Dear Diary... November 2009

Monday 30th November - Remember, Remember, The End of November

It's been a real mixed day of sorts today. I have managed to get plenty of things at work done, and had a student come to see me panicking mid morning because they weren't able to see their Mac external hard drive. I tried HFS Explorer on my PC to see if that would see the HFS partitions, but no joy, it just wouldn't budge and see anything, so it was off to our office Mac tower which had DiskWarrior on there. It found the drive, told me the directory structure needed a rebuild and off it went and did it, and a few minutes later, one very happy bunny and relieved too, so that was nice - made my day.

I had to go over to one of our other offices twice today, firstly to divulge all of Friday's technical meeting for the masses so that they would know what is going on, and also in the afternoon to take part in a discussion about the previous laptop pilot project and what could be learned from there in terms of replacements and how this could all be done. The good thing was that I knew that my feedback would come in handy and indeed that they could also see why I would do things a certain way in order to make things a fair bit easier for users too - after all keeping it simple is the easiest thing to do, right?

I later on as well when I got home sorted out some tickets for a forthcoming trip down to Bournemouth to see my cousin - I'd not seen her for a while so it would be nice to head down there for a long weekend, plus of course The Numbers On My Lottery Ticket is coming with me too, so that'll be good. It was just a case of working out when would be the best time to head down and back and get everything all booked through the train operator's website. It was good to get some sort of bargain on them and so it'd make for something else to look forward to, as you do.

I had to ring HMV's online customer service as well, as I ordered a few things as Christmas presents a few weeks ago. Three of the four items turned up, but not the fourth one, so I gave them a call. They were excellent on the phone and sorted out a replacement without delay. That's excellent, that, and just goes to show that sometimes if you get the basics right, the rest follows, so a gold star to them. Tune of the day is the rather melodic and fast paced sound of Slayer in "World Painted Blood" because it just got me in the mood for rocking hard after sorting everything out.

Sunday 29th November - Frankfurt-in-Birmingham

It was off out for the day for The Numbers On My Lottery Ticket and I, as we'd booked some trains a few weeks ago and to head out to the Frankfurt Christmas Market that they have in the centre of Birmingham. We went last year and had a really good time, and when the market's all lit up at night, it does feel rather Christmassy, so should get us both into the mood nicely for the festive period. Indeed on the train down we were discussing when to get the tree and possibly heading to Ramsbottom next Sunday for their Christmas Market and nativity that they do, might be well worth the trip out to be honest.

The train sped to Birmingham, although I was glad that we'd booked a seat in advance as the train was fairly rammed to be honest, once it got to Wolverhampton it was standing room only and it was a squeeze as it pulled out of there, but of course as you'd guess, everyone piled out at Birmingham New Street (gosh, I detest that station so much, it's horrible!) and soon we were walking around the Pallasades centre and doing some Christmas shopping in earnest. We thought to go there first, head along the Frankfurt Market and grab lunch, then over to the Bull Ring later and back to the market when it got dark.

We found a sausage stall that served some rather nice large German sausages on a roll that was way too small for the sausage - but the food was delicious and I'm glad I didn't have the spicy one (I left that to The Numbers) as I was able to enjoy the lunch and see a brass band play as well in the little bandstand next to the market. It certainly was very busy and full of people and also the beer tents and like were choc full of people having a lunchtime drink, which did make some sense to me. We headed then through the far end of the Pallasades and into the Bull Ring, and for the next few hours went around the shops and I blitzed several Christmas presents.

In fact I did rather well and reckon that I got around nine or ten presents in one fell swoop, which was good. I'd have got more but I did have a comparison of some of the items' online prices as opposed to that of the shops, and so of course this meant that it was cheaper online, so no point getting them now to be honest. We had a good look in Selfridges and got scared by some of the expensive prices, and also sorted out a top up card for her phone so she could top up in Boots and get Advantage Card points (well, it's what you should all do - might as well rake in the points that way eh?) as well as keep dry in there whilst seeing various nice items to tempt ourselves with.

We then saw the rain lash it down as we left House of Fraser on Corporation Street later on, where I was admittedly tempting her to get the Fraser Bear that they have each year (she got it last year from there) but she resisted - just. We then headed along New Street and along the market stalls, which looked very pretty as night set in. Of course a chocolate and strawberry skewer, this time with marshmallows too, couldn't be resisted by her, and I think somehow she enjoyed that! We looked at all the little wooden toy stalls, the hand made craft stalls, the wooden buddhas everywhere and indeed the really nice felt made items - certainly was very nice.

One of the local real ale suppliers have a stand which meant as well as mulled wine, you could have a proper cask ale, well of course was I going to resist that? No siree - so a half pint of Shropshire Lass was mine along with a mulled wine for The Numbers, and all was well with the world. We then headed through towards the Big Wheel on Broad Street and along to The Glasshouse for tea, a nice pub really and even had real ale on cask. The mixed grill for £6.99 was excellent value and certainly one that I enjoyed - it had chicken breast, sausages, rump steak, gammon steak, egg and onion rings, all very nice indeed. After this it was back along the market stalls for a while and enjoying the sights and sounds before heading to New Street.

Thankfully the train was there when we got there a bit early, so we got on and just rested up - it was pretty warm on there and I was happy to nod off for a bit, as she was too, before bang on time we got to Piccadilly station and headed home. We had a lovely day out really - lots of good markets stalls, friendly people and a lovely warm atmosphere despite the cold meant that it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, too. Hurrah to that I say. Tune of the day in the meantime is "You Do Something To Me" by Paul Weller for three reasons - a) cos I like the song, b) cos The Numbers loves the song to bits and c) it sums up my feelings for her. Awww. I know.

Saturday 28th November - Hell Is Hull

Myself and my friend went off to the City of Manchester Stadium today to see if my beloved Man City could at least do anything other than draw. Six draws on the bounce isn't making very good progress whatsoever, and with Hull finding some form recently the game might be tougher than it was. I certainly wasn't thinking of a repeat of the 5-1 win on Boxing Day and to be honest I'd have been quite glad to take a 1-0 victory just to get a win under the belts for a change. The rain looked like it was going to try and lash it down in the morning, but seemed to abate by the time we got to the ground, although the wind and rain was doing their best to make it a bit on the nippy side.

The game started and even in the cold weather the attacking play from City did its best to try and warm everyone up. Some neat passing movement involving Robinho meant that a couple of chances went begging and went wide and it was a case of seeing if we could walk it in. All I kept thinking was "someone please shoot from distance!" - and as soon as we did that just before half-time, Shaun Wright-Phillips' shot was deflected onwards and into the net, but kudos for having a go anyway and at least showing some mettle. It seemed to be the perfect time to score too, just before the half time whistle.

Try as City might second half, they couldn't kill Hull off with a second goal. Chances went begging and Hull defended resolutely and we still tried to walk it in far too often from my point of view. And they had a chance cleared off the line by Joleon Lescott, which should have been a wake up call that 1-0 is always a slender lead to hold. And so it proved, as Kolo Toure hauled down their sub Jan Vennegor of Hesselink (not the shirt name you want to pay for methinks as a parent!) and although it looked clumsy rather than malicious, the referee pointed to the spot - yet he didn't give a pen for a much worse challenge on Wright-Phillips. Go figure.

Anyway, Jimmy Bullard stepped up to take the penalty and kept his nerve to just get it beyond the hands of Shay Given, who was very close. As part of the celebration, he and his team mates went to the corner of the pitch, sat down in a circle and Bullard mimicked the infamous on the pitch half time team talk of their manager Phil Brown from last season. We couldn't help but admire that as a classic goal celebration and certainly it gave me a smile on the face despite the fact it meant we could be heading for our seventh draw on the bounce and so it proved. The boos at the end from the City faithful only made it show us something we'd known since the start of the season in that Mark Hughes is just not up to the job to take us to the next level, and really he needs to go sooner instead of later, I'm afraid.

Afterwards we spent a little time at The Numbers On My Lottery Ticket's place and had a well earned cup of tea whilst divulging the game en masse and saying how rubbish it was. It was good to see her as ever of course and later on the two of us headed back to my place where I'd make us something nice for tea and I had a bottle of wine in for her so she could enjoy herself whilst watching X Factor. I left her to it and checked out a few things on the PC before our jaunt tomorrow. The deal I struck was that I'd let her watch X Factor if I could rock on Guitar Hero 5 later on, fair enough don't you think?

We also watched something I'd recorded off BBC HD ages ago but thought it timely to watch now - the Paul Weller BBC Sessions programme which had Paul and his band do a chunk of stuff off his most recent album "22 Dreams" plus a lot more too, including even old stuff. I have to say that as much as the new stuff is good, it brought a smile to my face when he churned out an old Jam classic, and so "Eton Rifles" is tune of the day - it felt like he was playing years ago especially as some of the crowd who were standing decided to create a mini moshpit at the same time - but still, all good for next week's gig. We were debating to see him at the Royal Albert Hall but at around £50 per ticket, the answer was of course no - bit too dear that to be honest.

Friday 27th November - Rainy Friday

Well, the wind and rain from yesterday continued unabated, most notably when I headed to the sorting office this morning to collect a package from there which was one of the Christmas presents I was waiting to be delivered, hurrah to that. Admittedly though I have been worried about packages going missing, I currently have six of them which are due but haven't arrived as yet, which is of concern to me especially as all six are Christmas presents. After speaking to a couple of people at work today, it transpired that they're awaiting packages too and so it could well be that a chunk of them are all lost in the post somewhere. I have therefore today spent time emailing the suppliers etc to see if they can trace anything there.

Barring all that I had a good technical group meeting today where I was able to offer lots of input and be able to get on with things as much as I could, and summarised the report as best I could too as I typed up a Word document which summarised the findings at what went on, but also meant that I could then present them to the masses on Monday as well - which would be good to do I think. I guess that it's always important for me to disseminate the information and divulge it so I can share properly.

When I got home, I had an email from Amazon telling me that the package I ordered from there had been delayed due to an "unforeseen delay" which meant that the item should arrive by Tuesday and if it didn't to contact them. It was a very prompt response though, which is rather good all round. I then went to Tesco, blitzed all the food shopping that was needed and then set off home to relax for the evening and avoid all the bad weather as well as finally get to finish off my review of Guitar Hero 5 that I'd typed - hopefully you'll like it and be persuaded to buy the game!

I did also spend time this evening catching up with family and also watching some of the Formula 1 Retro series that has been on ESPN Classic over the last few nights too - the 1978 season was all going well of course until the tragic accident that claimed the life of Ronnie Peterson, which undoubtedly also gave James Hunt more than ample thoughts about retiring from racing. I must admit seeing the old cars and circuits reminds me of how much safety has improved now really. Tune of the day is a classic in F1 circles too - "Ivory Tower by Giorgio Moroder, which the Beeb used to use to announce the grid. Ah, the classic days of F1.

Thursday 26th November - Through The Wind and the Rain

It was a fairly windy and rainy day during the day, which didn't make getting to and from work that much easier to be honest. I was trying to avoid being blown to bits at lunch time, which meant that a quick trip out and back again was all that was needed. Mind you, I spent most of the day with one of the laptops we've had for some time. The power cord on the power supply for it had stopped playing ball, and one of our technicians spotted that it was a kink in the wire, so they'd soldered it all up and insulated it nicely for us, and badabing! Everything charged up and I was able to image the laptop with a more recent image and get all that ready as well.

I also spent some time in the afternoon working on a couple of documents and also making sure that everything was as shipshape as possible in terms of the desk being tidy and all that. I must admit I don't like the desk being a mess and I do try where possible to make sure that I know where everything is and that everything works. I did also help a colleague spotting some possible malware on a laptop that a student was having problems connecting to our wireless network with, and the use of Malwarebytes' AntiMalware certainly did the job in spotting some rather nasty little beasties of spyware and got rid of them nicely.

I headed home later and got all the necessary ironing and stuff done before The Frets On My Guitar arrived, and with a bottle of wine and some cheesecake for after tea as well. We did have to nip out though as I didn't have any potatoes to have with the chicken I was doing and so once that was done, I got tea on and we chatted about the day we'd had and what was to come for the rest of the week as well. I then indulged her with a bit of Corrie, where by all accounts Kevin and Molly almost got caught having a bit of nookie (well almost, this is soap land after all isn't it?) and that was the most of it.

We later settled in for the evening and I played the Rilo Kiley album "Under The Blacklight" that I'd got the other day to see what she made of it. I knew that the sultry tones of Jenny Lewis' voice would do it for us both, and indeed the album's very tuneful and relaxing - part of the reason I wanted it in the first place. "Breakin' Up" is a bright and breezy number with a little bit of a disco flavour in there, and it's actually rather sweet and nice all round - so tune of the day it well is.

