the ploughman's sandwich but I fancied something warm, and got it in the shape of some gorgeous pork and apple cider sausages complete with three types of potatoes, broccoli and gravy - and it was stunningly gorgeous. I really wanted to get more of those sausages and take them home to cook as well, but when I looked later the price was a bit steep for what they were. Still, all good and a perfect way to relax before we hit the gardens.

We spent an enjoyable couple of hours around the gardens, and even though it was a bit chilly, the weather stayed dry which meant we could explore at leisure, so we saw the sensory gardens, the Cascade, headed up past the being repaired squirting willow tree and on to the Rock Gardens, where from the top the view was majestic, before going through the old coal hole tunnel. At the end we saw one of the restoration workers cleaning up one of the stone statues and it looked a pretty good job from what she had done so far. We also went to the maze (and got hopelessly lost trying to get to the centre as well) before seeing many of the sculptures as part of the current exhibition of art by William Turnbull - some of which reminded me a lot of Joan Miro for some reason..

We then headed to the ravine bridge and looked down on the distant view below, and went back past all the recently commissioned sculptured heads that are now on display including the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the Queen and Prince Charles, and plenty more. I suspect more work may need to go on to landscape the area that they're in a bit to make it a bit less muddy and more accessible, but nonetheless good to see them all up and proudly standing in the gardens. It was then a walk down the side of the long pond and see the views of the large waterfall and the house from there before heading back alongside the side of the house and outwards.

On the way back we stopped off at the Chatsworth Farm Shop in Pilsley, and I saw the sausages I'd had for lunch but the price made me shudder scarily. I did however get myself a lamb and mint pasty which I'll heat up tomorrow when I'm at home and have that for lunch, and The Love got herself a little white chocolate lolly which looked rather cute with all these little red sweet hearts on it. It was then back along the roads through Baslow, Peak Forest and Sparrowpit before making a fuel stop detour in Chapel-en-Le-Frith, ending up later on in the Rams Head pub in Disley for a well earned drink (and very nice it was too) before heading back to mine for tea.

It had been a lovely day together and because it was during the week it meant we could head around the house and the gardens without any problems, which was rather nice. I think too the quality time we've spent together this week has been what both of us have needed to take us away from the current stresses and strains of work and being off together really does work nicely. The week's gone by far too quickly but at the same time I know it's been massively worth it for both of us.

Wednesday 20th March - Drives, Walks and Rocking

After I'd done a good and lengthy session on the Wii Fit this morning, it was time to be up and ready for the day. I decided that after the DVD writer had effectively given up the ghost last night it was time to get a replacement, and I'd shortlisted a Pioneer drive to do the job from my local supplier Aria. The good thing was that the retail boxed product was about 75p or so more than the bare drive only - and it came with Nero 10 Essentials as well which had to be a rather nice plus. So off I headed on the bus to Aria, and I was the only one in, so it was a nice speedy transaction and I was soon back at home with the drive.

A few minutes later and the drive was in and good to go. I put in the Nero 10 disc and started the installation, but for some reason it kept needing this odd "reboot confirming" pre-requisite that was linked to a Microsoft .NET Framework update which Windows Update said had already been installed on the box. Anyway, I extracted the installer with 7-zip, and in the setup.ini I simply removed the pre-requisites causing the problem and ran the setup.exe in the same folder. Badabing, off it installed without an issue. Certainly some bad coding going on there to be honest and something that might help others if they run into a similar issue.

Anyway, that done and dusted, Nero 10 worked pretty well and as the drive is also a LabelFlash capable drive, Nero Cover Designer has support for such media so you can effectively burn your design on to the label side which is quite neat. I didn't have any LabelFlash media to try and looking online, it's not actually that cheap to get hold of some, so I might never use this feature. But hey ho, it's there and it doesn't seem to get in the way too much thankfully. I tested some media and burned, and all seemed okay which was the most important thing of all.

Later on after I saw the Budget speech, I headed out into Stockport where I looked around the game shops and was seeing if I could get Wii Fit Plus for a decent price, and £12 was the cheapest I saw it, which wasn't bad, but not brilliant either. I then headed on the bus to Marple, where from the town centre, I walked along the rows of shops, up the hill to the Ring O'Bells, and then followed the canal path back to the Marple Locks, and walked down all the locks from 16 to 1, and then back up from 1 to 9 to the main road.

From there it was downhill all the way past the train station and into Marple Bridge, and as it was getting rather freezing out there it was a good time to head into the Midland at Marple Bridge and have a well earned coffee, with a warm real fire really making the place seem very cosy indeed and far too nice to leave. It was just good to be relaxed like that and I timed my exit well so it was back on the bus to Stockport before heading back home for some well earned food for tea.

Once I'd spoken to The Love In My Heart, I rang my friend and we arranged an online session of Rock Band 3 on the Wii. He'd managed to find the missing power supply for the Wii and was getting it all sorted, so we arranged a game and it was a pretty good hour or so of fun really. Lots of David Bowie and Morrissey was played, including "Irish Blood, English Heart" by him and the likes of "Ziggy Stardust" and "Space Oddity" by David Bowie. I even tried hard bass on Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" which actually went pretty well, so tune of the day right there.

And for added fun and games we even did "Du Hast " by Rammstein, and even though I wasn't singing, I still had to blast out the vocals anyway. "Du! Du hast! Du hast mich!" etc and of course during the chorus plenty of "Nein" too. I might have to try and see if vocal harmony works online and see how that plays ball at some point, but nonetheless it was good to get back into the groove, and as my friend's coming over Friday for the football, should be a good night of that and rocking too. Isn't stuff good when that happens?

Tuesday 19th March - Cold in Chester

The Love In My Heart and I had decided to make the most of a day off together and so we thought that heading to Chester might be a lovely idea, and have a walk around the city, the shops, walk by the river and indeed head around most of the walls as well. I'd not been to Chester for years and in fact the last time I was there was a short stop en route to taking the bus to the North Wales coast (yes, really). I thought though it'd be nice just to spend the day relaxed and have a nice time together, and so at around 10am The Love came to pick me up.

We were soon on the M56 and a short trip on the M53 ensued before taking the main road into the centre of Chester. The Love had remembered a car park close to the city walls which wasn't so expensive (and free after 3pm but hey ho). She found where it was and managed to get a space, only for us not to have enough change so a quick trip to a newsagents down the road for me later and we were all sorted with the necessary parking for the pay and display machine (note or card payments would be handy in future, please note that Cheshire West and Chester Council)

We headed along some lovely shops and restaurants as we headed through the City and The Love even spotted a really nice top in Zara which was in the sale. Trying it on was frustrating though as due to the top's design, either the top part was too big or the bottom part too tight. We did see another really nice top though and when she tried that on it was lovely, and as she had a gift card for there it was money off it too, and so that was one happy little bunny with her purchase. I like that when she has that feeling of getting something new and lovely, her smile really sparkles.

We headed around a fair number of shops in The Rows, mainly the ones upstairs as it was raining quite a bit and it was an attempt to keep dry, and the rain carried on as we went past the clock in Eastgate and to more shops. It was clearly cold and hammering it, and the cloudy dark weather wasn't exactly productive in terms of getting any decent photography done during the day. I only hoped that the rain would stop a little later on and after heading around a few more shops we decided that lunch sounded like a good idea to keep dry and get ourselves warmed up too.

