Dear Diary... May 2011

Tuesday 31st May - On The Road Again

After the very nice Bank Holiday weekend, it really didn't feel like that I wanted to head back into work, especially as the weather had inevitably started to become a little better compared to the downpour of yesterday. It however did mean that I could at least partly enjoy some of the nice weather as I was once again out on the road with our printer supplier partners, as we were replacing some of the old copiers with the new all singing all dancing multifunction machines instead. From my point of view, it's generally showing them the way around the building, ensuring the network is switched over to the correct vLAN, and also getting some people together for a short tutorial. As I've worked with the same folks last week, it does make it a tad easier.

First thing first we went back to a building where the folks had to reseat some connections to get the printer working, as we think it had come loose in transit (easily done let me tell you) and once that was done along with some training, we cracked on with things nicely. We got to do three new printers in one building and they were all the same ones too, so it was pretty easy to get them all up and running, on the correct network and it also showed that plenty of staff were willing to take things on board too. The late start did mean a late lunch for me but I didn't mind that as it made sense for me to fit in with everyone else, and during the afternoon we got the other two done in another building, so all was well there.

I headed then to my friend's place as the replacement cable modem and router had arrived and so I was going to set them up. I say going because when trying to register the MAC address of the new cable modem, it turned out that that address had already been registered to another user. Eh? I thought. Then we finally transpired what had happened: the MAC address had been incorrectly labelled on the cable modem, and as there was no way to find out what the correct address actually was, it was basically a lame duck. Even worse was that they didn't seem to be able to get the original cable all in one modem and router re-registered so that could be used for now. The words appalling, disgraceful and pathetic really spring to mind here.

Anyway, it was good to see my friends regardless, and I sorted out another issue where for some reason one of the couldn't see the other's shared network drive. After a bit of head scratching I got to the bottom of it - it turned out that for some reason the Intranet Zone was misconfigured in Internet Explorer which basically meant any network drives were showing as Internet ones instead. Once we got that config sorted, everything worked correctly and was a speedy drive connection again. I don't know, sometimes it just makes me wonder why Internet Explorer is so lame and indeed an integral part of Windows. Meh to that.

I headed home on the bus later and it was good to get some time to wind down for the day after what had been a relatively long day in the office. And what better album to play than the Buzzcocks' seminal "Singles Going Steady" compilation? It's everything good about the classic early era Buzzcocks in one easy to digest volume, and it's inspired many people, me included. One track on there "Harmony In My Head" later became the title of a Henry Rollins radio show but the song I love most on there is "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" as it's just a great piece of pop music, not just punk, with some killer hooks and some great lyrics as well. Darn, I wish that got into some Guitar Hero game before was too late.. tune of the day at the very least.

Monday 30th May - Rain Can't Stop Us Now

Today is a very special day - and indeed it should (hopefully) always will be. It was on this day three years ago that I met the woman whom I love, adore and cherish with all my heart. It was the culmination of what I'd worked towards during a difficult time in my life, and the first night out that we had together is one that will remain in the memory forever. It was a magical evening and I can remember so much of the whole time, and whilst I don't want to share all of that because I don't feel it's the right place to do so, I will say this: you know when you meet someone and you want sparks to fly between you? It wasn't a spark. It wasn't even fireworks. It was the whole firework display - that's how much of a connection I felt. Just a wonderful thing.

Therefore The Love In My Heart and I spending today together means a heck of a lot to me (as it does to her) and it was nice therefore to exchange cards with what we'd written about our feelings on this day. She got a lovely card with all little arty hearts on in different colours on the front (very her I have to say, she loves anything hearts!) and the words inside it were really nice. My card to her went down well and she had a big "awww" at it, so my selection worked then! I made us some croissants and coffee for breakfast and we were looking outside at the rain, hoping it would stop, but knowing it wasn't going to stop us anyway.

Because we were off to Chatsworth for the day, a beautiful country house and gardens nestled in the Derbyshire countryside between Baslow and Bakewell. We'd wanted to go for ages as I know it had been used in the film version of Pride and Prejudice as the location for Pemberley (something which The Love adores) and also because it's a different country house we'd never been to. We'd booked online for the 10% discount and also gift aided the admission costs which meant a voucher for money off food or the shops in there would be ours too, so that made perfect sense to us both. It wasn't that far away either and The Love didn't mind driving, so soon after 10am we were off!

We headed through Hazel Grove and then Disley on the A6, before heading on the bypass past Chapel-en-le-Frith and to the roundabout, turning left on the A623 up past Sparrowpit, the village of Peak Forest and then Baslow before heading right along a B road and soon seeing the turn off for Chatsworth, heading over the bridge over the river and to the main car park, thankfully right next to the house and in the rather wet conditions that had to be welcomed. I didn't fancy us walking for ages to the house and then having to get drenched again, even if The Love had her brolly with her.

We walked to the admission entrance to the house, and the very kind assistant asked us if we'd booked online, and so if we had we went to a different queue which was basically fast track, meaning lots of people getting wet whilst we were in the dry getting our tickets to go in and a voucher towards food or items in the shops. We soon made our way into the house and marvelled at its grandeur. Plenty of the staircases had lots of artwork adorning them, and the rooms of the house itself were really well laid out. Lots of the corridors also had their private collections of art along the walls, and it was a really nice picture of John Francome that caught my eye amongst some of the exhibits.

With the weather teeming it down with rain outside, we made sure we saw all the rooms of the house, and one of the last rooms had plenty of stone sculptures in. Immediately The Love thought "this is Pemberley" and took great delight in saying "ooh I remember this bit in the film" and some German tourists must have overheard her and were chatting amongst themselves about the film and its location. The sculptures even had two lions right near the end, which took you to the shop. In fact you could get the replicas of those for a mere £80 a pair, but they did look pretty smart. Of course everyone was spending time in there and not venturing outside just yet!

Whilst the house was really good, and you could see a new exhibit which showed a lot of portraits of the family who own the house with some of the recent ones being stunning (in fact that only opened the Saturday before we came!), The Love did feel that maybe more of the rooms might have been opened to the public, and that there was just a glimpse of how grandeur the place was. That said, it's still very much lived in as well so I can understand it from both sides. The house itself really did seem very well looked after with lots of care and attention gone into every room and that showed the immense sense of pride in keeping it feeling like a rich stately home.

The rain was still heading down as we headed to one of the restaurants for a well earned lunch. We went to the Carraige House, which was self-service but had very nice food indeed. I had the steak and ale pie, and whilst not a proper pie (pastry case lid here folks!) there were tons of steak and mushrooms soaked in a nice warm ale, and that along with some gorgeous roast potatoes did the job nicely. The sausages that The Love had looked very nice too and along with the vegetables and potatoes filled her up nicely as well. It was a really neat touch that you returned everything to the carousel of all the trays, and there was a glass recycling bin for all the glass bottles of water and cordial that they sold, so good to see a bit of green thinking.

It was then into the garden, and I have to say even with the rain bucketing it down we still had a great time. We walked to the cascade, a rather unique water feature where all the steps of the cascade are of different dimensions so that the flow isn't even down each set of steps. At the top is the Cascade House which affords rather lovely views of the house. We walked up there and admired the view, and soon we were walking along the top of the gardens to the rock gardens, and seeing the view from the top of there. By chance we stumbled upon the coal tunnel which was used to cart coal from the nearby former railway to the house. It was very narrow but well worth a walk underneath.

We were going to go into the maze in the middle of part of the gardens but the paths were just a tad too muddy and mulchy really, and so instead we walked down past some gorgeous fountains and water features towards the canal pond, so called because the water is as wide as a canal. We walked up the hill on one side, came down round the back and alongside the other side, so we could admire the Emperor's Fountain and the water sculptures that were close to the front of the fountain. I have to say as a whole the gardens were beautiful and I'm sure we'll have to return visit in dry weather just to walk around them in more detail and see even more of them (the 100 steps looked intriguing too).

The day had sped by and ironically as we left Chatsworth and headed to the Farm Shop about a mile away from the house, the weather was drying off. We had a quick look around the farm shop and then headed back on the A623 through Baslow, Peak Forest and Sparrowpit again before this time coming off the A6 at the A624 and heading round the back of Chinley and up towards Hayfield before arriving into Glossop, where we had a well earned drink at the Norfolk Arms, where we quite like to sometimes go. I had a nice pint of mild and we reflected on the day as a whole before we headed back to my place, where we had a massive hug and said our kisses goodbye before The Love headed home.

The day was truly wonderful despite the bobbins weather, and it showed that nothing was going to stop us today. I felt inspired by the location too and I'm sure that if the weather gets better we might have to head out more too. Tune of the day pretty much sums up how I feel about The Love - "Kind and Generous" by Natalie Merchant. That's what she is, and that's how I want to be with her. And of course because it has the beautiful voice of Natalie - and I don't need an excuse for that let me tell you.

Sunday 29th May - Beer and Bowling

It was a nice relaxing morning with The Beer In My Glass as the two of us had a relaxing morning, just taking things nice and easy and generally pottering around with no need to be out of the house for ages. I made us some bacon toasties for breakfast, we relaxed with a bit of Escape To The Country on the telly, all was well with the world. We knew that there'd be the Monaco Grand Prix on shortly and it's the one F1 race I simply have to watch live. The Beer understands this of course and appreciates just what a special race I deem it to be, so she was quite happy to snuggle up on the sofa and watch the race with me.

As it turned out, the race was pretty eventful. Jenson Button's aggressive strategy got him ahead of Sebastian Vettel for the lead, and he made a scheduled second stop for the super softs, and all was well - although he still needed to pit again for the soft tyre. The safety car came out after Felipe Massa had crashed, all caused by Lewis Hamilton it has to be said, and ironically that mucked up his team mate Jenson Button's efforts. Quite a few including Fernando Alonso pitted under the safety car (although Vettel stayed out on his soft tyres) and so this meant after making his final stop, Button was third. He charged like a demon towards them both and soon with around twenty laps to go it was the three of them almost nose to tail chasing each other down.

I suspected that Vettel's tyres were going to go beyond the cliff and lose masses of performance, as was Alonso's, but then as they attempted to lap some back markers, all chaos ensued in front as Adrian Sutil hit the barrier, and his slowing down caused a bit of mayhem behind with Jaime Alguersuari hitting the back of Lewis Hamilton and Vitaly Petrov went into the barrier. It was mayhem indeed and no wonder after a couple of safety car laps the red flag went out. At first I thought it was the end of the race, but there was to be a restart behind the safety car. Now, one rule I wasn't aware of was that in the event of this type of restart, the car can be worked on and tyres can be changed. Of course Vettel and Alonso changed to the supersoft as did Button, and so the three places remained to the flag. It'd have been far more interesting had they not been allowed to change tyres and race on with what they had, and see the fun and games unfold there.

It was all good fun to watch though, and after a quick blast at Wii Party, The Beer and I headed out for the evening. First of all it was out to The Elizabethan in Heaton Moor for something to eat for tea. We like it in there, it's got a nice atmosphere, they do some nice cask beer and the food's very good indeed. It was a little busy because the weather had finally turned out reasonably nice today, and so with people sat outside we managed to get a nice table inside with a view outside of the greenery, and mulled over what to have whilst I got myself a pint of The Guv'nor and The Beer a nice well earned pinot grigio (well why not?)

In the end, we both went for the combo starter - it had breaded mushrooms, onion rings and two small slices of garlic bread with a dip too. It was just enough to have you ready for the main without being too much, and really did taste spot on. The mains came out and they were delicious too - I had the gammon steak with eggs, and some good chips and peas to go with that and the gammon was really good - just the right side of well done for me and it still had a bit of tenderness in it. The Beer went for the steak sandwich with tons of steak and onions on there, and plenty of salad for her to get her teeth into. I even had their Heaton Mess (work it out) for dessert, with strawberries and blueberries nestling nicely with the meringue and cream. Delicious!

Of course there was only one way to work all that off and that was to do some bowling! I'd enjoyed myself last week with my friends at Tenpin in Stockport, and so the plan was that we'd head there as they had a pretty good deal on - three games for £5 each, and that wasn't bad value at all, considering the same three games last Saturday were £12 each. It was pretty quietish on the bowling lanes and we were allocated one down the left end, and with some decent balls close by. It took us a few goes to get warmed up but I must admit I was quite pleased at hitting a couple of strikes and spares.

Once The Beer had found her feet, it was a pretty good effort all round and she even managed a couple of strikes herself in the final game, and was really nailing the ball well. Her switching from a 8lb to a 10lb ball most likely helped as she was able to aim much straighter and control the ball really well too - and indeed it was pretty close all the way through our final game. It was good fun and we really enjoyed ourselves immensely as the time just sped by, and before we knew it all three games had been played, it had gone 8pm and it was time for us to head back to mine to relax for the evening.

Tune of the day in the meantime was something I listened to earlier in the day whilst taking it easy in the morning - "Electric Shock" by The Human League from their new album "Credo". We'd both quite liked that one when they played it live in Manchester last December and certainly on the album it sounded very crisp and clear with a killer bass to match. Makes me want to see them again and perform with so much gusto.

