Dear Diary... November 2014

Sunday 30th November - Lazy Sunday

We were supposed to be heading out for Sunday lunch mid-afternoon with two of our friends, but they had to pull out due to being poorly, and so instead The Love In My Heart and I had a relaxing Sunday, not really doing that much but just being together with The Love's two cats for company, who were also quite happy to find spots to rest and sleep on, after they had snuggled up to us during the night, especially Jô, who seems more than happy to just curl up on the bed and stay there without a care in the world.

The Love had made a really nice breakfast which got us up and a coffee too, so once we'd had the phone call, I rang the place we'd booked to cancel, and then sorted out a few things and fussed over the cats a fair while. The Love also caught up with The X Factor on ITV2 (noooo!) and I stayed on the laptop instead, and did what I could to avoid seeing what was happening. All I do know is that recording artists picked a song each for them and then the public had a choice in the other song. How about singing a song they wrote themselves?

Anyway, being at The Love's place did mean I could see Manchester City's away game at Southampton, and I expected it to be a tough game. City dominated early on but the Saints got back into it a bit more and although there were chances, it was 0-0 at half time and the controversial moment was Sergio Agüero getting booked for supposed diving, when it was clear he'd been fouled for a penalty and when biased towards Man U pundits on Sky Sports even say it was a penalty, well there you go..

City started brightly in the second half and Southampton had had to take off Morgan Schneiderlin due to injury and replace with Maya Yoshida. This changed the game for City allowing Yaya Touré more freedom, and from Agüero's pass back to him, he rifled a 20 yard shot low and hard and in for 1-0. It was good to go in front, and City brought on James Milner and Frank Lampard in an attempt to go for a second goal. In the end though City would go down to 10 men as Eliaquim Mangala got a second yellow for hauling back Shane Long, right decision that in my view.

On came Martin Demechelis straight away and off went Jesús Navas, and yet City still went for it. James Milner broke an attack down, headed down the left, spotted Lampard in acres of space, and he does what he does best, score. Southampton fans should be narked with the fact that Yoshida turned away from the ball when struck, not good enough. Their team still went for it, but City broke forward, and Agüero slotted a gorgeous ball to Gael Clichy of all people to finish for 3-0. Excellent stuff lads!

Later on The Love and I headed back to ours for a bit, I saw Neil Robertson pull off a major escape as he got a final frame good break together to get past Kyren Wilson 6-5 in the UK Snooker Championship, and then I spent some time keeping an eye on the evening's snooker as well as listening to some more Human League, with "Sky" from their "Credo" album being particularly a good reminder of last night, so tune of the day an easy choice there. I'm sorely tempted to go and see them again...

 

Saturday 29th November - Back to the 80s

I headed into the city centre this morning as I needed to get my hair cut, and as usual The Northern Cutter was my stop, and with not many in, I was the first of the day to get the hair sorted, and with the hairdresser Joanne looking very chic and glam in her outfit (she was heading out straight from work with a friend) and so that added a touch of style to the early Saturday day time. As it did when I headed to a couple of shops to pick up stuff I had ordered online as presents for people, where the sort of people who use click and collect seem to be those with common sense: why fight the crowds for crap make tellies and instead organise the present buying a lot easier?

I did also go to Boots and pick up a couple of presents in there too, so that was pretty good - in fact they dealt with the queues in there rather nicely: having enough staff who were all very friendly and happy, and really made you feel much more at home and relaxed about everything. Little things maybe, but sometimes it's those that makes it all worthwhile. I got home, wrapped up every purchase I'd made and then got my overnight bag packed and ready, as I was staying at The Love's place tonight.

I took the bus to hers, having also got changed, dropped off the bag, and soon we were on the tram heading to the city centre and to meet up with our friend and his partner, as the four of us were off to see The Human League at the Manchester O2 Apollo. Having seen them at the same venue a couple of years ago hopes were high for a really good night, and it'd be the third time The Love In My Heart and I will be seeing them do their thing too.

We stopped off and had some tea: some really nice chicken with a bit of spice and some barbecue sauce and a decent stack of fries for myself and The Love, and burgers for the remainder. It was nice to stop off and chatter before making the walk past Piccadilly station, under the Mancunian Way underpass and along past Ardwick Green Park before getitng to the Apollo. We'd timed it so any queue outside had died down, and were able to go straight in, get a drink and then head to our seats, which were in the second row of the circle, so a good view from there really.

Up first were the support act Ronika, who were basically three blokes and the female lead singer, and they were very 80s inspired to say the least: lots of synths, including some syndrums, a cool bassist who had his shades on throughout, and a lead singer who seemed to have raided the 1980s Adidas wardrobe. Very danceable tunes too, and with the likes of infectious tunes such as "Shell Shock" and "Only Only" being highlights, well worth checking out her debut album sometime I think!

There was a pause whilst everything from the front of the stage was being cleared, and we all noticed the big curtain and behind which was the set for The Human League - mainly white backdrop with some video screens, and as the curtain was unveiled, initially all the band dressed in white, apart from Phil Oakey in black, looking rather cool it has to be said. They started off with "Mirror Man" which had everyone singing along with the chorus, and that got the mood just right.

It was good from my point of view that their recent (from 2011) rather good record "Credo" wasn't forgotten, as "Sky" was played early on, and later we had "Egomaniac" and the ace "Night People" which in my view is as good as anything they did back in the 80s, so there. Naturally the "Dare" album got lots of tracks from that, so "The Sound of the Crowd" and "The Things That Dreams Are Made Of" got a good airing as you'd expect, and later on "Love Action (I Believe In Love)" too.

As Joanne and Susan Ann do costume changes, the set's nifty in that tracks like the rather good "Seconds" allow for those changes to happen, and this then led into a really storming version of "The Lebanon" - with Susan Ann looking rather good in her outfits (understatement) and a really nice version of "Louise" too a bit later on. The main set of course had to end with "Don't You Want Me?" with an extended intro where the crowd sang along as it if was the opening verse before the ladies headed out dressed all cool and off they went into a storming version.

A huge but welcome surprise during the encore though as on came the band and Phil for "The Path of Least Resistance", a very very early Human League song, way before Joanne and Susan Ann joined. It was a really good rendition of it as well and I could tell the real diehard fans were like "wow! they're playing THIS!" so tune of the day was an easy decision - apparently it hadn't been played live for many many years so a real privelege to see that. Naturally it then ended with "Together In Electric Dreams" with Joanne and Susan Ann really going for the more daring outfit for that, and everyone sang along happily. Great band live and great performance, if you get chance when they're on tour, go see them!

Friday 28th November - We're Going Down The Pub

It was a day and a half today, primarily because I had a course to attend to - all morning. It was all about fraud awareness and what to spot in terms of what sort of fraud could be committed, notably from the perspective of my employer and what sort of tricks that have happened elsewhere in the education sector to look out for. In truth, as with all things financial, a lot of it is sound common sense: for example if someone is bidding for a tender and they want to give you expensive gifts, is that an attempt to sway your business and should that be refused, that sort of thing.

I must admit though that the speaker really needed some form of radio or stand up microphone: the large space in which the course was being held was way too large for the number of people present, and I could hardly hear the speaker talking whatsoever - and this is me with very good hearing indeed. For me, I would much rather be able to know what's going on, and when you can't, it really does put a downer on. She did eventually move around the room and closer to the tables that me and some of my colleagues were sat on, so it improved a little, but really in my view not the best choice of venue.

It was however really good to be out and about on Friday evening after work. A few of us were off to the pub to celebrate our colleague's 40th birthday and so the obvious stopping point was the Footage pub, especially now they have cask ale, and they have decent food as well, which always helps. Even better was that our former manager came along to have a good natter with us all and catch up, so was pretty pleased to see him (I think we all were in truth) - and with the good news that he had landed himself a new job, that really did up the happiness of everyone, just the boost we all needed.

Needless to say lots of conversation happily flowed and my colleague's friend who also came along seemed to be a really good bloke to talk to as well - he knew his stuff, and was also more than happy to natter along with everyone, a positive in that sense. I had some nice ale and some fish and chips for tea as well, which really did taste good and for a mere £6, couldn't complain about the price either. I think too that the atmosphere was really good: the sort of evening a fair few of us needed.

We didn't even need any background music or anything like that, but if we were to suggest something, then Sham 69's "Hurry Up Harry" would have been my weapon of choice, with its immortal line of "We're going down the pub" at full blast during the chorus part, in fact make it tune of the day while we're at it. I arrived home in time to watch the Channel 4 +1 showing of Gogglebox too, and how could they not laugh seeing the writer for Tatler brave going into Poundland.. classic TV moment that was!

Thursday 27th November - Terrific Thursday

As days go, it was actually all pretty good really. I sorted out a booking for a few friends to eat out for Sunday lunch, and that was nice to get done. I also then ordered another Christmas present, and one that I'd been eyeing up for some time but was waiting for a reduction in price before purchasing it. I had a hunch that around this time last year there was a sale on at said store where I was ordering the item from, and sure enough, there it was, so I got it ordered pronto. And this was even before I'd set off for work!

At work things were going pretty well on the whole. I had managed to work on a few tasks, one of which was doing a reinstall of a piece of software, basically removing the old version and adding the new one. I had tried to package it into an MSI but that seemed not to have fully worked, and so removed the old one via the MSI's uninstall and then had to then basically install the new version manually, not really the way I'd like to do it, but it seemed that InstallAnywhere didn't like it too much (and in fact the software vendor had confirmed it themselves) so it was the only way. Boo indeed.

Still undeterred though, I was able to provide a solution to an odd Photoshop CC 2014 issue where occasionally it wouldn't want to print and came up with some odd error. Simply changing the default printer to another one and then re-launching Photoshop resolved the issue, and my colleague was really happy that this happened. I suspect that however the printer is being set as the default didn't stick, and so once you forced the default on the machine, that worked. Hmm.. curious that one.

Anyway, the productive side of me continued later on as I had seen an issue that a member of staff reported where when they sent out an appointment in Outlook, they got the emails back to say if external people accepted or not, but it didn't update the appointment to say who was coming. I did some research and found out that the Exchange server doesn't enable it by default, but you can set this at a client level in the Outlook Web Access to ensure automatic external acceptances are handled. I tried this with my own account and sent an appointment to my personal email address, which I accepted. And.. it worked! Woohoo.

I think at times when you're on a roll like this it's really good to keep perspective in mind. In fact I found out that my former manager has landed himself another job and it sounds all rather good, and as well as that it was the 40th birthday of one of my colleagues too, and I think he liked the presents that everyone got him, including a sonic screwdriver. Ace. I think that it was a really nice bit of team bonding that everyone was pleased and there'll be more of that as we head out for drinks tomorrow night.. yaay indeed.