After seeing a few places full, we walked down towards the old Dee Bridge and on the street was Ye Olde Kings Head, which looked warm and inviting inside. It was a little quiet for a midweek inside, but there was lots of good real ales including Hobgoblin (in fact the Black Sheep and Doom Bar had ran out!) but if all of those were on tap, that's three of my favourites right there. We had lunch in there too and during the week it's two for £10, and for value wise that was superb. The Love had the burger, which was hand made and massive, with massive chunks of beef and a home made tomato salsa as well as cheese, salad and chips and looked the part. My haddock and chips with minted mushy peas was gorgeous too, and well worth it in terms of beautiful white fish. Gorgeously delicious, yaay.

The pub jukebox was certainly playing some random tunes as well. Who would have thought that you'd have Frank Sinatra one minute and then such a big dance tune such as Atlantic Ocean's "Waterfall" the next? Not me, that's for sure. I wasn't complaining though as that was a proper tune back in the day and with the rain hammering it down it certainly seemed to be an apt track if nothing else, so tune of the day was a pretty easy decision really. Ah, the days of when dance tunes were just that which made you want to bound around like a total loon and not care one little bit.

We then headed back into the city centre for a few more shops before heading down through some of the old Roman gardens and down to the river side, where the cruise boats were understandably going nowhere, it was pretty cold and windy. We did head up to see the Queens Park footbridge before heading back up the hill with Grosvenor Park on the right, which had lots of squirrels around. They were really cute and were just heading to people hoping that they had food, but looking all sweet at the same time. We spent a few minutes just watching them going about their daily business to be honest.

It was then a walk around the wall, and so headed by the old Dee Bridge before heading around the back of the old castle which is now part of the University, before seeing the Roodee up ahead, which of course is Chester racecourse. It dates back from 1539 which supposedly makes it the oldest horse racing track in England which is still used for racing. Certainly the views from the wall of the circuit really show what a small space it fits itself in as well and you could imagine being stood there on the terraces watching the horses head around the corner at immense speed to the home straight.

Further down the road and opposite the racecourse was a very nice pub that we simply had to go in because of the weather, and so we headed to The Architect, which was a simply beautiful building which had been tastefully extended with comfortable chairs. I had the local Watergate Ale which was gorgeous, and as we went in we noticed the signage which showed the distances in yards to parts of the pub, quite witty as it was close to the course too. It was a really nice place to be and I can well imagine on a race day that the place gets completely rammed full, but a Sunday lunch in there? Bring it on, I reckon. I'll have to see if I can make some excuse to head there again methinks.

We headed along the walls and then back to The Love's car, and headed back out of the city and along the M56 avoiding the peak time traffic before arriving back at mine. I needed to burn a CD with some stuff on for one of her relations, but the DVD writer wasn't having it. I did have some issues the other day and I thought I'd cracked it with a firmware upgrade, but alas, not to be. I therefore had to give up the ghost once I'd burned a few coasters and knew that at some point I'd need to get a replacement drive sorted out. I did though manage to burn one working copy which was a relief.

Later on we watched Alex Polizzi in the last of the series of the Fixer, with a garden centre where the family were just being torn apart by all working together (or not) and then on with The Railway, which has been a fascinating insight. Scotland featured today and it was good to see the workers who go up the line between Inverness and Perth and lay down a special gloopy coating to keep the tracks running in Winter, how Edinburgh Waverley gets massively busy on a Friday, and the solitary maintenance man who keeps the gorgeous West Highland line going. I really do want to travel that line sometime...

Monday 18th March - Coffee and Comfort

I spent a fair bit of time this morning exercising on the Wii Fit, determined now I've got it back out and running that I'm going to try what I can to keep going each day and see how I do in terms of the weight loss. I think for me it's massively important that I do try and exercise more but also control the eating habits a bit more, and so I suggested to The Love In My Heart that I give up desserts and any form of cake for the next month or so (apart from her birthday) and see if that helps the intake any. I am determined now, and not even some low batteries would stop me - I went out and got some to keep going.

It was a fairly good session of exercise which got me set up for the day ahead. I'd arranged with one of my friends to head over to see them as they'd had an operation done on one of their ears (ouch) and so were recovering from that. It turned out that this meant that she couldn't drive, or that any exercise such as what she was doing at the gym was also out due to the nature of the operation. I guess as well that if your balance isn't perfect either that can have all sorts of effects.

So it was off on the bus to Sale, and whilst there I stopped off at the Waterside Arts Centre to get tickets for myself and my friend to see Midge Ure in May (no booking fee, the future) and then on the bus out of Sale to my friend's place. It was good to see her as always and we had plenty of chat and coffee whilst being sat on the very comfortable sofa too. We caught up with all sorts such as work and also seeing how the house and garden is looking now - very nice indeed as well may I add.

She mentioned to me too that she'd recently been recommended a Northern Soul compilation which was four discs' worth of tunes, and a pretty solid selection. It was very much her era and musical taste to a degree too, and I must admit I didn't know hardly any of them, but they had the common sense to put Gloria Jones' original version of "Tainted Love" on there, which just simply has to be tune of the day really, it's a classic. It was just a really relaxed afternoon and lovely to spend some time together as well. Yaay.

I headed back through Sale, back from there into Manchester city centre and back out home (in the evening, certain buses I could have got don't run as often so that was actually the quickest way) and settled in for the evening with some telly, and notably A Question of Sport, which had the Australian snooker player Neil Robertson on, so that was good. Phil Tufnell was in shockingly good form as well, a big surprise there. I was impressed by those basketball players doing all sorts of tricks as well, get them on other telly programmes too!

Sunday 17th March - Vintage Victorian

The Love In My Heart and I had a relaxing morning, with us just taking our time to get up and relax, whilst I made us some bacon toasties and coffee to get us up and about. We had thought about where to go and one idea we had was the vintage fair at Victoria Baths - it meant we could peek around the fair but also go round the baths too which is always good to see how the restoration is coming along. It wasn't too far to go for us either and indoors, so even if the weather was bobbins, it wouldn't matter.

We headed there and managed to get a space for The Love's car, and so we headed in. It was very busy with lots of lovely stalls selling mainly furniture and accessories from a bygone era - lots of old plates and cups sets, and also some gorgeously restored furniture, some of which harked back to the art deco age, but really well maintained since. The Love even spotted the classic Babycham glasses (complete with logo and the deer and everything) and she just had to have one, as she used to drink from one of those at her parent's place many years back and so brought back happy memories.

We had a walk around the baths as well to see how the restoration was getting along, and the main first class males gala pool really did look gorgeous with the roof now fully in place and some gorgeous stained glass windows restored at each end. In the Turkish Baths the tiling really did look spot on and of course seeing the aeratone in full glory is always worth a visit - it looked rather neat and polished too and still for some feels like a torture chamber down there instead of the bath that it actually is.

After that we decided to head out again and we were considering a walk through Fletcher Moss, but there was literally nowhere for The Love to park up, so instead we decided a spot of Sunday lunch was more than doable. We headed first of all to The Cheshire Line but that looked rammed to bits, and so instead we decided to go to the Ashlea in Cheadle, always a good choice as the food is lovely in there. In fact The Love had the fish and chips which was spot on and I had the rather nice Sunday roast gammon, with lots of lovely gammon really well cooked too, and with a nice ale too. Happy bunny.

We got back to mine later and The Love suggested I do a bit of a workout on the Wii Fit. Well why not, I thought to myself, and spent the next hour or so working on some exercises and in truth not doing at all badly, in fact breaking my personal best on a couple of the exercises and still showing I had what it takes on the rhythm boxing as well so that was all good. I'll have to try and get back in to some form of routine to see if I can try and get some weight off - ideally I'd like to lose a fair few pounds before I go on holiday to Cornwall later in the year if I can.

