Dear Diary... October 2008

Friday 31st October - Halloween Heaven

It was Halloween tonight, and I'd even prepared myself for any trick or treaters coming round to the Towers by ensuring that in my weekly shopping I'd bought some packets of crisps, fun size Twix and Milky Way bars so that whoever came over could have some little treats from me. Usually parents now take their children round and they dress up in costumes, which works out really well. Unfortunately, with Halloween falling on a Friday night this year, this meant that a lot of parents were going out to themed Halloween parties and as such finding people to babysit their kids instead. I didn't have a single knock at the door with anyone, which was a bit surprising considering that even more than ever the event had been well and truly hyped up to death. Ah well.

Mind you, I did have a busy time of it anyway as I was making some very nice food for The Chorizo In My Pasta Bake. In fact, what I was doing was a very nice pasta bake with some chorizo sausage thrown in, just to give it some extra kick. The trick of course when doing the pasta bake is not to put all the pasta in at once, put half in, half the sauce, then half the chorizo, do the same for the second layer and then add some grated mozzarella on top. Job done, in the oven for 25 minutes or so at Gas Mark 6, job's a good one. I even bought some garlic dough balls as well and we had them with it, which worked out very well. In fact almost too well as we were both quite full (but nicely full) afterwards. Well it was either that or the shiraz, I'll leave that to you to make your own minds up.

We ended up watching the Cookalong Live with Gordon Ramsay thing later on. I was shocked that Gordon didn't once swear on live television, and indeed that Johnny Vegas was attempting to do the cooking at the same time. He has lost a fair bit of weight though and I am sure that people did notice. In fact, Gordon had a pair of Johnny's old trousers to show just how much loss had been done. The two actually worked well together so Johnny was a good guest really, but some of the viewers who were live trying to do the cooking along failed rather miserably, especially the cabin crew. Definitely a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth I reckon!

Still, it was nice to take time out and relax, and with Seth Lakeman playing live next Saturday and with us both going, I decided that it would make sense to play "Poor Man's Heaven" and learn more of that album. I have to say that still my favourite on there, and hence tune of the day is the rather wonderful "Solomon Browne" which is based on a true story of the Penlee lifeboat disaster. What's touching is that every 19th December, the Christmas lights in Mousehole are turned off for an hour in rememberance of the disaster. Seth gives the song such a nice treatment and you can tell it's something close to his heart, which is how it should be.

Thursday 30th October - Working It Out

It was the second afternoon of my Office training workshop sessions for people, so it was nice for two groups of nine to come along this afternoon and give it a go. I have a feeling that because of the various skill sets involved in the first session, it was hard to judge it right so that everyone got a good crack of it, and as a result I didn't feel as confident. It was nice therefore to chat to one of them who pretty much knew what they were doing and see how I managed, and as I thought, I was right, it wasn't all plain sailing. In essence, this is always what you have to bear in mind with various skill sets, do you judge it to try and keep them interested, or do you try and match the skill set groups?

The second one seemed to go a lot better and on the whole I think that I had learned from the first session somewhat and managed to pace this at a more relaxed setting, but still take up the same time, if that made sense. On the whole I'm glad though that some of the fear factor has vanished from the way that people perceive the new version (even though I still loathe it) and I even had a couple of people asking "when can we have it then?" which is good. I hope though that everyone realises that it's something I'd rather people see before they move to it, and then go from there really. That's the plan.

Went over to one of my relations later, as it was an 18th birthday celebration as well. They didn't want a big do as such but it was nice to have some sandwiches and nibbles and drinks and have most of the family over as well, which was good to see. It was pretty nice to see some of the younger ones especially, and I do think that it was good that everyone made the effort to come along. I must admit I kind of wish I was 18 again as my relation got lots of lovely presents from everyone and I'm sure that he appreciated it. I think he's taking up driving lessons so that the money comes in handy that he'll have got to put towards that and the test. Only natural really at that age.

Mind you, I got back, sorted the housework out, and pretty much relaxed for the rest of the evening. I've got a good weekend planned including watching the mighty Manchester City on Sunday against Bolton away on Sky with a few of the folks, so that should be good. Whilst doing the ironing it was time to crank up the volume and whack on Muse's "Supermassive Black Hole" at full blast. It needs to be played that loud to appreciate just how good the production is: sounding crisp and clean and yet putting in the most dirty guitar possible: and it does sound dirty too. Tune of the day just for that reason really, it's a bloody smart tune, and even though it does remind me of a less happier time, it also helped me get through it too.

Wednesday 29th October - An Office Full Of Training

Today was pretty much all about the first day of two days where I was running a small series of Office 2007 workshops for the admin and the technical staff, so that they could have a look at it and play with it before they actually got it on their machines and had it all live. Now, I had to bear in mind that for a lot of people, the new look and feel is completely different and indeed could throw people. I myself have issues with it. I mean, sure, have all the common commands in the Home tab of the Ribbon, but like, why not put the spelling there, and why not put the print preview there, and indeed come to think of it, why the hell is the ruler turned off by default? I don't know, sometimes some people don't think what's actually usable, eh?

Anyway, I had the projector on loan from our Media people, and we had a screen for the projector to display on, so that was good really. I even had a laptop that we'd had returned, so all I needed to do was chuck on Office 2007 and the relevant service packs, and then make sure that the getting started toolbar was on as well as the handy Save as PDF option, so it looked the same as it would for the staff, and that was all sorted. So with projector screen, projector and laptop in hand it was a case of making sure that the room was emptied and that everyone got started.

In all, although that there were less people today than tomorrow (a three and a six) it at least gave me time to have a play and be able to get a few things sorted, and see how the people would react. To my surprise, a fair number of people want to take it on as soon as possible and really do want to be able to use it here and now, so that's good. I also thought that it would be pretty useful to show a few nifty features which went down well. I must admit it was good to see a good reaction and that I tried to inject a little humour into proceedings so that they could see just what was going on. I think having the projector screen helped, so that the users could see, and I think on the whole it went down quite well.

I had Sky Sports News on later keeping an eye on the football scores whilst doing some domestic chores and that definitely kept me going. Part of me kept flicking over to the Arsenal-Tottenham game and good job I did, not least for the last two minutes or so where Tottenham made it back from 4-2 down to 4-4 which was rather good if you were a Spurs fan anyway. Must be the Happy Harry effect, maybe. But still, on the other hand my beloved Man City lost 2-0 away at Middlesbrough. Admittedly that was better than the mere 8-1 hammering that we sustained last season, but there you go, a dodgy penalty didn't help matters and I think too that it goes to show that sometimes games hinge on decisions.

Still, that was that, and I did feel pretty tired, probably more so mentally than anything else, and so if need be, I thought a good night's sleep would be in order and see how things go from there. I had the perfect track to help send me along too, a rather nice relaxed listen to Golden Claw Musics' "Long Ships" did the trick there, just has to be tune of the day for its ambient feeling and rather relaxed tripped out ambience that certainly did the trick for me, just set at nice volume, relax and take nice deep breaths. Awww... that's better.

Tuesday 28th October - Looking For The Light Blue One

Had a bit of a mixed bag of a day today. First off, I wanted to try and get the wheels in motion to start distributing the administrative staff build, but a couple of things got in the way. I needed to make sure that the relevant policies were added and correctly identified for the users concerned, and that I tested that out pretty thoroughly to make sure that they all played ball. Then I was able to at least get some form of resemblance of working build done so at least it all did what the profile and policy said that it would do. I printed off some of the material for the training sessions I'll be running as from tomorrow, and that all looked well.

But on the other hand, it was also a case of being able to get on with things as best I could and think onward and upward about the future at work as well. It's pretty clear from those I've spoken to that there is movement in the air, and it's a case of seeing what happens. I can't speak too much about it to be honest, but I do know that at least there's several people that back up my point of view and that has to be a good thing doesn't it? It shows that there's thought and consideration gone into proceedings somewhat. Now if I could just possibly try and come to some arrangement about next week's course, that'd be good.

Met up later on with The Go Sign on the Monopoly Board, which was lovely as ever. The two of us nipped into Toys R Us as well as there was a birthday present I needed to purchase for one of my little relations, and that was done and done well. In fact I reckoned that the present I got was probably overstocked somewhat as the shop was slightly overflow with them. Still, not complaining to be honest, better to be able to get it than not isn't it? I was pleased though and the two of us made our way back to her place, where lovely food awaited.

That was followed by a game of Manchester Monopoly. Now I've played the traditional one and know how it all works, but not the Manchester version. The Go Sign had the original 1998 release of it with the streets and names that were pretty familiar to me back then (I'm sure an update would contain Spinningfields, for example). I I soon got into the hang of things and realised that of course there are certain tactics to operate to win at the game. Of course I'm not telling you, do I look daft? Anyway, I'd soon amassed some houses and hotels and it so happened that The Go Sign landed on them frequently, thus making her bankrupt and me the winner! Not played it for ages, mind, but she did mention she had Cluedo so that might also be another one to try out. Wonder how the travel one would work though?

In any case, it was definitely a mixed day but one that ended up fine. When I was playing Manchester Monopoly, I was thinking of Frank Sidebottom's classic "The Monopoly Song", which pretty much explains exactly how most games of said game are to people. With lyrics like the below it's just got to be tune of the day, and here's why if you need proof:

"Hotel on Mayfair, I've got a hotel on Park Lane, the blue one
And Little Frank hasn't even got a house on the Old Kent Road
I've got hotels on all the red ones and all the green ones, and all the yellow ones
He's not even got a light blue one, and he's not been past the water works!"

Exactly. You know it is, it really is. Thank you.

Monday 27th October - All Gone A Bit Dark

With the clocks going back yesterday, it did mean an extra hour in bed, which is lovely, but at the same time it also means that the nights get dark pretty quickly to say the least. And of course that meant that it was almost getting that way on the way home from work today, which was quite a surprise to say the least. All I know now is that it'll get darker and darker and the only light that I will see will be at work, which will be something. It's at times like this when you realise that the summer time is to be made the most of, with the light evenings being something to behold. Now when you head out during the day, it's quite something to be out for the day and enjoy the time you have for sure!

I had been pretty busy in the office today at any rate, what with testing the new Administration image and also ensuring that everything was on there as it intended to be. One of the things that I was looking at was setting up the way that I'd be running the Office workshops later in thw week, possibly with a dry run at some point to see how I would do for time. It's always tricky timing these things and I'd much rather have a play around to see how the land lies. I may even need to organise another training day to sort things out but I shall see how that goes.

With the dark nights and the rain creeping in, definitely time to feel comfortable in the settings and play something to get you through the dark nights, and that's what Joey Ryan's album "With Its Roots Above And The Branches Below" has in shedloads. Well worth checking out is "As It Must Be" (and therefore tune of the day) which is a perfect example of what he's all about. If you see him supporting Beth Rowley, buy the CD and enjoy his set!

Sunday 26th October - Shopaholics

It was time to head out and do some more Christmas shopping, and with The Mint In My Cornetto coming along with me, we decided to head to The Lowry Outlet Mall and get some shopping done there. Part of my reasoning was also that because of the fact that the shops had closed early on the Wednesday and we weren't able to go there prior to seeing Calendar Girls, it would be an idea to head round. I wanted to check out Marks and Spencer Outlet too because I needed to see if there were any nice clothes for my break away coming soon, and wanted some new bits for the wardrobe.

