Dear Diary... November 2011

Wednesday 30th November - Strike

Although I'm off work today, I'd kind of rather be in, but no way would I want to be the only one possibly from our team that would be coming in. As you may be aware, a high number of public sector workers are taking strike action in protest at the Government's reforming of public sector pensions, making the workers contribute more towards them and overall meaning that they might not appear to be as lucrative as they might have been before. It's a real double edged sword though - on the one hand, working in the public sector does require some degree of stability and as such you need decent pensions to be part of the package. On the other, should we also all be grateful to be in a job?

Either way, being in the union, I didn't want to really cross the picket lines outside work today. If I wasn't in the union, then I'd have of course gone in and would have had no reprisals as such. I just think that ultimately it's a rock and a hard place of a decision, and I did agonise yesterday over whether I should come in. That was made easier by my line manager saying that he was coming in to cover, and so that if we felt that not coming in was our option, then he would respect that, which is fair enough. I just don't like being put in the situation in the first place though and would have much rather seen constructive dialogue take place to sort things out.

Also, to be honest, there's no grief with the employer either really. It's not their fault all of this is happening, so for once any protest isn't about them and what they might have been up to. It's a side effect of what's happening will affect them in some way. I wish I'd have been a bit more insightful and during the period of the ballot booked the day off before the result was announced, then that way it'd have been a much easier thing to do. Still, I guess seeing the pictures on the telly during today, it's clear that there's plenty of people who are pretty angry with the government (and they didn't help themselves with announcing a 1% pay cap on increases on public sector workers' pay for the next two years, way below inflation.)

I do worry though that it's also a case now of maybe the next stage might be that whatever reform offer was on the table that was slightly better than before might get withdrawn, and then that'll just antagonise people and make them even more angry. The next few months are going to be interesting times, and I don't really want there to be more strikes and trouble, not least with loss of pay and all that sort of thing - it's going to be bad enough with a loss of one day (which will probably be affected in January unless our HR can whizz it through to December's pay) and so I just want it to be resolved and hope that today was enough of a point to prove for people.

With all that going on, I thought it pretty appropriate that tune of the day was a protest song, to get the mood right of how plenty of people feel today. "Liberty Song" by The Levellers seemed highly appropriate and one song I've gone very mental to when seeing them live. And one that will probably get played quite a bit today by those in the know methinks. Just wish that the album it's from "Levelling The Land" was properly mastered - the weak mastering really takes away from the impact of the record.

Tuesday 29th November - Sergio's Back

It was a busier day than normal as I wanted to try and get as much done as possible today before pretty much most people are off tomorrow due to the public sector strikes are taking place (which affects where I work massively I should add) so I wanted to try and do whatever I could in the time alotted to be able to at least know where I was. I managed to get a laptop successfully up and running and imaged correctly, and what was at least something that saved me some time. I was able to hand it back to the member of staff so I could then get on with imaging their desktop and so they weren't without a machine to be used, sensible eh?

I also had a bit of time today to look at an issue that we had with one of the PCs that wasn't coming on quite right. In the end I found out that it was down to the RAM wasn't quite seated properly and had come loose, so I removed both sticks of RAM and then placed them back in again and this seemed to do the trick pretty well on the whole. It was good that at least another problem was fixed and that I was making some progress in terms of getting on with the work in hand and resolving some issues overall.

It was then over to my friend's place after work as he and I were going to watch the Manchester City v Arsenal Carling Cup game, taking place in London at Arsenal's ground. The bus ride to his place took much longer than normal as the weather hadn't been good during the afternoon with all reports of mini tornadoes in some part of Manchester (spooky) as well as incessant rain too. Overall it wasn't that pleasant and as such traffic was on a go slow as it headed down Princess Road, with darkness and rain falling it just seemed to take even longer than it normally would.

Thankfully things were okay at my friend's place and so we settled in with plenty of chat about all sorts before the football got underway. It was also interesting to see that him and his wife had been to John Lewis for a bit of shopping and he remarked that certain brands were much more expensive than normal (for example Dualit toasters, Brabantia bins etc) and I was fully aware of that and the expense. Kind of makes you realise that you can't have everything you'd like because the average normal person has to compromise somewhere on the cost front methinks.

Anyway, City got underway and with both City and Arsenal not fielding full strength sides, it'd be interesting to see what happened. Mind you, City did have the likes of Kolo Toure, Pablo Zabaleta, Adam Johnson, Nigel de Jong, Samir Nasri and Edin Džeko - and when Aleksandar Kolarov was replaced by Sergio Agüero, that was a pretty fullish strength side really. City's number two keeper Costel Pantilimon was in top form though, with an excellent save from Park early on and then a reaching dive to stop an excellent effort from Alex Chamberlain, who was pretty impressive for the Arsenal side. We did have lots of possession but couldn't convert that into goals which was a tad worrying.

In the second half it was mainly stalemate with both sides not necessarily having the killer touch, despite Džeko working his backside off to be able to get the ball and trying to hold up play for everyone else to get involved, and his determination got the City fans behind him. Indeed it was that determination which proved crucial. City cleared an Arsenal corner, Džeko beat two Arsenal players to the ball, surged down the left and picked out Adam Johnson with a gorgeous pass. Johnson twisted the defence, and laid the ball with a lovely touch right into the path of Agüero, and he doesn't miss from there. YES! 1-0 to City, and despite some late surges that's how the game finished, so the semi-finals here we come.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Santa Fe" by Samantha Crain, the highlight of her recent live set supporting The Bad Shepherds and also the best track on her album "You (Misunderstood)" - it has a slight Country/Americana feel to it but what comes through the most is her voice, very distinct, clear and different from a lot of the boring stuff that tends to appear out there at the moment. The album came today, so I played it a little before heading to bed tonight.

Monday 28th November - Puzzles

Another busy week started for me with a little puzzle. One of our staff has a Blackberry that for some reason was refusing to communicate and bring down any emails whatsoever, but it looked like most of the other phone functionality remained intact. I tried switching off wifi and the 3G networks and then seeing if 3G would work, but that still didn't try to synchronise anything. Boo. Thankfully I have access to our Blackberry Enterprise Server at work, so I was able to check the account holder's status and attempt to re-activate the settings by sending through an activation password. This goes to the user's email but also then allowed me to do an enterprise activation, which worked. Phew!

I also spent some time earlier in the day resolving a problem with a blue screen and slow startup for another member of staff. I soon discovered that the PC hadn't been used for a little while, and so the antivirus software was out of date, Windows XP wasn't even fully service packed (bad) and there was an old screensaver service running on startup that hasn't been used in ages. Sorted all that out and did a full malware scan in between and that really did resolve things nicely and made it all much happier and quicker to behave itself, which is what we want at the end of the day.

I headed into the city centre before heading on the bus to see The Love In My Heart at her place. The traffic in the city centre was somewhat mental and the bus took absolutely aeons to head up Lever Street. Part of the reason is that two lanes turn left to Great Ancoats Street which then turn right to Oldham Road, and it's traffic mania everywhere and lights too. Of course the bus I was on wanted to turn right at the top of Lever Street but couldn't because it couldn't get past the stationary traffic. Once it did that it was a breeze to get to The Love's place.

We had a relaxing chat and plenty of laid-back feel at the same time - as she had spent time lighting some candles and making the place feel really cosy and intimate, which was lovely and romantic. It was good just to relax and talk and wind down after a hard day's work for us both, and later on she made us both a lovely ham, mushroom and mascarpone pizza with some potato wedges on the side too - rather nice all round. She indulged in the soaps for a little while and was a bit shocked that Coronation Street was only on once.

However that did mean no clash with Masterchef The Professionals so we watched that instead. And it was a good initial test to be given a limited number of ingredients and create something from them. Almost everyone looked at the strawberries, white chocolate and swet things and thought of a dessert with that - some were good but others were a write-off. However, the woman who made the onion tart with the pastry and used the vegetables as a side dish with balsamic reduction deserved a lot of praise for at least being original and excellent.

And finally in terms of telly, Young Apprentice. Not watched any of this series but thought to give it a go now and see how they'd fare. In truth most of them seemed to be pretty annoying to me in one way or another and ironically the team who were less structured in their approach passed the task of buying items cheaply, because they at least thought "get this from the market, get that from a pawn shop" etc and not to buy from expensive shops. One of the items the losing team bought didn't even get a reduction on the retail price, costing them big time. Oops!

Finally, tune of the day has to be "Orion" by Metallica. It might be an instrumental, but it somehow sums up also how good Metallica can be. I really enjoy having a blast on this on Guitar Hero Metallica, either on the guitar or on drums, with plenty of feeling as the tune goes through. They hardly ever perform it live though, in fact I've only seen one live clip from Donington's Download Festival in 2006 of them performing it - and it seemed they were in top form there!

Sunday 27th November - Oh Balotelli, He's A Striker, He Gets Red Cards..

And so that's most likely going to be the new chant for Mario Balotelli for a bit, but more on that later. I got up and it was a quite fresh but clear day outside, but bloody hell was it windy. I normally have the window open to let some air in when I sleep so that it's not stuffy and that, but I closed the window overnight as the wind was howling in. It was no different this morning and you could see the leaves blowing everywhere by the main roads. With that in mind, I decided to stay in and do some more rocking during the morning.

Out came Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock again, and this time I had a blast on several tracks on lead guitar, and I've not played the guitar for a bit on that game so it took me a few songs to get back into the swing of things. I can manage a fair few songs pretty well on medium without too many errors, so I had a blast at them to see if I could get a high score on a few of them as well as then do a couple on the bass to see how I'd get on. One particular one that I tried out a few times to see if I could maximise the use of star power is an import from Guitar Hero 5, "They Say" by Scars on Broadway - and did well so tune of the day that is.

The Love In My Heart headed back during the afternoon and we had a coffee and chat whilst I had the build up to the Brazilian Grand Prix on. I was heading to my cousin's place later to see the Man City v Liverpool game as he's just invested in Sky Sports and so invited us round to watch it there - very good of him and all that. It was good to chat with The Love and see how her day had gone thus far with one thing or another that she had on. She also very kindly dropped me off on the way back to her place to my cousin's place too, so that was lovely of her. Awww.

So myself, my cousin, my uncle and his two sons were all there seeing hopefully if Man City could continue the unbeaten run against Liverpool at Anfield. I have to say that City's record of winning there isn't great and to be honest I'd have taken a draw beforehand - we can't win every game we play can we? We did start off brightly and looked like we wanted to go at them but the final pass was just going astray. Samir Nasri wasn't playing at all well and it made me wonder that if he had half the drive and passion of James Milner whether he'd be better off for it.

We got a corner with half an hour gone, and David Silva floated a beauty in which came off Vincent Kompany's left shoulder as he attempted to head it, but it looped into the top corner for 1-0. Excellent! Well it was for around a minute. A Charlie Adam shot for Liverpool was attempted to be cleared by Joleon Lescott, but it bounded off him and past Joe Hart in the City goal for the equaliser, almost straight away. A bit gutting considering that we were a goal up and all but as half time approached 1-1 was a pretty fair scoreline.

We couldn't get going in the second half and Roberto Mancini the City boss rightfully took off Samir Nasri and put on Mario Balotelli, putting two up front for an attempt to go for the win. A few minutes in and Mario gets booked for a clumsy pull back on Glen Johnson, and minutes later just after Sergio Agüero had been replaced by Edin Džeko, Balotelli appeared to raise an arm against Martin Skrtel, and the referee produced the second yellow and therefore a red. On replay it didn't look as bad as first thought but to be fair, it was no option - a definite second yellow card and a red had to be produced.

We were a little lucky to survive near the end with ten men although Džeko almost got David Silva to score a winner close to the end of normal time - and Joe Hart produced some stunning saves near the end, especially one from Andy Carroll, to keep the score at 1-1. On reflection a point well earned and I'd have taken that before the start of play although you do wonder that all of Mario Balotelli's recent hard work has been undone by such a stupid sending off...

Saturday 26th November - Party Time

It was quite a nice relaxing day on the whole, as I'd done all the main hard work of sorting bits out in the house last night. It was good having a shower this morning with the water flowing properly from the shower after the shower hose change, and it certainly felt like it was a proper shower again that I had. I felt all clean and refreshed as I headed out later on that morning. I was on another bit of a mission as my ironing board cover had developed some big tears and was close to being unusable, and after measuring my board to make sure I knew which sort to get (mine is a large Minky board 122 x 43cm) it was off into the city centre.

I suspected that Wilkinsons in the Arndale Centre might be the place to go, and after a quick trawl through their shop I managed to locate the housewares section, and there were the ironing board covers. I located a Minky one of the right size and it wasn't that expensive either, so that was all good. With that and a couple of accessories in hand for the house, it was in and out pretty quickly, stopping off at Quality Save on Piccadilly Gardens on the way home to get some bottles of real ale for later (Pedigree for £1.29 and Goliath for £1.09, bargain).

I spent a fair bit of time during the afternoon drumming on Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. I've got back in to this game a bit now that I've sorted out the downloadable and extra content catalogues so I've now got a full quota of songs to play again, and so wanted to have a blast of a few of them with the drums. I'm gradually getting used to learning the art of drumming, and actually tried out some of the imported content from Guitar Hero Metallica, which was well worthwhile. I managed "Master of Puppets" pretty well on medium and got used to the way the drums work on that - so much so that I felt a bit gutted that I didn't get a better score overall. Tune of the day for me though.