Much later on I watched the highlights of the first race of the F1 season that I'd recorded from BBC 1 HD earlier in the day. It was good to see Suzi Perry present and fit right into the team and with David Coulthard being an excellent pundit and co-commentator, it seemed to start well, and Kimi Raikkonen delivered a great win with a strategy that worked well for him. The title sequence that the BBC have done this year is really good, with clips of the old drivers and the new races blending in well, and of course "The Chain" as the theme tune, what else could it be? Tune of the day for the Fleetwood Mac classic right there.

Saturday 16th March - Gone With The Title

It was nice just to potter around The Love In My Heart's place in the morning as we got ourselves up and ready, and I had some lovely breakfast as well to get myself in the mood for the day. We were heading to The Love's parents' place, as it was her niece's birthday and she would be there along with both of The Love's sisters, so would make for a good afternoon. Her father also has Sky Sports so I could keep an eye on the Everton v Man City game at the same time, so that all would hopefully bode well really.

We arrived there and The Love's niece was a very happy bunny all told, especially as lots of the family were there to wish her a Happy Birthday. The Love and I had stopped on the way to pick up this gorgeous little cake and so we could all have a piece with a cuppa later on, and that was rather gorgeous it has to be said. It was good to see lots of The Love's family and chat to them all, and her Mum was, as ever, looking forward to the World Snooker which would be on next month (more on that a little later) and asked me if I could order her a programme like I did last year - no problem of course.

On the pitch things weren't good - Everton had taken the lead and to be honest looked the miles better side and they definitely wanted it more than City did. I had a feeling that we weren't going to score and despite the efforts in the second half (and indeed the sending off for a nasty challenge by Steven Piennar) we couldn't break through. The turning point was a handball by Marouane Fellaini which the referee gave a free kick for, despite the fact it was four yards inside the penalty area. If he'd given the handball then surely it was a penalty and a second yellow for Fellaini as well, but no. City didn't score, and right at the death Everton broke forward and made it 2-0. Game over as far as the title was concerned for me.

We headed back to The Love's place to pick up some bits, and I noticed that there were some extra tickets that had gone on sale for the World Championship Snooker! Hurriedly I managed to get the very last seat for the first session of the first day, and in Row E as well so no complaints there. I suspect as the draw was made or if other commitments were taking priority, tickets had been returned, so I snagged them quickly. A good thing for me is that I know it'll be on the other table to where Ronnie O'Sullivan is playing, but I'll see him coming out, and if my session finishes earlier, I'll get to see some action, so we shall see.

It was time later for me to make some tea and it was a nice evening all round food wise, as I'd got some lovely large Portobello mushrooms which were stuffed for starters, followed by a gorgeous main of a chicken and ham hock lattice pie with some potatoes with polenta and vegetables, and then later on as we settled in to watch The Cube we had a cheese board, as I'd picked three gorgeous cheeses including a really nice Manchego one and a gorgeous Wensleydale with cranberries in, and some good crackers too. Worked really well as we watched that I think.

It had been a long day but a nice one overall and as we headed off to bed I kept thinking about all the times I'd been to the snooker and how the whole experience of going a couple of times back in 2008 set me up to go each year, which I've managed to do at least once, if not a few times. I also had the proper theme tune in my head, no less than Doug Wood's "Drag Racer" which as everyone knows is the proper snooker theme, no remixes, just the proper guitars and all that - tune of the day without question.

Friday 15th March - Warming And Beefy

It was my last day in work today before having a week off, so I was trying to spend time where possible finishing stuff off, and in the afternoon I did some testing on a bank of student machines as we'd had a report of Photoshop CS6 crashing on them. I worked out it was a mixture of how the student in question was working with their documents but also that some of the functions effectively weren't being handled well by the onboard IntelHD graphics card. A driver update seemed to fix that pretty well and so rolled that out over a few machines as well to see how that goes.

I had spent a couple of hours in a meeting earlier in the day with some other people from other teams planning out the deployment of new kit later in the year. In fact we worked out that there were going to be some kit that could be re-used, but it looks like we wangled a deal to get them across to one site in a fell swoop which would be easier (especially as that site is moving next year) and so with the other deployments, I worked out what we could do when and took it from there. It was a very grand meeting room we were in though with some lovely chairs all round.

Later that afternoon we had a little bit of an office warming do and several people from other teams came along to wish us well in our new surroundings. With a week gone it's been hard to ascertain as yet how it will all go long term but I think the important thing is that now we can feed info off each other and if need be, help each other out more efficiently. The key thing I reckon will be when it gets pretty manic and how we all cope with the demand, as at the moment although it's busy it's not yet as busy as I thought it would be - we shall see.

I headed into the city centre and then out to The Love In My Heart's place, where I got showered and changed before we were being picked up by her friend, as he and his partner were cooking for us both tonight. The car had some top tunes on the iPod playing including Shapeshifters' "Lola's Theme" which is one of The Love's all time favourite songs, so that just had to be played - tune of the day without question there. We soon got chattering away and got back to their place in pretty quick time.

We had a gorgeous meal all told, including some beef bourgignon for the main which was served in a big dish, with some roast potatoes, carrots and broccoli on the side which really did feel warm and hearty for the evening. We had some Australian radio station courtesy of the iPod app on in the background, which played all sorts, and lots of chat about the People Like Us series and how accurately (or not) it portrayed the area it featured, and all sorts.

The dessert was gorgeous, I have to say - an apple and blackcurrant crumble where the fruit tasted beautifully fresh and the crumble on top was crunchy and that was also good too. It was nice just to have that with a coffee from the trusty Tassimo (even had the Kenco Café Crema which was ace) and be able to chat a fair bit more before the time just sped away with us all, and we were heading back to The Love's place. We'd had another great night together and having someone cook lovely food for you is just the thing really.

Thursday 14th March - It's Oh So Quiet

It was a relatively busy day in the office today, primarily because I was spending some time in getting a few things organised but also because I wanted to get as much done as possible prior to me taking a week's leave next week. I was also spending a fair bit of time with testing some software and getting it to talk to a licence server, however I wasn't having much luck. It does look like it might well be the wrong version of the software that I've been supplied so I need to feed that back and get the correct one where possible, to see what I can do with it.

I headed into the city centre after work, primarily to get my hair cut and the lovely ladies at The Northern Cutter did the business, with one of the CDs of Acid House Anthems playing, which had the likes of Orbital's "Chime" on - massive tune back in the day and still ace now, so tune of the day there. In fact the three CDs were quite a good selection of some great tunes, 808 State's Pacific State and Primal Scream's classic "Loaded" also featuring on it. I thought that I'd go and have a look in HMV and see if I could locate it.

Going into HMV was a somewhat heartbreaking experience. The store had closing down signs everywhere, up to 40% off a lot of items and it just seemed really desolate, with empty racks and shelves, especially upstairs in the CD section. It's hard to say where they went wrong, but certainly not focussing on their main selling points of music was one minus, sending their racks of CDs upstairs and almost banishing them from view. I've had many happy memories of that place and soon it'll all be gone, and it does upset me that soon it'll be almost impossible to buy music over the counter and it'll all be online. I kind of like the retail store experience sometimes.

I headed home and had a fairly relaxed evening of it all, rocking out a fair bit with Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock and also then packing my overnight bag, as I was staying over at The Love In My Heart's place tomorrow night. Back to the rocking, it was good to spend some time trying to nail songs I'd not played that often, so the Ramones' version of the Spiderman theme was a good one to tackle, as was Anthrax's "Indians" too, where the guitar didn't seem as difficult on medium level as I thought it would be. I tried that on bass too and had a note streak of some 750-odd notes on the bounce, I think my second highest ever on any track. Woo!