As it happened, that was a visit well worth doing. I actually found two nice and warm cosy jumpers, including a top of the range Autograph one, reduced in price nicely so it meant I bought them both. I'm going to save them both for my break away, but one's a plain stone colour and the other one has stripes in shades of chocolate and cream, which looks quite well actually. That way, I've got something to keep me warm. In fact I also unexpectedly found a couple of Christmas presents whilst I was in there too and at reduced prices, so as you can imagine, I snagged them up rather quickly which made things good. The Mint in My Cornetto even found a nice pair of shoes that fitted her well and weren't expensive, and I'm sure that she will look lovely in them, hurrah for that!

We headed back on the tram into Central Manchester a bit later on, and headed round a couple of shops to see a few items that we wanted to have a look at. I did notice that there was still a sale on in Debenhams so I was able to show her one of the presents I had got yesterday, along with some ideas I'd had too. We also ventured into Waterstones to check the prices of a couple of books, and I wondered if they were cheaper online (in fact they were on Waterstones' own website, go figure!!) - but nonetheless the instore price was pretty cheap anyway. I did also take a look in there at the board games and to my delight noted that they had Scrabble De Luxe back in there, oooh I was in envy, let me tell you. It's like Scrabble should be, with a rotating board on a turntable, wooden tiles, velvet bag, it's well posh!

Watched Match of the Day 2 later and of course as you can imagine I was well impressed by Robinho's hat trick which demolished Stoke 3-0. I was also pleased to see that Danny Sturridge was making an impact, setting up two of the goals for Robinho and generally making a nuisance of himself. It was good to see even though we were virtually last on the telly coverage, even more so than Tottenham just because Harry Redknapp had once again been a Judas and left Portsmouth for a supposed "bigger club", which to be honest makes a mockery of the loyalty as well. No wonder the Pompey fans were well narked off, don't blame them. I think Harry will get found out at Tottenham somehow.

It still feels weird today, I had some numbing sensation at the back of my right knee and although walking on it does seem a little better than yesterday, thankfully. I shall have to see what happens and how it goes tomorrow, although most of the working day should be testing, so should be fine. In the meantime, I really do need to give "Waterfall" by The Stone Roses tune of the day - heard it a lot over the last few days without me playing it, and considering the horrid weather where it was hammering it down earlier, seems quite apt really.

Saturday 25th October - She Shall Be Released

Another weekend with another gig (seem to be making a habit of this!) but first, it was time this morning to get some Christmas shopping done. I had a few ideas what to get for people and knew that on a Saturday the city centre would be absolutely heaving, hence me waking up nice and early and getting into the centre early too. I went around several stores, got some great ideas for gifts and even went and purchased some too. I felt pretty contented with the morning's work, and spent a fair bit of time in the afternoon wrapping up the presents and organising them into sets of stuff so that I know what to take where and when, which seems logical really.

Met up later with The Mint In My Cornetto and headed over to the Royal Northern College of Music. Not only is it quite close to all of the Universities and their venues, but it has three theatres showing different types of music in there too. We were there for the Beth Rowley gig in the Bruntwood Hall, the main hall of the three. The layout of that hall is reminscent of the Royal Festival Hall, where I'd seen Kristin Hersh earlier this year, with its nice steep rake meaning you got a good view no matter where you were sat of proceedings.

I'm going to give kudos, and lots of it, to the bar at the RNCM. Not only did it do the usual coffees and beer and wine, but sensibly they'd listened to the wishes of the locals and had plenty of cask ale, with proper pumps and everything! I couldn't resist having some very nice Sharp's Doom Bar whilst waiting for the doors of the theatre to open so we could see the gig, and the setting was very nice, informal and relaxed. In fact if it's open during the lunch break I might have to go in there one lunch time and take a breather from the world, seems just the thing to be honest.

The doors opened and we waited for quite some time before the opening act came on, who was the support for the evening, Joey Ryan (official site) (Myspace) - and he was very good indeed. He sounded wistful, just him and his guitar, but had a real raw talent that you couldn't ignore. Apparently one of his songs had been used on Hollyoaks, and he had no idea what it was (well he is from California, so we can forgive him that!). One of the songs he wrote was about a trip to London and he insisted that no one video it because it might get him into trouble, long story behind that one. However, he was really impressive and definitely worth a second listen, so I picked up his CD at the end of the gig and even got it signed by him, which was rather nice. (Apparently he ran out of CDs after the Manchester gig, yaay and well deserved!)

On came Beth Rowley (official site) (Myspace) after the interval, and she just proved not only how good she is, but also how much soul is in her voice and just why she absolutely wees all over Amy Winehouse from a great height. She looked well, sang with lots of passion and heart in her voice, and had a very tight backing band who were on top form. Indeed the drummer had been helping her write some new material for the second album, some of that she showcased tonight which was a really good move. The feel of the band were one that were into what she was doing, especially the keyboard player who really did his best to make the whole evening sound quite bluesy and soulful for the most part. Indeed, most of the songs sounded rockier than they do on the record.

It was hard to pick a highlight, as all the songs were delivered with a sensibility of passion, warmth and intimacy, helped enormously by the excellent acoustics of the hall that led itself beautifully to her type of music. I do think that "Nobody's Fault But Mine" was helped by the slightly rockier sound, and her voice just carried the right amount of softness too, and I'll make that tune of the day for sure. Other highlights were "Beautiful Tomorrow" which sounded full of a blues workout that would have made John Mayall mighty proud, and "Sweet Hours" which made my hair tingle slightly as well, such was the delivery. In fact judging by the audience reaction and how much they enjoyed the whole thing, she should be playing bigger venues and to a more wider and appreciative crowd. More fool them, I say.

Made our way back homeward in the pouring rain outside, with my colleagues from work who were also at the gig with us - was good to bump into them at the venue as I knew they were going and good to chat as well in geenral, so that also made it quite a good evening on the whole. I got back and I just felt something inside about the whole evening, two quality acts and well worth the ticket price. I also thought just how nice the acoustics were and I'd much prefer to see Seth Lakeman in there than the Academy 2, but we'll see in a couple of weeks time won't we?

Friday 24th October - You Have, In Your Big Shorts. You Know You Have, You Really Have!

As mentioned, I was heading out late last night for another live show - the second one in two days and indeed which was also located around the corner from where I'll be seeing Beth Rowley tomorrow at the Royal Northern College of Music - dead excited about that already. Anyway, the location in question happened to be The Salutation pub, quite close to all the universities and intrinisically quite a local pub for local people in the evening, normally frequented by the Hulme types who like a good local place pub without some posey people or indeed tons of students as well. It doesn't look much from the outside, but it does have atmosphere and tons of it.

Imagine my surprise then when I got there around 8pm, which was the advertised time for the gig, and seeing how pretty much packed it was. The Black Sheep was on cask though, so that did at least grab my attention, as did all the lovely merchandise by the shop too, so that was something too. I grabbed a seat by the corner so I could see the stage but relax nicely with my pint and just watch the world go by, see how the locals would all talk to each other and I could sense in all this a warm glowing sense of community. That felt good to see that it was very much a place to meet for people, you know, like pubs used to be!

Frank came on just after 9pm and he had told people on his Myspace page that he was going to do the show in two halves: the first would be all football related and the second all showbiz related, the plan being to do to sorts of themes in one. Hurrah! I thought. And I was not to be disappointed as Frank was on tip top form, let me tell you. He started off with his song about Atrincham FC, "The Robins Aren't Bobbins" although these days he mentions that Altrincham are in fact bobbins, and has now changed the words to say "The only team for me was Altrincham FC, but the Robins are bobbins, says me.." Hehe. He also did the likes of "Mexico 90", "Estudiantes", and a classic version of The Fall's "Hit The North" where he even got out Little Frank too and at the right moment headed Little Frank's head as he sang "And hit Little Frank!" proclaiming it was like football violence or something.

In the football half, there were also nods to the likes of "Football Is Really Fantastic" (which is based on "Christmas Is Really Fantastic" but still works well) but best of all, and tune of the day was "Guess Who's Been on Match Of The Day?". Everyone still thankfully sings along to the words and indeed provides a good riposte for Frank. I was going to get myself to the bar for half time drinkies and managed to get myself a spot just at the front of Frank, so I was able to crouch down and shoot with the camera a nice little video of said song, which I present for your delectation!

After all, he couldn't have a football themed half and not do the song could he? The second half, after around a twenty minute delay, was more of his showbiz type songs, and he was even in a suit for the occasion (he had his Timperley Bigshorts kit on for the first half) as he went through the likes of "Waiting For Me Mum", "Born In Timperley", "Timperley Blues", complete with insult to Little Frank as he went "You stupid stupid stupid stupid puppet!", and then a new song "Weeping Willow" as well to boot. He ended with a few Queen numbers, so we got "We Will Rock You", "Bohemian Rhapsody" complete with opening line of "Is this the real life? Is this just Timperley?" and even "Frank Gordon" as well, which was very good as per usual.

Everyone seemed to be getting into the sprit of things and he didn't finish till well gone 11pm, so all good value there. I have to give a hearty mention also to the couple who'd moved down to Manchester from Newcastle and were sat at the same table as yours truly, they were lovely people and were really getting in to the Frank vibe as well, I think they were fans too but both of them happily sang along to most of it as well which was pleasing for a real diehard like me (and yes I do mean diehard, you know!). Anyway, it was a top night, and well done to The Salutation for putting it on, and for Frank for not charging anything to see him. It was fantastic, you know it was, it really was. Thank you!

Work today just didn't feel as good somehow, although I did make considerable progress on a couple of fronts as well as do some live macro editing on the fly as well which proved very useful for certain administrative staff that I was looking after this afternoon. It certainly made the day go by quicker as well knowing that the weekend would soon be upon us all and looking at the diary, for the next six to seven weeks, I'm either out for the day on a Saturday or off to a gig, go me!

Thursday 23rd October - Everything Now!

Well it felt like today that everyone wanted everything now and not before. Mind you, I did quite well this morning on the way into work, timing my walk to the bus stop to perfection so that the bus arrived just seconds after I arrived at the stop, meaning I was able to get into work without any problems and well on time too. Now why can't every day be like that, I thought to myself. In any case, it was seeing what was going to happen during the day as I had a bit of a concentration span planned: I had to integrate the Office 2007 Group Policy settings into the current Group Policy that I was working on for the administrative staff, as well as being able to sort out a couple of hardware issues.

That said though, it was definitely a case everyone wanting everything now, from getting a printer installed to being able to work on a database. In fact I was spending quite a bit time with an Access database and wondering just why the table relationships weren't doing what they should have done. Then I realised - it was the way that the tables were set up, meaning that the relationships were pretty much a case of not playing ball whatsoever and just being one to many or circular references. The easy way round it was to obtain a couple of reports from the Student Records system and then see how I could integrate that, and it seemed to work and do what was intended. Hurrah, sort of!

It was pretty rainy on the way home but thankfully, unlike Tuesday, the bus decided to turn up reasonably on time and I had got home before the rain really set in badly. Sensibly I had the other night also stocked up on these really nice Activia yoghurts (the cherry ones and the lemon ones) as they were still 4 for 99p, before the price shot up. I had a nice cherry one after tea which gave the body a nice sense of balance before I head out later tonight. And there'll be more about that in tomorrow's diary, I promise you!

In the meantime, I've had a bit of a retro listening fest as I've been typing this, kind of inspired by some of the back catalogue items that I've put on my Christmas List. That amongst other things meant listening to the first two Roxy Music albums and really giving them a good spin. In fact I have the first one on vinyl (original Island "pink rim palm tree" label release too, cor!) and it's well worth it. For some reason, "Remake/Remodel" sounds even better on there than any remastered CD, I reckon it's most likely because of the analogue synths that Brian Eno was using at the time, it just has a better feel, so tune of the day for me that one.