I had spent some time too getting the downstairs tidy and sorting out the CDs in alphabetical order. Realistically soon I'm going to have to get another shelf unit to fit some more CDs in, or maybe start to look at selling off some of the singles that I don't play anymore, either way I'm sure I can sort it. It was good to get everything nicely filed away and know where everything is. It also goes to show that over the last twenty two years of listening to CDs how much you accumulate over time and what albums stay with you as classics that you go back to. There's something nicer about playing things on a good rig don't you think?

The Love In My Heart came over and looked delightful in her satin-look trousers and top with wrap, and I got myself showered and changed into my really nice jeans and Next striped shirt, as we were heading out with my uncle and auntie, whom we both get on really well with (my uncle is a diehard Blue like me, and we're pretty close.) I suggested a while back that the four of us head out for a meal and thought that tonight might be a good idea to do so. We all like the Sizzling Pub in Poynton, so we headed there to have a nice meal and a chatter.

The meal was spot on as you'd expect. In fact, the drinks flowed freely too with a bottle of chardonnay for the ladies a mere £6.99 so it made sense to get a bottle for them to share instead of some glasses I reckon. We all had a good main course, my uncle devoured the large mixed grill, my auntie had the gammon with extra eggs, The Love had this half roast chicken which looked proper, and I went for the chicken, cheese and bacon pie with mash, peas and gravy. I had plumped for the Timothy Taylor steak pie, but unfortunately they had none left - mental note, must have that next time - but the pie I did have was spot on - and it was, I'm pleased to report, a proper pie. Hurrah for that!

I was debating dessert but in the end three of us went for it - my uncle had the bread and butter pudding with custard, my auntie the choc fudge cake which was absolutely massive, and no wonder it wasn't finished off, and I went for the arctic roll with some fruit, which was actually pretty nice not least due to the ice cream in the middle - and that with a coffee just was a nice end to the meal for me. We had plenty to chat about though which gave the ladies the chance to finish the wine off before we headed back to mine.

I had got some Pedigree in because it's my uncle's favourite beer, and so he had that, I had Hobgoblin (in my Hobgoblin glass no less) and the ladies had some more wine, and after a bit of telly, I came up with the brainwave of Wii Party. It proved to be a right laugh as the four of played Board Game Island - and it was fab! I did win overall, but everyone won some of the minigames along the way, and The Love In My Heart pushed me pretty close at the end, but we did some of the minigames on their own afterwards and was having a right laugh of it all. It was a perfect end to an excellent night, and I'm sure now that we might see my uncle getting that game for his Wii!!

Friday 25th November - Home and Hosed

Another Friday but it was the calm after the storm of the week. I had to deputise for one of my managers today and attend our technical group meeting, which was good to at least get some positive feedback and thoughts on how things went and also offer some useful constructive criticism along the way as well. One of our folks who is in charge of the main campus technology installs did get a fair bit of feedback with regards to these LG Supersign things we have which show digital signage really well. It's all well and good to be able to do that, but sometimes you also need action too.

In fact I spent some time this afternoon with a colleague looking at one that for some reason we couldn't see remotely, despite having VNC viewer on the Supersign machine. It soon turned out that if you run VNC as a service instead of an app, you can't remote into it because the service is then killed by the LG Supersign application, but if you run VNC as an app, it worked, and I was then able to remote in and see what was happening with the console, so that was a relief. My colleague was quite pleased as he had been battling with it for most of the day. Sometimes a new angle of looking at stuff helps, you know?

I headed home and then headed to Tesco to get the food shopping in, and that thankfully wasn't too expensive as I didn't need that much. It was then back home, get all that, and off to Asda as I needed some tissue paper to help wrap up a present that I've got and make it all look nice and lovely. I got that and that was all good, and even managed to locate a couple of other things I needed along the way, so even better for me. I headed home and was going to clean the bathroom a bit..

.. until I realised that I would have to get something else. The shower hose that I currently have looked a tad worse for wear and upon closer inspection part of the hose (admittedly a cheap one from B&Q I got a year ago to replace the white one that came with my Triton shower) had a crease with a hole in. Now I wanted to clean the bath by showering water on to it, and if I'd have had a shower tomorrow morning, would have been water potentially everywhere. Not good. So this time I thought "right, off to B&Q and to get a proper hose!"

Thankfully B&Q Stockport is open till 9pm so I headed there. I located the shower hoses and to be honest, the cheap ones looked that - cheap. Thankfully as the shower hoses are generally universal fit these days, I managed to locate one - a proper Triton one at that in proper chrome and looked flexible enough but strong enough not to cause breakage like the old hose had done. The 1.75m was price marked cheaper than 1.25m so that was good - a longer reach allows for more cleaning of the bathroom too so all good there. I got to the till, the price came up wrong, so I kindly mentioned the price sticker. The assistant checked it out, said to me that apparently that offer had expired but they'd honour it because they didn't remove the sticker, saving me around £4 in the process. Rock on!

I got back home, and had the new hose fitted in minutes, and attached the shower head (still working fine) to it. All was well with the world and I knew that that'd save me time and hassle later on, so that was good. I cleaned upstairs a fair bit before then relaxing with some Jesse Malin and playing his first album The Fine Art of Self Destruction at a good volume, with "Wendy" being the stand out track. Tune of the day for me no question right there. It was good to kick back after a long day and in fact a long week, so all was good there.

I finished off Friday night by watching one of my favourite films on ITV1, Enter The Dragon. I know I have the DVD so could watch it anytime, but it was good to see it on. Of course the only bad thing is that commercials get in the way (although one did allow me to see the Euromillions draw, so there you go) - and it's full of classic phrases such as "Boards don't hit back", "You have offended my family, and you have offended the Shaolin Temple". It makes more sense in the remaster when you hear the monk remind you of what he said to Bruce Lee early in the film: "The enemy has only images and illusions behind which he hide his true movies. Destroy the image, and you will destroy the enemy." Makes much more sense when watching the hall of mirrors final battle let me tell you. Classic.

Thursday 24th November - Broadband Blues

I had a pretty busy day again today, mainly sorting out a laptop for one of our folks in marketing. They were using it in earnest a while ago, but they now wanted all the up to date software on it in one fell swoop. The easiest thing therefore to do was to re-image it completely and then make sure all the software and drivers were on. As it was a Toshiba Satellite Pro A300, this also meant you had to add the drivers for the hot keys, the common modules, the utilities etc. No wonder then for Windows 7 Toshiba now have this "Value Added Package" installer which effectively adds all that in one fell swoop, much easier.

I also was taking a look at a possible document template for internal documentation of procedures, methods and stuff like that and offering some valuable feedback. I'm pretty anal about documentation anyway as I think it's important to share information and to make instructions as feasible as possible for everyone to understand so that they can do the job you'd normally do and feel confident enough about doing it. The template looks pretty good to me, and as a test I imported some text and graphics from a document I created and it all applied nicely in the template - thank heavens for the paste options in Word 2010 for making things just that bit easier.

I also had lunch with one of my colleagues from another site today which was a rather lovely bonus all round. I did suggest a coffee after work, but she had to head elsewhere straight after work, so I thought meeting for lunch would be lovely instead. It was good to catch up and have a chat about all sorts, and how we were both doing. It also meant we could keep abreast as to what's happening in our respective sites, and be able to pass on any useful nuggets of information too. It's always good to see people you get on with and make time for them.

Once work was finished, I stayed back in the office for a little bit of a mission - and it was a successful one. I found out that Paul Weller is playing the Roundhouse in London next March where he'll be playing his new album in full, and as The Love In My Heart is a bit of a fan (understatement) I thought it'd be cool if we'd go. The venue isn't that big either, so better still. I had an email from Seetickets and so checked the link to their site to get a ticket. Hang on a second, isn't the booking fee a bit of a mickeytake? The tickets are £38.50 each, but they want £4.62 booking fee per ticket and then £5.25 transaction fee, totalling around £91. That's an 18% price hike. And of course even worse if you just buy one ticket because that's a 25% price hike - the same transaction fee is payable no matter how many tickets you buy.

So I thought "granted, it's pre-sale, but let's see what the official Roundhouse site does" and so off I went. Their website booking was just as easy, and the booking fee? £2 per ticket, and that was it. So getting two tickets for me and The Love In My Heart meant a saving of around £10, and of course the money goes to the venue more not the ripoff merchants that are Seetickets. It just goes to show that buying concert tickets really does mean shopping around for the best deal, and it's scandalous in my view that Seetickets are charging so much. Wonder if this is a case of BBC Watchdog worth investigating and asking Seetickets why they're ripping off the fans. On the flip side, well done to the Roundhouse for keeping their fees reasonable and fair, and making their donations optional when you buy a ticket (like The Lowry do here) and I've noted that for the future.

After all that I headed to The Love's workplace to meet her, we walked back to the city centre from there and got the bus to her place, and we then headed to her mum and dad's. Her father's broadband stopped working a few days ago and after some wrangling, Sky sent them a replacement router. I wanted to make sure that everything was done correctly, as did The Love, so we thought it best to sort it all out. I spent some time checking all the sockets in their house had filters, and then plugged the router into the main socket. What I did notice though was that the cable between the filter and router wasn't the best, and one end didn't click into place. I got it working but realistically knew we needed to replace the cable. As luck would have it I had a spare one at home so I've given it to The Love when she heads there at the weekend.

Once the router was running, I simply added the new wireless network name and network key on her father's PC, and before long the Internet was up and running and he could happily browse. He also wanted me to go through some settings on this program he has which backs up the video tapes he has to DVD, and to be fair he's got it all arranged nicely so he captures the video and then from there has a lot of video clips on an external hard drive, which then he can put on to disc. The program he uses is pretty simple, but that keeps it easy to use for him so that's good. Part of me thinks Nero Vision Express would give him more options, but it's learning something new which might not be so easy.

We headed back to mine, I made us some penne pasta carbonara which went down a treat for us both, and snuggled up to see some telly at first, with the final programme of the week of Masterchef: The Professionals to watch. The army bloke had a disaster with the critics, and his chocolate souffle thing was just horrible. Cue Jay Rayner: "I love chocolate, but I hate this!" and that said it all for me. I was glad though that the two went through who in both our views did the best food - and that's after all how it should be. It is a cooking contest after all.

After that it was a good little game of Scrabble with Seth Lakeman's new album on in the background. I'd ordered it direct from his website because it was released via his own record label (no EMI/Relentless in sight anymore) and all the better for it. For me it's very back to basics with a raw more stripped down sound, sort of like when he started off, which is a good thing. "Blacksmiths Prayer" is a perfect example of this more raw sound, and for me, tune of the day without question. I can only hope that he does more stuff like this free of a major label contract.

Wednesday 23rd November - View From The Sixth Floor

Had to head up to the building I'm normally based in today, as I had to head to our server room. At the moment the room is on the sixth floor of one building, and there's renovation work going on (hence my move to the office I'm in now you see). I thankfully had all the essential gear for getting up there and so was able to make my way up there in the lift. As I headed in the room, it was good to see that the aircon was still working correctly and so I knew that there'd be no crashes with them all (phew) but also to see that the work is coming along nicely.

With all the windows now in and looking more like a building that is ready to go, it seems a much more open plan aspect than before with lots of light coming in, even on a slightly murky day like today. What was even better was that the window from our server room looks East, and you can see high enough above the buildings in close proximity and beyond, meaning a view over to the Etihad Stadium no less. Hurrah for that of course, but I can imagine when the weather gets better and the days get lighter that it might well be a view to behold - for sure.

I spent most of the afternoon working on a Toshiba Satellite Pro laptop, and on the whole things went well. It re-imaged with our current laptop image no problem, and it was just then a case of ensuring none of the unnecessary HP drivers (for some of the HP laptops we have) were there but instead all the correct Toshiba ones. The HP hotkey driver installs as a service and so you had to stop that running not to get in the way of the Toshiba hotkey drivers, and so once that was all sorted all the hotkeys worked properly, all good there then.

I headed into the city centre later on after work, avoided the market on Albert Square as it was very busy, but instead headed to Boots and picked up a nice Christmas present in there for someone and also headed through the Arndale to a couple of shops to pick up some items too before heading home on the bus, and felt even more Christmassy as I'd got another present sorted out - I like getting it all done, me! I feel now like I'm on the last leg of it all and that feels good.

Tune of the day was an easy choice - I played the whole of the Unthanks' album "Last" deciding on which was my favourite track off it. It was a tricky decision because the whole album is quite dark and brooding and folky, but in the end I plumped for "The Gallowgate Lad" as it really sounds Northern in its mood, with some lovely dark overtones. Some day, all folk music will sound contemporary and also classic at the same time, and some day more people will appreciate what they do...

Tuesday 22nd November - Brooklyn in Manchester

Had a course to go to this morning to do with our new IP telephony. Yes, we're going down the road of IP phones now. I've had mine on my desk for around a week or two and to be honest there's no real difference from using a real phone instead of an IP phone. However, the training course we had gave us an overview of all the really fancy stuff we could do - like hold a conference call with four different people on the same phone network (and that really did work nicely on the whole it has to be said) - and also be able to park a call and pick it up from another phone as well - intriguing stuff all round.