Saturday 28th May - Dine In For Two

I had a relatively good day all round today. First things first was to head to Tesco to do some food shopping, and I ended up heading to the Gorton Tesco Extra as there were some things there that I can't get in my normal Tesco, you see. I filled the trolley up nicely with all the items that I was after, plus a couple of nice ideas for meals planned during the week too. It was good too that I was able to pick up a card for a special occasion coming up, saving me the hassle of having to head into the city centre later. With all that duly sorted, I headed home a very happy little one and it gave me some time to sort things out in the house, cleaning up and generally getting everything nice and neat.

It meant I could settle down and watch the qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix, which was pretty exciting yet hair-raising too. In the earlier free practice Nico Rosberg narrowly avoided a barrier head on as he headed out of the tunnel. Qualifying one and two went without hitches (and looked smart in HD as well) but it was in the final session where it all happened. Some of the drivers went out and did a banker lap to make sure that they had a good one (and in the case of Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button, it was very good indeed) and then as Sergio Pérez headed our of the tunnel, he went slightly off line, careered into the side, and then went side on into the barrier near the chicane. It was a horrible moment and rightly the session was red flagged for ages whilst everyone made sure he was okay. No one could improve the time by the end of the session and so Vettel was pole.

I then decided to do a bit of rocking on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock on the drums, as I'd not drummed for a bit. I still need to get back into the swing of things really, and I guess that I tried out some of the tracks on there and the downloadable content to do just that, so after a decent enough attempt at Metallica's "Merfcyful Fate" medley, it was then on to Nine Inch Nails' "The Hand That Feeds" which really did test me a bit with all the cymbal hits and at a slightly different pace than normal - so it was a good test. It's a great song too of course so it's tune of the day for me right there to be honest.

Just before 5pm The Beer In My Glass arrived looking as lovely as ever, and she'd brought the items that she had purchased in Marks and Spencer for their dine in for two meal - some lovely chicken in cheddar, with mushrooms too, along with some fresh new potatoes to put in the oven, and these lovely little sherry trifles for dessert, and of course a bottle of wine which she would have too. I'd added to this by getting some lovely wild mushroom soup and nice bread to start with. It was good to chat and have lots of hugs and cuddles when she arrived and it felt really nice for her to be there with me. I know, I'm such a softie sometimes aren't I?

We settled in and I got cracking with the food whilst she was happy with the telly on. The soup was gorgeous, with plenty of mushrooms in there, and the main was heavenly as well - the chicken really did have depth of flavour to it, and added with the mushrooms, potatoes and steam fresh veg, really did feel like a wholesome meal. We paused before dessert whilst keeping an eye on the lottery show, and on there the Who Dares Wins game made me giggle. The tiebreak round was spouses of Prime Minsters from 1945, so straight away I thought "Hmm.. Cherie Blair, Sarah Brown, Samantha Cameron, Denis Thatcher" etc. The challenger contestant said Sarah Cameron. Duuuuh! How thick can you be? I wouldn't mind so much but it's the wife of the current Prime Minister and all.

We had a game of Scrabble and sat so I could keep an eye on the telly and see how Man U were faring against Barcelona in the Champions League final. To be fair, Barcelona absolutely murdered Man U, and the second goal from Messi was sublime, but the third from David Villa was a beauty, a curling finish which was unstoppable. You could see that try as they might, Man U had no answer. It's no disgrace to them though as to be honest in the form they were in Barcelona would have battered anyone and the scoreline might have been even more.

We then watched the Million Pound Drop - Live, as it was the final one of the series. We both quite like the concept of the show but what we both agreed on was that Davina McCall's dress was awful - like mutton dressed as lamb to be honest, and it was way too short. Anyway, one set of contestants failed at the last question and then two people came on who'd played online and not lost their money. However the pressure of being there on the live show is something else and they soon had their money whittled down. It came to the final question, and it was not an easy one - and so they lost too. I must admit I'd be a nervous wreck if I was on it!

Friday 27th May - One Half Present, One Half Missing

The Sauce In My Pasta was on a late shift at work and so very kindly dropped me off into work before she headed home to get herself sorted out for the day. It was a really good productive day in the office as I got plenty of things done - got all the printer room sorted with a new fuser kit for one colour laser installed, and making sure that everything else was shipshape. I also made sure too that the prestaged media image had its post steps done as a separate task sequence and it was looking hopeful from where I was that everything would work just as well as intended.

I had a text from my friend to say that a package had arrived from Virgin Media, and so arranged to head to his place after work to see what the state of play was. I managed to get out of work bang on time and so headed on the bus to the Post House in Northenden and change buses there to get to his place - and shock horror not only was the bus out of town on time, but so was the 370 to his house, so as a result I got there in approximately less than half the time it took me the other day. That was pretty good all round, and in a way it worked out for the best so I could spend time as I needed to there.

One problem we saw straight away as we unpacked the package that had arrived. It only contained the cable modem and the power supply for it - there was no router to be found anywhere. Bit off, that, so we called up Virgin Media and it turns out that even though they despatch both at the same time, they're in two different packages and so it was just a bit odd that one turned up but not the other. We waited to see if the other package would turn up as normally there's deliveries till 7pm but unfortunately no joy on that score. Not great really, and it would have been nice to have been told that when it was being despatched.

Still, we had a good chat anyway and my friend mentioned there was a pending transaction on his account which possibly looked like tickets for the Olympic football at Old Trafford that we've ordered. With the £6 registered delivery postage fee knocked off the amount debited, it was clear to see that we might have got two or three of the football sessions and so will have to wait till the end of June to find out exactly what we've got and where for. It'll be good to at least be going to one event even if it isn't in London, so that's something we're looking forward to.

When I got home I settled in to watch the "Still Reigning" DVD by Slayer that I'd rented from Tesco DVD Rental. The main bit of the DVD is basically the extended encore of one of their live shows, where they play their album "Reign In Blood" in its entirety, and indeed for the finale "Raining Blood" the band got covered in stage blood when playing the song. It was a great effect but that didn't do too much for the sound recording process, I guess. Still, it's a quality performance and you can see just how much effort they put into the playing. Tune of the day is "Raining Blood" just purely for the real feeling of the song coming across when the band play it bloody rock hard. Oh yes.

Thursday 26th May - Chorizo Central

Another hard day at the office for me today (part of a continuing saga so it seems) as I was able to accompany our printer people in the morning and deploy some more of the all new all singing all dancing multifunction printers. In fact it dawned upon me that for some reason some of the staff weren't getting the printer driver deployed to them as you'd intend do, so I made sure that happened for them so that they were able to print. In fact I had to go back to one of them this afternoon which was flashing with an error. Thankfully it was a mere paper jam in tray 4 which I soon got out without issues. I guess using cheap and nasty 75gsm paper is often the cause of that one!

Still, I managed to get on with another little battle I had, in effect another attempt at prestage media and seeing if this time I could bring it down ready to my test bed to see if I could configure it to do a second partition, as it looked like a way had been found with a bit of command line trickery and all that. The good thing is that I've pretty much got the task sequence side of it nailed and so I was hoping that it'd be pretty useful to at least see if I can get the image being brought down as a prestaged job. It looked pretty decent from where I was anyway and so fingers crossed I could play with that tomrorow.

I headed to the city centre after work and indeed onwards to the Manchester City store, as they had something I was after - the 2 DVD set of the 2011 FA Cup final. I had a chunk of City vouchers for my birthday and so I thought I may as well use them on something I was going to buy anyway. Needless to say the two disc set has the full semi final against Manchester United as well as the full final along with a couple of bonus features, and to relive the semi that I was there for just has to be something special, I think. I was getting in to that tonight, watching the footy, and spending some quality time before The Sauce In My Pasta arrived.

I had put the oven on already and was just about to put my chorizo sausage pasta bake in the oven. I'd done the penne pasta instead of the fusilli this time, but in effect everything else was the same. I then spent some time with The Sauce whilst the food cooked and had plenty of chance to catch up on the day, and also relax and snuggle up in front of the telly. The pasta bake did its thing and it tasted rather good, I'd not made it for a while but it was a little cooler tonight and so I thought it'd warm us up, and it certainly did the job well there!

Later on we had a quick blast of Wii Party and played the game where you match same coloured Miis. It was pretty good fun and even the 1 v 1 minigames played as we went through the rounds proved to be all good natured fun, especially the timber topple as you went to swing the axe and get the tree knocked down, with each respective Mii having some great facial expressions. It's all darned good fun and I'm sure it made the time fly by - and soon enough it did. In fact it also proved that you can have fun on a week night.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather lovely "So Sublime" by Beth Rowley. It makes me think of long Summer days and also days with The Sauce, spending time on the beach together and taking it easy, and I think there'll be some of that this weekend as we tend to try and get some quality time together and really make the most of the Bank Holiday as well. Fingers crossed that the Bank Holiday Monday turns out decent weather wise or else that might not be too good...

Wednesday 25th May - Printing And Pinging

It was another action packed day at work but for a different reason. I spent the whole day virtually with our colleagues from our printer providers, as they were starting the rollout of their new multifunction printers as part of the overall print vision, and needed one of the team on board to effectively roll out the changes along with them and be around in case any of the staff were asking any questions along the way. What this also meant was that I had to make sure that the network sockets were changed over to a special vLAN for the new printers so that they all talked to the central print queue and control system.

As that took up the whole day and then some, I didn't get chance to do much else, which was a little on the frustrating side to say the least. It looks like I'm probably going to do some more with that tomorrow due to the timescale falling behind a little (mainly because the scanner and copy function on one of them completely failed for some strange reason) and so it's more work for me piling on top - but I'd rather be really busy to be honest - makes the day go by rather quickly and means that you feel like you've earned your money.

I then headed from work to my friend's house in Northern Moor. However the traffic for some reason was horrendous and the bus wasn't getting that far either. It seemed that at Southern Cemetery the junction with Barlow Moor Road was rammed, and I saw traffic on the other side of the road clog up heading towards that junction. I can only think of there being an accident down there on the road to Didsbury and everyone taking action to avoid it in some way. It took me over an hour to get there from work which normally takes a fair bit less than that!

Still, it was good to see my friend when I got there, and it was a pretty good evening all told. He had received notification about the new season ticket membership scheme for next season and we discussed which option we'd be going for when we renew ours (and I can't wait let me tell you). We also chatted about the Olympics ticket allocation and suggested that we might be hopefully getting some for the football, as not every event for that has seemingly sold out according to the email that I got the other day, so we shall see what happens there.

However, a fair chunk of the evening was spent working on why Dungeons and Dragons Online refuses point blank to connect to the game server in order that you can play with your friends online. I saw the error message that he had and then tried various things. I first tried enabling the ports via port forwarding on the router to see if that would help. Nope. I tried disabling Kaspersky Internet Security to see if that was getting in the way. Nope. I tried also to put the PC's IP address in the DMZ of the router. Still no. I then worked out where the server was pointing to and did a tracert on that - and surprise surprise, it stopped before routing to the game server!

I spent a time then on the phone with my friend to Virgin Media, basically saying that for some reason their service seemed to be blocking connections to that server. They tried a fair few steps even including the LogMeIn remote control to see that the PC itself was playing ball (which it was) and even doing a step to reset the router config completely (not happy about that!) as well as doing various ping and netstat commands. They were pretty confused and when I told them that the tracert was being blocked again, they were basically saying it wasn't down to them and that the site was down. Hmmm. Anyway, they thought that the Hub might be causing problems so they're sending out a replacement modem and router, and see how we get on with that. That said it's probably still their network blocking it.

And this was further proved when I got home and tried the tracert to the Dungeons and Dragons online European server (ddoeugls.com) with me connected to my O2 Wireless Box. And yes, it traced fine and managed to work the route to the server without issues. It also proved that if my friend decided to move to O2, then it would work (I'm going to try the game out myself to double check this) and that in fact Virgin yet again seem to not like online gaming using their network - pathetic if you ask me. I mean, surely a lot of people want to play online via their game console or PC, right? I even play online on the Wii on occasion. Tune of the day seemed apt considering all the fun and games - James' "Born of Frustration" which is still one of my favourite songs of theirs.

Tuesday 24th May - Back In The Swing Of Things

Had a pretty good day all round at work as well, and managed to get plenty done. One of the things I've been keen to get done is to exhaustively test the pre-stage media creation, so you can effectively see how that works when a workstation image will go to the manufacturer. Of course in order to test the steps that you would do in the post prestaged media, you'd actually need to do a staging of media first, so I advertised the task sequence that would do the job to one of my test PCs. It pretty much did the job that I wanted it to do, and pre-staged the hard drive and shut the PC down.

Then I associated the task sequence which did all the post pre-staged media creation, effectively replicating what'll happen when the new kit comes to us. Cleverly it knows not to bring down the core operating system image again, but you will need to be sure of putting in a certain condition so that the disk isn't partitioned again. Apart from that, it seemed to play ball nicely and indeed bring down all the tasks I had including several parts of software installation. It was good to be able to get that done and dealt with and felt pretty positive afterwards too.