Wednesday 22nd October - I Love The Calendar Girls

After a pretty busy day at work, most notable for having to sort out the Group Policies for the administrative staff and ensure that they all were pretty much set as I would like them to be, it was time to head off into town and meet The Mint In My Cornetto firstly for something to munch on and then off out later to the Lowry, where we'd managed to get tickets to see the theatre production of Calendar Girls, based on the successful film and of course the true to life real story too. Looking at the cast that was going to be in it, that looked impressive enough: the woman from the Oxo adverts, the wife of Rab C Nesbitt, one of the Life and Loves of the She Devil and plenty more impressive actresses (I'll reveal their real names later!).

First off, though, food for the two of us and after a hard day at work it was nice to walk to more peaceful surroundings and have something to eat for tea. We both thought that a trip over to Wagamama would be worthwhile, and wasn't it just? Not only was it quiet when we got there, but we also had a voucher for two for one of the main meals as well meaning it wasn't going to be too expensive either, yaay us. I had the ginger chicken udon, The Mint In My Cornetto had the chicken katsu curry and I followed that up with some rather delicioius cocnonut reika for afterwards, which definitely was needed to cool the throat after I'd had a bit of the chicken katsu as well. Still, it was a complete contrast to when we got to the tram station which was absolutely hammered full of people waiting to get home. Thankfully, by the time the next Eccles tram had arrived to head to The Lowry, the commuters had all piled on the Altrincham trams. Phew!

Got on the Eccles tram and headed off at Harbour City and walked over to The Lowry. We were going to head into the shops in the Lowry Outlet Mall, but rather annoyingly they'd all closed at 6pm so it was a bit of a pointless exercise, so instead we headed into the Lowry itself, had a look at the little shop in there and then off to the first floor bar where it was time for a drink prior to the show. I was pleased that the bar stocked Old Speckled Hen. However, The Mint knew full well why I wasn't one hundred percent happy with the bar staff - they had it in the fridge, served cold! Sheesh, do these people not realise how to serve real ale or what? Anyway it still tasted fine, but you know, it's just wrong...

We headed up to the top floor as our seats were very close to the top of the theatre. Not that it mattered, the view from there was still very good anyway and got a good overview of proceedings. As for the play itself, well let's put it like this: if you've got chance to see it when it comes back in March, do so. In fact, book your tickets now to avoid disappointment would be my advice. It was splendid. Despite being one of around 5% males in the audience (several large groups of ladies were close to us on a really nice night out I noticed!) nonetheless it stayed true as it could to the original and adapted the stage very well to be able to be used multiple times for scenes. What made it work for me was the chemistry between the cast and indeed the way that they all just seemed passionate about what they were doing.

It was hard indeed to pick a star performance, but I do think Elaine C Smith as Cora was excellent, and she even had a tinkling of the ivories every now and then. She really played to her strengths and delivered her lines with warmth and humour, and a smile too. (That's the one who was the wife of Rab C Nesbitt in the telly series, in case you wondered). Lynda Bellingham (that's the woman off of the Oxo ads) as Chris really did seem to be quite domineering and certainly she put that across well, but Patricia Hodge (her in the Life and Loves of a She-Devil) as the warm, caring and slightly emotional Annie really nailed the part nicely, and you couldn't help feel emotional with her, the way she put it across. Gaynor Faye (you know, her off Corrie and Playing The Field) certainly glammed it up as Celia too.

But I have to say that for me two performances stood out. First, Brigit Forsyth as the rather snobbish Marie really put the snobbishness into the part, and was suitably attired for each occasion, delivering the lines with gusto and perfection. I remember her from old telly series I watched as a child, and she struck me as talented back then. Siân Phillips as Jessie was also superb, really being able to do the ageing and outrageous with not only aplomb but real honesty and passion in her delivery, and some of the best lines came to her and were nailed, big time. In fact the two hours plus of the performance went by very quick and it certainly was something we both enjoyed. Lots.

We headed back on the tram into town, and it was just so nice to have spent a lovely bit of quality time together. I couldn't get some of the adaptations of "Jerusalem" out of my head, and as the rain bucketed it down, it made me think of the seminal video to the JAMS' "It's Grim Up North", which of course has bits of "Jerusalem" at the end. It pretty much summed up the rubbish weather on the way home, so make that one tune of the day and be quick about it!

Tuesday 21st October - Two Months To Go And The List Is Done

Well, I finally had some time to be able to sit down and get something very important completed tonight - the Christmas List! I know, I know, I'm thinking about Christmas already. Part of my reasoning though is that a lot of sales happen between now and December, and so if anyone would like to get me a lovely present, then it means that they can find something cheaper as well. Especially in this day and age at the moment, being able to shop around and bargain hunt is something well worth doing. Also, part of my reasoning for doing a list is simply because I wouldn't want to get anything duplicated. My lovely family and friends know the stuff I like, but trying to locate a CD and hoping that it's one that I don't already have is something that I don't wish on anyone, to be perfectly honest. It's much easier therefore to be able to write a list out, and then that way it's something that I definitely won't have.

Mind you, I do take issue with the centre of Manchester having all the lights up ready for the lights switch on, and indeed the timing of such switch on in early November. If I was governing round here, I wouldn't allow anything like that till 1st December, so it actually feels Christmassy. All the shops have already gone into overdrive though I noticed, with many of them offering 3 for 2. I guess that does at least reward those who plan ahead and also who like me have several people to buy for (master of the understatement) and also means that you can get something which you actually would like, but still, it's too early. What if I wanted to buy something that isn't wrapped in some fancy gift box that I think would be nice instead, but that product line's been taken off the shelf? Hmm.. curiouser and curiouser.

Anyway, list all done, it's split up for various people (so no one has the same items) and then either emailed or posted out to them instead (yes, there are people who don't have any interest in using the Internet so I do bear that in mind) so hopefully that'll work out nicely. I have had relations asking me about it as well which at least gave me some form of incentive to get that done too, it's just one of those things that needs to be sorted out I suppose. Mind you, I do have plenty of sort out as well in terms of buying presents myself, so far I have just three!!

I had a fairly relaxed evening and spent some time listening to the Ian Brown CD I got yesterday and all was very well indeed. I must admit on extended listening it has grown on me quite a bit too, so that's good - knew I should have bought it much earlier. Still, for a mere three quid I am not complaining (and I have his autograph too, framed on my wall that is!). Current favourite off the album is "Sister Rose" with a really nice use of the strings as well in the opening, then cuts in to Ian doing his thing. Smart. Tune of the day too.

Monday 20th October - Three For Two

Another day and week at the office started off with quite a bit to do, namely the installation of a network printer for the postgraduates that was replacing an old one. I was having issues with it talking to the network till I realised that port security had kicked in over in the room I was in, and so had to ring up to get the network port reset, meh. Still, that done, it was a case of getting things up and working, then fixing a PC over in another building and replacing some faulty cables inside, sorting out a standalone printer, connecting a member of staff to their local network printer, and on top of that, thinking of organising an Office 2007 workshop for our administrative staff. The new version's now on our staff image for the PCs in our office, and to be truthful, I absolutely hate it, but the objections of many of our technical peers, myself included, was ignored, something that irks me somewhat. Anyway..

I decided to head into the city centre on the way home, and even managed to get myself a couple of back catalogue CDs in Fopp for a mere three quid each, namely Groove Armada's "Vertigo" and Ian Brown's "The World Is Yours". They came in handy when I was testing out the CD playback of a sound system in a certain electrical retailer's later on, to see if it was any good, followed by a jaunt to Boots to get some Christmas wrapping paper and gift tags. Thing is they usually do 3 for 2 on such stuff and works out to be quite a good deal really, plus their paper is good quality as well, and looks rather nice when you've got everything wrapped up and sorted out. And I do have presents to wrap!

Spent a bit of time listening to the Ian Brown album tonight, and it's not too bad. I don't know why I didn't buy it when it came out, probably a clash of something else being released at the same time. That said, "Illegal Attacks" still has the power that it had when it was released as a single, and shows that the Monkey-like Mancunian hasn't lost any of his prowess whatsoever. Give that tune of the day I reckon, it's a pretty good effort and it just goes to show how influential he and the rest of The Stone Roses were back in the day.

Sunday 19th October - Let's Go For A Little Walk

I was up early again today, as the Chinese Grand Prix was live at 8am. I was Sky Plus recording it just in case I didn't get up in time, but I woke up at around 7.45am so was up just in time for the grid formation and the start, which was very well timed indeed. The race wasn't anything to write home about at all, but the main thing was that Lewis Hamilton was professional and got the job done, Felipe Massa inherited second from Kimi Raikkonen (who was pretty much told to move over, even with Massa not being able to hack the hard tyres) and so the championship would go to Brazil for the final race of the season. It wasn't mega interesting as I said, but at least it showed sometimes that if you keep your cool, you will get the results. It'll be interesting in Brazil if say Fernando Alonso gets alongside Lewis Hamilton, Alonso's already said he wants anyone other than Lewis to win, so if he has a chance of nobbling him off, he would probably do that to be honest.

I headed back to bed after the race and had a well earned lie in. I'd been up early and to bed late the last few days for one reason or another, and I decided that I definitely needed to get some shut eye and rest easily somehow. It was nice just to lie down or have a nap and just let the world go by without any thoughts running through my head. It was also probably what I needed to do to be honest to give myself a little bit of respite from the busy last few weeks at work from the office as well, has ben a bit mad!

Later on myself and The Cinnamon In My Latte headed out for a nice walk, starting off near my house and taking the cycle path that was the former Fallowfield Loop Line eastwards. From the starting point, you headed past Highfield Country Park, underneath the road to The Fir Tree in Reddish, and alongside the back of Ryder Brow and parts of Gorton till you reached the bridge over Hyde Road (there used to be a train station here, apparently) and then when you reached Debdale Park, you could head left going towards Abbey Hey and Sportcity, or carry on towards Wright Robinson High School and beyond. We took the latter, as apprently the line terminates at Fairfield and that'd be a pretty good place to finish.

Passed Wright Robinson and noted that the tracks would have been much lower but the ground has been filled in, probably for level access for cyclists and walkers. When you get to the far end of Wright Robinson, the path now veers off to the right then left to the back of a new housing development, Keeper's Chase. Here the path's not so good, especially for cyclists. However the plan is that the housing development will have an entrance to the main path at its far end, plus a cycle lane through the development so that the route carries on as per normal (it's in the plans that I saw). In fact, we had a mooch around one of the show houses, it looked rather lovely and also rather expensive, as we found out later, and no wonder. It was like a dream house, let me tell you.

Spent a bit of time in the evening curled up with Antiques Roadshow followed by the Strictly Come Dancing results show. I have to say I wasn't surprised that the likes of Mark Foster were voted in by the public, if Tess Daly's swooning over his pecs were anything to go by, sheesh. I have to admit I was gutted to see Don Warrington go, thought he and Lilia did tons better than Heather Small and Brian Fortuna, but hey it's a matter of opinion and at least Len Goodman agreed with me. What was intriguing was a Pasa Doble done to a version of the Kaiser Chiefs' "I Predict A Riot" which sounded okay, but I really had to at some point think of the original and therefore give that one tune of the day instead. Nonetheless though, with those watched, it was a case of relaxing after that and having a bit of quality time together which was always lovely to do. Awww.

Saturday 18th October - I Feel Good!