Wednesday 13th March - In The Middle

It's been a busy week and it proved to be so again today, as I spent some more time working on packaging up an application. In essence a silent installation is actually pretty easy to do, but it's getting the software to start talking to its licence server after it's been installed. This is stored at another site and so for some reason I just can't see it whatsoever. I've read all the documentation and certainly for a client install you only need one piece of the software to run, so not sure how it actually gets to work without looking into things in more detail which I'll have to do tomorrow.

I also spent some time checking over some notes I'd made in a meeting yesterday so I was then able to send them out to the team as required. It was good that I had the trusty laptop with me and just meant that I was able to think on my feet and mention everything that needed to be done, and then be able to report back and share the information that we needed with everyone else. It's also a case of me having to remember to spell and grammar check everything to be sure that it reads as correct as possible - and sometimes the Word grammar police are really out there to get you.

Once I got home from work, stopping off at Asda on the way home to pick up a birthday present and a card for a forthcoming birthday, it was all good to go at home and so I settled in to watch last night's episode of CSI (the original Vegas one of course). It was good to see Brody being more emotionally involved in a case and clearly what she saw affected her, but in a way that she was determined to see this one through. It was pretty emotional at the end though and that really did show how well acted the whole thing was - well done them! Tune of the day is the theme tune to the show - "Who Are You?" by The Who - still ace.

I then saw today's races from the Cheltenham Festival (I series linked the whole week so I could watch them when I got home from work) and I have to say Sprinter Sacre's run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase was very impressive indeed - he annhiliated the field by some distance and just knew when to hit the front. Everyone needs a quality two mile chaser and I think that it's the real deal here - eight wins out of eight in seriously decent races. And it looked pretty easy to be honest, too.

The last thing to watch was tonight's People Like Us, the final episode of the series. It was a bit odd how the dysfunctional Wakefield family decided to call a ghost hunter to see if they could make contact with a potential poltergeist named Malcolm, but what was heartwarming was the two teenage friends who were togther and real characters but in a good way, and how racist abuse has forced one of them out of the area. They were just friends through and through and you could tell they wanted to be sure they kept in touch no matter what, which was good to see instead of them causing all sorts of trouble.

Tuesday 12th March - Down In The Basement

I had a bit of a job on this afternoon to connect several network points for a departmental move, as they're moving from one building to another. The two new spaces that they're going in are pretty well built and have been renovated, and I have to admit with the view that they have outside, I kind of wish that they were my office instead, but I digress. My colleague and I headed over this afternoon and we were to patch them all in, test them out and get the printer moved to its new location as well.

The building has its network cabinet located in the basement, and it's a bit of a maze to get down to the bottom floor and locate it, but once you do, it's fairly easy to work out where you need to go. We were a bit concerned that almost all of the ports in the two switches were already taken up, but it looked like there may have been some of them which haven't been used for a fair amount of time. A quick chat with one of our network people and I was able to unpatch six sockets and re-patch them where they now needed to go, and this tidied up things very nicely indeed it has to be said.

I had a fairly relaxed evening in the company of The Love In My Heart, and I set to work in making us some chicken kievs with bacon and cheese inside, along with some mash and vegetables which did the job rather nicely. I had a Jacobs latte macchiato less sweet from my Tassimo and The Love agreed that it was less sweet than the other lattes out there, and well worth getting some of like I did. She had watched Emmerdale before we settled in for the Great British Menu, followed by the two weapons of choice on a Tuesday night currently.

First up was Alex Polizzi in The Fixer, where she went to a local fish and chip shop close to Bristol, where the family were clearly not all together in how they wanted the business to pan out, with the daughter in charge but her Mum and Dad just constantly arguing and getting in the way. When they got it right, they made some cracking fish and chips and The Love and I had to agree - you're in a chippy, you've come to treat yourself. Why the hell would you even want to consider eating salad of all things? Not a cat in hell's chance to be honest.

Later on was The Railway: Keeping Britain on Track which focussed more on how the trains and how they run integrate with the communities. It was somewhat concerning but also reassuring to see that in some English village there's still much of that "precious village" mentality as the local level crossing was to be replaced with an automated version, and how the safety fencing being put up (so people don't kill themselves) wasn't aesthetically pleasing to the local community.

It was also good to see Merseyrail featured as well as they had to deal with various people at Aintree station for the Grand National meeting, and then off to Southport where it seemed plenty of people were having to be turned away from returning from their days out after being much too worse for wear. It was quite intriguing to see just what the people who look after the trains have to deal with on a daily basis and to be honest I have nothing but admiration for the job that they do - many of them unsung heroes to be honest. Tune of the day is a tribute to them and indeed the wondrous St Pancras station - "Heroes" as done orchestrally by Philip Glass, based on the Bowie classic.

Monday 11th March - Buy and Sell

After I'd mentioned my lens woes the other day, I decided that the best course of action would be to try and get a replacement 55-200mm lens (preferably the VR version) and then sell my old 55-200mm and mention in the description that auto focus doesn't work and it'll be manual focus only for anyone who wants it. I also put it at a very reasonable buy it now price and so if anyone wanted it for manual testing or indeed if they coud repair it, then they get a decent price either way. And only a few hours after it went on eBay yesterday it was sold, the beauty of Buy It Now I guess.

I knew also that the post office near to Piccadilly Gardens opened much earlier than others (8am infact) so I took a detour into work this morning via there to drop the parcel off, which was very well packaged and secured so that it would arrive safe and sound. I had calculated the special delivery postage to be £6.35 and put that in my item description so it was good that I'd worked it out correctly when I sent it in the post. I had also won a 55-200mm VR lens and so had paid for that, and the sale of the old one would offset the cost of the replacement, so that worked out pretty well all told really.

It was the start of another week at work but the first full week in our new office. I'm gradually getting used to things and downsizing where possible to be able to get work done. I'm using one 23" widescreen monitor which is enough for me along with the laptop connected to it, and also then it means I can undock easily by disconnecting the cables and just going on as I need to. I think too that it'll be a lot easier long term because I can then be at the ready with everything for now. I just need the work room to be ready so I can do some testing and imaging of stuff, but that'll come with time.

After work I headed home and spent a fair bit of time just rocking out on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock, and doing a bit of online play as well which worked out pretty good, especially if you've got one on bass and one on guitar, you can soon crank up the scores a fair bit on some of the songs. I ended up doing Dragonforce's "Fury of the Storm" which on bass is pretty doable, but was impressive solo on Anthrax's "Indians" having a streak on medium bass of 757 notes on the trot - and that song is not easy by any stretch, so tune of the day there really.

Finally I spent some time watching the last episode of the Cornwall series on ITV. I've enjoyed it although I must admit that Caroline Quentin has got consistently more annoying during this series, and maybe it needs someone else who would be less in your face and more happy for the people who live there to tell their own stories. When you see how Michael Portillo does his railway journeys with an authoritative but knowledgeable tone, and often lets the people speak at length or the scenery speak for itself, it's a master class in how to present, and people should learn from it. Listen ITV - I'll do the next series of Cornwall and do a better job - if you want to employ me you know where I am!

Sunday 10th March - Roast With Mum

The Love In My Heart and I had a bit of a lie in, particularly worth it after a tough week at work and all that, before we got ourselves ready and headed out, with the first stop being a family relation to drop something off and then off to mine, where I'd leave my overnight bag and pick up the present and two cards, one for my brother's birthday tomorrow and one for Mum as it's Mother's Day here in the UK today. The weather did look a little on the windy side and we had the afternoon pretty much planned too.

