Dear Diary... November 2008

Sunday 30th November - Did We Spot Dawn French?

It was a more leisurely day today but still fairly busy and plenty to do, making the most of the weekend after all. I also knew it was the Manchester derby today and I'd put the family under strict instructions not to text me the score as I'd hopefully watch Match of the Day 2 later on to be put out of my misery. In truth I felt we weren't going to win after the excellent performances against Schalke and Arsenal in the last week, and so I didn't want the day to be spoiled but to find out later once the day had been done - there was method in my madness you know!

So it was at the bus stop near enough outside the Travelodge, after stopping in Costa next door for a nice little breakfast (and cinnamon latte, oh yes!) and off to Mevagissey with The Card In My Camera on the 26B, our bus of choice for the whole day and with day ticket in hand, that'd work out fine. We got to The Ship Inn and walked up the hill going towards Gorran Haven, just so we could see the harbour from up above. There was a method to all this, I knew that the little park at the top of the hill had the coastal path footpath down to the harbour and the lighthouse, so we could walk up there, admire the view, and then walk down, which worked well.

Indeed it was warmer than yesterday although still pretty windy, so the wall that ran to the lighthouse gave some nice shelter from the sea breezes as we walked along the harbour back past the Sharksfin and along the North side of the harbour, where you could walk up and overlook the sea and views from up above. If you desired, you could walk on the coast path down to Pentewan and its rather lovely beach (which you see from the bus as you head up hill going towards Mevagissey, incidentally) but we headed back to the village and perused many of the little shops, all rather nice and quaint. Indeed one of them had a massive range of the Classic Pooh figurines which was lovely, and all manner of Winnie The Pooh stuff generally, perfect for the little ones or fans. One of the shops had these little book reading lights which clipped on to your page, which was a rather good idea to be honest. The Card also got herself this little magnetic heart, which was cute to say the least.

After demolishing a very nice pastie and indeed having spotted the would be pirates that posed outside the Deadeye Jacks Cabin shop, which had everything pirate related in there that you would care to imagine, it was off on the 26B bus again and back through St Austell, St Blazey and then Par and onward to Fowey. Although I'd been here before, I wanted to show The Card just how nice it was, so we headed along Northwards to where you get the ferry to Bodinnick, so you could see the house that Daphne du Maurier once lived at, before walking back along to the centre of the town and by the quay, noting how small the Polruan Ferry is and how often it still ran, even in the cold of Winter. Indeed as we walked through the town we stopped off in a nice little café to indulge in the Cornish Cream tea, with two very nice warm scones, jam and clotted cream with a big mug of tea to set us on our way. In hindsight, this proved to be an excellent move.

We walked along the Esplanade past the Fowey Hotel and stopped off in the Grammar School Gardens to admire the view across the river estuary and towards the sea, then noted all the really posh houses as you headed further outwards. It made us wonder as Dawn French is known to have a house here, where she would possibly call her Cornish home and indeed if any of the locals ever saw her out and about. We certainly didn't spot her, although by all accounts the £2.3 million mansion could have been anywhere either out on the headlands or indeed somewhere behind the Esplanade. In any case we carried on walking and stopped off at Readymoney Beach, which was all rather nice. We walked on the beach again (third time in the weekend, yaay!) and spotted more shells, as well as plenty of dog walkers and their dogs splashing in the sea, rather good to see (especially as they can't do so in Summer, incidentally).

We had one last port of call though and climbed the hill on the other side of the beach and up to St Catherine's Castle, with gorgeous views of the Fowey Estuary, Polruan and indeed the English Channel. In fact the sunset was coming and it looked extremely picturesque indeed as the red sky just added to the overall lustre of where we were. We headed back down before the sun went completely down and got to the Esplanade and walked through the little streets as night started to fall, stopping off at the Safe Harbour Inn for a well earned drink (very nice Proper Job on cask in there, incidentally) before heading on the 26B bus back to the Travelodge and base.

Now, today was also a special day for a different reason: it was six months since we first met, and I have to say in those six months never in my whole life have I ever felt happier. It's that simple. With that in mind, we wanted to head out for a meal and I remembered that The White Hart in St Austell itself was supposed to be pretty nice - in fact it's also a hotel for visitors and run very nicely by the local brewery (who of course just so happen to make Tribute, hehe!) and the restaurant bit is through the pub on the left. We walked up there and went in, and with the Christmas tree up, it all felt rather cosy and homely. The Card went for the lamb stew and dumplings, which looked very warming and gorgeous, whilst yours truly went for the Steak and Tribute Ale pie. Let me say this: it's possibly the best ever steak and ale pie that I've ever had. Ever. None of this bobbins pastry case with a dish of steak and ale underneath rubbish, oh no. It was a proper big portion of pie, with home made pastry, tons of steak, mushrooms and a thick gravy soaked in Tribute ale, and the steak was cooked to perfection. Add to that some new potatoes (you did have a selection of potatoes but I didn't want chips, so that was a good move) and some seasonal vegetables, and it was very heartwarming and filling all at the same time, it really was.

In fact, it was during this time that we noticed that there was some background music on very gently in the background, and that just added to the nice ambience of the place. All I could think about was how lucky I felt to be here right now enjoying a gorgeous meal and just spending every last moment of this break thoroughly satisfied, and that has to be a good thing doesn't it? It's hard to put into words, but tune of the day simply has to be "Perfect" by Fairground Attraction. Too many people take second best, but you know what? I'm not taking anything less, and the whole meal and company was just that. And with a nice portion of that Callestick Farm clotted cream and cherries ice cream (as if I was going to resist that!) all was well. Even seeing Match of the Day 2 later and seeing City slump to a 1-0 defeat against the old enemy United wasn't that bad, especially as Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off, but it still wasn't nice to see! But the day was marvellous and the only sad thing was that it meant going home tomorrow...

Saturday 29th November - Skip To The Looe, My Darling

It was an early start for myself and The Card In My Camera this morning. We knew that with not much light during the day it would be a wise move to try and get out earlier and make the most of it, and the plan was to head to Looe and possibly if time allowed Polperro to see what that was like and go from there. I also had the number of the Hall For Cornwall Box Office in Truro just in case they had any returns for the Paddy McGuiness performance there, if so that could be a possible visit as well, but if not, I'm sure we could think of something between us, so that was all good.

After a quick breakfast it was time to head up to St Austell station (all uphill, although at least without any cases of course) and get ourselves the Ride Cornwall ticket. This basically allows you unlimited travel throughout the day (from 9am Monday to Friday, but all day weekends) on the three major bus operators and the train operators throughout Cornwall for £10 per adult. As I knew we'd be doing a mixture of both buses and trains today, that seemed a very wise move, and with that in hand we headed on the 0842 departure which would take us to Liskeard. Although we could have left later and timed it to get the train to Looe, this way we could get to Liskeard and get the 573 bus to Looe instead, thus getting there earlier, and get there we did, no problem.

Looe itself is rather lovely actually. We walked through the East part of the town and through what looked like the main shopping parts and on through to the beach. The beach was deserted (probably because, in truth, it was very cold) and it was nice just to walk along in the peace and quiet with only the crashing of waves into the shore for company. In fact, The Card spent a little bit of time picking up little sea shells as well and having a look at them, and they were very pretty. We also found out that there was a new building being put up overlooking the beach as well which would do up the area very nicely indeed. I couldn't resist finding a stick and drawing and writing in the sand, it seemed just the thing to do and reminded me of being a child, twas lovely.

We headed back through some of the small narrow streets and looked in a few of the shops and stopped off for a well earned coffee to keep us in the warm, which worked wonders. A lot of the shops were very nice too and a lot of them had pretty unique items to their own shops, which made it feel more homely and less touristy with tacky gifts, I'm sure you know what I mean by that. After a little stroll a bit later we headed over the bridge which separates East and West, and headed to West Looe, and walked down by the riverside to the mouth of the river and the sea again, passing the statue of Nelson the seal along the way. It's been positioned so that the statue overlooks West Looe and the beach, and also so that in high tide it looks like the seal is floating in the sea, rather nice that. We saw as well some of the narrow streets on the west side and it was nice to see the place keep its olde worlde tradition.

In fact, close to the bridge and by the amusement arcade there (and having already won a prize at the grabbing machines earlier by putting a mere pound in, we felt that we didn't need to go overboard to try and win something else) we spotted another couple of little shops overlooking the river and the bridge. Imagine my sheer delight then when I saw that this shop had a glass case display, and not any display, but one full of.. Rosina Wachtmeister cat figurines! As you can imagine, that was exciting enough but then I also saw that they were half price as well. I soon worked out why: most of them were the last one in stock and so wouldn't come in its box, but I thought "got to have one of these" and so picked up the "Claudio" figure for a mere £8, absolute bargain considering what it'd normally sell for. If nothing else it's my little souvenir for the weekend, and that will always remind me of being there now.

We got to the bus stop in good time to get the 573 bus to Polperro, but for some reason it didn't come. We waited and waited and it was now twenty minutes late, which was a bit concerning. However, the driver of the 572 bus from Plymouth had the answer: the bus had broken down on between Liskeard and Looe, and so was sending another driver and bus out. When that arrived at 1.10pm, some 25 minutes behind, the driver had a "sorry not in service" sign but did stop, and told us at the stop that he was going straight to Polperro only if we wanted to go. Oh yes, that'll do us, and the driver absolutely pegged it down the A387 and to Polperro in record time, meaning he was only a few minutes behind for the return journey to Liskeard. Good for him!

Once we got to the Crumplehorn Inn, at the very top of Polperro, it was a case of walking down the narrow streets into the village itself. At first, it looks like a nice village with a stream running through it, and when you get to the harbour, that just seemed like a small harbour, but nothing can prepare you for when you get right to the end and you see the little pier and the beach with a small cave, with views over the seas. It's simply stunning and mere words alone cannot describe how beautiful the place is. If you don't believe me, go there yourself and find out: you will be rather glad you did. In fact as it was pretty nippy we walked down the beach and hid in the little cave for a small while as it was dry and away from the wind, before making our way back along the harbour, where it was time to stop off in a little place called The Wheel House for a pastie, chips and peas, which went down a treat, because it was warm, the pasties looked home made and it was the proper recipe as well, spot on that.

Indeed some of the small little shops were very cosy and with a lot of the houses built into the hills, all seemed very lovely. In fact The Card really liked one of the items in the small shop Sweet Pea - a multicoloured bracelet - and thus treated herself as well, and why not? We are on holiday after all! And indeed as we walked back to the Crumplehorn Inn and its famous water wheel, we saw that there was a horse bus that took you down into the town as well, and the horse walked past us with its little caravan bus behind, all peaceful and serene that was. In fact I can imagine the place being brisk and very busy in the summer but it seemed rather nice and picturesque in the Winter as it seems more natural that way.

We left Polperro behind as we departed back to Looe on the bus, both feeling inspired and rather awed by what we'd just seen. It was the first time I'd ever been there myself too so it was nice for us both to share that feeling for sure. As we got to Looe I realised that we could walk from the bus stop to the train station and get the scenic line back to Liskeard, which is what we did. It really is gorgeous, following the river for most of it and stopping at miniscule little stations before having to negotiate Coombe Junction (it doesn't go to the station up there at the moment due to landslip!) - and then up the hill and round a few corners to Platform 3 at Liskeard. It's an inspiring sight and we were the only people on the single carraige train, so we could see plenty as we headed up river.

We timed it well, or so we thought, to get the train from Liskeard westwards, but the 1616 was delayed 25 minutes, and when it came was standing room only, so we got the 1651 which was pretty much on time. We both had to stand till the next stop Bodmin Parkway (and this was on a long First Great Western train) and then we realised why: plenty of people had been to Plymouth to do their Christmas shopping, and there were plenty of telltale signs, including numerous Primark shopping bags to say the least. We then realised also that there was no branch of Primark in Cornwall whatsoever, so if anyone wanted to get their clothing bargains, that was the nearest place to go (well, that or Exeter!).

As I wasn't able to get any returns for Paddy McGuiness in Truro, we decided that we'd head on the train all the way down to Penzance, have a walk round there and get something to eat for tea, and then head back to St Austell later. We arrived in Penzance pretty much on time and I showed The Card the apartments I stayed at last year and how close they were for transport etc, before walking up the main shopping street with the Christmas lights on, which did look pretty picturesque, it had to be said. We then walked down to the harbour and stopped off at one of my favourite far South West pubs, the Dolphin Inn. By all accounts, the pub is supposed to be haunted as well as being visited by Sir Francis Drake no less. No ghosts tonight though, but a nice warm fire, a pint of the St Austell Ales' "Tinners" (nice as per usual) along with some lovely food. The Card went for lasagne, which was massive, and I went for the ham eggs and chips which were completely spot on. I also noticed that the bar had mulled wine on tap, so we both decided to warm up later and have a glass, which was completely lovely and great to do.