Wednesday 25th November - Do You Feel Like We Do?

It had been a busy day at work and I had managed to get plenty of jobs done and progress with others, as well as be able to really get on with several image builds and on top of all that, be able to work on some administration and attend some more meetings. I do feel like at the moment I'm really earning what I earn and that does make me feel good about myself - although it's also a case of that the current situation isn't easy at work either and it really does make me kind of want to make myself indispensable.

Anyway, I got home from work via Boots, where I needed to top up my mobile phone credit. In case you're wondering why I go there to do it, there's a simple reason - each time you do, you get a decent sized portion of Advantage Card points, which helps towards buying something nice for yourself later on if you so wish. I've got into habit of doing that and it just means that I'm able to get that sorted and I know too if I do it there it goes on pretty much straight off. Of course the one thing I have to remind myself to do is go to the O2 Surprises web site to see what the surprise is and enter the code..I don't always do that!

It was then time to rock out on Guitar Hero 5 and thought it was about time I tackled Peter Frampton's "Do You Feel Like We Do (live)?". In case you're wondering why the live version is on there, it's widely acknowledged that the live version as on his "Frampton Comes Alive!" album is the definitive one, and even has parts where he puts the guitar through a mic feedback effect making it sound like the guitar is doing vocals, it's cool stuff. It does mean that the live rendition is almost fourteen minutes long, making it pretty epic stuff to nail, but well worth it when you do, that's for sure. But I don't want to do that too often!

Much more enjoyable was having a blast at the excellent "Scatterbrain" by Jeff Beck - a proper guitar playing legend. It's very difficult to get it completely 100%, even on easy, but at least it gives you some chance by really playing some neat and mean notes and plenty of them too - it's all good fun. Tune of the day that definitely is - it's completely instrumental but all the better for it because you really do feel to be able to listen intently to it and make it what it is. Hurrah!

Tuesday 24th November - Who Put The Little Baby Swastikka On The Wall?

I had the afternoon off work today and so the morning was pretty busy and intense as I attempted to get plenty done in not that much time. I did have to contend with one student complaining about the lack of wireless access and how that's not really helping him whatsoever. I did my best to calmly explain the situation and apologise for it happening, and tried to demonstrate that in all these scenarios, we are actually on their side in it all. I think it went okay, but it's always the case that when you've not got a full quota of staff that all hell breaks pretty much loose.

I headed home and my friend texted me to say he'd arrived - he had come down from Ulverston, just like Saturday, to head to a gig with me. This time around it was the two of us going to see Skunk Anansie, as they had reformed and as well as a greatest hits album were touring the country. As he and I are pretty massive Skunk fans (I saw them five times in the space of a year and a half between 1996 and 1997) we simply had to be there and to be rocking, and with a sellout crowd expected, it simply had to be good, in fact we were both really wanting that to happen.

We dropped everything off at mine we needed to as I played a couple of tracks on Guitar Hero 5 on medium (much less easy than it looks if you're not used to it!) then headed out. My friend's a big fan of eating at KFC, and as I knew there was one about a mile from my place, I hit upon a cunning plan in that we went there first, had lunch and then would head into the city centre. It had been ages since I did lunch at KFC, and so a fillet tower meal did the job for me and a zinger tower meal for my friend, which did the job pretty nicely. It was then a short walk to the bus stop to head into the city centre and we'd soon be walking through the Northern Quarter.

Of course, just like old times when my friend was studying at Salford Uni and we'd meet up pretty regularly indeed, we'd be going to Vinyl Exchange to check out the CDs and see what was out there. We spent a fair bit of time in there and he topped up his collection nicely with some Nick Cave and a fresh copy of Faith No More's "Angel Dust" simply because his old one had been hammered over the years, and I snagged four albums for a mere fifteen quid: Ash's limited 2CD version of "Meltdown", Cabaret Voltaire's 2CD set "Live at the Hacienda", Katell Keineg's "O Seasons O Castles" and Rilo Kiley's "Under The Blacklight" which I'd been after a bit because I really like Jenny Lewis' voice on her solo stuff.

Nothing changed there and indeed the same story at Fopp, too, where more temptation stared me in the face. My friend picked up another Nick Cave gap in his collection for a mere three quid and for the same price it was the 1CD version of Ultravox's 1984 album "Lament" too, which did have some of the extended versions on at the end. It reminded me that they're on tour again next year which I might have to go to if at all possible: I really enjoyed it when I went earlier this year. After that it was a case of heading back to mine, as we had an appointment with the gods of rock!

It was back to Guitar Hero 5 on the Wii, and this time around it was doing two player team mode to see what we could achieve as a band. I had the Rock Band Fender Strat on bass and my friend the Guitar Hero III Les Paul on guitar, and we tried to nail as many challenges as we could as a band. One of the later levels had it where you had to get a really good note streak on Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life" and my friend did 100% with no notes missed, very impressive, and I missed five or six out of over one thousand, which made me feel pretty chuffed to say the least. We then completely nailed Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing" and both of us didn't miss one single note - we bloody rock, we do!

It was then time to head out, and again just like old times, it was off to Babylon on Oxford Road for pre-gig pizza. There are some things you can always rely on no matter what and Babylon is one of them - even after all these years the pizzas taste consistently the same and all good, they don't skimp on toppings whatsoever and you get a choice of two toppings for a bargain £4, not bad at all. I had the chicken and sweetcorn and my friend had the chicken and spicy beef, which certainly went down very well indeed for us both. The rain was lashing it down so we saw what time Skunk Anansie were going to be on and headed over the road into Kro for some well deserved beer.

We then headed back to the Academy 1 in good time for Skunk Anansie (official site) (myspace) to come on. And did they rock? Oh yes they did. It was really like old times to be honest with plenty of people around us where we were stood singing along to most of the classic tunes. Starting off with a blistering version of "Selling Jesus" set everyone off on the right tone, and it was good mix of everything. I for one was pleased that most of the stuff that got an airing was from their superb debut album "Paranoid and Sunburnt" - it's still right up there with my favourite albums (it would be actually number 11 in my top 20, but I've only got the top 10 online) and certainly the likes of "Weak", and as a nice surprise "100 Ways To Be A Good Girl" went down very well.

During "Charity" my friend and I were waiting for the false ending to see how many indie pop kids would cheer at the false ending, and of course lots of them did. But we noticed a few near us did the same as we did and just waited to be ready to rock again, and that made us all feel quite smug, and rightly so. Hurrah for proper fans, I say. At one point Skin decided to go crowd surfing and she ended up being carried all the way from the stage to the mixing desk (and in the Academy 1, that's not exactly a short distance!) and then was carried back after she'd done a verse stood on the table by the mixing desk. It was a great moment and one I'll remember as a great gig moment too.

Everyone bounded around like mad during "Twisted (Everyday Hurts)" and the closing track of "Little Baby Swastikka" had everyone yelling out at the start "Who put the little baby swastikka on the wall?" which had the crowd going for it and was a perfect end to the gig. However, tune of the day is the wonderful "I Can Dream" from "Paranoid and Sunburnt" as it really did rock pretty hard and everyone was singing along to the chorus as well as going mental. It just worked wonderfully well and everyone really rocked the place and went for it, and that for me is always a good sign to be honest. As Skin left she went "see you next year!" and I am hoping that's the case, cos it will be bloody ace if they tour again. In fact, as next year's fifteen years since "Paranoid and Sunburnt" it'd be perfect to play that album in its entirety and all the B-sides.. oh please!!! :)

We headed home after the gig in the pouring rain which cooled us both off after being so hot and sweaty inside the venue, but we both agreed that it was excellent and added from the superb gig on Saturday with Gary Numan to make two quality nights. It's been great to see my friend too and it was a shame he had to head back to Ulverston (no dogsitter available cos of the flooding) but safe in the knowledge we'd had a great time and of course been able to go back in time almost and kick it old school. Hurrah for that we say.

Monday 23rd November - Our Gracie

I had had a pretty busy day in the office, not least because it was a case of getting on with things generally and attempting to fix several problems in one go, and being on call to resolve some issues too. First thing (well almost) I had a course committee meeting to go to as well, which seem to be pretty regular at the moment - must be the time of year and all that. I did however manage to work something out with regards to one of the printers and fix that too, so it was a mixed bag of resolving all sorts to be honest.

I got home and got everywhere all nice and cleaned up before starting to make the tea for myself and The Gravy On My Roast Beef, as I was doing one of my speciality dishes - a chorizo pasta bake. It's not too bad for me to do and it's something that I can nail nicely and present a good meal for everyone, so it's well worth doing. My brother came over too, not for tea, but because he needed a return label printing off for a courier, so it was good to chat to him about all sorts and when The Gravy arrived, we had plenty of chatter and that was very nice actually. If I speak to my brother at Mum's, he can't always get a word in edgeways, so it was good to have that quality time.

Tea was ready later and the pasta bake turned out spot on. I had used a different sauce this time around - the Seeds of Change organic tomato and basil sauce, which was on offer at Tesco the other day and I thought I'd give it a whirl. It was pretty tasty actually and complimented the chorizo nicely, and made for a lovely meal for the two of us. It also meant too that we could settle in for the evening afterwards and I wrapped up some Christmas presents as she was watching Coronation Street (well as if I wanted to watch it!) so she could keep up on her soaps, well I do try to indulge her you know.

Later on we watched the BBC 4 drama, "Gracie" based on the life of the entertainer Gracie Fields. It mainly concentrated on her life during the Second World War and how she was castigated for doing a tour of Canada to raise money for the war effort back home, with many cynics calling her a traitor. Historically it was a bit trickier than that - she had married an Italian film director, and as the Italians were on the Germans' side, it was a relatively safe place to be not interned. What mattered though that even as a drama, it did present things historically correct and you could see the anguish Gracie faced when presented with newspaper headlines and tittle-tattle.

None of that would be any good without a strong cast of course, and Jane Horrocks as Gracie Fields was pretty much perfect casting. In the film Little Voice, Jane performed Gracie's "Sing As We Go" anyway, so it was good for her to do that again, but she got all the little mannerisms in there and all the real feeling of warmth and human emotions. People forget that she's actually a very good actress and I hope that those watching it would have seen that and redressed the balance pretty nicely. Certainly for me it made compulsive viewing and the next in the "women we loved" on there next Monday is Margot Fonteyn, that should be intriguing too.

As for tune of the day, I'm going to refer to one of the many songs on Guitar Hero 5 that I was rocking with earlier in the night before my brother came over. In fact I was nailing a couple in career mode including Kaiser Chiefs' "Never Miss A Beat". It's good fun that tune, not least because of the lyrics being quite hilarious: "What do you want for tea? I want crisps.." said in such a Northern way that you can't help enjoy its charm and intrigue all in one. Smart stuff.

Sunday 22nd November - Sunday Dinner And All The Trimmings

It was a nice relaxing Sunday today, just the sort of thing that I needed. In fact I had some time spare in the morning before The Gravy On My Roast Beef arrived later, and so it was time to head out into Stockport to get a couple of Christmas presents. I had worked out what I needed and it was definitely a case of go in, get what I needed and get home again without any problems. What amazed me was that even as the shops had just opened at 11am how busy it was becoming, a sure sign that everyone's attempting to get it all done and avoid the mad mid-December onwards rush, and indeed in some cases take advantage of some lower pricing too.

I got home and had some time to bash on Ashes Cricket 2009 on the Wii as I racked up an innings and 553 run win as England over Australia. That to me seemed too easy by a long way, so I'll have to try and work out just why that is and go from there. But still. It was curtailed slightly playing the next test because I had to sort out some ironing and also get some washing done before The Gravy came, looking stunningly gorgeous in her dress and boots. When she dresses well, it's a sight for sore eyes, let me tell you, and I feel so lucky.

We headed out a little later as one of my friends who works in another site at my place had invited us over for Sunday lunch, which was very good of her. Her and her daughter greeted us and we had a good natter over coffee as the lunch was all cooking nicely in the oven, and a full Sunday roast too, meat, potatoes, corn, broccoli, gravy and all that sort of stuff. In fact it was a delicious roast all round and certainly there was plenty to go round for all of us to enjoy with a glass of wine from the bottles that I'd brought with us (only fair isn't it that we bring wine, I thought) and plenty more chatter followed.