We went over to Mum's and got there a little early so we made ourselves a coffee whilst Mum was getting herself sorted and ready for the day. We all were in various shades of purple or burgundy and The Love looked beautiful in her dress it has to be said. It looked a tad windy and so we all had some good warm coats on to prevent us being too cold, as the first stop was the garden centre close to where we were having lunch. They had a bit of a sale on and so this meant that Mum could have a look around and then see what she could get for not much dosh.

Once a purchase was made we went to the Cheshire Line Tavern close by, and I insisted on paying for lunch. I had got Mum a present too but I thought it best to get lunch as well. Good job I booked in advance though as the place was very busy, and even though we were there a little earlier than scheduled, our table was already ready for us, and so we got some drinks and sat there comfortable, well away from plenty of the larger gatherings that the pub had, so it meant we could chat and hear ourselves which is a much nicer thing.

We all went for their carvery which seemed very good value indeed, and it was very nice. Mum and The Love went for the lamb and I went for the beef, and either way we weren't skimped on the amount of meat that we got, and I added some Yorkshire puddings, green beans, carrots, new and roast potatoes as well as stuffing and gravy. It looked delicious and it tasted just as much - the three empty plates on the table said it all really, and I'll definitely have to head back there again at some point and have it I think.

Dessert had to be done and even though The Love decided not to have one, I felt it best to have one so I had the Belgian waffle with ice cream and butterscotch sauce, whilst Mum had the banoffee pie with ice cream which admittedly did look very nice indeed. It was still busy in there and being sat close to the old railway line did feel rather nice with a great view of the countryside beyond too, and good to chat and have coffee as well. The day went by far too quick for my liking.

Much later on I saw Chelsea come back from 2-0 down against Manchester United to force a 2-2 draw and a replay, which might not be played till early April at the earliest. The semi final draw means that Manchester City will face the winners, and so that's going to be pretty intense to say the least. Tune of the day in the meantime is a song Mum likes (well it is Mother's Day after all) and so it's "Close To You" by the Carpenters, because on this day of all days, shouldn't we all feel close to family?

Saturday 9th March - Barnsley Blown Away

It was the sixth round of the FA Cup today and Manchester City had a nice home time against Barnsley, which looking on paper was about the easiest tie we could have had. That said of course you don't get to the quarter finals unless you've won a few games of course, and on their way to the sixth round they had defeated Burnley, Hull City and MK Dons, so two sides in their same division and so not to be underestimated. I thought that City would put a good side out and effectively try to kill the game off as soon as possible.

I had to stay in for most of the day as I was waiting for a courier delivery from Yodel, which was their third attempt at delivery (despite my insistence on them coming after 5pm on a weekday as they deliver up to 9pm) and so I didn't dare leave the house in case they arrived. In fact I had watched the whole of the Everton v Wigan FA Cup game and seen Wigan do a professional job in seeing off Everton and indeed scoring three goals in four minutes to really put the seal on it wonderfully well, and just after the final whistle a knock on the door, and a decent sized box arrived from Yodel.

Thankfully it was as expected, a delivery of lots of coffee discs for my Tassimo. Not all of them were mine, as The Love In My Heart's sister had asked me to get some at the same time as me shopping for them, so hers were two lots of the Costa Latte and Americano each, which meant I'd ordered five packs for myself. Ordering over £35 from the Tassimo online shop means free postage, but it also means you can get some selections which you can't get anywhere else, so quite good. I got two packs of Carte Noire Petit Déjuner, one Jacobs Café Crema, one Jacobs Medaille d'Or and one Jacobs Latte Macchiato Less Sweet (which really are less sweet too, it has to be said.)

Later on my friend came over and we were off to the Etihad to see if City could do the business. It was a little bit wet outside but thankfully dry inside the ground and so after putting £1 on Pablo Zabaleta to score the first goal, it was time to see if we could do the business. And we didn't have to wait long for the first goal either, a neat move with Edin Džeko passing to Yaya Toure who curled a ball into the box, David Silva's shot was well saved but Carlos Tévez followed up to make it 1-0. The City fans had a new chant for him after his arrest for driving whilst not being allowed to yesterday and sung it thus: "He drives when he wants, he drives when he wants, Carlos Tévez, he drives when he wants!"

It was plain sailing after that with a great break from City resulting in Tévez crossing the ball low and right into the path of Aleksandar Kolarov who slotted home with a cool finish for 2-0 before the ball went down the left and into David Silva, who crossed low and hard into Tévez who then simply waltzed around the box before slotting the ball past the Barnsley keeper Luke Steele for 3-0. The City fans sang the same chant but some of them did mock driving with their hands as well just to add to the gag too which was pretty funny it has to be said. Well, if you can't giggle during a game like that when can you?

After half time Barnsley made some changes but they weren't to no avail as from a throw in Samir Nasri went down the left hand side, crossed in and there was Tévez for a hat trick and 4-0. Ten minutes later the ball went through a neat one two with Tévez to David Silva, who after a good save from Steele had the common sense to follow up the rebound and make it a simple tap in for 5-0. City introduced the likes of Scott Sinclair and Abdul Razak to give them some time on the pitch but it was the last sub James Milner who went the closest, rattling the post with a powerful shot. But 5-0 it stayed and nice and easy really.

Later on at The Love's place we settled in to keep an eye on the lottery draw which we didn't win, followed by some lovely chicken in white wine sauce with some potatoes and some vegetables which did the business before we saw The Cube. And yes, the contestants got nowhere. Do they not realise that only Mo Farah can actually beat The Cube, ever? And that it needs to be the law that only he can beat it as well, if you ask me. In the meantime I saw the FA Cup highlights on ITV and a day was pretty much done. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Blue Moon" by Supra which definitely gets me fired up every single time. Yaay.

Friday 8th March - Settling In

It felt a little unusual to be in a new revamped office, particulaly after I'd spent around a year and a half in the old one and had settled there nicely in the surroundings, despite there being no windows to speak of. I had to remember to make sure I went straight to the new office, as I had moved the laptop, monitor and all the accessories yesterday in order to be sure that I could get cracking this morning. I did have to head back to the old office to get my Win7 desktop machine which I use for application testing, and as the work room we need isn't good to go yet, I rigged it up on my desk for now and used the VGA input of my monitor (the laptop uses DVI) and so can switch between the two, thus needing one monitor only. Useful, eh?

I had a pretty late call to a job in the afternoon as one of our massive multifunction printers was being moved by our suppliers at our request, and I wanted to be sure everything was working out fine. As the destination building didn't have any stairs, a stair walker was needed to be sure that the device could actually get in without any damage. I have to say the stair walker that they brought was great, it worked really well and meant lots less hassle too, and once I rigged up the printer and tested it, it was time to head off home.

I did the food shopping at Tesco first and then settled in for the evening, mainly to catch up on some telly but also to relax a fair bit. After I'd made my tea I watched tonight's Pointless, with a massive £24,750 jackpot up for grabs (the highest ever prize on Pointless no less) and I would have got a few pointless answers during the game itself (I knew Justin Timberlake was in The Social Network, enough to gain me zero points there.) For the final round the two contestants picked European Pop and they had to name any top 40 hit by either Julio or Enrique Iglesias, and they managed to remember that Enrique's hit "Maybe" was obscure enough. And so it proved - a pointless answer and jackpot won. Yaay!