We walked back along the road that houses the harbour and indeed the docks where the ferry to the Scilly Isles sets off from, and overlooking the harbour at night seemed very nice indeed and with all the lights on, seemed completely nice. We got back to the station in good time for the 2045 train to St Austell, and when we got off there we saw the bus to Mevagissey was coming into the station shortly, so on we got and down to the Travelodge in quick time and out of the cold weather. We warmed up with a coffee and saw the shambles that was Britney Spears' "performance" on the Z-Factor. Dear me, that was appalling, I tell you, and we were both like "oops, she did it again" (hehe).

As for tune of the day, it's hard to describe in words just how lovely the whole day was and indeed how special it was to see places for the first time and share that moment with someone, but the day was made complete as we both reflected on how lovely it all was and just smiled with pure unadulterated happiness. Therefore, Bill Withers' classic "Lovely Day" has to qualify, simply because of the lyric: "Just one look at you, and I know it's going to be a lovely day". Says it all. One look at Looe, one look at Polperro, and one look of pure happiness from us both. How nice is that?

Friday 28th November, Cornwall Here We Come!

I've been waiting for this day for absolutely ages, and for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was a chance for me to visit my favourite place to go away to in the whole of England (that's Cornwall then!) and secondly, because this time around I was going along with The Card In My Camera as well, which was a definite plus. I had been telling her now nice the whole place was and indeed how she should definitely see what it's like and if need be get an idea before heading off there for a whole week at some point in time. I had pretty much booked everything in advance in terms of accommodation and travel, and managed to get us the Travelodge in St Austell for £29 per night, and had also booked the trains, which worked out to be a very wise move.

We met at around noon, ready for the 1224 departure to Penzance, which stopped at St Austell on the way down. Now, having done this trip once before and having to faff around changing at Plymouth, I thought that setting off later would be sensible, as the train goes direct with no need to change, much easier and all that. I also thought that we deserved a little bit of luxury, and so had managed to book First Class advance for both ways for £32 each, each way. That's a bargain really, as it works out £64 return (if you turn up on the day and go standard class, it's £130 and there's no guarantee of a seat!!) and of course bigger comfier seats, and oh yes, freebies. But more on those a little later.

We found our seats, and got ourselves comfortable for the journey ahead. The Card In My Camera had invested in some girlie reading and I had brought the iPod Nano with me and two sets of earphones should we desire, and the Travel Scrabble as well to keep us occupied. As the train got towards Birmingham, the iPod on shuffle played MJ Hibbett's "Hell On Earth (Birmingham New Street)". Spooky timing eh? Best give that one tune of the day really while I'm at it. In the meantime, we had gone for one of the little food options, a pork pie with cranberry glaze for me (no ordinary pork pie let me tell you) and a cheddar ploughmans bloomer for The Card. That together with the coffee, orange juice, mineral water, nuts and biscuits etc kept us going very nicely, so much so that after Tiverton Parkway I had another of the pork pies for an early tea.

The train got delayed slightly before Cheltenham Spa and was playing catch up with the timetable, so got to Bristol Temple Meads around 14 minutes late. Everyone and their belongings tried to get on there and as we looked down the train we saw it was rammed and standing room only - which made us feel even more pleased we booked in advance. In fact it wasn't till we hit Exeter and finally Plymouth that it died down somewhat - reason being that a Plymouth train that was due to arrive earlier had been so late it was behind ours, so everyone was going on the first one that they could get. Typical mentality that, especially as by all accounts the delayed one was then pretty empty.

By the time we left Plymouth and headed over the Brunel Bridge into Saltash and therefore Cornwall, we'd caught up some of the time and ended up in St Austell at 1850, a mere four minutes behind, so that was good. We both felt very relaxed after a long journey and been nourished and warmed up nicely by the food and drink on offer, so that was good. Thankfully also it was all downhill as we headed to the Travelodge which was our base for the weekend. I'd stayed here before in February and it proved to be very nice as Travelodges go, plus with some amenities close by a good starting point for the journeys we'd have too.

We got settled in to our room (which got The Card's seal of approval) and then decided that we could head out for something to eat. Inspiration hit me and so we headed to Mevagissey on the bus and to the Sharksfin, which overlooked the harbour. That immediately made The Card feel like she was in Cornwall now even more so, and we perused their lovely menu, which included a stonking deal which we took up: two 8oz rump steaks plus chips etc, and either wine or a pint of Tribute, all for £20! Couldn't complain at that, so of course this meant Tribute for me (like what else was I going to have!!) and wine for The Card. We stayed in there for dessert too: the creme brulee looked good, but I had the clotted cream and cherries ice cream from the Callestick Farm. And wow, was that gorgeous or what? Suffice to say it's now my favourite flavour of ice cream - ever. I'm serious. It was that good. Words cannot speak highly enough. We made our way back to the bus later and back to base, and felt like we were now here and ready for the weekend!

Thursday 27th November - Super City, From Maine Road

Ah, the UEFA Cup. A perfect distraction for my beloved Manchester City before the big one on Sunday (that's the derby against Man U if anyone wondered). And with all to play for tonight too, as the blue heroes went over to Germany to face Schalke 04 in their very impressive stadium in Gelsenkirchen. As the game was being shown at 6pm on Channel Five, it was a case of nip into Tesco on the way home from work and get in what was needed, and also then to be sure to pack all the shopping away and make myself a cuppa before kick off. I wanted to see if City could do the business.

In fact City have played Schalke before in Europe, in the 1969/70 season as the Blues thumped Schalke 5-1 at home to win the European Cup Winners Cup Semi Final 5-2 on aggregate, and I am sure it was a glorious night at Maine Road to see the boys get through to the final, especially with the attacking football on offer. I guess I wanted history to repeat itself or at least for City to get a draw, which would be useful for our progression for the group stage to say the least. So it was a case of seeing how we'd do tonight and also if that would prepare the team for the big game.

Well, the first half was pretty cagey to start with as both teams tried to suss each other out, and with their non-German sounding German international Jermaine Jones coming closest, it looked very much like the first goal would be pretty crucial. Thankfully one of my relatives and I were able to go mental, as it was a well worked ball from Vincent Kompany which sent Daniel Sturridge down the left, his cross was missed by Stephen Ireland but in sneaked Benjani at the back stick to make it 1-0. In fact before half time Ireland had the ball in the net but his goal was disallowed due to being offside, a correct decision as it happened.

I made us both a brew for the second half, and I was sure that City could do more, and the more we pressed, the more I felt we'd get one. Stephen Ireland had another impressive game to say the least, and his one two with Benjani resulted in the ball breaking forward in the box, and Ireland slotted it coolly under their keeper to make it 2-0, and nothing more than City deserved. I can only imagine what it must have been for the City fans to be there and enjoy the win, and it was so well deserved, believe me. I felt proud of the boys and also proved that we didn't need Robinho to do the job. Man of the match was Ireland, but to be fair Kompany ran him close with an impressive holding role display. Him and Didi Hamann did an excellent job there, and I think the two worked well together - might be worth doing on Sunday yet.

Still, that's now set me in the right frame of mind to enjoy the time away, and with that in mind, all I can think of at the moment is the song that sums up my feelings: "Beautiful Tomorrow" by Beth Rowley. Having seen her do this live and it sound so lovely, with her voice in fine fettle, says all I need to day. It'll be so much sweeter than today, with no heartache and pain, and I can so relate to that. Tune of the day it most certainly is, folks!

Wednesday 26th November - Bring Back Gordon Burns

Well, folks, I am appalled. Not at the fact that England cannot win in India in one-day cricket (they lost again today despite Kevin Pietersen's century) and indeed the fact that I haven't got my ballot paper yet to be able to vote on the proposed transport investment and congestion charge for Manchester, oh no. But I found out this morning that when one of my favourite quiz shows, The Krypton Factor, is coming back on ITV, it will be with Ben Shepherd from GMTV as presenter.

Nooooo! What the hell are ITV thinking? Everyone knows that Gordon Burns was the perfect host for this show and he exuded the right amount of authority but also knowledge, and perfectly commentated on the intelligence round along with the assault course. I guess that he might be under contract to BBC, as he does present the North West Tonight programme with the rather lovely Ranvir Singh from BBC Manchester, but you do also have to wonder whether ITV were just able to try and spend a fair bit of cash or come to some arrangement for him to present the show. I have audience tickets to go and see the recording of the new show on Monday 8th December, so I'll have to see how that all goes and indeed whether Ben does work or not. Hmm.. I'll also have to see if I can make a trip up to Holcombe Brook to the assault course, cos apparently it's being used again.

Anyway, back to yesterday's weird network card issue. Indeed, as soon as I put the new card in and then let Windows locate it and find the driver, all was very well indeed and the login and network response was much much quicker, and definitely like the PC that it should be. In fact I did some tests to be sure and it was all working perfectly without any issues whatsoever, so that felt good. I was pleased and that form carried on as myself and my colleague rolled out another four PCs in the afternoon with the new admin build, which pleased me immensely to say the least.

Got back home later on and got pretty much prepared for the break ahead: ironed all my clothes that I was taking and neatly packed them all into the case, and then made sure that the downstairs looked neat and tidy too as well as doing plenty of washing and ironing, such is my want. I think it's only right that I try and make everything bob on and so that when I set off on Friday, everything is done and it's all ready to go without any problems. I am excited now, I think primarily because it's something I've looked forward to for ages and it'll finally be here. Yaay.

Had also whilst typing away tonight a bit of a retro session and played some the Pixies back catalogue as well - which was pretty much everything. That reminded me of just how good that they were and when you hear classics like "Monkey Gone To Heaven" you appreciate just how ahead of their time that they were. I still adore "Gouge Away" though, the perfect closer to the "Doolittle" album, so that one gets tune of the day. Now if City can win against Schalke tomorrow, that'll be the perfect start!

Tuesday 25th November - Time To Quiz The Word Play

Well, another busy day at the office as I continued apace with the Administration staff rollout. What was quite good was that it was a case of getting more PCs ready to be able to get them rolled out, but also then do the ones that I had ready and get it all sorted. It was the case of two third floor rooms to be done today, and as luck would have it, I did one and then the other room became free to do another, and I managed to get things done in the timespan I had, which pleased me no end I have to admit.

I also then was able to get a few other jobs done that I needed to look at. One of them was where the PC in question seemed to be behaving rather slowly, but after some checks, it only seemed to be when the networking was taking place. I reinstalled the Novell Client just to be sure it wasn't that, but still the same slowness. Then I remembered that some parts of the building I was in had an electrical surge and just wondered if that had somehow conked out the network card. I didn't have one with me but knew I had some spare back at the office and so was going to register one when I got back and then try in the morning, and I was hoping my hunch was correct.

I had over The Hand In My Glove later for something to eat and we both relaxed and started to think about the holiday that was coming up for us both - thankfully she's as excited as me and I think that's a good thing. We even took a look at where we were planning to go and also I explained about some of the train and bus times and how the buses down there are nowhere as often as here, but they do run pretty accurately, so bear that in mind. Then battle commenced as I whacked on Ultravox's "Vienna" CD on as background music (while I'm here, I'd just like to say that "Sleepwalk" deserves tune of the day because of all the lovely effects of the synths that happen throughout and indeed just how eighties it sounds even now - I hope they do it live in April) as we played Scrabble.

Honestly, it goes to show just how much the brains were being racked that each game lasted over an hour, and indeed there were some good moves played by us both. The Hand managed quiz so that the Z was on a double letter score and promptly scored 33 (because the u was also on a double letter) which was an excellent effort. My best move was that I straddled two words on the triple word score (joins and sex) and scored 66, which was pretty worthwhile there to say the least. It's all good fun though and as we relaxed a bit later on and chilled out, it just was nice to feel close and above all else, happy. That despite the ongoing fun and games at work, which I can't go into too much right now.

Monday 24th November - They Only Want You When You're Seventeen

It was off to the Academy 2 tonight for the second time in a couple of weeks, as this time it was off to see Ladytron there. I had seen them back in April and it was a good gig, and rather full to the brim, as most of the tour then was a taster for the album and indeed pretty exciting stuff that. I wasn't sure whether moving to the Academy 2 this time around was a good move or not, as I'd rather see a smaller venue full than a larger venue half empty, and with tickets being available on the door, you do have to wonder.