After lunch and a gorgeous apple crumble for dessert that was melt in the mouth and crispy all at the same time, it was time to dig out their PS2 and play Buzz: The Music Quiz on there. It was the first time that I'd played a Buzz game in ages but I soon remembered what to do and the first time round, we did a long quiz based on the classic music era - putting my friend, The Gravy and I at a bit of an advantage. Mind you, the song intro bits were all cover versions and not the originals and so as such it meant that you had to work out what it was as well - which I soon sussed. The round near the end where you steal points from the opponents meant that if I was ahead, I was the target for their points and all that - but soon got my own back and overall won!

We had another blast too with the more modern era music but most of that was mainly the 1990s era stuff, so that did mean we could all have a good effort at it - in fact I did better than I thought considering most of the music was the sort of thing that I wouldn't listen to. Mind you, a commercial for the new Mariah Carey album on the telly later almost made me want to throw up - it had her singing a really bad version of "I Want To Know What Love Is", so much so that I had to play the original Foreigner version via Youtube when I got home just to redress the balance a bit nicely.

We had a wonderful afternoon though and my friend, The Gravy and I had plenty more chatter later on, and it was sad to leave later on really, but safe in the knowledge that we'd all enjoyed ourselves immensely, and hurrah to that! The two of us did have a blast on Scrabble later on though too and that worked out really well, especially as we had the gorgeous voice of Beth Rowley playing in the background - and tune of the day is "Oh My Life", because not only do I like it, but so does she, and sometimes it's about respecting what other people like isn't it? And it's a shame that we can't see Beth soon, cos she's ace live.

Saturday 21st November - Numan! Numan!

Well tonight I was going to a gig at Manchester Academy 1 and it was the legend that is Gary Numan. I reckon this will be around the fifth time I've seen him live now. One of my friends (whom I'm going with tonight) has probably seen him many more times than that, and the man always puts on a cracking performance. To be honest, if I am half as active as he is at the age of fifty one, I'd feel pretty chuffed. I must admit I'd been looking forward to it too because he was going to play the whole of his 1979 album "The Pleasure Principle" which of course means guaranteed "Metal" and "Cars".

My friend was coming down from Ulverston for the day and for the gig too, and he arrived around 12pm, in perfect time for the Liverpool v Man City match. He's a Liverpool fan and so it was of course a nice bit of banter and rivalry for the game. I chucked us in a really nice pizza in the oven (stuffed crust pepperoni) and we watched the build up. Both teams really needed to win, especially after City had drawn five on the bounce in the league, but what would happen? I just wanted to see us for once keep a clean sheet which has been a pretty rare thing since Richard Dunne left to be honest.

The game was, let's be honest, a game of two halves. The first half was very dull punctuated by the horrible injury to Daniel Agger, who concussed himself when going for a header with Kolo Toure. In fact Kolo had to go off at half time because of injury but I'm sure that incident did leave him a bit upset too. It was a plain old 50/50 ball and it's not nice seeing someone come off so bad. Blood was pouring down Agger's face, not pretty whatsoever. I suspected an early goal might change things in the second half but I didn't want it to go against us, with a cracking Steven Gerrard free kick hit in by Skrtel, and the defence was nowhere.

That goal sparked City into life though and we soon were on the attack, and bringing on Carlos Tevez definitely changed the game for us - he got stuck in and gave the attack some purpose. We earned a corner and Craig Bellamy floated it in and Emmanuel Adebayor was unmarked in the six yard box to head home to equalise. And I thought City's defence was bad? Better was to come later too as Tevez found Shaun Wright-Phillips, who held off the Liverpool defender well and used him as leverage to turn and cross for Stephen Ireland to make it 2-1 with an excellent finish.

City wins at Anfield are as rare as hen's teeth and so it proved to be honest, and the next attack after the goal City failed to clear the defence and after a cross was spilled, Yossi Benayoun equalised for 2-2, and try as both sides might, a winner wasn't coming. It didn't do either team any favours but I suppose getting an away point is decent enough. Ireland did look gutted though even winning Man of the Match, the sort of "we should have won" look was plain to see. I'm taking that as a positive because he knows we should have done better and been able to at least defend the lead having done the hard work of once again coming from behind. Better do better than that against Hull next Saturday!

For most of the afternoon it was rock mode as we got stuck in to Guitar Hero 5. Mainly myself on bass and my friend on lead guitar, we nailed several songs in quickplay with good scores, the likes of Marilyn Manson, The Raconteurs, Rammstein, Kings of Leon, Queen, Attack! Attack! and plenty more. We even did some of the band challenges in career mode and managed successfully on Megadeth's pretty hard "Sweating Bullets" to do a 2x band multiplier for the required time, which certainly was good to see overall. We turned the telly back over to Gilette Soccer Saturday for the football results and noticed of course that Chelski won heavily and my friend's local team Barrow lost narrowly at runaway leaders Oxford 1-0.

It was then time for more rocking with this time me on vocals, which worked well as we completely nailed "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" by Beastie Boys, "Du Hast" by Rammstein and "We Are The Champions" by Queen, which really surprised me how well I did. I made us some spicy sausage pasta for tea and we kicked back with some BBC iPlayer on the Wii iPlayer channel before my friend rang us to say he was on his way and so we would be soon off to see the Nu-man.

We got to the car park for the Academy and was there a little early so we had a listen to the radio commentary of Man U against Everton - sadly a 3-0 win for them meant that they closed the gap on Chelski a bit. Anyway, it was soon time to enter the Academy and all was exciting with anticipation, and rightly so - plenty of people with Numan t-shirts everywhere and plenty more buying the merchandise - especially with the two for £25 deal that was going on to have the black and the white variants. We had a good view and everything and the stage for Numan looked set to have some LED screens blasting out some visuals so that looked pretty good all round.

Up first were the support band Dirty Harry (official site) (myspace) and they were pretty good, rocking nicely. The lead singer had the largest pair of stiletto heels ever and she was also akin to kneeling on the floor, lying down and singing, and even played guitar as well. They really were a tight band and she was also at some songs going "Numan! Numan!" where possible to get the crowd going. Their half hour set went by pretty quickly, an indication that it was good to me. Highlights were "Good Girl Bad Girl", "God Shaped Hole" and they certainly seemed to know what they were doing.

That got everyone even more ready for Gary Numan (official site) (myspace) and Numan basically rocked and kicked backside. The set was in two distinct halves: all the tracks from "The Pleasure Principle" (although not in track order) and then plenty of classic tracks in the second half. It was great to hear some of the album tracks from "The Pleasure Principle" and of course "Metal" was utterly fantastic, a bit more keyboard-laden than Numan's more recent Industrial efforts, but that made it all the more iconic - tune of the day for definite. Of course "Cars" got a great reception as well, as you would expect, and he dedicated "Complex" to Paul Gardner, a neat touch.

The whole of that album went down very well, but the other tracks later on were a great mix of the old and the newer. We got a brilliant rendition of "Pure" which really sounded hard and metallic too, "Are Friends Electric" had the masses sing the "whoa" bits at the right time, and plenty more besides and a lovely version of "Down In The Park" as well to nail things nicely. We all agreed it was an excellent performance all round and I had those songs in my head as we headed home. My friend had to head back to Ulverston sadly, as his dog-sitter was stuck in Bowness-on-Windermere (or, looking at the flooding, that would be Bowness-under-Windermere) but it was great to see him as ever and the two of us will be rocking on Tuesday for Skunk Anansie. Can't wait!

Friday 20th November - Slaying The Iron

Well I would have been going to Manchester Academy 1 to see the mighty Slayer tonight, but as you will be aware, Tom Araya of the band is still recovering from back trouble and so the tour has been postponed till March next year. It does mean that the Manchester date is now the first date of the European tour, so will be interesting to see what happens later on. I did have plans anyway as I was going to head over to see my brother in law and my sister for his birthday and that meant quality time with my niece too which is rather nice as always.

So, I wrapped up the presents this morning, said goodbye to The Buttons On My Wii Remote and then headed into work. I did manage to get a fair few things done, and importantly we've now got the Novell iPrint stuff working over wireless for Windows 7. Cutting edge or what, eh? Well, we firstly had to upgrade the server nicely, and once that was done, set up a Windows 7 laptop and get it all up to speed with updates, AVG 9 etc. Once done, it was then a case of if we could get the drivers separately. In most cases, you couldn't - you had to install the printer locally and install the driver from Windows Update (it gives you the option when adding the printer). Then the printer would be installed and you could do "add driver from system" using iManager and that worked fine.

Once all done, we then had another laptop (a very old Toshiba one which we use for testing) and we put Windows 7 on that. It was then a case of installing the iPrint client, then the printers from the server, and test it. And once we'd ironed out some problems with the A4 and A3 colour printer, everything worked perfectly and did what it needed to do, so that was pretty smart to be honest. What surprised me was that how efficient Windows 7 is, considering the old laptop had half a gig of ram, a measly Pentium 4 M processor and a 40GB hard drive, Windows 7 ran flawlessly well, as did Office 2010 beta which I downloaded today. Hurrah!

I felt all flushed as I made my way to my sister's, where everyone was around and it was nice to see some of the family. In fact, my niece had spent a fair few minutes playing with a mini version of those grabber machines you find in arcades that they'd got my brother in law, but instead she was happy to play with it and try and win stuff, which worked out really well. My brother in law liked his presents (The Damned Utd book, Paddy McGuiness football DVD and an F1 mug and deodrorant set) so that was good - I was kind of worried about it. I even sorted out a small problem on his laptop where PDFs weren't opening, so a simple reinstall of Adobe Reader set to that one and got it all playing ball nicely.

I got home and had a bash at Ashes Cricket 2009 on the Wii, which worked out pretty well on the whole, although to be honest it could be a ton better too. The control method is fine, but the graphics are pretty poor, and although it's nice to have commentary from the likes of Jonathan Agnew, Sir Ian Botham, Ian Bishop, Shane Warne and Tony Greig, unfortunately it's repetitive too. "That's gone many a mile" I heard three times in the space of ten minutes when I hit the ball for six, and I'm not quite sure it's as polished as it should be. I was glad I rented it and didn't pay some £30 for it though, that's for sure.

Then I needed to do a shed load of ironing, and as I got to the end of ironing a t-shirt, a shedload of dark dirt came out and you could tell on a white t-shirt that something was up. The iron lost power, so I thought "ah, the fuse has gone, let's check it" but even replacing that didn't do the trick either. Looked like the trusty iron I got some six years ago had finally gone to the wall - it was a pretty top notch Philips one that I'd got for not that much dosh either, and really felt professional as you ironed along. I'll miss it, but I now know I need to head out for one tomorrow as I still had some ironing to do. Meh and meh. In that order.

Tune of the day simply has to be a Slayer one, especially as I was going to see them tonight if schedules allowed. Of course with the iron going it was also a case of being frustrated at not being able to get done what I wanted to get done, if you know what I mean, and so the title track of the new album "World Painted Blood" is awesome. It's lengthy, but also pretty tuneful, even by Slayer standards, and really does give the whole album some feeling too. It's still angry though, but with some killer riffs from Kerry King especially, and that helps it rather well. As Beavis and Butthead would say: "yessssssss! RRRRRRRRROCK!" :)

Thursday 19th November - Feeling All Christmassy

I had a very busy day in the office and I was quite glad to leave - but I wasn't heading home. Oh no. I was heading first into the city centre to try and get a birthday present for my brother in law, as it was his birthday tomorrow. I had some ideas in my head but wanted to make sure I didn't get the same thing twice, so I rang my uncle just to check what he was getting, and once I knew that also gave me some very good ideas as to what to get, so I blitzed the stores that I needed, got a funny card and then it was time to head outwards slightly of the city centre, as I was meeting up with The Buttons On My Wii Remote for tea.

I met up with The Buttons who had got changed after work and looked very delightful, as she always does. We were meeting with a couple of her friends, and they're really nice people, so it meant that there'd be four of us eating out and indeed heading for drinkies later. We had already decided to head over to The Olive Press to take advantage of their meal and drink deal for £7.60, and in these economic times, any opportunity to save money and enjoy yourself simply has to be taken to be honest. The Buttons' friends were impressed with the place as they hadn't been in there before, and it was a comfortable atmosphere as we got chatting about all sorts.

The difficult decision was what was to be ordered, and I went for the char grilled chicken pizza with mushrooms and sweetcorn, and a good decision it turned out to be - it was delicious, and massive too. One of The Buttons' friends went for that too, and another pizza was also ordered, whilst The Buttons herself went for the carbonara that I'd had on Sunday - and she thoroughly approved. That all meant it was a really warm setting for us all as we happily scoffed tea, and then the only other difficult decision was of course to have dessert or not. I couldn't resist as the choice was excellent, and I went for a cheesecake with blackcurrant and a honeycomb biscuit, which turned out to be a good move. The panna cotta that was also eaten was good too by all accounts, and certainly that plus some very nice coffee made the meal even more great. It's so nice in there.