Tune of the day kind of sums up that mode of feeling I've got at the moment.. a feeling of actual happiness actually. So with much joy the rather excellent "World on Its Head" by 3 Daft Monkeys gets my vote. Believe me when you listen to it you just want to bound around the room with a big smile on your face, and that's massive credit to them for making something that you will find catchy and get in the head, and then not want to leave either. Class all the way.

Wednesday 26th November - Lying and Leaving

It was quite good to be on top of things a bit more at work, and even though the work load is still fairly intense, it's been good to feel like I've got on top of things a lot more as of late. Today a colleague and I did the swap out for the laptops for one of the trolleys, and that was pretty good to do, as we could take a larger trolley with sides on and take the old ones back ready for writing off. For me, it made a lot of sense, and it now felt a bit more like I would be able to catch up and do the things that needed to be done.

With the day done and me heading homewards, I had chance to sort out my daily picture of a project I've been doing over the last month - called "MoNovember". Basically it means to do a black and white picture every day (or as close as possible) for the last month. It's been quite a challenge and I actually took the camera with me on my trip to London and Cornwall earlier this month as that meant different shots could be taken, but a lot of the time during the week they've been night shots around where I live, just a bit easier that way.

Anyway, with that done, I had a flick through my new arrival in the post - the Record Collector Rare Record Price Guide 2016. Due to the changes in the guide this time around, CD singles are only listed if valued at £25 or more, which to me seems a bit of an unfair cut off considering that 12" singles are included if £10 or more. A bit of parity would at least be nice. That said, it looks like the New Order CD Video singles are creeping upwards in value in mint condition - Blue Monday 88 is £50 and True Faith £40. Oh how in hindsight I wish I'd bought a few copies of the True Faith one when Compact in Manchester Arndale was open back in the day and you'd get it for around a fiver..

The Love In My Heart came over and we had some very nice pork belly with a cider sauce for tea, complete with mash and petits pois. It did the job nicely before we snuggled up for some MasterChef The Professionals rounds, with the skills test of Monica Galetti feeding fear into the nerves of the contestants. Some of them really didn't have a clue how to do the bellini properly, although the vol-au-vents and crostini fared a lot better when they were made. Mind you, The Love hasn't taken as much to Marcus Wareing as she did Michel Roux Jr - maybe it's that French "je ne sais quoi" of his suave look. Be interesting to note the ratings for it..

Later on we both watched The Apprentice, and had to smile as they headed to a country show to try and pick items to sell, and then sell them. When James got the name wrong from the hot tub company, and didn't pay attention, it was an easy win for Daniel and Katie on the other team and they landed it. It made a big difference as Mark and Katie (much to Daniel's chagrin, bad team leading from Felipe there) ended up selling the hot tubs, although a massive £30k worth of takings meant they won the task easy.

James had blatantly lied to the other team members about his failure to get the hot tubs, and Roisin clearly wasn't happy about that, and said so. Both of us went "he should be fired!" and was, and it wasn't a real surprise to us. I guess that even though Lord Sugar could see the potential, he was too patronising, didn't allow for constructive opinions and didn't even consider the views of the other team members when picking the products - bad move really.

Tune of the day comes from 3 Daft Monkeys as they were on BBC Radio 2's Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe tonight. They did a really nice version of their song "The Lovers of Porthgwarra Cove" which is one of my current favourites, especially as I've actually been to said place and admired it whilst sat on its nice sheltered beach during the Summer months. Ah, how I wish I was back there right now with the starry sky and a little camp fire to reminisce..

Tuesday 25th November - Agüerooooooooo

It was the Champions League match with Manchester City against Bayern Munich for my friend and I tonight, and he came over via his new place, which he's moving into soon. I think it'll be a good move all round to be able to have somewhere new and nice to be in, and that he can be able to at least be a bit more independent because of the way the space allows much more freedom of movement all told. It was starting to try and rain as we got to the Etihad and headed up to the stand we're in, and the hat and gloves I had were going to come in handy I reckoned.

City kicked off and Bayern Munich were their usual good selves, passing around for fun with the likes of Arjen Robben threatening every time he got the ball. City though were keeping in there and plugging away, and had had a chance on the break themselves. However, a brilliant through ball from Frank Lampard found Sergio Agüero and he was soon past the Bayern defender Benatia, and was clattered to the ground. The referee thought for a second, gave the penalty and therefore as goal scoring opportunity, red card, so Bayern down to ten. Agüero scored the spot kick and it was 1-0 to City.

Sadly that didn't last too long. Bayern regrouped as all good sides do and knocked it around wonderfully well despite the one man disadvantage. They got a free kick via a clumsy challenge by Eliaquim Mangala on Robert Levandowski, and from the free kick Xabi Alonso then hit low and hard home, which really should have been stopped by one of the City defence. And right on half time a cross from Jerome Boateng found the head of Levandowski and his header went past Joe Hart for 2-1 to Bayern Munich. Not good and I wasn't very happy at this stage at all.

So the second half started and City plugged away but Bayern looked dangerous on the break and it was a concern to me that they could score at any time if they wanted to. James Milner came off to make way for Stevan Jovetic but then a surprise - Bacary Sagna off, Pablo Zabaleta on. Right back for right back - unless Sagna was injured, was it a game changer? Actually, it was. Zaba is a much better player and his passion for the City shirt shows and drives others to never give up. I think that rubbed off on the team as they kept pressing and attempting to get Bayern to make a mistake.

And they did, five minutes from time. Some good pressing from the City midfield meant that Xabi Alonso rushed a pass, and it was intercepted by Jovetic and the interception was also a great ball to Agüero. Off he went, sprinting with defenders in his wake, and scored off the far post to make it 2-2. Surely it wasn't going to be a mini repeat of that QPR game back in 2012 that won us the league was it? At least a draw meant we'd have a faint hope of qualification after Roma's draw at CSKA Moscow..

But no, we weren't finished. As the chant goes "We're Man City, we'll fight to the end" and the roars grew in passion, the ball was played forward by Vincent Kompany, headed on by Jovetic, and Boateng made an error which gave Agüero the ball - he ran past three defenders and neatly slotted it under Manuel Neuer and it was 3-2 to City, and the goal came in stoppage time. It was awesome, and the chants of "Sergio! Sergio!" rang very loudly around the Etihad as the players made their way back to the centre circle.

We kept it at 3-2, and wow, a win! And some win too. We maybe on the balance of play didn't deserve to win, but in terms of never say die attitude, never giving up, always fighting to the end, the boys did me proud tonight. Manchester City's old 1970s anthem "The Boys in Blue" played over the tannoy at the end, and the words say it all for me - "We are the lads who are playing to win, City, the boys in blue will never give in!" - and that's spot on, it really is. Tune of the day easily, a proper goosebumps moment. Even Andy Townsend of all people was heard to yell "Get in!" on ITV's commentary when the winner went in - can you believe that?

Monday 24th November - Busy Bee

It was another busy day at work, but in a controlled way - in that I knew what I needed to do, and did what I could to make it all happen. I guess too that for me the easiest thing of all was to make sure that where possible I concentrated on the main things - such as finalising the laptop trolley for one of our batches of students that we have one for, and also doing some investigations into why for some reason Adobe Creative Cloud for Enterprise on some of the student PCs decided to revert back to the trial version for no apparent reason.

Anyway, more research later and I had a possible answer to that, but more importantly, a solution that would appear to be working too. Adobe's Creative Cloud Packager allows you to effectively create a serialisation package that consists of an executable and an XML file, which is populated with the serial number of your Enterprise copy and all the bits you're licenced for. This is then checked by any of the applications when run and all is good.

I packaged that up, ran it on a machine I knew had supposedly gone into trial mode but shouldn't have done, and then badbaing - everything ran correctly as intended. I was most pleased with myself, not least because then it meant that I would be able to get that little package up on to SCCM and where needed deployed to machines that would require it. It also would mean that it would save a possible two hours' worth of reinstallation instead, which would have been the other option. I still would like to know just why it did a revert though. Hmmm.

Anyway, with that all done I headed home and rang one of my friends for a good chat with her, and the time soon flew by as we were putting the world to rights on all sorts, and found out too that she likes me quite likes Gogglebox, with her favourites being Bill and Josef from Cambridge, and the Siddiquis from Derby. Her comment was right: it shouldn't make compelling television, seeing people comment on the programmes they're watching, and yet it does.

I also spoke at length with The Love In My Heart as she had had a tough day too, and it was good just to try and put things into perspective for each other. For me I think the important thing is that we're able to at least sound off to each other if we require to, and that we are there for each other. I was able to be a good listener I think and then afterwards kick back with some good television and some tunes too in the backround. I must admit at the moment that seeing The Selecter on Saturday wanted me to play their stuff on line, so "Train to Skaville" by them is tune of the day.

Sunday 23rd November - Orderly Queueing

The Love In My Heart headed to mine this morning, as we were soon to head off for a bit of a shopping day. With the festive period looming somewhat large, we both thought it'd be a good opportunity to head to Cheshire Oaks and get some outlet type shopping done, all for less money than you'd normally pay. I also thought that it meant I could get some more presents sorted and not have to worry about having to rush around in December to sort them all out too.

It all seemed good as we headed down the M56, but as we approached the junction with the M53, we could already see some very slow moving traffic. And so it was, all the way for the next half mile as the junction joins the M53 and you come almost immediately off for the A5117 turn off for Cheshire Oaks. Had we known it was that bad, we could have come off the junction before and headed along the A5117 that way, but hindsight as they say is a wonderful thing.

Not just that, locating a parking space wasn't easy, but we noticed that car park C was supposed to have spaces but was coned off, but as we came back to the roundabout, The Love did a very clever piece of round turning and came back off just after they had opened the gates, so in, straight in a space, sorted. But as we started to walk around, we did notice that some of the shops had queues of people outside them waiting to get in. I guess that was for some level of crowd control, but you wouldn't think it would be that busy to be honest..

Still, we made our way around and The Love and I did pick up some presents along the way, and I even treated myself too. I saw a nice pair of jeans in Next clearance and they were a mere £20, so that looked good and they were my size, so easily sorted there. By the time we'd got round to the Fred Perry outlet shop, it was still very busy but we got in, and I saw a nice jumper in a dark blue that had been reduced to £40 (and for that brand that's pretty cheap too) so I picked that for myself. That and buying three presents, one of which was for The Love, did at least mean that it was a worthwhile trip out.