Anyway, I got there eventually after the bus to the Academy decided to be hopelessly late for no reason at all (what was all that about?) and headed in just before the support act came on. I kind of wished I hadn't have bothered. Asobi Seksu (official site) (Myspace) to be frank were one of the worst support bands I've seen in a while. They started off okay and even if their lead Japanese singer sounded occasionally off key, the keyboards and shoegazing like indie guitars seemed reasonable enough. As their set went on it was a case of them sounding less and less coherent, and by the end, they did a song that went on far too long and for the last five or six minutes was basically the bass and lead guitar player making love to their guitars by doing slides and such like, and the keyboard player/singer doing the drums. To me it smacked of that excess of the equivalent of having a masturbation session on stage, and I really hate that. I can't understand it - maybe it's just me, but I just got more and more annoyed by them and was glad they went when they did.

Thank heavens then that after a bit of respite with a cool soft drink at the bar that Ladytron (official site) (Myspace) were a lot better. They admittedly weren't as good at the Academy 3 last time, but still good enough nonetheless. They did concentrate on the new album "Velocifero" a bit which was understandable, so we got the likes of "Ghosts", "Runaway" (which sounded rather good), "Kleptka" and indeed even bows to their old back catalogue stuff as well, including a rather rousing version of "Seventeen", which still sounds ace. I'm going to make that one tune of the day because it's just so beautifully simple but works on so many levels. I even got the excellent "Destroy Everything You Touch" during the encore, which was good to hear again live. Their set was a little short in one hour and five minutes though, and I am pretty sure I wasn't the only one thinking that. The Academy 2 was I'd say around 60% full if that, certainly at the back there was plenty of room to get up and dance if that was your thing to do.

As I headed homeward, I couldn't help but think how much better off they had been if they'd played the Academy 3 instead and filled the place, a much better idea. But nonetheless as the day had been pretty manic and a typical Monday, it was a good enough escape, and it also allowed me to get some tickets for future gigs as well which meant no booking fee. Isn't it great when you can avoid that rip off? Well, I think so anyway, and it means I can go to more gigs rather than line the pockets of Ticket bar stewards (you know who I mean). So there you go. Roll on 2009 as I've got at least two or three gigs lined up at those venues already, such is my diary!

Sunday 23rd November - Bargain Steaks Are Us

Had a nice relaxing lie-in this morning and just took time to saunter about the house, get some stuff done, and then myself and The Topping On My Doughnut headed out for the afternoon, which was all rather nice. As we were heading back towards Manchester, we spotted one of those Two For One restaurant places, and even better, it was one we'd been to before and had actually signed up to their email newsletter. I even had an email printed from them which basically said we could get a fiver off our food bill if we printed this voucher off, so we thought we could treat ourselves a little and have some lunch. Cos we can, you know.

Anyway, I plumped for the 8oz rump with the surf and turf option, which meant I got quite a bit of scampi together with some sauce, and indeed some peas, chips etc, and The Topping went for an option which included some Diane sauce, some mushrooms and so on. So, they were both £11.80 each, but of course that was two for one, so it's £11.80, less the voucher for a £5 that we had, and it was a total of £6.80. Absolute bargain, don't you think? Even better was that the particular place also had Black Sheep - on cask. You can't even begin to believe how happy that made me - it's so much of a change for certain chains of pubs or restaurants to carry real ale. Shame it was a little too cold, but that's me nitpicking.

But nonetheless, that was nice to do, and as we relaxed later it was just nice to be able to take things easy. In fact we had on some hits of the 1990s thing on one of the music channels, and imagine how I felt when I saw that the classic Sinead O'Connor "Nothing Compares 2 U" came on. It's still a great song and the fact that you can see her emotion when she starts crying at the end is just one of those moments in music - tune of the day obviously. In fact, later on Top Gear was on, and that mad challenge of going from Basel to Blackpool on one tank of fuel, along with The Stig finally getting the chance to take the Bugatti Veyron round the test track (yes, the Bugatti Veyron!) was a joy to behold, let me tell you.

Saturday 22nd November - Feeling Bullish At Christmas Markets

Well, it was a nice day out planned today for me and The Milk In My Coffee, as we were off to Birmingham, not just to do some Christmas shopping (which thankfully I've almost done) but to see the Frankfurt Christmas Market there, and also to have a venture round too. The two of us enjoyed ourselves last time we were down there and I'm sure that it would be a nice day out especially as we had planned to stay around till it got dark for the market, thus really embracing that Wintry feel, which is what we wanted.

First stop after we got to New Street was a walk through the Pallasades and then the Bull Ring to Moor Street Station, so we could get the train over to the Jewellery Quarter. The Milk had never been so I thought it might be nice to show her just how the place is and how indeed that many of the people there make the jewellery themselves and are therefore able to charge a fairly good price for what they sell. The sheer choice was as ever mindboggling, and I'm pretty sure that you could get anything to suit anyone if you looked long enough. It was nice to see in the Museum too that it promoted little local designers who had their own little glass case with their items in, that was a neat touch that.

It seems weird that in the middle of the Quarter is Warstone Lane cemetery, which is really old and has plenty of old gravestones that face some of the shops there. I'm pretty sure when it gets dark it does get quite spooky looking and I just thought that somehow it seemed quite out of place too. Mind you, I did find quite a nice item as a present for someone when I was in the Quarter, and after we did lunch at this little café that did rather nice little paninis and open New Yorker style sandwiches, it was time to head back to the centre of the city.

We walked back through the Bull Ring and had a good look round some of the shops, getting some present ideas along the way. In fact Debenhams had continued their sale that they had during the week, and as I had some ideas that were in there, in I went and got a rather nice 25% off the items I'd got, thus meaning I could buy more for my money. I went in Next also and they seemed to have some very nice stuff, but as I was only in ther fleetingly due to the massive queues, we ventured onwards and upwards until we'd covered most of the Bull Ring. We stopped off in Lush so that I could get some of my favourite Flying Fox shower gel (try some, it is gorgeous folks) and then had a look in the Pavillions centre, hunting down a possible bargain of a present for one of my friends.

After this, the sky was getting dark and so it was on to New Street and indeed the Frankfurt Christmas Markets. Now the German Markets in Albert Square in Manchester are pretty good, but let's be honest here: the one in Birmingham is better, and then some. Certainly The Milk was very impressed, and one of the first things we did was stop off at one of the stalls which had strawberries on a skewer, covered in chocolate, and give them a go, and oh yes, they were delicious. We also admired many of the stalls with wooden toys and some really nice hand-made items as we made our way further along Victoria Square. What was lovely was that there was a craft fair attached too, and they had plenty of their own handiwork up for grabs. Add to that a merry go round, a big slide that went round and round and even live music in one of the squares, and you got the idea.

As you might have gathered, it was pretty busy on a late Saturday afternoon, and the beer tents were pretty much standing room only and a squeeze to get past as well to be honest. We were heading through to another part of the craft fair towards Broad Street, and my eagle eye noted the new Countdown presenter and Sky Sports News frontman on Gillette Football Saturday (sorry Sky, don't call it Soccer Saturday!) going mental. No, Hartlepool hadn't scored and it wasn't James Brown either, but the score was being shown from the City of Manchester Stadium. City were 2-0 up against Arsenal. That made me happy, but walking past the same pub three minutes later on the way back from Broad Street showed it was 3-0 final score. What?? I went understandably mental and The Milk completely understood my joy. Stephen Ireland is Superman, as far as I'm concerned, and that was a nice surprise result to say the least.

We headed back down New Street to the Bull Ring and decided to head into Wagamama for our tea, as we love the menu in there and we know you'll get nice fresh food too. I had the ginger chicken udon with the coconut reika for afters, and all was well. However, for some reason the place didn't have chip and pin, and had to sign (wow, how out of date is that?) and good job I checked the debit card receipt when the waitress gave it us, as she'd keyed in the wrong amount. One polite word later and all was well, but it makes me wonder how many people don't check everything and just walk out. Hmmm...

Back along New Street, the markets were a bit quieter and so we strolled along with a bit more peace and quiet in the world, and even picked up a box of doughnuts to take home with us, which had some lovely fillings and toppings (the caramel one looked rather dreamy, had to have one of those). All was well as we headed on the 2020 train back, and it seemed pretty quiet. Well, I spoke too soon. All of a sudden a shed load of Manchester United fans got on the train, on the way back from seeing their team draw 0-0 against Aston Villa. The mood was that they seemed gutted that they drew, although the way Villa are playing right now, that seemed a bit harsh.

Most of them did at least have the sense to book seats in advance and go for cheaper, and indeed most of them were in good spirit and having good cameraderie. However, some of the songs being sung by those on the train were nothing short of sick. Now I enjoy good banter as much as the next person, but hearing their fans sing insensitive songs about the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, just because it involved their bitter rivals Liverpool, sickened me to the stomach. If you ever wondered why most other football fans hate Man United, then such incidents as this one only serve to prove the point, I'm afraid. Why they can't be as jovial and good humoured as the ones sat near us were a mystery, but there you go.

Got home and we both reflected on a good day out all told. I'd managed to buy some Christmas presents and even got something nice from the markets, and overall shopped till I dropped. We felt good and so relaxed by seeing City on Match of the Day (hurrah) snuggled up by the fire. Isn't life great? Well, I think so. Right now, Natalie Merchant's "Life Is Sweet" sums up how I feel, so let's make that one tune of the day.

Friday 21st November – One Week To Go And Looking Ahead

Just one week before I head off down to Cornwall and it’s a case of getting everything all sorted out. Last night whilst at the Lowry Outlet Mall I got myself some socks (yes, dull I know but it had to be done) so that I’ve got some nice new pairs ready for when I take some nice walks, and indeed during the weekend I’ll make sure I’ve got enough toiletries and things like that to pack into my case. I’m also going to make sure that everything else I need is done and ready, just means less hassle during next week so I can take time out and look forward to going.

I’ve deliberately made the decision of not wearing any jeans I’m going to take, as I’ve got a couple of really nice pairs that I am going to wear when I’m there, and a pair for travelling back on the Monday. I’ve then also got my jumpers all sorted as well and it’ll be a case of getting those neatly folded in, putting in my digital camera and charger, the charger for the iPod if I take that with me, and also then the Travel Scrabble as well as the receipt for the Travelodge. Oh, and I must remember to make sure I take the train tickets or else I’m not going anywhere am I?

I must admit I am looking forward to the break: even if it’s just for a long weekend it will give me some time to be able to do different things, and as I have The Sun In My Winter coming along with me, that too will make it special. That’s one thing I’ve really been lucky with this year: finding someone who adores me and loves me as much as I love her too (and for the record, yes it is love, I’ll stop now before you require a sick bag!) – and no doubt that’s been the highlight personally of my year. In fact when I look at it, the year has been bloody good overall. I’ve been to lots of great gigs (such as last night) been to lots of lovely places and it doesn’t stop me from still doing my own thing.

For example, I’ve booked the trains and a cheap Etap hotel in London for December so I can head along to MJ Hibbett’s “Totally Acoustic” night that’ll be happening. I wanted to go and see him do his stuff again, I had leave, so I thought “yeah why not?” It could well be my last gig of 2008 and I’ve done quite a fair few this year to say the least, and in different venues. In fact I’ve done quite a few London gigs this year, one in Leeds, one in Liverpool, one in Sheffield, and countless others on my travels. It makes me feel like I’m living my life the way I want to live it, which has to be a good thing. I do try and stick to budget though, hence cheap Virgin trains and cheap Etap hotel – the one I have is in Hounslow and charges me £32 for the night, with £2.95 for mass buffet breakfast. Yaay.

Already though I’ve planned several gigs for 2009 (I know, I know!) and the plan is to go to some of the following if I can:

Wednesday 28th January – Baskery, Ruby Lounge (got tickets)
Friday 30th January – Half Man Half Biscuit, Academy 1
Late Feb or early March – Vonda Shepard (dates TBA)
Thursday 9th April – Terrorvision, Academy 1
Tuesday 14th April – Ultravox, Apollo (got tickets)

I’m also seeing Avenue Q again in January (yaaay) before it closes the run at the end of March, and that will be fab. I even played some of the soundtrack earlier and so have to give “There’s A Fine Fine Line” as tune of the day: lyrically and vocally it’s just emotional and I remember how nice it felt hearing that being sung last time I saw it in London. I’m so excited about that. So tune of the day for me that one. Remember there’s a fine fine line between love and a waste of time, thankfully my line is heavily on the side of the former right now. Hurrah.

Thursday 20th November – Breakout

A much more relaxed mood tonight than during the day, let me tell you. During the day my colleague and I were continuing the admin rollout when I got a call from my manager asking me to check why some of the staff couldn’t log on to the student records system on the new PCs. Thankfully that was down to a Group Policy setting that had a missing semicolon in it, and once I sorted that out, it all worked again. That is one good thing with Group Policies, you can easily make changes if required and fix what you can without having to go round to PCs and do it instead, makes life much easier.