After a fairly busy afternoon I took a walk up Oxford Road and off to Boots first of all to get my mobile phone topped up with some extra credit, followed by a nice relaxing coffee in Costa close to St Peter's Square. Annoyingly as it's annexed next to Table Table and Premier Inn, it doesn't accept the loyalty cards. Meh. Still whilst having a coffee it meant that I could see that plenty of football fans were in before they were heading off to watch the Man Utd v Benfica game at Old Trafford. And plenty of non-Mancunian United fans too, no surprise there whatsoever.

I walked up to meet The Love In My Heart after she finished work (she finishes later than me if she is on a late shift you see) and we walked back into the city centre to get something to eat for tea before heading to see Jesse Malin and the St Mark's Social at the Ruby Lounge later. We were going to go to The Waterhouse and have the steak deal in there, but the pub was pretty busy (most likely as it's very close to the Christmas Markets in Albert Square and people might have headed there for a drink or food) and so we decided to head elsewhere instead.

The brainwave I had worked well - we went to The Bank on Mosley Street, and the food was on, we got a nice table and chatted lots whilst I had a rather nice real ale, and The Love a glass of wine. We both went for the fish and chips and that proved to be a good move all round - the fish was very fresh with a nice crispy batter on the outside, skin on chips with mushy peas and home made tartare sauce, which really added to the flavour rather well all round. It was good to take it easy and relax and much so all was very well with the world there.

Later on we headed to The Bay Horse in the Northern Quarter and had a drink in there as well. They had a cask ale and it was okay although for me far too wheaty in its content - I'd much rather have had something solid like Landlord or Black Cat. It was a nice chilled out vibe in there though and that at least kept us happy and chatting away before heading to the Ruby Lounge later, in perfect time for the support act Special Needs and giving us time to chill out before Jesse Malin came on and rocked the place (well that was the theory anyway).

We got a drink in The Ruby Lounge and on came then Special Needs (no official site) - who by all accounts hadn't played a gig in years. To be fair to them they did pretty well and played some recent stuff that they'd done after six years of not being a band, and also showcasing their new single at the same time, "I Agree With Nick". They seemed pretty tuneful all round and I think the audience appreciated their efforts, which is good to see when a support act is on. Fingers crossed they get some more attention with their single.

On then came Jesse Malin and the St Mark's Social (official site) and Jesse was in fine form, chatting with the audience about some of the songs with his New York drawl really coming across well and enticing the listener in beautifully. The tour was all about his first album, the superb "The Fine Art of Self Destruction" which was being played in its entirety and in track order (seems to be an in thing these days of course). No complaints from me on that score though as the album is an excellent one, and with the band rocking it up, the opener "Queen of the Underworld" sounded more heavier but really listenable for it too.

Later on was the wonderful "Wendy" which really did benefit from the band taking it up a notch and cranking it to 10, with Jesse's vocals still nice and crisp and clear, so the sound engineer got his stuff right there. It all went lovely and sparse for "Brooklyn" with a nice backdrop of a keyboard just giving it that more mellow edge. Gorgeous, and the crowd sang along with Jesse for the final verse too. Lovely, and tune of the day easily for me. "Riding on the Subway" also benefitted from a full band feel and gave it some edge all round, so that was also excellent.

The band were on top form and during "Solitaire" everyone was singing the chorus parts along with the band taking it down a notch just to give the whole thing room to breathe, with some lovely acoustics from everyone to go with Jesse's guitar and vocal, a perfect example of a band in harmony. Of course he mentioned that some of the songs were about Christmas and seeing as it was coming it seemed appropriate that "Xmas" is on the album and being played here live. What was nice was that after a couple of single B-sides, he didn't forget the band version of "Brooklyn" that's an extra track on the album hidden away, and played that with aplomb and the band rocking it well. Yaay for gigs like this! And with more stuff not on the first album as an encore, a lovely evening with lovely company.

The Love In My Heart had noticed that the band were pretty much all wearing hats (apart from the drummer) and looking über-cool with it, something to be honest that I know that I could never do. It did make me wonder just how they could look so good and I'd look daft, but I knew that The Love was just appreciating their coolness and how good they were - and it was so good to see her with a big smile on her face as "Brooklyn" was being played, so for me another good reason to love the song so much today. If she's happy, I'm happy, and well, why the hell not eh?

Monday 21st November - Disconnected

I had a pretty busy day of things at work today - mainly sorting out the back end of some queries from last week's mad(ish) rush, but also peering over a test template that we're planning to use for some of our internal documentation. It looked good but I wanted to offer some useful feedback so I checked over it and had some ideas as to how it would be improved. Thankfully I get on pretty well with the person who's our internal information officer for stuff like this, so it was good at least to be positive and at least see that the right way was gradually being brought forward.

After work it was a long run on the bus not home, but straight over to my friend's house. It always seems much longer than it is when the sky has already darkened as you leave work, and so even thought it probably took the same amount of time, the traffic in the dark always seems a bit more convoluted. And on top of that of course, the weather was looking a tad rainy which wasn't going to help anyone realistically. As the bus headed down Princess Road and towards Northern Moor you could tell that as we headed underneath the M60 the wind was also starting to blow a fair bit as well, just to add to that wintry feel.

I got to my friend's place and we set to work on his wife's (also my friend too I should add) PC. It seemed that for some odd reason her PC wasn't allowing web browsing, and I had my suspicions over whether it was down to some malware affecting Windows or possibly something else which had gone awry, not least as they'd had a phone call offering "tech support". Hmm.. Just in case, I'd asked them to disconnect the Ethernet cable from PC to router whilst I did some tests, and did a full scan with Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware. That revealed no errors at all, which was good, and whilst that was checking over the PC I did a quick check over of the registry. No errors there either. Hmmm.

So I looked in the network card properties, and there was the solution - for some reason the network card had been disabled for some reason. Soon got that enabled and once the malware scan was finished (always better to do those scans offline in case you do have an infection, as it'll stop dead then) - we plugged everything back in and Internet access was all good to go and working perfectly well. Very pleasing indeed. And good to know too that I've not quite lost it despite having a good day at work that stretched the brain as well.

However, one word of cautionary note. It seems that there are scam callers operating at the moment who are ringing unsuspecting users up, asking them to follow some instructions to run the likes of the Windows Event Viewer, which will usually always show up some error or other, and flummox users into thinking that they've got a problem with their PC and that you need IT support. They'll then ask you to download an application from their dodgy website which is in effect a VNC-like client and they can control your PC and harvest your personal details. Ouch. Now for the trained person like me, this wouldn't happen, but it's very easy to lull a user into a false sense of security, especially if their PC knowledge isn't that great.

My simple word of advice is this: if you get such a call (they'll normally claim to be Microsoft and "know that your PC has problems") then simply put the phone down on them. If the caller is within the UK, do report them to your phone provider for hassle calls (especially if you've signed up to the Telephone Preference service to avoid such calls.) Normally most people know someone from within their family who is knowledgeable enough in IT, and if not, there's plenty of reputable people to call. They tried to ring The Love In My Heart, but she's clever enough to respond with "Sorry, I don't have a computer" and put the phone down. Hehe. But do keep an ear out to your phones just incase, folks.

Tune of the day as the dark nights are starting to set in is the rather dark "The Glorious Land" by PJ Harvey from her "Let England Shake" album which for me is most likely going to be my favourite album of the year. It feels a little moody from the start and when you have some bugle charge sound playing at almost random points in the introduction, it really gives you that feel of unease, and Polly's voice in the chorus "Oh, America, oh England!" really does add wonderfully well. A perfect example of how to write an album properly, I reckon.

Sunday 20th November - Shopping And Birthday Sunday

It was a day of sorts today - shopping first, and then off to see relatives second, as it was my brother in law's birthday today. I also was going to nip and see Mum as well as she wanted some useful directions for a little trip she's got planned next weekend, so all in all it was another busy time of it. The mist rolled over the North West in the morning and clearly you could see that it was quite a brisk cold morning with it coming over the skies, and even as The Love In My Heart and I headed down the M56 in the direction of Cheshire Oaks, you could tell it was just coming over in droves.

The clouds had cleared as we arrived at Cheshire Oaks, and main mission for today was to get one of the Christmas presents for The Love - a Ted Baker purse that she'd seen last time we were here, and at a price much reduced from what you'd normally pay in store. It made sense really - she gets a present she really wants and she gets to pick which one and which style too, so easy decision. We had been to a few shops already but then went in the Ted Baker one, she picked the one she wanted, and off I went, and thankfully rather than get the one on display, you get it in a rather nice swish box as well - which makes it look even more lovely.

The Love also managed to get herself some Christmas presents too, so that was rather good, and also some new shoes - mainly to wear during the working day. The Clarks shoe shop there had buy one get the second half price, and as they were already discounted, she saved a massive amount of dosh and came out with two very nice pairs of black shoes - one flatter heeled, one with a decent sized heel, and that certainly made her day as well as the present buying. I also got a couple of more Christmas presents too, and despite the madness that was all around with tons of people flocking there, we got what we needed.

It was then off to the pub close by and they had two for one on the food, so that kept the cost down, and downed with a nice pint of a beer called World's Biggest Liar. I had to get it just for the name. I tried a special on the menu, the gourmet pie selection, which had mini beef and venison and mini chicken and mushroom pies with all the trimmings - not too bad at all. The Love had the Sunday roast beef which I must admit did look very nice and also looked very tempting for me to have myself as well - kind of wish I had have done in retrospect.

We then went over to see Mum and had a coffee there - she wanted me to check a couple of things out, and also wanted some directions for when she heads away next weekend. I thankfully had been to where she was going, and so was able to show her where to go, what to do etc, and it was also good to see my youngest sister, her son and boyfriend (who's a really good bloke - good to chat to and makes the effort, which is always good). It was also interesting that despite the house looking lovely Mum was still fretting about it not being 100% right - just why I don't know.

Then it was off to my sister's to see my brother in law for his birthday. It was nice to see them both and the two little ones, particularly my nephew who's becoming so lovably cute it's untrue. My brother in law was quite pleased that we'd got him the new Jeremy Clarkson book - as he said, when he's working long hours and waiting around for things to happen on site, a good book whiles the hours away and he can have that in the van ready for that moment. I must admit I was tempted to buy that book for myself too but knew that he'd get plenty more out of it than me - so win win really. Good to see them too.

It was a relaxing evening later on as I whacked on some music and just let the Sunday evening mellow out nicely. Tune of the day is "Santa Fe" by Samantha Crain, a highlight of the Thursday night support show that she did, but also a song that really has a warm country feel and it really does come across as someone who's got bags of talent. Isn't it great when you discover some nice artists completely by accident sometimes and realise how much good music is out there?

Saturday 19th November - Three And Easy

It was a busy day today even though it was a weekend. First port of call was the local Tesco to get all the food shopping done, and as you'd expect, first thing Saturday was actually reasonably busy. The good thing was that most of what I needed I could just pick up on the fly, and be in and out of there in less then twenty minutes, which meant a nice bacon barmcake when I got home for breakfast just to see me right till the afternoon as I packed the shopping away. It was good to get that done and be settled for the day.

It was then a trip into the city centre and first stop - Vinyl Exchange. I wanted to see if I could get the Samantha Crain album, and checking through all the sections I thought that her album would be in, no joy. However I did manage to locate something else I'd been after for ages, MC Solaar's debut album, "Qui seme le vent recolte le tempo" for a mere fiver, and in a digipack sleeve as well. Can't complain there, and getting home later, I whacked on "Bouge de la" at full pelt, and it sounded fab. So tune of the day is going to be that, methinks.

After a well earned coffee in Mcr Coffee Co, it was to the other music shops to see if I could find the Samantha Crain CD. HMV said a mere £15. No way. Fopp had it for £14. Still no way, just way too expensive. And HMV are wondering why they're struggling? The answer is staring them in the face really - if you're going to stock CDs by artists, sell them at a price that's actually reasonable so people will actually buy them in the first place. If it had been say £9.99 or less, I might have been quite tempted to just get it there and then on impulse so I could play it when I got home.

I arrived home later on and after a bit of time sorting the house out, it was off to the Etihad Stadium as Manchester City faced Newcastle United. Both sides had unbeaten league records coming in to the game, so either someone was going to lose their record or in the event of a draw they'd keep going. I was quietly confident but knew that it was going to be a hard game, as Newcastle generally were playing well this season. I had a chicken balti pie before kick off and that warmed me up nicely for the action to come.

During the first half it was a bit cat and mouse but both sides had chances, Newcastle went close through Demba Ba only for Joe Hart to pull off an excellent save. We went forward a few times and in one incident, a shot from Yaya Toure was handled by the Newcastle defence. Definite pen, which Mario Balotelli nonchalantly hit home for 1-0. And a few minutes later a pass from Sergio Agüero made his way to Micah Richards, who robbed the ball from the defender and then slotted it home for 2-0 just before half time. That cheered us up massively and we could tell that from here we should go on and win.

Newcastle kept going and a bad back pass from City skipper Vincent Kompany resulted in a Newcastle shot coming back off the post. At the other end Agüero teased the defenders with his skill, and he almost ran through the whole defence to score. However a goal for him soon came as Micah Richards was bundled over in the box, again an easy penalty decision, and up stepped Agüero to make it 3-0. Would have been nice to have a clean sheet as Newcastle did score (deservedly so for their efforts) late on, but I'd have taken a 3-1 win before hand and this meant that at least for a few hours (till Man U beat Swansea) we had the gap to eight points at the top. Oh yes.