We did head to the Old Hall Farm pub close by for some Sunday lunch, and since we had last been in there, it had been done up rather nicely. So much so in fact that they had a carvery and that proved to be pretty popular, so we went with the trend and had that. In fact it was rather gorgeous, the meat spot on, lots of good vegetables and some cracking potatoes, and some nice gravy too. I even had the tiramisu for dessert as well so felt rather pleased with myself that we'd both had chance to kick back and have some good late lunch together.

We headed homewards and I put on BBC One's recording of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from earlier, with Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" blasting out as ever (make that tune of the day) and as the build up commenced, you could really feel the tension. The Love headed homewards after the start so I could watch the whole thing unfold, and as Lewis Hamilton got in front at the start, he stayed there and looked dominant. It'd have been nice if Nico Rosberg's car didn't fail and he fell down the field to 14th, I'd have rather seen a 1-2 battle, but Hamilton drove superbly and I was really pleased that he won the race and the world title, in the end by a much more comfortable 67 points.

I also did feel sad though that it could well be Jenson Button's final race in Formula 1. He drove to a creditable fifth in what's been a pretty bobbins McLaren all season, and he had massively outscored his team mate Kevin Magnussen over the course of the season, using his experience and race craft to get some good results throughout the year. He's also hugely respected by the other drivers, and I know that they won't feel it fair if he doesn't get a decent drive next year. Fingers crossed for him!

Saturday 22nd November - Levelling The Scores

A busy day for me today, and first off into the city centre to collect a parcel that had been delivered that I had ordered - and that was all sorted. I actually also went into Argos and picked up another Christmas present that I needed to buy as well (and good job I did, last one in stock) before then heading home, posting off my application form for tickets for next year's Wimbledon tennis and then having a quick walk around the local market to peruse the many fine goods on offer.

It was then off with my friend to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City up against Swansea City. I was a little optimistic but knowing City's form of late, I was concerned that we might not be able to perform as well as we normally do against them. Sure enough with ten minutes gone a really neat pass found Wilfried Bony and he controlled the ball rather nicely before slotting it past Joe Hart for 1-0. You could feel the tension in the air around the ground as that goal went in.

City thankfully woke up a bit and started playing a bit better, with Samir Nasri and Stevan Jovetic going at the defence from all angles. I was crying out for some decent balls in from the wing, and later on in the half a perfect low angled cross from Jesús Navas found Jovetic, and the Montenegro striker made no mistake and slotted the ball home nicely for 1-1. And that's how it stayed till half time, although it looked to me like Sergio Agüero had been elbowed in the face which caused a few ructions between the teams.

Second half then, and the attacking intent was a lot better. City got forward more and still didn't always want to shoot from outside the area (an Agüero one that did just that forced a corner) but a piece of magic later and we were up 2-1. Martin Demechelis had recovered the ball on the right and fed Fernandinho, who clipped a lovely backheel in the path of Yaya Touré, who ran and slotted the ball under the Swansea keepers' legs. And the relief was plain to see, 2-1 it stayed despite some late Swansea pressure.

Once I'd arrived home I just had time to make myself something to eat for tea and then headed off to Manchester Academy 1 to see Levellers do their Greatest Hits Tour. I did feel a little sad as a friend of mine was supposed to be coming with me but she had to pull out due to not being 100% well, and I'd managed to sell the ticket on to someone at face value so they had the chance to go (the gig was sold out) and so with everything all set, I got a good position inside the Academy to the left of the stage and saw how the evening would turn out.

First up was multi-instrumentalist Laura Kidd, aka She Makes War. I quite liked her short but sweet five song set, which included "Scared to Capsize" where the started off with a ukelele, recorded that and then got out the electric guitar to add some substance to the tune. It felt rather nice. She also played "Slow Puncture" which apparently some of the Levellers themselves have been unable to get out of their heads, I really enjoyed that too and could see why. "Delete" was a real turnup too, all vocal and recorded live, with various swells and rises. Very good actually!

Then came The Selecter, and I had to ask myself "why the hell have I not seen them live before?". They were most excellent. Of course most people know their two big hits "On My Radio" (which was storming and had the whole crowd singing) and "Three Minute Hero" which really did blast out wonderfully well. Best of all though was the excellent title track of their debut album "Too Much Pressure" which had everyone dancing and singing, plus their reworking of the James Bond theme, and for me a highlight was also "Train to Skaville" which had the keyboard player really going for it too. Ace.

So then it was Levellers, and my they did not disappoint! But then you'd expect that of a band whose live reputation is always at the top of their game. Cue bassist Jeremy Cunningham bouncing around like a loon as he always does, getting the crowd going, and Mark Chadwick belting out the vocals and getting the masses to join in. As it was supporting their Greatest Hits album, you'd expect the classics - you got them. In abundance too. So at the start, "Beautiful Day" and "15 Years" which is a staple of any of their live sets. And also a really nice acoustic version of "Julie" as well which really stripped the song back a bit. Nice.

I was also mighty pleased to get "World Freakshow", a song that really got me into the band back in the day, "Sell Out" with some killer bass from Jeremy, "Together All The Way" with Pauline Black of The Selecter coming on to do vocals with them (nice), and "This Garden" with Laura from She Makes War joining in too. So it really felt a nice atmosphere all round, and of course once the digeridoo sections kicked in, it was only a matter of time before the anthemic "One Way" kicked in. Oh yes. Still mental, still bloody brilliant.

"Hope Street" was played too (really nicely actually) followed by the one Levellers song I don't really like, "Carry Me", but it did go down well with the masses to be fair. "The Cholera Well" went down superbly and then a storming version of "Liberty Song", perhaps the best time they've ever played it when I've seen them live, with a real drive and passion in the song. And as it's one of my friends' favourites too, tune of the day for me, it really did sound potent. And yes, I pogoed like mad to that one, be rude not to really.

They came back on for two encores - "The Devil Went Down To georgia" being ace, as was of course "Just The One" too, but then - oh yes, "The Riverflow". My, I still love this song and it was just as good this time around too, so all good there. I left the Academy just after 11pm feeling rather happy to say the least, and it showed what a good day it was - City won, the three acts tonight were all excellent, and I felt tired but very very pleased indeed.

Friday 21st November - Calmer

I must admit after the week I've had, I was quite pleased that things appeared to be rather a lot more calm today on the whole. I did spend some more time with the laptops and got the first five of ten completely boxed off, including the licencing of the standalone versions of SketchUp Pro as well for them. The task sequences in SCCM completed without a hitch (hurrah) and that meant at least I was able to get the next five started and make sure they're up and running too - so should all be sorted by Monday afternoon with a bit of luck.

I also spent some time this afternoon checking over a few things and making sure where possible that I had played catch up with my own tasks as well. I did manage to also dedicate some time to investigate a couple of errors with printers, and one of them needed our external company to sort it. It transpired that someone had attempted to feed a piece of fabric through a laser printer, and when removed, the cogs below the fuser in the printer feed assembly had been damaged.

It was a better day all round and as the rain fell as I left work, I thought constructively about the week I'd had and realised that actually I know full well that I need to refocus and think about what the future might hold. I do know though that at the same time I do want to be able to progress in some way, so I needed to ask myself where I want to see myself - do I go down the route of being a much more technical person, or do I go for the possibly more poisoned chalice of management? Hmm..

In any case, it was good to kick back and watch Pointless, although was a bit surprised to see that it was a repeat - again! I was enjoying the new series and yet to go back to an old one for some odd reason wasn't good. I also think that when you've seen it before it does lessen the appeal as you've already got an idea of what the answer might be. The clue for any repeat is the final round, five categories with one question. Only recent series have four categories with then answers to three questions within allowed. Hey ho.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the often overlooked electronic dance / disco masterpiece that is "It Happened Then" released back in 1980 by Electronic Ensemble, one half of which is Peter Baker, who is from Manchester. Once you hear it, it's a classic, and the 1983 re-work by Russant is also pretty good, still sounds synthy but in a different way, with a more shrill lead in the chorus, and some nice crash claps at the end too. Still great either way.

Thursday 20th November - Poles Apart

I had a much more productive day at work, which was a good and positive thing. I actually managed to finalise the trolley of 16 laptops with the last thing I needed to do, which was to get the 16 back in the trolley that I was replacing, deactivate Solidworks on them all, and then write them off as old kit. Then I could activate the licences on the replacement laptops and then make sure everything worked correctly as intended. It was actually really good to be honest and meant I could get that sorted, and concentrate on the other 10 laptops which needed a shed load of specialist software on, so got those all set off to be added on.

It was also good that I had managed to hang back a bit and then package up the likes of Processing, VVVV and the Arduino install, as their plan is to use Makey Makey Arduino kits for programming designs in, so should be intriguing to see what happens with all that. It was also good that I knew what was happening with it all so I could get the main things done first, and then plough on with getting the Autodesk Building Design suite on last - and that's going to be a mighty task to get that on as the task sequence does take some time.

I headed home via my sister's place as it was my brother in law's birthday so I dropped off a card and present - the present being the Andrea Pirlo autobiography which I thought might make a good read. It was nice to see the two children too and one of them was pretty much wanting me to head to see their new kitchen - which actually does look really nice. The floor tiles in fact looked pretty similar to the ones I have, so that was nice, and it does look very homely now and definitely what they want to have.

I headed home later and The Love In My Heart came over for tea, and it was just lovely to see her and have lots of hugs. Aren't hugs just great when you've not had the best time of it? I certainly think so and it was just really nice to have a warm friendly face to chat to as well. I made us some nice pork with a cider sauce, together with some nice mash and carrots and peas. All good. Especially even more good as it just was us snuggled up on the sofa later watching Masterchef: The Professionals and immediately deciding who we thought were going to go through - and we were right too.

I'd recorded Great Continental Railway Journeys from the night before, and we watched that, with Michael Portillo heading around Poland. I have to say that many of the cities he visited seemed really nice places to go, with lots of history, culture, large central squares with cobbled pavements, and a real sense of belonging as well. I really liked the ideas of the milk bar culture in Poznan, where you could get food at not expensive prices and really be filled up for the whole day. And that historic steam train too that commutes to Wroclaw, with the British steam driver heading there to keep it preserved.

I think it showed a definitely positive image of the place, and we both were thinking "actually that might make a nice city break in future." I also think that Michael really does present this well, a natural sense of curiousity but with a real sense of authority and knowing his stuff. Far better at this than he ever was at politics, personally. With that in mind I think "Trans Europe Express" by Kraftwerk simply has to be tune of the day, I can imagine that playing in my head via the iPod on my next epic train journey..