However, one of our servers was playing havoc and deciding to throw a wobbly and restart every half an hour. We discovered why: the sys volume was running out of space and therefore wasn’t able to load enough memory for the things it needed. We identified the culprit and got that fixed: it took a while though because of the fact that you needed to kill it from the server that was rebooting, and so we ended up doing a step by step OS load so as to get to a point to be able to sort that one out. It did take a fair bit of the afternoon and I was glad to be heading home later and have it all done.

After work I went with The Tomato In My Couscous off to The Lowry, not to shop at the Outlet Mall (although I did pop in a couple of shops on the way) but to the smaller Quays Theatre. I’ve seen quite a few nice shows in there and the venue is always intimate and close up, which is good. Even better was that I was to fulfil an ambition of mine and that was to see Swing Out Sister. You remember them, right? They had a big hit with “Breakout” in late 1986 and their first two albums are rightly regarded as classics of the era. Well I was gutted when I was younger that I never got to see them live for one reason or another, which was frustrating to me. So when it was announced that they were playing thanks to the MyLowry mailing list, I was on there like a shot booking the tickets.

In fact, we were front row, and right in the middle. As you can imagine I was very excited indeed. I’d heard some samples of their most recent release “Beautiful Mess” and it sounded rather lovely, and of course I remember with fondness their other stuff. They advertised it as a more intimate evening, sort of unplugged in a way but in a nice smaller venue where the acoustics would sound good and the music would be rather luscious. And so it was to prove, oh yes.

The band came on, and Andy looked well and was sat at the keyboards ready to go. The female percussionist had a large set of different instruments and some of them she was going to play with her feet, hence the barefoot contessa. The backing singer Gina also came on and looked very well in her heels (something which was noticed by my fashionista sat next to me) and the double bass player and acoustic guitarist also were very relaxed and chilled out. Then on came Corinne. She looked rather nice in a very long Oriental outfit which suited her long frame, and some comfortable footwear to boot. She also had some cups of what seemed like hot water in front of her which she would drink occasionally to keep her throat nice and sorted.

It was an intimate set of almost two hours with an interval in between and I wasn’t to be disappointed. The band were really tight and all seemed to be having a whale of a time – Andy had many a smile on his face and Corinne shared many a giggle with the band and not least Gina, who was the perfect vocal foil. In fact Corinne mentioned earlier on how nice it was to be back in Manchester and said how meeting Andy in the Haçienda was a moment that she wouldn’t forget. It felt like a homecoming gig (even though Andy is from Manchester only, Corinne’s from Nottingham) and everyone felt that feeling throughout. Everyone was sharing the happy mood and I had a nice warm feeling inside to say the least. And when after her chatter about Manchester for the second song, she started to go into a really smooth relaxed version of “Breakout”, it was happy moments indeed. In fact they did a much faster version of the same song for the encore and it meant that on the way home I was humming the song to myself and immediately had to find my CD with it on, hurrah! Has to be tune of the day, that one. It still sounds absolutely fabulous!

It wasn’t the only early career song to be played. First up was actually “Surrender”, and “Twilight World” (which I also adore) also got an airing with a real feel of a late night vibe throughout that one with the low lighting and the soft focus on the very lovely Corinne (you might get the impression that I find her attractive, and you’d be right!). We also got “You On My Mind”, and indeed their cover of “Am I The Same Girl?” which had a couple near the front up and dancing, especially the bloke, who had asked Corinne to play it which made her say “Ooh, have you been looking at my set list during the interval?” We also got “Somewhere Deep In The Night”, the title track from their “Beautiful Mess” album, the instrumental “Alpine Crossing” which sounded gorgeous, and a whole lot more besides. It was superb, it really was, and if you’re happening to notice they’re playing near you – take my advice and go!

Wednesday 19th November – England In Good Game Shocker!

And no, I’m not talking about the cricket team either, but the football team, but more on that a little later. I had a half day in work today primarily because I had a half day leave that I wanted to take, but also because I needed a break. Mind you I got a fair bit done during the morning, including an installation across a whole dropinlab of Microstation. It would have taken a bit quicker but for the fact its activation wizard wasn’t seeing its own server and took a while to get it all sorted. I was pleased to have it done though as it meant that it’s one big job out of the way and I can stop thinking about it now.

I went over then to see my friend, as his PC needed some tender loving care. We’d found out the hard disk in his machine was going, and instead of risking it, it was best to put a new one in and install everything again. In fact he had already been to the computer store and purchased what he needed, a latching SATA data cable, a 500GB Seagate SATA drive and indeed some more RAM. We put that all in and all seemed well which was good. In fact, the new drive just felt a lot more solid and reliable than the Samsung one that was in there. Mental note: always purchase a decent hard drive, kids!

I started the Windows install and noted the hard drive was trying to say that it was G:/ Eh? I soon realised it was due to the internal card reader being plugged in so we disconnected that and started again and all went well, the install was super smooth and that worked, plugged in the card reader and that worked too. Put in the other drive and gradually copied data off it, although we both noticed that the PC was way less reliable with the old drive in, thus proving our theory correct. Still, before long we had Firefox, Thunderbird and the rest all doing what they should do, and a working desktop with everything just as my friend likes it. All good.

By this time we’d had some lovely cannelloni that his wife did for us, and she said to me “stay for the England game if you like”. With the game being on proper telly (ie: ITV1) a good reason too as well. In fact we were all shocked at just how well England did play. In many ways not having so many so-called “stars” was a good thing as those on the fringes took their chance and took it well. Matthew Upson was really good in defence, apart from his goal in the first half he worked well, closed down and looked solid. Credit too to Michael Carrick as he did his holding job superbly, allowing the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips to also shine (and he was so close to scoring, go on Shaunie!!) too. Apart from a horrible defensive howler between John Terry and Scott Carson (who in my view should not be playing in goal for England) which almost scuppered things, the fact England came back and went for the win speaks volumes. I was pleased for a lot of people but for those who were fighting for their place, being the first team to beat Germany in Berlin for the first time in 36 years says volumes don’t you think?

I was most pleased and so much so that when I got home later I even dug out some football songs and started playing them to celebrate, what am I like eh? So forgive me if you will but I just have to make “World in Motion” by New Order tune of the day because when I used to play that before an England game during World Cup 1990, that got me pumped up and ready to cheer the lads on (as you do.)

Tuesday 18th November – It Was A Dodgy Bus Driver, Again and Again

I had let the hard disk check run overnight and it finally completed this morning. What was interesting was that it revealed that many files had lost clusters and were being rebuilt, and also that the files themselves were some system critical ones. Oops. Not good, as this definitely meant replacement hard drive job. I set off a file copy to my hard disk to ensure a good backup and then set off to the office hoping today would be good.

First things first this morning was a course for disability awareness training, something which I know that some people might have never encountered a disabled person in their lives, whereas I’ve come across it on a regular basis. The woman who was doing the course was partially sighted and she explained how that affected her day to day life, indeed her guide dog was enthusiastic and wanted to be fussed over every two minutes, awww. But she was really really good at what she did and we got involved in group activity and discussion about things like the Disability Discrimination Act and also scenarios that you can decide to be unlawful or not. I hope it was an eye opener for some and that like me value was taken away from the course.

In the afternoon my colleague and I visited one of our admin offices and started in earnest the admin image rollout. In a way it was good to be able to make a start and have the new image out there and we picked the office furthest away so that we were able to lug stuff around whilst we could. It all went rather well and soon the staff were able to log on and use the new Word and such like. Also because they had been on the course I did they knew what it was going to be like and started to use it enthusiastically, hurrah! Always good when that happens.

On the way home, I was going to stop off at Aria to get a replacement laptop hard drive, but the bus driver didn’t realise there was a stop before the one near Asda and wouldn’t let me off, so I had to wait and walk back from there. Nonce. It amazes me that Stagecoach employ drivers who don’t actually know where the bus stops are on a route, or indeed seem to have a lack of driving skills. Still, got there in the end and I was able to get the 80GB Western Digital SATA hard drive that I needed. I got home, put the hard drive in the laptop, whacked in the XP installation CD and all was well. The drivers were installed, it saw my wireless router, and I was then able to install the goodies like Firefox etc. Later on I hooked the laptop to the router via Ethernet and opened a file share on my PC so I could transfer the data back that I had salvaged, and all seemed well. Hurrah!

Even better for me was that I had a visit from The Z In My Scrabble Rack and made us both a lovely warming pasta bake for tea. We generally chilled out and watched some telly, listened to some tunes and even had a game of Scrabble, testing out the Travel set before the long journey we’ll soon be taking. It was good fun to be honest as I came up with a couple of good words, including one that scored 57 on a triple word. I didn’t use up all my letters though which I can occasionally do but still I did pretty okay really. The Z is improving all the time too which for me is lovely to see, gives me head scratching to do and stretch my brain.

Whilst I was playing against her, I had on Half Man Half Biscuit’s “Back in the DHSS” album with the faint hope that she would enjoy it and want to come to Manchester Academy with me to see them. For her it was passable but she’ll leave the live gig to me, fair dos. Mind you, it does at least have the all time classic “All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit” which explains about how you were little and one kid always had the good stuff like Subbuteo and Scalextric, apart from the fact that the latter had a dodgy transformer that cost £3.10. Wooo. Make that one tune of the day.

Monday 17th November – Manic Monday

It’s just another manic Monday, I wish it were Sunday (well apart from City not playing so well of course.) It was particularly the case as everything that went on during the day was just a case of getting things fixed as and when you could, and also making sure that where possible you could stem the tide slightly. I did at least manage to get some of the PCs ready for deployment tomorrow afternoon as I start to roll out some of the admin replacements, which is something. I guess I just feel a little kind of in between at the moment with getting jobs done.

Still, had an interesting conundrum when I got home. One of my relations brought their laptop over to me to see if I could do my magic with it. As it turned out, the laptop hard disk didn’t sound so well and when I tried to do a Windows repair, due to some registry issues, Windows wasn’t even seeing the previous installation. Thankfully I had at least used nLite to be able to create a Windows installation disc with the custom SATA drivers needed so I could see the hard drive. And even better, the SATA hard drive was accessible with a couple of screws so I was able to plug the drive into my rig, and let a check disk run overnight (recommended when you have to do a full repair I reckon!)

It didn’t give me much time to do much else, but I did at least manage to catch up on boring domestic stuff when I was letting the check disk run. Sometimes you just have to take a breather when you have had a busy day. That was all done whilst listening to the Baskery album (again!) because it’s absolutely ace and also doing some online Christmas shopping for people as well. So give “Oscar Jr Restaurant Bar” a whirl if you can, it’s rather lovely and melodic, features some lovely acoustic guitar and on top of all that has some lovely voices too. Tune of the day, easy peasy.

Sunday 16th November – Hell in Hull

Well not quite hell, but still it was an interesting afternoon. I invited some of my relations over to watch the Hull versus Man City game on Sky Sports, and that’s always a good thing when I see everyone. It was also a very nice little idea of my relation to cook us some pizza and bring it over as well so we could scoff that during the match. What wasn’t a good idea was some of the comedy defending that was happening during the first half – I tell you, it was laughable! First to join the club was Tal Ben Haim, whose backpass to Joe Hart was woefully short, and the Hull striker Daniel Cousin snatched the ball and made it 1-0. Even worse, Hart stubbed his toe and did his ankle in and that ruled him out of possibly playing for England on Wednesday. Meh.

Still, Hull repaid the favour later as a hapless ball from Robinho only found the Hull defenders. One of them decided to play it across the eighteen yard box before clearing but didn’t notice Stephen Ireland gambling on the defender doing just that, and Ireland did the business and equalised. He’s by far and away City’s best player at the moment, his workrate effort and general all round play is something rather special. And that was proved later when Ireland received a ball from Javier Garrido and slotted it home with a gorgeous curling shot just before half time. Sadly the lead didn’t last as City old boy Geovanni scored a free kick in the second half.

I was worried before the game and now worried after. Several City forums are calling for Mark Hughes’ head and I have to say that I am puzzled by some of his tactics to say the least. Putting Robinho as captain to me is a bad move: just bowing to pressure. Not playing Elano was also not good either, maybe him and Hughes have differences but to me it’s clear that Elano can change a game and he could have been brought off the bench to freshen things up. Also, why the hell did he not try and go for the win at 2-2? It looked very much to me like he was settling for the result, which is rubbish in my eyes. I’d much rather be entertained and go for it or at least know how to hang on to a 2-1 lead as well. I just seem to think that somehow it’s a big jump up from Blackburn to City and he’s having to learn again.