We then headed along Brazennose Street, where to our shock most of the Christmas market stalls were closed already. What? But Albert Square was thankfully much more thriving with plenty of people having a look around and doing their necessary to get lots of quirky gifts. One stall I quite liked was the one where they were selling coasters made from recycled vinyl records, and even had replica centre sections of the vinyl, so for example the Pink Floyd one had the iconic green Harvest label for Meddle, the design for The Dark Side of the Moon and so on, which really did make it smart. The Manchester collection was good too, notable for The Stone Roses, The Smiths etc.

We then walked to Piccadilly and into Kro, as we all like it in there and much more chat ensued. It's testament to how lovely we both seem to be as a couple that her friends have really taken to me too, and they can see how good we are for each other. In fact it's quite a contrast in personalities but in a good way, and when I stated how much I cannot stand Robbie Williams one of them gave me a high five to say "I'm so glad someone else agrees with me!" which made me smile. I was talking about our trip to London a few weeks back and reminisced about how they were playing Röyksopp in the first class lounge (which they love too) so "Eple" has to be tune of the day - not least as I've got it on my ringtone on my phone! A lovely end to a lovely evening and it certainly made me feel tons more Christmassy.

Wednesday 18th November - Console Me, Wireless Router

After work tonight I went home and had something to eat for tea before heading out to solve a problem for someone I know with their wireless router. Basically all the PCs and Macs in the house were talking to it, as were the games consoles, but for some reason the XBox wasn't talking to XBox Live in the right way and claiming that the NAT translation was too strict, so wouldn't allow them to play some of the online games properly, a major issue if you're planning to go deathmatch style with your friends of course.

My initial research was that the Netgear router that they had in question was in fact compatible as long as you had a reasonably recent firmware, and that you needed to open ports (namely 88 and 3074 via forwarding or triggering) to be able to use the XBox with it. Netgear themselves mention to ignore some Microsoft sources that claim you don't have to do it, because you do. When I arrived, the router was there and I could access it wirelessly and peek at the settings. Of course it was always better to configure it via wired, when I hit a problem - it wouldn't see the wired connection. However, that was an easy fix - for some reason the cable between the router and the PC was an old school modem cable, not Ethernet, so one cable change later and all sorted.

After that, it was then a case of accessing the router and making the change - or so I thought. Every time I went to do it, it failed, and even trying a firmware update claimed that the file didn't upload properly. Meh. I did notice Norton Internet Security was running but even with that turned off, it still didn't play ball - pesky Norton. I wondered if there was a laptop they could use so I could configure the router via that instead, and I soon had their Macbook Pro to connect up, and that of couse got to the router no problem.

I then entered the port triggering menu, entered the ports 88 and 3074 as TCP/UDP ports to be triggered, and saved the changes. Then it was a case of heading to the XBox itself, checking its network connectivitity status so that it'd update its configuration, and then it was to the game in question which did all its checks and said "NAT: Open". Hurrah! Just to be sure I got them to restart the XBox as well and all was well too, so it still played perfectly well. I felt rather pleased to be honest, and relieved that it was all doing what it should do. So, just to confirm: the Netgear WGR614 cable router will work with an XBox360 and Xbox live, just be sure to do what I did with it and all will be well. Good, eh?

I headed home later and had a fairly relaxing rest of the evening and not least trying out the brand new BBC iPlayer channel for the Wii. Wow! It's an excellent piece of work, much better than the old iPlayer via the BBC website for the Wii ever was. The channel doesn't take many blocks, and when it runs it goes to a simple menu to select the programmes you want to find, and then it plays - in full screen! So for example anything 16:9 shows up completely full screen and looks the part. Of course it's not like watching it in HD or anything, but it's perfectly passable and very well done indeed. Kudos to them for that to be honest, and certainly gives me an incentive to use the catch up stuff more and watch it in the comfort of the front room more often. Hurrah!

As for tune of the day, I was reminiscing about Frank Sidebottom and how good he still is, but also how much I also remembered his former guise as the lead person from punk pop band The Freshies. Their major hit was the brilliantly titled "I'm In Love With The Girl On A Certain Manchester Megastore Checkout Desk" which had to be renamed from its original title of "I'm In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk" because Richard Branson himself apparently complained. You'd think he'd have actually liked the publicity you know? One day I'll get Frank Sidebottom to sing it... one day!

Tuesday 17th November - Traversing Tuesday

It was the dust settling after yesterday's announcement at work, but we did manage to have some successes and also get on with a few things. One of the recent netbooks we had seemed to be not playing ball with connecting for some reason, and after some investigation by my colleague, we found what the state of play was in that it wasn't set for the correct way of authentication via LDAP. Once we worked out what that was, and whacked all the settings in, everything decided to kick in rather nicely and then play properly. The staff member concerned was a bit worried we had to spend time working on it, but we'd much rather sort it all out so that we could do as we wished. I always believe too in giving my colleagues praise for solving a problem too and that certainly bore fruit too, so felt positive as I headed home.

Meanwhile The Q In My Scrabble Rack had received her broadband router as she was switching provider to the same one I'm with (on my recommendation). She'd managed to get everything set up and the lights were all on, and entered the wireless key, and for some reason it wasn't getting a network connection or IP address. Hmm. I spoke to her on the phone and managed to get a few things ascertained, but still no joy. I then wondered if the key had been entered, so asked her to delete her router from the preferred list of wireless connections so it'd then be re-added. Then it came to her - one of the numbers on the wireless key was a 0 instead of an 8 (it had a diagonal line through the 0 to differentiate it from the letter O, sensible I guess) and once that was in, the wireless card in her PC got the network address and it was online. But apart from that, fair play to her - she'd set it all up by herself. You go girl!

And in fact later on, The Q came over to see us for the evening, always a nice thing to happen. I made us some pasta with meatballs for tea and that was a fairly big hearty meal, but well worth having, we caught up with the predictions on the Everybody Votes channel on the Wii, which proved that for some reason not everyone climbs trees or other strange and odd questions. One of them we've now predicted on was which way you would prefer to sit when on the train - forwards would be my guess as some people like my Mum hate going backwards, it's just the thing that they do.

After seeing Gok Wan do his thing on How To Look Good Naked (primarily because the woman in question was a transformation but still the same person and still gorgeous, and the fact that they went back 18 months later and she was carrying the look still said it all) it was then time for a bit of Scrabble action. With me feeling in a retro mood after I'd played Johnny Cash's "American III" which includes the wonderful duet with Bonnie Prince Billy on "I See A Darkness" (make that tune of the day whilst I'm thinking about it) it was perfect time for the second game to change the CD and whack on Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven on Earth". Yes, shocking I know, I own a Belinda Carlisle CD, but hey, my music taste is pretty varied you know!

In fact listening back to it, it was amazing how much I remembered the songs, and not just the singles either - her slightly weird cover of "I Feel Free", the rocktastic "Nobody Owns Me" and of course "Should I Let You In" too, under-rated to be honest. And yes it does have the likes of "Circle In The Sand" and "I Get Weak" too, the latter being pure power ballad central. It even helped me in Scrabble to concentrate as I ended up playing TRAVERSE (the T was already on the board) and using all seven of my letters, the E was a blank, and so it meant a double word and then bingo meaning a massive 72 points in one move. Neat eh? Well I think so, and it was nice to snuggle up to and just chatter afterwards, the things you do when you're in love.

Monday 16th November - Bad News Monday

You just knew that it was going to one of those days today, especially when you get in and things start not working! I got the PC all up and running, got a couple of student problems sorted, and then The Steak In My Pie informed me via text that this Friday's Slayer gig had been cancelled due to Tom Araya still being poorly with back problems. It has been rescheduled for March next year though so at least I'm able to go then and rock out. To this end, tune of the day is "Angel of Death" by them, which I really did find the need to play after what happened later in the day.

We received an email with the subject IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT marked in the subject line. That to me alerted me to either it was a spam email and to delete it, but I noted that the sender was one of the top dogs in Human Resources. I took a deep breath and read it, and it did not make very pleasant reading whatsoever. In short, there's going to be around 130 jobs cut from my workplace, and most of them in support positions. Although it does look like the job I'm in may be well be safe for now, there's no way of determining whether these are all the cuts planned or the first wave of many. In any case, it wasn't exactly good news.

I for one do think that it wasn't unexpected, I'd been getting vibes from several people at the back end of last week in that there was an announcement due and it wasn't going to be pretty. However, if the whole point of having a recent round of open meetings was to explain the whole financial situation and all that, would it have been better to kill two birds with one stone and make the announcement then? I know it wouldn't have been good news, but at least we would have been informed en masse and face to face, and so then it could well have been the case that consultations could begin. As it turns out, there's plenty going on which will mean it could be a long and ugly winter ahead. I can well see strikes being planned for example, and if not that then definitely it could well be a war of words, hearts and minds. Sadly, there's plenty of people who will also be losing out and not just those whose jobs could be well on the line right now, and that does rather upset me.

As it turned out too, The Steak In My Pie had an issue with her broadband router being delivered in that the delivery person for the courier company basically told plenty of fibs claiming the item had been delivered when it clearly hadn't. For example, the item wasn't signed for, and indeed no delivery card had been put through her door to say it had been left anywhere or of course come and collect it from the depot if needed. She and I suspected something no good there, but fair play to her broadband provider, who when she rang them were apologetic, were instigating an investigation into the delivery driver's malpractice and also shipped out another one to be delivered to her Mum's place to be sure it got there safely. Isn't it nice when people understand what customer service means? That was a silver lining in an otherwise horribly cloudy day.

Sunday 15th November - Up Up And Away

Myself and The Steak In My Pie decided that after a hard week we both needed a deserved little lie in, and so that's what we did. We had surfaced and were thinking about what to do for the rest of the day when one of my friends rang. She had signed up with her broadband provider (the same as mine) and for some reason the wireless wasn't playing ball like it should. I went through some steps on the phone with her but it did seem like something was needed on the router side to be sorted out. The Steak said to me "if we need to go, that's no problem" which was lovely of her, so I offered to my friend that we head over, have a cuppa and get everything up and running.

We headed to my friend's place in Timperley (and you think it was made up cos of Frank Sidebottom? Nope, it's real alright!) and I had a look at the laptop and the router. As far as I could see, there were three possible issues: one was that the router was using a wireless channel similar to what other routers near her house were, and maybe interfering with the signal somewhat, so changed that. Also, the security was only WEP, and although that normally works, might be worth changing that to WPA instead but keeping the same provided key to make trouble shooting easier for her. I did also discover that in the older firmware for the router, WDS is on by default, and to be honest, you don't want that on - so I switched that off.

Once that was done and I had tested the laptop wired, it was then time to go wireless, I re-added the network name and the new WPA password (making sure it was case sensitive of course) then everything played ball, the signal strength was spot on, and wireless was happily talking to everything (hurrah!). As my friend's Mum explained, they might be getting a power cable extender so that the router doesn't have to be where it is and can be on a shelf safely, so whilst I was there I did a good test - powered off the laptop, then the router, then unplugged the power from the router, powered that up and then the laptop, and everything still worked wonderfully well. Hurrah again! My friend was dead pleased and her Mum and Dad chatted with me and The Steak for a while too, and felt rather pleased I was able to help out, and now have my friend's home email address too. All sorted.

We then decided to head into the city centre as I wanted to see Up at the cinema, and we could get some lunch too, and instead of dropping The Steak's car at mine, we could head straight there and park up. Of course, this proved difficult. A lot of the car parks charge shed loads to park up and the cheaper ones didn't have space. We were going to park in the car park next to the cinema, but it wasn't clear what the prices were. We found out later that we could have the car park ticket validated so we would only be charged £2 for parking - would be nice if that was more publicised as we were going there anyway. Still, what it proved to The Steak and me is exactly why she takes the bus into town with me and doesn't bother with the car - it's too much stress and hassle finding a space.

We did eventually find one close to Spinningfields that was a mere £2 all day Sunday though, and we got in just as someone was leaving their space so we grabbed that - hurrah again! We then walked through Spinningfields to see the ice rink installed for Christmas and plenty of people having a go, and walked past the square with some of the little funfair rides and stalls on before deciding to head for lunch at The Olive Press. I'd only been in there once before and The Steak never had been, but the food was nice when I was in there and so I suggested it. It turned out to be a good move all round. They did a deal which was a main course of pasta, pizza or salad and a drink (wine, beer or soft drink) for £7.60, couldn't argue with that. I had the spaghetti carbonara whilst The Steak had the tagliatelle bolognese, and both were lovely, and the place felt intimate. It's a shame though that there's no disabled access (or so it seemed) which might put some people off. I might have to email them about that.