Wednesday 19th November - Overtired and Over There

I guess that the mental strain on the workload I have is taking its toll at the moment. I just am feeling a little on the worried side most of the time and that is affecting me in terms of being able to perform. I think what is tricky is that trying to juggle several things at the same time and also be the font of all knowledge elsewhere is difficult to sometimes live up to. I suppose too that I'm often sometimes better ploughing through stuff where I can concentrate on what I'm doing too, but that gets increasingly more difficult to do..

I decided to spend the evening just taking things at a much more sedate pace in front of the telly, which included some Pointless first of all, followed then by Countdown via 4OD. I must admit I do reasonably okay on this but am yet to land a nine letter word. I do really well on the numbers round most of the time and I suppose that might be more my strength if I ever did apply to go on the show. And plenty of people do, to be fair, and I suspect that both Rachel Riley and the lovely Susie Dent might have something to do with it too..

But then on to The Apprentice, and this week's episode had them trying to invent a new soft drink and attempt to market it to the American masses in New York. This included filming a TV advert, getting a billboard display up in Times Square, and also creating the label for the bottle and with the good ingredients making it stand out. Both adverts weren't that great but at least the one with the all American family (oh, with Lauren as the daughter, yeah that'll work!) had some sense of "drink this and you'll all be fine" about it. Having two solicitors doing the pitch though - major error there...

As it transpired even though the other advert was dull and lifeless with no music in the background (err.. that'll work, not) it was a case of the rest of the campaign was better, the can design hit the spot, the signage stood out a lot more and you'd be more tempted to buy that if you were American if you just looked at that. So it was a case of seeing which of the five on the losing team would go, and after initially seeming to be quite calm and methodical, Mark's coming across as a bit of a know it all now, and maybe he should have gone.

Lauren did go, and I guess the argument was that she didn't do that much, and indeed did screw up the pitch a little and wasn't as prepared as she should have been. It was intriguing that Daniel came back in knowing he and Mark don't get on, but yet they both seemed to want to point their weakenesses elsewhere. I think there might be a team shakeup next week just to throw things in the mix a bit. Tune of the day is "New York New York" by the excellent Ryan Adams, which really should have been playing at some point during tonight's episode. It is a bloody great tune and having seen him play this live at the Bridgewater Hall, I can confirm its utter coolness.

Tuesday 18th November - Kro No More

I was having a fairly relaxed lunch break when I'd heard from a friend of mine that it looked like Kro in Piccadilly, Manchester had closed down. It seemed rather ominous as it looked like that the local newspaper had also reported that it wasn't open, and even on a week day the place used to tick over nicely with their coffee and cake deals during the day, a good selection of real ales and a nice restaurant part that I've eaten in a good few times, always cracking value and really decent food all round.

I headed into the city centre after work as I wanted to check a couple of books in Waterstones but also see if I could pick up a Christmas present for my sister. As it turned out I didn't get either but did see that the new Record Collector Rare Record Price Guide 2016 was in Waterstones. I was probably going to get it online cheaper but at least I knew it had been released if I wanted to impulse purchase it, and by the look of it that I had, my New Order CD video singles have retained their value, so no complaints there.

I got to Piccadilly Gardens and had a peek inside the remains of Kro, and this made me feel very sad indeed. The bar was about the only thing left in there: the tables and chairs had all but gone, there was a large wheelie bin full of rubbish and stuff cleared out, and it just resembled a shell of emptiness. It was confirmed when I read the local newspaper article later that forty jobs were to go, and no plans to re-open. The landlords of the property had attempted to double the rent charged, which the owners clearly weren't going to pay, and no compromise deal could be found, so game over.

Mind you, considering the way that Kro2 on Oxford Road in the city centre also went without trace (eventually being a very popular Tesco Express that it now is) and in similar circumstances, you do wonder whether some landlords actually are noticing that places are thriving and attempting to capitalise on that by charging extortionate rents, forcing them out of a location and then moving other people in who are willing to pay that rent, therefore making more money.

It's really sad though. The first time I met The Love In My Heart we went for a drink in there, and over the years we've had plenty of lovely times meeting for a drink after work in there (when we both worked in the city centre) and if heading out for the night in the city having a drink or two there too. I had plenty of Flickr meets end up in there which were always a great time, and on a Saturday after some shopping the coffee and cake was always a welcome pick me up to say the least. And now it's all gone. And that does make me feel sad actually.

Tune of the day is sort of with all of the above in mind - "Where Are We Now?" by David Bowie. When I first heard this I actually felt a sense of sadness, simply because I felt the meaning of the song and asking a sense of belonging. Kro belonged to the city centre and where it was, it was a great place. And now when I walk through Piccadilly Gardens I'm going to have that Bowie song in my head, humming the chorus and feeling that sense of being lost and the city not quite being the same anymore...

Monday 17th November - Christmas Coming Early

Another busy day at work today, and I was quite pleased that one of the meetings that we were supposed to have was actually cancelled due to the rather massive workload on at the moment. For me this gave me some time to attempt to focus on a bank of laptops which needed a task sequence deploying to them with extra software applications specific to them - and then installing Solidworks 2014 on them all with their individual seral numbers. I did however create the dual layered DVD media with it fully integrated with Service Pack 5 on, thereby saving me loads of time in the meantime.

I did venture out at lunchtime to check out the nearest bookseller to work, as I had a couple of ideas for Christmas and birthday presents and wanted to see if they had them in and at a price which was suitable to get. They didn't, but what was pleasing was that the coffee shop in there was busy with people and it created a nice relaxed atmosphere to browse for books in as well. For me though, I think the important thing these days is to have a relaxed moment or two during the lunch break to recharge the batteries.

I did take some time to head home tonight, primarily because of the traffic being pretty slow (and it was dreadful this morning - the bus arriving to my stop for work some twenty minutes late, but thankfully that was just about on time). One thing I did notice was that for some odd reason, people just want to stand at the front of the bus - despite the fact that there's seats available downstairs! I wouldn't maybe mind so much if they didn't want to go upstairs and all, but come on! Who doesn't want to sit down for the journey I wondered to myself..

I did however order a couple of presents when I got home tonight - both of the book variety. It's notable that a lot of online bookshops are now attempting to price match the biggest one of all, and of course unlike that certain large bookseller they may have done a deal through the likes of Top Cashback or Quidco to get some money back on what you've spent. Certainly it is worth taking into consideration when doing any online purchases, especially ones with Christmas coming up.

And talking of which, Christmas has come early for my friend - he's found out that he will be soon moving house to a bungalow, which will much more suit his needs and be able to be a space that he can live much more comfortably at than present. I am sure that the next few weeks will involve a lot of sorting out, but that should mean a much better place ultimately, and as always when you move house, the perfect opportunity to get rid of all the rubbish you were meant to be getting rid of beforehand.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Human Nature" from the 3 Daft Monkeys' album "Social Vertigo". For me it was this album that really got me into them and indeed seeing them live when the album came out just made me want to hear and sdee more of them. On the album this track is in two parts, an extended introduction to set the scene and then the faster main theme complete with lots of folk instruments, some excellent violins from Athene and a really good vibe to it. If only every tune was this good eh?

Sunday 16th November - Loved Up In Knutsford

I headed up this morning and made my friends some coffee and croissants for breakfast, which was massively appreciated by everyone. It had gone by way too quickly and we were already having a good think about when we could all next get together and have a good time, and we did see this morning some hilarious clips of the scary Owl Man followed by some rubbish game show answers on Family Fortunes, the Cheating Wife sketches from the Armstrong and Miller show, and such like.

I had got all the house sorted out (mainly deflating the spare air beds and also tidying up the living room after we'd had breakfast) and The Love In My Heart came over, which meant we could have some quality time together. I was most pleased to see her and lots of hugs came her way. We thought it would be nice to head around some of the shops in Knutsford and before long were heading out along the M56, A556, A5034 and then the A50 towards the town centre, and got a space in the usual car park that The Love uses.

We had a nice walk around a few of the shops, and notably one of the shops that sells nice cosmetic stuff for you to use in the bathroom (bath salts, shower gels, eau do toilette etc) and there were some nice gift ideas in there. In fact they had a really good offer on some wrapping paper, and it looked really classy, so The Love bought that whilst she was in there. Some of the shops were closed unfortunately, which wasn't good, but we did venture into Waterstones to have a mooch in there too.

We also decided that lunch would be a nice option, and so headed to The Angel. It was a good move as it was nice and calm in there, and we got a nice table by the window, and the food was two meals for £13 which was an every day deal. And to be fair, excellent value too. The Love had the Wexford chicken which looked like it had a really nice sauce on, and the vegetables were all great. I noticed the word "pie" and "shortcrust pastry" and so thought "proper pie then!" and had the beef in stout pie. It was a slice of a massive pie, and yes, it was a proper pie, and very very nice with it too actually.

We headed back to mine and with 3 Daft Monkeys' "Of Stones and Bones" album on, we had a game of Scrabble together, as we'd not played in ages. The Love played pretty well, and used the X, Z and Q all in good places and scored well with them. In fact we ended up using the J three times over, I started the game with job, The Love made jive (triple letter on the v too) and then later I did dot which also made jived as well, so nice little tactics there we think.

Tune of the day is from said 3 Daft Monkeys album, namely the rather ace "World On Its Head" which really does when you see them do it live get you in the mood for a nice little dance around and really sing along to the chorus as well. I think too that it reminds me of seeing them recently and having little ones dance around as well as their parents, making it a real family affair - so nice to see that actually. Of course I'm looking forward to seeing them again in early December.

Saturday 15th November - Manc Weekender X, Day Two

I got up first and got everything sorted out, and my friends all woke up not long after. We spent some time in the morning keeping an eye on the BBC News channel and also seeing some fo the Formula 1 "Title Deciders" show on BBC iPlayer featuring the legend that is Murray Walker. We all remarked on how much safety had changed, with a mass of team personnel on the pit straight at Kyalami in 1983 to greet home Nelson Piquet as champion (none of that now!) as well as the Adelaide track in 1986 wearing out tyres for fun (cue "And look at that!" quote from Murray with regards to Nigel Mansell..)

I had made some sausage barms for breakfast and they had gone down a treat with everyone, and the coffee was flowing nicely to get us all in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. Before long we had left mine and were heading to the bus stop and to take the bus on to the Parrs Wood complex, where three games of bowling at Tenpin were to ensue. We'd got there before 12 noon and the kids' parties were still on with the staff doing the likes of "YMCA", "Gangnam Style" and so on. Thankfully at that point the lights came on so it was much easier to bowl then.

We had three good games and in two of them everyone scored over 100. Each of the three games were close and the winner wasn't decided till the final frame. In fact a mere seven points separated first from third in the second game, and going into that final frame, it was a mere three points, so really good quality all round. The time went by pretty quickly and all four of us were really enjoying the time bowling. I think we've over time found it to be a rather good thing to do.