Ah well, spent some time in the evening watching the Strictly Come Dancing results. To be fair, as much as John Sergeant improved, he is staying in because of the popularity with the public and certainly not for his dancing at the moment. I found it amazing that both Lisa Snowdon and Cherie Lunghi were in the dance-off and someone had to lose. Mind you, James Jordan probably expressed what a lot of the diehard fans were saying: please vote for the dancing! I have to agree. It almost became a sham in the first series when Eastenders actor Christopher Parker got to the final when clearly he wasn’t that good: the eye candy was keeping him in. Wonder what’ll happen?

Still, one of the couples did do a dance to a Paul Weller classic, but the version was nowhere near as good as the original. To rectify the balance a bit, I shall make “You Do Something To Me” tune of the day. There. Feel better already.

Saturday 15th November - 3 Daft Monkeys, 2 Happy Bunnies

Had a fairly relaxed day today knowing that later it was off to another gig (what am I like?). So, The Berries In My Yoghurt and I headed out first to the Lowry Outlet Mall, mainly to pick up a couple of Christmas presents but also to be able to have a gentle wander around. As it was, she was also able to pick up a present as well and spotted something that I was after and located it, so that was pretty ace. We also headed back via Chorlton, avoiding all the football traffic (as Man U were at home to Stoke that day) and having a quick visit to Unicorn. It was nice to see that so many people were shopping there for their organic and whole foods as well as many greener alternatives, and of course their shopping bag has become one of the accessory items around Manchester. And with good reason: it's re-usable, much kinder and friendlier to carry, and also makes the statement too.

I was tempted to buy quite a bit in there actually, having not been in there for a while, but I did try the Samuel Smith's Organic Ale that was on test and was pretty pleased with the taste,so I bought that, some of the lovely Kelpie seaweed ale (had that before in The Green Room), and also some of the Cranberry and Lime feelgood drinks that I've sometimes had in the Two For One places too (it's ace). The Berries got herself one of the bags to carry the stuff in plus some tomato and basil soup for herself, but I can see why it was packed and indeed popular. If you're ever around Chorlton, do pop in, you'll be suitably impressed, let me tell you.

We rested in the afternoon with the dulcet tones of Jeff Stelling on Soccer Saturday in the background whilst we pitted our brain wits at Scrabble - the travel version I got has certainly proved useful to test and I know that it'll be handy for the longer distance journeys at some point in time. After that, it was time to leave and head off for Bury Met, where we were going to see 3 Daft Monkeys. We headed into town and into Market Street tram stop, which was busy with Saturday shoppers. Unfortunately we didn't completely miss the football fans on the tram so that was fairly busy. We got on one, only to be told half way towards Bury that it would be terminating at Whitefield!! So we had to get off there and then wait for the next tram which then took us via Radcliffe to Bury.

Once there, we thought it would be good to have something to eat before the gig, and after checking out the options, we thought that Automatic, situated next to the Met itself, would be a good bet. Indeed it was. I've been in here before for acoustic gigs which they have in Automatic itself, but never for a full meal. I had the fish and chips with minted mushy peas, which was lovely, as was the rib-eye steak burger that The Berries had. Whilst eating and drinking, we noticed a family with two girls nearby. It turned out it was the birthday of one of them and the other was her friend, and they had come with the family to see 3 Daft Monkeys. Ace, I thought to myself, much better than seeing some rubbish pop Z-Factor rubbish any day.

As I was sipping latte and The Berries was drinking wine, we also noted that on one of the tables close by to us were the 3 Daft Monkeys themselves with their tour crew, eating food also. That was nice of them to be able to relax pre-gig and have a meal completely undisturbed. The waitress was lovely though as not only did she look after us, the took the two little girls with her to get the birthday card signed by the band. Awwww... how nice was that? Indeed it was lovely of them to sign it too and I'm sure that when you see nice bands doing nice things like that it makes me wonder just why they don't make it bigger. Certainly if I didn't already like them, that would have immediately made me think of that moment.

So, the small Studio Theatre, minus seats, was being used for tonight's show, with the main hall being used for the local beer festival (which I was tempted to go to!) - you got in either through the front of the Met itself, or from the side of Automatic. This way they could use Automatic's bar, serve you the drinks in plastic glasses etc so that you could take your drinks into the gig, neat idea that. It was pretty small but some of the best gigs I've been to have been in smaller venues, so that didn't worry me in the slightest! It was getting nice and warmed up in there and certainly the decision to put the jacket in the cloakroom was a very wise one, let me tell you.

Up first though were local outfit Fish On A Stick (official website) (Myspace) and they weren't too bad. They had a tight four piece outfit with bass guitar, lead guitar, acoustic guitar and a good drummer, and they fitted the small stage well. Most of their songs were short and sweet, but also quite punchy and catchy. I really liked "Bistro" which was bitching about the emergence of the café bar culture in Chorlton, and how that's really being posey and horrid (I can relate to that.) "Victory" was also pretty good, as was the rather fast "Imaginary Science Circus" which certainly got people up and noticing them. I noticed during their set that there were too little chairs for the two small girls from the restaurant earlier, and their mum and friends were in the audience enjoying themselves.

3 Daft Monkeys (official website) (Myspace) came on around 9.25pm, and played one hour and forty minutes of what can only be described as plenty of funked up folk, and tunes which you could not only dance to but sing along to as well. The atmosphere was really lovely: everyone was dancing around like a loon (including me) but we all didn't care and had big smiles on our faces, which is what it's really about isn't it? Suffice to say that it's actually one of the best gigs I've been to this year. They played with such aplomb, such ability and above all else with smiles on their faces too, which just summed up the mood and feeling of everyone there. Starting off with the title track off an earlier album "Hubbadillia", they just got into the right frame of mind and went for it. The fiddle player and vocalist Athene looked really good in her two piece outfit, and suited her long hair and DM boots, and Tim certainly had plenty of banter as well as singing along, whilst Jamie did his bass thing looking ever so cool, hehe.

It was a good mix of their new album "Social Vertigo" as well as the older stuff, so from the new album the likes of "Paranoid Big Brother, "Guardian Angel" (where everyone went for it at fast speed), "One Fine Day" which just had the right mood of social comment and catchy melody (reminded me somewhat of classic Levellers, and that's a good thing!), the title track of the album, with the "Sociaaaallllllllllllllll" line going well. At the start everyone swayed from left to right going "wooooooah, wooooooooooooooooooooooooooah" which was rather cool. "Monkey and the Slippers" which was ace. My favourite of the new album and of the night was "Human Nature" which sounded quite Eastern influenced, but also went along at a rather fast pace and really had a catchy chorus to boot. It got me absolutely going for it and several others too, so got to be tune of the day that one.

The sweat continued to pour as the atmosphere got hot but really friendly, and "Hey Listen" was also great fun, as was "Faces" from their first album. In fact two thirds of the way through they mentioned the two little girls at the gig and said that it was one of them's birthday (her name was Molly) and whilst Tim explained that it was so lovely for her to be here, the others were tuning up, and then they played "Happy Birthday" for her. Awwwww! In fact after the first time, they then sped up the tune and everyone pogoed around singing Happy Birthday with Athene bouncing around playing the fiddle, just superb. In fact they did it at a previous gig too, so check it out!

Indeed. By the time it was closing time, it was a case of me being completely drained in sweat (hmmm.. attractive!) but safe in the knowledge that we'd had a fab time to say the least. We made our way home via the tram and then the bus and it was just so good, I had to immediately get to sleep to get the memories of the gig locked away for the night so I could rave about it. It was simply ace and if they ever tour your town, do yourself a favour, and go!

Friday 14th November - Off The Telly!

So, a busy day at the office ensued as I ended up on the Help Desk for most of the day and had to re-schedule a couple of appointments I had during the day. I was able though to get a few things sorted out and indeed it was rather nice to be able to take time to talk to some of the students and guide them through what they needed to do. One little bit of fun and games I had was where the user wanted to transfer a large video file. No problem, I thought, till I realised that the video file was 6GB and the disk that it needed to be transferred to was FAT32 formatted, which means a maximum file size of 4GB. I told them what the issue was and how to resolve it and I think they seemed pleased at least I knew what it was that they needed to do.

I dashed home after work, got showered and changed and back out to meet The Needle On My Record later from her work, as we were going to get something to eat and then head off on our little mission that I briefly detailed yesterday. First stop, the rather nice Tampopo in Albert Square for some tea. They do quite a nice deal where you get a main and little side dish for £6.95 per head between 12pm and 7pm, which is rather good isn't it? From the Eastern Express menu, I had the gyoza as the side dish and the chicken com hué as the main, whilst The Needle had thre goi cuon as the side dish and the chicken yaki udon at the main. We also got some Thai prawn crackers to go with that and indeed enjoyed the desserts we had too: the cinnamon ice cream I had was lovely, but so was the syllabub that The Needle had too, so all was well.

We then headed a little out of town towards what was the former Granada TV studios on Quay Street and headed to the back entrance along Water Street (where the entrance for the studio tour used to be). There we handed over the email we'd received and got a couple of wristbands for entrance, and were guided along to a couple of people, and then checked by security. Once done, we had to wait the certain colour of wristband to be called out (ours were blue, yaay) and then it was a case of going from there to one of the studios (it's now owned by Three Sixty Media, in case you wondered). So, as you gathered by now, we were going to be in the audience, but for what?

Well, a while ago I'd applied for audience tickets via the SRO Audiences website for a few shows, and one of the applications proved to be successful, to my immediate surprise. So this meant that we were able to have a different Friday night out and indeed see.. Don't Forget The Lyrics! For those of you who have never seen the show (or indeed the US version hosted by Wayne Brady of US Whose Line Is It Anyway? fame) - the contestant has nine categories to pick from. When they pick a category, two songs come up, they pick one and have to sing along with the track till the track stops, and they have to carry on and fill in a certain number of missing words. In the UK one, the fourth category is worth £5,000 and getting that means that's the minimum they go home with. You can carry on as far as you like and the ninth one is worth £125,000 and then you can go for the big quarter million (wooooo!)

Anyway, we had the warm up man, no less than Andy Collins (who hosted Family Fortunes after Les Dennis and basically ruined it) explaining how the filming would work, what the audience needed to do and indeed, crucially, when to keep quiet - you could dance along to the songs no problem, but you had to not sing, bloody hard if the song is catchy, and so make sure that the contestant was on his own throughout. We got to see the end of one show and then go straight into the start of the next one with the same contestant. Sometimes if he got the vocals not quite in key, they would do it again, which of course sometimes meant that he'd have more time to think of what the actual lyrics are (it's not all done in one take you know!).

Of course, The Needle was swooning slightly over Shane Richie (part of the reason that I wanted to get tickets for her, awww) and indeed he looked quite dapper in his outfits. As we were sat where we could see Shane and the contestants, that worked out quite well, but we couldn't see the categories or the choice of songs, but that didn't matter, we heard the choices. Indeed I got quite into it, and as one of the categories was "Off The Telly", I decided to join in with the audience suggesting to the contestant the category of choice, hehe. Nonetheless it was interesting what the contestants chose. At one point the category was Number Ones, and they had a choice of the Gary Numan classic "Cars" or S Club 7's "Don't Stop Movin'". Sadly for me, the latter was chosen. I had the former in my head on the way home later so that's just got to be tune of the day to give the original some form of justice.

Nonetheless it was a great night of filming, and I am not going to give anything else away about it. You'll just have to wait till around March time when that episode is shown so you can see if I made it on the telly as part of the audience or indeed if you can hear me shout "Off The Telly!" at the right time when picking the category. It over-ran slightly and it ended up finishing at around 10.45pm, which was something. We decided to head to Ra!n Bar for a quick drink on the way home and so was rewarded with a rather nice pint of their Autumn Glow beer, quite dark and warming for the season. Not quite as nice as Brewers' Dark, but pretty close nonetheless.

Thursday 13th November - Transferring Thoughts And Music

Got a nice surprise in my mailbox tonight, which relates to something happening tomorrow night! I of course was excited, but I'm not going to reveal all - well not just yet anyway, not till it's happened. Hehe. What am I like! But still, it made my day even more happy. The Spark Plug in the Ignition had taken her car in to be serviced, and it cost her less than she thought, so that was good, and receiving that email along with the one with the surprise within ten minutes of each other just made for a rather good day all round.

Indeed I was on form carried over from yesterday at work. One of my colleagues had been struggling getting this PC with a Serial ATA hard disk to work with an Abit KV7 motherboard with Athlon 2700 in it. It turned out that the Abit board was one of the first with SATA support, and as such doesn't support the newer speed SATA2 drives, only the older SATA1 ones. However, I checked out the hard drive manufacturer's site, and you could actually force downclock the speed to SATA1 by bridging a jumper over a couple of the pins to the left of the Serial ATA data and power cables. I indeed had tried myself and even though I got the floppy SATA driver to work during Windows XP setup, when it then did the next stage of Windows XP installation, it had previously failed till I made the jumper discovery. It did work after I did that, and my colleague was able to do what he needed with it, so that was good.