Had a really good day today, albeit a very long one. I was up at 7am (I know, madness!) to watch the qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton held his nerve and pulled off the fast lap when it mattered to grab pole position for tomorrow's race. I just hope now that he can be calm tomorrow and actually do the business, as of course at Fuji he was too rash and therefore didn't score any points at all. What was also interesting to see was Robert Kubica really struggle in qualifying: if he's got any possibility of taking the world title (and it's pretty remote) then he needs to really do something special tomorrow to get anywhere near a scent of victory.

Headed out a bit later to the larger Tesco as I wanted to have a look around the clothes section and see what I could see. I was pretty delighted to locate a really nice jumper for the winter in black and silver, and looked the part with the stripes. Even better was that it was dead easy to wash and all for a mere tenner. As you can pretty much imagine, that was me very happy indeed and I soon sorted that purchase out, so a reason to feel good straight away and satisfied with myself. I stopped by one of the local discount catalogue shops on the way home, but they didn't have anything that jumped out at me.

So homeward, do the housework and then settle in for Gilette Soccer Saturday. That was a hoot. Jeff Stelling, the presenter, is a big Hartlepool fan and earlier in the season when their striker James Brown scored, he had a little figure that when you pressed it, sang "I Feel Good". Unfortunately Brown hadn't scored since the opening day of the season, that was until he scored what proved to be the winner as Hartlepool came back from 2-0 down against Walsall to win 3-2. In the absence of the figure, the team of Matt Le Tissier, Charlie Nicholas, Phil Thompson amd Paul Merson joined in the "I Feel Good" song with him, and doing the actions. Hilarious, let me tell you, a pure "you had to be there" moment.

I felt even better later as I was out with a few friends for a friend's birthday as well. We'd decided to head to the Bell House in Parrs Wood for munching there, primarily because the mains are two for one and the selection is good, but also because it meant we could get a table for the five of us there in quite a relaxed atmosphere, which is what it's about really. I couldn't complain about the food either, had the garlic mushrooms to start followed by a very nice main indeed of gammon with pineapple, followed by the Belgian chocolate and clotted cream cheesecake, all hit the spot, as did this cranberry and lime sparkling drink that I was having too. Always good to see my friends and have a good natter to them all as well, of course.

I had to explain to my friend whose birthday it was (well technically it's her birthday on Monday but we were all giving her the presents then) about the right pollava I had sorting one of her presents out. You see, she is a rather big fan of the band Barenaked Ladies, and knowing that the band sell their live recordings on CD, I thought it would be a great idea to get the 2007 Manchester UK gig, as it was one that we had been to and enjoyed, you see my cunning plan here. Anyway, I'd ordered it off their live recordings website a few weeks back, and when the CD arrived, it was the Manchester, New Hampshire one (ie: the Manchester in the USA, aaargh!) One email later, another CD sent out, but again it was the wrong one. I sent another polite email asking them can they please please sort it out this time, and was sent another CD. This one arrived on Monday, but it was again the Manchester New Hampshire gig! I sent an email to mail order and in the end they agreed to refund the card and allowed me to keep the CDs. Anyway, I had emailed my friend and explained that it may be possible to buy a download of the gig and burn it to CD myself, and hoped she was okay with that. I did purchase the download (and thankfully it was the Manchester UK gig, hurrah!) and so I printed the labels for the CD on some CD label paper I had, and printed off the inlays, and it looked almost professional. The downloads were in high quality FLAC format too, so didn't lose any quality when burning the CD. Even better.

My friend was pretty happy, as it meant she got that, the Manchester New Hampshire gig, and the "Talk to the Hand" CD and DVD live set that I'd already purchased too. Tune of the day therefore simply has to be a Barenaked Ladies one, namely "It's All Been Done". Somehow it just seemed apt, as the wrong CD send out had been done before, a la the lyrics. Oh, and also because I like that song and it reminds me of seeing the gig in Manchester myself. Anyway, the main thing was that we'd all had a lovely time with lovely good, time went by far too quickly and before I knew it, I'd got home at around 11.30pm and was heading for bed...

Friday 17th October - Birthday Blues

It was one of my relations' birthday today, so it was good to be able to go over to my uncle's place and hand my relation over some nice presents - he is saving up for a PC so I put some money in a card but also there was a Microsoft optical USB mouse he was after (same one I have) so I purchased that from Micro Direct yesterday and got that all sorted out, and wrapped that up. He was mightily pleased with himself and was pretty chuffed too that lots of people popped round to see him. I think that birthdays are great when people make the effort to get you something but also where possible to see you on the day - something which I think is important.

Mind you, was also very nice to see my auntie's brother's little girl as well, she's absolutely adorable. Not only was she wearing a cute hat, but also had lots of big happy grins on her face and was a total character full of smiles. I really warm to that, when you see a little one being really cute you can't help but think "Awwww" but also know that there's plenty of joy for the parents concerned. I was also discussing with my uncle about City's forthcoming deal for the UEFA Cup games where you can buy for both the home games for £35 for adults, saving you a fiver on both. That sounds sensible to me, and I'm sure watching us against Twente Entschende and Paris St Germain will work out to be quite an incentive. Still can't believe it's happening at times you know, one small step at a time and all that but it goes to show that a good run here can only increase the profile of the team too - which works out nicely. Yaay!

I had already done my food shopping by this point too, so it was good to get that out of the way. The local Tesco wasn't as busy as I thought it would be, but I did manage to pick up some good bargains, including the Alaskan salmon being reduced again so I snapped that up rather quickly (well I do love my fish) and it means that the rest of the weekend is now mine, which is good. I'm off out with my friend tomorrow as it's her birthday on Monday, and already have sorted the presents out there which is a relief too, let me tell you. It was a nightmare to sort one of them out and I'll explain more afterwards.

Anyway, as everyone I know both at work and friends too were madly going round all the ticket agencies and ticket websites and phone lines getting themselves sorted out for tickets for AC/DC, somehow it would make sense if one of their tunes stuck in my head today, and it did. After all, "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll)" and I remember the version at the end of School of Rock which really did the original justice nicely. That said, the original is a bloody classic, especially with the bagpipe bit in, which people don't always realise is there! Tune of the day, easy peasy.

Thursday 16th October - Bloodsuckers of Command Line

Another day, another long day at the office too. I had spent some time finally getting the last touches to the Asus Eee done and then cloning the disk on to another disk, so at least I had some form of disk image for it should the need arise. The great thing was that it taught me some old tricks again, such as how to use Ghost for disk to disk cloning and also how you can easily tweak the configuration to be able to image it rather nicely, and it detected the USB hard disk, so no complaints there, no sirree.

Most of the day was spent finishing off the image for the workstations that we as a team use - it's pretty detailed because it's not just the standard image with all the applications on (including Office 2007) but also to add on all the extra tools we use, such as ConsoleOne, NetWare Admin, all the web tool links, Digital Image Recovery, stuff like that. I also spent some time working on a batch file which we're going to use in conjunction with Novell's command line rmupwd utility, which removes the Universal Password attributes if they are causing a problem with logins. Normally, the utility involves lots of paramters to be set, such as the IP address of your LDAP server, the port, the search scope base, the administrator's user ID and password (has to be full context too) and the user's ID etc.

I had worked out that most of the stuff could be preset, as the LDAP server, the admin ID etc is all the same, and all that would change would be the user ID and the contexts it was under, so four inputs were needed. But, I hear you ask, how do you ask a batch file in Windows XP to make you input something and have that set as a command variable? The answer: use the set command with the /p parameter. Then you can set a variable name to whatever is input after the text. So, for example, you could do something like this:

set /p uid=Enter the user ID (eight characters)

And you would then have the variable uid set accordingly. When using that variable as part of a command argument, you'd then surround that with the % symbol for it to work properly, so for example echo %uid% would display to the screen what you entered in the previous line. So, I simply set four variable lines, uid, ctx1, ctx2 and ctx3 and put them into the rmupwd command in the batch file, and it worked! So what it now does is ask you for the user, and the three contexts above, and then carries out the rmupwd command, passing all those parameters in. Handy, eh? DOS rocks!

Feeling rather chuffed with myself, it was time later to head into town and get some birthday cards, as I've got two relations' birthdays soon and also one of one of my very lovely friends, and so best to sort it all in one go. WH Smith came up best of all, and managed to get the right cards I was after, and a good one for my friend too which I think she will love. It was chucking it down as I left the Arndale and headed across to M&S though, and I have to say that the sale was disappointing if you're a bloke. The clothes were tucked away in some corner and not really that good, but the women's section, as you'd have expected, looked to have tons. Always the way isn't it? Might have to check the Lowry Outlet mall sometime, methinks.

Got home later on and decided to whack on Die Krupps' "Too Much History - The Metal Years" which definitely leant to their later, harder, more heavy metal stuff. It was intriguing to hear their version of PWEI's "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" with the original second verse and with one of the band singing. It wasn't as good as their remix of the song with Clint doing the vocal, but passable nonetheless. Mind you, even after all these years, I still love "Bloodsuckers", but the version on here somehow didn't sound as good as the single. So what did I do? Yes, you guessed it, I dug out the CD single and whacked that on instead! The remix on there is a bit more full on and sounds heavy and Industrial, so give that tune of the day. An honourable mention must go to the version that they did with Biohazard, as that also rocks too.

Wednesday 15th October - Goodtime Girls

It was off out to the S'Not P'Inc night at the Green Room tonight, as it was a case of four female singer songwriters doing their thing, and also a chance (as if I ever needed one) to see Donna Marie again. With The Zest In My Lemon coming with me, it would make for a lovely night anyway, but being able to see Donna do plenty of new stuff that she had pre-warned her fans about on her Myspace page, well that was definitely an incentive. I quite like the Green Room, it's an intimate venue and the people who run it are really friendly, none more so than the manager of the bar who's got a really warm bubbly persona, enthused about the Manchester Marble real ale that she was serving out of the cask (oooh yes) and made everyone welcome. Whoever she is, take a bow, a lot of people could take lessons from her how to manage it properly.

So, four acts in all for the price of four pounds, can't complain about the value there. Risa Hall, who has been organising these nights, was also performing herself, so it was really nice to be able to see her live again too. First up though was Holly Burton (myspace) whose songs were very true to her heart and were sung that way. Based in Seattle and Manchester, possibly the two wettest combination cities you could have, she even did one of her songs just acapella which sounded quite folky, and all the better for it. One of my favourite songs was one called "Who" that just sounded rather nice and wistful and lovely. I think her voice really carried over nicely and was a good start to the evening. She's also reinventing herself as Holly Ann now (myspace) so you might wish to check that out also for her newer stuff.

Next was Caroline England (official site) (myspace) whom we'd seen in Fuel in Withington last month. It was one of the last gigs she was doing before she was taking time out to have her baby, and in her killer heels sat on the stool, she really played a nice intimate set. A real contrast too, when she talks in her Scouse accent, she's a girl from Liverpool and proud of it, but when she sings, her voice is completely different, and lovely for it too. I still love her songs "Saving The Planet" and the very soft "Foolish" which her voice really is gentle and floaty and a great little love song in disguise too. Yaay!

Donna Marie (official site) (myspace) was next up, and as ever it was a pleasure to hear her. In fact, even more so tonight because there are times when there's a "you had to be there" moment, and this was most definitely is. It's possibly the most intimately feeling show that she's done in a fair while, and the better for it, too. It also gave her a chance to showcase some new songs with just the one guitar, and that worked, it seemed more relaxed somehow. One of my favourites was "When I Feel Your Love" which really did come straight from the heart and sounded warm and loving. Also "Head In The Sand" was absolutely gorgeous, and sounded rather nice and raw, I'm loving that one too so that's tune of the day all round. She also played a track that she had only played once before live (and it was at The Ruby Lounge, I was there, woohoo!) and closed with "Goodtime Girl" sounding just as good as ever. I can't believe the lack of turnout, it was bloody excellent, and if you missed it, well you missed out.