The Love In My Heart later made a really nice chicken tikka massala for tea and had even got me a bottle of The Governor beer to have with it (how nice was that?) and we snuggled up in front of the telly for the evening, and even Match of the Day had City on first so I could see the blue boys again with the pundits having to realise that City are up there on merit (so ha ha Alan Shearer for one!) before we called it a night after a long but ultimately rather good day all round really.

Friday 18th November - Let There Be Hooky and the Light

It was a pretty good day all round, and finally finished off a mere 500GB of data salvation from that Maxtor Shared Storage II drive. Thankfully it all survived pretty intact and the external drive I backed it up to had around 3GB of space left after all that copying, and almost 420GB of that were photographs. Just goes to show how much you can take over the years when you put your mind to it and also shows that I'm right to be ruthless(ish) about the images I keep when taking them on the camera these days.

After work I headed home and not long after arrived The Love In My Heart, as we were off to The Lowry tonight to see a gig - but not just any gig. It was Peter Hook and the Light playing both Joy Division albums in full. As Hooky was of course in Joy Division, you'd expect him to know how to play them so I must admit I was excited, and it had been sold out months ago so I considered myself pretty bloody lucky to get us a couple of tickets for us. The Love managed very cleverly to avoid all the mental traffic jams around the city centre and soon we were heading to Salford Quays and the Lowry Outlet Mall.

First stop was Cafe Rouge for something to eat. I had a voucher for 2 for 1 on mains to keep the cost down, and after perusing the menu, The Love had the Croque Monsieur which was okayish, and I had the poulet baguette, which was effectively really nice chicken with mustard and mayonnaise on a baguette with fries - whch was lovely. I even had the tarte tatin for dessert too and that was the highlight for me - I must try and get that for eating for dessert at home sometime, as that with vanilla ice cream was the stuff to set everything off in the right way.

We headed to The Lowry, had a drink at the bar close to The Quays theatre where the action was happening and took our seats. Weirdly and annoyingly, the two seats we had were either side of the boxes in the stalls tier. We were still next to each other but with a chest level barrier in between. You'd think the box office staff would know this when selling you the tickets and make sure you were properly together, but hey ho. Anyway, the support band were absolutely appalling. They mucked up their stage visuals and keyboards in the third song and had to start again, one bloke was doing all the stuff via his Mac (yawn) and the lead singer wasn't exactly enthralling. I could have stayed in the bar instead to be honest, and I don't often say that.

Thankfully on came Peter Hook and the Light (official site for Hooky) and it was effectively two sets - the first would be the whole of the Unknown Pleasures album and the second half the Closer album in full - and in track order too. However the first set started off with some early singles and B-sides beforehand, so we got the likes of "No Love Lost", "Leaders of Men" and "Digital" which was a very nice surprise indeed, not least for the real diehards in the audience.

Then it was on to Unknown Pleasures, and for me the original album's end of side 1 / start of side 2 combo (New Dawn Fades / She's Lost Control / Shadowplay) is the epicentre of that. I was quite surprised to see Rowetta (she used to be in Happy Mondays you know) singing on some of the tracks, and she sang on "New Dawn Fades". I kept thinking it'd have been even better if Moby was there singing it, but Rowetta did a good job. It was back to Hooky for "She's Lost Control" onwards, and that was electric. But "Shadowplay" really did stand out wonderfully well, and that's my tune of the day as it really carried the feel of the original superbly.

In the interval The Love and I discussed how it was going. She thought that Hooky's voice wasn't that good and he should stick to playing bass, but having seen him sing before in clips in other gigs, his voice was actually better. The band were very tight and professional, the lead guitarist really getting into it, and the other bass player turned out to be Hooky's son Jack, so if anyone knows how to play them whilst slinging the bass über-low, then it has to be him really. I was hoping that the really good musicianship would continue as that really underpinned everything superbly.

I wasn't to be disappointed. The whole of "Closer" was played, so a shimmering "Isolation", Rowetta guest vocalling on "Colony" which made it a different take, and "Twenty Four Hours" really brought the quiet and the loud bits together nicely. I wondered how they'd take on "The Eternal" and with great care they did, as that's possibly the most depressing Joy Division song of the lot. "Decades" shimmered nicely and plenty of moody synths being played to really get the feel across, and it showed how superb that album was too. It was off the stage for them and plenty of time for an encore.

And what an encore. If you're going to play a six song encore, you'd play the classic songs that weren't on the albums and then some, right? Well you do, how about "Dead Souls" and then "Atmosphere" with Rowetta on vocals? Good. All very good. "Dead Souls" sounded dark and sinister enough for me, and then two B-sides, "These Days" and "Novelty" before playing the A-sides in reverse to those two B-sides: "Transmission" (Novelty was the B-side" which got everyone really dancing a bit and all belting out "Dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio! at full whack.

But of course the piece de resistance was the A-side of "These Days", which is of course "Love Will Tear Us Apart". And yes, Hooky slung his bass extra low for this one, everyone joined in the chorus at full volume and the lead guitarist really rocked out as well to give it a harder edge than normal. In short, a perfect way to end the gig and you could tell how much everyone had enjoyed it. And with that being my all time favourite song ever, if they hadn't have done it justice I'd have been upset. But they did. And it felt very good being there.

I know some people out there will say that Hooky's insulting the memory of Ian Curtis as years ago New Order effectively said that they woudn't play Joy Division songs. However, I'm also of the thought that I'd rather those who were in the band play them and do them the right justice than some appalling cover version for the next John Lewis advert, as people still clearly want to hear them played live if tonight's crowd, many of them old enough to remember the band, were anything to go by. If anyone's going tomorrow night, you're in for a treat folks, you really are.

Thursday 17th November - Anger Is An Energy

Another good day at the office, and finally managed to work out how to get the rest of the data off the Maxtor Shared Storage II NAS drive. The power decided to die, so I ended up opening the case and checking the innards - two SATA drives in a RAID 0 array. However what proved positive was that each disk was partitioned with a Linux EXT3 file system, so it meant that with my tools for reading Linux disks on my PC, I could see what was on it. I couldn't see the RAID array, but could see the other volumes within the Linux disk and one of them had the user names for the shared areas. Hmmm.

With that in mind, I hooked the drives back up to its controller, powered it on, it came on, gave me a network address but more importantly allowed me to access the web interface's sharing folders option, and came up with the correct user names - so as an admin I just reset the passwords for the shared private folders, and this meant I could crucially get to the photos folder, which by my reckoning has a mere 300GB plus of data. Thankfully the 500GB external hard drive that I'm transferring it to has enough space, so it was a case of then moving it bit by bit. Fingers crossed!

After work it was time to make myself some chicken for me tea, and then my friend came over to mine and we headed into the city centre. No, not to see that Children In Need Rocks thing at the Manchester Evening News Arena, although we were quite near to there. It was to the Band on the Wall, the first time I'd been since it had been refurbed and the first time ever (I think) that my friend was going. We were here to see The Bad Shepherds do their thing again (third time) on what they think is the "first farewell tour" as they're all doing their own stuff in 2012. It's always a good night so here was hoping.

I must admit that the Band on the Wall's refurb has really works. You have a nice area for viewing bands (downstairs standing or sit down upstairs if you wish) and two bars - a more normal bar as you go in its new entrance, and another one by the standing area. Best of all, both bars do real ale. Hurrah! I was well pleased, so I had a pint of the "3 Bad Shepherds" guest ale that was on, and that really did hit the spot ever so well. We got a good vantage point right at the front, and so we were ready for the evening.

On came Samantha Crain (official site) and she was very good. A lovely voice with some gentle tones and a real feel for her music. She played acoustic but with a nice feel to know when to go louder and quieter, and had good banter with the audience. Highlight for me was "Santa Fe" which she explained was somewhere she used to go to a lot when she was younger so it holds memories - a good reason as much as any. I quite liked "Lions" too and I'm sure that her album might be well worth a purchase - her voice really enticed you in nicely. Shame some people felt the need to chatter over her acoustic goodness, though.

After a bit of a break on came The Bad Shepherds (official site) and my, was it another good night of them doing folky versions of punk and early 1980s classics. Of course I really enjoyed the likes of "Anarchy In The UK" and "Ace of Spades" especially, as they're two staple ones that I like the originals of and their treatment was spot on. It was good to hear them do "God Save The Queen" and Ade was on top form, as you'd expect, really singing the words succinctly. One fan had a Sex Pistols t-shirt on and was waving it at Ade when the "no future" bit at the end came on. Really good stuff all round.

The highlight for me was their version of Public Image Ltd's "Rise" and the whole crowd were singing the chorus in unison together, and that felt bloody uplifting let me tell you. Even more impressive were how many people were belting out the interlude part, singing "Anger is an energy!" and building it up very nicely. For that alone it has to be tune of the day for me no question. I also really enjoyed them doing "The Model" as I adore what they do the Kraftwerk classic, and they even did "London Calling" near the end too. An hour and a half plus set was impressive, and thoroughly enjoyable. Do catch them if you can, you will not regret it, let me tell you. I've now got "White Riot" in my head because they played that as well, and it's a bloody good song too...

Wednesday 16th November - Fishy Dishy

Had a rather productive day today, and spent some time trying to get some data off a Maxtor Shared Storage II NAS external hard drive that had been attached to a Mac of one of our academic staff. For some reason they couldn't see the device on the network and so as such weren't able to retrieve the data needed, so that wasn't good. However I managed to find the little reset button at the back of the device which meant that the network settings were reset. Then using a crossover cable I hooked it up to my Macbook Pro and installed the Maxtor software. This in turn then showed me the drive so at least I could get to it.

Fingers crossed, but it's a tad counter intuitive and the software doesn't exactly fill me with confidence either that it's a device that you necessarily want to back stuff up to. It also looks like it uses the ext3 file system, more in conjunction with something Linux would use instead of Mac or Windows, so I might be even better hooking it up to an Ubuntu rig at some point an seeing what can be done with that. Nonetheless it looked rugged as hell though and I'm sure that the drive can be put to good use in some way.

After work I went into the city centre to meet up with The Love In My Heart, as she was on an earlier shift at work and had then been to get her hair done, so I had the first chance to see her with the new hairdo, and I have to say it suited her nicely, a little shorter than she'd normally have it, but it works pretty well. We decided to head to Kro and have a drink in there which is always nice, and when it's a little quieter than normal like it was, you can hear yourself talk and so we had plenty to talk about our respective days too, so that was nice.

I suggested to The Love that we eat in the restaurant part and see what the food's like in there, and that I'd treat her to tea which was appreciated lots. Yaay. We went in and had a comfortable chair each, and the only difficult decision was deciding which dish to have. The Love went for the frikadelle with red cabbage and potatoes which did look good, and I went for one of the specials, the chicken marinated in lemon, ginger, mint and yoghurt with a bed of rice. In the meantime I saw the fish and chips come out and that looked awesome, and I must admit I was thinking I'd made the wrong decision.

Far from it. The Love's Danish inspired dish was very nice by all accounts, and she happily scoffed that. However my marinated chicken was gorgeous, a really hefty breast really soaked nicely in all the flavours and they came out well when you ate it, and as some of the marinade was on top that formed a nice juice to soak the rice in, and that made the rice even tastier. I let The Love try some of the chicken and she agreed with me that it tasted fabulous, and for the price even more so. And I remembered that one of my loyalty cards I have allows me 20% off the food in there too, so that saved a few more pounds too. Hurrah!

It was sad to head home after all that but it was also lovely to spend more time with The Love too, and I know that every moment I spend is one worth treasuring massively. I headed home on the bus with all happy thoughts in my head, and I kept thinking of her as I watched Masterchef The Professionals and see some of them make a right pigs' ear out of Michel Roux Jr's classic dessert - which I have to say looked very tasty but also very tricky to make - getting the temperature bang on 104 degrees for one set of ingredients and then taking them off the pan - tricky to say the least. Very much so.

Tune of the day simply has to be Juliana Hatfield's "Universal Heartbeat". It's a great little rockier indie number with a great chorus line of "a heart that hurts is a heart that works" - and a lot of truth is said in that. I even have the single on 10" vinyl as well as CD (I got the vinyl first as it was pretty cheap, maybe even 99p if I remember) and the video pastiches keep fit and health clubs and takes the mickey out of them with Juliana playing the fitness instructor in a video they're watching and then being one of the grunged up keep fit people too. Good stuff.

Tuesday 15th November - In The Wedding City

Another rather good but busy day, and I spent a fair bit of time getting my Windows 7 rig together. I installed Oracle's free Virtualbox, and then on this layered on a Windows XP setup with Novell client, ConsoleOne etc so I could still log on to the Novell network and do all the things that I need to do if there's some old school testing and evaluation which needs to be done, as well as making sure that everything is up and running from my old machine. What took the time of course is the data I've got on the hard disk to do with software installers and packaging, which takes up around 50GB of disk space, so transferring that was fun and games.