I think as well that I've managed to keep a calm head, and during today that helped, as I went and did some software installations along with a graphics card update, added a printer in one room and noticed the second data point had gone in, so need to check the network cabinet tomorrow and see if it's live now, and make it so for the user concerned, which would be good. I'm getting these things out of the way before I crack on relentlessly with the admin rollout, which is really important to get done to be honest. I need to really see that through before Christmas so at least they have the new build, just in case centralisation happens in January and I don't want to leave them in the midst of nothingness, that wouldn't be right somehow.

I transferred some more stuff to the iPod Nano tonight, some stuff that The Spark Plug in the Ignition would also like as well as my good self, so the likes of more Seth Lakeman, Justin Rutledge, Depeche Mode (The Spark Plug's a bit of an 80s music fan you see), Barenaked Ladies, Madeliene Peyroux, and a bit more for me, some Suede. Oh yes. Mind you, anyone who remembers how good they were or even had some musical knowledge around 1994 will know that "The Wild Ones" is just a bloody fantastic song. And it still is today as well. Possibly Brett Anderson's finest hour in terms of vocal performance, it just emnates emotion and warmth all at the same time and was so pleased when I saw Suede live at the Apollo that they played it, hurrah! So an obvious but well merited tune of the day there.

Wednesday 12th November - One Extra Traffic Jam in Vienna

I decided today that I needed to take some decisive action. Not always like me, I have to add, but I did feel that I needed to get things done. You see, I read my email this morning and realised that, oh my gosh, Ultravox were touring in April 2009 - and with the classic 1980s line up. Yes, Billy Currie, Warren Cann, Chris Cross and Midge Ure, back together and the first time all four of them have played as Ultravox since... Live Aid 1985! You can understand my excitement a little more if you understand that when I was growing up as a child, my father was quite a fan and had several of the albums on vinyl, including the deluxe edition of "Lament" with the book, and indeed when the greatest hits collection came out with "Love's Great Adventure" on it, he was there buying it.

Mind you, my father did have good taste when it came to stuff like this: I remember as a younger child when "Vienna" hit the chart how miffed he was that Joe Dolce's "Shaddap Ya Face" kept the Ultravox classic off number one, an injustice to this day I don't understand or comprehend. And indeed how throughout the 80s career he'd always play their stuff. I think for him it was an interesting time in that many of the punk era had gone, and so had prog, and the synth stuff together with Midge Ure somehow just worked. And it did. I even myself bought "Vienna" and "Rage in Eden" on tape (yes, tape, I still have them) and got "Vienna" on CD many years ago. I had to remind myself tonight in fact when I got home just how good that album was, and so I'm going to make "New Europeans" tune of the day. Some people might not know this, but the level complete tune in the Commodore 64 game "Professional Skateboard Simulator" by Codemasters actually is a cover of the middle part of "New Europeans". I remember years ago asking the programmer Gavin Raeburn about it and he confessed to being a massive fan of the band. So there you go!

So, the decision was to get to the box office as soon as possible and get tickets. As the tickets were £29.50 each, I didn't want to get ripped off by Ticketbarstewards or Ticketwhine, and as Seetickets for some reason didn't have them to hand, I instead decided that I'd walk down to the Palace Theatre Box Office in Manchester and get them from there. If you pay cash, there is no booking fee which to be honest is a bit more like it if you ask me. I managed to get two in the fourth row of the circle, so the view of Midge and the boys will be good from there. It's not till April 2009 but as you can imagine I'm already pretty excited about it - and as I should be! After all, it's not every time you get to see a band that you thought you'd never get to see in your lifetime, so there you go. I might just have to play "Vienna" again now..

On the way home I also then needed something relating to one of my Christmas presents, and so I decided that the best course of action would be to head to the new uber-Tesco Extra in Gorton, as I could then take a bus home from there later on. It was pretty large and impressive, not quite as big as the one in Stockport, but pretty good nonetheless. It had lots of electrical stuff and other things like that, and it was rather nice to be able to browse in relative quiet and actually get what I wanted with the minimum of fuss. What didn't help though was the roadworks on the way there: it was pretty rammed full with cars as two lanes went down to one and the queues down Hyde Road were going as far back as the Showcase Cinemas, meh.

Still, got home later fairly relaxed and indeed settled in to watch a recording of the V8 Supercars from Bahrain, and that set things off for the evening very nicely indeed, it has to be said. I think on the whole that it was pretty good, even with one of the commentators missing for some reason: it just didn't sound right without him somehow. Maybe that's because I've got used to the two guys that do it: sort of Murray and Martin for the Aussies really. In any case, it was still a good three races and sets the series up nicely for the last two events in the series.

Tuesday 11th November - Armistice Thoughts

It was a pretty poignant day today, as it was ninety years today that World War I ended. It's sometimes hard to think just how much of a sacrifice those soldiers who fought in that war made, giving their lives freely for their country and fighting to be able to preserve the freedom and hopes of those growing up back home. War is indeed a horrible thing, and something I wouldn't ever want to be involved in if at all possible. I'm much more of a person who'd rather resolve things by more peaceful means rather than have to indulge in saneless, mindless violence.

Even though I was at work today, I wanted to pay my respects at 11am by respecting the two minute silence period as I thought it was a fair thing to do. As it happened, I was out on a job sorting out one of the multifunction printers, and they had the radio on, so when the clock struck eleven we all stopped what we were doing and sat silently, only for our post person to come in and say hello, and wonder why we weren't saying hello back. Still, the three of us in the office I was in kept the silence for the two minutes and I was glad that it wasn't just me who remembered the occasion. It's a poignant thing, and although last year 11th November also happened to fall on Remembrance Sunday as well, it was good to be respectful.

I had more of the Office courses in the afternoon and that went pretty well too - although this time only one of them which worked out ever so well. I got a lot more people involved and was able to show them in more detail just why the settings work in a contextual manner, which was good. In fact one of the staff whom I saw later on another job told me that my instructional training was excellent and that she felt much more comfortable with someone like me showing them what to do than a training day that they'd recently been on, which felt rather good all round to be honest. Nice to be appreciated!

I had been to the sorting office in the morning to pick up some more Christmas presents that had been ordered, and I was glad one of them came because it was a present for someone that I really wanted to get - been trying to make more of an effort to really give people what they want this year and especially those close to me - it just seems right somehow. In fact the sorting office looked pretty busy in terms of parcels arriving when I went in as well - so it looks like I am not the only one getting the shopping done as early as possible either.

Later on it was nice to pop over to The Cherry On My Cake for the evening, and relax there. In fact she made me a rather lovely pasta bake which had bits of pork sausage and mushrooms in it, complete with a rather nice pasta sauce that was quite spicy. In truth, together with the more crispiness of the cheese (left in longer) it did put mine to shame somewhat, but she was very polite about it all to be honest. Mind you, I did also enjoy the fact that she'd got two little creme brulees especially, and we had those for dessert a bit later. In fact that was during what can only be described as one epic game of Manchester Monopoly, which lasted three hours and ten minutes! It lasted ages because we'd both bought property and houses/hotels, and kept landing on each others. But it was good fun though and it certainly is something that she doesn't mind, just whiling the hours away with me and taking time to relax, which is a good thing is it not?

In fact I thought during the day what sums up how I feel when I spend time with her, and straight away one song came into my head: MJ Hibbett and the Validators' "Better Things To Do". I can completely relate to the ethics of this one, sort of "you know what? I don't care about programming! I've got better things to do" which just really tells it like it is, not least the "I could not be arsed" middle section, hehe. But what makes it tune of the dayis that it just sounds so happy and upbeat, which really does sum up how I feel. So if you're doing anything of walking in the park, talking in the dark, watching DVDs, making cups of tea (or if you're like me, coffee), waking up at last or making time fly fast, then you know full well that you do indeed have better things to do. Hurrah!

Monday 10th November - Nano Speed

It felt a little odd being back at work today after having a week of a course, and indeed getting back into the swing of being in the office. However, back into the swing I must go, as I had an Office 2007 Workshop or two this afternoon and I needed to feel ready and available for the task ahead. So, with that in mind I spent most of this morning catching up on emails and also getting myself caught up with what had gone on during the last week. I did also feel the need to think about an email to send to one of my colleagues with regards to last week's training course: I didn't feel it had went as well as it should have done and wanted to express some thoughts. But that was to be held for another thought overnight, as time as usual was ticking away against me.

The courses in the afternoon went down really well, and those that were there did get a lot out of it, which proved useful. I think it's a lot about getting the initial fear factor out of the way for people, because they aren't sure that the Ribbon is necessarily that effective, but where various commands have gone instead. That's the number one question I get asked: where is save, where is print etc? And I can believe that one, for sure. It's all a case of giving them the knowledge and going on from there really.

I had a fairly relaxed evening on the whole though, mainly deciding what songs to load onto the iPod Nano for the forthcoming long journey away from home. I needed to charge the thing first though, so it was out with my little plugin charger and before I knew it, it was charged and so I could transfer tunes to it. In case you're wondering, I don't use iTunes, I absolutely hate it as it slows Windows down, and insists that you sync exactly what's on the iPod with the iTunes folder on the PC, so if you delete the file from the PC, it goes from the iPod. EphPod gives you the freedom not to do that, and you can more easily transfer tunes to/from the thing without having to faff around with iTunes. It works fine on my Nano anyway, although more recent iPods might struggle. Still, well worth doing. Go for the stable version 2.75, it absolutely rocks.

Talking of things rocking, I was transferring some songs over to the faithful Nano tonight, and amongst those were some albums that I hadn't listened to for some time, but thought it would be good to take the time out to relax to them on a nice long journey. One of them was the excellent "When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease" by Roy Harper, just perfect for watching the world go by, and indeed the best song ever written about cricket, ever. It just says all it needs to say, has a great brass band bit with no less than the Grimethorpe Colliery Band (the one that the film Brassed Off had in their soundtrack) and indeed makes a statement like no other. You'll love it too, I promise. Tune of the day, pretty easily.

Sunday 9th November - Win On The Tombola, But Lose To Tottenham

The day in contrast with yesterday was fairly relaxed. Myself and The Signature On My Album headed to a little Christmas Fayre with some of her family earlier in the day, and it was nice to see so many people attending and helping raise money for the charity concerned. I have to say too that like the people who serve you the tea, coffee and cakes at Victoria Baths, all the volunteers here were all lovely, and with a cup of tea and a scone for a mere £1, I didn't mind giving them a bit extra for the tea/coffee I'd got and allowing them to keep it for their fundraising. The local community seemed to be supporting the Fayre well too, which for me was humbling and lovely to see in equal measures.

I even had a go on some of the tombolas there and saw if I could win. I did win once and it was a little scarf, which we gave to one of her family. The Signature also won this England luggage tag, which one of her relations gladly accepted, but for me, the real winner was the charity concerned, everyone seemed really positive and to bring happiness and smiles to those that they help is certainly something that made me feel good about the whole day.

Sadly, City let me down. Again. They have this inconsistency that no one can shake off and worryingly for us, we're now two points off the drop zone. That hard working UEFA Cup win on Thursday was soon banished away as after taking the lead through Robinho, we firstly had Gelson Fernandes stupidly sent off for two bookable offences, and just after we went down to ten men, it was Darren Bent on fire who scored the equaliser and to make it to 1-1 at half time was pure luck. We then conceded to Darren Bent again before Richard Dunne landed himself with a straight red for a violent conduct offence, but it didn't look that bad, and even though Tottenham themselves had a man sent off late on, they won easily and it could have been more than 2-1. Although I do blame the ref a little, that would be sour grapes to the fact that we don't seem good enough. What's worrying is that even with Robinho in the side and scoring, we can't win in the league at the moment and questions will be asked just what will happen. For me, I can sadly see Mark Hughes being not given time by the new owners.

Anyway, had a play of the Baskery album, and it's good stuff all round. In fact, I might even have to consider this as one of my albums of 2008, as the way it's been recorded in an almost live feel and has that immediacy is something else to behold. Definitely for me, tune of the day just has to be "Out-of-Towner" which is simple but fun, and also shows off their talents immensely. It is catchy, addictive and lots of other superlatives which I could throw at it. I'm so glad I picked up the album now, it's rather smart all round. There's plenty of country-esque twang in this track with some lovely use of the piano and some electrics to create a real feel of the mid-West. And that, my friends, is that.

I even played The Signature On My Album at Travel Scrabble before, we thought that we could give the game a bit of a run and see how it all turned out. Imagine my surprise then when I played not one, but two plays where I got rid of all my tiles in one go. First off, it was FATHERED for 64 points, and then later on, UNLOVING, which straddled two doubles and scored 88. I did pretty well really and was pleased with my overall score of some 440-odd points, the highest I've scored for some time. The board did well though and certainly is going to come into use on the train soon, as I can see it as the perfect travel companion for the two of us going on a long distance journey, and that has to be a good thing.