Last up was Risa Hall herself (myspace) and her set was pretty good, although she was slightly hindered by the fact that several songs of her set were due to be performed with a violinst who couldn't make it. Mind you, herself, her bass player and her guitarist certainly did their most to make the end of the evening sound nice and rocking, which was good. I have a feeling as well that although she was gutted that the gig had clashed with the football and so not many had turned up, on the other hand those that had did have a good time. I know we certainly did and that's what magters, isn't it?

Tuesday 14th October - Crunch!

Had a right bit of fun and games in the office today. On the plus side, I pretty much got that Asus Eee nailed with all the software on and tested and indeed the image up and working pretty much as I wanted it to be, and made some good headway progress into our image for the team as well, getting lots of the software installed along with some of the more useful stuff like Digital Image Recovery, Autodesk TrueView 2009 (so we can convert newer Autocad files if need be) and stuff like that. On the minus, just constant interruptions and problems and it seems to me that because of the way the administration has been reorganised, demands are being put on us somewhat to do some of the admin-based work, which we're politely refusing. Although I can see that the changes abound are not working, it's really difficult not to feel some empathy as well. And so it goes.

Mind you, I also found out today several UK universities had invested money in a company relating to that Icelandic bank that had gone bump. Oops indeed. Some figures bandied around were £10million or so, which to be honest is taking a risk investing offshore anyway to be honest, probably to avoid the tax rate but even so.. all this sort of thing is showing just what an effect the worldwide credit crunch is having on us all and how in reality the world is changing. For example, a proposed pay rise for this month was meant to be either a percentage or the retail price index, whichever is higher. Currently the retail price index is high, which does mean an increase, but this will probably have an adverse effect on the pay negotiations for next year, c'est la vie I reckon.

It is a worrying time and certainly I've noticed that I've kept my eye out when shopping on any discount offers or bargains and taking them up in order to keep the spending down where I can. It's not got to the point where it's Tesco Value everything (although to be fair some of their value stuff isn't that bad) but I know where I can make sacrifices if need be and adjust accordingly. Sometimes you just have to think about these things and prioritise where you can and take that on board, I suppose.

Anyway, I finally had chance to write and catch up with the diary and also analyse some stats. First off, at the time of writing, my Flickr! gallery has now had thirty five images with 100 views or more, and the top three are now scoring 327, 290 and 272 views respectively. Then over on the Youtube channel, my videos on there have had 530,000 plus views and the top three are currently standing at 86,309 views, 61,633 views and 32,262 views respectively, which isn't half bad at all is it? There's a lot to be said for statistics sometimes I suppose, but it goes to show some intrigue into just what gets looked at out there on that old Interweb thingy.

One last thing before I head off to bed having caught up with myself, tune of the day just has to be the rather excellent "If I Had $1,000,000" by Barenaked Ladies. It's so much fun and indeed it would be nice to win that sum of money to be able to do some things that I've always wanted to do, plus of course be able to really set the wheels in motion and sort some other things out like pay off the house etc. But I love the fact that in the Barenaked Ladies song, after saying what they could do with it, the last line is "I'd be rich", which for the US and Canadian dollar at least would still hold true. Sort of.

Monday 13th October - Bowled Over

Well I had a nice surprise tonight. The Butter On My Toast was seeing me tonight, but we had thought yesterday about going for a game of bowling. So it was a nice surprise too when she sent me a text to say it had all been booked and sorted and we'd be there for 7.30pm. Hurrah! It certainly was a nice thing to look forward to during the day as I finally made headway into the Asus Eee and pretty much have it almost nailed now, just a few remaining things to sort on it and it'll all be ready to take away, and also started work on a new build for our workstations in the office, as we need to have a new image too with Office 2007 and all the trimmings on there. As you can imagine, that'll be something we have to have now and indeed test. Oh joy!

Still, made the two of us some chicken and what have you for tea and also had a look at the pics I took yesterday, which seemed to come out quite well, before heading out to Parrs Wood and to the Tenpin bowling place. It used to be called Megabowl and there are changes afoot in there as well, they seem to be adding some laser quest type game to proceedings as well as doing up the bar and also having the eating area somwhere different, as is the shoe collection etc. Still, we told them of our booking and had been allocated lane eight, and got the bowling shoes sorted too.

The two games we had were eventful, we both got spares and even some strikes too, and generally had a good giggle but also importantly were really having a good go at knocking the pins down and encouraging each other. Normally I'm quite competitive but I thought "to hell with that, fun first and if I win, I win" which is a sign that these days I try and take a different approach. I still wanted to do well for myself as I normally average around 100 or so when I used to play it, and I am sure that if I was able to get the right ball I might have done better tonight. The 12 medium seemed a little heavy and I couldn't find a 10 medium, distinct lack of balls out there really. Mind you, I had a good groove in the end and was being consistently straight in aim at least.

I had won the first game 119-70 and the second one 111-63, but we both did well really, it was just a case of that I'd often get a strike and a spare pretty close together, hence ramping up the score somewhat. Nonetheless though when she got a strike I was dead impressed, because as soon as the ball started to career down you could tell it was a good one all the way, hurrah! However, later on she would get her own back, by first beating me at pool, as I potted the black only for the white to go in as well, and then showing off her considerable prowess at netball translating into the basketball game where you have to hit the baskets as quickly as you can. Her score had thrashed mine too. We did also try the pub quiz trivia machine and actually won £3 so it was a case of walk away from the machine and collect the winnings, which meant we got the games on the basketball plus a blast of Dancing Stage Fusion for me as well, hurrah!

Actually, at least the choice of tunes on that game are better than Euromix overall. I decided to pick the stuff I liked, so after doing round one with Junior Senior's cult classic "Move Your Feet" it was then on to the 80s and Kim Wilde doing "Kids in America", an instant classic if ever there was one, and tune of the day for that reason, it still reminds me of the video with her in singing her heart away, much better than those gardening programmes that she does now. I then did Electric Six's "Danger! High Voltage" to complete the set, and that worked out really well on the whole too. Headed back to mine and relaxed a lot and even dug out some of my old poems that had been stored on old Mini Office II C64 disks, so that was a find and a half, hurrah.

Sunday 12th October - Manc Weekender III, Day Three

It was an early Sunday morning for most of us as we wanted to see the F1. I had handily Sky Plussed it so we could watch it at a more civilised time, and the four of us saw the first few laps before my friend from South Shields was heading home to the wife and kids, fair enough really as it was a distance journey and all that. Mind you, the first two laps had so much action and controversy, Hamilton going wide and forcing cars off the road, then Massa barging into him on the second lap and deservedly getting a drive through penalty, as later did Hamilton for the first corner incident.

The three of us watched the rest of the race recording, and it soon transpired with around 20 laps to go that when Bourdais came out of the pits, he was side by side with Massa (bearing in mind for position) and Massa wanted to head closer to the inside but came together with Bourdais and spun. We all thought Massa either deserved another drive through or have 25 seconds added on to his race time after the race. Massa did land eighth but we all believed that would be taken away from him at the end. At the end, I stopped the recording and checked teletext to see what the final result was. When we saw that it was Bourdais given the time penalty meaning that Massa had therefore been promoted to seventh, we were in disbelief. I had never believed that the FIA were so biased towards Ferrari, but this whole race did make us wonder!

It was soon mid day, and we'd all had breakfast and coffee and woken up well enough, and it was sad to see my friends go and make their own way home. The weekend had gone by way too quickly, and had been an excellent get together for us all as well. I really enjoyed myself and it was just the thing that I needed as well, a recharge of the batteries and a definite feeling of sharing a great lot of moments together. When I saw the camera footage of the World Games events that I had taken, I was pretty happy and it reminded me of the happy moments that we'd spent. Yaay!

I later on went out with The Cherry On My Cake for a nice walk around Fletcher Moss Park in Didsbury. Certainly from what we could see, the rockery was being really well looked after and indeed something to behold for the locals. The weather also held quite well, so after stopping off for a cold drink and sat on a bench together admiring the rockery from above, we walked through the Parsonage Gardens and down Stenner Lane to Ford Lane, heading towards Simon's Bridge. It was something to behold to see it so well preserved, although the main plaque in the centre of the bridge is slightly marred by graffiti. Nonetheless though we headed out over the bridge and down Ford Lane, continuing past Didsbury Golf Club, by the river and past some strange caravan park close by, then heading under the M60 before ending up in Northenden, so it was a good walk. We got the bus back to Didsbury and stopped off for a leisurely drink in The Didsbury pub before heading back to the Towers to relax for the evening, where I made us some tea.

We watched the results of Strictly Come Dancing (aargh, Mick Hucknall was on, noooo) before seeing the results and I wasn't surprised really to be honest, but good that everyone gave it their all and were able to see how hard they'd worked. I must admit though that it was quite intriguing that even though Brendan Cole and Lisa Snowdon did well, Brendan still wasn't happy with the judging really. And seeing Antiques Roadshow coming from no less than the lovely Lanhydrock House in Cornwall made my day, as I was able to say "been there, it's ace!" - which it is.

Tune of the day has to be the excellent "Out of the Blue" by Roxy Music, from their "Country Life" album. We'd been talking about that album at work to a student because of its controversial album cover for its time, and certainly this track was one I remembered my father enthusing about when I was a kid. It has plenty of swagger from Bryan Ferry, neat piano playing and some great leads, and best of all, a wicked electric violin from Eddie Jobson near the end complete with phasing treatments on the whole sound, which makes it sound completely ahead of its time, which to be honest it is. Of course this was before the late 70s/early 80s Roxy were a pale imitation, hehe.

Saturday 11th October - Manc Weekender III, Day Two

Woke up pretty early on the Saturday and made some coffee, and certainly it had been raining overnight but nothing too drastic to worry about. The plan today was slightly different in that there was a food and drink festival taking place in Spinningfields, and as part of that was a beer festival with lots of real ale to try out, which as you can imagine to three ale buffs sounded rather heavenly to say the least. But first, breakfast! Oh yes, definitely a case of having some sausage barmcakes all round I reckoned, and with the very nice Wall's Lincolnshire sausahes giving some good early morning kick, that along with some yoghurt got us all up and ready.

I had recorded the Japanese F1 quailfying, so we watched that before we headed out. That worked out well as we could see how Lewis Hamilton blitzed the lap and really got pole because of sheer determination, which made us all very happy indeed. It was then a case of setting off on the bus into town, and walked along Oxford Street seeing a few of the city sights before heading down past the Model Shop on Deansgate and seeing the scarily expensive but good F1 little replica models, and then off down to Spinningfields to sample some wares and head to the beer fest. We don't muck around, us!

At the Co-Operative stand, they were giving some samplers of crisps away so we tried them all and came to the conclusion that the salt and chardonnay wine vinegar ones were especially grand and well worthy of trying again. I also had a stem ginger biscuit too, because I could! We then saw some of the stands of the food and drink festival, paused looking over the river by the Left Bank apartments before heading back to the tent that housed the Manchester Ale Festival. And although it didn't look so full, there did look to be plenty of lovely beer on offer, so we were all there like a shot!