I made my way homewards and was soon sorting out all the pictures that I'd taken from the victory parade last night. I must admit I was really pleased with some of them and the ones of Roberto Mancini on the bus really do typify the happy mood. I picked the best ones and put them up on Flickr as you do, and quite a few people seemed to enjoy them as well, so that's good. I know full well that I'd like the events of last night to be the first of many but you can never be certain of anything in football, least of all with City - I've grown to know this over the years as you might well expect!

I had the lovely company of The Love In My Heart later, and the two of us relaxed with some fish and chips (some very nice bassa fish fillets as well may I add) and we spent a bit of time on the Wii with Wii Party playing the Board Game Island mode - which worked out excellent. In fact all the separated the two of us at the end of the game was that I got the 6 first to win, but she was on the final square so finished ahead of the computer opponents in second. And she's a demon on the strategy steps mini game too. I also showed her the two challenge games and how they worked and I think she was pretty impressed with how they all played out - giving the game lots of longevity.

Tune of the day in the meantime is something I played after The Love had headed for home. I played Rock Band 3 and did pretty well on expert vocals, notably in the Human League's classic "Don't You Want Me?" and as I love the song anyway, it's an easy choice to make. I was pretty pleased that I nailed 100% on it on expert and am right up there in the high scores as well. It proves that I do have a decent singing voice when I put my mind to it, even if I couldn't to be honest last a full gig!

Monday 23rd May - Don't Rain On My Parade

I headed up relatively early and headed to work for another day of manic deadlines and plenty of stressed out people trying to print out. As you can well imagine, it was a pretty busy day all round and I did manage in the middle of that to get some development work done as well, so at least I knew that I could hopefully try a couple of things tomorrow and see what would happen with them. We did though have a massive delivery of paper for the large format printers so my colleague and I spent time there sorting out all of the paper and where it was going, along with loading several rolls of each into the printer as well to get it to play ball.

The day was done and it was off for me towards the centre of Manchester to try and see parts of the victory parade for Manchester City's FA Cup win. The team were to start their open bus ride from Albert Square and head through the city centre before heading on the roads towards the City of Manchester Stadium. I had planned to meet The Love In My Heart when she finished work at 6pm, so the plan was to mooch in Albert Square, soak the atmosphere, try and get a vantage point for the bus in the city centre and then head off to the stadium as we had two tickets to go to the event in there.

Albert Square was understandably very busy indeed and full of City fans waiting to greet their heroes. ITV had their full reporting crew out and Lucy Meacock was reporting, almost reprising her old school Granada role. Couldn't see any of the BBC folks there although they might have been ready for Northwest Tonight and would catch the parade further in the city centre. Plenty of fans young and old were there with flags, scarves, plenty of City shirts around too. It felt like a carnival atmosphere and I was just gutted that I had to leave it and head towards a suitable vantage point to see the bus as it went through the centre.

I met up with The Love and we walked past St Peter's Square to Princess Street where we got a good vantage point around Chinatown, with a Chinese lady very kindly allowing me the space to be at the front to spot the bus (thanks!) I had the camera at the ready as the bus left Albert Square and went down Princess Street, with Vincent Kompany and Micah Richards up front, really lapping it up. Carlos Tévez was at the back and relaxed but full of smiles, and somewhere in the middle was Roberto Mancini the manager, who at one point tried to catch a flag being thrown down from an office block from the City fans but the throw wasn't too good. He lapped up all the support though and I think was humbled to hear so many City fans singing the song we have for him.

We saw the bus turn the corner to Portland Street which looked rammed full, so we headed around the back of Chorlton Street bus station and managed to get in front of the bus by the time it got towards Piccadilly bus station, so we could see the bus heading along again. The players were really happy and you could tell how surprised they were to see so many City fans out. I saw a few fellow Blues with similar cameras to mine ready to take shots of the bus and the players, and couldn't believe the turnout, it was superb. We had an appointment with the stadium to head to as well, so we went through some of the back streets around part of the Northern Quarter before walking along Great Ancoats Street, Pollard Street and Ashton New Road to the stadium itself.

Some of my relations were already there and so had very kindly kept us a seat at the front of the second tier in block 223, and we soon made our way into the ground to meet them all. The celebrations were well underway and I nipped to the food kiosk to get ourselves a burger and me a pie (well it had to be done) so that we could have something to munch. We had plenty of stuff to occupy us before the players arrived though and first of all on came the music part, with several bands who happen to be City fans making their appearances felt.

Up first were Kid British, who were fairly lively indeed. One of their songs even had a bit taken from Madness' "Our House". It was the first time I'd heard them but they seemed decent enough and two of the band had proper City shirts on for the gig as well, and they were proper fans, so you can imagine that they were pleased to be there to say the least. Then on came Supra, and they only needed to do one song, their version of "Blue Moon" which had everyone singing it full blast. It was a great atmosphere and really had the back of the neck tingling, so tune of the day it absolutely must be. I said blue moon!

Then on came Damon Gough aka Badly Drawn Boy. I know he's a City fan and all, but it's supposed to be a celebration. He covered The Smiths' "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" as well as The Stone Roses' "I Wanna Be Adored" as well as doing his own "Born in the UK" number, but you would think that he'd actually do some more uplifting numbers, you know? He played them well enough and a bloke sat next to me recognised his Stone Roses cover and like me was singing along pretty well too. Well, it's hard not to really when it's such a classic original I guess.

On came some of the former players and managers to pay tribute to two City legends who had died during the season: Malcolm Allison and Neil Young, who scored the FA Cup winner in 1969 and whom City had paid tribute to with the red and black scarves during the third round game at Leicester (whom City beat in the final that year) and in the home replay, the team had the 1969 retro shirts on before the start of play as well. It was good to see the likes of Mike Summerbee, Francis Lee and Tony Book pay their tributes along with Neil Young's wife, but I did wonder where Colin Bell was in all this - he's a proper legend and should have been here in my view.

Still, the City fans chanted Neil Young's name as the tribute was made, Mike Summerbee led a stadium-wide Poznan (even The Love In My Heart joined in!) and the moment we were all waiting for came. On came the players, and some of them were interviewed by Hugh Ferris, and they were understandably happy to bits. Appropriately Tony Book, captain when City won the FA Cup in 1969, handed the trophy to Carlos Tévez and Vincent Kompany, who held the trophy aloft. The players did a lap of honour and it really did feel like a homecoming to set the fans off at the end of the season with hope and optimism. I just hope we can all do it again soon! It was a great night, as the pics show!

Sunday 22nd May - A Close Race

It was nice to wake up on a Sunday morning and feel relatively fresh. Because we'd not just downed pint after pint all day and had plenty of conversation, gaming and food in between, I think we were all pretty not worse for wear at all, which was just the perfect thing all round. I made us all coffee and croissants for breakfast and the BBC red button had the repeat of the Spanish Grand Prix qualifying, so we watched that to see who'd get pole position for the race later today, and my friends gradually made their way homeward bound. It's always sad to see them leave after a great weekend, but we all were safe in the knowledge that we'd had a great one.

I made myself a coffee and settled in for the early afternoon so I could watch the Spanish Grand Prix. It would be a test of tyres as well as anything else because a lot of the teams test in Barcelona so they know the track inside out. What I didn't expect was Fernando Alonso to take the lead and for Jenson Button to have a bad start and end up tenth. However, as the race headed onwards it was clear that Button was on a three stop strategy and his driving style could make it work, whereas almost everyone else was on four stops. Here was the thing too, at the third stop Mark Webber and Alonso went to the hard tyres (you have to use each set, remember) and on Button's second stop he still had a decent pair of soft tyres on. He passed them both on the same lap without the use of DRS or Kers, and kept ahead of Webber after the final pit stop where they were both on hard tyres to finish on the podium.

Up front though it soon developed into a two way battle between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. The Red Bull of Vettel looked unreal in qualifying but in the race Hamilton's McLaren started to work rather nicely, and was definitely managing to keep pace with Vettel too. They went for the same tyre strategy with the same compounds, and with around ten laps to go Hamilton was within a second of Vettel meaning that his DRS was available to use to try and pass Vettel. He did try to use it a fair few times, but Vettel had just enough to hold him off. It proved to be that way for each and every lap to the end but you could see that Hamilton was really getting the most out of the car and driving onwards. In the end there was less than a second difference and the sort of finish you hope for in F1. Well done to them both!

The Love In My Heart came over and it was ever so lovely to see her. We first went to the Royal Infirmary as one of my friends was in hospital and the least we could do was head over and see him for a bit. He was pleased to see us and we had plenty of time to chat before it came towards the end of visiting hours, and I think hopefully it got his spirits up a little too. We then headed quickly back to mine before deciding that it would be very nice to eat out for tea, and even more so that it'd be good for me to treat her too, so we had a quick thought about where to go and made our decision.

We then went to The Didsbury and both plumped for the Sunday Roast that they do in there. I went for the trio which meant I got gammon, pork and topside beef, and The Love went for the topside beef. And they had Deuchars on cask too - so needless to say I was rather tempted and had a pint with my tea. And why not? It was good to relax and chat and catch up with each other, and I think we both really enjoyed the food and company together. It's also lovely that we had some quality time alone after having contrasting weekends too - hers was a little more quiet than mine.

We finished off with a game of Scrabble at mine where she played the classic EX and XI combo with X on triple letter for 50 points (that's my girl!) whilst listening to the original version of Seth Lakeman's "Freedom Fields" album - and with good reason. The original version of "Lady of the Sea" is tons better than that on the re-release, it's more acoustic and a little more rough around the edges, but gives it its own charm as well, you can tell there's a more indie feel to it too for some reason. I appreciate things like that so it's tune of the day from me all round for that one.

Saturday 21st May - Bowling, Beer And Pool

We all woke up relatively unscathed from the previous night's beer and gaming, and so once everyone was up and armed with a coffee, I put on the breakfast - sausage barms all round for the masses. Some nice Cumberland sausages were on the go, and they were spot on with the Warburton's pre-sliced barms (makes life so much easier!) and so that was all sorted out pretty quickly. It was a really nice time just to sit and relax, and I dug out a DVD of the old classic Monaco Grand Prix, and watched both the 1982 and 1996 races from the BBC highlights I'd recorded before it was time to set off for the day.

Firstly, it was off to Stockport and to go the Tenpin bowling alley for a fun filled afternoon of bowling. It was much better there than the Parrs Wood one, as three games cost £5 less per head, so as you can well imagine that was a pretty good thing to do. My friend from South Shields won both the first two games of three, with the first game being played in the dark with the glow in the dark lanes (mainly because a kids' party was happening at the other end of the alley), and then I recovered my poor form from the previous game to win the last one with a couple of strikes and some spares thrown in. Not the best score I ever did (I average around 110-120 in real bowling) but it was around the average mark. Still can't beat my 157 best ever, but hey ho!

We then walked up hill towards the Nelson Tavern, close to Stockport College. I knew that they had a good pool table in there, and that they usually had good beer too, so perfect for us for the afternoon. The pool was a mere 50p per play (result) and the beer was also good, so we had plenty of games in pool whilst the rugby league Challenge Cup game was also on the telly. I did pretty decent knocking a run of six wins together (we did winner stays on) but we all played very well and many of the games went to the black ball, which shows what fun we had and indeed how much time we spent. Before we knew it, it was almost coming up to 5pm!

We then headed back out of Stockport and got off at Heaton Chapel, where we walked to the Elizabethan for a good pint and something for our tea. I had the steak and ale pie in there which was awesome as per usual - it was a proper pie of course. My friends had the gammon and eggs, the fish and chips an the rump steak and the empty plates told me all I needed to know - that the food was excellent and the beer was all good, and we even got the cubicle seat where sometimes I've been with The Love In My Heart. Admittedly I was missing her lots and couldn't wait to see her tomorrow as well, but I knew that I was having a fab time too.

After food it was back on the bus and to the centre of Manchester, and first port of call was The Port Street Beer House, which a friend of mine told me about. It's a little bit of out the city centre and close to some waste ground in the Ancoats area, but the selection of beer in there is truly mind boggling, so much so that they even have a menu of all the different beers that they have! A lot of them were the craft beers in bottles, but they have cask beer too so I had a nice pint of the Prospect Brewery guest ale, as well as two of my friends having the same. One had the proper Czech Budvar, but he was asked for the normal or dark one! Turns out there's also Budvar Noir you see. Perusing the menu we saw a right lethal beer - no less than the Tactical Nuclear Penguin, brewed by the Brew Dog brewery - a mere 32%. Yes, 32% - and not cheap either, a 330ml bottle of that would set you back £45. Needless to say we didn't go for that then!

After that it was back on the bus to Sandbar where we'd soon got our own table that we always tend to sit at and had a good rest of the evening in there. The Black Cat was on top form as per usual, and the Fog on The Tyne guest ale I had was also tip top too. Two of my friends tried the Pheonix Pilsner, brewed to German standards, and they found it pretty good with a citrus kick - well worth the try if you go there yourself. I put some tunes on the jukebox including New Order's "True Faith" (make that tune of the day) and that was a great listen and we even all sang along too, hilarious stuff that.

We left Sandbar and headed on the bus home, stopping off at Nice and Spice. Three of us did the deal for three 12" pizzas for a mere £10 (I know!) and the chicken, sweetcorn and pineapple one I had was very nice indeed. I couldn't finish more than half of it to be honest but knew I could save that and re-heat it tomorrow if I wanted to. We then had a quick blast of the Board Game Island game on Wii Party before finally calling it a night around 1.30am. It was a great day all round and it went by far far too quickly!