Saturday 8th November - Oh, Kitty Jay!

It was a nice and relaxing day for the most part, as I knew that quite a few packages were turning up on my doorstep, mainly presents which I had ordered. Sure enough just after 9am, I had a knock at the door and received four parcels, one of which needed to be signed for. I then headed out to take one of my coats to the local dry cleaners, and nipped into Tesco for a couple of things, and then spent most of the morning doing the domestic stuff and getting it out of the way. At around 11.30am I had another knock on the door, this time from a Royal Mail van with two more boxed parcels for me, both from play.com, and I knew those were also Christmas presents too. Isn't life good when everything happens together?

Anyway, that all done, I settled in for the Arsenal-Manchester United game on Sky Sports HD1. It was a very open contest, and on the whole it was a case of who took their chances and who didn't. Arsenal almost choked at the end though with Man U pulling one back with an excellent strike from Rafael, but it was too late and Arsenal this time held on for a 2-1 win. I have to say though in fairness that it was end to end stuff and certainly one of the games of the season in terms of open play and non stop attacking, something which I'm sure is a good thing.

I then had the dulcet tones of Jeff Stelling and Gilette Soccer Saturday in the afternoon, and the whole show's really summed up by MJ Hibbett's song of the same name. Anyway, Jeff was ready with his James Brown doll today (it's one where you press its back and it sings "I Feel Good" with his head bobbing about) and when the Hartlepool player of the same name scored to make it 2-2 at Brighton in the FA Cup first round tie, obviously the doll came out and he did the moves like he usually did (in fact you could hear Phil Thompson going "YES!" when he noted about the doll). Anyway, celebration started, it went to a match report, and then back to Jeff in the studio still singing and celebrating, catching him unawares. It was hilarious!

Later on, I had the pleasure of The Signature On My Album coming over to see me, as the two of us were heading to the Academy 2 to see Seth Lakeman live. I saw Seth live last year in Leeds and he was ace, and this was without the support of any album to promote. This time of course he had the "Poor Man's Heaven" album to promote nicely, and indeed last time he'd played the Academy 2 by all accounts, it was ace. So as you can imagine, after I'd made us some chicken, potatoes and vegetables for tea, it was time to head out in the rain to the venue and hopefully have a good night. One thing I did notice straight away that even though it was quite cold, it seemed really really warm in the Academy 2. I expect it from a gig venue, but it seemed even warmer than usual!

Anyway, first on were the very lovely Baskery (official site) (Myspace). They were three sisters from Stockholm, and they were either acoustic, country or "banjo punk" as they called it, but sometimes a mixture of all three. They were very very good and possibly the best support act I've seen this year. Despite the eldest sister Greta carrying a knee injury, they played a storming set which included the likes of "Oscar Jr Restaurant Bar", "Here To Pay My Dues", "Harsh" (which they said was a song about love), and to close, a rip roaring rendition of "Haunt You" where they really went for it. They seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely and that sense of enjoyment certainly was eminent by the many of us who came to see them and loved every moment. If you're not seeing them support Seth, they tour the UK in January/February 2009, including a date at The Ruby Lounge in Manchester. My advice? Get yourself a ticket while you can.

All that enjoyment would have been hard to follow, but Seth Lakeman (official site) (Myspace) did a great job in really getting the crowd going and showing just how bloody good he is. He started off with a good selection of tracks from "Poor Man's Heaven", including the title track, "Solomon Browne" (my favourite off the album), "I'll Haunt You", "Crimson Dawn", "The Hurlers" and many more. However, my favourite track of the night was one of his really early ones, "How Much?" which sounded really tight and showed Seth's voice in terrific form, so that's tune of the day from me for sure. It just sounded really good and believable.

He wasn't done there yet, he did "Lady of the Sea" all on his own with the fiddle, and that was excellent, and a similar setting for "Kitty Jay" later on, which had the whole audience clapping or stamping their feet along, even when he increased the pace of the whole thing. He also did a storming version of "Rifleman of War" (which my friend had warned me was most excellent), along with during the encore, an excellent "Race To Be King" which got faster and faster towards the end. Good job that was the last song or else he'd have been completely knackered to play anything else to be honest! But it was excellent and it showed just why he is so highly regarded. I want to know if the strings on his fiddle were going to be auctioned off again, well hammered they were!

After the gig, and escaping the immense heat, I spotted that the girls of Baskery were selling their album on CD and indeed signing copies too. This was too good to miss (especially as the UK release of the album isn't till January 2009!) and so handed my money over and got Sunniva, Stella and Greta to autography the CD for me, which was really lovely of them (thanks girls!). The large doube bass Stella was playing looked like it was one that was being used for Seth's band later, so good of them to share stuff. Afterwards, myself and The Signature On My Album headed over to Sandbar for a quick, and just to complete the West Country feel of the evening with Seth, they had Doom Bar on cask as well, how good was that? So a perfect ending to an ace night. How good is that?

Friday 7th November - Birthday Bliss

It was the last day of the course today, and clearly after a tough week, people were tiring, myself included. Thankfully today was mainly about supporting applications and the likes of Outlook (ugh), Outlook Express (double ugh) and troubleshooting Office installations. Most of it was stuff that I already knew but it was intriguing to know just how Outlook would work with an Exchange server, as that's the way we might be going at work one day. And I have to say it's quite a worry, even if you access the Exchange server over IMAP, it seems to want to dump a .pst file with folder information et al, which I'd consider a risk if that file got corrupted: what would happen to their emails?

Still, we were wrapped up and I now have both course books to read through, study and if need be, try and replicate the exercises (note that due to licensing restrictions you can't have any of the virtual machines used in the training labs - the only way you can is paying Microsoft themselves if you did the course online). And then of course it's a case of being able to do what I can in terms of getting time at work to study for the exam, which would make perfect sense. I want to try and take it as soon as possible so it's all fresh in the memory and able to pass, that's the plan anyway.

I met up with The Milk In My Latte after the course for a coffee in the Art Gallery Café. I'd not been in there in ages and indeed a few of my friends had told me that it's quite nice in there to relax with a latte. And I'd have to agree, it just seemed nice to watch the world go by and have some relative peace and quiet whilst having a good chat. Although only meeting for coffee, it's always nice to see someone who you really treasure and I know for me that it was a good thing to be able to head out there. It also meant I could get the bus up to my Mum's from there and join most of the family in my nephew's birthday party that he was having later: he's four already now!

I got to my Mum's, and my sister was there and my nephew, so I was able go give him the presents I'd got him, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figure and the Cowabunga van to go with it, which has this turtle head that spits out pizzas from the front, a pretty effective weapon in TMNT-lore anyway. He seemed impressed with that and indeed with the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine that someone else had purchased for him as well, so all was good really. We went over to my sister's place later and had some food, a nice cup of tea, and for my nephew he had a few friends to play with as well, which was rather lovely. They certainly are all characters and that for me definitely made things a lot lovelier. Awww.

Ended up much later on back at mine, watching some CSI and reading up on the CSI Files fan site about the new series in the US. One of the recent episodes apparently has Linkin Park's "Leave Out All The Rest" as the main body of the soundtrack for the whole episode, and intrigued, I watched the video to their single. For me it makes perfect sense and indeed as the episode also marks the return of the lovely Melinda Clarke as Lady Heather, too. Anyway give the Linkin Park track tune of the day - it really resembles a lot about Grissom himself and for me that's a rather good thing. Ah, the days of when my little sister would be singing along to their track "Crawling"...

Thursday 6th November - Applications Apply To Football, Too

First things first this morning was a quick trip to the sorting office. They tried to deliver what I thought was just one parcel yesterday that was too big for the letter box, and so I had the card through the door when I got home with the parcel last night. Thankfully these were Royal Mail which meant a quick stroll over to the local sorting office to pick up what I had arriving. As it was, one of them was a Christmas present, so that was good, and another one was a little something for myself: Travel Scrabble de Luxe!

In case you wondered, with me heading to Cornwall in the not too distant future, I thought it would be nice to have a suitable distraction to keep me amused. Yes, there'll be my iPod Nano, but I figured that as I'd be going with someone this time around, a little portable board game for two might be in handy. And indeed as I have a fellow Scrabble fan in the midst as well, I wanted a travel version that was rather nice. The magnetic ones tend to be not as good, and the modern fold in half board ones tend to have tiles where the little corner bits that clip into the board break too easy. So, thanks to good old eBay, I found exactly what I wanted. In the 1980s, Spears Games, who had the licence for Scrabble in the UK then, had a travel version with a 8 inch x 8 inch board with holes, and the tiles had little corner pins which fitted in the holes, this holding it in the board. It had a tile bag and the 100 tiles, tile racks and best of all a rather nice padded leather case to fit the whole lot in. Hurrah!

I went out with my friend later, after I'd done the first day of course 2262 - sorting out Microsoft Appplications on a Microsoft Windows XP based system, to watch Manchester City up against Twente Entschende in the UEFA Cup group stage. Despite City's best efforts to give you an incentive to attend both group games at home for £5 off the cost, the crowd did seem a little spartan and I thought that around 21,000 just wasn't good enough considering that it was a European night. We should be making more of these, not just not bothering because it's on telly somewhere (it was on ITV4) and ignoring the fact hat the team need you there.

Rant over. My friend and I got into the ground and the views we had of the action were excellent, so no complaints there. I got myself a chicken balti pie and we were good to go for the action. And what action it was! I don't think I'd have expected Shaun Wright-Phillips to score inside two minutes, but that's what he did, an excellent low drive into the corner and as you can imagine, the City fans were most happy and immediately taking the mickey out of their manager, Steve McLaren (who used to of course be the hapless and useless England manager). Plenty of chants went his way, such as "You let your country down", "You mucked our summer up" etc, which said it all. I had to giggle, for shure. (teehee, that was deliberately mis-spelled, by the way)

Twente did come back into it with a well-taken goal of their own and at half time, 1-1 didn't sound so good. It was an open and even game though and I could have seen it gone either way. Robinho was being Bobinho thus far, but that all changed in the second half. First off, the excellent Stephen Ireland controlled the ball nicely and found Robinho on the left, and his curling shot into the top corner was most excellent stuff indeed. It certainly made the fans cheer a lot, and even more so when Benjani came on back from injury. Now I like him, he works hard and gets stuck in, and also scores. And score he did just a few minutes on return with a low shot. Albeit it was deflected, but when you're a striker, you don't care as long as they go in. Cue the City fans' chant about Benjani scoring on derby day (hehe, he became an instant legend after that!) and all seemed well at 3-1.

Even with Robinho hitting the post twice and possibly putting the game beyond doubt, and Benjani also forcing a good save from their keeper, a few minutes after we'd made it 3-1 they scored from a header from a corner and had two gilt edged chances to get an equaliser, but not to be. Still, a first win in the group stage is always a good start and if we can possibly get anything away at Schalke then that would be good too, set us up nicely for Paris St Germain at home in a few weeks' time. It's going to be interesting times ahead, and my friend and I certainly enjoyed what was an open game even if it was a bit too open at times.

Still, all was well, and tune of the day simply has to be Manchester City's "The Boys In Blue". It was being played full blast at the end of the game today and it certainly sums up everything about being a City fan for me, I grew up with the team running out to it and it just has the right amount of passion to fire me up. The boys in blue, they never give in you know!

Wednesday 5th November - Bonfire Night Parcel Fun And Games

It was Bonfire Night today, not that I would know it. I was in the third and final day of the 2261 course during the day and that meant the last modules of the course, resolving hardware issues, file and folder issues, then doing the likes of printer and startup issues in the afternoon. It was a main problem getting all the information to work fine without any problems as some of the course materials and exercises seemed a bit vague at times, but that was down to Microsoft more than anything and not me being a numpty, thankfully. I am sure that I managed very well though and so did everyone else, as we were wrapped up by 4pm.

When I arrived home last night, I had a note from a parcel delivery company which said that a parcel had been attempted to be delivered and that it couldn't be as I wasn't in. I rang them up last night and asked if they could deliver on a Saturday when I'd most likely be at home: no can do, and of course no timed delivery possile either. In the end they suggested that it would be best for me to pick up the parcel from their local depot. Now, I was thinking that this might involve a trip to Trafford Park, as often some of the couriers have dropoffs there which makes perfect sense, as it's close to the M60 motorway and also less traffic to get in and out of there. But no, this one was in a little industrial park in Castleton near Rochdale. However this did mean it was close to the train station, which is on the run from Manchester Victoria.