There were twenty or so real ales to try, and how it worked was that you paid a fiver to get in, but for four quid's worth of tokens which you could exchange for beer. A token was a pound each and all the beer was served in half pints for that price. It worked very well indeed and allowed the bar staff to serve beer instead of handling oodles of cash instead. We all tried different ones there too so we could see what the variety was, and certainly for the ten different ones we had a go of, there wasn't a bad drink amongst them. One of my friends and I ended up having two out of our four choices being the same, but otherwise it was trying a different one each and having little tasters of each others, clever eh?

All the beers were local, and out of the ones we tried, we each agreed that the winner just had to the Joseph Holt's "Touchwood" which just looked right in terms of its colour and taste, really nice without being too sweet and full of flavour as well. We all voted that one the best one, just hope it helps that beer win, although I have to say one of my female friends would have absolutely loved the "Hung Drawn and Portered" ale from the All Gates Brewery in Wigan. It was a porter and a half that one, let me tell you, but well worth it.

Then it was over to another pub that we'd read about in one of the CAMRA publications to check it out, there were 10 different cask ales on and a shedload of Belgian beers too. We didn't like the look of the food menu but the beer was spot on, and during the walk there and in the pub we decided to see if we could list every single Commodore 64 game with music by Rob Hubbard and if it was budget or full price. As we later found out, we only missed three. Not bad considering that it was off the top of our heads and without any knowledge of having looked at any Commodore 64 music collection beforehand. Go us!

We then did a late lunch in The Waterhouse, one of my favourite places for beer and food, because of its intimate atmosphere and relaxed setting, before we headed back to mine and got ourselves in gear for the England game at 5.15pm. My friend who was working was coming down all the way from Ulverston, so I really appreciated that he was making the effort to head down here, that's for sure. As it was he got here around half way through the first half and we soon were all cursing the telly at England, and 0-0 against Kazakhstan at half time certainly didn't do no one any favours.

It did get better in the second half as first a corner came over and Rio Ferdinand, unmarked, scored an easy header. Then a free kick came in, Wayne Rooney wanted to head it but the Kazakhstan defender simply made sure it passed the keeper for him at 2-0. Still not pretty, and not least when Ashley Cole committed a howler which let the Kazakh's best player go on and score. 2-1 with fifteen minutes to go, no wonder the crowd weren't happy, and neither were we. However, fair play to Fabio Capello, he realised that a good cross or three were all that was needed, on came David Beckham, and that lifted everyone, with Wayne Rooney scoring a couple thanks to Beckham's hard work, and the last goal a seminal pass from Emile Heskey (man of the match for me) letting Jermain Defoe blast in a fifth and put the game well beyond doubt!

With that cheering us all up, we headed out into town despite the incessant rain, and stopped off at Sandbar, one of my favourite places to drink in town. My friends were all impressed when we went there on the last Weekender, and so it was here again for some very nice beer all round and a very nice chilled out atmosphere. We got a comfortable table between us all and were able to people watch a bit as well as enjoy the music people were putting on the jukebox. I even put 50p in and got three credits and so got my money's worth by putting on The Jam's "News of the World" (ie: now the theme tune from Mock The Week), Pink Floyd's "Money" (a classic) and indeed tune of the day, Led Zeppelin's epic "Kashmir". I still like this one and I think as it's occasionally been used in more classical form on the telly, it's still a composition which makes me emotional in all the right places. Hurrah!

The Black Cat was on fine form as was the Landlord, and the Augustiner Helles that my friend raved about last time was just as good too, so everyone seemed nicely content with the beer on offer at not that expensive a price, but also somewhere where you felt rather bohemian but not too ubercool. It was around ten to midnight when we left and walked up to the bus stop homeward, before heading to the local kebab shop where they got kebabs, I got pizza, we headed to mine and saw the opening laps of the Bathurst 1000 before I was starting to nod off a bit and headed to sleep around 1.15am. It was a great evening and so good that all four of us were out on that night, seeing plenty of things and enjoying the company we all had together, which was what made it for me. Hurrah!

Friday 10th October - Manc Weekender III, Day One

So, it was time for a few good friends of mine to head to my place for a weekend of retro gaming, old school chat, football, and of course some beers (oh yes!). The usual sort of way these weekends work out is that we all convene at the Towers on Friday, we get something to eat and then convene for some Commodore 64 game playing (anything multiplayer especially) and on the Saturday see some football before headng out for drinkies and ending the Saturday night in the local kebab place for late night food fun. It's a good weekend and works out well, and it's always good to catch up with the masses.

I had to be in work in the morning for one of the inductions and was also getting several things sorted in the morning as well, so it set the desk nicely for Monday and I'd be able to relax and not worry about stuff. Mind you, my pen drive has gone AWOL, which is a bit of a disaster to be honest as it's a rather good one that's been ultra-reliable, so hard to find in this day and age. But still, I shall see what happened and go from there I reckon, good job all the stuff on it is backed up too! I took the bus home, had some lunch and then chilled out for a while before realising that my doorbell doesn't work. I ventured out to get a spare battery and put it into the bell push, but it was clear that the wireless transceiver was knackered and so first job next week would be to get a new one.

Now although three of my friends were coming, one couldn't make it till tomorrow afternoon cos of work, so it'd be just three of us for the initial part of the weekend. At around 2.30pm, there were two of us as my friend arrived and we were soon into cups of coffee, football chatter (not least regarding his home town team, Doncaster Rovers) and spent some time later enthusing about the F1 and motorsport, so I decided to explain about the Bathurst 1000 on this weekend and show some of the DVD from last year, which really did give you an insight into what a place it is. We ended up with a video of some old Man City games on there when my friend from up in South Shields arrived.

More football chatter ensued at this point (he is a Sunderland fan you see) and it was definitely a case of chilling out and relaxing. We got out the C64 DTV console stick that he got me last time (was very nice of him) and had a couple of games on there, including Impossible Mission, Nebulus (although with the DTV being a NTSC based stick, it was called Tower Toppler) and the all time classic of all time, Summer Games I. That proved to be a very close contest and into the final event of Skeet Shooting, whoever won that last event would win the whole thing overall. One went first and got 8, I then got 11, and last of all my other friend got 10 and just missed the last one to tie for 11 and the win. As it happened, I was one point on the medals table ahead, so a tie wouldn't have mattered, but totting up the golds, silver and bronzes (5, 3 and 1 points respectively) meant I'd won with 26, and it was 23 and 21 for my friends. Cracking.

We then ordered pizza from Pizza Hut (large meat feast and large Hawaiian, oh yes) and watched the England under 21s against Wales, it was an epic scrap and England's 3-2 win helps a bit to put them in the driving seat. It was also quite impressive to see that so many of the young players wanted to really give their all for their country, a stark contrast to the likes of Frank Lampard for the national side, that's for sure. At the end the crowd gave them all a standing ovation for such a good game, and also full credit we thought to the referee, who where possible allowed the game to flow freely and not stop every five seconds for some petty piddly tackle. Yaay him, whoever he was.

The real ale had been well and truly opened by this point, and the Tribute, Black Sheep, Hobgoblin and others went down very well too. After the footy, it was needless to say that it was then time to dig out my Commodore 64 and whack on some real classics, including the all time classic World Games on disk. We played all eight events and I was able to demonstrate my prowess, including a second best ever score of 320kgs combined on the weightlifting, was well chuffed with that to be honest. But we all did well, and indeed we all decided that the computer was nearly impossible to beat on the log rolling and so we all faulted there!

Afterwards, we went back to the barrel jumping (no repeat of the classic "Three barrels" moment from the first ever weekender we had) and on to the cliff diving. My friend from up Donny way had tried several times to get past the score of 89, consistently good as it was, and was rewarded as we played it as a one event competition. He scored 93 and was well impressed, and also did a 90 on his final attempt. The South Shielder then did his bit and scored 90 on his final attempt too, before I then pulled everything out of the bag and won with 94 in the very last attempt! I went mental, but it was impressive high scoring all round and definitely a highlight for us all, I reckon.

We also went back to play the caber toss, and marvelled at the SID chip's wonderful impersonation of the bagpipe instrument. Not least when you actually throw the caber and land it properly, as your little man does a highland fling to the tune "Highland Laddie" (make the original Scottish traditional track tune of the day whilst we're at it) and certainly knows how to celebrate. More games ensued, including the classic Kikstart II and even a bit of Emlyn Hughes International Soccer to end the evening, with the defending cup champion losing in the first round as Doncaster, Sunderland beating Man U 4-2 and me eventually winning the whole thing, thrashing Everton 7-2 in the final. Oh, in case you wondered, it's a heavily modified version of the original game, with teams reminsicent of today's teams, even down to the kits, and all the signs changed by me to reflect City's sponsors at the time. Hehe. So it was a very tired but happy and merry bunch who headed to their respective beds at around 1am.

Thursday 9th October - Getting Everything Ready

It was a case of getting everything sorted and ready as much as possible tonight for the weekend to come. I went into the hairdressers during a very late lunch (because of induction sessions that ran over the mid day and so needed us to be there) and managed to get in there, get the hair chopped to bits and then get back to the office in double quick time. In theory that'd save me some time, and good job too, because after work it took ages for the bus to get to the stop, and slowed down throughout the way home. I then had to nip straight over to Tesco and do the food shopping, making sure I got enough items for breakfast for the Saturday and Sunday as well as get something to eat for the England game on Saturday, stuff like that. With me getting that bit extra, it was a bit of a carry home but not too much.

Thankfully it was a case of then making the tea, having something nice to eat and generally sit back and relax for most of the evening. I think sometimes it's just good to have a moment of peace and quiet, and I was able to sort out some of the recent images I had on the camera and finish the uploads of the recent Victoria Baths visit too, so that all the ones I want up are now there, so that was good. Indeed, it was pretty good too that time had been spent just making sure things were just so, and got to work with the duster later.

In view of my cleaning, I even whacked on some dance tunes earlier in the evening to set the right mood and the tone going as well, and what better than the Bodyrox featuring Luciana classic, "Yeah Yeah"? I still love this one, it has the right amount of bass, some good drums and indeed there's the distinct vocal that makes it stand out somewhat from the crowd. It's not like me to really get into a dance tune all the time but I might make an exception here simply because it's so darned good. And I even have the 12" instrumental version for those out there who don't like the vocal (are these people mad or what?). Tune of the day without a doubt.

Wednesday 8th October - This Is The Imaging Law

It was a pretty busy day today, too! I seem to be getting plenty of them at the moment and certainly it makes the time go by very quickly indeed, maybe too quick at times though because it certainly felt like I'd not done as much as I thought I would. Mind you, first things first, I spent a bit of time with that Asus Eee and attempting to do the Zenworks USB hard drive boot imaging method, and it all still failed with the same error. One of my colleagues from another building has given me food for thought: why not image the sysprep image up to a suitable server as a Ghost image instead and then bring that down? And it'd theoretically work too, there's a suitable driver for the network card that I can use as part of a Ghost boot disk, and then connect that up via a crossover cable to our little tiny Shuttle and run that as the Ghost server. Hmm.. possibilities there.

I did test the new Academic staff image and get that up and running on an RM Innovator which we have plenty of, so I was able to re-deploy a PC that I'd had back this morning (the member of staff now has a laptop, you see) and then mean that I took it in here in the morning, re-imaged the thing and put it back out to another member of staff by the end of the day. If only turnarounds were that easy, but there may be hope that we might even be able to actually use another network line in the same building and put another PC in there too, so here is hoping indeed!