After that it was off to the cinema to see Up, and that was brilliant. I love Disney/Pixar films anyway, and this was right up there with the best of them. I'm not going to give too much away but there's a real sense of adventure and belonging in the film, and the opening sequences which shape the main character really do give you an insight into why he is where he was today, and it's also quite tinged with sadness too (I was in full "awwww" mode at that point). The plot unravels well and there's lots of hilarious moments as well as those which leave you aghast with the sheer skill of the animation techniques throughout. It's bright, colourful and really fast moving without losing the plot and is well worth going to see. As it worked out, the actor who plays the main character was actually 80 today, so happy birthday Edward Asner!

I really enjoyed the film and it made the afternoon go by perfectly. We headed to mine after that and had something to eat for tea and had a nice game or two of Scrabble with the likes of Swing Out Sister playing in the background, and their Beautiful Mess album is still lovely. I really love "Butterfly" from the album, so tune of the day it definitely is. I even played a seven letter word in the second game, RENTALS, and also made TOOLS at the same time for nice triple word on the seven letter word meaning a massive 79 point move, good eh? And that made the perfect end to a rather lovely day. I love her tons you know.

Saturday 14th November - Through The Wind And The Rain

I had made some time today to head over to my friend's place, as his PC wasn't behaving itself at all well and he seemed to think that a rather nasty virus had got in and done some form of damage to the PC's services and the way that it operates, meaning for example that the start menu was missing, no network connectivity possible and all that sort of thing. It did sound to me as if there was something badly up, and I'd agreed to head down there and get it all sorted.

As it turned out, getting there was the hard part. Wind and rain was lashing it down once I left my place, and waiting at a bus stop under the shelter at least gave me some respite, but you could see how windy it was and also how much rain was pelting it down. I did have my Guitar Hero guitar bits with me but they were in a bag thankfully, so the rain was being kept off those pieces, as we were going to try and do some rocking later on, as you do. It was fairly hairy stuff though and as the bus left near mine to head on the first leg of the journey to my friend's place, it was on a go slow for safety reasons - and so it proved on the second half of the journey too. However I'd much rather get there and at least be safe instead of sorry, no point in being blown away eh?

Once at my friend's, I took a look at the PC in question and it looked pretty nasty from where I was standing. There was no start menu whatsoever (I did manage to get some of it back) and getting to the command prompt required exploring to where it's stored and running it, similar story for regedit as well. I managed to take a peek at the Windows services and to my horror found out lots of them refused to start - and this was because the RPC service wasn't running. Try running it and you weren't allowed to do so. Log in as the local administrator too, try to run that and it wasn't having it. So, whatever virus has hit the machine knocked out the RPC service, made it so that you couldn't restart it or assign yourself to look after it, and so various services failed. Even doing an sfc /scannow on the thing to restore some of the Windows system files didn't work either.

In the end, I did a repair installation of XP so I could get to the files that my friend desparately needed, and backed them up along with his user profile. However, I wasn't certain that the PC had a virus still in there, so to be absolutely sure I suggested a reformat of the hard disk and reinstallation of Windows, so we could put everything back on and do it all that way. I did find out too that even though he'd got Kaspersky Internet Security installed (apparently as part of the deal with his online banking he gets a 3-machine licence for it - handy!) when he does online gaming he turns it all off so not to slow the game down. Aaaaaaargh! First rule of using a PC: don't disable your antivirus software. Second rule: definitely don't disable your antivirus software. This made sense why a virus would have got in, as normally Kaspersky, to be fair, is pretty good at detecting stuff like that.

Anyway, I did a Windows reinstall, installed Firefox, Thunderbird, restored the profile folders from the user profile I'd backed up so all the bookmarks and email was intract, added all the web browser plugins, configured the home network, added as much as I could in the time I could, but got it up and running. As some of the tasks (backing up data and then transferring it back) were taking time, I left an xcopy job running and so was able to at least rock out, by which time The Steak In My Pie had arrived and so was able to join us for a bit and have a good natter as well as have a takeaway at my friend's place - very nice chicken korma it was too.

My friend had got The Beatles Rock Band so we had a blast of that - and the Guitar Hero guitar for the Wii does work on the game too, so handy to know if you're considering it anyway. I'm not a Beatles fan so my friend did all the singing whilst I played along on the guitar and got myself rocking very nicely indeed, even trying some of the more difficult songs such as "Helter Skelter", "I Am The Walrus" and so on. To be fair, it did seem pretty playable even if the "lefty flip" option was well hidden away until you started to get the band together and play - why couldn't it be in options so Paul McCartneys like myself can get on with it? (admittedly I am normally right handed, but find playing lefty flip in these sort of games better for me to control) Still, it worked well so good fun there.

We whacked on Guitar Hero 5 afterwards and I think my friend was a little perplexed at some of the song choices in that some of them were more rock than anything else and he wasn't sure of them. Mind you, plenty we could have a go at though, including Blur's "Song 2", Duran Duran's "Hungry Like The Wolf", the excellent "So Lonely" by The Police and best of all (and tune of the day) Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure", a classic case of the co-op duet if ever there was one. Little did we realise that as I was sorting out the PC in their office room, my friends and The Steak would be sat there aghast with X Factor on with John and Edward doing a version of that interspersed with Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby", oh the irony!

Still, I managed to get all the PC sorted in the end as much as I could and everything was back up and running too, which meant at least he could use it and do all he needed to do. We did a bit more rocking with Guitar Hero Greatest Hits, and that meant the likes of "Killer Queen" by Queen, "Message in a Bottle" by The Police and so forth. Of course Sting had his say on X Factor earlier in the week, and to be honest, I wholeheartedly agree with everything he said about the programme. It turned out, The Steak told me later, that Simon Cowell invited Sting to offer his advice to the contestants if he thinks he's so good. I remarked to everyone on hearing that "Maybe he's sending out an S.O.S!" - those who know The Police's work will appreciate the irony behind that one. My friends might like X Factor but not moi!

Friday 13th November - Not So Unlucky After All

It was a bit of an up and down day. The down bits mainly occurred at work where it was pretty busy most of the day and also things started to go wrong in the morning and that was something to behold. I think we've worked out what went wrong and were able to try and sort them out nicely, but it took time and that's a commodity we don't have much of at the moment to be honest, so that was frustrating. I did manage to have a look in the afternoon though at some potential issues with regards to the email and how that'll all work, and so we were really able to devote some time to that.

I headed home and did my food shopping at Tesco and the up part of the day arrived in earnest. The Topping Of My Cheesecake arrived and I made us both some really nice chicken and mushroom tortelloni with sauce and some garlic ciabatta for tea, and she'd got us these lovely little cheesecakes from Marks and Spencer with some clotted cream on - yum yum. We pottered around for a bit and relaxed before my friend from Huddersfield, her partner and her friend (whom I also know too) arrived, and it was time for us to head out to Manchester Academy.

I directed them to the car park nearby, which was surprisingly empty. I think this was because there was no gig on at Academy 1, and so 2 and 3 were only in use. We were seeing Seth Lakeman in Academy 2 and that's where we were headed - we walked down Oxford Road, got into the building and headed upstairs to the bar to have a look at the merchandise and stuff. The support act was already half way through and I felt a bit rude seeing them half way in, so the five of us had a drink and a chatter there and caught up nicely, and it was good to enjoy ourselves a bit that way.

Then it was inside, and I had warned everyone that it gets pretty hot in Academy 2 and did last time we saw Seth Lakeman there. Indeed the same was true here and although it wasn't sold out, people piled towards the front and it was pretty packed. We did find a good spot close to the side so we could all see and be able to dance around and enjoy the gig, and we were just hoping it was as good as when we last saw him in here, and indeed my two female friends had seen him in Chesterfield a few weeks back where he played lots of new stuff.

So on came Seth Lakeman (official site) (myspace) and he was as excellent as he usually is. What was nice was that he and the band played a mix of the old classics and plenty of new stuff (and I mean plenty). A couple of the new songs were ones that The Topping and I had heard in Warrington a few months back, and certainly the likes of "Changes" and "See Them Dance" went down very well indeed. Best of all though was a new one which reminded me and my friend heavily of the Levellers: "Hearts and Minds" - and Seth really was up to it vocal wise to sound a bit more angry than usual - so tune of the day for sure.

We also got the classics too, so a brilliant rendition of "How Much", as well as a real bound along to "Blood Upon Copper" and of course at the encore "Race To Be King". Naturally though "Kitty Jay" stole the show and you could see that the strings on his bow were just broken off because of the intense playing, yet he carried on as if nothing had happened. It was superb stuff and really showed just how good he was. I also very much enjoyed "Solomon Browne" and the opener of "The Hurlers" as well, both of which remind of me of Cornwall and that makes me feel quite nice inside.

Back at mine later over coffee we all divulged the gig, and what we all agreed was that the sound man did their job perfectly well, which was good. It was crystal clear and you could hear everything perfectly, all the nuances weren't lost and just added to the atmosphere, and on the whole, no one talking through it either! Hurrah to that I say. I think too that everyone appreciated the quality of the gig and certainly for us all it was great to see the man Seth again doing what he does best, playing with a smile and giving us a smile too. It was a great night with great company all round and it was so lovely to see my friends. Yaay!

Thursday 12th November - Guess Who's Been On Match of the Day?

It was a pretty tough day at work and to be honest, I was glad when it was time to go home and have a few minutes at home to relax a bit. It felt like everything in terms of bureaucracy is getting in my way of me doing my job and that frustrates me, even more when there's a case of new procedures come in, you're not informed about them and then you are almost chastised for doing it wrong. There's something very wrong in the state of work at the moment and I'm not happy about it. It's not the people I work with: they're lovely people and are prepared to really muck in and do stuff - it's just all the other stuff that comes with it.

In fact I felt pretty down and so it was lovely as anything when I received a little e-card from The Topping Of My Cheesecake later on to say how much that she was missing me and stuff like that. It also made me realise that yes things at work aren't great, but you know what? I'm also lucky to have such a wonderful woman too and she had earlier said to me that I should go out tonight (even if I didn't have a stitch to wear ;) and see Frank Sidebottom at a pub close to work. I thought "you know, she's right, I should go, and smile and cheer up a bit!" and so off I went at around 7.30 to the centre of Manchester and was ready to see what would happen.

I got myself a nice pint and settled in a good chair that had a view of the stage and also meant that I could be cosy as well, which was good. A bloke and his dad came to sit at the same table and they were joined by the bloke's female friend, and all three were fans of Frank and very nice to talk to as well, so that certainly made the time pass by nicely before all the action was to happen. I did wonder if we were going to get a shortened set or not as it was approaching 9pm and I wanted to make sure I saw as much as possible before having to head home a bit later on.

Just after 9, on came Frank Sidebottom (official site) (myspace) and all was well with the world, not least as it was also a free gig and all that. Plenty of people in the audience were diehard fans like me, not least because they knew plenty of the words. He started off with the all time classic "Guess Who's Been on Match of the Day?" to which of course everyone joined in, as you do. When he asked "and guess who does the shopping for his mum?" I was one of the few to reply "You do, with your fantastic shopping trolley!" which he acknowledged nicely. Hurrah - best make that one tune of the day then.

First half of the show was a mix of the stuff from his new Greatest Hits album, "E F G and H", so lots of moments on there which included "I Said Hey You Riot Policeman", inspired by the 1981 Manchester riots, "Airplay", "Monopoly Song" (how he has hotels on all the big properties and Little Frank doesn't have a light blue one), "Firm Favourite Ads", which also had everyone singing the Do It All advert theme, even the "na na na na na na na" bit in the middle, which made us all giggle. Lots of requests were answered too, so you even had the likes of "Christmas Is Really Fantastic" too.

A raffle took place during the interval so you entered to see if you could win Little Frank's cardboard body, or a puzzle with Amoeba Frank on there, and plenty of merchandise including the new album, a t-shirt and even some badges with the likes of Little Frank, Little Denise etc, so that sounded good fun all round. I didn't win Little Frank but he played his part in the second half anyway. More of the same in the second half including a Beatles medley, a mix of "Timperley Sunset" and "Hey You Street Artist" in one song (I know, genius!"), "The Robins Aren't Bobbins", part of "Manchester City Medley" which then went into a reprise of "Guess Who's Been On Match of the Day?" It was ace, and fab.

In fact I had to leave just after "Frank Gordon" because time was getting on and I was worried I wouldn't get home on the bus - it was gone after 11.30pm when I left. I headed on a bus into the city centre and thankfully got the last bus homeward, so that made it all an excellent night. I kept thinking about the songs he'd played and wished that I could have possibly heard him do his rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" but no matter, all was well with the world and it sounded good. It was fantastic, you know it was, it really was. Thank you.