After work it was time to head home, and I needed to go via the little Asda close to home as I needed to get some milk - as I was running out rapidly and wanted to make sure that I have some for a coffee later. Unfortunately Asda was rammed and everyone was queuing up for the tills. At the quick pay tills the machine decided that it wanted to ignore the fact that I'd put the milk and other items into a bag and on the scales, and so kept saying "unexpected item in bagging area". Meh. I had to wait till one of the assistants sorted out the problem so I could move on and leave, and not a moment too soon let me tell you.

The Love In My Heart came over for tea later and I made us some penne pasta with sauce and these lovely meatballs with an Italian herb topping that I'd got from Tesco over the weekend. It tasted good and the two of us settled down with that before watching the rest of Masterchef The Professionals. You could tell that the contestants were in awe of Michel Roux Jr with the dish that he made with the oysters, and that they really struggled when making their own stuff and providing food for thought. What was good though was that the ones who shone made gorgeous food, and had we not already eaten, it would have been tempting, let me tell you!

A while later Don't Tell The Bride was on and we had to have a giggle as the husband to be had a lot of things themed into sci-fi style, with all sorts of alien masks as favours, a cake with icing and little green alien figures on it, a service in the science maze of a science museum in Newcastle, and all that sort of weirdness. It was very different even if he stuck to some of the nice stuff for the wedding such as lovely cars to take the bride there, some nice electric blue dresses for the bridesmaids etc. We just smiled and thought that if anyone was going to do a sci-fi wedding and we weren't together but with different partners, neither of us would want anything like that really. But hey, each to their own!

Tune of the day though was a nice surprise to hear in the background tonight, not least when you were watching a show about weddings and it came on - yes, "In The City" by The Jam of all things! Of course The Love In My Heart and I were more than happy to hear that as it's classic Jam and classic Weller at his finest of course, and reminds me of being younger and seeing these bands on the telly thinking "one day, I'll be like that". Well, sort of anyway.

Monday 14th November - Drumming Into Retro Territory

It was a fairly busy day at the office today, and I spent some time as well working on a couple of things. First of all I've got a newer piece of kit which is going to become my day to day machine with Windows 7 on, and I've already brought down the main image for that. I set off the task sequence for all the specialised software now, so this would include the likes of Adobe CS5 Design Standard, AutoCAD 2012 etc, so I can at least be able to replicate any issues that anyone might be having with the software. It also meant that thankfully as my new rig in the office is pretty powerful (not as much as my AMD Quad-core Athlon X4 965 Black Edition at home, but still) I knew it would handle everything pretty well.

Once I got home, I then spent a bit of time around at my uncle's place. I wanted to drop off a couple of discs for him that I said I'd sort out for him, and also have a good chat with them both about what's happening too. I was explaining the day out The Love In My Heart and I had yesterday and how we ended up at the Sizzling Pub, and it was somewhere they both go to quite a bit and like, and we'll have to head out there again sometime. He was also debating whether the two of them could go and see the Mrs Brown stage show at the O2 Apollo, but it looked like you could only get single tickets what was left, not two together. At least though that's face value, and not say for example £200 plus on eBay.

I managed as well late last night to ensure that all my Guitar Hero content from previous games finally works again on Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock so I've now got all my 332 songs available. For some reason, one downloadable song I downloaded caused none of the Guitar Hero Greatest Hits songs to appear, even though they are on the card. Anyway, I recently snagged a Queens of the Stone Age song from a most recent download pack, and badabing! All the songs now appear again and the content catalog is spot on. Weird, but hey, I'm not complaining one little bit.

This meant I could get the drum kit out and start to try songs on drums again and see how I did with them. Some were easier than others of course, and the likes of "Bleed It Out" by Linkin Park weren't that bad to try and keep the beat going. What was a lot trickier was "Psychosocial" by Slipknot, but I didn't do too badly once I got used to the bass kicks in the chorus really. I also went back to do "Bodies" by Drowning Pool as I wasn't too happy with the score I first tried on that - and did a lot better overall so that was good. I can only play on a maximum of medium for most songs on drums, my co-ordination is bobbins and doesn't handle things too fast.

Mind you, I did try a few that I was much better at than expected too, so "Rock and Roll All Nite" by Kiss was one that I very nearly got 100% on - I just fluffed up on one bass kick close to the end - darn! But nonetheless I also managed to sing it on expert vocals and completely 100% it, so that has to be tune of the day - it's a classic. As is "Shout It Out Loud" from Guitar Hero 5 that I also had a blast at as well, no complaints there from me at least. It was good fun to get back into it after months of Rock Band 3, so all was well there.

I finished off the evening watching some of the DVD "The Big Match - Manchester City" which features games that featured on "The Big Match" between the late 1960s and early 1980s. Each season appears to have one game, with the title sequence of the programme from that seaon on first, along with London Weekend Television idents (why not Granada? Meh.) The theme tune from the mid 1970s is "La Soiree" by David Ordini, which seems a bit "oompah" in places, but does at least fit. The older theme tune before 1972 is tons better though and evokes the proper muddy pitches, no sponsors on the shirts, no Sky etc.

Anyway, plenty of City action for me to get the proverbial teeth into - the 1973-74 game against Burnley just before Christmas with plenty of mud at Maine Road with goalmouth action, the Manchester derby 4-0 win from November 1969, a nice thumping of Everton 3-0 in April 1971, complete with the North Stand being what it was back then - a big open terrace stand, and a 5-0 thrashing of Tottenham in May 1977 which helped City finish a very close second behind Liverpool. Great to see with lots of Brian Moore doing his summarising bits wonderfully, and even Jimmy Hill on occasion. Retro-tastic!

Sunday 13th November - Peter Rabbit In Lyme Park

It was a relaxing and calm morning, and certainly watching the Rememberance Sunday service from the Cenotaph in London showed that there might be bad things going on across the world, but none of them can compare to someone losing a friend and colleague in war. It was a more moving service than normal for some reason, and Sophie Raworth's interviews with some of the war veterans (notably the one who lost a hand and leg in a landmine incident in Iraq) were sincere and fitting for the occasion. The silence was observed here and the march past really did show the pride in standing up for their country - rather moving all round I think.

As The Love In My Heart was getting herself ready for the afternoon, I kept an eye on some of the FA Cup first round goals from yesterday as well as seeing the opening few minutes of FC Halifax Town v Charlton Athletic. In the build up of course they showed Halifax's 1980 win against Man City in the third round on a pitch that resembled more the local park than what was at the time a football league ground, but today the ground is tons better and a decent pitch to play on, so would be interesting to see later how that pans out in terms of the game and what would happen.

However, The Love and I were heading out for the afternoon and notably to Lyme Park, as they had a Beatrix Potter exhibition on for the Winter. This meant that the gardens of Lyme Hall would be open for us to roam around, find the Beatrix Potter related stuff and then go for a little walk. And of course being members, it'd be free entry as well so that was a bonus for us. We managed to get a parking space and then headed up to the house and to the garden. You had a little trail to follow around the gardens which showed you Jeremy Fisher the frog on a massive lilypad in the pond, and stood pretty tall. As you walked around the outside of the pond path, there was also a picture with holes for heads so that you could become the rabbit family.

As we then walked towards the orangery the gardens had their tools and became labelled Mr McGregor's garden, and as we walked past the orangery there was someone walking round in a life sized Peter Rabbit costume and having their picture taken with all the children as well as posing for everyone with a camera (me included of course) so that was nice. One of the side doors to the house was open and in there was a Peter Rabbit themed shop to entice the parents, and some of the drawing rooms there housed some lovely original pieces of artwork by Beatrix Potter herself, which was fab.

And inside the house you made your way past some original artwork and relics of the Beatrix Potter household to the library, where plenty of parents and children were reading Beatrix's books together, which made me feel rather pleased inside to see. There were also cabinets with drawers that housed more original pieces of art, an old Peter Rabbit board game, an old tea towel with the rabbit on and all sorts, which was good to see. It was well worth a visit and it really gave the children lots of lovely themed stuff to look at and read which was smart. It's on every weekend during the Winter, so get there if you can.

After a walk around the park, we headed out, back towards Hazel Grove before taking the A523 through Poynton and to the Vernon Arms, a Sizzling pub that some of my family have raved about. And when we went in there, we could understand why. It was pretty busy, but there were tables free for us to sit at, they had cask beer at the bar (yaay) and the food wasn't overpriced. In fact, far from it, it was a relatively inexpensive menu. The Love had the smothered chicken with gorgeous bacon, cheese and BBQ sauce, and I had the mixed grill, with masses of sausages, steak, chicken and gammon. Both meals came to less than £12 and with drinks it was around £17 all in. No complaints from me there, let me tell you. And the food was also gorgeous, both of the meals coming on a sizzling hotplate and really added to the feel.

All in all, a good day all round really. And in the meantime, as a counteraction of The X Factor contestants by all accounts ruining Queen songs, an antidote for that - a Queen cover which is actually decent and respects the original. So step forward Metallica with their version of "Stone Cold Crazy" - a proper version by a proper band, and if it's good enough so that James Hetfield of Metallica was asked to perform with Queen in 1992 for the Freddie Mercury tribute gig, then it's good enough for me too - so tune of the day without any doubt whatsoever.

Saturday 12th November - Collection Points and Carringtons

I had a busy day ahead of me today, and after I'd headed to Tesco and done the weekly shop (I didn't do it last night with being at Mum's, you see) it was then off into the city centre. First stop was the Mcr Coffee Co on Oldham Street for a well earned morning coffee. I like it in there, the atmosphere is good and you feel better for supporting a local independent coffee shop instead of a chain place. Also before 11am the small americano is a mere £1. And it's not exactly small either, let me tell you. So it was good to sit there with a morning paper and just take in the day's news and relax.

Then it was just down the road to the folks at The Northern Cutter, who did their usual exemplary job of cutting my hair and making it all lovely and neat, kudos to them for that. In fact they were playing the Ministry of Sound Electronic 80s 3CD compilation that I have, so it was very nice indeed hearing the likes of "Fade to Grey" by Visage and best of all "Don't Go" by Yazoo, which had us all singing along to the chorus, so for that reason alone it's got to be tune of the day - and showed how bloody good the 1980s actually were for music, despite people thinking to the contrary.

After that it was over to the Arndale Centre to visit some collection points of shops so that I could collect some Christmas presents. On the way I noticed that Waterstone's was absolutely rammed with lots of emo kids queueing outside. I asked why in the store (there were emo kids all sat down in there as well) and it turned out that Noel Fielding of The Mighty Boosh fame was going to do an art demo (he draws as well you see) and then do a signing session. Apparently some of the emo moshers were there at 5am in the morning and the Arndale staff let them in so that they weren't in the cold. Woo. Compare and contrast to the Willie Thorne book signing session in WH Smith which was, well, a tad empty.

It was then over to Marks and Spencer as I agreed with The Love In My Heart that I'd do the whole "dine in for 2 for £10" deal and base that for us having tea tonight. It was a difficult decision to make but in the end I went for the gammon joint with a honey glaze, and new potatoes for the side dish, with New York cheesecake slices for dessert and a nice Italian white which The Love could drink (I had plans for real ale of course!) - and on top of that I got some nice minestrone soup and a small baguette to have for the starter. Might as well make it three courses and go the whole hog.

After getting home, wrapping up lots of presents and then seeing the F1 qualifying with Sebastian Vettel once again taking pole position (no surprise there) it was then off to Didsbury as I wanted to check out Carringtons, an off licence that specialises in decent beers and real ales from around the world as well as wine. And wow was I not disappointed. You wanted German wheat beers? Check. You fancied some American craft beer? Check. How about something from Australia? Check. And some lovely English real ale too? Oh yes, got that too. In other words, a proper beer shop. The only difficult decision I had was working out which beer to have, in the end I got two bottles for myself (and some others for a present...) - the ones I got for myself were the Saltaire Raspberry Blonde, and the Thornbridge Wild Swan. And very nice they were too, let me tell you!

I headed home as darkness started to fall and later on The Love In My Heart came over. We had a good chat and a coffee at first and even had a look at a café in Castleton that one of her friend's family has taken over and opened, and wondered if it was one we had been in. As it turned out it wasn't, but it looked like from the reviews at Trip Advisor, it needed some new impetus and someone who could turn it around - so should be a good challenge I think. I started cooking and had the minestrone soup, which was really nice, full of vegetables and wholesome.

As for the gammon, wow that was gorgeous. I poured the sachet of honey glaze over the gammon, and when it cooked there was a honey-like sauce in the bottom of the dish - which we then used to pour over the plate. That worked very well and the gammon tasted sumptuous and the honey was just a touch but added to the taste massively. Add to the new potatoes and indeed some steam fresh vegetables which I also did, and that was one rather lovely meal all round really. We had the cheesecake as The Love indulged herself on her usual Saturday night pastime of X Factor whilst I tried to avoid it as much as possible.

Friday 11th November - IP Phones and Rememberance

It was like Santa's grotto almost in our office today as we took delivery of our brand shiny new IP phones, all Cisco branded and in a very nice shade of black as well. The idea being is that we're then able to sign in to any phone, and take our extension number with us (useful that) so that wherever we are, we can be contactable. There's a lot to be said about how useful that might be, so we spent some time this morning setting up the phones for use. One small problem - they came up with "not registered" and after a quick call to our Networks team, we left it with them to investigate to hopefully resolve later.