Before The Last Leg came on I did a bit of rocking on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock, striving to improve my best scores and even attempting some of the songs on hard difficulty to see how I'd do. Not all of them are easy at that level but I was pretty pleased that I managed to get through the likes of "How You Remind Me" by Nickelback and also "Listen to Her Heart" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on hard. I also did "The Outsider" by A Perfect Circle on medium bass and guitar as I'd never played that track in anger before.

On came The Last Leg with its Public Enemy track "Harder Than You Think" being a great theme tune still (make that one tune of the day - job done) and the three of them having a good giggle. There was plenty of mickey taking for Justin Bieber's late show antics at the O2, and the threesome answered a difficult set of "Is It OK" questions about Alex and Adam's prosthetics, with Adam showing off his scene from the Terminator trick where the leg gets left behind but he carried on walking, which was pretty hilarious due to the facial expression. It still is a bloody brilliant show - and definitely watch it if you get the chance to on a Friday night (it's no on next week though, made a mental note)

It looks though as well that my Nikon 55-200mm AF-S lens for my camera has bit the dust. I was having all sorts of issues with it on Sunday when I headed out to Formby (even before we got out of the car it was playing up) and I think I'd narrowed down the issue. It looks like the focus motor inside is dead. Even hooking it up to my Nikon F80 film SLR which has a motor in the body wasn't enough to kick focus in properly. Sliding the switch to M and manually focussing in works fine, though. So I'm on the look out for a replacement (preferably the VR version) and what I may then do is sell the existing one with a massive note that it's manual only, and see what happens. Just got to track down a replacement at a good price though..

Thursday 7th March - On The Move

I'm on the move today and for a good reason. For the second time in less than two years, I'm upping sticks and moving offices. In a way I deliberately tried not to bring as much stuff to my current location as I suspected in the future we'd be moving, and in a way it's also good to try to keep things tidy and not to hoard everything. I'd already cleared out quite a bit of paperwork that could be shredded prior to today anyway, primarily because a fair bit of it was archived stuff that we no longer needed anymore (and of course a lot of what we do these days is stored electronically).

Once we'd sorted out the network sockets for the new office, I had a look at it with the desks in. The desks had had to be moved around slightly from its original plans which meant that the plug and network sockets weren't quite in the right place. Thankfully I could improvise a little with the network cable because it went into the IP phone first and then the cable from the IP phone to the work laptop was a short enough distance to keep things tidy, phew. I set up the laptop, large screen (which I'd use if the laptop was docked in the office as the main display because it's much higher resolution) and away I was.

It did feel sad to leave the old office, and more so when I noted that the new one still smelt of paint and within an hour I was getting a headache, not good really. I suppose as well I'm having to get used to downsizing with a smaller desk and work space (although we have been promised a work room to do stuff like imaging and development work in). One thing I wish we did have is the smaller version of the dividers that sit on top of the back of the desks, so that it looks a little more professional instead of just batches of desks plonked down. And don't mention the fact that floor isn't level because the contractors didn't actually screed it properly...

Anyway I headed home via Asda to pick up some frozen vegetables and also a couple of other bits, and then after making the tea it was time to catch up with TV I'd missed during the week with me being out and about. I saw Tuesday's episode of CSI first which focussed on the diner where you often saw the CSIs in at the end of an episode, and it was a really intriguing story, with Sara Sidle kicking backside against the weird stalker bloke who had to take it when Sara told him that she didn't leave the diner because he was watching her and didn't feel safe, and if she had have left on time without fear she'd have been alive now. And that did hurt.

It was also then the episode of People Like Us from last night with more from North Manchester (note: not just Harpurhey is featured as Dragonfly's lack of proper geography is plain to see). There were thankfully more stories of hope and inspiration instead of "let's look at the scroats" with Jamie the market trader wanting to sing and being advised by a drag artist in the gay village, and winning his mum over in the end, and also Anthony who took his kids to a modelling place (and they did look cute) so he could try and provide them with a better future. And the Wishy Washy launderette got burgled, but at least the criminals who did it got some form of justice - not enough sadly.

I also had the time out to finally get round to downloading The Floe's new single "Headlights" which was released on Monday. And suffice to say it's been well worth the wait. Listening to it now sounded just as good as when I first heard it when the band had a clip on their website, and it goes to show just how clear Sarah's voice is. It builds nicely with each verse and it's pretty catchy stuff, and has to be tune of the day. Well worth checking out and purchasing yourself too if you have the time, trust me on this!

Wednesday 6th March - A Special Studio Gig

It was my first gig of 2013 tonight, and it's been far too long since I last went to a gig to be honest. It's a mixture of saving up for the holiday but also actually seeing someone that I genuinely want to go and see, and when I heard at the start of the year that Duke Special was touring solo and doing little venues, then I had to check it out, and tonight would be in the Studio in the Lowry, which holds around 200 maximum all seated, so a nice cosy little intimate gig, the sort I absolutely love.

I met The Love In My Heart after work who was coming with me, and she mentioned that it'd be nice if he played his normal albums instead of the ones he did for stage and screen when we last saw him at a church in Salford (where he did Mother Courage and her Children and The Silent World of Hector Mann in full, and it wasn't exactly to her taste) and with that in mind, it was to her place first where she made some lovely pasta and garlic bread for tea before she got herself changed and ready. She looked lovely in her top and jeans, casual but smart and beautiful at the same time, and I really love that lots.

As the tram was now running near her place it was easier to leave hers and head out on the tram all the way to MediaCity UK, which meant a short walk from there to the Lowry, and that was quite pleasing considering that the weather wasn't at its best tonight, it was hammering it down and it was fairly cold and windy outside. We got into the Lowry and headed to the bar close to the Studio and saw one of my friends there with his Mum (I knew he was coming to the gig) so we had a drink with them and a good chat and catch up at the same time which was all good.

The support was Boxes, which is basically the solo project of Carey Willetts, formerly of the band Athlete (if you happen to remember them.) He had various effect boxes going on so he could record drums etc and then loop them to play during the song, where he'd play acoustic guitar and sing, sort of folk mixed with some electronica. He had a Competition Pro joystick to control some of the drums which as a retro gamer impressed me. What didn't impress me nor The Love was the need for him to tune the guitar half way through the song, seemed a tad shambolic to me to be honest.

Despite that, the songs were actually pretty nice, with "Don't Look Down" being particularly nice and moving about love, and the epic "I Can't Imagine" being about the twenty minutes or so when he thought that his child wasn't even going to make it to childbirth, which was told with emotion and yet clarity too. "Throw Your Stones" was also good too as was "Silent Alarm" which had a pounding beat to underpin it all. If he could iron out the stage imperfections, then live would be much more promising, and maybe even stripped back without the drum machines effects would also work well with just him acoustic.

A lesson in how to do stripped back live was given by Duke Special later on. It was just him and his large wooden electronic keyboard (although it looked and sounded like a piano so I was a bit disappointed when I found out it wasn't a real piano) and he played wonderfully well, with his dreadlocks hiding his face but not disrupting his singing or the emotional feel in the songs. Starting off happy with "Sweet Sweet Kisses" he would chat to us about some of the songs, notably on the "Under The Dark Cloth" album which was inspired by three photographers featured in the New York Museum of Modern Art, no less. "Rita de Acosta" got some lovely treatment here and sounded gorgeous.

Later on he handed out a little fold out booklet which had the words to some of his songs on (or the chorus parts) so you could sing along as required for the songs. "Apple Jack" from the Huckleberry Finn EP had that treatment as we all sang the chorus with him, which felt rather lovely actually. He did the same later on one of my favourites "Last Night I Nearly Died" which sounded gorgeous all stripped back, and he just let the audience alone sing the chorus which felt rather beautiful too. A highlight for me and so tune of the day without question there. Also "Diggin' An Early Grave" got the same sort of chorus with everyone belting it out wonderfully well, and it just felt a rather special intimate gig the more it went on.