Friday 20th May - Another Great Weekender Starts

It was nice to have the day off work today, and with good reason. Another great weekend was planned with three of my friends who don't live locally, so when we get together it's always good times, and we make up for lost time with plenty of conversation, beer and more beer as well as some retro and current gaming, so that we really spend the most of the time together. Last time out, we were all in South Shields at my friend's place for a weekend up in the North East which was top notch stuff, and after we'd made sure we'd all been able to clear a weekend in our diaries, it was this weekend at my place for fun and frolics.

I nipped out in the morning and got some extra supplies including some cleaning stuff, so I could make sure that the house was all nice and tidy including the bathroom and kitchen floors, and spent a bit of time as well making sure that I had all the cameras charged up and ready to go. I'd use my Nikon D3000 DSLR at home and out on the road, because of the small size and the fact it could do video, my Panasonic TZ3 (thinking ahead you see). So with them all charged up and with the weather looking a bit unpredictable it was time to have a cup of coffee and relax nicely.

At around 3pm one of my friends arrived and had got over from Doncaster relatively trouble free although after hitting Sheffield it was rain central and it rained when he got here. About fifteen minutes later my friend from South Shields arrived too, and that was good timing as the sun just came out. We had a coffee and relaxed for a while, and had plenty of chance to catch up and chatter about all sorts. My friend up in Ulverston texted us to let us know that the traffic heading towards Manchester was manic but he'd get there as soon as possible, and got to mine around 4.30pm.

More coffee and chat ensued nicely before it was time to crack open the beers and have a good laugh at the many Angry Video Game Nerd videos on Youtube, as shown on the trusty Wii. It was hilarious seeing him really lay into rubbish games as as the Nintendo 64 version of Superman where you constantly seem to be flying through rings, or Dragon's Lair on the NES where everything kills you with one hit and the game is massively unplayable to say the least. The Halloween one also made us all giggle massively especially as there was even a recreation of bits of the film as well as reviewing the horrible Atari 2600 version of the game. I think one of our friends was also very chuffed I'd found some Black Cat and Pendle Witch ales!

I got the oven one and put in our tea - a rather nice barbecue chicken pasta bake, complete with side of garlic bread with cheese and dessert of raspberry swirl cheesecake. That went down very nicely indeed and filled us up nicely for the evening's gaming session ahead - plenty of action on the Commodore 64 and Wii, I reckoned. And so it was. We first did the whole eight events on World Games, a right classic on the 64, especially some of the events like the cliff diving and the caber toss. I did pretty well on it, but then I've played it a bit more so you would expect that.

After the full tournament we then did a challenge on the cliff diving. We always end up with that one and seeing how we do. We did one challenge in a previous weekend where we had to score 0 with a legal dive, and managed that, and the next time around in a weekend before this one, it was to score the lowest non-zero score (I think we managed 2) and see how we did. This time around, as we were playing on the '64, one of us suggested we had to get 64. A few rounds of failed attempts happened, and then my friend from South Shields got it, and in the very next go so did my friend from Ulverston. Classic stuff, that!

It was then onto the Wii, firstly for Wii Party and we did the board game island party game where you play minigames to determine the dice you get, and then roll them to progress up the mountain to the top. This proved to be a right laugh as we went through lots of the minigames, and progressed upwards along the way. It was the first time I'd tried it and it proved to be a right success too, with lots of moments of hilarity for everyone's Mii character, top stuff all round. I think out of all the minigames, the chin up challenge, the buggies and also the one where you have to shoot each other's back on a little track proved great fun, as did the ski jump as I thought it might do.

We then headed along Stockport Road to the Nice and Spice place for late night takeaway goodness. I went for the chicken fillet burger which was really really nice, and my friends went for various kebabs which I must admit didn't look that bad - not that I'd ever eat one myself but I can understand why people love them so much. With that nicely down us all, we then went on to Rock Band 3 and played quite a few songs as at least a three piece band, with me taking drums for the most part. I did do vocals on The Human League's "Don't You Want Me?" and got 100% on expert (yaay) so that's my tune of the day although there were some excellent performances of John Lennon's "Imagine" and also plenty of others along the way. It made a great end to a great night and the start of a really good time for us all.

Thursday 19th May - Monitoring The Evening

It was another manic day at work today (as I know it will be for the next two weeks) but the pain was considerably eased by the fact that I'm off work tomorrow, and that I know that it's half way through our most intense period of work related pressures. I did however at least feel satisfied at the end of a day as we had a worried student who'd thought all the data had gone on their external hard drive. As it turned out, it was just the enclosure electronics that had gone - taking the drive out and placing it in a SATA dock we have showed the drive to be perfectly okay, and so it was a case of then backing up the data to another smaller external drive he had (all 48GB of it!). Still, we had a happy bunny and that's what mattered.

I headed home and then did a few more bits of cleaning up, and had all the towels in the dryer after washing so that they'd all be nice and clean for tomorrow's weekend with the friends, and it was a nice surprise to get a text from The Love In My Heart to say that she was on her way - a bit earlier than expected too so that was a lovely bonus, it has to be said. She was going to take me to the recycling tip on the way to the large Tesco in Gorton to get all the shopping I needed for the weekend, so that was handy. It was first to the recycling tip as I had two old CRT monitors and an old video recorder which I wanted shut of, and I knew our local place did stuff with them, so placed those in the respective containers and that was sorted.

We then headed to Tesco and had a good walk around and got some shopping. The Love picked up one of the Mike Gayle books which was a mere £2, bargain in anyone's book that. I managed to get the nice Meal Deal for four for the Friday night meal, meaning less hassle and more time to enjoy myself, and we also did the Finest Meal for Two for £10 for tonight, as I wanted to treat her a little. We got these nice pieces of chicken with ham and cheese inside, and some creamy cheddar and chive mash as a side, some tartes au citron for dessert, and a bottle of really nice Ogio wine (and as I had some wine in, it meant The Love could have it for tomorrow night, see clever me you know!)

We got back and had tea, and then tried out something I'd also bought for myself in Tesco - Wii Party. And my, is it fun or what? There's lots of mini games to keep you amused and you can also play through some of the challenges to unlock some more mini games too, as well as test yourself against computer opponents in some of the events. I quite like the chinups one, reminds me of the US version of Superstars where they do that as part of the gym tests. I also like the lofty leap and the ski jump one as well, all good simple clean fun which we both enjoyed immensely. A nice way to relax, too!

Tune of the day in the meantime was one of the tunes I'd downloaded for Rock Band 3 as there was a Nine Inch Nails track pack I simply had to have - no less than four tracks from Pretty Hate Machine. It was easier to get all four for one cost even if that meant I'd get Head Like A Hole (again!), but it did mean the excellent "Terrible Lie" was on there, and that was good enough reason for me to have it, and that's my selection. It's a really brooding Industrial number and has plenty of dark electronica in it too. Hurrah!

Wednesday 18th May - Cleaning Out My Bobbins Things

It was a bit of a mixed bag of a day at work and certainly it felt very busy and also seemed like a never ending stream of people coming along, especially as everyone seemed to have a deadline and wanted to try and really hammer the large printers we've got. Looking at the current stats we've got, it seemes that we've very easily gone past the highest monthly total of printouts for one of the print queues, which shows that every year it jsut seems to get even more busy than the last. Makes me wonder with increased demands all the time if I'm not in the wrong business and should set up a print bureau of my own.

Anyway, went home via London Camera Exchange just to have a quick peek to see if there were any nice lenses that caught my eye. There weren't, but for any fans of film they did have a very nice Nikon FM-3A in silver (and one in black too). Apparently there weren't many of them made, and the build quality is top notch. They're very collectable now due to the short run, so to see one of each colour was a nice surprise. The price isn't cheap though - but you'd kind of expect it. And it's manual only - even some of the winding has to be done manually if you so wish, so proper old school too. Admittedly I saw it and went "oooooh!"

I got home and after having something to eat for tea, it was time to get plenty of the housework done, and it was a great time to work out what I didn't need anymore and get rid of it. There were plenty of things in the front room that I didn't need anymore, such as old phone books, leaflets, magazines etc that were in my little phone cupbopard, so got shut of that lot in the paper recycling bin. I then focussed the attention to dusting down the mantelpieces in both the front rooms, clearing out more dust collector stuff that I didn't need anymore, and then spending a fair bit of time getting everything shipshape for this weekend.

I must admit it was good to do it and to get it all looking rather nice and clean, not least because I found so much stuff that I didn't need anymore. I needed to get myself organised a bit more and the fact that I did so made me feel good afterwards. I also found a couple of items which I'm taking to the local recycling tip tomorrow night thanks to The Love In My Heart driving us there - a very old CRT monitor and an even older video recorder. I don't need them anymore, so why should I keep them? At least I'll be doing the WEEE thing as well so that's good.

It was then time to sit back and put on the music, and so went for the Nine Inch Nails remastered version of the debut album "Pretty Hate Machine". I really like the fact that it's been mixed a fair bit louder too, making for some lovely bass heavy numbers such as "Down In It", which sounds even more clinical and electronic than it did on its original release - tune of the day without a doubt right there. And it even has a "rain rain go away" line in it, almost perfect considering the inconsistent weather we've been having lately!

Tuesday 17th May - Stoking Up Another Win

After a hard day at the office it was nice to be able to wind down a bit and take things easy at home, watching a bit of telly and having a well earned cuppa with my evening meal before it was time to head out for the evening, as me and my friend were off to the City of Manchester Stadium for the last home game of what's been the best season I've seen as a City fan. Of course winning the FA Cup final on Saturday was a massive thing, and that will always stay with me, but Arsenal's defeat by Aston Villa on Sunday meant that if City won both of the last two games of the season, they'd finish third in the league, avoiding a Champions League qualifying playoff and going straight into the group stage - well worth it then.

We headed to the ground and popped in to see The Love In My Heart, as she was heading out later herself. It was nice to have a chat and a quick coffee and also see how her day was before my friend and I made the short trip from there to the ground. We could feel the sense of anticipation and excitement as the kick off neared, and of course plenty of the fans near me were completely buzzing with the result from Saturday. Of course tonight's game was effectively a repeat of the final but at home this time, although Stoke did have to rest three key players through injury which didn't help their cause much tonight.

As the noise got louder around the stadium and Blue Moon by Supra (make that tune of the day) belted it out over the tannoy before kick off, I could sense that City manager Roberto Mancini had told his players that he wanted the team to get third and really make an impact at the end of the season. It didn't take long for that mantra to come out to the team with James Milner fluffing a good chance, but it was a lovely build up from the team. Then City went forward again and a neat one two with Milner saw Carlos Tévez take on two of the Stoke defenders before smashing it past Thomas Sorensen in the Stoke goal for 1-0, and it'd only taken sixteen minutes this time.

More chances were created during the half, and City looked pretty lively it has to be said. Another well worked move saw Tévez shoot straight at Sorensen, but it was promising, and some of the build up play deserved a goal just purely for the hard work that the team were putting in. And at half time, we managed to get a ticket for the homecoming event next Monday to see us lift the FA Cup at home, and that'll be pretty special. I'm still not sure whether I'm going to try and walk it from town and follow the open top bus in, but I suspect a lot of people might be doing that anyway.

The second half was even better, as first an Adam Johnson free kick was expertly headed in by Joleon Lescott, good for him to get on the scoresheet again I reckon. He's really improved over the course of the season and it was just reward. The best though was yet to come as City got another free kick. We all thought Adam Johnson was going to take it, but no, up stepped Tévez and from thirty five yards belted a curling shot around the wall and into the back of the net, leaving Sorensen no chance whatsoever, a superb finish and a very late contender for goal of the season, that's for sure. It was a great finish and had the crowd on their feet, big time.

We saw the rest of the game out easily and the 3-0 win meant third place was ours now - all we need to do is win at Bolton and that's third guaranteed, and we're some eight points ahead of fifth place as well, showing that in fact fourth was much easier for us to get than last season's failed attempt. We could with a win also top 70 points for the season, which would be a really good thing to do. Nonetheless it was a good night all round and the parade by the players to say thank you to the fans at the end was appreciated - it showed how much it meant to the players on their walk around, so all well and good there. Hurrah for City!

Monday 16th May - Mundane Monday

It seemed to be one of those days at work where it went really quickly even though I was struggling with time to get plenty done. First of all, I knew that the printing in the building I normally work in would be really busy, and so I headed over at lunchtime to try and relieve some of the pressure a bit, and fill up the larger plotters with a shed load of paper rolls. It seeemed to work really well and on the whole I managed to keep things going for most of the afternoon with a timely intervention before taking some lunch so that worked nicely.

I spent a fair bit of time today helping some of our other staff with some Windows 7 development work. One of them wanted to know how to get their installation of Adobe CS4 Design Standard updated with any updates, and in essence it wasn't too bad. All you did was download the relevant updates (in this case Adobe InDesign 6.06 and Photoshop 11.0.1) and then extract the zip files for each update. Each of them had an extensions folder and you copied the content to the root of the extensions folder within your distribution of CS4. Then when you do the install next time, it automatically puts the updates on, and I tested this on my rig, and it worked! Yaay for simple stuff.