Once done, we headed on the bus to the city centre and once we arrived there, we walked through the centre and onwards to Rochdale Road, and to the Marble Arch, where I've been wanting to take them for some time. The real ales were spot on there, and I had the Harbour Brewery from Cornwall's Amber, which was spot on. We sat in the beer garden at the back primarily because it was packed inside, but it was good just to sit at a table and chatter away anyway.

It was then back towards the Northern Quarter and after spotting one potential pub was full, I suggested heading to the Crown and Anchor on Port Street. It was a wise move: there was a big screen showing the England game, and on top of that some quality ales too, and we got a great table with a perfect view of the football, so camped ourselves there and were ready to see the action unfold. Of course a win would mean that we'd be six points clear potentially, so it would be important to get the job done.

Admittedly, the first half wasn't too good and it did take a Jordan Henderson own goal and Slovenia to take the lead before we kicked into action, with Wayne Rooney earning and scoring a penalty, and then after that following a corner and a scramble a well placed shot home by Danny Welbeck, and he would score a third later on as he did a nice one two before slotting the ball under the keeper rather well. We all noted that Man U fans must have been sick seeing him be prolific for his new club Arsenal and country, especially as Louis van Gaal, the Man U manager, had said he wasn't good enough. Really? Ha ha ha!

We then headed to Piccadilly and got the bus to Sandbar, where we'd spend an enjoyable time chatting music and having some superb beers too. I put some money into the jukebox and played five nice selections, New Order's classic "Blue Monday" first (make that tune of the day) followed by Depeche Mode's "Everything Counts", "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1" by the Flaming Lips, Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" (F1 related of course) and finally The Stone Roses' "I Am The Resurrection". Shame the latter was the re-released single mix and not the full 8 minute original though!

After that we headed on the bus back to mine, ordered some delivery from Dominos (two mighty fine large meaty pizzas which we shared) and watched most of Gogglebox, with some excellent comments with regards to the X Factor and also how they coped watching the Children in Need edition of Only Connect, with a number of them actually getting the answers right, which was rather impressive stuff to see them do. We'd all got tired and so headed up to sleep later on, but a great day had been had by all I think!

Friday 14th November - Manc Weekender X, Day One

So the weekend was upon me and today off work, and with good reason. For the tenth time at my place, three of my friends whom I've met through retro gaming and an appreciation of retro music (one of which I've been friends with for almost twenty years now!) were heading over to Manchester to stay at mine, and we'd be having a weekend of games, beer, bowling, football and of course more beer. We're all very relaxed and don't go mental when having a drink either, it's just really good chill out time for us all.

During the morning I headed to the city centre as I had an order to collect from one of the main shops, and also nipped into Wilkinsons to get a new bath mat (I really did need one) and also spotted that they had the liquid tablets of Persil Colour which I use at half price, so rude not to get that at the same time really. I soon arrived back home and was sorting out a few final things in the house so it was all good and tidy for when my friends got here, and tested out my Commodore 64 with the telly and made sure everything I needed to all worked (which it did, hurrah)

My friend from South Shields arrived mid-afternoon, followed by the ones from Ulverston and Doncaster not long afterwards. Soon conversation and some beer flowed, and it was just really good to have a good chat and catch up, whilst watching Pointless and attempting to get the question right. One of my friends is a big Michael Jackson fan and so was under a bit of pressure with the titles of Michael Jackson singles (for the record, I got Liberian Girl!) and we would have won the jackpot between us as for the singer songwriter albums too, so all good there.

I made us a meatball pasta bake with some garlic bread, followed by a tiramisu for afterwards, and we spent time listening to a CD I'd made which had some original tracks which had inspired Commodore 64 versions that appeared in games. One notable point of interest was Tangerine Dream's "Midnight in Tula" (make that tune of the day) which was the source of heavy inspiration for one of the in game themes for the classic Last Ninja 2 game, as well as John Keating's 1970s epic "The Unknown Planet" which was the source of inspiration for the game Warhawk as well.

We kicked back and had the usual four player game on Epyx's classic World Games, with some impressive performances in the barrel jumping and cliff diving respectively (most likely our two favourite events) and a blast of the footbag and surfing events from California Games as well, which was great fun. I even managed to locate some disks which had some of my tunes made in Music Assembler on back in the day, so I was able to demonstrate briefly how it worked and how you'd spend time getting the tune right with some useful voices and filter hints.

Later on we watched recordings of recent demos that took part in a recent demo competition, and those were really pushing the Commodore 64 to beyond reasonable limits, and in some excellent detail as well. That was good to see, and by the time we had done that and also then watched some hilarious clips of all sorts too, and indeed ventured out for a late night takeout, it had turned into around 1.30am before we headed to sleep. I think though that the time had sped by which is always a good sign!

Thursday 13th November - Getting On With It

Another busy day as they all tend to be these days, but actually worked out pretty well in the end. I did manage to make a start on adding software that was needed to a stack of laptops, and was also looking at seeing why there was an issue with a credit card payment machine in one of our Finance offices. It transpired to be a network cable loose in the connection end of the machine, so a re-seat of that got it all sorted out rather nicely, so relieved to have that done quickly.

I must admit though more and more of my time is taken up by meetings now, which is fine to a point, but it does at least mean that I might not be able to spend the time constructively doing what I really need to do to get everything else ticking over. That does concern me somewhat, but not enough to think about it this weekend coming, where I'll be having a much needed time to relax and chill out with some friends. I did spend some time tonight sorting the house out before The Love In My Heart came over for tea.

With everything timed not to interrupt Emmerdale, I did make some nice pulled pork with an apple and cider sauce and some mash on the side, which went down very nicely indeed. We also were able to wait in for the Tesco delivery of the shopping which was mainly for the weekend ahead, and that made a lot of sense for me to save me faffing around doing any shopping tomorrow (and it meant nothing extra to carry, so much time saved left right and centre there too).

With food consumed and The Love catching up on the soaps, we then settled in for the remainder of the evening's Masterchef: The Professionals where the critics come in and do their thing. I have to say that all four that were left really did struggle to get their food out on time and also to satisfy the critics, even the relatively calm and cool ones to that point were late with their timings and it did throw them out of their comfort zone. In the end I thought that they might only allow two through to the semifinals instead of three, such was their struggle during that round.

After that we put on Great Continental Railway Journeys from last night, which I had recorded. The Love and I both enjoy this because it gives you a nice insight into where to travel and Michael Portillo is actually really good as a host. It was good to see some parts of Italy and get some ideas where to go, and all around the island of Capri looked really lovely, a definite possibility for the future if money allowed. I also felt inspired by the way that the ferry took the train over further down the south of the country, complete with tracks - how fab was that!

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac, from their Rumours album. It's a track that The Love and I both like from them, and to be honest, if reasonably priced tickets were available for their tour next year, it might be worth considering, but as most of them are around the £100 mark each, that for me is just too much. I get to a limit where to be honest I think that it's not worth seeing a band or artist, and would much rather pay less and see someone and have a great night.

Wednesday 12th November - Commitees and Cleaning

It was a busy day for me today with two course committee meetings back to back with lunch in between. It was pretty good for the first one because tea, coffee and biscuits were provided, as well as the fact that the staff there are a really nice bunch, and that reflects really well with the students too, who seem to embrace that way of working also. As a result it meant that they were able to appreciate the stuff we do and also have some very useful input themselves, and that's always a positive thing.

It was also very wet this morning and so it was good to have a waterproof coat on as I headed over to one of the buildings for the meeting, and most of them who had attended had thought the same! I didn't need it later on but it was at least good to be able to keep dry and be able to concentrate on the task in hand. I also worked out later on why someone's IP telephone didn't work - the handset cable had come loose in the handset end and one simple click into place later, all working. Good when you can find a simple answer to those questions others may find difficult I think.

I got home later and after having a good chat to The Love In My Heart and having some tea, I settled in to cleaning up the upstairs rooms ready for this weekend, when my friends are coming over to stay. It was good just to concentrate on all that, get the spare beds made up (two air beds plus a futon) and make sure all the bedding was nice and clean too so that they all will feel nicely welcomed when they come. It was a good job well done which means I'll have a lot less to do when the weekend comes around, and ordered all the food shopping too at the same time.

I also spent some time watching The Apprentice and the moment that I saw the board game idea of relationships, it was an immediate loser for me, it was way too cheesy and somewhat too close to the bone. I really liked the geography game idea, with clues for people to define for the other one to guess the country, and be entertaining plus educational, so winner all round. Bit of a mess up from Bianca giving one small shop in Westminster exclusivity to the borough and a mere six games there, considering where the likes of Waterstones etc are based!

Still, they won, and in the end Pamela got fired. In truth two of them could (and maybe should) have gone with Daniel not looking too comfortable either in the role that he took on the task, and Lauren being rather too negative on parts: although her concerns with the focus group's feedback being ignored was actually something that probably did save her somewhat. Be some fireworks next week I reckon as more of the claws come out and more bitching starts...

In the meantime I've been listening to tunes on random on the iPod to and from work. With the nights getting a bit more on the grim side it makes sense to have something to while away the time travelling, and so highlights on the work journey home included "Human Nature" by 3 Daft Monkeys, "I'm Doin' Fine" by MC Solaar, but best of all the rather uplifting "Sunshine" by The Icicles (make that tune of the day) - maybe ironic considering the rain earlier, but you know...

Tuesday 11th November - Rememberance and Romance

It is of course 11th November, and it was poignant today to think about the Armistice Day and what that effectively means, and still does, to many of us. Thankfully my one-to-one meeting and development review finished just before then, so it meant I could have a private moment of thought to myself in order to pause for thought. It's very easy to take any liberties and/or freedoms for granted, without realising fully the struggles that many people fought and overcame to give us such freedoms. It's also worth noting just how striking the poppy display at the Tower of London has been and how much it has generated thought provoking amongst many and a realistic message that we can never forget, but we can also learn from war too.

It was a lengthy meeting this morning but it was clear to me that I felt that there were some gaps in my own personal development that I needed to address, and brought that to the table. The only thing is though that actually having the time to develop on any of those opportunities must be taken into consideration, and I never feel that I do have enough time to do the day to day stuff, never mind take part in the important things that I'd like to get involved in or take forward to the future. Maybe I need to be a bit more selfish rather than selfless, which I find very hard to do to be honest.

I was looking forward hugely to see The Love In My Heart later on, and it was so good to see her when she came over. It'd been a week since we'd seen each other, primarily because of me heading to London and Cornwall and then her heading to Dundee to see her relations, but I knew that we both were having good times, just not with each other. She looked really lovely in her spotted scarf and lovely pashmina shawl, which matched really nicely actually. I'm so lucky to be with such a gorgeous fashionista, I kept thinking to myself.