A fair few songs from "Under The Dark Cloth" were aired including "You Press The Button, We Do The Rest" with chorus singalong and a tome from Duke telling us about how these photographers hated the invention of the Kodak and all it stood for. "Hand Of Men" and "Georgia O'Keeffe" sounded lovely from that album too, and the time was going by far too quickly. He even put in the likes of "Wake Up Scarlet" and a rousing rendition of "Salvation Tambourine" where he absolutely belted out the ending with so much emotion. "I could GO!" he almost yelled, but with control. Excellent stuff.

The encore was a really lovely three songs and he even included his cover version of "From Clare To Here" where he chatted with the audience a little as well. I noticed that the fan next to me was sat with his Mum behind, and they'd knitted a little Duke Special figure complete with dreadlocked hair and everything. It looked cool and afterwards the little one went to place it on Duke's keyboard as a little present. Awwww. I was so pleased to see that a fair few children were there with their parents enjoying the music and I kept thinking "Good parents! None of this One Direction bobbins for them but decent music. Hurrah!" - as these things matter to me immensely.

The Love and I headed out of the Lowry and had to run a little to get the tram back to the city centre which proved massively worth it as it meant that The Love could then carry on the tram back to her place, and I'd then get the bus home. It was a really good evening and Duke Special was brilliant, it has to be said. Why can't all gigs be that lovely, I kept thinking to myself, as the bus sped home and the free wi-fi just had to be used. And more to the point, why can't more people I like tour so I can go and see them?

Tuesday 5th March - Clearout Central

As our office is preparing for a move into one location with our other office as part of our team, we spent a fair bit of time today clearing out lots of old stuff that we don't need to use anymore. Amongst all the stuff that we got rid of was plenty of age old Novell courseware from old courses we used to go on - and we had a training place in the centre of Manchester that almost all of the courses were at, too. I can remember fondly doing the likes of Groupwise 6 Administration, Netware 6.5 Administration, SUSE Linux Enterprise 9 and stuff like that and all of those courses did come in very useful at the time, let me tell you.

In a way too it's meant that we've been able to work out what exactly we need to take and what needs to be got rid of, and we were fairly ruthless as to what we wanted to trash. We filled one large sack full of papers to be shredded which were mainly hand written notes from old meetings, the minutes of which are electronically stored, and also sorted out any installation discs and what we needed to keep to. With the office being smaller per user in terms of desk space, and the work room we'll have for any project work most likely not being ready in time, we're all potentially ready to downsize a fair bit hopefully.

I also finalised a way of getting a message prompt to appear to the user during a SCCM task sequence. It's not as easy as it looks, because normally a task sequence runs as a system user and that user normally doesn't have any interaction with the logged on user's desktop, as you'd expect. We have a custom little executable that has an on screen message and a 90 second countdown timer, so you can click OK when ready or let it countdown but it was a puzzle to see how we could have that working.

And the way to do it is via a little executable in the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit called ServiceUI, which lets you interact during a task sequence. The syntax is simple - you tell it which process you want to interact with (tsprogressui.exe for a task sequence) and what executable you're going to run with your message (so in this case countdown.exe) and then put that as a "run command line" step in the task sequence. The task sequence runs and then the executable runs with display from within - just as I wanted it to. Hurrah indeedy!

I felt pretty positive and so did The Love In My Heart later as we settled in for tea, with me making some chicken with stuffing and little sausages along with some mash and vegetables and we saw Alex Polizzi in The Fixer, with all sorts of customer service training for the girls at a beauty salon in the heart of Essex, including the in flight training that Virgin Atlantic employees have to do, a real eye opener into how it all works there. Tune of the day was during the show too was a pleasant surprise, an acoustic version of the Pixies' classic "Where Is My Mind?" by the band Trampled by Turtles which did the original justice. Hurrah!

Monday 4th March - A Thriller At The Villa

I had a productive day today, and spent a fair bit of time clearing out lots of stuff from the drawers in my desk that I no longer needed whatsoever, in preparation for our big office move which will be happening later this week. It was actually pretty good to do that and realise that I didn't need X or Y and just needed the essentials to make sure that I was moving as light as possible, which after all is the thing really that needed to be done. One thing that is concerning me is that our work/project room won't be ready, and ideally I'd need to set up a test rig or two in there to make sure everything plays ball as intended.

Still, I did get to the bottom of a potential issue with deploying Cisco Media Services as part of the Cisco Jabber client today. It turned out that when you accepted the security certificate to install the driver as part of the Media Services install, it will install a certificate. However, if you always trust it and install as an admin it installs the certificate somewhat differently, and exporting that out seemed to be better. I then tried installing all the Cisco stuff on three different makes and model of PC with 32-bit Windows 7, all with the same task sequence that installed the new certificate, and badabing! It works. I have now re-imaged one of the machines with 64-bit Windows 7 so I can sign off some final testing on that.

After I'd had something to eat for tea my uncle had very kindly invited me over to his place as Aston Villa were playing Manchester City and on Sky Sports 1, which he now has (wooo). And of course as they got a Tassimo for Christmas, gorgeous coffee as well. I had the Jacobs Medaille D'or which was gorgeous, and as I ordered some of those along with some other coffees from the Tassimo shop today, definitely something to look forward to I think. So with coffee all sorted it was time for the football.

City were a little bit slow to get off the mark during the first half but once we got going, I figured it'd only be a matter of time before we did score. Pablo Zabaleta hit the post and was unlucky not to score, Carlos Tévez had a shot well saved, and just before half time Edin Džeko robbed the ball from the Villa defence, played in Tévez who cool as you like waited for the keeper to dive, then slotted the ball home and right on the stroke of half time it was 1-0 to the mighty Blues. That'll do me, I thought.

We had our chances during the second half but the Villa keeper was equal to everything including a placed shot in the bottom corner from Yaya Toure. Our defence held firm with Matija Nastasic and Kolo Toure being impressive at keeping everything at bay, whilst Pablo Zabaleta gave a captain's performance of determination, passion and tackling. James Milner was also good with his runs down the flanks and a willingness to get involved, and although we had a few late scares I don't think anyone could argue that a City win was a fair result, and the gap at the top is back to 12 points, and crucially, we're five ahead of Tottenham again.

Tune of the day in the meantime sums up the mood of moving at the moment: "Panic Attack" by Dream Theater. I am forever thinking at the moment that I've not got enough time to get things done and yet I need to take something in the region of nine days' leave by the end of the Easter break - and it's just a shame that I can't carry any over to the next year as I'd really need them for then. I also like the track because it rocks and I can sing it bloody well on vocals on Rock Band 2 as well - always worth a blast to try and get that nailed!

Sunday 3rd March - Walking In The Sand

After The Love In My Heart and I got up and had some breakfast, with me having a Costa Americano from the Tassimo (as you do) we decided that with the weather at least being clear and dry it would be good to head out for the afternoon, and so thought that Formby would be good, as the section close to the beach and red squirrel area is National Trust, so we could park up for free and then head along the beach with a nice walk together. And so once we'd got the car filled up with petrol, off we headed. The Love was looking cool and gorgeous in her top but had a coat to keep warm from any sea breeze.

We headed along the M602, M62 and M57 and then after cutting around the back of Thornton and being stuck in a queue for a set of traffic lights it was a short trip along the A565 and then to Formby itself, skirting the town before heading past Freshfields startion and to the entrance, and soon the car was parked up close to the sand dunes. We decided that heading for a walk along the beach would be nice and so we headed over the big dune and down to the beach, where the tide had come in a fair bit and it looked a tad on the cold and windy side.