I got home and realised that I had a bit of a task on, getting the place ready for when my friends come this weekend. I had thankfully blown up a couple of the airbeds already and I'd also washed all the duvet covers and bottom sheets, so it was just a case of making them all up and getting them sorted as well as then making sure that I moved anything out of the spare room, such as the airer, and temporarily place them in my bedroom. Plus it also meant that I had to see what I had in and would mean I might have to make a list in terms of what I might need to get when doing the food shopping tomorrow night (the beer is already sorted, incidentally). I suppose I just don't want to leave anything to chance and would rather have it all done so I can relax for the weekend, hurrah!

I did spend some time going a bit old school tonight. Following on from the Clint Mansell soundtrack yesterday, it was time to re-acquaint myself with one of my favourite albums, Pop Will Eat Itself's majestic "This Is The Day, This Is The Hour, This Is This!" - it's a tour de force for its time and still stands up now. Indeed, the anthemic "Preaching To The Perverted" brings back happy memories of me seeing them live and indeed when they played Birmingham back in 2005, which I was lucky enough to be able to go to. Even now when I hear it I just have to sing along with the chorus. This is the law. Don't argue. It's tune of the day and you really do need to check out the album post haste.

Tuesday 7th October - Fashionistas Ahoy!

Had a bit of a mixed day in the office today. First off, I managed to get the two Samsung laptops finished off almost and they're pretty much ready for the academic staff who ordered it, which is a good thing, and I'm sure that they will be quite pleased when everything works with it nicely. I also spent some time working on another possible method to image that troublesome Asus Eee, by clever use of Zenworks boot to USB hard drive imaging! There was a method which I was going to try which involved creating a small hard disk partition which then became a Linux boot one with some little bits of software, then add a Linux EXT2 partition with the images on, and then make sure the rest of the hard drive was hidden/mounted so that you could image to the native hard disk of the PC.

In essence, I got almost all of it working as I wanted, the hard drive (attached to a USB hard drive adapter) booted happily, and indeed it came to the bash prompt, and I could see the hard drive inside the Asus Eee itself. All so far, so good. However, when I did the img command to image the thing down, it would get so far and then come up with a decompression error, and always when having to flush its buffers. Annoying? Oh yes, definitely. I'd have to have another look tomorrow to be honest and see what it does from there, but I am not holding my breath really.

Went over later to see The Lemon in My Lemonade and had a relaxing evening, even having some rather excellent beef medallions with a yummy pepper sauce and a selection of vegetables, all delicious, and then settled in to watch some new series on BBC2 called Twiggy's Frock Exchange. The idea basically was sort of Multicoloured Swap Shop for fashionistas, so that they could swap clothes they no longer wear and walk away with something new and a nice way of being able to do that with a lot of other people. Of course what caught my attention wasn't Twiggy hosting, but the rather luscious Lauren Laverne looking like lush. I kid you not. I have to say though that something made me giggle: this 19 year old student gave away this gorgeous Amanda Wakeley dress that she'd worn once to this woman who exchanged with her this loud dress instead. Like, duhhh! No wonder the woman that swapped was dead chuffed.

Mind you, it did seem a bit condescending to us blokes though, sort of like only women are interested in fashion and indeed looking good. That's of course a complete mistruth, but as this programme was squarely aimed a the girls out there, I can sort of forgive it. Mind you, I guess the beauty (haha) of it was that you could see how the professionals manage to make money on second hand clothes. Easy solution: go to Huddersfield market, barter for your old stuff, buy it cheap and then flog it in your own second hand store in London for shedloads more. Reminds me of my favourite Harry Enfield sketch at the moment actually!

Anyway, as Sky Sports News are insistent on playing their version of the theme from "Requiem For A Dream" every fifteen minutes after the commercial break, whilst announcing the UEFA Cup draw (my beloved Man City have away trips to Germany and Spain, ouch!) I thought the balance needed to be redressed somewhat and play the main theme from the original soundtrack, as composed by Clint Mansell and featuring the Kronos Quartet. It's tons better, has more edge and is really an intriguing mix of Industrial and classical, so "Summer Overture" is the number, and that's tune of the day easily.

Monday 6th October - Two Laptops With One Image

Well I actually ended up having a very productive day today to say the least, and that's an understatement. First off, I was working on finishing off the image for the Samsung P510 laptop that I was getting to grips with. I'd brought a sysprepped image down, managed to snag and install all the drivers, get all the function keys working, and indeed run all the applications successfully without a glitch in sight, and make sure that all the user information would work on log on, which it did. Hurrah to that, I say to myself, and promptly image up the laptop as a straight image, meaning that if we were to get any P510s I have an image ready made and built for it.

That done, in the afternoon it was the next laptop in my backlog, the Samsung P210. The look and feel was very similar to the P510 for sure, and I was intrigued to see if it had the same hardware and drivers and so I could save some time. I PXE booted it like I normally would do for imaging, and yes, it was the same Marvell Yukon network card in there. So that was hopeful, so brough down the P510 image, rebooted, and on first boot it was doing plenty of hardware checking and installation, but amazingly all the hardware was found correctly (even down to the same Bluetooth adapter, wireless card etc) and that pleased me no end. I was therefore able to sort the image out very well indeed and get it pretty much to the point I wanted it, with just a couple of bits of extra software left to install.

I also had to try and sort out why the hell one of the Activboards that one of the departments had purchased wasn't working. I had a feeling a driver update might have been the cause, and so with recent driver for MacOS in hand, I saw one of the academics with their Macbook, installed the new driver, connected the Activboard to the Mac via USB, hooked up the projector and off I went to do some calibration, which amazingly worked really well. It was just a case of finding a place for the projector to be positioned perfectly for the display, getting it right and then setting it all to be right. I must admit I was pleased to have got it done, the driver update did the trick as it was a Universal driver and not just for old PowerMacs, so that helped enormously.

Nonetheless, got home and took some time out to get things sorted for this weekend, which is going to be a blast as I'm having some friends down. I got the air beds all blown up and ready, and indeed all the bedding is also sorted. Headed to Tesco to get some beer in as well as there was an offer on the real ales in bottled form and managed to get the last of the stock of Black Sheep before it all decided to run out of me. I pretty much like Black Sheep, it has to be said, and I'm sure that with the likes of that and Hobgoblin, it should be rather ace. The Manchester Food and Drink festival has a beer fest on this weekend too, it's £5 to get in but you get £4 worth of tokens to spend on beers within there, so it doesn't work out that bad really.

One last thing of the day: tune of the day, and a good choice too this one. I was spending some time earlier watching the Roxy Music documentary on BBC Four that I recorded from the other week and realised just how fresh the first album sounded, and I particularly like the opener, "Re-make/Re-model" just because it's an opening statement of intent to just what the band are about, and even on their 2003 live album with that as the opening track of 2CDs, it somehow still sets the tone. The original album version has that great bit at the end with solos galore and bits of other tunes and then that slowing down ending, it's just ace. I tell you.

Sunday 5th October - Bargains and Food Galore!

Headed out today with The Milk In My Tea and had a lovely day. First stop was Victoria Baths (again) as it was the last Open Day of the year and I wanted to have a quick mooch around to capture some more of the stained glass windows, plus, if possible, head out and see the old laundry and so on. Unfortunately the laundry tour wasn't till 2pm, so that kind of kiboshed the idea slightly, but we still had a head round anyway, plus had a coffee and some lovely lemon drizzle cake. Good job too, because at 1pm there was a classical orchestra playing in the middle pool, namely the Abney Ochestra who are normally based in Mossley. They not only did some children's songs as part of a medley, rehearsed with the Harry Potter film theme, but also when they did play live, did the Star Wars Theme, and it was, shall we say, bloody ace.

It made us stay for a while longer to check out what they were up to, and at least it was cheery stuff, so that was good. In fact even doing things like that just went to show that it was a nice idea to do something different and get everyone in. It was absolutely choc full by the time we left to head to Central Manchester, and the sun probably helped: it came out all lovely today compared to yesterday's attempts to chuck it down, it has to be said. We thought it might be nice to head to Spinningfields to check out the Food and Drink Festival, and see what it was to be like.

To be honest, it was good, but I think the organisers pulled a bit of a faux pas. Some of the tents were in this lawned square and to get to them you had to walk across part of the lawn, which of course was heavily sodden due to the rain yesterday. At least one of the main tents had put a nice mat down everywhere, so it meant that you didn't get muddy and also a little rubber matted path from the main square to the tent, so that was good. It was tempting to have the Ginger Marble beer, but I resisted. Mind you, all around people were attempting to hand you freebies: a small bar of Green and Black's chocolate, and in one of the main squares, the Co-Operative food had a stand where you could try two types of biscuits, sparkling apple juice, cider and crisps, and one of the Italian delis was giving you a free capuccino or espresso (which we both took the offer up on later in the day.)

We did lunch in Zizzi, which was all picturesque as we had a table inside which overlooked the River Irwell, and it was completely dead. Maybe people were sampling the wares in the small tents further up the walkway before getting to the restuarants, but to be honest we wanted to be able to relax a bit and chill out. We ended up both having the same thing, the penne della casa, which was lovely. It had lots of chicken, bacon and penne pasta with some spinach and mushrooms in a lovely sauce, and was very filling for the job. That and some sparkling water did the job for sure, and it definitely made the meal even lovelier. Even nicer was that we still had the choc bar from Green and Black's, and had that for dessert along with that free takeaway coffee we'd wangled earlier in the day, hehe.

We headed back through the city centre and down King Street and stopped in a couple of shops before walking and having a mooch in Fopp, where I got lots of ideas of CDs and books which I would have bought myself if I wanted to, but there'd be too much I'd get and spend way too much. We did hit Vinyl Exchange though, and it was a stonking idea. One rack that the shop had up was a rack full of CDs which had been reduced and reduced until it was down to a mere pound. I actually found two CDs I was after in there The Fighting Cocks' "Music For Lapdancers" and CR Avery's "Magic Hour Sailor Songs" and even found one for The Milk In My Tea as well that she liked, so all round that was bargains galore for us both. Yaay!

In fact I've been playing a fair bit of The Fighting Cocks album when I got home later, because it's the sort of thing you can listen to when you need to just channel the energies, especially with Man City throwing away a two goal lead and losing 3-2 at home to Liverpool. Meh. Anyway, the excellent "Son of a Bitch" makes tune of the day because it just absolutely rocks, it's at full pelt and a sort of cross between later PWEI and Atari Teenage Riot, and for those reasons alone it's enough to highly recommend it to anyone. Oh, and seeing them live is an influx of energy, let me tell you.

Saturday 4th October - Take Me To That Treacle Tart

I had a nice relaxing afternoon out today, as I decided that it would be a good idea to head out for lunch, and an extended one at that. I'd spent most of the morning in the house doing boring domestic chores and there was so much to do in terms of washing that I was getting pretty sick of it to be honest. Still, it was time for something that I was looking forward to, a break from all that. So, with a couple of others in tow with me, it was time to head on the bus from mine over to Marple Bridge and to get some lovely lunch down us. I decided that it'd be ace to head back to the Midland there, as the food is ace, they do Landlord on cask (ooooh yes!) and it would be fresh air despite the cold.

Got there and it was relatively quiet, so got a nice table by the window and perused the menu as well as having the blackboard there to see what I could have. In the end one of the specials caught my eye, it was pork fillet wrapped in parma ham. You also got some new potatoes and seasonal veg with it too, and that was all rather nice for me especially with the Landlord going down a treat. It took time to be cooked because the pork and the veg was being done from fresh but it was worth the wait. But of course as anyone who knows me will know, dessert is the best bit of any meal, and I wasn't to be disappointed - they had the treacle tart in there!! Of course I was going to munch that, it's dead light despite what you'd think, and the clotted cream just finishes it off nicely.