I was walking on my way to another office when 11am struck, but it was nice to pause for a minute or two and remember those who gave our lives in World War I back in the day, and others who have suffered in conflicts since. I think all the furore about the England football team being allowed to wear poppies or not has taken away the real reasoning behind the day in question, and it's a moment of reflection and thought for others less fortunate - and you don't necessarily have to wear a poppy for that, I suspect.

It was then a case of talking through with my colleague some of the stuff we need to get right and ready when imaging some PCs and we set off around fourteen of them which are for a department, they had them in storage as they moved and didn't think they'd have room but have now found some, so we're going to do our utmost to get them out. So far so good too and we've been keeping an eye on them before we left so that we were able to crack on with other things - all good thus far.

I went to Mum's after work as she now had her all new singing and shiny O2 Wireless Box router, and so as the activation date for broadband was here, this meant that I could hook it all up for Mum, showing her what to do, and so her laptop could then connect wirelessly and she'd be online and doing all sorts of good stuff. She was really pleased and it was quick and painless to get everything going. I think what impressed her was that how quick everything was, and that it soon had everything up and running rapidly.

I had some tea at Mum's before heading home and seeing the horrible rain outside, that really seemed to be set in for the night. And then it was a case of lisrening to some Dream Theater to wind down the evening rather nicely, with the opening track of the Octavarium album "The Root of All Evil" being particularly epic tonight and just right for the time of night - so tune of the day for me there. It's sometimes nice to listen to something a bit more lengthy and progressive that makes you think a bit!

Thursday 10th November - Masterchef Madness

Had a pretty productive day in the office, not least as I spent some time on a Mac for a change and had a bit of a dabble with settings for Bluetooth. I wanted to try and replicate the settings on a Macbook to check how easy it was to connect to a phone (mine has Bluetooth so would be a good test). It worked pretty well and at some point I might need to take some screen shots and so use it as a handy guide for other people who might want to know what to do. Sometimes all the technology is all well and good, but if it's a case of using it for the first time it's handy to know what to do.

Later on I had a pretty relaxing time of it rocking out, I thought that a bit of drumming on Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock might be handy to do, and so I had a good go at a few songs, not least of all "Bodies" by Drowning Pool, a song I remember well from the Tony Hawk series of games when I used to play them a fair bit. As you can well imagine, the drums aren't too bad on this one but it takes a couple of goes to get used to it. Part of me wanted to get on vocals and belt it out too full pelt - so tune of the day right there for me that one.

After a very nice chat and catch up with one of my friends on the phone, The Love In My Heart headed over to mine and we had a nice tea together - some penne carbonara no less, with some extra bacon lardons in there just to give it a much meatier feel than just the sauce alone would have, which was a good thing. It was nice to just chat about our respective days and although The Love was a little tired from the week, she was still chatty and we had lots to talk about. I did the washing up and insisted on her settling in and watching Masterchef The Professionals whilst I did that.

I must admit I do like the Professionals version myself - not least as they have to really try hard to satisfy the restaurant critics, including Jay Rayner, who these days appears quite a bit on The One Show as well now. One of them tried this dessert with eggy bread and some baked custard, which split and became a real disaster. Add that to the main where the vegetables were underdone, and straight away I said "that's him gone then!" - especially compared to the next one who had Jay saying that he'd want the cook to live at his place and cook like that all the time, that's how good it was.

It was then on a part mission for me as I was going to locate some calendar templates for The Love so that she could print them at work and paste a picture at the top, so she could make some customised calendars, a good idea all round really. I found one decent template and played with it a little in Word so that it all looked rather nice and lovely for her, and then she was able to use that for herself so all good there. It's nice when you can give something back and make the one you love feel happy, isn't it?

Wednesday 9th November - Surprise, Surprise!

Had a productive day in the office today with some nice surprises too. This morning I went over to have a look at some network sockets that weren't showing live. After a bit of investigation, I found out that one of the sockets had been incorrectly labelled with the same number as another socket in the room next door. Surprise surprise, the slackers who were doing the new lot of cabling are nowhere near as good as the company we normally use. I did manage to find what the correct number was but even so, it did make me wonder what the hell is going on..

In the afternoon I had a meeting to go to, and it was for one of the course comittees. Imagine my nice surprise then when we got to the meeting and there was actually proper tea, coffee and even some little cakes as well for everyone to enjoy. Normally meetings are scaled back so that we don't have anything like this but I thought it was a very nice thing to do and certainly made everyone really give their all at the meeting. Little things equals big pluses, well it does for me anyway.

After work I went into the city centre and picked up another couple of Christmas presents, so that felt rather good to be cracking on with things nicely on that score. In fact I'd ordered a third one online in my lunch break as well so that felt rather positive. And what was a nice surprise was that one of the gifts that I ordered wasn't as expensive as I thought it would be, meaning that I could actually get something else as well at the same time. I like it when that happens.

I also thought I'd surprise The Love In My Heart, as I know that she was on a late shift a work today. One ride on the city centre free bus later and I was outside her work, and she was surprised to see me but pleased too I suspect. I thought it'd be nice to have a drink after work so we walked to Kro in Piccadilly and - joy oh joy - they had the Elbow Build a Rocket Boys! ale on cask. Oh yes, another nice surprise. The Love looked lovely and we had lots to chat about before we headed home, but I just wanted to see her and really spend some time with her most of all - sometimes when you love someone so much it's nice to give all the little surprises like that!

Tune of the day is "Drop A Beat (The New Version)" by Moby, which is from a 1993 re-release album "The Story So Far" which took the eponymous "Moby" album, changed the track listing totally around and added some different mixes along the way. This one reminds me a lot of being younger and playing Moby at full pelt in the Summer with the windows wide open. It just makes me feel good inside listening to it and a nice surprise to listen to it again after not doing so for some time. And the track after this one on the album's not too bad either....

Tuesday 8th November - Steak In

I had another busy day in the office today, not least because everyone seems to have been having issues with their laptops and making sure that they all seemed to play ball was a bit of a mission for me to get them all sorted out. I was also conscious of the fact that I wanted to make sure that all the jobs that came in were taken care of and that I was doing my best customer service bit along the way. Sometimes you need to remember to make sure that you keep this high level up, and actually deal with people in a professional manner. Not always easy of course, but you do what you can.

I headed home later on and noticed that I needed to give the downstairs a bit of a clean, so sorted all that out whilst simultaneously keeping an eye on a repeat of Pointless on BBC1. I must admit I did feel pretty smug knowing most of the William's in the question that came up, especially as one contestant thought William Shatner played Dr Huxtable (it was Bill Cosby of course ;) instead of knowing him for his role in eighties cop show TJ Hooker. Mind you, I'd have won the jackpot on Celebrity Apprentice contestants because I knew that Karren Brady was in that before becoming one of Lord Alan Sugar's assistants on the proper show. Oh yes. I rock, me.

I rang my cousin down in Bournemouth and there's only a few weeks to go before she has her second child so as you can well imagine there was a fair bit of baby talk being discussed. It's nice that they know what sex it'll be, but the name will be decided once born, even though they have a few ideas. I tried to prise them out, but no can do (not the only one to have tried apparently!) - it was good to chat to her about all sorts anyway, and I timed it reasonably well so that I was starting to cook the evening meal for myself and The Love In My Heart as we wound up our long but good chat.

I finished off the evening meal for us both, and it was a lovely rump steak with chips and peas, which we both enjoyed massively. It was also nice to see that The Love's injury from her slip and fall on my decking a week or so back seems to be healing decently well now, but I know that it'll take a bit of time before it's completely done. I do feel bad for her falling in my back yard it has to be said. It was also good to wind down a bit and see some of the Masterchef - The Professionals with them really struggling to impress the culinary legend that is Michel Roux Jr. Oh yes.

We then spent some time keeping an eye on Don't Tell The Bride on BBC3. It's horrendously trashy of course, but that's to be expected. When you've got someone who is all nautical and a demanding bride who acts like a proper Scouser, there's going to be tears and tantrums, not least when she first tried the dress on, didn't like it and then saw it in front of the mirror and in fact it all made sense what she had on. Unfortunately it looked like she had the sort of mum and aunt who would spoil her and pander to her every need, which let's face it wasn't so hot after all.

In the meantime then tune of the day has to be "The Glorious Land" by PJ Harvey. I had another repeat listen of the Let England Shake album tonight and it made me realise (as if I needed reminding) how bloody good the album is and how much there's an overall feeling of desperation. In the chorus of this track, the way she sings "Oh, America, oh, England" each time seems a little more desperate than the last, and that adds to the feel wonderfully well. Yaay for good music, not coke-snorting X Factor idiots....

Monday 7th November - Back To It

It was back to work after a very enjoyable time off, and straight away into the thick of it. I had to complete some testing on some Access databases, to see if they would work with Access 2010 correctly in the future. Thankfully the ones I had to look at today weren't too difficult as they didn't have any fancy macros or VBA scripts in there, just simple databases with some queries and reports, so that happened to be reasonably decent all round. They all appeared to do what they were supposed to - one of them though did appear to not like one report but when I investigated why this was because it tried to sort by a non-existent field. Soon got that nicely sorted out.

Spent some time too working on a couple of laptops and getting them nicely imaged and ready to redistribute back out. One of them had quite an old build on so it made sense to completely re-image it and make it work correctly as intended, and the other I wanted to run a Windows 7 test image on anyway to make sure that it would work with that particular type of laptop, so all was well with the world there. Well, sort of. I spent most of the afternoon sorting out one particularly nasty paper jam in one of the multifunctional printers, and eventually I think got to the bottom of it.

I went home, and is it me, or is going home in the dark a real horrible feeling? You don't mind so much if you've actually spent some time outside during the day in the daylight, but if you've been working in an office most of the time you do have to wonder if you're not seeing that much of the day really. It's not good, and I guess as the dark Winter nights draw in it'll be a case of seeing what I can do in the evenings to try and eliminate the feelings of being in the dark virtually all the time in my own time.

My uncle did come over tonight and we spent some time working on a CV for him - he needed to have one that was up to date and thankfully we had an idea of how we wanted it to look - and what information that we needed to put in as well. I guess too that the main thing was that we got all the important aspects of the recent jobs in there as well as any qualifications and a nice little personal profile summary just to really set things off nicely. Thankfully the good thing is that it looks really professional now and he's very pleased with it indeed.

I also watched some of series two of the cult TV series Sledge Hammer! on DVD tonight. For those of you who don't know it, it was cult late night watching on ITV back in the late 1980s, as the lead character was clearly modelled on Dirty Harry, but kind of funny with a warped sense of humour, who would always sleep with his gun by his side or even talk to the gun, and have one of the best catch phrases on the telly: "Trust me, I know what I'm doing". What I was surprised to see was that Adam Ant and Davy Jones (you know, him off The Monkees) appeared in episodes as well - quite a coup for the producers that.

Tune of the day therefore has to be the theme tune from the series, one of many excellent TV and film themes composed by the legend that is Danny Elfman. If you've watched any Tim Burton films you'll know who he is as a lot of the soundtracks for the films are done by him. Danny's band Oingo Boingo also performed the theme of the 1980s film "Weird Science" which was one of my favourites when growing up. "She's alive, she's alive!" (etc). The Sledge Hammer! theme just has the right amount of drama and suspense and lulls perfectly for Sledge's catch phrase. Oh yes.

Sunday 6th November - Pies, Parties and Plectrums

Had a very busy and active day today and so much so that part of me wishes I could go to sleep right now to really reflect on the day, but isomnia is kicking in so I can't - yet. Anyway, the day started with an early rise, some breakfast and then off to pick up The Love In My Heart's father as we were on our way to a Christmas Fair in the gardens of Astley Park in Astley Village near Chorley, to help support a local charity there that The Love's family help to support whenever they can. I know it's important to them so I head along too of course to do my bit, only seems the right thing to do to be honest.

Last year was the first time they'd done the Christmas Fair in the park and its stable grounds, and the parking was a nightmare. This year they had a much better arrangement which meant you could easily get around, and The Love found one last parking space nearby and so headed there, and with The Love's sister also managing to get there earlyish, we arrived and perused the stalls. There were plenty in the old stable buildings, and some in the courtyards were local market stalls who donated their payements of a pitch to the charity (good idea that). One even sold good looking pies that went very quickly during the day, so well worth noting to see if I can try one sometime to be honest.

We had a coffee in the café in the stable block and then went around the old Astley Hall, as well as seeing some of the other stalls that did little gift hampers and sets, and they did look rather nice all round. It was tempting but I was trying to resist and only buy something if it was to be a Christmas present for someone, only seemed the right thing to do at the moment. We did though go for lunch at The Hartwood pub on the way back, and the all day breakfast was pretty good - and I even got the bonus of added herby sausages from both The Love and her father, so that was all good too. They were gorgeous I tell you.

We dropped The Love's father off, and then we headed back to mine, picked up some stuff and then went over to my sister's, who was holding a birthday party for my nephew, who's seven tomorrow. It was okay for him to open some presents today though, and so he was pretty pleased with what we'd got him (a Phineas and Ferb double pack with a DVD and Nintendo DS game) - and was generally running around with plenty of grins on his face. We spent some time chatting with some of the family and it was good to see everyone generally, so all was well with the world there.