We had several hugs before I got on with making a chorizo sausage pasta bake, and we got on with telling each other about our respective weekends. I know despite the wet weather I had in part on the Friday she would have loved to be in Cornwall again, and indeed for me I'm sure Dundee would be a rather lovely place to be too. It was great to hear from her what a wonderful time that she had had, and I think that it did her relation up there the world of good to have family around and to have some good times too. Of course I was mentioning my trip too and how nice it felt to see the sea and cross the border into Cornwall again..

We did watch Masterchef: The Professionals, and I have to say I'm growing to like Marcus Wareing in the head chef role, with Monica Galetti's steely eyes really keeping them honest. The Love winced a bit at the task of seeing them prepare a woodcock for roasting, and it wasn't a pleasant job to do either, lots of plucking and then cleaning up, and keeping everything intact that needed to be to prepare it properly. Only one of them managed and both The Love and I knew he was straight through as far as we were concerned (and he was!) and Marcus doing a tart and expecting them to do it in next to no time was a tough task.

I then switched over to ITV1 for The Nation's Favourite Queen Songs. Of course there were some songs The Love liked as well as me, and it was singles only, so no picking of album tracks for me (Death on Two Legs, The Prophet's Song etc) but it was no surprise that Bohemian Rhapsody was voted number 1, it is a classic after all. For me though it was intriguing to see what else made it in there, and how the video for I Want To Break Free really did damage their reputation in the USA (fools, the video is ace!) - but for me, if I had to pick a single that I really enjoy by them I'd go for an earlier one, so "Killer Queen" is tune of the day - a true classic and the first real sign of how massive they'd become..

Monday 10th November - Non Stop

It was rather busy at work today and I definitely felt the two days' of being off catching up a little as I attempted to get through the numerous emails I'd got in the meantime. I did have a hunch about a missing printer cartridge and so went on a bit of detective work. And just like Gene Hunt, I always trust my hunches - especially when they're right, and this time it was. I found what I was after and so managed to get a printer back up and running in record time.

I had planned a conference call in the afternoon with our external suppliers to see if we could get to the bottom of an issue with swipe cards and the printer administration software we use. It was a worthwhile exercise as they could see first hand the issues we'd encountered, and then was able to do some tests with them present, and showed that it wasn't working as designed. By the end of the day we'd all had some ideas which meant hopefully I could progress things a bit further.

I did stay back a little as I wanted to concentrate on getting a few things done and found it difficult to do so with an office full of people and with them all wanting my attention for various tasks. It's just frustrating sometimes because I want to get on with things, but in a way being on my own just allowed me to pile through stuff en masse and be able to do a lot in a little time. It seemed worth it and much less hassle as I headed home with the sound of "War Ensemble" by Slayer on the iPod (make that tune of the day)

I spent the evening starting to get things sorted for the weekend when my friends will be coming over to see me. I normally have all the spare bedding ready and so it was a case of washing all the duvet covers, pillow cases et al to make sure everything is nice and clean, nothing worse than it not being in my view. It also meant that I knew I could get a few things done now and not have to go into last minute mode on Friday, which means more time for everything more important.

With that all sorted, it was time for me to do a couple of forms that I knew I wouldn't have the time to fill in at work, and it made a lot of sense to do them with no distractions. I think once I'm in the zone I tend to be much more responsive too, so it was much easier for me to just get it done, and saves me thinking about it too much at work tomorrow as well. So feel a bit more positive now, even if I don't necessarily seem it on the outside. Roll on another day in paradise!

Sunday 9th November - Lounging and Lunch

It was nice to have a bit of a lie in after a long day's travelling yesterday, and I headed up and sorted out plenty of things I needed to do, such as a shed load of ironing. I'm not a massive fan of said task but would much rather get it all done and over with quicker rather than later. For me as well it just means that everything is then sorted out with less hassle (always good) and I don't have to think about it any longer than I have to either. With that all done and dusted, I had time to shower and change and look presentable, as I was off out.

I was going to see one of my friends who lives the other side of Sale, and so with military precision I knew that meant three buses ideally: one from mine to West Didsbury or Withington, then a bus to Sale, and then one from there to my friend's place. It worked out well and also meant that I got there well on time. It was good to see my friend and once we'd unloaded some purchases from Homebase from her car, we decided that a place that had re-opened local to her sounded a good idea for lunch, as it was walking distance too, so off we went.

In fact we were both surprised at how nice the place was: it looked like Hydes Brewery had done several of their pubs up and had turned them into rather nice rustic venus, and the one we went in (the Samuel Brooks) looked the part, with wooden tables, a very rustic interior, and nice decor throughout. And a number of real ales on cask too. Oh yes. So a choice of drink was easy, I went for The Beer Studio's Muscovado Mocha, which did have a nice kick as an aftertaste too which went down rather well.

We both had the Sunday roast and for £6.50, no arguments whatsoever. Some lovely chunks of roast beef, some nice roasties, mash, vegetables, a Yorkshire pudding and a nice jug of gravy to pour as you liked. I really loved the lemon cheesecake I had for afters too. I was going to have an americano coffee with it but their coffee machine was failing, so they did my friend and I two instant coffees for free, which was very good of them all round. And that made it all just that bit sweeter, excellent customer service there.

It was nice to catch up and chatter, and we did the same when back at my friend's place for a bit, even watching a chunk of the original Despicable Me and giggling inanely at its humour. I did mention that every single grabber machine now seems to want to have soft toy minions to be given away, but there you go. The time went by far too quickly and before I knew it it was coming to 7pm, so reluctantly had to say my goodbyes and face the three buses back home to mine, with "Civilised Debauchery" by 3 Daft Monkeys in my head as I travelled (make that tune of the day) back homewards.

Saturday 8th November - The Long Ride Home

The only thing about being in Cornwall is that when you do have to go home, it's a long journey back to Manchester. I got up, had some coffee and the croissants I got for breakfast, and then sorted everything out in the case so I would be ready to leave. It was a nice sleep actually, more so by the fact that the skylight window had a blind which you could close (which blackened out the room nicely) so that was good. In fact with the weather looking decidedly iffy I didn't want to leave, but headed out as it stopped and was soon on the U1 bus back in the centre of Truro.

I had some time spare, so I had a quick walk around, admiring the cathedral, the four phone boxes by Lemon Quay, the markets there and the second hand markets by the Hall For Cornwall, and the cobbles, particularly on Boscawen Street. I soon left the city centre and headed up the hill and to the train station in good time to get the 1019 departure to Manchester. As engineering work was taking place on Hayle Viaduct, the trains were starting / finishing at Truro, so I knew I'd be first on here and had my seat reserved for the whole journey.

The train soon headed over the Royal Albert Bridge again and I felt sad, as despite the rain, I was leaving Cornwall once again. I need to be back for a longer stay, and soon too I reckon. As if it knew I was leaving, the iPod had on 3 Daft Monkeys' "Morwenna" as the train headed over the bridge and towards Plymouth (make that tune of the day) - and soon it was speeding through back along the coast at Dawlish, up along the M5 at Tiverton Parkway, and towards the grand curves of the station at Bristol Temple Meads.

Still a fair bit to go from there, and soon it was to Cheltenham Spa (where if I have to change trains for Cornwall from Manchester it's normally there I do so) before heading past the University of Birmingham into New Street, and reversing back out (so facing forward now) as the train went further North, slowing a lot between Penkridge and Stafford and delaying the train by around ten minutes, and so that time was the delayed time by the time it finally got to Manchester Piccadilly at around 5.10pm. See, told you it was a long journey didn't I?

With The Love In My Heart up in Scotland seeing one of her relatives, there was a nice quiet evening in for me, which I needed after all that travelling to be honest. I caught up with Gogglebox and had to laugh at their reactions to The X Factor (all unanimous Lola should have won the sing off - whoever she is) and then seeing Judy Murray be so laughably bad on Strictly, with the two gay hairdressers saying "they might as well have carried a corpse around!" - that made me chuckle.

Friday 7th November - Civilised Debauchery in Penryn

It was an earlyish start for me this morning, as it was up, changed and re-packing my small case and checking out of the rather nice Ibis at Wembley. Considering the proximity of some nice shops, the fast trains to central London and of course being rather handily placed for Wembley Stadium, I'd definitely stay there again. In fact, having stayed at other Ibis hotels, it's one of the nicest ones I've been at. I was soon joining the commuters on the 0840 to Marylebone, and once there I took the short walk towards London Paddington, stopping off for some breakfast along the way.

In Paddington itself, I spotted the bear as part of the Paddington Bear trail, 50 statues of the bear in different parts of London, standing between platforms 8 and 9. That's of course on top of the bronze sculpture that's permanently in the station anyway (so no confusion, trail hunters!). It was soon time to grab a Boots Meal deal for lunch on the train and on the 1006 departure bound for Truro, the Cornish Riviera train no less. Get this: first stop: Exeter! It only picks up at Reading, so apart from that non-stop as it speeds through the countryside past the likes of Newbury Racecourse, Westbury and Castle Cary.

Once at Exeter, it was still stopping less than normal, and of course there's the gorgeous run along the coast at Dawlish which just is one of the great train journeys in the UK. With the train being a HST, the carriage door windows open (normally so you can open the doors) but it meant a good unobstructed view of the sea, especially if you're camera armed (and I was!) - so really nice to see that. Stopping only at Newton Abbot and Plymouth before heading into Cornwall, it was pretty quick too. In fact the bloke sat opposite me who was travelling to Newton Abbot had bought me a coffee when he went to the café onboard, as I'd kept an eye on his Macbook Pro laptop whilst he was gone. Whoever you were - thank you, I really appreciated it.

So across the Royal Albert Bridge and into Cornwall, before long I was departing the train at Truro and onwards to the Premier Inn, which was close to the village of Carnon Downs just off the A39 a few miles from Truro itself, but on the bus route to my gig tonight, so handy all round. I got myself an all day bus ticket as I took the short trip from the bus station to the train station, in order to catch the U1 bus to Carnon Downs - it's actually one of two buses renumbered by First to make them more recognisable as buses that take you to the University of Falmouth (and Exeter University) at their campus in Penryn, and also Falmouth's Woodlane campus close to the town centre.

Once I'd got off the bus and crossed the roundabout, it was down the hill to the Premier Inn, and at a mere £29 a night, cracking value. The room looked pretty nice, and a big comfy bed (and very high too). I decided to have a walk down the hill into the village of Carnon Downs, and they had their own crown green bowling club, a proper old school red phone box, a nice little card and gift shop and a Spar which doubled as their post office. In fact I got some croissants in the Spar for breakfast the next morning, and a Cornish pasty to have now, simply had to be done of course. Yummy.

