Dear Diary... October 2010

Sunday 31st October - Halloween Meal Out

It was a nice afternoon this afternoon as myself and The Sun were going to take my Mum out for some lunch. It's her birthday on Wednesday and we thought it would be nice to have a relaxing Saturday afternoon and have something to eat at somewhere that she could be comfortable at. The Sun and I did enjoy the extra hour's lie in due to the clocks going back this morning, and so we were able to relax a lot before we headed out, so that was good. The Sun went off in the car to collect my Mum and then they'd got to mine around 1pm.

We had a coffee and a bit of a chat and catch up and it was clear to see that Mum seemed to be in fine fettle to me anyway. In the end we had a quick discussion as where to go and decided to head to the Elizabethan in Heaton Chapel - we'd been there before and liked it and so headed on there on the bus, and the rain did catch us a little bit as we walked up the road to the pub. However, inside was nice and warm and welcoming and certainly did feel rather nice and cosy as we managed to find the little booth seat that The Sun and I love when we go there.

The food was on top form as it always is in there and I went for the steak and ale pie whilst the two ladies had the lamb Sunday roast, which certainly seemed plentiful where the meat was concerned. The pie was on its usualy excellent form too and coupled with a pint of Coronation Street ale I had no complaints at all really. It tasted great. The roast really did have plenty of lovely vegetables to go with it for the ladies too, and three empty plates were all you needed to know. In fact I had the tiramisu for dessert and The Sun had the pineapple fritters which was also very nice indeed by all accounts.

We had more chatter before heading back to mine where I dug out Wii Sports Resort and had a good game of Frisbee dog. Mum did excellently well and beat The Sun, and got four throws on the bounce where the dog did a jumping catch, nailing them well. All my ten throws were in the central purple zone, the first time that I'd ever done that and that was good to see. It was good fun and later on I'd have a blast on the spin control of the bowling and do okay too. It was good to see Mum and it was a good little afternoon out which I know that she appreciated.

Later on The Sun and I relaxed and we watched the classic albums series on BBC iPlayer on the Wii, which was about Black Sabbath's classic "Paranoid" album. It showed lots of Henry Rollins enthusing about the band which was good to see as well as all the band discussing it. What was clear was that the fact that the songs were written about what they felt at the time, with the likes of "War Pigs" being an instant hit for the anti-war people in America (particularly when you consider what was going on at the time) and so tune of the day straight away for me there.

Saturday 30th October - To Market, To Market

Myself and The Sun In My Sky woke up as the alarm on our phones went off to remind us that it was time to be up and about. I got myself in the shower and then ready, as did The Sun, and I nipped off to the Post Office to pick up a parcel that I had delivered yesterday but couldn't fit through the letter box. When I got it home, all it contained was the Bathurst 2010 highlights DVD that I'd ordered from Australia, and I was surprised at the fact that all that packaging was for one disc, it could have been sent bubble wrapped!

Anyway, I made the four of us some breakfast so that we were nicely fed before we set off, and off we went on the bus to Piccadilly station in order to get the train - it was the 0835 departure to London Euston. We had discussed last night about how Watchdog were reporting on train companies not allowing people to travel as they were on the wrong train for their advance ticket. I said that you were always warned beforehand, and indeed as we were due to set off, the train announcer clearly said "If you have an advance ticket, please be sure your ticket is for this departure" and they re-iterated the point nicely, so there you go - proof that in reality you didn't have an excuse whatsoever.

The journey to London sped by, we drank the coffee we'd got from Costa and took it nice and easy with plenty of chat and spotting things out of the window as well, including parts of the countryside, the little towns and villages and even Wembley Stadium as we headed closer to Euston itself. My friend's partner remarked at how quick the train was and it was bang on time too, which was good to see. I also noticed too that it was a little quieter than normal on the train heading down, partly because plenty of Man U fans were heading the opposite from London to Manchester for the game against Tottenham later that day. I had a grin on my face spotting that.

We showed our friends the stop they needed to get on the bus to get to the Natural History Museum and we headed back to Euston itself to get the bus up to Camden Town and to the many markets within Camden. It was already pretty busy as we started to walk amongst the market stalls. Many of them were selling their wares including some dresses on almost every stall, and some of them had their own designs which were all really nicely made with plenty of care and attention. I even went into a couple of record shops and was sorely tempted by some vinyl apart from the fact that a fair chunk of it was at collector's prices, and it showed.