Wednesday 11th November - Lest We Forget

Well, it was Rememberance Day today and I was a bit conscious that I wanted to mark the occasion in the right way with the two minutes' silence. Disgracefully a lot of workplaces don't seem to think that some people might actually want to take part in that, even though it's an occasion some of us would like to. As it turned out, the office I was in whilst I was battling with a scanner installation were all going to be silent at that time, so I simply downed tools with the rest of them and then took part, which was good. I just wish that more people would realise what time it was and allow time to stand still to remember those who fought for our freedom and those who in many ways are still doing exactly the same.

The afternoon went by rather well, even though I had to look at another laptop. I had to remind some staff of their obligations to keep their mailbox sizes down, and to be fair, some of them have really knuckled down considerably and been positive about the whole experience - a chance to clean up what they don't need anymore. It's going to be a case of a needs must basis, and I sincerely hope people see that I'm not being mean or horrible by having to ask, but it's a case of that I need to be seen as being fair to everyone, only right after all as you'd expect.

I got home and decided that it would be a good idea to finish off the four rounds of the Bay Hill tournament on Tiger Woods 09 for the Wii. I managed an excellent third round which got me into contention in a good way, and then in the fourth round held it together nicely for joint second place, just one shot off the winning total (and a birdie at the last certainly did me no harm there that's for sure!) which does at least mean that my earnings for the year in the game are coming along nicely, as is the fact that the professional career is working nicely for me, I'm getting the hang of it well now.

Tune of the day is "Heroes" as covered by Philip Glass in the Heroes Symphony album. It just seems right today that there's so many heroes out there who battled for us all, and they rightly should be remembered - those that lived and died for the cause of freedom. Also, the tune itself is rather stirring and reminds me certainly of those moments in films when the good people win their battle and give hope to the rest of the world, it's that sort of feeling. And the people who run Eurostar must have thought so, it was used on their advert too a few years back.

Tuesday 10th November - High Capacity Ham

After a fairly long day at work it was good to be able to get out and get homeward, not least as The Sugar On My Creme Brulee was coming over later, and we were going to head out for something to eat. We were going to meet one of my friends tonight, but she let me know that she wasn't too well and so couldn't make it, so we had an alternative plan - to head out for a nice evening pub tea together and to just relax and have a pleasant evening together. Isn't it always good to have a Plan B in operation just in case? Well, I think so anyway. So it was first off to the local Asda on the way home from work to get some items in for tea later in the week, namely some pasta and a garlic ciabatta too.

I then thought "I wonder if they have any SDHC cards I can use on the Wii?" and sure enough when I checked out the section where they have the CDs, games and other stuff, they had a 4GB SDHC card, a class 4 and a good make at that, for a very reasonable price indeed. After checking what price it was before buying it, I thought "well that's worthwhile" and went with that to the till and all my other bits of shopping. Although I did consider an 8GB one, I thought that I always had the 2GB one as well and I can always chop/change cards if required to - not a major issue in my eyes.

Once I got home it was then a case of seeing if I could simply copy the data from the old card to the new one. My internal camera card reader and floppy drive combo has a slot for SD cards which reads SD up to 2GB, so perfect for that, and I inserted my little USB SDHC card reader with the new SDHC card into that, and then simply did a copy from one card to the other. That went well, no errors, so I thought "okay, now let's see if it all works" and placed the new card in the Wii and fired up Guitar Hero 5. All the content was there that I'd downloaded, and as I had plenty of Wii points left, I used some to re-licence some of the songs from Guitar Hero World Tour into 5, which worked excellently. I was then able to have some 150-odd songs at disposal in the game!!

I also then tested the games that were stored on the SDHC card as well to see if they played ball, mainly Wiiware stuff, so the crazy golf game I have along with the Virtual Console stuff and of course TV Show King all worked, so that was a good thing. At least I knew that if I wanted a higher capacity card I could do the copy the same way, and if I did, I had a spare 4GB SDHC card for my digital camera - so there's some form of method in my madness to be quite honest. I was pretty pleased though because it meant that I had all my Guitar Hero stuff on one card and so can play lots of songs if I need to - which is the whole point.

In fact I left the Wii downloading all the World Tour re-licenced content whilst myself and The Sugar headed outwards to The Sheldon Arms near Ashton-under-Lyne. She had been in a few months back for lunch and said the food was good, and so it proved. It had proper real cask ale, always a good thing in my eyes, and in the evenings you got two courses for £8.95. Considering the carvery was £7.95 alone, that proved to be good value so we both had the breaded mushrooms to start (all very nice indeed) followed by the carvery. You basically handed a ticket over to the chef which showed that you'd paid for the carvery and then you could choose from beef, turkey or some honey ham. I went for the ham as that looked lovely whilst The Sugar went for the turkey, which also looked very good too. The ham proved to be absolutely delicious, you could taste the honey as it melted in the mouth but it wasn't over sweet, and the vegetables, Yorkshire pudding etc with it made it a pretty hearty meal all round. The Sugar enjoyed hers too.

Add to that of course was the fact that I could have a leisurely pint of some proper real ale, none of this press a button rubbish. As the pub's a JW Lees owned one, this meant it had their selection of ales, which were of course fab. I was tempted by the Cock and Bull but opted instead for the Coronation Street beer which has proved to be very popular in the likes of Ra!n Bar for example, and so it proved here. It was spot on and tasted all rather delicious and a perfect accompaniment to the carvery. In fact at lunchtimes they do a cask and carvery deal where you get the carvery lunch and the cask ale for a mere £6.95, total bargain that if you ask me!

We headed to mine later on and we settled in for the evening with a couple of games of Scrabble - and I know The Sugar's getting better with every game. She pulled off a very impressive HOAX on double word, and followed that up with BLOODY on double word on the next move too, and that certainly got my attention that she was really upping her game nicely. I had the Samson and Delilah album on in the background and from that album the excellent "Place To Be" is tune of the day, it's so lovely and gentle and certainly passed the time well too.

Monday 9th November - Bit Nippy Out!

Well, as you can see from the weather outside, brrrrr, it's a bit nippy out! (or so said the character on The Mary Whitehouse Experience that used to do the gardening feature along with Ivan, the overemotional daytime telly presenter who would claim everything's gone "a bit tricky".) It had got rather cold today and even heading home from work it was virtually through the evening mist. In fact I can normally see a couple of city centre landmarks from the bus stop I wait at, but not today, they were shrouded in a freezing mist and fog that had enveloped the whole of Manchester city centre, a bit scary that.

At least with the postal strike over, I was able to finally receive some packages that I'd been waiting for, and two of them arrived in the post today which was nice to see. It's always good when things start to get back to normal and I'm sure that there's still a backlog of mail to be caught up on, so hopefully it'll be all sorted out soon so that I get what I'm after. I guess trying to do some of the shopping a bit early has caught me out on the hop a little bit, but at least I have time for it all to arrive now and hopefully that'll be something which I can make use of for some nice presents!

I spent a bit of time tonight checking out the price of SDHC cards too. I currently have a 2GB SD card in the Wii, and although that's enough to store a bit of content, all the extra content for Guitar Hero 5 (ie: the stuff you can import from Guitar Hero Greatest Hits and World Tour) would easily fill that and leave me with no room, and seeing as the Wii can take SDHC cards now, a nice 8GB one would do the job so I could at least then be able to play stuff nicely. The 4GB one in my digital camera's actually SDHC Class 6 (the fastest there is) and I'm sure that for enhanced play of the content, a class 4 at mininum would be ideal too. Then I can transfer all the stuff from one card to the other, and wahey - all sorted! Well, that's the plan anyway.

Tune of the day is the rather neat "Butterflies and Hurricanes" from Muse. It seems to have been used in quite a few programmes as of late, not least when ITV were showing the FA Cup coverage yesterday, and the BBC tend to use it quite a bit now in their Sports Personality of the Year show too. It makes me wonder just why it's not on any Guitar Hero game as yet!

Sunday 8th November - Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead

Myself and The Milk In My Coffee were doing stuff with her family today, which meant we'd both spent time with our respective families over the weekend. That made a lot of sense too because today was the Christmas Fair for a charity that The Milk's family regards highly, and they usually go along and support it. I didn't mind whatsoever, it'd certainly get me in the mood for next month's festivities and part of being in a relationship is spending time with families and getting to understand the things that are important to them, so it was off in The Milk's car and out of the city centre.

However, when we approached the A6 coming up to Salford Crescent, the road was closed off. As we found out later on the cenotaph for Rememberance Sunday is actually close to the main road in the middle of the University campus, and as such the service needed the road closed off, so we had to head around it and via the M602 to the M60 and then M61 instead of along the A580 to the M61, but we soon made up time heading past Bolton and along to the turnoff for Chorley and where we were heading.

The Christmas Fair was all very nice, lots of tombola stalls and things to buy for everyone, you could even have tea and coffee and a cake as well, which was good, and even some people singing carols for Christmas, all dressed in red, which did seem nice and festive. It certainly made you also realise that the tireless work that plenty of people do for charities gets really unnoticed, and I for one fully credit anyone who's passionate enough to put all the time and effort in. The Milk did get her calendar for next year and some lovely Christmas cards as well though, so that was good, and some of her nieces were buying stuff to fill their bags with.

After that it was off to one of the local pubs for a nice pub lunch, which went down very well. One of The Milk's nieces decided to have the full Sunday roast, and bless, she managed it as well! The Milk went for the chicken and me the roast beef, and I think I got the better of the two options, not least as the roast beef tasted delicious and you got two nice big pieces of it too, carved up all nicely - the chicken was half of one and difficult to get the meat off to be honest. But everyone enjoyed themselves and it was nice to chat to some of The Milk's family about all sorts, which was good.

We left afterwards and headed back to The Milk's place, and The Wizard of Oz was on the telly. We couldn't resist watching the rest of it - it's a classic film after all and a firm favourite of one of my friends. The Wicked Witch of the West is still pretty frightening even now and the way that the characters act it out in the absence of any CGI footage is admirable. It's old, it looks a bit primitive but it really does work magnificently well, not least when everyone celebrates the witch being dead at the end, which is a good touch and uplifts everyone. You can't help but adore it really.

We headed back to mine later on and had tea and relaxed for a while, and it was intriguing to note just how much time that we'd spent together as of late. I do feel that it's all for the right reasons too, and even though I hadn't been rocking for the last few days, once we'd said our goodbyes with some hugs, I had to have a quick blast and so put on Guitar Hero 5. Now I'd imported all the songs possible from Guitar Hero Greatest Hits that I could, so I played a couple and rocked, not least on Extreme's "Play With Me" which is pretty hard on guitar but good fun nonetheless, so tune of the day there.

Saturday 7th November - Drawing Birthday Conclusions

It was a real day and a half today as first off myself and my friend were off to the City of Manchester Stadium to see Manchester City take on Burnley. After four draws in the league on the trot and admittedly not playing very well, City really needed to up their game big time. And of course sod's law was that as soon as it drew close to kick off, in came the rain, in absolute buckets! Thankfully we were parked pretty close to the ground anyway so at least it meant that we were able to get across without getting too wet (and my friend had the common sense to at least take some waterproofs with him as well!)

We got to our usual spot in the East Stand well before kick off, and as the ground filled up, I noticed how full it was. Burnley had brought their full quota of away fans with them and they were making themselves heard, and certainly that attributed to the atmosphere. And they were the ones celebating early on as they soon went 2-0 up with two controversial decisions, although that's not their fault whatsoever. First a cross came in and Joleon Lescott went to protect his face from the ball, but instead of turning away, handled it. It looked outside the area but the referee pointed to the spot despite the linesman flagging it as a corner, and Graham Alexander scored their penalty. Then City's defence went AWOL and a simple slide pass was turned in to make it 2-0, but it looked miles offside for the final pass.

City struggled to get back into it and to be honest it made me wonder just what words would have to be said at half time. Shaun Wright-Phillips did what I was shouting at the team to do and have a shot outside the box, and although deflected did at least go in the far bottom corner of the net to make it 2-1 at half time. And as the second half progressed we had five minutes of domination which did result in goals. First, a free kick was floated in and up popped Lescott to pass across the box to Kolo Toure to equalise. Then after good work from Wright-Phillips, Craig Bellamy whacked it low and hard to make it 3-2.