So headed back home later and had a chilled evening in, with Strictly Come Dancing being on the agenda for me. It was back to the blokes this week and Austin Healey did well, mind you I do think Erin Boag really has been working well on the choreography side of things to get the best out of him. The real dark horse was the Don, ie: Don Warrington of Kenco coffee ad fame. He really nailed it with Lilia, and that seemed to get the likes of Arlene Phillips purring nicely. Nonetheless though, it could well be curtains for Gary Rhodes. Must be frustrating for Karen Hardy as she's won it before with Mark Ramprakash and just wants to go further in the contest.

Still, nonetheless what I did notice was just how much contemporary music is being used for the dancers and professionals, hopefully to give them an idea of getting to the beat and making it work. Out of all of them last night, it was intriguing to hear a slightly different version of "20th Century Boy" by T-Rex done, and that made me just want to listen to the original and think of how much it rocked back in the day - so the original is therefore tune of the day. Mind you, nice dress Ola had on during their dance to that!

Friday 3rd October - Going Off The Rails

Another final push on the Inductions side of things today, as between myself and my manager we had six of them, and I had four of them back to back this morning. I don't mind though, as I'd much rather get it done and be able to inform everyone of what is available and how it all works, which is good. In fact we had the MA Architecture lot this morning so I was able to tell them about the new Digimap changes that have happened recently, plus also be able to give them some essential information for any new starters: quite a nice mix of people. Embroidery were a lovely lot as ever too, so that was good to do. My manager had a much less turnout for Fine Art this afternoon: I think six in one session and a no show in the second, which to be honest isn't that good really.

Headed home via my sister's, as her partner's birthday is tomorrow and wanted to give him a present: I got some Euros for their holiday in a couple of weeks time so that they could enjoy themselves a little bit more, which has to be lovely. It gave me a chance to spend some time with their little one too (okay at almost four maybe not so little anymore) and as soon he saw me he came to have a big hug and be lifted up by me, which was all rather nice actually. It's good that I can feel that the youngsters have an affinity with me, makes me all mushy inside. Awww. Anyway, that all done, I headed to Tesco to do the weekly food shop, and on the whole it was a good experience. Not least that I'd picked up a voucher in the week that enabled me to a fiver off if I spent £20 or more (which I do most weeks anyway) - in fact I'd picked up a bottle of wine as well and with the money off, it was £17 all in. Hehe, I made sure I spent enough but it was on stuff I needed. I'm not one of these people who wastes lots of food - it's not worth it.

Had a pretty relaxing evening watching two documentaries on BBC Four which I'd recorded yesterday evening. First off was the one about Doctor Beeching presented by Ian Hislop, and that was really good, a sort of potted history of the railways and how it had come to the point of the Beeching Axe. Of course the axing made him pretty unpopular, but it was interesting for me to find out who else was pulling the strings and how there were broken promises from politicians on certain branch lines. I found it particularly poignant as Ian was sat where the old Padstow Station would have been, it's now a large car park for visitors, and how the Camel Trail was the old railway line (with some of the station platforms still visible). If only in the 60s they had the foresight to realise that heading to the seaside by train down in the South West is very much a viable alternative now: it's the only way I travel when I've been to Cornwall anyway.

After that was a much older programme that BBC Four had shown, showing Victoria Wood on an epic train journey that started and finished in Crewe. She'd headed up to Carnforth (where they filmed a fair bit of the film Brief Encounter), then along the coast via Grange-Over-Sands, Barrow and Sellafield to Carlisle, and then up to Glasgow, on the night sleeper to Fort William, and then via Kyle of Lochalsh to Thurso, back down to Edinburgh, then via Middlesbrough to Whitby, and onwards. It was intriguing to see Victoria in such dowdy ordinary clothes and just winging it for the most part, but also good to see that she really had an eye for a witty comment even then. Shame that one isn't on iPlayer, would have been well worth watching again. Ah well.

Spent a bit of time also in very retro 1970s prog and rock mode, listening to a few classic tunes from the era gone by, and often the foundation years of my life. I still have a soft spot for several albums of that era as I remember with great fondness listening to them as a child and watching, almost hypnotically, the Harvest logo spin round the turntable as the tunes would play. I have to admit that I still to this day really like Roy Harper's 1975 album HQ, and I've got it on CD now (as I should really). I still also enjoy "The Spirit Lives" because it's a damning statement about religion, which is more than fine by me, and includes the great line "Goodness lives where God is dead" which says it all. Tune of the day, and do check the album out.

Thursday 2nd October - Group Stage, Here We Come!

I'm feeling pretty pleased right now as I've just got back from the City of Manchester Stadium, and I've been with some of my relations to watch the mighty Blues do the business against Omonia Nicosia and safely qualify for the group stages of the UEFA Cup. It was the end to quite a good day really, and even though it was quite nippy outside, your heart is always warmed up when the team does the business, as you can imagine. Indeed when I got back and noted that Everton had gone out (admittedly with a much tougher draw of playing Standard Liege) and that Portsmouth looked to have lost their 2-0 advantage against Guimares, it goes to show that you sometimes just need to be professional and get the job done.

I felt a bit like that at work today actually, I had three hours of induction sessions in the morning back to back, although the first one for the postgraduates was fairly laid back. Indeed the next two were Film and Media Studies who were supposed to have around sixty students turn up for each session, but it was barely fifteen that did in each one, which wasn't so hot. Still, the ones that didn't turn up will be the ones that miss out, and to be honest if you're told to turn up for a session then you should make the effort to make it. After all, it's all about finding your way and getting the necessary knowledge to arm yourself with.

The afternoon was a case of all hands on deck, assisting numerous students and also making sure that they were able to do certain tasks such as large scale printing, which already seems quite popular. I did have time to have a look at one of the new Samsung P510 laptops one of the staff had ordered. It imaged okay, and there's only a couple of drivers I'll need to install from the website to get it fully up and running, which is fine by me. What made it for me was that it certainly responded nice and quick, and was uncluttered and unfussy, which is smart also. Hurrah!

Got home, made myself some gammon for tea (lovely) and then headed over to one of my relations, and four of us headed to Eastlands to see City in action. It had been hammering it down with rain and with the seats being row H in the bottom tier, I was worried that we'd get drenched. By the time we made it into the ground though it had stopped and appeared to be drying up just in time for the start of the game, and I even along with my uncle decided to put a bet on the first goalscorer: he had Stephen Ireland at 12-1 and me Shaun Wright-Phillips at 6-1. Well, I can dream can't I, and it does at least make the game a bit more enteraining.

Shame the first half wasn't more so though. It wasn't great, and City just lacked some cutting edge somehow, a couple of close shots from Robinho and the odd half chance was all we had, the main highlight being when a fan ran on to the pitch, bared his backside and then ran into the stands, and as he was heading to the stands he slipped and fell fat on his bottom which brought around many chuckles from the fans, not least the Omonia lot, who had been singing some Cypriot chant to the tune of the Offspring's "Why Don't You Get A Job?". I'll make the original version tune of the day for the hell of it, cos I'll be thinking of those mad Omonia fans now, hehe.

We needed to improve second half and that we certainly did. A lovely move saw the ball out to Robinho on the left, and he saw Elano in space and cut the ball back to him. Elano rifled a low shot home, it was very well taken, and it smashed into the net at pace too. Time for the samba celebrations and it was definitely a much needed goal. It also meant that the bets were all off and I didn't win, but it was more important for City to score and take the lead I reckon. But that set us on our way, and more celebrations were to happen when a bit of pressure by City on the Omonia defence saw them give the ball away, Shaun Wright-Phillips broke through, made his own luck with a deflection, and then calmly rifled the ball hard and it was 2-0 to the mighty blues. If only he'd scored that first!

The game died down a bit after the substitutions, but it was good to see Martin Petrov make his comeback from injury and indeed he had three shots on goal and any one of them could have gone in, so good to see. Even an Omonia goal didn't spoil things too much and at the final whistle I was content enough: a case of job done and into the group stages, which means at least another four games and two more European nights. I hope we get more than the twenty five thousand or so who turned up tonight, but job done.

Wednesday 1st October - Out Of Everything In October

So, the first day of a new month, and what does it bring? Plenty. Let's see: three inductions for me back to back this morning which happened to include a longer than normal feature because it was more aimed towards postgraduate students, and then in the afternoon, a chance to try and get things sorted out that I couldn't do in the morning. I had on the menu one dead multifunction printer, as the internal components had decided to stall the scanner in its glass and refused to move, so that the printer wouldn't fire up properly whatsoever and play ball. Oh, and add to that a PC which decided to not play ball on power up until I had to change a couple of cables and connections inside. The fun we have!

The rain was absolutely lashing it down most of the day and a trip to the local Tesco on the way home couldn't be avoided. I was going to make a brew this afternoon, and I noticed that we'd pretty much ran out of coffee. Add to that the tea bags were looking quite low on the stock side and it was a definite case of needs must, so braved the rain, headed in, got the tea and coffee, went through the tills and noticed a handy £5 off voucher if I spend more than £20 (do that for the Friday shopping, hehe) and then did my bit and paid. It worked out well as the rain had a lull before I got home, so didn't get too drenched really, and then chilled out watching the V8 Utes, it's like the same engine as the V8 Supercars in Australia, but like Ute-style trucks. Bizarre yet cool.

Spent a bit of time composing this month's poetry (I pretty much had it done, but needed to do some final tweaks) and it made me realise just how many I've now written. On this site alone there's a mere two hundred and eighty five of them (at the rate of five a month) and I've written at least the same amount again that haven't been put on the web anywhere, which means at some point soon I'll probably top the six hundred mark. It doesn't bear thinking about that I could make an anthology of them at some point and that might be an interesting project to do. I shall see what happens there I guess.

Also, I was remembering with great fondness tonight good old Superstars, not least as I'd had some comments on the Youtube channel and all that. In fact someone had uploaded some of the original 1973 US event too, which was well worth a look at to see how it was done over there in terms of its time and stuff like that. What surprised me was just how much money was involved even for those days: $300 for each point scored, so that an event win would be a cool $3,000. Pretty neat, that, to be honest, and not least because it meant that you could make around $10K if you were good enough to be the top three. There was never that sort of money even in the late 70s/early 80s in the UK, tended to be around £3K for the winner. But still.

Mind you, there's an interesting mash-up of the classic theme available online which is well worth checking out - imagine if you took the bass line and beat of the classic "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" and turned the "Heavy Action" Superstars theme down a pitch or two? It actually works, and works really well as an instrumental and different version of the theme. Check out the site and download "Superstars (Hi-Brid Remix)" for yourself, it's rather good. It actually compliments the theme nicely, and although of course nothing does match the classic, it gives it a good run. Now, where are those oranges?

But the undisputed tune of the day simply has to be by the rather fab MJ Hibbett and the Validators. I decided to have a play of the "Milk And Baubles" EP, and on there just so happens to be "Easily Impressed". It's a great little tale about how you appreciate the things in life that make you happy, and hence easily impressed. Any song that mentions the trams at Sheffield, vegetarian cheese, real draught bitter in a can and indeed microwave popcorn just has to be on the right track. Oh yes, and there's the audience participation bit. In case you're wondering what the hell I am prattling on about, check out my diary archive for May and see the video there. All you need to know is when to come in at the end of the second verse, and the job, as they say, is a good'un.