We headed back to mine, The Love said her goodbyes as she was off home whilst myself and my friend were off to a gig - this time Midge Ure acoustic at The Lowry. Sod's law was that after I'd booked the tickets Throwing Muses announced a date at Club Academy on the same night (if they were separate nights of course I'd have done both!!) but I'd at least been to London and Holmfirth this week for the Muses, so that was good stuff all round really. We headed via the petrol station and then on to The Lowry Outlet Mall, where my friend parked up and we decided what to do for tea - go to Pizza Express as I had a voucher for a second main course for £2.

The meal proved to be a good decisions, both the pizzas we had were excellent and really tasted flavoursome (especially my la reine one) and my friend had the vanilla ice cream whilst I went for a mini dessert (the lemon meringue tart) plus a latte, which set it all off rather nicely at the end of the meal. I had a good chat with my friend about all sorts and it was good to do that I reckon, especially as we were looking forward to other gigs this month and beyond, so we were working out some form of schedule and of course about Man City and our continuing lead of the Premier League. Oh yes.

We headed then to the smaller Quays Theatre within The Lowry to see an evening of acoustic goodness. First of all was Math Bolton, who did a few excellent acoustic numbers, some of which were from an EP that he had for sale in the foyer. He seemed a big lad which projected a really crisp and clear voice with some good guitar playing. Not that bad at all and I'm sure that the audience there appreciated his music and his efforts. I certainly did and was sorely tempted to see what else I could hear from him in the future.

On came Midge Ure (official site) and I have to say, that on reflection, the show was far better than I expected. I had no doubts that he would sound good acoustic, but no idea how good that good was. Honestly, his voice being as distinct as it is, it might have drowned out the acoustic guitar. Not a chance, it blended rather well. He did some cover versions from his album "10" including a brilliant version of David Bowie's "Lady Stardust" which had my friend in raptures (with him being a big Bowie fan and all that) and that was good, as also was an acoustic version of "Fade To Grey" by Visage too.

But as you can imagine it was his acoustic versions of the Ultravox classics that had people really smiling and happy watching it. He did the likes of "Lament" and "One Small Day" considerable justice with the right amount of feeling and intimacy, and it was good to see him also tackle the likes of "Love's Great Adventure" with a real gentle slowed down feel. I did like his pacy version of "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes" too and that really did set the tone off well. Of course he did "Vienna" but he didn't have anyone shouting him asking him for it, he played it anyway and the crowd were enthralled, and quite right too as it was a rather nice version.

He delved into his solo catalogue too, with lovely versions of "If I Was", "Breathe" and his own cover of "No Regrets" which sounded even better in an acoustic environment. The encore was superb though, starting off with a fast acoustic rendition of "Hymn" with Midge in brilliant voice too - and tune of the day for me that one for carrying it off so well. What we got next was a massive surprise - an acoustic version of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" which he admits he doesn't play that often. Well, he did co-write the original so in my view he's allowed to do it whenever he wants! And it was stonking - an excellent end to an excellent night all round. My friend and I were suitably impressed, and with a new Ultravox album next year, then we might have to check that out too!

Saturday 5th November - Fireworks From City

I had a relatively calm and relaxing day on the whole after all the gigging I've been to lately. I decided in the morning that the best course of action would be to give the house a good clean up and make it all lovely for when The Love In My Heart stayed over tonight, and also for when I had the folks in the family around for the footy later in the day. Part of me though also wanted to get it all done for myself too - there's a real sense of pride I have in the house and I like to keep it all looking rather lovely. So it was all the floor surfaces done, plenty of dusting and all other domestic bliss at the same time. And why not.

I then spent a bit of time watching Football Focus and seeing the feature on a certain manager of a certain team who'd been managing them for a mere twenty five years. To be fair, anyone in this day and age who stays at one club for that long deserves some sort of medal it has to be said, and he also ended up having a stand named after him too today, which was a nice gesture all round really. I guess when you've managed a club and seen them become so successful, then Sir Alex Ferguson admittedly does deserve a fair bit of credit. Now it's up to us as Man City to try and knock the other team off their perch with a win to keep the lead at five points of course.

I headed into Chorlton in the afternoon as I wanted to look in some of the shops along Beech Road, partially with a view to get some Christmas ideas and all that. I did manage to see a couple of nice things but wasn't 100% sure to get them or not, so decided to play it a bit safe. What I did do though was have cake and coffee in On The Corner, and the carrot cake was up to scratch as per usual. It was also their first anniversary celebration too, so many congrats to them for bringing something different. They do good coffee, very good cake and have a lovely selection of vinyl and CDs to trawl through as well, so well worth a browse I reckon.

After that I headed home and got myself ready for the evening, and made the preparations for everyone coming over with deciding what food to cook and all that - as I did say that food was provided. My uncle came around first, followed by my cousin, and then as the game had already got underway, both my brothers arrived. I did some nibble food, so potato skins, garlic breaded mushrooms, southern fried chicken bites and a Chinese selection went in the oven and all cooked rather nicely, and that kept us all well fed during the game. Of course I was hoping for a City win, and things didn't look too good after a free kick was headed in by Jay Bothroyd which wasn't in the script.

Still, City dug in impressively and near the end of the first half Edin Džeko cut in from the left and smashed a low shot home for the equaliser just before half time. Timing was everything and a few minutes into the second half, James Milner broke clear and passed to Džeko who in turn found David Silva. One touch took him past the defenders, the second was smashed low and hard into the bottom corner for 2-1. A superb finish all round really and well worth noting that yet again the Premier League's best player currently had a hand in another City goal.

Fair play to QPR though, they didn't lie down and really took the game to City, and so it proved when Heidar Helguson bundled home an equaliser. At first it looked offside, but the linesman actually got it spot on as Stefan Savic was playing him on. All to play for till a great cross from the left from Aleksandar Kolarov and Yaya Toure headed home to score his third goal in two games to make the score 3-2. We survived a couple of scares to end the game that way with another win. It wasn't pretty whatsoever but at least it meant that we'd done the business and came away with the points, which we might not have done a few years back.

Later on in the evening The Love In My Heart came over, looking rather gorgeous in her outfit it has to be said. We snuggled up in front of the telly and she was happy with some nice pinot grigio and me with some Brewers' Dark, and we saw some of the National Lottery awards too. What was good was that many good local concerns really got an airing and showed the good work that they do, so kudos to all of them nominated to be honest. I even saw the first Match of the Day from the BBC's Salford studio, and it looked certainly as if Gary Lineker seemed right at home - maybe he needs to move up here?

Tune of the day in the meantime is something I heard earlier today - and it's always nice when being in a shop that plays good music makes you smile I reckon. So with great joy I can bring to you that one shop I was in today was playing no less than "Catch" by The Cure. I wouldn't have thought something like that would be played ever, so all good stuff really. I can only hope that one day all shops and pubs will have to be under strict orders to play good music only and no manufactured bobbins..

Friday 4th November - Holmfirth Muses

It was nice to have the day off today as well and so in essence have the rest of the week off work. Myself and The Love In My Heart had a leisurely morning which was rather lovely - she was off work too and didn't need to get up particularly early either, so all was very well with the world it has to be said. We'd been to see Mum last night for her birthday and the present I got her was met with oohs and aahs and "that's just what I wanted" so she was pretty pleased to say the least. And I found out today that there's a musical based on the songs of the Monkees, so I suspect she might just want to go that!

At around lunch time The Love headed home as she had plenty of stuff to do herself, and I headed to Tesco to get all the shopping in now and get it all done. I'd normally of course do this on a Friday night but as you can imagine, if I'm elsewhere tonight then shopping takes a back seat, big time, as you can well imagine. I got it all done, had some lunch and then had a walk around one of the local parks so that I could take some pictures - it seemed quite idyllic in the Autumn weather with all the leaves kicking around, and hopefully the black and white shot I did came out nicely.

It was then a case of getting myself ready and heading from mine to Piccadilly station, where I'd then be heading off to Huddersfield on the train. I even treated myself to a Creme Brulee latte from Costa coffee in the station, and managed, just about, to get a seat on the train. It was pretty busy to say the least and when I got off in Huddersfield there were plenty of other people wanting to get on, so was glad to head off. I exited the train station and round the corner were the bus stops that I was after, and before long the bus came to take me to Holmfirth.

The journey was eventful not least because it was packed in the town centre and lots of college students got on at the bus station, and they were getting off at villages along the way such as Brockholes and New Mill. It took a detour around some houses at the back of New Mill before joining the road and heading back into Holmfirth, which looked very pretty even as it was getting dark when I arrived. I located the Picturedrome venue (hard not to) as well as the entrance inside, and then spent a bit of time relaxing outside the venue listening to the soundcheck inside, as well as scoping out some pubs for later.

Just after the soundcheck I was going to walk to a pub when I spotted a familiar face - one of my work colleagues, no less! It was one of our technicians who works with knit and weave and I didn't realise till now that this was where they lived, so the least we could do was head for a drink in one of the nice pubs and have a good natter. In fact, they had the Copper Dragon beers on cask, so that was me well and truly sorted. It was great to have a chat all round and it was good to see them outside of work, it was much more relaxed and contented without the hassles of work.

Later on I then met up with a few of the fellow fans again, and we were planning to meet in The Nook, but apparently they didn't do food, so we went in Carniceria, which had some of the Nook's local real ales on cask, and some very nice food, even if took us a while to be served. Myself, Anita and Andrew (the same two I'd seen on Wednesday) had a good natter at the table and I had this rather nice meatball sandwich with some chips, and the meatballs were both fresh and home made, so it really added to the flavour all round, gorgeous. The place was pretty packed in the bar area later so that gave us all an indication that it was a place to be.

Because of the slowness in us getting the bill etc, although that gave us more time to talk about all sorts, so that was good, it meant we missed the support act David Ford - I'd seen him before so I wasn't necesssrily overly bothered but it would have been gutting otherwise. We headed to the venue and managed to get in with ten minutes to spare before Throwing Muses came on, so plenty of time to pick our spot in the Holmfirth Picturedrome and for Andrew to get a new tour t-shirt after they had sold out of all the merch in London a couple of nights before.

I have to say that I really liked the Picturedrome as a venue, it holds around 500-600, and has balconies around the side with seats so you if you wanted to sit down, you could, or to get a different view of the stage too. The standing downstairs was on a slight inclined rake slope, so that meant no matter where you were you could see. The bars actually sold decent beer (one of them even sold cask, how bloody good is that?) and the sound even during the DJ sets sounded really clear. Definitely the sort of venue I'll go to again, no question, and I might just do that in December for Seth Lakeman!

On came Throwing Muses (official site) and once again, another excellent set all round. Maybe not that much different from Wednesday's set, but in a different order with Soul Soldier first off. Straight away I could tell that the sound was spot on, and that really helped everyone get into it. There was one girl near the front with a glass of red wine and how she didn't spill it, holding it in the air as she danced, was something else. Plenty of the crowd close to me were able to really go for it and with the faster songs there was a general feeling of enjoyment, so that was good.

I have to say that "Mania" during the encore was even more manic and angry sounding than London, possibly due to the much better sound man as well. Tune of the day definitely, and a really good sense of lots of us going for it and trying to sing it like Kristin (but failing of course), and other show highlights included "Bea" as well as a blistering version of "Shark" and "Hazing" sounding particularly crisp and crunchy. You could see that after the show everyone was like "wow, did we just see that?" so that was good.

I said my goodbyes to everyone, but it was great again to spend time with the likes of Owen, Alistair, Paul (superfurry) and his wife, who were impressed with the venue like me and who had come from North Wales, Anita, Andrew and everyone else. It was sorry to say goodbye as it was good to speak to like-minded people, and I'm sure that they'll have a whale of a time on any other dates that they happen to be going to on the tour. I got the bus back to Huddersfield, in perfect time for the train to Manchester Victoria, and then the late bus home to mine, with me feeling very happy indeed.

Thursday 3rd November - Bicarbonate of Soda and Birthdays

I woke up relatively early today as I wanted to go and check out some other record shops in central London before I headed home on my train at 11am to head back to Manchester. I took an early morning walk around Paddington station and located the statue of Paddington Bear, just to say hello. I used to be a big fan of the books and cartoon series when I was younger, so to me it seems perfect that they've immortalised the bear at the station for generations to adore and admire. A good thing in my view.

I checked out of the Easyhotel and made my way via bus to Leicester Square, which considering it was supposed to be peak hour traffic seemed relatively calm. Obviously the congestion charge does work to a degree then. As the bus headed down to Regent Street, there were plenty of people queuing up outside the Apple store - most likely for the iPhone 4S - this despite known bugs which meant that the battery life isn't that good at all. It makes me wonder now whether people are just into this whole "I must have the latest thing" materialistic viewpoint and especially when Apple kit is concerned.

Anyway, I did another cycle ride from Trafalgar Square via Leicester Square and did a loop around the one way system in Soho, ending up going down Wardour Street and back down Berwick Street. To my dismay all the record shops were shut down there - maybe they opened at 10am or 11am instead of 9.30am? Never mind - I must make a mental note of that for the future so I don't make the same mistake again. I ended up exploring the large HMV on Oxford Street and it was intriuging to see how much that they were pushing the new Florence and the Machine album. Made me want to ask them if they could play some Throwing Muses to address the balance a bit...