We then walked towards the locks and the markets by there, and they were very busy as you'd expect, with lots of craft stalls selling their own wares as well as little food eateries, and also many stalls with t-shirts galore, even some that they'd hand made themselves with designs on. It was an intriguing mix and especially as you headed underneath the railway arches and to the markets there with horse head sculptures and underground stalls that had a wealth of different items. It was individual and I think The Sun loved it. In fact she got a nice little bracelet from one stall and a purse from another which was close to the main road as we came up from the other side of one of the markets there.

After a pit stop nearby for lunch we headed back and there were more market stalls to peruse, and all of them really did have a way in which they would invite you to have a look at their wares, but in a good way. In fact in one of the markets on the other side of the locks we noticed that there were the backs of old scooters used as seats for people to sit down and munch their lunches as well, and cruise boats which would head down the canal. It was good to see and as we made our final market call there to the Electric Ballroom, it was clear to see that the mix was an intriguing one.

We had some time spare so I thought of an idea, and we headed on the number 27 bus along towards Great Portland Street, Regents Park and then down past Paddington and on to Notting Hill Gate, where we would get off and walk towards Portobello Road and the many markets that are along the road. It was a great experience for The Sun as she could see the likes of antique stalls and many quirky ones there, and also for some reason lots of old leather footballs and rugby balls on some stalls too. What was clear was that it felt like a community and the locals had opposed a large chain store opening nearby, and were promoting the use of their own shopping bags - as designed by Natalie Imbruglia no less.

I think The Sun liked it here too mainly because you felt that a lot of the traders were very friendly but also understanding of the fact that lots of people liked the feel of the community there, and wanted to help keep it that way. The Sun did buy one of the bags and it looks really smart and swish, and I'm sure that she'll turn heads when using it. We then headed back to Notting Hill Gate and I checked out one of the record shops there before we headed back on the bus to Euston to meet our friends, who had already got there a little early after a really good day at the Natural History Museum.

We went then over to The Crown and Anchor close to Euston where having something to eat and drink was the order of the day. I had the fish and chips and it was completely massive, the fish was bigger than the plate almost, and the minted mushy peas were a lovely touch too. The chicken that The Sun had looked good and we all had a good meal in there - and they even had Doom Bar on cask! What more could I want, I said to myself. It was then on to Euston and heading on the 1940 train back to Manchester, which sped through the night sky with ease as we reflected on a lovely day all round.

I did feel very sad as my friend and her partner headed off on the road to Huddersfield, but we all agreed that we'd had a great time together and that it was all good fun for us. I did suggest that we'd have to get together at some point soon and I knew too that having some quality time was the right thing to do as well. It was another good day out and I know that it also did me a lot of good having a nice change of scenery on top of all that. Tune of the day in the meantime is "One Way" by The Levellers, as that sums up how it is sometimes: "there's only one way of life, and that's your own.."

Friday 29th October - Catch Up

I had had a pretty productive day at work today, not least because I finished off another building in terms of re-imaging the workstations. One of them had a mere 40GB of data to back up, so thankfully I had an external hard drive for the task. Of course this meant it was a slower job overall as I had to get that all done before the PC was re-imaged and then bring it all back afterwards too. Mind you, when it was done it certainly did feel like it had a new lease of life, as did the other two PCs that I also sorted out today, so I felt good when I was about to leave the office for home.

And even nicer was that The Sun In My Sky had come along to pick me up from work too, and with good reason. My friend was coming over later with her partner, and it would be great to see them both as ever. We had to nip to Piccadilly station first though as we could then pick up the train tickets from the Fast Ticket machine and have them ready for tomorrow's trip out, and not have to rush about in the morning to sort it, so much easier for us really. We headed homewards after a quick visit there and we had a coffee and got everything sorted out in the house.