I went home after a long day, but first of all called in at Mum's as I had a CD of the pictures from the recent christening to hand over to her. She'd also had a pretty good weekend as she'd been to see The Monkees on Saturday and had a great time, even spotting the Monkeemobile down Apsley Grove by the side of the Apollo and convincing security to get her a picture with her and the car, which came out really well. She had the roll of film developed from the film camera but was gutted as some of them didn't come out spot on, but I do think it was down to the lighting and all the blue and redness not helping things too much in that sense.

It was then home I went, and spent some time blowing up two airbeds with my footpump ready for the weekend, thought that if I did them now it's one less thing to worry about. All the bedding was clean and ready to go, and I could get the futon all made up so that it was ready straight to crash in. I figured that it'd make more sense to actually have that done now so that if I get stuck for time, I've got time in hand. Or something. I also spent some time MP3ing all the recent CDs that I've got, so if I want to transfer them to the phone or iPod for extended listening on the road, the work is pretty much already done, so that was good to do.

In fact whilst I was doing that, I spent some time listening to a few of the tracks from some of the albums that I'd got, and one track which caught my ear was "Last" the title track of The Unthanks' new album. I really enjoy their folky sound, it just has that lovely calm relaxed feel to it whilst still maintaining a real sense of Northern-ness (in fact one of them lives in Hebden Bridge now if I remember correctly). The title track has a real ethereal feel to it which wouldn't sound out of place on a Cocteau Twins album either, but has a lovely piano which underpins the whole lot. Simply gorgeous and an easy tune of the day for me.

Sunday 15th May - It Happened, Then!

When I woke up this morning at first I thought that I'd dreamt all the events of yesterday and that it was just some long dream I'd had when I was asleep. Then I saw the BBC News website, the news on the telly and the fact that ESPN were showing a replay of the game, and yes, everything I saw yesterday was true and that Manchester City had indeed won a trophy! You can't blame me as a City fan for of course thinking that it's usually one false dawn after another when it comes to potential success, and that I wasn't there unlike the semi final to see it myself. But yes, it was all good and true. Hurrah!

I had a leisurely morning with The Love In My Heart, and later in the afternoon we headed off to see my auntie and uncle, as it was her birthday today. She was pleased with the gift card for Waterstones and indeed the Audrey Hepburn biography that we'd got her, so that meant that she could have something to read now and get something to read later, all well with the world there. Her niece was there and she's such a cutie too, she had myself and The Love happily playing with her after her initial shyness thinking "who are you?" which was really nice, and she's got bags of character which was ever so lovely.

We then headed to Piccadilly Station to pick one of The Love's relations up who had been to Wembley and had had a great time (as my uncle also had yesterday, he had plenty of pics and videos on his iPhone to prove it as well!) and undoubtedly he was buzzing, telling The Love how special it was and how much it meant (which of course I knew exactly!) and after that, we then headed back to mine for a while whereas The Love and I had a rather good game of Scrabble with the new Elbow album on that she'd got me for my birthday. In fact she was quite crafty and appended an S on the end of TICKING to make TICKINGS with also SEND down the right hand side, and as both words were on the triple word score, that meant a massive 60 points - go her!

I made us some gammon for tea and that went down nicely before The Love headed home with a shed load of stuff to get ready for work. I also got plenty of washing done and worked out what I needed to get in the wash for when my friends stay next weekend. I've got plenty of spare duvets and covers, bottom sheets and air beds to get all ready, but at least that means that I know it's all sorted, so bunged a lot of stuff in the wash so I knew it was one less thing to worry about and have done. It's good when I know I can be organised and have everything all looking good.

Tune of the day is from Nine Inch Nails' remastered version of their debut album "Pretty Hate Machine", namely one of the singles, "Sin". It's always been one of my favourite NIN tracks because of its electronic feel to it, but also because I've even written an extended remix version of it on my Commodore 64 (which one of my friends staying this weekend happens to like too). I just think that the remaster really has brought out the best of the album, sounding much more sharp and electronic than the original 1989 release. It has that feel of darkness mixed with electronica to a tee.

Saturday 14th May - 35 Years Of Hurt Is All Over

Today will go down as a historic day and a day I'll always remember for the rest of my life. For years as a Manchester City fan, I've seen the ups and downs, I've seen the special moments in single games, but never a season, I've seen the cup runs which then ended normally at the quarter or semi final stage. It's always been a series of letdowns and "typical City" to go and muck things up. But Tuesday night and sealing qualification for the Champions League was a weight off the backs of everyone at the club - it meant that we could enjoy today a bit more and know that the season has been a good one in terms of achivement.

That said though, having not won a trophy for so long, many City fans like me would give their right (and left) arm for a win of a major trophy, and thirty five years of hurt, getting to the FA Cup Final in 1981 and seeing Ricky Villa destroy our dream was heartbreaking for me as a nine year old boy. Having been to the semi final this year and have that feeling of beating Man Utd and getting to the final was a special moment, but I knew too that it would mean nothing if we didn't go on and win it today. I felt butterflies in the stomach from the moment I got up this morning. I knew it was going to be a day where I'd feel it, massively, even if my friend and I didn't have enough loyalty points to get a ticket for the final (you get more tickets for the semi, you see.)

To calm the nerves down a bit, I headed into the city centre as I had a roll of film from my Nikon F80 film camera that I wanted to have developed. I'd taken some more urban shots this morning and so hit a crafty ruse: Boots do 35mm processing and they even do a photo CD for a little extra. However I also had a shedload of Advantage card points so I could use them to pay for it, effectively costing me nothing. I dropped the film off for their one hour service, and then went and got my auntie some birthday presents for her birthday tomorrow, which meant a nice walk around some of the bookshops in the city centre to see what I could find.

I then went to Fopp as well, as I had some vouchers for there for my birthday and wanted to see what I could get with them. I had my original list of CDs that I was after, and so meant that I could concentrate on the stuff I actually really wanted. I ended up with the £20 gift card I had getting Metallica's "And Justice For All", the new album from The Unthanks, "Last" and the Vaccines' debut album "What Did You Expect From The Vaccines" as well, so plenty to listen to there over the next few days I think. It was good to get stuff I was after and soon headed back to Boots to collect my pictures and CD, and head homewards to get myself ready for the FA Cup Final coverage.

It was good to see that ITV got in legends from both clubs, and for City this was Shaun Goater and Dennis Tueart who were happily saying to Adrian Chiles that this could be City's moment and year and knew how much it would mean to us, the fans. I was getting more nervous by the minute and I'm sure I wasn't the only one, and as the ground filled up, the noise from both sets of fans got louder and louder, it was amazing. Fair play to the Stoke fans too, they really were getting behind the boys. My cousin and his girlfriend came over to watch the game with me, and it was a case of "come on you blues" as kick off time neared. Could we do it? For just this one day, please City, please!

The usual pre-match stuff happened with a nice version of the traditional "Abide With Me" and Stacey Solomon from the Z-Factor doing the national anthem. Why? At least get someone decent on for this bit, the FA! Anyway, the teams were announced and I was pleased to see Carlos Tévez fit and ready to go, and that must have been a good boost for the team-mates around him too. I was also very pleased to see that Mancini was going for it by having Mario Balotelli up front as well, so looked like we were positive and wanted to win it. The players shook hands and the noise rose to a crescendo as the kick off soon approached.

The first half was mainly City, and that was good for me. Tévez had a shot well blocked by Thomas Sorensen early on, and as the half prorgressed, we made more chances. A curler from Balotelli was due for the top corner before Sorensen pulled off a world class save to deny a certain goal. David Silva maybe should have scored when trying to hit the ball down after another Sorensen save, but it bounced way too high and over. I was still nervous though, as I've seen games where we've dominated before but not got the result, so was just hoping that something would change and we'd score. Stoke in fairness should have been reduced to 10 men after Robert Huth elbowed Balotelli in the face, but the referee didn't see it. Mind you, he didn't look 100% fit nor did their other injury risk Matthew Etherington, so that was at least useful for us.

Half time came and I needed another coffee to calm the nerves a bit, let me tell you. The second half soon came around and got underway, and Stoke became more physical in winning challenges and were bossing the game early in the second half, culminating in Kenwyne Jones getting one on one with Joe Hart, the City keeper producing a great save to block him. That for me could be the turning point, and as ITV were interviewing Stoke's Danny Higginbotham, ruled out by knee injury for today, City piled forward. The ball went to David Silva who did a bit of a 1-2 with Mario Balotelli, Balotelli shot across goal, the ball was blocked and was pinging around the area, and then up came Yaya Toure.

YEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! Get in! Yaya wasted no time and absolutely hammered the ball home into the net. We were all going mental at my place, and my cousin and I did an impromptu Poznan to celebrate as well. Hugs all round too including one of my other cousins who'd got round after work for the second half, and it was a great moment. You could tell that the players were delirious too as they mobbed Yaya and almost did a "pile on" with him. Good job he's such a bloody man mountain then. It was a great moment and I broke into song getting behind the boys, and with fifteen minutes to go, could we push on and win it?

City did try to go for a second and often Balotelli held the line well up front to keep the ball and frustrate Stoke massively. David Silva was still probing forward, and near the end Stoke brought up Sorensen for a couple of corners as a last ditch measure. City brought on Patrick Vieira for David Silva, and Vieira hit one ball away from goal for another corner so made his contribution. The corner came over, it went well wide, and as Joe Hart kicked the ball away you could just see Roberto Mancini ready to go for it. The ball was kicked clear by Hart, and you could see the referee put the ball to his mouth. It was the final whistle.

YEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! Goooooooooooooooooo! It was delirium for the four of us at mine, with massive hugs, celebrations and shouts of joy, singing chants, you name it. It's hard to believe that it's been so long since we won a trophy, but not anymore. And even if Man Utd had clinched the league title with a draw at Blackburn, who cares? City had won the FA Cup and boy were the fans and players going to milk it or what? They were. Micah Richards swore on the telly but realised his error. "Look at the fans", he said, "they're f***ing.." (I think he was going to say "going mental" but stopped when he realised his error). But he knew how much it meant to us.

Carlos Tévez lead the boys up the stairs to collect the trophy, and held it aloft. We all went mental again. This is what it feels like. All those 35 years of frustration, hurt, being in what is the equivalent of League One, going up and down the leagues and for the last 9 years staying in the Premier League and building up to be the force we could be from now on. It was a beautiful thing. No longer will the 1969 FA Cup final retro shirt I had on today be the last time City won the FA Cup, and how fitting too that in the year that the scorer of the winner, Neil Young, went to heaven, that his team paid the best tribute possible by winning the cup for him - almost like poetic justice.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over, and she could tell I was ever so pleased. My uncle and his boss at work had got tickets and were there to see it all, and he spoke to me on the way home afterwards and was completely lost for words as how his day went - it was unbelievable. I felt so pleased, happy, and proud of the City boys. They'd done it! Tune of the day has to be Supra's version of "Blue Moon" which was playing after the final whistle and really showed the passion that City had shown all day. It made us all shout "I said Blue Moon" at full pelt, and with good reason. YES!

Myself and The Love met up with my two friends later at The Ashlea in Cheadle for a meal together to celebrate my birthday on Tuesday and the cup final win. My friend is a fellow Blue of course and he was buzzing as much as I was, it was a special moment. We had a really nice meal and I even had a pint of Old Peculier to go with it, which was very good indeed. I had the minestrone soup to start which was spot on, as well as the steak and ale pie for main, which was a proper pie and everything. And some ice cream for dessert too, so that was all good and tasty for us all. It was a nice relaxing evening and the four of us had plenty of chatter and we smiled a lot as well, so that was all very good indeed.

My friends had also very kindly got me some lovely birthday presents too - The Social Network and Mad Dogs on DVD, and three CDs: "The Bairns" by Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, Julian Velard's album, and also the new Human League album "Credo" as well. How nice are my friends? Very nice, and they're much too kind to me as well. It was a great end to a great day and one I'll always remember. If I died tomorrow, I wouldn't mind as City have won something at long long last and it's made my whole year feel very very special.

Friday 13th May - I'll Sleep Well Tonight

I had a pretty busy day at work and all morning was spent in a meeting and workshop, which showed you just how effective things can be when you do a deployment of application settings through the Group Policy in Windows 7. In effect what it also means is that you can easily change things around should you need to without faffing around with the mandatory profile (something you don't really want to do, trust me). and we had a bit of a workshop with that so we could all give it a go and see how we did. It was really good of my colleague to put it together, and I have to say a job very well done by him.

I also had finally tested something for a laptop task sequence so you could effectively prevent it from going to sleep and effectively killing off any install during that part of the task sequence. You can in the SCCM task sequence do "run command line" where you run the command as if you were in a Command Prompt. This way, you can set the power configuration to never turn the laptop on standby, and then at the end set it back so it's back to its normal power settings. Quite effective really, and I sent out an email with instructions and screen shots so that users could see exactly what's going on.