We walked Northwards as if we were going to Southport, and noticed plenty of people walking their dogs and families out with their children in wellies and really looked like they were enjoying themselves which was good to see. We noticed that lots of old Christmas trees were being recycled to help the shoreline defences and stop some coastal erosion happening, which was a neat idea - everyone wins with a bit of recycling there I think. One lone tree had blown away though which was a tad on the surreal side.

We then followed the Gypsy Path which took you over the sand dunes and through the forest towards one of the trails, which we then followed to head to the red squirrel trail. Unfortunately there were still no red squirrels around but it was a nice walk around the hills and dips of the trail anyway, and lots of people walking around which was also good. I even had an ice cream from the van there (which has a reserved space in the car park!) and that was good to have that when walking around and seeing if we could locate the squirrels.

We walked back to The Love's car, and headed back through Formby itself and then along the main road, seeing all the microlight aircraft land in the airfield and then off to the Sizzling Pub that we saw in Thornton and felt it'd be good to stop for something to eat there. The Feeling's "Fill My Little World" was playing as we headed to the bar, and I like that song, so tune of the day - easy choice. The difficult choice was deciding what to eat to be honest as there was plenty of choice that we both could have had. In the end I plumped for the steak and ale pie and The Love went for the half roast chicken - both of which were very nice indeed!

As the journey back towards the M57 is pretty close to Aintree racecourse, we simply had to divert via there and then head along the (in)famous Melling Road. The road of course cuts through the circuit and stopping off at the first crossing, you see the grandstands and indeed the run of fences to Becher's Brook no less. When you hear the commentators say "they cross the Melling Road" they literally are - the road is covered with a thick layer of soil so it cannot be seen or trodden on - fascinating stuff of course for me at least. It was then off back home along mainly motorways but it had been a good day out and reflecting with a coffee back at mine it was just what we both needed - a nice long walk in the fresh air and plenty of scenery to admire along the way too.

Saturday 2nd March - Forming An Orderly Queue

I had a relatively relaxed day of sorts today. I had got up and sorted out a few things around the house, and then called Mum to see if she was okay with me coming over for a coffee (always good to check in case she was doing anything herself). I went over and had a good natter for a fair while, and she was keeping me in the loop with a few things going on too. It was nice just to be in the front room in the warm and able to just pop round to be honest. I think that Mum was cheered up to see me too as well to be honest!

I saw my brother too after his long trip to Japan and he and I with Mum were looking through the pictures that he took when he was there. It looked really nice, especially some of the beaches with the sun setting, and of course lots of really nice temples and views from them. The Tokyo Skytower intrigued me due to the view from the top and indeed the massive Studio Ghibli shop at the bottom of it with of course a massively large furry Totoro greeting you at the front entrance (well what else would it be, I wonder?). It's only made me think more that I'll have to at some point head over myself.

I then headed towards the city centre on the bus from Mum's and suspected it might be on diversion because of the EDL march taking place in the city. I was proved right as police were blocking any traffic heading towards Albert Square and so the bus headed along Portland Street, through Charlotte Street to Spring Gardens and then down King Street where I'd get off. I looked back towards Albert Square and it didn't look pretty, so headed towards the Arndale Centre and to my next stop - the Pandora shop!

As you can imagine on a Saturday afternoon it was pretty busy in there, and so they had a board out where you had to queue up to be served by one of the many staff in there. People were buying things in there for Mother's Day but not me - I was on a mission to order something for The Love In My Heart's birthday. I figured that if I ordered it now it'd most likely be in for her birthday, and before you ask, it's something she's asked for and knows about. The staff were very nice and chatty to people queueing and once I got served, the assistant there was lovely, and I was able to order in the item I was after, so yaay.

I headed home later to avoid any later scuffles that would happen with the EDL (and sure enough a lot of them were hanging outside the dodgy Wetherspoons pub in Manchester Piccadilly and causing a disturbance as it turned out) and then saw most of the final score football results before doing a final bit of cleaning and getting things very tidy for when The Love In My Heart came over. I had got us some lovely food in for tonight's meal and so started off with the stuffed portobello mushrooms, which really did taste gorgeous, and I'll have to remember to get those again at some point I think.

For the main and dessert, it was over to the Tesco Finest meal deal for £10 with some lovely lemon pepper chicken together with some roast potatoes with garlic and polenta, and I added some of my own steamed vegetables to finish it off. That was gorgeous as was the New York cheesecake, and I got some cream to go with that too. That all came with a bottle of white wine which The Love enjoyed, whilst I had my Cornish Knocker real ale to have with the chicken which actually worked really well, must remember that in future.

We snugged up later on and watched Jonathan Ross on ITV, with Carol Vorderman being a tad annoying. The main reason for The Love wanting to watch it was that one of the actresses in it is starring in a film with Tom Cruise and wanted to know if there was any gossip on that and there wasn't - plus there was also Jack Whitehall whom she loves and I loathe - and pretty much in equal measure on that one! Tune of the day though has to be "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" by Pop Will Eat Itself - listen to the lyrics and with what went on today, you can understand why!

Friday 1st March - Drumming Up Support

Had a busy if yet productive and also frustrating time of it at work. My colleague and I thought we'd nailed the way we'd remove Microsoft Lync and the Cisco CUCI Lync integration and then add on the Jabber client, the certificate for the Media Services driver and then the driver. Well, we thought that we had anyway, but when I tested the uninstall and install procedure, it worked fine on the HP Folio 64 bit laptop and indeed on my 32 bit HP desktop. However, if you then tried to do the same install on other hardware, it failed rather spectacularly. I suspect that the certificate will only import on that particular piece of hardware but there may be other ways of doing so. I'll have a play on Monday and see what I can come up with.

I also spent some time over at another building in the late afternoon as the two iMacs that we'd sent off to Apple's authorised repairers Amsys to have their hard drives swapped under an Apple extended warranty came back, and because I'd disk imaged them before they went, it meant I could disk image them back to as they were, and one of them completed before I headed home, whilst the other was then imaging (there was a lot of data on this hard drive so I expected it to take much longer to disk image back, but at least it was doing so).

I headed on the 50 bus from work and straight to Tesco in Burnage to do the weekly food shop. Part of my reasoning for this is that I wanted to get some discs for my Tassimo machine, and the selection that they have there is about the best in Manchester. And I wasn't disappointed - there were fourteen different types of discs to select from so I went for the Costa Americano and the Kenco Café Crema which were good value all round. I even did their Finest Meal Deal for two and got myself and The Love In My Heart something lovely for tomorrow night too, cos I can.

After I'd eaten for the evening it was out with the drum kit for Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock, and it was good to do a fair bit of drumming on that game and see if I could still occasionally drum well. I must admit I'd stopped drumming because both cymbals weren't picking up every note I hit on them and it's still the case now, so I wasn't able to score as well as I might have done otherwise. It's pretty tough going on some tracks though because you've really got to hit everything with some intent.

That said I still did pretty well on Nine Inch Nails' "Wish" and so that's tune of the day as you really have to hit plenty of the red and blue snare drum notes as the tune progresses, along with some really massive cymbal crashes as the chorus kicks in. Altogether good fun and I even did a bit on bass later and got my best score on 2112: Part 2 - The Temples of Syrinx, so felt pretty pleased to be able to have got past that - and on hard too I should add. Wooo, go me. I maybe need to see if I can get a replacement drum set though...