It was then time for us to have something to eat, so I did some chicken wrapped in bacon with some potatoes and vegetables and that set us off nicely, and then we pottered around a bit with the telly on and I even had time to do a little bit of rocking on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock, so I nailed a couple of tracks on there, most notably "Losing My Religion" by REM, so that's tune of the day straight off. It was good to do that online with three other members of the band, as the four of us scored a pretty massive 3.5 million in total, which really did show that I could cut it sometimes.

Later on my friend arrived with her partner and the rest of the evening was spent with plenty of chatter and catching up with all sorts. It wasn't difficult to find conversation on any subject and in any time, and we were looking forward to our trip out tomorrow. I was mentioning about how we got the turntable back up and running and so gave them a blast of AC/DC's "Let There Be Rock". For some reason the right speaker wasn't playing ball but I found it was a slightly loose connection from the turntable and once that was done the likes of the title track and "Whole Lotta Rosie" belted out forth from the speakers, which was rather nice to hear all round.

The time passed way too quickly and it was good for us to have a chat about the plans for tomorrow and what we'd be up to, and they mentioned that they were thinking of the Natural History Museum, and so I worked out how to get there and it was going to be a pretty easy (hopefully) journey for them to do. It was getting a little late though and knowing that we had to be up early we all decided to head for bed and to crash out, with them having my bedroom and myself and The Sun in the futon in the spare room, which was nice and cosy for us both.

Thursday 28th October - Bunged Up

I just feel really bunged up during most of today. I had an inkling yesterday that I was coming down with a cold, and so it proved over the course of today as I felt a feeling of being a little more bunged up over time. I do have the Olbas oil at the ready for when I go to bed later tonight and will try and make sure I get a good night's sleep, especially after a pretty long day which started rather early for me. But, I should add, with good reason. Travelodge had a sale on for rooms up to the end of March next year, and if there was a chance for getting a room cheap for when myself and The Love In My Heart have time off, I had to take it.

So, the alarm went off at 5.45am (way too early normally) and up I got, straight on to the PC and straight to the Travelodge website. Once it hit 6am I rattled the keys, put in where I'd like to stay and how many nights, and the discounted rate came in. Okay, so it wasn't £9, but it was £19.50 per night for the four nights we wanted which is still cheap. Hurrah! Of course this means that we can do more when we're away and not have to worry about the cost of the accomodation, and also it means that if we want to do a nice train journey and maybe have a little more luxury on the way, then so be it I think. We shall see how it goes from there.

I had a busy day in the office mainly sorting out some more image builds but also restoring a couple of files from a backup tape that I had done over four weeks ago. Thankfully the files that I wanted to get hold of were there and so it's good to see that the restore still does work and it's able to really come alive for when I need to use it. Who knows what will happen in the future when all the storage stuff is handled centrally and there won't be anyone local to do the job? I do wonder at times you know.

I spent most of this evening battling the snuffles but also cleaning the house and doing plenty of washing and ironing as I've got some friends coming to stay tomorrow night and I wanted them to feel at home and comfortable. I don't mind the domestic stuff and had on Metallica's self titled album, Queen's "A Night At The Opera" album (both in high res DVD-Audio surround by the way!) and then The Sword's second album "Gods of the Earth" as well, so plenty to listen to and do housework there. Tune of the day is "Enter Sandman" by Metallica, it's still a classic and I played it now in Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock to see how it'd work in that, and it did very well!

Wednesday 27th October - Karmically Retributed

Before you get your spelling and grammar checker out, I know that today's title will make no sense in either way. But allow me to explain it during this entry and all will become clear. First off, I headed to work and had plenty of tasks to get on with, including during the morning re-imaging more PCs with the latest image build, and also seeing a few members of staff and chatting to them. In the afternoon I had spent some time working on a PC that needed some SQL stuff adding to it, and even worked out how to get an SQL database imported into a local SQL server on the PC, and that took some time to get right.

I headed back to see The Love In My Heart, who was spending the day off (lucky her!) and she made us a lovely tea of some pasta with gorgeous meatballs and garlic bread on the side, which filled the hole very nicely indeed before we set off in the direction of her Mum and Dad's place. Her father wanted me to sort out if he could go wireless with his PC so that his broadband router could stay plugged in downstairs to the main master socket (perfectly understandable if you want maximum speed of course). I had already got a wireless adapter that plugs into the PCI socket, and so didn't take me too long to open up the PC, put the card in, install the drivers and then have it up and running quickly.