Tactically we went for the fourth and Carlos Tevez made way for Martin Petrov. However, then Mark Hughes decides to put him on the right and Wright-Phillips on the left for some bizarre reason, and being out of position didn't help matters, not least when Burnley got a deflection off Wayne Bridge and it was kamikaze defending all over the place before they equalised to make it 3-3, and that's how it stayed. Many City fans were very angry including me, thinking of bad tactics, playing players in the wrong position and having a defence which isn't up to the job. I've said it before and I'll say it again - selling Richard Dunne was a bad mistake. Lescott looks useless and before he came Dunne and Toure kept three clean sheets on the bounce. Enough said.

Thankfully happier times were around the corner later on as myself and The Milk In My Coffee headed over to my Mum's along with most of the family. It was my nephew's fifth birthday today and food had been laid on as well as plenty of tea, coffee and soft drinks if required. It was great to see everyone, and my nephew was dressed up as an alien from Ben 10 (he's a bit of a fan as it turns out) so he was full of beans and energy, as was my niece as well - she definitely was a happy bunny too. They were both running around hiding, using lots of toys and generally being quite active.

We had some hotpot for tea as well and that was nice to have something warming down me, and plenty of food laid on by Mum. I'd also taken her some prints of the pictures I took on Wednesday as I thought it'd be nice for her to keep some printed memories of the day we'd had, and she loved them. I know that she appreciated them - and with The Milk's camera I got some nice shots of the evening with the nephew and niece featuring heavily in them, as you'd well expect! They had plenty of fun not least when the telly had X Factor (meh!) on and they bounced around to Ghostbusters, as you do. Better make the Ray Parker Jr original tune of the day as it reminds me of those 118 118 adverts with him in - "I ain't afraid of no goats!!" hehe.

Friday 6th November - Damp Squibs

Well I was going to possibly head out to a bonfire tonight, as my uncle mentioned that he might be having one up at the allotments he's got a plot at. However, I knew that a friend of mine was supposed to be coming over later, so I had to politely decline. It is nice to be asked of course and I always appreciate that a lot - goes to show just how considerate everyone is really. I did though wonder just how much fun a bonfire was going to be as I headed home from work. The rain was positively lashing it down and it being sod's law and all, I needed to head to do some food shopping on the way home as well as sort out a couple of things.

After visiting Tesco, and finding that all of their small trollies had the anti-theft device on so that you couldn't wheel them around, I used a small wheelie basket instead and got what I needed (just) and then headed down the road to the newly opened Iceland. Strangely, when I first moved in around here, Iceland was open and then after Kwik Save had closed, Iceland went too and became a Cooltrader. Now, having realised just how well the local Tesco is doing, Iceland realised their gaffe and reopened. And to be fair, it's rather nice and new and shiny, and indeed plenty of stuff for the freezer at not that expensive a price, something I like. I even picked up some pasta sauce on offer too.

I headed home and it had just stopped raining, but definitely too wet for any bonfire. As it turned out my friend couldn't make it so I spent the evening doing plenty of cleaning and catching up on telly, and also making sure that all the washing that I needed to do was done too, and then it allowed me to settle in for the evening with a bit of Tiger Woods 09 for the Wii. I have now qualified for the PGA Tour as my golfer, and so it means that I've got to up the game slightly, but it does mean that I play the courses at their proper length too, always a bit more of a challenge. I did well on the tournament on the first round of two at Doral, scoring a pretty impressive under par score - it's the short game where I am improving the most it has to be said. Tune of the day has to therefore be the excellent "How To Start A Band" by Fort Knox Five, one of the fab songs from the soundtrack that just plays along in the menus nicely.

I was going to watch Jonathan Ross later on but when I found out Robbie Williams was going to be on I instead thought "that'll be bobbins" and watched the Formula 1 Retro programme on ESPN Classic, which showed the 1974 F1 season with clips from various races over the years with some good archive footage. Stuff like the BBC's coverage didn't exist from back then (they did cover the British Grand Prix to some extent of course) and so any archive footage from the old circuits is always welcome, not least the old Interlagos and Kyalami, and circuits that aren't there anymore such as Nivelles, and ones that have been sanitised, such as the fearsome Österrichring. Ah, the halcyon days of F1 eh?

Thursday 5th November - Adobe Bonfire

Back to work with a bump (of sorts) today as I really felt a little tired from yesterday's excellent excursion. I didn't want to get up this morning and I suppose that's because we'd all had such a wonderful time, but there you go. I did at least have The Stage In My Theatre dropping me off to work in the morning (as she was on a late shift) and so with a coffee in hand it set me up nicely for a seminar that I was attending today, hosted by our educational software suppliers and featuring some nice people from Adobe showing all of what's great and good about Creative Suite 4 with the likes of Photoshop being well covered.

The software suppliers had sensibly travelled up from their base in Aberystwyth the day before and coffee and snacks were laid out for us as everyone chatted and got to know about what the schedule was, and indeed how things were going. It was good to see a turnout that showed enthusiasm and also wanting to know about the products on offer, so all was well there. We headed down to the lecture theatre for the first part of the seminar, and the person from Adobe was very knowledgeable as he gave a pretty much whistle stop tour of the new features, especially in Photoshop, where the look and feel has been improved as well as simpler tasks for doing stuff like adjustment layers and what have you. We also got to see InDesign, Illustrator as well as the likes of Flash, Dreamweaver et al which gave you an idea of the power of the product in action.

The projector was playing up slightly so I assisted the presenter with fixing it and then headed for half time coffee and had a chance to chat at length with our representative from the software suppliers - she was very nice to chat to and it was good to put a face to a name as well. When often you hear people talk about "networking" in inverted commas, it's what they mean of course. But I think too that to be able to chatter about normal stuff is nice too, and she did tell me she'd had to give up playing for her local football team because of an injury, a shame that.

The second half of the seminar went well - mostly about Acrobat Professional and all the new features it has. It certainly does work very well for what it does as well, and the presenter was once again excellent and knew his stuff well. I think that when you're able to take the time out to make the effort, we make the effort to be there and enjoy the content on offer. I got a lot out of it and my colleague who went certainly did too, which pleased us all. I pondered over things at lunch and had chance to check out a few things before heading on to a couple of fixing jobs.

I had a brainwave and so on the way home headed into the city centre to sort a few things out - incuding a nice surprise that I've got planned for the weekend. I was admittedly missing The Stage In My Theatre though, and so texted her to see if she fancied a coffee after she finished work. I had some time to kill, so checked out Fopp and the CDs in there before heading to meet her, and then off to Costa where a creme brulee latte was mine (oh yes, get in!) and we chatted over coffee and caught up a bit, which was all rather lovely. I walked her to her bus stop home so she could get an early night's rest, and I headed home myself, relaxed, checked out the pics from yesterday and the copious amounts of post that had arrived - and of course no strikes tomorrow. Hurrah for that!

I spent some time listening to Ben's Brother's first album tonight which was all very well and lovely too - and not least the excellent "Live" which has you singing along when you see the band live. Tune of the day that one - and no least because it's how I feel at the moment, I am living in a different way these days and that's all because of my different outlook on how life is, especially when you have someone lovely but also when you're prepared to fight your corner too and not take crap happening elsewhere, which is a completely different story.

Wednesday 4th November - Oliver, Oliver!

So, it was up pretty early for myself and The Stage In My Theatre, as we had a train to catch and wanted to be there nice and early for the day out. We got up, had ourselves showered and ready and were out of mine before 7.15am to head to Piccadilly Station, where we arranged to meet my Mum and so we could head out on great adventure to London and to see Oliver at the theatre. Mum has always been a fan of the show ever since a certain member of The Monkees performed in it as The Artful Dodger and so it was good to see a recent version of it - and of course with Jodie Prenger off the telly (the one who won the I'd Do Anything show on BBC One a while back) as Nancy too, so all I hoped would be well there.

Our train wasn't till 8.35am, but as Mum's birthday present I'd bought tickets to go First Class on the train to head to London at back, and this also meant that we could use the First Class lounges at both Piccadilly and of course Euston before the train back, too. We met around 7.30am and Mum was all smiles, my brother having dropped her off at the station. We headed to the First Class lounge where we were greeted, and coffee made for us all, and I even got a banana for The Stage and a biscuit for me to go with it. We were all very excited about the whole day and being able to relax in nice warm comfortable surroundings before getting the train certainly proved to be a good move all round - and we felt rather pampered!

Onboard it was just the same. The train was fairly quiet so it meant we could relax at our table seat, and knowing that Mum doesn't like travelling facing backwards, I took the seat facing that way and allowed The Stage and Mum to face forwards, which worked out fine. The staff onboard were all lovely and served us coffee, fruit juice and I had some crunchy nut corn flakes as well, and then took our orders for breakfast. I was tempted by the idea of the smoked salmon but felt the traditional English would be a better call, so we all went for that, and of course having it on a proper plate really did feel good. In fact the sausage was rather full of flavour and I saved that till last as it was the best bit. We even had some toast to go with it and it all felt very grand and we felt posh too, which made the journey all rather seamless.

We got into Euston bang on time and after getting an all day bus ticket for Mum (we had our Oyster cards as you can well imagine) it was then time to head on the bus towards Aldwych and Covent Garden. Mum did remark on how rude people were just pushing in the bus queue, but we got a seat and was able to chatter during the journey till we got off just by the Royal Courts of Justice, and walked back along Aldwych and past the theatre we saw Dirty Dancing at a few months ago, and onwards to Covent Garden, right past the Theatre Royal Drury Lane where we'd be heading a little later on.

It was nice just sauntering around Covent Garden and indeed the market stalls and shops that were there. In a nice way it hasn't lost any of its charm whatsoever and certainly feels like it has its own identity too. One of the shops there does have a rather large selection of Rosina Wachtmeister cats, and as you can well imagine, that was me in a happy place when I saw them all. There were lots of craft and gift shops too, and although we were mainly window shopping, it was nice just to take a look around and be able to see what we could possibly end up buying one day. In fact, even the older market just off the main square seemed to have plenty of identity in its own right, with more traditional Londoners manning the many stalls there - reminded me of some of the markets back home.

We then had to make a decision about lunch, as didn't want to rush too much before the show. After a walk around and nominating a couple of pubs, we found the rather nice and swish Sophie's Steakhouse. And it proved to be a very good decision indeed, as you got two courses (either starter/main or main/dessert) for £12.50. That may have seemed a little pricey, but believe me, it wasn't. You got value for your money for what you had - all the food was perfectly cooked, full of flavour and texture and taste, and the staff there were all very attentive, warm, friendly and polite. The sort of thing that makes you want to go back again and say "I really like it in here", in fact. Both Mum and The Stage had the chicken escalope with herb butter and chips for the main, and the little bit of chicken I tried showed how lovely it was - and that went for the ribeye steak with chips and bearnaise sauce I had too. The chips had their skins on but were cooked to perfection, and just when we thought the main was good, dessert was also just as fab - Mum had the amaretto cheesecake which was light enough and lovely (in fact she said it was the best cheesecake she'd had in ages) and we both went for the creme brulee, which certainly did the job very nicely indeed. Full marks to them for being fab, and indeed the very nice Australian waitress who was really lovely with us all - and we made sure our tip went to her!

We had a bit of time before the show so headed in The Globe pub close to the theatre itself. The staff weren't sure of what a port and lemon was (the bar staff thought I'd said "sport and lemon", strangely enough) but they did have some real ale, and the round was sorted no problem in the end. We found a cosy corner to sit in and just chattered away and felt excited about the show (as you do of course) and overall that was all fab to say the least. We left in good time and headed into the entrance, and wow, what a grandiose theatre it is! All the decor is rather wonderful and you certainly felt you were in one of the most posh theatres around, no wonder they can charge so much. The seats we had were wonderful - front row of the upper circle with a cracking view of proceedings and lots of time to take it all in before the show started.

And what a show it was, too. It was a very good version of the Oliver! musical, and lots of neat touches. What impressed us all the most was all the stages and how they all interacted pretty seamless with what was going on, even the parts that rose and fell up and down, which looked like it took like a lot of work to get completely right. Certainly the look and feel of a Victorian London came across well, and all the actors did their parts very well indeed. Of course a musical wouldn't be a musical without some good singing, and that was there in plenty of abundance from everyone. The acting was spot on too, and certainly gave you that slightly dark feel of being in dark alleys somewhere if it required it.

Jodie Prenger was excellent as Nancy, and she really did make the part her own with some strong vocal performances and a convincing London accent to boot, too. Her red outfit reminded Mum of the late 1960s film version (on telly the other day incidentally) and certainly she was impressive. Omid Djalli normally plays Fagin at the moment, but he was off this week, so his stand in, Tim Laurenti, did the job and did it very well - he looked very convincing and certainly had the right attitude. Both myself and The Stage recognised the actor who played Bill Sikes - he was Dr Houseman in Dirty Dancing that we'd seen! - and Steven Hartley really did look like the rough and ready face of evil along the way too. Oliver was played by one of the three actors chosen by the BBC's "I'd Do Anything" and he was excellent throughout too, and that really did well.