I spent a bit of time with the telly and then got myself showered and ready, and because of the incessant rain, armed with my waterproof coat too (I knew there was a good reason to wear it.) The bus was a little delayed but soon I was heading through the Penryn campus and then onwards to the centre of Falmouth. It was a bit wet, but I spotted a Wetherspoons right by the bus stop, and so headed in there - it's their fish night on a Friday, so fish, chips and a real ale for £6.25? I'll have that thank you very much, as did pretty much most people in the pub. I did have a quick walk in Falmouth centre too and got to see some of the piers and docks before heading back to The Moor to get the U1 bus back to the campus at Penryn.

Tonight's 3 Daft Monkeys gig was being held at The Performance Centre on the campus, but with it being dark and not that well lit everywhere, it was difficult to locate. I spotted one of the maintenance staff and they pointed me in the right direction, downhill down stairs and thankfully signposted from there, so I soon managed to locate the building. They didn't have a cloakroom but pointed you to some lockers with keys that operate like the ones do in Tesco, where you put the £1 in so you can take the key and it's all locked, and once unlocked you get the pound back, so with coat deposited, on with the show.

First support was Rob Phillimore, and he sounded pretty decent. He had a nice slightly blues folk vibe to his songs, and really had a good voice as well as his guitar playing and that carried it off nicely. Up next were Gareth and Annie, and they were also pretty good too. They had a real softness about their playing, and Annie had a variety of instruments to play including the accordion as well as the keyboards. "Choices" was a real higlight, some lovely singing and acoustic, and a track that explained the hole left by someone passing away was poignant too.

With support done, off to the bar, and the little bar had lots of good things going for it: cask ale and cider from the cask, and bottles of Betty Stogs, Cornish Knocker and River Cottage IPA! And they didn't charge you shed loads for soft drinks (a mere £1 each) so that's very fair indeed. I had a Betty Stogs and that went down nicely, and I think generally, although not full, I think people were excited about what was to happen. For me, to see 3 Daft Monkeys in their native Cornwall was an ambition I had, and tonight I was going to fulfil it.

And how! 3 Daft Monkeys were especially good tonight, even by their high standards. Starting off with "Civlised Debauchery" that soon got the crowd dancing around, and once that was done, they went straight into my current favourite of theirs, and the opening track from the album "Of Stones and Bones", namely "Agnes the Giant Killer", so tune of the day was an easy choice really. You could worry about peaking too early, but this band knows how to get everyone up (and plenty of little ones as well as their Mums were dancing, so nice to see!)

There were plenty of highlights, including "The Lovers of Porthgwarra Cove" (more so now I've been there and seen the place), the old classic "Hubbadillia" which had the older fans bouncing around happily, "One Fine Day" which really did get everyone in the mood, and lots of arm linking and dancing around during the intro once it got going. Of course plenty of tracks from the recent album had a play incluidng "The Pellars of Zennor", "The Tale of the Lazy Pirate" and simply wonderful, the ace "World on Its Head" which I managed to spin around to during the "spinning round" line of the chorus, you know, cos I can!

The title track of their "Social Vertigo" album was played, complete with respective swaying at the start and during the middle sections, and that was so nice to see even some of them who were seeing them for the first time giving it a go. Even the older classic "Faces" got an outing, and that had everyone spinning round and dancing all together. After checking that all was well with Athene and Tim's son (in fact Athene mentioned an article she wrote was going to be in a Cornish newspaper over the weekend about being a mum on tour) they finished with "The Antiquated and the Arcane".

It was a great gig, and so worth the trip down, and as I headed back on the U1 bus, getting off at Carnon Downs and a short walk to the Premier Inn, I contemplated that maybe one day I need to head back to Cornwall and try to do a few gigs at the same time, but also then spend the day taking in the loveliness of the place. Sounds like a plan for the future, but for now I was all cosy up in bed and really enjoying thinking about the night that had just gone, it was ace. Thank you to Tim, Athene, Lukas and Richie, four ace musicians.

Thursday 6th November - Totally Acoustic

I had a couple of days off work and with a good reason: music gigs were involved. In fact it was a triangular tour of the country, and the first leg of which would take me to London. So it was off on the 1135 departure to Euston, and with Virgin Trains being their usually reliable selves, it meant a speedy and on time journey. In fact sat opposite me for the journey was a CSKA Moscow fan on assumedly his way back to London and then Moscow. He must have been tired though as he fell asleep in the seat and almost blocked the aisle as he sat at a funny angle snoring his head off.

Once at Euston and with Oyster card topped up, I was staying at the Ibis hotel at Wembley, because it was a lot cheaper than the corresponding ones in Central London. I had two options: train from Marylebone to Wembley Stadium, or the 18 bus from Euston. I took the latter, which took me through the likes of Harrow Road (past Mute Records' old HQ) and then to Harlesden before crossing the North Circular Road at Stonebridge Park and finally after some traffic delays heading off at Wembley Triangle, a short walk across the train station and to the hotel.

The view was pretty good: I asked for and got a higher floor and the 12th floor room I had faced the stadium, so I could see it all and its arch from the bedroom window. Nice. I also noted the new car park and the London Designer Outlet, so once I'd dropped off my stuff I had a walk around there. There were all sorts of nice shops with tempting things to buy as well as a cinema and restaurants too, and so very much attempting to make the area a bit more of a destination apart from when the football or other events are there - made a lot of sense to me that did.

Later on after I'd got showered and ready I took the train from Wembley Stadium station (a mere 20 seconds walk from the front door of the Ibis, ace!) and then on the train to Marylebone, pretty quick too. Once there I took a short walk to Baker Street and decided in the end to have some tea in Pizza Hut. I'd not been in there for ages and thought it'd be a nice change to go in there, and so it proved. It's still unlimited soft drink refills, and they do free salad with the main, so I used that to get some nachos and croutons, and teamed them up with some dips as well as sweetcorn and cous cous. I had the meat feast with barbecue sauce base for the main, and it was still as good as Pizza Hut ever was. Mental note: need to do it more often.

I then took the 453 bus to New Cavendish Street and a short walk from there to the King and Queen, where tonight's Totally Acoustic was being held. MJ Hibbett was already there, as was Pete Green, so great to see them and chat, along with Marianthi from Atomic Beat Records as well. It felt like old times not least with another fan John who had just moved to Bedford but whom I'd seen at previous acoustic gigs, and MJ's mate Steve as well who does the shows with him when they do musical theatre. Ah, it was a nice happy evening already and the pub had Tribute too, so even more so.

With the crowd all assembled upstairs, once we'd done the ritual of acapella singing the Totally Acoustic theme tune, it was on to MJ Hibbett first for a short but sweet set to introduce the evening. What I didn't expect were some old classics such as "I Come From The Fens" and "My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once" but what was lovely was the new song "That Guy" which describes a lot of us hitting middle age and being "that guy" who is agreeing on the same random thoughts that you hear people say when being geeky. Always good when you have self-deprecating humour.

Martin Austwick was up on next, and he was good too. His songs had a more lilting tone, but none the worse for it it whatsoever. I really liked "You're No More Than A Mile From The Beach" which described what would happen if all the computers in the world were turned into useful things like beaches, and also "The Man Who Could Not Read Minds" which would be if everyone except that man could mind read. Some nice guitar playing and a very folk feel to them, but all good. He definitely seemed to enjoy himself anyway.

Beer break followed, and as I headed down to the bar with MJ and his girlfriend, she shouted "Oi! Hibbett" to which he replied "How may I help you?" - and as quick as a flash I knew this was from "Easily Impressed" by his band, so I said back "You don't really mean that!" - and it was a lovely moment. His girlfriend and I high fived and had a good giggle about that afterwards, and had the rather nice lighter Sunbeam ale this time, which was rather good too.

Pete Green was then on, and he did some acoustic songs as well as a few of his poems as well, so a nice little mix up of something different there. He played a few tracks from his album "The Glass Delusion" including the title track and also "They Played My Song on Radio 1" which had everyone singing along with the chorus (aww), and even better, my favourite "The Ballad of Phil Jevons" (make that tune of the day) about the classic journeyman footballer (and as I found out later on, now academy coach at Everton no less). It was a good set and a perfect way to close the evening.

I had a good chat with everyone before heading back to Marylebone on the 453 bus and didn't have to wait too long for the train back to Wembley Stadium, which was really busy with people heading back to High Wycombe after an evening out. It was soon in a nice comfortable bed with one final at night look at Wembley Stadium itself (shame the arch wasn't lit, would have been a good picture to take!) and then for a good night's sleep, as a long day and a trip down to the South West was imminent..

Wednesday 5th November - Moscow Mauling

It was getting rather cold this evening as my friend and I headed off to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City's Champions League game against CSKA Moscow. Realistically this was a game which City had to win, and win well, in order to have any chance of progressing in the tournament. Also we knew that the odds were stacked in favour of Bayern Munich beating Roma in the other game which meant that a win would help us massively.

We headed up the hill from the car park to the ground and with the theme being Bonfire Night, and with an organised fireworks display from City in full blast over the far end of the stadium, I was hoping for fireworks from the team. It looked a good line up and possibly a little bit more attacking with a 4-4-2 formation, but at the same time I did wonder if defensively we'd still look weak at the back - even without the hapless Elaquim Mangala playing after his poor performance in the League Cup last week.

It didn't take long after the kick off to see it was going to be an uphill battle though. A soft free kick was conceded and from the cross, no one got close to Doumbia (you think they would after the way he turned the match against us in Moscow) and he headed freely home for 1-0, inside three minutes. The Etihad was stunned into a silence before a roar to get behind the players, and we had a free kick of our own a few minutes later. Yaya Touré for once this season got it right and he curled a beauty into the corner for the equaliser, and that felt a lot better.

What we didn't realise was that would be the best it would get. A sloppy clearance from Gael Clichy found the midfield of Moscow in acres of space, Doumbia was found and he scored easily past Joe Hart for 2-1. It stayed that way till half time and no matter what City did it just didn't work out, and I could tell already it was going to be one of those rather frustrating evenings at the Etihad. I had to head for a little walk along the stadium concourse to calm down a bit, I was getting angry!

Anyway, it was on with the second half with Fernandinho and Nasri coming on. The former got himself booked and then a few minutes later produced a slightly odd challenge which the Moscow midfielder made the most of - and a second yellow. City down to ten men. Then as City went forward and gained a free kick, the referee inexplicably booked the wrong player - he should have booked one of the defenders for a second time and therefore a red from their side as well. The City fans sang "The Champions League is ***ing bent" along with derogatory comments about UEFA in the same vein.