With that all done, it was then back to my place where we settled in for Masterchef The Professionals. I thought that it was a tough call between Lee and David to see who would go through as they struggled in the two Michelin starred kitchen but then each of them had a stunning dish each out of the two that they did. On balance though I think David just about edged it although it was very close, and they're down to the final three. Looking ahead though I have to say I don't like the plans for the Masterchef next series, where it'll end up being more like a reality show. Not what I want to see to be honest.

On went The Apprentice and I have to say that both The Love and I were rather chuffed to bits to see that annoying person Melissa go. She really was getting up people's noses the wrong way and didn't listen to anyone else during the sales pitches, and to prove how spoilt a child she acted, she remarked as she left the boardroom that she'd been ganged up on to be eliminated. But hang on, someone who is supposed to sell having zero sales figures? How does that one work then? And in fact added to that was her comic timing of bad use of English too. As she was being whisked away in the car she said that "they will be karmically retributed" for what they did to her. Pardon?

It made us giggle though as well, really. It just goes to show that you can have all the business nouse you claim to have but when you're actually out there in the real world it's all very different and you have to think on your feet a lot more than you'd realise to be perfectly honest. Anyway, tune of the day happens to be Rammstein's "Feuer Frei" as it reminded me of the infamous Lego animation online to that tune, which really is a benchmark for Lego-related video. Of course, the Apprentice has its own fans who do the firing scenes in Lego cartoon style and that's pretty ace too - you may have seen those online! So there is some sort of relation.

Tuesday 26th October - No Mi Steak On A Tuesday

It was a nice evening that I had in the company of The Love In My Heart and her friend, who I'm pretty glad to call a friend too now (that's how it works when you're in a good relationship, I believe). We had decided to head out after work for a meal and plenty of chatter and of course knowing what they're like, there may be wine involved. Anyway, I walked from work to Ra!n Bar and got there a few minutes before The Love, so I rang her to see if she wanted a drink getting. As it turned out when I rang her she was on the other side of the canal and just crossing the bridge to head to rain, so she wasn't that far off. I got her and her friend a drink awaiting his arrival, so all was well with the world. Once he arrived, it was a good little catch up over a drink (and being in Ra!n, I had to have the Coronation Street beer, what else would I have eh?)

We walked along the canal and thereby underneath Oxford Street and Princess Street. It's very easy to forget that it's all actually there, but once you head under Princess Street and reach Canal Street, you know where you are. The three of us were heading to Velvet for tea, primarily because the food is rather nice, they give you large portions and it's two courses for £13.95 before 7pm, a deal which none of us could argue with. Our friend is a regular there and he really likes the atmosphere in there, it's warm and friendly without being in your face, which has to be a good thing.

The only tricky decision we had to make was what to have for the two courses, as the choices were all good. In the end I went for the ham hock risotto with peas to start, which really did have a nice kick to it, especially with tons of ham in there. For the main, I went for the rump steak with bearnaise sauce, along with chips and a flat mushroom. There was nothing lacking in anything there, pretty much lots of it all and very lovely too. The steak was cooked just how I like it and on top of that the sauce really did taste spot on as well. Hurrah!

We spent plenty of time with a gorgeous meal, company, and coffee after the main which sped by in terms of time before we headed off to Kro in Piccadilly for a drink, where of course it simply had to be some real ale for me - and what an ale at that - the Robinsons brewery one that was at the recent food and drink festival. I was tempted by Dizzy Blonde but instead went for the Battering Ram and that was a very good beer of choice too, all went down well. We chatted about all sorts including forthcoming gigs, and the Human League is one we're looking at going to, so "Don't You Want Me" is going to be tune of the day for that reason.

I headed back to The Love's place and said goodbye to our friend, who seemed in good spirits and certainly had enjoyed himself as much as we had. I can tell that he and The Love are very close friends, but that's a good thing - you always need your friends around you and I am sure that we're all like that in that we have friends we can trust implicitly. And I also think it shows that in this day and age, your friends are your friends no matter what sex they are - I have female friends, The Love has male friends. Does that makes us any less secure? Absolutely not. If anything it's actually more secure in that we know how to interact, so there you go.