It was then home in the incessant rain, and from there I had a shower, got changed and headed back towards the city centre where I was meeting The Notes In My Song for the evening. We were going to have something to eat first before heading to the Deaf Institute to see Martin Rossiter, something I was pretty much looking forward to. One of my friends is a massive fan of him especially when he was in the band Gene, but I was more intrigued too to see how he'd manage solo as well. Bit different from having a full band when you go it alone, I reckoned to myself.

The Notes and I met at Kro 2 on Oxford Road, with the rain still teeming down around us. I'd got there earlier and so I got her a glass of wine and myself a pint of Hobgoblin - which was on cask. Yaay! That was good. We had food in there too - the fish and chips was gorgeous as ever, with a nice light batter. The open sandwich The Notes had was intriguing, bits of Danish pork in an open style with salad and chips, and didn't seem too bad at all. I even took advantage of their coffee and cake offer and had a latte with some St Clements Cake to finish the meal off nicely and as the rain was starting to ease off, we left there and headed the short distance to The Deaf Institute.

We got upstairs to where the gig was happening and got ourselves some seating at the back. The venue has a stage, then standing, with seats high above to the left, and then behind the standing there's a nice raked seating area which also means you see above everyone's heads. As I know The Notes always seems to get someone around 6 ft 7 standing in front of her, we thought that was the best option. It proved to be a good move all round really, as support act Songdog (official site) went on. They admitted most of their songs were pretty sad ones, but they were quite a good outfit all the same. They had a lead guitarist and singer whom The Notes said looked like Mickey Rourke, one of them with a small ukelele or mandolin (or a cross between the two, it was a distinct sound) and the third member with a small accordion. Their sound was right for the venue and although not everyone's cup of tea, I pretty much enjoyed them to be honest.

After a short while, where I also spotted my friend and her partner standing and getting a pretty good view of the stage, it was all lights down and on came Martin Rossiter (no official site) along with the piano player, Robin Coward. It was a nice intimate set with just the two of them, with Martin playing plenty of new solo stuff to a very quiet and appreciative audience. Of course, he wasn't going to get away without playing some of the old Gene stuff, and "Speak To Me Someone" really did have an air of emotion for some of the fans around the place. It was a special moment and you could tell as the diehards sang along.

Plenty of the new songs caught my ears when listening, notably "I Must Be Jesus" where he talks about how everyone was eight and playing around, and also "Where There Are Pixels" which sounded really reflective and introspective, and yet had a great chorus too - tune of the day for me that one. Another one I really liked was "I Want To Choose When I Sleep Alone", a title Morrissey would have been proud of, but with even better lyrical content. It has that feeling of sometimes needing to be alone and having that time to yourself, something we can all relate to very nicely indeed.

Of course the diehard Gene fans were not to be disappointed when he came back on stage for the encore and did an extended version of "Olympian" which really sounded soaring and having lots of people sing along and get really into it. That was quite nice actually. My friend really did enjoy that tons too, and you could tell she was made up. Awww. It was nice to have a quick chat to the two of them later and I know they both enjoyed it as we did, so that really did make the night complete. It was sad to have to head homewards but I know that it was a really good time I had, and I think his solo album might be one to watch out for...

Thursday 12th May - Finally..

I've been spending a fair bit of time this week having a few issues with one of my task sequences which brings down a Windows 7 image plus some applications that only our sites tend to use. And for the last few days it was constantly failing when installing one application - Corel Draw X5. Yet when bringing down the same task sequence to a desktop machine, not my laptop, it installed without any issues whatsoever. Strange and odd, that to be honest. I was thinking of ways that I could sort it, but imagine when I looked at the installer package and saw that the installer files were at version 19!

I figured that for some reason the "update distribution points on a 1 day schedule" was ticked, even though I never ever touch that, and so on a daily basis it was clearly trying to update the distribution points for the application. Now this may have been trying to do itself when bringing down that application install during the task sequence - therefore meaning that it thinks that another install technically is progressing and so epic fails. Meh. Anyway, it was pretty easy in the end to sort it out - remove the distribution point, then remove the program and clean up the application package, and recreate it. Associate that to the task sequence instead, watch it run.. and it all worked. Hurrah. Finally!

This at least cheered me up for the rest of the day and I was able to apply some common sense to a few settings and how to make sure that when they were applied that it would actually make the change that you want. It also was good to get my head down and work on the development side of things a lot more, so that at least it meant that I was able to crack on without disturbances. Sometimes you just need that space and time to concentrate and get on with the job in hand, and this is one of them.

I headed home later on via the city centre, as I had a quick peek in London Camera Exchange and also The Real Camera Co, and made sure I got some batteries for my Nikon F80 film SLR (the one thing that wasn't provided which I needed) and was able to try it out later when The Love In My Heart came over for the evening. It really worked spot on, even with my 50mm f/1.8 AI-S manual focus lens too, and autofocussed happily with my 18-55 AF-S lens nicely. I was pretty pleased and I'm sure once I get the hang of it all, I can see how developing the film works and who can do it pretty well for me.

I made us some lovely free range corn fed chicken with some exquisa potatoes and vegetables for tea, and even did some gravy. It was very nice and we snuggled up and I indulged The Love with some of the soaps, as she'd had a long and hard day at work and I felt the least I could do was make her smile a little. We even played on Wii Play and she did her best score on the shooting gallery game, as did I (which I then improved again to be over 500 points, and saved four of my Mii characters at the end from those aliens, hehe).

Tune of the day though is simply "Jordan" by Buckethead, which I listened to before The Love arrived. It's one of the toughest songs on good olf Guitar Hero II, and is still renowned by fans as one of those songs it's really worth nailing. As I never played II, I wanted to hear what the fuss was about and so had a listen to the tune online. Now I completely understand why - plenty of great riffs all over the place and lots of finger shifting and sliding I imagine would be the order of the day, especially that really twiddly bit at 1:30 in. Ouch, that's intense!

Wednesday 11th May - Put To The Sword

It was one of those days in work today. I'd effectively moved my day to day stuff into the office where myself and a couple of colleagues are doing Windows 7 development work: me mainly on the application packaging side and also making sure that an image can be brought down with all the applications required, and my colleagues with the Group Policy side of things. In effect it's now good to work with them as I can bring down an image with apps, and test it against the policy stuff they're doing. In fact I spotted a couple of things today in terms of what visually impaired students might be able to use, and so that made perfect sense to make some suggestions as well.

I had a meeting to go in the afternoon with regards to some moving that'll be happening over the next year or so when a new building open. I'm involved because some of the staff we currently look after will be moving, and so there'll need to be a co-ordinated effort to ensure that the move goes smoothly with the minimum of fuss. It's also so we can ensure that we've got adequate IT representation for each bit that's moving in, and how we'll manage to co-ordinate that. It was good to speak to one member of staff in particular as I'd fixed her laptop the other day, and she was happily using it and working well with it too.

I headed home after work and spent a bit of time relaxing at home, and watched the 1970 League Cup Final on the DVD I got yesterday. Three things were apparent straight away. First, the pitch was a horrible mess, made worse by the fact that you could see snow around the outside of the old Wembley so it looked like they had to get people out clearing the pitch. Second, both teams still tried to play attractive football and went for a passing game, despite those poor conditions. Third, it was a real show of stamina that both teams could slug it out for 120 minutes including the extra time. From City's point of view, they'd been playing in the European Cup Winners' Cup against Académica de Coimbra of Portugal three days before. So it was good to see how resilient they were back then.

It was then off to the Academy 3, as I went to see The Sword (official site) and my, did it rock or what? I got there in good time to get a good position to see them do their thing, and what was good was that it was no faffing about whatsoever - it was literally get on stage, make sure your instruments are ready, and get rocking. No fancy light shows or projection screens, just three guitarists and a drummer making some metal sounds and getting plenty of grown men to mosh along to their sound. One day all gigs will be like this - no fancy stage effects, just concentrating on the music itself.

Of course the most recent album Warp Riders got most of the time on stage, including the title track being really tightly played too. Another highlight for me was "Tres Brujas" as the drums and guitar chugged along at a considerable pace. Considering that the new drummer Kevin Fender's only been with them a short while (the reason the original tour got postponed was because the former drummer left) he really gets into what they do and adds that layer of rhythm. "Night City" also sounded very tight and you could tell they were going for it. I was pleased too that they had a really blistering version of "How Heavy This Axe" from the "Gods of the Earth" album, but I admit it'd have been nice to have "The Black River" as well.

The classics from their debut album weren't forgotten either, not least "Freya" from their first album "Age of Winters" which really did sound even better than on record and when played in Guitar Hero, so that had to be tune of the day for me. Also "The Horned Goddess" was aired from that album, which was dedicated to all their female fans (and quite a few it has to be said). "Iron Swan" was played as well and that really had lots of people moshing at insane speeds as it really thrashed along something wickedly, and it was definitely a real killer to end the set and leave everyone smiling at the end of what was a great night of rocking. Oh yes. Get in!

Tuesday 10th May - Birthday Blue Bliss

Happy birthday to me! I can't believe that it's come around so quickly and that everyone's been generally really nice to me. I opened the cards that some of my relations had already handed to me, and one from my friend in Huddersfield had sent to me (ta v much!) and they were all rather nice. My uncle had brought round a present last night, and I was a happy bunny when I opened it - the 1970 and 1976 League Cup Finals on DVD, so plenty of Man City related action to watch there. My mum and brother had got me a gift card for Fopp, so I think there'll be a few recent release CDs that might have to be purchased with that. Also, The Love In My Heart's family had all put together and got me a gift voucher for Jacobs the photography shop, which was very nice of them indeed. I felt rather humbled all round.

It was a busy day at work on my birthday of all days, but I decided that the best way to get through the day was plough on and work hard, and I managed to not only sort out lots of problems and issues that came my way, but was also able to explain to a member of staff about what happens in IT terms when they leave, and manage to work on how Windows 7 would be imaging down with the test laptop that I currently have. All seemed to be well there and it was good that I can at least move to our test development office now and make some more progress as well.

It was straight into the city centre, get myself a EuroMillions ticket for tonight's first ever Tuesday draw (you never know, I might win!) and then off to see The Love In My Heart. She was making my tea and then myself and my friend would be off to see Man City hopefully beat Tottenham and with it seal qualification for the Champions League (wooo!). I arrived at The Love's place and she was happy to see me as ever, so we sat down whilst she handed me a rather lovely card with some lovely words on it, which really did sum up how she felt about me (twas very lovely) and made me feel like I had a Ready-Brek warm glow around me too. Aww.

Then she handed me her presents, four very nice ones too. She insisted that I opened the large box first and as I got to the present, I couldn't believe what it was - no less than a Nikon F80 film SLR body! She knew I was after one and must have gone into London Camera Exchange in Piccadilly to go and get it. I didn't need any lenses of course as any of my existing Nikon lenses will fit it (even my 50mm AI-S in manual mode) and one of the other presents happened to be three rolls of film so I could use it and start shooting soon. Excellent. Not just that either - she also managed to get me a Scrabble mug with my letter W and the number 4 (of course the W is worth 4 points in Scrabble you see). The side of the mug also shows the letter distributions in the game which is handy to know. That was ace of her, and on top of all that, the new Elbow album "Build A Rocket Boys" too. How lucky am I to have such a wonderful woman? Very very lucky, let me tell you.

My uncle, two of my cousins and one's girlfriend came over to us before they like me and my friend were all off to the City of Manchester Stadium to see Man City. I felt nervous before the game and just wanted to kick off as soon as possible so I could chant the songs and cheer the boys on. I was really revved up for tonight as I knew we had a massive chance to seal it all there and then, which would mean we could fully concentrate on the FA Cup final on Saturday. Must admit as the game started Tottenham looked lively and a Luka Modric shot went just wide of the post and made my heart flutter a tad. At the other end, David Silva teed up Edin Džeko but he shot straight at Carlo Cudicini in the Tottenham goal.

As the first half went on, chances were going at either ends with David Silva's shot just missing, but we made the breakthrough. A short corner went back to James Milner who rifled the ball low and hard across the six yard box and Peter Crouch put through his own goal to give City the lead. Ironically it was Crouch who scored at the same end last year to put Tottenham in the Champions League. Could we be getting payback and by the same scoreline I wondered? We got to half time at 1-0 and I was thinking "please City, please. Just this once, do not balls it up and get the result that we're all wanting so badly."

The second half was all Tottenham for at least the first twenty five minutes. Steven Pienaar must have thought he'd scored a header only for Joe Hart to pull out an unbelievable save to keep it out, and every time they went forward, the defence got in the way. Pablo Zabaleta was a warrior before he went off injured, he was battling for everything and both he and Vincent Kompany were immovable objects in the defence. Roberto Mancini the City boss then brought on Patrick Vieira, which may have annoyed Carlos Tévez warming up, but was the right move. Vieira, an ex-Arsenal player don't forget, didn't need any incentive to get stuck in, kept winning the ball in midfield, stopped a few crosses (one on the goal-line too) and almost scored at the other end with a nice delicate chip too.