So, the course had finished for the day at 3.50pm, this meant a quick jog from there all the way over to Victoria, get my train ticket, and then get over to Platform 4 meaning that I would be on the 4.03 train. As anyone will tell you, from Piccadily Bus Station to Victoria isn't that close, and so I did rather well to get that instead of having to wait for the 4.33. I got to Castleton, walked to the delivery depot, presented my necessary identification and then was presented with my parcel, which was as I thought it might be. I can't reveal what it is as yet though as it's a Christmas present for someone, and they might be reading this (ooh, I hear you say, you're getting all secretive on us now!). Mind you, I was back home by 6pm which meant I could take things easy and relax a little.

I had The Wind In My Sails over later, and after some chicken with couscous, we relaxed and took some time out just to be together, which was lovely. I even dug out the Commodore 64 and whacked Scrabble on, that I had on disk somewhere, and that was a good practice and learning curve to pick up the game again and play it. Indeed it reminded me how much I miss playing a good board game and that the Monopoly last week was just the thing for the dark winter nights coming up. Stil, The Wind In My Sails came up with some good moves, and so did I, so it was a nice little practice for us and indeed to take our time to relax. I ended up cuddled up by the sofa as we watched some bonkers thing on Wedding TV about a couple who'd had their whole wedding decided by listeners of Galaxy FM in Manchester: mad but good trashy escapism, which I know The Wind likes sometimes. And I just indulged her, because I can.

Tune of the day was a fairly easy decision to be honest, and how I feel right now: "I'm Not Afraid" by Howling Bells. It says exactly how I feel at the moment and how that even though there's been so much change and times in my life recently, I feel like I can face them with a slight air of confidence but also be strong for others too, and I'm not afraid that much now. Oh, and the lovely lovely voice of the song just makes it really comfortable too.

Tuesday 4th November - Death Is Not The End

It was a really up and down day today. In the morning and part of the afternoon, I was at the course, and going through the next few modules, which were to do with Desktop Management Issues and Networking. Most of the Desktop Management stuff was to do with the way that Windows Group Policies were deployed, and that was all well and good of course, but what initially threw me was that it was mainly talking about Windows Server 2003 and Active Directory. Now for someone who's come from working in a Novell Zenworks environment, being able to try and apply the skills I've learned in Novell eDirectory over was something to get used to, but I got the idea. What I soon realised was that AD didn't seem as flexible as eDirectory to be honest, but as large companies have used it, they must have got something set up (or paid someone lots!)

At around 1.30, I had to leave the course for the day, having been given special dispensation to do so, as I had to attend a funeral. These sort of occasions are always difficult no matter what: you feel a sense of emptiness as soon as you head into the crematorium, no matter how well looked after the place is, and it's also such a sense of finality about the whole thing. Nonetheless I'd had my suit dry cleaned and had a black tie on as well, so was suitably dressed for the occasion. I'd made my way from the course on the tram to Altrincham, then took the bus from there to the crematorium, which is on the road between Broadheath and Sinderland Green, almost Dunham Massey-like when you think of it (indeed the road from the crematorium the other way takes you to Dunham village, including the rather lovely Axe and Cleaver pub - must head back there sometime.)

Anyway, I got there and the service prior to the one I was going to had just started, so it was eerily quiet all around with just some squirrels running around for company (and hence the warning signs up about the flowers being eaten by said creatures.) Gradually, relatives started to come along and by 3pm, with the main black car arriving, everyone was there. I'd have liked to have met some of the people there on a separate occasion other than death, but that's how it works sometimes, sadly. We made our way in, and the woman who was conducting the service was one I saw last year at a previous funeral. She had lots of humility and humaneness about her, and her soft toned voice was just right for delivering what needed to be said.

Half way through the service, everyone stopped with silence to have a thought to themselves, then a tune played which had parts of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", "What A Wonderful World" et al in it, with a lovely guitar in it as well, just the right side of soft and emotional. People cried, including some I didn't expect to, and it did move me a heck of a lot to be honest. It was good to know that sometimes you can just let go and not be ashamed to do so, in fact I felt a bit upset that I didn't burst into tears myself, but needed to be strong for those around me.

After a little bit of sandwiches and cakes and cups of tea, I made my way home, still feeling rather sad but at the same time knowing that closure had indeed taken place and that was the right thing. As soon as I got home, I knew that there was only one song that would sum up my feelings - and therefore tune of the day - "Death Is Not The End" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Somehow it sums up about how I feel about the whole issue of death and even though it's a cover of Bob Dylan (the original version is ace too) with the likes of PJ Harvey, Kylie Minogue and others helping vocally it just makes me feel a little better.

Monday 3rd November - Selling My Course Soul To Microsoft

Well, it was the start of a week long set of courses for me today. I was doing Microsoft courses 2261 and 2262, which, when done, will allow me then to take a Microsoft exam which will allow me to qualify as a MCDST (Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician). The idea being is that I do that and then head for the later ones such as MCSA and MCSE later on, which should stand me in good stead for the future. Like most of the training courses at work, they're done externally at a company not very far from Piccadilly bus station - the idea being that it's central for everyone and so that it's easily accessible. Well, that's the plan, anyway.

Most of the first day involved the opening modules, which explained about the Microsoft-defined role of the Desktop Support Technician environment, when they'd expect you to escalate calls and so on. Quite useful, as although most of us do go beyond this level it would be important to know where the buck stops, so to speak. Most of that in the morning and then in the afternoon cracking on with Exploring and Configuring the Windows XP User Interface. Nothing too mindblowing there as such but at least it meant that you could try things out on Virtual PC in a real time scenario. In fact the courseware was version C, which meant a third release with more ideas on using virtualisation in the classroom, which seemed to be fine (well the PCs we were using did have 4GB of RAM!)

After work it was straight over on the bus to my mother's, as it was her birthday today. I'd already given her the money to buy these planters for plants and pots that she'd seen at her local garden centre, and they were pride of place by the front door, and looked the part. Of course now it's all been decorated and done up at Mum's, it's even nicer than it was (and that's saying something) and as some of my relations were also there it gave me chance to have a chat and catch up a bit as well too, which is always good. I think it was nice to see Mum and indeed see that she was able to relax and mainly enjoy her birthday, hurrah for that!

Made my way home later and I did feel quite tired. Whether that's because I'm just mentally drained at the moment or that because my mind is thinking about other things going on in my life, I'm not sure. But I did have a fairly relaxed time later on wrapping up some Christmas presents and indeed ordering some more online, in fact quite a few more! I knew I needed to get my proverbial skates on and once I'd got cracking, there was no stopping me (well sort of). So, in view of this, I thought that listening to "Honest Man" by Joey Ryan, from his album, was a good move. Kind of kept me relaxed, so tune of the day easily really.

Sunday 2nd November - Drama To The Last Corner

Well, bloody hell! That was dramatic, wasn't it? And no, I am not talking about the tepid way in which Manchester City played against Bolton this afternoon and lost 2-0 at the Reebok Stadium, where it was pretty clear that no one tried and that when the chips were down, the likes of Robinho can't be bothered (or should that be Bobinho, because since we've signed him, City's form has been bobbins) and that upsets me a heck of a lot, as it did my relations who came over specially to watch the game with me as well.

But that wasn't the drama. That all happened in the F1, which I thankfully watched without distractions an hour behind schedule thanks to the joys of Sky Plus. Knowing that the second half of the City game was on at the same time as the F1 race would start, I thought it best to record the game and go from there, seemed the easiest thing to do really. What was really good was that it meant I could still watch the start of the race whilst the rest was doing its record, so I didn't miss a thing and watch it in real time, and of course be able to skip past the commercial breaks at the same time.

The rain at the start of the race proved nothing more than a small shower, and indeed that meant everyone was on intermediates till it dried off and then a rush to dry tyres ensued. Most people took on fuel at that point which was in effect their first stop, albeit a bit early. It then meant that around lap 40 most people would do their second stop and therefore be able to get to the end of the race on the tyres, bearing in mind that because the wet weather tyres were used, they didn't have to use the softer compound if they didn't want to (it's in the rules, folks).

So, all was going well for Lewis Hamilton, he was a steady fourth behind Felipe Massa leading, and if the positions stayed that way, he would win the world title. However, Sebastian Vettel was closing in on him and then another throw of the dice ensued as it started to rain. The teams thought collectively what the best tactic would be and with a mere four laps left, the main leaders started coming in, including Hamilton and Massa. Vettel went in at the same time and came out of the pits very close to Lewis Hamilton, and that meant drama, not least as Timo Glock in the Toyota had decided to stay out and brave it and see what would happen.

Disaster struck with two laps left as Sebastian Vettel passed Hamilton on the inside, and it meant that with Massa, Alonso, Raikkonen, Glock and now Vettel ahead, Hamilton would finish sixth, meaning he and Massa would be on the same number of points but Massa would take the title because he'd have won more races over the season. As the last lap unfolded, Massa took a very well deserved victory and he had done everything right that he could. Hamilton kept his eye all over the back of Vettel but then you saw a car in the distance - it only happened to be Timo Glock's Toyota! Hamilton passed it on the second to last corner (you heard me right!) and then it was a race to the line with Hamilton doing enough to finish fifth and therefore win the title by a single point. Whilst it was heartbreaking for Massa, who'd done all he could do, for Hamilton it was a case of this time getting it right and even if a little luck had helped, nonetheless it was an excellent finish to the season and the F1 world title was his.

A good way too for ITV to bow out of F1 for the moment, as after twelve years of coverage, the F1 is going back to the BBC in 2009. I have mixed views on this, on the plus side there'll be no commercial breaks during the race meaning that you won't miss any of the action whatsoever, but on the minus is that ITV have at least taken the overall coverage including build up, analysis et al to the next level and it will be hard for the BBC to match that. At least they will have Martin Brundle which will be something, his insights into the races are always excellent and he's an accomplished broadcaster and commentator.

In view of all the F1 excitement, and there was plenty of it, it would only be suitably fitting that tune of the day is somewhat F1 related, and therefore by default, Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" is the tune of choice. I am really hoping that it establishes itself as the F1 theme tune again, it would make a lot of sense to me and indeed the public at large. Here's hoping!

Saturday 1st November - Call Me A Flickrite!

It was time to head out quite a bit today. First off, to do some birthday and Christmas shopping in Stockport. I'd seen something to get one of my younger relations for his birthday and got that the other night, but wanted a little something to go with it, and so off I ventured into Toys R Us. Whilst I was there I noted that they had all the other Scrabble sets you could think of (including the all pink one which raises money for breast cancer charities) but there wasn't the deluxe one to be found, or indeed the travel one, which I thought was a bit bobbins to be quite honest. Mind you, they did have what I wanted so I can't complain too much, got that and had a quick look around some of the other shops as well to see what could be found. I ended up getting three more Christmas presents, so that pleased me no end!

Later on, me and The Chorizo In My Pasta Bake headed off into the centre of Manchester and to Font Bar for the Manchester Flickr Meet. It was lovely to see quite a few familiar faces and indeed to chat to some of them. In fact I spotted one of them, Air Adam, with his customary hot chocolate drink with lashings of whipped cream. It was good to talk to him about other stuff as well as photography, and before we knew it, several people had joined us and even with joined up tables, there were just too many of us. So then it was time to head downstairs and grab a few tables in there all to ourselves, which made a lot of sense.

At the last meet, one of the members, Mr Dayglo, couldn't make it, so someone made a mask of his face and that featured in several of the pictures taken during the day. This time around he could get his own back by as someone made a mask of one of the other members and various people instead took the picture with that mask, which was pretty good fun all round. Conversation flowed, drinks were consumed, and there was a bit of a scavenger hunt mission in the afternoon, which involved lots of Halloween related items. I think we found seven or eight out of the thirteen but some were just a little too difficult to find unless you really knew where you were going. Mind you, a few of us met at Kro later for a drink, which was good too, and more chance to chat to people as well, which was nice.

Got back later and I made some lovely food (having eaten in Rain Bar for lunch earlier, go us eh?) - I had this chicken with a creamy sauce which had some Sauvignon Blanc in it, plus pancetta as well. Did that with some new potatoes, carrots and peas and all seemed rather nice and well as we took things a bit easier in the evening. Didn't win the lottery and ended up seeing some of the X Factor results, which to be honest just showed how rubbish the programme is. I've been trying to convince her it's all a fix and the results proved that as Rachel stayed in. Just why she's still in the competition when she can't even get her words correct is beyond me - if you're a performer, you don't do that, end of!

Still, one of the contestants, it turned out, had tried their hands at Blondie's classic "Call Me", and murdered it - badly. So much so that I just had to think of the original classic song, which I have on a Blondie vinyl compilation and therefore the original classic is tune of the day - it just sounds better with Deborah Harry giving it some and showing all these young upstarts just how you should sing it really.