Monday 25th October - A Relaxing Day Off

I must admit that I'd been looking forward to today for a little while. It has been a pretty hectic few weeks at work and to be honest I know that I realistically needed a day where I could just recharge the batteries and try and get on with stuff at home but also just not do that much as well. I think that with all the busy stuff going on in my life as well that having some quality time is a good thing to do, and it allowed me as well to be able just to take it relatively easy, and that's what I did.

I even washed some of the curtains in the house (all the neat net white ones that is) and whilst they were refreshing themselves, I went outside and window cleaned the front window. The problem is that we have no window cleaning rounds near me anymore as since all the alleys had been gated, the window cleaners can't get round to do the back windows and so wasn't worth them doing a round anymore. I had noticed that the front one needed to be done, so with glass cleaner in hand, I did the inside first and then concentrated on the outside. At times I was thinking "why is it such a big window?" but at the same time it looked much nicer once it was done.

I also spent some time being old school and having a blast on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 on the PC. Ah, the memories of playing this one! It's still good fun with the USB gamepad I have that resembles a Playstation one, and I can assign the buttons accordingly to do all the kick, grind and ollie moves to do as I need to do. I did it with a custom skater and did the first few levels of the game to see how I'd manage with some of the missions. It was still good fun and still played really quickly and smoothly even on my relatively old(ish) rig. It was good fun and with a killer soundtrack even more so - including Rollins Band, so "What's The Matter Man?" has to be tune of the day for that reason.

I did also have some time to rock out too, so it was on with Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock but not just for playing either - I was writing a review of the game for the site too, and so I soon knuckled down and wrote one. The words came easy as I was playing it and I understood just what good fun it was when playing it. I'm now trying to see how many stars I can score on one song in the power challenge Quickplay+ mode where you can use two powers to try and earn stars. I've managed 14 or 15 on one song thus far, and it seems that the star power nova and extender is a good mix to have, provided you can earn the star power phrases to keep it going that is.

I just don't want to head back to work tomorrow though. Sometimes when you've had a really good long weekend there's not much incentive to head back to the grind. That said, there's plenty on and plenty also what I need to do so I am sure that I'll be keeping myself busy somehow. It's just that I needed this time and space to wind down nicely and that's what I've done. It's all go now...

Sunday 24th October - Oh, Arse(nal)

It was a nice wake up call for me (not) as the alarm on the phone went off at precisely 6.50am, giving me enough time to clamber out of bed and head downstairs to watch the first ever Korean Grand Prix. If I'd have known what was going to happen I'd have stayed in bed for another hour or so - the race started behind the safety car and after three laps it was too wet, so the cars went back on the grid for another hour or so before the rain relented enough to race. As it was, the suspension was added to the race time so there was just abou enough time and daylight to get the race in.

And what a race! At the first restart post initial safety car, Mark Webber got it wrong on a corner, skidded off into the barriers and as he was doing so careered across the track and took out Nico Rosberg as well. Felt a bit sorry for Nico there to be honest as he was doing well. Later on after more safety cars, Sebastian Vettel was complaining about the light even if Lewis Hamilton was quite happy to race onward. A few laps later we worked out why - Vettel's car gave up the ghost and out he went, leaving Fernando Alonso to win with Lewis Hamilton second. As Jenson Button could only manage 12th due to a badly timed pit stop, it meant that he was realistically out of the running for the title and that Hamilton and Alonso made massive gains with Alonso now leading the title race.

After all that excitement, it was back to bed for a bit before myself and The Love In My Heart headed back to her place, and she cooked us a very lovely ham mushroom and mascarpone pizza for lunch as we settled in for the afternoon. It was nice also to have a mooch at some stuff on the Debenhams website, particularly as there was some stuff that she really liked the look of (and me too). Later on my friend was coming over with his wife as we were off to watch the City game against Arsenal whilst the two ladies would be out and about during the game and having some quality time together.

The City game took a turn for the worst a mere four minutes in when Dedryck Boyata fouled Maroune Chamakh and to be honest, he was the last man and it was a straight red, I couldn't argue with that. Despite the numerical disadvantage we did okay until Arsenal put a good move together with Samir Nasri whacking it home from close range. Arsenal had a penalty despite the fact that Vincent Kompany got to the ball first, and we thought going 2-0 down at that point would be lethal. Joe Hart pulled off a stunning save though and that was excellent, and at least at half time being 1-0 down was okay.