It got worse. Yaya Touré saw a straight red, and to be fair, it was right. He raised his arm to a midfielder, and you know full well you can't do that. It topped off a poor performance again from him, and ironically, City actually played a lot better with the nine men left on the field. But it was too little too late and as the final whistle sounded, boos rang around the ground. It was a poor performance, possibly the worst City display I've seen with a full strength side for some time, and you do wonder just what damage it might do the league chances. Tune of the day in the meantime is "Don't Look Back in Anger" by Oasis - seemed quite apt!

Tuesday 4th November - Click, Collect and Chill Out

It was a busy day at work (again) as I finally completed the last of the PCs to be rolled out for our technical staff, this time in the two stores in the ground floor of one of the buildings. I was able to bring a colleague into play and get the piece of work done, and it was good to have that all sorted and ready for when they opened, with a fair degree of high standards in terms of routing cables out of the way of their desks and counter. It also made a lot more sense to have it all neat and tidy and so they could carry on with the work that they needed to do.

Once that was done, I spent some time having to try and test out a possible solution to the swiping issue with the card readers on the debit stations, but it looks very much like you can only use the current version of the software that comes with the server that had been upgraded, so you can't use an older version to talk to the new server: it just throws an error. Bit of a shame because I know that the card reader worked fine previously and it was all tickety boo.

Once work was done, I headed to the local little Tesco close to work to pick up an order I'd done from Tesco Direct. It's quite good in that the click and collect can pretty much now be any Tesco store, and as this meant I was able to head there quickly after work and collect it, it all made sense. With the local Tesco close to me out of action currently due to a fire, it also meant I was able to use that one instead. And minutes later once I'd been in, all was good and I had my items ready to take home.

I had to sort out more washing and ironing once I'd got home, but that was all done in preparation for The Love In My Heart coming over for tea, and together we caught up and had a chat whilst The Love was keeping up with the latest developments in Emmerdale before turning over for Don't Tell The Bride. Not my thing but the wedding seemed like the groom was leaving everything über-last minute and not planning too well, resorting to the usual "I'll get the bridesmaids dresses from Debenhams" ploy. I wonder how much they've made from being on the programme?

Later on we saw the first of Masterchef: The Professionals for this year. The format's changed slightly and with it Marcus Wareing as the head chef judge: rather uncompromising as well. I think it's tough to fill Michel Roux Jr's shoes (notably after his row with the BBC over his product placements) and was surprised Monica Galetti was still there on it too. She wasn't taking any prisoners though as the contestants failed to make a croquembouche properly. Maybe they should have watched The Great British Bake Off I think?

On went 4OD afterwards as The Love had missed Friday's Gogglebox, and I didn't mind seeing it again (tune of the day is the theme tune: "Perfect World" by Kodaline). Of course seeing three get fired in The Apprentice and Ella Jade's almost begging to stay in the process had all the watchers shouting at the telly, such as Scarlett Moffatt: "It's not like X Factor where you get a second chance, get off" and later then "She's made a right tit of herself on national telly" as well..

Monday 3rd November - The Grind and The Cold

The weather certainly took a turn for the worse and seemed a lot colder as well this morning. I was pleased to have been able to make sure I had some warmer clothes ready to put on, as well as my more Winter coat which really does keep the wind off, and it needed to. I could feel the wind blowing considerably as I left the house to head for work, and indeed later on once I had left the office and the wind had got up once it was dark outside.

I did head over to my Mum's as well after work as it was her birthday, and so wanted to drop off her card and present. As it turned out my two sisters had taken her out for the day (nice of them to do that) but my brother and nephew was in, so I had a chat with them for a bit and left the present with them to hand to Mum before then venturing out into the cold and heading for the walk home. During the Winter months I don't take the short cut via one of the streets that takes you though a narrow tunnel under the railway: on your own it can be a bit scary, so took the longer and much safer route home.

I headed home and soon had some chicken and cous cous made for tea, and settled in for some relaxing times during the evening. I actually needed to do a shed load of ironing so thought it best to do that with some tunes on, so on went the rather good "The Original Sound of Sheffield 83-87" compilation by Cabaret Voltaire, which features many of their singles in 12" form across the CD. This means the likes of "Sensoria" as they were intended (tune of the day - it is a proper tune) as well as Crackdown, James Brown, Kino and the excellent I Want You. Essential for a fan of their 80s Industrial era like me.

I also spent some time watching the USA version of "The Chase" on Challenge as well. I was intrigued to see how that compared with the British version, especially as Mark Labbett, aka The Beast, was on there as the sole chaser. The prize money was increased, but the contestants just as nervous: one of them was caught in their round, and because of more commercial breaks, there are only three people followed by the final chase. Still didn't stop The Beast from catching the remaining contestants with some ease though. Thought that the US host Brooke Burns was okay, but not a patch on Bradley Walsh.

I did feel somewhat tired though later on and tried where possible to get an early night. I think because there's so much going on at work at the moment that it's just draining me mentally. Physically I've been fine, I've been carrying and replacing new PCs and taking the old ones away for some time now, so just a case of being able to then get on with it all. I do feel though as if everyone needs a piece of me at some time to do their thing too and it does get a tad on the frustrating side. Onwards and upwards...

Sunday 2nd November - The City is Ours

I can't be the only one who is massively nervous on derby day, but I woke up this morning at The Love's place feeling more nervous than usual. Given Manchester City's recent lack of form, it was a concern that we may not be able to perform like I know that the team can, and as The Love was getting ready to head out, and me back home, I did say that I wasn't confident but at least knew that being at home might just help us a little bit. I had washed my 1970 retro home shirt in anticipation and so would iron that once I got home.

My friend came over to mine later and so it was off to the Etihad Stadium. He was as nervous and non-confident as I was, but nonetheless these are the sort of games you look forward to as a football fan - the really big ones where pride is at stake and indeed the bragging rights in the office the next day, as well as the passion inside the stadium as well. For me, having seen us being tonked on regular occasions, it's so nice now that we end up being favourites most of the time to turn them over.

We had a brew in City Square and saw some of the pre-match entertainment, and then headed into the ground to soak it all in. The team looked good but Aleksandar Kolarov was injured in the warm up, and so Gael Clichy came in very late at left back. It was a much better line up though with Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta back after missing the midweek Newcastle debacle, and that reassured us both a bit. Before we knew it, with the Winter sun in the faces of the fans and players, the game had kicked off.

The first half was pretty tense, with a few tasty tackles going in. United had some chances early on, and then we got into the game a bit more, with a couple of speculative efforts and looking to counter where possible. Sergio Agüero almost got on the end of a cross and he collided with David de Gea, who made a brave save. However, the turning point was just before half time. Chris Smalling had been booked for needlessly charging down a goal kick, and then as James Milner headed down the left, Smalling fouled him, and second booking meant red card and he was off.

As City started the second half, we noticed that the ineffective Yaya Touré had been pushed forward, as City looked to score with the man advantage. And it took some time, but Touré found Clichy on the left, and his ball was pulled back for Agüero to rifle one home past de Gea for 1-0, much to the relief of every City fan. Jesús Navas rattled the post later on as well. However, I was puzzled why James Milner was substituted: he was by far the best player on the park and his going off led to City taking their foot off the gas and United heading forward, with Joe Hart pulling off a good save from Marouane Fellaini.

We hung on though and it was relief as well as joy that the final whistle sounded and it was 1-0 to City. I'd have taken that scoreline before kick off, and whilst we weren't at our best we did get a result. One sour point which I noticed at the time during the first half was that Agüero and Fellaini collided in the box, which may have been called a penalty. Fellaini appeared to want to have words, but looked to spit at Agüero in the process. It'll be interesting to see if that gets flagged up later on.

So a good day all round, we won the derby, and that means we're back to third in the table and with Tottenham winning, Man U are now tenth and mid-table. Also, notable that at this stage last season David Moyes as Man U manager was four points better off than Louis van Gaal, and had less money to spend. But still - the fourth win in the league on the bounce against United (first time since 1970) and bragging rights to us. "Blue Moon", the Supra version as played at the ground, is tune of the day no question.

Saturday 1st November - Saturday Shopaholic

A fair bit of Saturday shopping done by me today, it has to be said. I headed out first to the local branch of B&M Bargains, and stocked up on a few beers there for the forthcoming weekend I've got planned with some friends of mine, and although their real ale selection wasn't as good as normal due to an influx of Christmas stuff, it was still meaning I could get a few bottles. Try "Get Thi Coit" from the Barnsley Brewery if you head there yourself - it's now a mere 70p a bottle!

I then headed into the city centre later on as I had ordered a birthday present from Debenhams and so needed to collect it from their click and collect counter on the third floor. With that done, it was then over to Paperchase to get a birthday card, and after that it was into Boots. My sister had given me an idea for a Christmas present to get her, and so went to have a look at it. I got that but also got two other presents as well, and some wrapping paper with tags, which not only took me over a limit to get triple points (woo) but also meant I got three for two in terms of the gifts, always good when that happens.

I also nipped into Argos to buy another present (on a roll I was) before finally ending up in Quality Save. And that was a pretty good move, not least because their real ale selection was very good, and at really reasonable prices all round, so managed to get a fair few ales in there for not much money. In fact, I was tempted to get more only for the fact that I might have been struggling to carry them home. As it was, several bags of shopping meant a lot to carry.

One thing I had also done was to head into Fopp, and noted that the 1-disc reissue CD of Ultravox's "Rage In Eden" album, complete with original front artwork (only so many with the original cover due to licencing reasons) was a mere £3, so it was mine. I played that a fair bit once I got home, and enjoyed it immensely, having owned it on vinyl for a long while. Of course I really adore "We Stand Alone" on this and when the band played it live during their reformation recently, my friend and I were very happy - tune of the day was an easy choice there.

Later on I headed over to see The Love In My Heart, where she made some gorgeous steak with potato wedges, mushrooms and carrots, complete with a diane sauce for tea. It was lovely. The two cats Jô and Brian were keeping a watchful eye outside as there was a fireworks display close by, and we were both concerned they might want to cower and hide. They just ran to the safety of a sofa when they needed to but seemed quite intrigued by the wind outside!

I did see the Fright Night on Strictly Come Dancing. It was pretty good, but it was clear to me that there should definitely be two people in the dance off, and these two only: namely Judy Murray and Scott Mills. Only some weird form of popularity voting is keeping them in rather than dancing ability, especially when you saw the likes of Mark Wright, Sunetra Sarker, and even Caroline Flack putting some good moves down. Thankfully in most cases the cream comes to the top so we'll see what happens over the next few weeks..