Tévez came on and did his best to stamp some authority on the game and almost scored late on, but I kept thinking "Please! Please! Blow that final whistle" and as the clock ticked down in stoppage time I felt more confident. The final whistle was a massive relief all round but I went mental, it really meant a lot to me and it shows we're making progress. Champions League, here we come! My friend and I were very happy and went back to The Love's place, where my relatives turned up not long after and we were all in happy mode. My cousin and his girlfriend gave me a nice card and a voucher for the City shop too, very good of them, so I now have a good excuse to visit the City store - maybe to get one of those "let's all do the Poznan" t-shirts!

After everyone had gone I snuggled up to The Love In My Heart and reflected on what proved to be a rather lovely day all round - City didn't let me down for once, and The Love had treated me to some gorgeous presents and even a carrot cake to have with a cuppa after the game too, so that was very special as well. It felt lovely being all cuddled up and happy. Tune of the day is "Blue Moon" by Supra - the band were there themselves in City Square last night and I could hear them playing it full blast. "I said Blue Moon!" they belt out, and so do we. Get in there!

Monday 9th May - Black Cats and Tea

It was another hard and long day at work, and I was attempting to get several things done at once. I did managed to sort out one laptop that for some reason wasn't connecting correctly to the wired or wireless network, and it was quite simple really. It was down to the fact that some of the laptop's chipset drivers weren't correctly installed, so when this was done, it then correctly made sure that the PCI Express controller was working, and that controlled the onboard network and wireless adapter. Once those were playing ball it was a piece of cake to sort the rest out and the hardware played happily, and so did connectivity. Good to get that one done.

I then spent some time collecting some data with regards to some PC replacements in the pipeline, so I knew what needed to be done and where. It was good to see some staff whilst I was out and about and so I could see what they were up to and chat to them too - and do a bit of the other meaning of networking. Back at base though, it's being a bit problematic attempting to try and get things to play ball with the SCCM side of the things, mainly because the server's been a bit icky and I've been trying where possible to bring down a master image plus all the relevant software with it. I need to give it another crack in another place I reckon.

I headed home via the Spar close to work, as I was buying some real ale from there. It's the only place I know which does Black Cat and Pendle Witches Brew in bottled form, which of course would be perfect for me and some friends to drink. And at the moment it was three bottles for £5.50, which wasn't too bad, so got three each of those and then to the Academy Box Office to get a ticket for The Sword at Academy 3 on Wednesday night, so that should be good really. It'll also mean a pretty busy week as I've got City against Tottenham tomorrow night, then the gig, and then Martin Rossiter at Deaf Institute on Friday night too. All good!

It was then to Mum's as Mum was very kindly cooking me some tea, and no less than my favourite - potato rash with her special pie with nothing in it to mix with the rash too. Yum yum. And it was as good as she always does it - plenty of potatoes, carrots and meat in a nice gravy, and just the right consistency to really get that melt in the mouth feeling when mixed with the pie. Oh yes. And a lovely apple cake for afterwards too, so that was all good and delicious as well. Of course part of the reason for this was a little celebration for me, as it's a special day tomorrow and as I'd be at the footy, it'd be Mum's chance to treat me a bit. Awww.

Anyway, I headed home later, had my uncle and auntie come over for a bit too and had a giggle whilst we were trying to find the Mii characters on Find Mii on Wii Play, all good fun that. They had a card and present for me too which I'm saving till the morning to see what I get, so that as nice too. I ended the day with a shed load of ironing to do and some nice music to listen to, namely The Sword seeing as I'm seeing them on Wednesday. As it still rocks on Guitar Hero, "Freya" by them is my tune of the day - it chugs along marvellously with some heavy riffs and I'm hoping I hear that Wednesday!

Sunday 8th May - Sun Then Rain Then Sun Then Rain Again

The weather couldn't really make its mind up whatsoever during today. We got up this morning and had some lovely bacon on toast for breakfast, and the sun was attempting to come out. A little while later it decided to chuck it down, and then before we were leaving and heading for Chorley, it was then sunny again. It really didn't know what to do, so as a safety measure The Sauce In My Pasta and I packed our jackets in the back of her car, just in case the heavens did indeed decide to open and hammer it down with rain on the way.

We were soon after a petrol stop leaving the city of Manchester, heading down the East Lancashire Road, and joining the M61 heading past Bolton and towards Chorley, and from there heading towards Euxton before taking a left turn past the big Tesco and heading for the Edge Hill University Woodlands Campus, where there was something that most of The Sauce's family was attending, and we were there too. It was a lovely thing to be there for, and it really did make me think about quite a few things whilst I was there. It was particularly nice how it was a real sense of getting people together and also reflecting too. Lots of nice cups of coffee afterwards as well, which was good.

It was then on to the Hartwood Hall pub close to the motorway and on the way back for a bit of later than normal lunch, which worked out pretty nicely. It was two for £10 for most of the meals, which is fine by us all, and I had the rather nice and large gammon with an egg on top, together with chips and peas. The Sauce and her father both had the Italian chicken with the sauce and the herb potatoes which looked stunning - must admit I'd have had that myself. Everyone seemed happy with their food and we had plenty of chat together too which was lovely. And what was nice was that they'd all got me a birthday card and a little present, which they so didn't have to (it's actually later in the week, but I wouldn't see them before then, so how nice was that?)

As The Sauce and I headed back to my place, back down the M61 again, rain showers kept coming down in droves, and then stopping. It was very topsy turvy indeed but the rain relented by the time we headed back to my place, and we were able to have a nice cup of coffee and settle in for a game of Scrabble, with The Sauce playing her single best move in Scrabble ever, playing QUINCE near the top corner, with the blank as a U, the Q on triple letter, and double word score on the N, making a massive 72 points. I have to admit I was very impressed by that and although I'd previously done ZO and ZANY (Z on triple letter) scoring 67 points, it was good to see her doing so well too. Yaay!

Tune of the day in the meantime is "No Aloha" by the Breeders, which for some reason stuck in my head whilst heading back down the M61 towards Manchester, and once The Love had left for home to get her stuff ready for work, I had to dig out the Last Splash album and play it. It's short, but it seems somehow perfect for a little rock number on a long journey for some reason. Maybe because it's got a nice chugging guitar in the first half before the drums kick in and up the pace a notch. Either way, it's bloody brilliant. As is the whole album in fact, if you've not already got it what are you doing? Go and get it.

Saturday 7th May - Creamy Carbonara

I had a relaxing day of sorts after a pretty intense last few days at work. I got up relatively late for me and relaxed a bit at home, and got myself ready to head into the city centre, as I wanted to visit the local hairdressers to get my hair cut. As usual, the staff at The Northern Cutter worked wonders and even trimmed the eyebrows for me as well to stop them getting a bit wild, and all was well with the world. The weather wasn't looking so hot though, so I quickly went over the road to Vinyl Exchange and had a look in there. Plenty of indie CDs down to two quid and lots of temptation, but I was good and resisted (for now).

I headed home in perfect timing for the F1 qualifying, which was good on BBC HD with lots of clear coverage and plenty of action on track as the drivers strove for a great lap. Sebastian Vettel was imperious though and only needed to do one run on the final session to easily claim pole, an ominous warning to everyone for the race tomorrow methinks. It was good and I had my lunch whilst keeping an eye on that, and after that I spent some time doing plenty of washing and ironing to keep everything nice and clean. Of course with the periodic rain, I didn't need to go and do the plants in the back somehow.

Mid-afternoon off I went via the city centre to see The Sauce In My Pasta, who was very kindly cooking me tea later, and three courses too, bless. It was great to see her, and we headed off to Morrisons in Openshaw so we could get some shopping, and I could stock up on real ale for when my friends come down in a few weeks. The whole of the waste land that Morrisons was on is being converted to a nice new shopping centre, called Lime Square (quite why that name was chosen I have no idea). Anyway, the Morrisons looks good, and their real ale selection was decent too. I got myself a Piddle In The Hole ale for tonight's tea, and plenty of nice ales for the forthcoming weekender - Brewers' Dark, Summer Lightning, Doom Bar, Humdinger, Boondoggle, so that was pretty good. Sadly whilst there City had let a 1-0 lead become 2-1 to Everton. Meh.

Undeterred, we headed back to The Sauce's place, and we had a relaxing evening in. The trailer for Doctor Who looked like it had the tall ship in Charlestown that we'd seen a few weeks earlier when in Cornwall, so we watched that whilst having the starter of garlic mushrooms with sour cream dip, and the gorgeous main that she made. It was a carbonara with lots of pancetta, mushrooms, and her own sauce made herself to a Jamie Oliver recipe. And even a poached egg on the top to finish things off - just how lovely was that eh? Very nice indeed, let me tell you.

We relaxed with a game of Scrabble (the Travel version I have is at her place so we've got a set there on the go too, handy) and had some Paul Weller on, namely his Studio 150 album full of covers, which we both like. I really do like the version he does of "Close To You" on there, so tune of the day for me there. It certainly had us both in good thought and relaxed mode, which was rather lovely all round. And add to that a gorgeous Eton Mess which we had for dessert afterwards whilst seeing that we didn't win the lottery draw (again) and all was very well with our world. We even laughed later at the somewhat thick contestants on the Million Pound Drop, especially those two blokes who had no idea that Vince Cable had called the Tories "ruthless and calculating" and put all their money on another stupid answer instead - and so lost it all. Ha.

Friday 6th May - Everyone (Well 69%) Said No

I woke up and before I headed to work checked the local council results for Manchester, and I was pretty surprised. Out of all the seats up for grabs, Labour won the whole lot, and the Liberal Democrats therefore lost some key councillors including one near me with their bad grammar leaflet. Oops. In fact some of their safer seats had a massive turnaround, possibly due to some of them having students who live in the ward and have chosen to vote where they live during term time, and they certainly made their point pretty clear if that was the case. I've never seen such a clean sweep at the Manchester council elections before either.

Of course the alternative vote results weren't going to be in till I got home from work tonight, but I did fear that in fact it'd probably be a massive resounding no, judging by some exit polls and also the general feeling from scaremongering media like the Daily Mail. I didn't have that much optimism as I went to work, but knew that I had a pretty busy day ahead of me. First of all, there was a meeting for our Windows 7 development team to see how things were going with all that, and it was pretty clear to me that there is plenty to do in not so much time. And my colleagues have to do a presentation next week about application settings and how they're done (like we already had done it in Zenworks) so I'm sure I might get roped in to doing some of that too.

On top of all that, I had my professional development review meeting in the afternoon, which did go on for a fair while, but that was most likely because I had written concisely, but in several pages, what I'd managed to do over the past year, where I think I fell down a bit and what I needed to do to improve myself. On the whole though I have to say it was pretty positive and I had an idea of what I'll have to be doing in terms of my own development over the next year or so, on top of a couple of major projects that I'm also taking on as well. It's going to be hard to devote the time completely to everything but in a way that's also meeting challenges head on.

Flushed with the day's events, I headed firstly to Tesco to get some of the weekly shopping, and then to Asda to finish off the remaining bits I needed, mainly washing powder and fabric conditioner as the one I was after wasn't in Tesco, and then off home to check out the referendum results. And when they came I wasn't that surprised: it worked out around 31% in favour of the alternative vote, and 69% against, which is more than a sizeable majority to be honest. In Manchester itself it was 45% yes and 55% no, a bit closer than in some places, but even so.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Eject" by Senser. I decided to play their classic 1994 album "Stacked Up" as I hadn't played it in a while, and it brings back memories of me and several others going pretty mental to this track every week in an indie club. Of course no one could sing all the lyrics, there were far too many and far too quickly pronounced to get them all. But it was great for bounding around too and generally moshing like a loon, or trying to air guitar the riff during the chorus, of course.

Thursday 5th May - I'm Saying Yes

Well the first thing I did this morning was wake up to something being popped through the letterbox. At first, I thought "well the postman's early, that's pretty good" but it wasn't anything of the sort. In fact it was a letter to all the constituents in my local council ward from the current Liberal Democrat councillor, outlining why he should be re-elected. However, I'm sure many people who read it would have been more annoyed than me, when you consider that there were numerous spelling and grammar mistakes which meant some of it didn't make sense, and also an outright lie that one of the other candidates doesn't live locally, when in fact they actually do. Oops. I suspect that might turn some people's heads come their visit to the polling station.

In any case I wanted to vote today for more than one electing the local councillor reason. Today of course is the national referendum on whether to change the current voting system "first past the post" to the alternative vote, with the question being asked whether we should select the alternative vote, yes or no. After carefully and insightfully reading into how the alternative vote would work, it was a marginal decision of yes for me - primarily because at least it would mean that in closer seats it might give some people a more careful thought about who they vote for in the first place. I can see both sides and I'm sure that as I looked at it, the no vote would probably win. But as it's possibly the only chance in a lifetime for electoral change, I had to at least vote on it and see what may happen.

Tune of the day is sort of related to that, to be honest, the excellent "I'm Saying Yes" by MJ Hibbett, which is the last track from his "Wonderful Wednesday" album. He basically is also voting yes and explains succinctly why you may want to do so. There's even a pretty nifty video that goes with it too, and it does explain things as simply as possible for those who might not have an idea which way that they want to go. And I have to love the line "and I don't care if it pleases Nick Clegg" which made me smile the first time I listened to it. Quite. I'm not a Clegg fan especially after his broken promise on tuition fees, which I don't think anyone will forgive him for.