The applause at the end was what they all deserved and certainly it was a production befitting of the lovely theatre it was in, and that made it all worthwhile. However, I do think they need to think about their prices for food and drink - £3.20 for a small tub of ice cream and £2.30 for a bottle of water! Rip off or what eh? If I'd have known it to be that much I'd have been tempted to take my own in. That said though, I should also mention that the staff were very friendly and helpful, and even gave some of the children booster cushions so that they could see all the action too - which was very nice indeed. And I should also mention too that all the other children in their roles as the children in the workhouse, the Artful Dodger's friends and so on really did add to the production value, and even though the ticket was £45 a throw, it was a price well worth paying for such a good show.

We headed back into Covent Garden afterwards, and as we passed Molton Brown, we noticed one of the shop assistants arranging the display and posing for her colleague on the ladder. We liked the fun they seemed to be having, and so we asked her colleague to get her to pose, and I took the shot. I was proud of it actually - she looked quite like Audrey Hepburn in all black, and certainly was promoting all their Christmas gifts and tempting people in. It was one of those moments that we'll look back on and remember with fondness, and even one of the bars had mulled wine, so I had some of that as we relaxed overlooking the main square with AZ Alkmaar fans on their way to Arsenal's ground all getting merrily drunk.

It was then back on the bus to Euston and next stop was the excellent Crown and Anchor close to the station, which we both adore. The drink didn't disappoint - they had Hobgoblin as guest ale of all things! As you can well imagine, that made me feel good, and we all chatted and had a drink and certainly felt the hustle and bustle of those having a drink after work to avoid all the crowds on the tube and the bus on their way homeward. It was good too to reflect a little on the day and how much we were enjoying ourselves along the way too, and that was nice. And in the First Class lounge at Euston, more coffee and free carrot cake as we waited to see what platform the train home was - and they had Royksopp playing, so best make "Eple" tune of the day - cos it's all fabulous!

We then headed (along with half the world, so it seemed) to platform 14 to get the 8pm train back to Manchester. It looked like plenty were getting in first class but we got our seats no problem and was able to relax on the way back. We had plenty of coffee and also there was wine for the ladies and Lancaster Bomber ale for me (hurrah!) as well as a very nice ham roll and some crumble biscuit for dessert, along with more soft drinks if we required them. I was just so happy and although the day was coming to an end, we all agreed as we chatted on the way back that it had become fabulous. Mum and The Stage looked like fashionistas, and The Stage's dress looked so beautiful on her, it made me feel so lucky to have her as the woman I love and adore. I know, I know!

We got back into Piccadilly on time and my brother picked us all up and dropped myself and The Stage at mine, where we reflected on such a wonderful day. I know Mum will be buzzing for the rest of the week and I know too that to be able to see her so happy and full of life makes me realise that there's a lot of my Mum's outlook in me too - and that certainly gave me reason to feel altogether happy and smiling inside. And isn't that what it should all be about? I now have some of the songs from the musical in my head and thinking of the woman in the Molton Brown shop window having a whale of a time. Memories, they're made of this aren't they?

Tuesday 3rd November - Birthday Girl

It was my Mum's birthday today, so after work and after making us some pasta and garlic bread for tea, myself and The Stage In My Theatre headed over to Mum's. What was a lovely thought was that The Stage got some very nice flowers for us to take over there. Of course Mum's main present was tomorrow - a First Class trip to London and to the theatre - but it was admittedly nice to be able to give her something on the day which meant that she was able to enjoy herself a bit more. Most of the family had visited during the course of the day, and when we arrived my uncle, auntie and two nephews were there along with my two brothers, so we were all able to have a good natter.

It was also good to see just how many nice things Mum had got - some perfumes, lots of little gifty things and plenty of smiles all round because of that. I know that when you have a birthday like that, at no matter what age you are, it certainly makes everything feel that bit nicer to be honest. Also Mum was getting excited about tomorrow so we made all the final arrangements for her and where to meet up and all that, and that felt good. I remember a few years ago taking one of my relatives to London for the day and we ended up having a great time - and it's a memory that stays with me, all positive and good there.

Back at mine it was time to dig out the Deluxe Scrabble and have a game of words with a coffee to keep us both all warm and snuggly inside. It was good to be able to settle down and with the new Ben's Brother album on (the excellent "What If I" is the favourite track off the album for both of us, hence it's tune of the day) and then really get in to doing some good moves all round. In fact The Stage was doing plenty of five letter words along the way and some of them scored well, and had the good sense to do QUIT on double word as well (good for her!). I did have a seven letter word at one point, but couldn't play it anywhere - well it was close to the end of the game and space was getting a little tight.

It was a happy and excited us that headed to sleep later on. I wanted to try and get a good night's sleep because I knew it was an early(ish) start tomorrow, and didn't want to be like the kids on that Disney advert (you know: "But Mum.. we're too excited!" and so it was trying to make sure I got a good few hours rest. It would be a long day tomorrow but at the same time something I know I was looking forward to a heck of a lot. I suppose when I think about it I like to plan things and be able to make people happy - that's just the way that I like to be, too. Oh come on now, I need to sleep...

Monday 2nd November - Sister Rose's Manic Monday

Another Monday in Paradise - or so it seems, anyway. It felt like quite a long day in work to be honest, and I don't know if this was because it was a case of the Mondays or if it was just because time seemed to be on the go slow. I was thinking the latter as I managed to get a few things sorted out for staff, including an installation of Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Standard on one of the new Mac laptops and also being able to finish off typing a Word document to record what had happened in the meeting that we had on Friday, so I could relay it to the team as part of our team meeting later in the afternoon, which I did with suitable aplomb.

Time then sped up as it always does when I leave the office, and headed via the city centre on the way home, as I was after a new belt. My old one was really on its last legs and I wanted a new one so I'd look smart for the trip out on Wednesday (plus it meant I could take the camera if required) and also then I would look (sort of) fashionable. After visiting a few clothes shops I spotted a pretty smart one in Burton's, and job done. When there's shopping to be done, I don't like to faff around too much, I'll compare the prices of what I want and then see what gives me the best value before committing my cash. It's only right in this day and age that you become pretty frugal.

I think that's rubbed off on The Milk In My Coffee too, as she rung me up earlier asking my advice about a couple of things, and one of which was possibly migrating her broadband provider. I suggested she goes to the same one I'm on, because the price is good and at the moment she'd get the first three months free, which is a rather nice thing. It also meant that if she wanted to she could then look at the way she watches telly currently and possibly changing that - not least as she's got a Freeview box which I am sure could be well used as well. She rang me back later and said it was all hooked up so she knew it was working - hurrah!

As for tune of the day I was watching something on the telly the other day that had a tune with a violin introduction and I was racking my brains what the hell it was even more so when I knew that I had it somewhere. As I was flicking through the stuff I have on my CD collection, it suddenly came to me and a couple of tracks later I'd found it. It was Ian Brown's "Sister Rose" off his 2007 album "The World Is Yours". The string intro is great and then it breaks out into a good little rocking number, with Ian on full form, like he is. To be honest, let the legend of The Stone Roses be and let Ian carry on making stuff - it works well!

Sunday 1st November - Sunday Night Eyes Of Gaia

It was to be a rather good Sunday all round, and the only thing to sort of let me down was Manchester City - go figure, eh? First off though it was very nice to spend some time with The Milk In My Coffee before she was heading over to see her sister and then head off out for the afternoon, and the two of us had breakfast and chatted away, which was good. She very kindly gave me the time and space to watch the F1 and have the folks round to watch City, something I always appreciate loads, and so everything worked out very nicely indeed. We did have a peek at the weather for later this week, as we're out for the day, and also that seemed well too, and also a certain little fashionable outlet somewhere else, as we may be paying it a visit. Knowing that she's been after a suitcase from Matalan, I printed her off a map of one where she was heading later just to see if they had it (turned out that they didn't, but you know.. got to try)

It was sad to see The Milk leave and I just gave her a massive hug and cuddle as we parted. It seems strange, but when you have this togetherness with someone parting is hard, because you don't want to let go, but also easy because you know you'll see them soon. I then settled back with a coffee and the strains of The Chain came on, and the final F1 race of the season at Abu Dhabi. The track was excellent all round, and I felt a bit gutted for Lewis Hamilton - he was winning well and after the first pit stop the McLaren team noticed that the brakes were pretty knackered and so had to retire the car to be sure that he didn't have a massive off going round one of the fast corners - understandable really. It was a procession for Red Bull and especially Sebastian Vettel, but right near the end Jenson Button was catching Mark Webber and the Aussie had to do everything to hold back the 2009 World Champion on the last lap - it was epic stuff. Jenson almost did it, but they both congratulated each other before the podium for some excellent battling - twas a real pleasure to watch.

Which couldn't, I have to admit, be said about City. With some of my relations over before kick off, we settled in to watch the game and for most of the first half Birmingham were all over us, with only some smart saves from Shay Given keeping us in the game. We looked lethargic and worst of all not up for it, and it was only down to some luck that we didn't concede, with Joleon Lescott being particularly patchy at the back. Worst was to come second half though as we really did lack invention and a breakthrough, and they almost got one at the other end before getting a penalty ten minutes into the half. I thought it'd be curtains but Shay Given pulled off an excellent save, and not least down to that and the other chances he saved, he deservedly got Man of the Match - and rightly so. Just a shame not everyone had that attitude really, a lot for Mark Hughes to think about methinks.

Later on it was time to head out to Manchester Academy 3 to see the excellent 3 Daft Monkeys. I saw them at Bury Met last year and it was an excellent gig, and even thought they played there this time round, the stage is a bit low so you can't always see much, whereas Academy 3's just better setup (and closer to home too, hurrah!) - and that would mean too plenty of room to go mental if I wanted to. After checking the running order, I had some time spare so I headed across the road to Kro and took advantage of their cake and coffee deal for a mere £2.95, so a nice latte and a orange and lemon cake was mine (nice big slice too) and that felt serene watching Oxford Road go by and doing some of the puzzles in one of the Sunday press, oh very rock and roll aren't I eh?

Soon it was back over to Academy 3 to see the support act, Samson and Delilah (official site) (myspace) - and they were very good indeed. They were a little twee and folky, but also had an eye for a good tune with some really catchy melodies and plenty of personality in the band. Lead singer Anna would sometimes play the accordion as well as the flute, with Sam on the guitar and even the xylophone (very twee indeed) and also the very lovely Tammy on flute and keyboards, with Michael on double bass and Tom on drums completing the lineup nicely. They did sound very coherent indeed and perhaps my favourite song of theirs was "Place To Be", which details your favourite place usually being with someone, and "Swimming Against The Tide", with lots of feeling and melody. I'll have to check out their recently released debut album to see what it's like as they sounded very promising. Hurrah!

Thankfully the crowd had got larger in preparation for 3 Daft Monkeys (official site) (myspace) and they didn't disappoint. Although the crowd was around half capacity, this did allow for everyone to bound around and get dancing to their songs, which, let's be honest, you'll want to do (well I did anyway and I didn't care!). Starting off with "Let 'Em In", the set list was an intriguing mix of the old and the very new - and I mean very new. They played two new songs which will probably end up on their new album due out next year, and "Masquerade Parade" sounded very promising. As the band has also re-released their debut album "Brouhaha" as a download release, they played a couple of tracks from that, namely "3 Daft Monkeys" and a rousing version of "Maximillian" at the end too.

But it's the songs from "Social Vertigo" that people really up and dancing around, including my favourite "Paranoid Big Brother" (make it tune of the day as it's bloody ace!), "Eyes of Gaia", the really nice slow intro and then full on fast pace of "Human Nature" which really had everyone at full pelt, and the title track of the album, where the whole audience did the swaying parts in unison, which felt very nice to be part of. Athene the fiddle player was really going for it, so much so that her string broke during the encore, and Tim on kick drum and guitar got everyone in the mood during the song and good banter between, whilst Jamie did his bass thing perfectly. It amazes me that so many millions will watch force-fed crap like X-Factor but not go out to see real class and musicianship like this band has. You always leave their gigs with a smile on your face and certainly I did tonight - an hour and a half of a musical masterclass of how to enjoy yourself as well as get the crowd warmed up nicely too. I was feeling rather hot when leaving the Academy 3 and the cool night air was certainly welcome as I made my way homeward. Yaay to the band, and yaay me for going!