I left HMV and walked a bit further down Oxford Street before seeing a cycle hire docking station in Soho Square, and hired a cycle, followed some more one-way streets before heading up Newman Street, Goodge Street, and following the cycle path marked in green down Torrington Place and then Gordon Street before heading to Euston, and undocking the bike at where I'd first picked one up yesterday. Another great thing about Barclays Cycle Hire is that your one day hire period of 24 hours is 24 hours from the first bike hire, which meant from around 2pm yesterday to 10.40am this morning counts as one day, not two. Result if you ask me!

I got on the train back to Manchester with the iPod on and the music playing, including Rush's full "2112" and all seven parts of that sounded great on a long journey, so tune of the day there. However, the little boy and his mum sat opposite went to the loo, and on the way back he was throwing up and was sick on the aisle of the train, and then into various carrier bags too. I had to shut my eyes and look away, as seeing someone sick makes me normally wants to hurl myself. The train staff were good through and sorted out some bicarbonate of soda solution to soak up the smell and sick, then cleaned it up as well as they could. The smell of bicarb wins every time over sick of course.

I got the bus home and reflected on a lovely gig, and after my tweet last night to say that I'd really enjoyed it, it was really nice (understatement, this) to get a little tweet back from Kristin Hersh herself just to say thank you, which was lovely. I'm now just spending some time cleaning the house a bit and doing some washing, and later on it'll be off to Mum's, as it's her birthday today. So happy birthday Mum! I'm sure she'll like what I've got her, and I can't wait to see the look of happiness on her face... I'll keep you in suspense till then, people.

Wednesday 2nd November - Something Fishy In Shepherd's Bush

It was the rest of the week off work for me, so that was rather pleasing all round, and this of course meant that I was heading down to London again, but for a very good reason. A few weeks back I made the decision to see Throwing Muses in London and Holmfirth on their most recent tour. I couldn't do the Manchester date because it already clashed with a gig I'd booked with a friend (bloody sod's law isn't it?) so I thought that the least I could do was head to two gigs elsewhere and enjoy Kristin Hersh, Dave Narcizo and Bernard Georges do their thing on the road. This most likely also meant that I'd see quite a few of the diehard fans along the way too, so all good.

I set off from Manchester to London Euston and as they normally are Virgin Trains were their usual efficient selves, getting me there on time and in relative comfort as well, which is always good. I was half tempted to have a coffee on the train but I'd craftily got one from that box place in Piccadilly station where coffee is £1 and a massive sausage or bacom barm is £2, so that was effectively breakfast sorted and kept me going for the ride down. Euston was its usual busy self as you can well imagine so it was good to get out of there. At first, I was going to take the bus to Paddington where I was staying at Easyhotel, but thought better of it and as I had my Barclays Cycle Hire key with me, I hired a bike near Euston and cycled there instead. I hit 25 miles per hour at one point and was overtaking cars stuck in the two lanes as I headed off towards Paddington. Rock on!

I had some time before I could check in the Easyhotel, so I went and got some lunch and later on had a relaxing sit down in Norfolk Gardens, close to the hotel itself, which seemed to be an oasis of relative calm in all the busy goings on. I also walked around Paddington itself and scoped out the nearest cycle hire points for later on as I figured that might be useful. Once it got to 3pm I checked myself in, and this time I had a room with a window. It was still pretty small but at least I could watch the world go by, and although the bathroom was an older style one not the new pod type ones, it had a very powerful shower. Good times.

I walked to the nearest cycle hire docking station and got myself a bike, and followed the cycle route signs to take me to Hyde Park, which was surprisingly near. It was then a case of going straight down the road past Lancaster Gate, Queensway et al till I hit Notting Hill Gate. I remembered the docking station from last time out and so docked the bike there, a few minutes' walk from Music and Video Exchange. There was so much temptation in there for me to buy, but what was ace was that the ground floor bit was playing the whole of The Breeders' "Last Splash" album. Oh yes - that's what I am talking about. I browsed the records for a fair bit longer so I could listen to more of the album - what am I like, eh?

I cycled back to Paddington, this time undocking the bank on Pembridge Road and taking the route that the 27 bus does which meant I'd end up at the back of Paddington station and so could dock the back there and return with a short walk to the Easyhotel. It was getting dark now, so I got showered and changed and wore my "University" album tour long sleeved t-shirt with some pride as I set off. I decided to keep the costs down that I'd walk to Hyde Park from where I was (not very far) and then get the 94 bus to Shepherd's Bush, which worked out pretty well.

In O'Neill's pub, quite a few of the diehard fans were already in there and it was good to spot them and see them again. Conversation quickly flowed as did some liquid refreshments, and I had their smothered chicken for tea, which wasn't too bad at all. I had worked out plan - to eat there, go and watch the first half of the Man City v Villareal game in another pub close to the venue and then see the support band plus Throwing Muses - a good plan methinks. And so after much conversation and chatter (especially with a couple of people whom I'd not seen for ages) it was time to head to the other pub to see City.

It turned out to be a wise move. I got myself a soft drink (saving myself for the cask ale post-gig you see) and then saw the first half of City. They were doing well considering that they were the away team and a neat move with David Silva saw Yaya Toure score his first since the FA Cup final winner in May, and a low shot slotted into the corner will do very nicely thank you very much. 1-0 to the Blues then, and just before half time Mario Balotelli was cropped in the area by the Villareal defence, who seemed to want to stop City play by cropping them at every opportunity. Mario dusted himself down and finished the pen himself, so 2-0 to the mighty Blues too. Oh Balotelli, he's a striker, he's good at pens! (etc)

I made my way into Shepherd's Bush Empire, and it is a different venue to say the least - it's on three levels and looks like it used to be an old theatre of some sort. The middle and upper levels had seats, and I must admit that the view from the front rows of those were pretty decent, as I always worry that if I stand in the stalls someone around 7ft tall will be in front of me, meh. The rest of the support band's set was okay, but you could tell they weren't overly enthusiastic for some reason, which to me was a surprise, and of course this just got me more excited waiting for Throwing Muses to do their thing. And one fan whom I'd met in the pub earlier was also a City fan and getting updates from friends via texts, so once Yaya Toure scored to make it 3-0 we felt pretty safe in the knowledge that we were going to win.

So on came Throwing Muses (official site) and it was a very good show indeed. Of course when you've sold out a limited run of the 2CD "Anthology" set, and people have bought it, then it would make sense to have songs which appear on it. Even so, it was gorgeous to hear "Garoux des Larmes" and with Kristin's voice in excellent fettle, all was set for the rest of the evening if that was anything to go by. "Bright Yellow Gun" sounded wonderfully electric but keeping that slight pop edge that it has, and "Shark" really sounded nice and dirty on the guitar too, and you could tell that they were all enjoying themselves, Dave on drums especially.

The whoops from the casual fan that met the likes of the more "known" songs, "Hate My Way" and "Furious" must have been a positive and the former song really did sound edgy somewhat, so that was good. Someone all through the night was shouting "Fish" in between songs, in reference to one of their most well known songs, and Kristin liaised nicely with the audience throughout. "Bea" at the end fo the main set just set it all off nicely, and although it might have seemed a short set this was because they weren't faffing around with ten minute chats with the audience in between each one, but getting on with it.

The first of two encores came and Kristin performed "Fish" solo, so "The fish guy" as she called him would have hopefully been pretty happy to hear it. The band rejoined and then "Pearl" got an airing too which was a lovely surprise, not least then after the song as Kristin told the story behind the song to get everyone intrigued, before a full out assualt on "Mania" and wow, did that rock! Kristin sounded more angry than I'd seen her perform that before, and it really came across powerfully. Some ladies next to me were clearly waiting for that one and belting the words out full throttle, and it got everyone in the right mood, so tune of the day easily for me - I still don't tire of it. We even got a second encore which included the lovely "White Bikini Sand" - a gorgeous surprise.

After the gig quite a few of us headed to the Defector's Weld pub in Shepherd's Bush Green for a well earned pint to dissect the events of the evening and chat in general. Several of them I'll be seeing again in Holmfirth on Friday evening but some of them are doing Norwich tomorrow night as well (that is some dedication it has to be said!) and so kudos to them, like me Strange Angels all. So a monumental shout out has to go to Andrew, Alistair, Owen, Michelle, Paul, Adrian and Anita. Incidentally, Anita had flown in all the way from California to see Throwing Muses and is doing every date of the tour from Bexhill (last night) to Cardiff - that's some dedication for you isn't it?

I headed back on the 94 bus, got off at Lancaster Gate and walked past the roundabout to Sussex Gardens and to the Easyhotel, content and happy with the evening's events and thinking back on what a good gig does for the soul - it makes you feel pretty good it has to be said. And with City winning 3-0, an almost perfect night. I do wish that The Love In My Heart would have come too, but she's not really into the band and I think it'd be unfair for her so sit through it just on my behalf, but I know she'd be pleased that I had such a good time, and that's what's important. Yaay for gigs!

Tuesday 1st November - Bridgewater Brilliance

Today was definitely a day of two halves. The first half being work and it also being pretty stressful. I had lots to do in far too little time and also needed to concentrate on some Access databases, which we need to test in Access 2010 so that when staff go to a solid Windows 7 and Windows network client only platform, everything will still effectively work. Thankfully I had a couple of colleagues from our admin teams who know the inner workings of a couple of them pore over them with me, and we made a few interesting discoveries along the way. First of all, there's a handy tool in Access 2010 to convert any macro to a VBA script equivalent, but second, as long as you set your trusted locations correct, macro security doesn't become a problem. Hurrah to that!

I had a meeting with regards to the databases in the afternoon, so it was good to be able to offer some feedback and get on with things nicely - thus demonstrating that I'd been able to provide some valuable and useful feedback to make sure things played ball. We're eventually going to one shared drive for all staff as part of a bigger data migration project too, so I mentioned that having that as a trusted location would be beneficial to be set in Group Policy, keeping it nice and consistent for everyone - at least I think that's the way you need to do it.

After work I met up with The Love In My Heart at Table Table, as it was close to the Bridgewater Hall where we were going tonight to see Manchester music legends James complete with orchestra and choir, which should be interesting how it works out. The Love was very kindly going to get me a drink but as the place had run out of Hobgoblin she waited till I got there so I could decide on an alternative - and thankfully Snecklifter was on cask so I had that instead. Hurrah to that I say. It was lovely to catch up and chat, and later on in there we had a nice meal together.

The folks in Table Table aren't daft, they know that pre-theatre dining is the way to get the punters in, and with two courses for £10 or three for £12, it made perfect sense to munch there. The pate that The Love had for the starter looked good and my garlic mushrooms were on tip top form. We both had the hand battered fish and chips for the main, and the fish was rather large but lovely. I succumbed to dessert too and had the lemon and almond frangipan, which was rather light and lovely with some cream to go with it, so all good there. As the gig wasn't starting till 8pm at the Bridgewater Hall, we had time to head over to The Waterhouse for a well earned drink there.

It was then into the Bridgewater Hall for James (official site) and I have to say that it really was an excellent, if different gig. Tim Booth and the gang were out front, with a piano there for certain songs as required, then the Orchestra of the Swan were behind them with a considerable string section, a massive harp and some horns too, and the drummer in the middle of all that. Then at the back left and right, the Manchester Consort Choir with eight ladies and eight blokes, and they really did add very nicely to proceedings too throughout the night, their vocals were bang on.

The first half of the set was the more reflective, slower stuff in the main, so that it gave the orchestra and everyone space to flow and breathe and get into things nicely. Mind you, some really nice surprises with some early early stuff ("Fairground" for example) and in my view the vastly under-rated "Just Like Fred Astaire" where Tim decided to walk amongst the audience in the stalls and dance with them, which looked rather good fun all round from where we were in the side circle. What was also good too was that they weren't afraid to play more album tracks rather than singles, so it didn't pander to the casual fan (a good thing in my view) and ended the first half of it rather nicely with "We're Going To Miss You" with them singing the chorus and walking off for the interval.

The second half had plenty of their early stuff, and I mean really early, like the stuff they did when they were on Factory Records for example. This certainly then wasn't a show for the person who may only know the likes of "Sit Down" - so if you're planning to go, you're warned in advance. However, we did get "Riders" from Strip-Mine, brilliantly paused too before it came out with the line "I threw the sucker to the floor" and got the suspense going nicely. And indeed "Why So Close" which had four of the male choir join in and really build the song up superbly. We also had a most gorgeously beautiful "She's A Star" which sounded so joyous, I wanted to cry with happiness - with the orchestra it sounded so lovely. Tune of the day easily that one.

The rest of the set built up nicely and near the end the whole of the stalls were standing and really wanting to join in a bit more. The encore didn't disappoint either, with "Top of the World" the closing track from their "Gold Mother" album, the classic that is "Hymn From A Village" which really did sound spot on with the orchestra, and finally one to really get everyone singing "Sometimes" and at the end the band were prompting the crowd and the choir on alternate goes to sing the backing vocals to the chorus and keep it going for ages, a perfect end to what was a brilliant gig.

That said, The Love found it a little harder to be as overjoyed as I was. Whilst appreciating the choir and orchestra and how James performed I think that if you didn't know a fair chunk of the songs you might have not got into it as much - which is why I mentioned eartlier that really you needed to be a fan of what they do to appreciate what they did tonight. Something worth noting definitely but if you know their stuff, then do go if you've got the chance to - a different sort of gig but one that'll live in the memory for me once the year has passed. Hurrah for gigs.