It was a busy day at work then, and back home it was time to do plenty of washing and ironing (double meh there of course) and did that whilst listening to the aforementioned MJ Hibbett album. There's quite a few good tracks on there, and plenty about the working day in general, such as "I'm Completely Up To Date" which kind of sums up me on Tuesday catching up on stuff, and "Is It Time To Go Home Now?" as well, which was me about lunchtime today to be perfectly honest. That said it's not a surprise as I've been pretty busy, as has The Love In My Heart too.

It was great therefore to see her later, and we had tea together and then I indulged her a bit with some Emmerdale, as she loves it, before we put on the Wii and played Wii Play, which I hadn't put on for ages. We had a few of the games as a two player game together before having a go individually. She did pretty well on the shooting gallery one, apart from the last level where all those alien zappers took her Miis quickly away. It was also good though that she improved her best on Find Mii as well, so she felt pretty good after that. How the hell I managed my billiards score I don't know, can't get nowhere near the best I did of 63 points, but still, I did beat my table tennis return score on there so that's decent.

Wednesday 4th May - Laptop Blues

I spent some time this evening setting to work on a laptop that I'd been asked to look at from someone I know. They wanted to know just why every single time the laptop was trying to boot up into Windows Vista, it got so far and then blue screened with an error message. I guess that's why they call it the laptop blues, as Elton John would have never sung back in the day. Still, I had a rough idea what it might be, and successfully managing to start the laptop in safe mode confirmed to me that it was more or less a driver issue that was causing the error. But which one?

I had a trawl through the programs and features in Windows Vista and had a look at what was installed. There was some very strange USB driver I'd never ever heard of, and so thought "this could just be the one" and got that uninstalled. I then restarted the PC and voila, it booted correctly and managed to see everything else quite happily. Just why it decided not to play ball is beyond me to be quite honest, but that's at least the first stage of everything sorted out for it. I did notice too that it doesn't have Windows Vista Service Pack 2 on there, so the next stage might well be to get that on, but that's a massive download so I'm going to snag it on my own PC and then burn it to disc, should make life a little easier I think.

It's been good though to actually try out a laptop in the house and see how effective it's been with not only detecting the wireless network of mine, but how robust and stable the wireless card was during some tests as well. I've been toying with the idea of a netbook one day so I could be portable and write stuff on the train as well as possibly look into it being something I can use in the comfort of the front room should I need to. I guess it's another expense though and realistically I've got to weigh that up on top of all the other things I have to pay for these days, so it's careful consideration time (again!)

I did flick over periodically to see the Champions League semi final second leg, but knew like most footbal fans predicted, that Man U would finish the job against Schalke and head to Wembley at the end of this month to face Barcelona in a mouthwatering final. It'll also mean that both City and United get to go to Wembley, pretty much what I said to some Man U fans at work after City's epic FA Cup semifinal win, so everyone's a winner really. I just wish that the prices for the finals weren't so expensive, I'm sure that it's downright daylight robbery for the fans to be honest.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse, which I decided to download for Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock (one of the last ever Guitar Hero downloads) and that pretty much rocked as I expected it to, seeing as the original's one of Muse's great singles, with plenty of dirty sounding guitar that underpins the whole thing. It's always been an ambition to play that Muse track particularly on guitar and drums, and now I can - that made me feel a lot more relaxed after the busy day!

Tuesday 3rd May - Back To It

It felt rather strange waking up this morning and knowing that I had to get up and head to work for the first time in two weeks, after me using all my remaining leave for the holiday year. I expected it to be busy back at work, and was it ever. Lots of student hand in deadlines and plenty of people with stressed looks on their faces as well as they had to try and get everything sorted out today. I knew it was going to be pretty chaotic and so tried to be the calm head, taking time with one student showing them how to do things properly in terms of transferring an image from their memory card successfully without deleting it (sometimes the transfer picture wizard in XP does that you see.)

It was a far cry from last night, where I watched the culmination of an extraordinary snooker final between John Higgins and Judd Trump. Trump was 12-9 up at one point and had a difficult blue to clinch the frame and make it 13-9, but instead of playing a safety, he went for it, and missed. Higgins cleaned up, won the frame and then the next three to make it 13-12, and this is where I was up to when watching it before the evening session. In the evening, Trump tried as he might to keep himself in the match and it was still all to play for at 16-15, but Higgins won the next and then in the next frame after, he needed two snookers to tie. He got one, then potted up to the blue, snookered Trump on the pink, which he missed, and then cleaned up to snatch the frame and win the match 18-15.

It was a shame someone had to lose, but Judd Trump should reflect on what for him was an excellent tournament, getting all the way to the final and playing with some youth and exuberance that really had the fans happily enjoying his play. He also needs to think that at only 21 he's got plenty of years in the game yet and I know that he'll win other tournaments as well as the China Open that he did so recently. It's also testament to how popular the final session walk on was becuase people were rooting for him, and wanting a change in the snooker's top order. We shall see what happens of course, but always good to see some refreshing difference in the sport too.

Back to today then and Steve Davis had mentioned Snooker Loopy yesterday, but also the follow up with Chas and Dave and the Matchroom Mob, called "The Romford Rap". If you thought that the big hit was cheesy, then it's nothing on this one. In the suitably dodgy 1980s video, you've got the players in different coloured lounge suits for the various snooker balls, and in a masterstroke, Jimmy White is in white. You've also got Steve Davis in black, Neal Foulds in yellow, Dennis Taylor in green, Terry Griffiths in blue, Tony Meo in brown, and Willie Thorne as pink, with plenty of lovely ladies as the reds, complete with Chas and Dave and rhyming slang for plenty of the phrases in the song. It's so bloody cheesy, but fun at the same time. Tune of the day really, and here's that video. Smile and laugh!

See what I mean? Told you it was rather cheesy. But I guess it cheered me up after getting right back into things at work and cracking on with things in general. You sometimes need those nice little moments to wind down after a long hard day, and knowing that I was effectively catching up on two weeks' worth of work, email and outstanding jobs in less than a day was pretty tough going for anyone to be honest. And I also had the lovely company of The Love In My Heart for some tea too tonight, which is always a good and massive plus!

Monday 2nd May - Snooker Loopy

It was another nice and warm day today and after a well earned lie in after the busy weekend, we thought it would be nice to take a bit of a walk out in the nice weather before The Love In My Heart had stuff to do during the afternoon. We thought about where to go and immediately Fletcher Moss Park came to mind - it's not too far away and we can also have a little leisurely walk, and maybe if it was open have a coffee at the Alpine Tea Rooms as well.

So off we went in The Love's car and set off in the general direction of East Didsbury, and after noticing that our usual spot to park down the far end of Stenner Lane was blocked off because of the ongoing work to try and get the flood basin of the Mersey working correctly (the road is closed to allow contractors to be able to get access to the site and to start work on the development of the flood basin) and so we had to u-turn around there, or rather reverse backwards because some stuck up cow decided not to move from her position, and then we headed down Millgate Lane and parked up there close to Stenner Woods and the entrance there.

We walked around the park for a while and it was nice to admire the plants in the rockery as well as walk up and down the paths, and then around the side of the tennis courts, along the path towards Stenner Lane, back up past the Didsbury pub and along past the shale tennis courts towards The Alpine Tea Room, where we stopped off for a very nice cup of coffee. They're up to their usual high standards in there, with some very nice looking little cakes, fresh sandwiches, lots of different flavours of tea, and best of all a really nice friendly interior decor where we sat and just watched the world go by. It was lovely.

We headed back to my place, The Love headed home for a while and I settled in to watch the afternoon session of the World Snooker Championship final from The Crucible Theatre. Of course I'd love to have been there myself to watch it as I'm sure you'd appreciate, but nonetheless Judd Trump seems to be playing well and keeping his three frame advantage over John Higgins as I am writing this. It's good to see that both players were knocking in excellent breaks and that the time spent on each frame was pretty quick all round.

At the half time mid session interval there was a feature on the song "Snooker Loopy" by Chas and Dave and the Matchroom Mob, which is a mere twenty five years old this year. Bloody hell, how time flies. It was good to see Steve Davis catch up with Chas and Dave, and also input from Terry Griffiths, Willie Thorne and Dennis Taylor. Shame there was no sign of Tony Meo, as it'd have been good to have his input as well, but it was nonetheless good fun. And I've now got the song firmly in my head, so it's tune of the day without question. I'll be watching the final session tonight on the telly with excitement let me tell you.

Sunday 1st May - Christening Spring

It was a Sunday of nice warm weather, and that pleased me no end, particularly as today it was the christening of my sister's second child and a nice little nephew of mine too. He's just really cute with inquisitive eyes and a real soft and calm manner that makes you smile and go "Awwww" in equal measures. Of course I had a little added responsibility as my sister had asked me if I could take some photographs for her - she liked what I'd been doing on Flickr and rather than pay someone, she wanted to keep it in the family and asked me to take some, mainly informal and relaxed shots of family as well as some at the church. I felt honoured to be asked but knew there'd be pressure too.

Myself and The Love In My Heart therefore got up pretty early, and got ourselves up and ready. She looked beautiful in her black dress with a pink flower down the front, and black shrug over the sleeves and some gorgeous shoes to match the outfit. It looked classy and feminine and I felt reallt special to be going with her. I had some new pinstripe trousers on from Marks and Spencer along with a striped shirt from Next, which matched really well. I felt good and The Love said I looked lovely, which was just the boost I needed. So with camera in bag and ready to go, we headed towards the church.

We'd got there early and spotted one of my relations whom I'd not seen for a while, and also my Mum's friend. Everyone seemed to come at once then, most of my relations, my sister, husband and the two children, and plenty of his side of the family as well. Knowing that the church was going to fill up pretty quickly, we got in and managed to get some seats for ourselves, and were close to my sister as well, so that was nice to be able to see what was going on.

The service was fine enough, but three things slightly annoyed me. First, the female vicar was American and it just didn't sound right to me in terms of the way that she conducted the service, not least wishing someone happy birthday during the middle of it and getting people to sing. Second, some of the people who were doing the readings during the christening service were pretty unintelligible in that you couldn't understand what they were saying whatsoever, and made it hard to follow, even though the words of the service were printed out. Finally, when it got to The Lord's Prayer, the words were slightly changed which I thought wasn't right somehow. Certainly The Love spotted that and wasn't too amused either. I'm not even religious and I know there's some things you don't mess with.

That said, everything else was fine, my little nephew didn't scream or whinge when doing the baptism, he was relaxed and I think my brother in law as his father really does have that calm relaxed mode anyway, so like father like son there. I was glad we were sat where we were so that we weren't sprinkled with the water coming from a little whisk like object from the female vicar. Still, it was very good to see that things went well, and after the service, I was allowed to take pics of my sister's family complete with baby from the font, and also got some nice group shots outside the church, so that was all rather nice.

The Love and I headed back home, and then we were going to take the train to Heaton Chapel close to where the afternoon reception do was at The Moor Suite, but my nephew spotted the two of us and very kindly offered us both a lift with his girlfriend and my auntie, which was very nice. We got there and it was nice to have a cold drink at the bar, and everyone gradually made their way in and all were soon sat at tables and chatting away, including the two of us with some of my relations.

On came the children's entertainer that was hired by my sister, Uncle Chris. He seemed to be pretty popular with the children, and his assistant seemed to be a metal fan with a fiery shirt helping out. Chris himself seemed to be getting the children involved with songs, dancing and games, and really had them singing along and clapping along with plenty of puppets including Kermit the Frog, Ernie and Bert, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, all that sort of thing. He also did a magic act which involved a real live rabbit as well appearing, which was quite well done, and keeping them thoroughly happy for ages. It was a nice touch that and certainly the little ones lapped it up, even if it wasn't to all the adults' tastes!

The buffet was eventually opened and to be fair to my mum and sister, they did a brilliant job of it all, with lots of nice sandwiches, sausage rolls, vol-au-vents, cold meats (even haslet, hurrah!), chicken legs, and there was plenty to go round for everyone. I was determined not to go back too often for lots, but what I did have was very nice indeed, it all tasted fresh and all the work they'd done getting it ready was really worth the effort. I had some carrot cake later for afterwards and that was lovely, and The Love reported back to me that the tiramisu was lovely and excellent too, so all well there.

There was a bit of a disco later in the afternoon but people especially those with children were heading off to get the little ones sorted for the afternoon, and so gradually it was dwindling down a bit, especially as a lot of us had been there from 12 noon onwards. My uncle and a few others were heading to the pub opposite to watch the Manchester City game against West Ham (I had to not go with my friend becuase of today) and so The Love said to me "why don't you go with them and watch it darling?". She was happy enough chattering to some of my female relations and wanted me not to miss the game. She's such a love. And City won 2-1 so that was good too.

It was an enjoyable day and christening and it was lovely to see that lots of the family were there, enjoying themselves and the weather also played its part in a rather lovely day. Tune of the day in the meantime was something to keep the little ones (and the not so little ones) entertained, "I Am The Music Man" - notably Black Lace's version, which certainly was making everyone smile and even remembering the lyrics and which part was when. Ah, happy days indeed.