Carlos Tévez had to go off early in the second half and on came Emmanuel Adebayor and he couldn't do that much. David Silva was being skilful and many of his creative moves almost came off in something, he had a shot well saved midway through the second half and him and Micah Richards were a handful down the right. But I suspected the next goal would decide the game and after some confusion in the City defence, Alex Song (who should have been sent off for a second yellow when the referee booked the wrong player instead!) smashed it home. 2-0 was the end to be honest and when Niklas Bendtner finished off a flowing move at the end, it flattered them a bit but was a harsh lesson to us too.

Later on we had a cuppa and was able to look back on the game before me and The Love headed back to mine where I made us the chorizo sausage pasta bake for tea, and then allowed her to watch The X Factor whilst I was sorting out some trains for my nephew online (as he asked me to help him out) and that was all good for her, before we snuggled up to watch Downton Abbey and as a piece of period drama, it's really good. Joanne Frogatt really excels as one of the senior maids and it's clear that she has feelings for one of the male butlers too - beautifully played and poised in her performance.

As for tune of the day it has to be "Pounding" by Doves. A version plays at City's ground before the teams come on, and it always gets the fans going. They did a special instrumental version for City as they're all big Blues, but even the original studio version really does come across with all the excitement of being at Eastlands. Ah yes, good old City, they always like to build you up and knock you down don't they?

Saturday 23rd October - An Italian Flavour

I had a pretty good day all round today. First stop though was an early call to The Trafford Centre in aid of some Christmas shopping (I know, I know!). As I knew that it was open on the Saturday morning earlier than normal in the run up to the festive period, this meant that I was able to head there a little earlier and get the express bus as well. The X50 is the way to go there, honestly. It takes around 25 minutes from Piccadilly and literally pegs it down Bridgewater Way before passing Man U's ground and then on past Trafford Park and to the centre. It was nice and empty when I got there so it did mean that it was easier to mooch around and get some shopping done.

In the end I didn't actually get anything but I did have some ideas as to what to get people but also I had plenty of thoughts too about what I could get myself too, always a good one that. I was sorely tempted by The Beatles Rock Band and one day I might get that myself on the Wii - a few of my friends have it and they love to sing or play to it, and if I joined in I am sure it would all be good fun, as I could do any instrument of their choosing. Remembering my exploits at my friend's place, I'll have to make "Yellow Submarine" tune of the day - purely because of the fun we had belting it out. Ah, memories.

Later on during the day I had some lunch and then started wrapping up plenty of Christmas presents that I'd bought people, and it was a rather nice feeling to already get festive. I did have the wrapping paper already from Boots so that was a positive thing, along with the tags, so I was able to get it done. I did have to dash out later in the afternoon to the big Tesco, as I'd ordered something online as a present for someone and you couldn't collect for some reason till after 4pm. Oh, and the collection desk for Direct orders was at the back of the store, so you then had to be tempted by everything else on the way. Not daft, are they?

In fact The Love In My Heart met us there, and so was able to head back to mine with her. She had brought her outfit for our night out tonight, and she looked gorgeous, I have to say. She had this spotted dress that we got in Oasis within John Lewis a few weeks ago and finished that off with some tights and these little black patent pumps, and looked stunning. I had some nice stuff on too and so we headed into the city centre, first off to Ra!n Bar where a pint of Brewers' Dark was mine to enjoy, and then it was off to Don Giovanni's in the city centre to meet up with some of my friends, as it was my friend's birthday on Wednesday and were heading out to celebrate.

We had a good time in there, and the food was as good as ever in Don Giovanni's, so lovely to see. The minestrone soup wasn't on, but the Tuscan vegetable and bean one was, and that was rather good too. I don't think my friend would have had it, but he did at least have a try of mine to see what he thought. I had the mushroom risotto for main, and that was lovely whilst The Love had the carbonara with the poached egg on top - it was rather cute and gorgeous all in one. I had the tiramisu for dessert although it was a little on the small side, I have to say.

My friend loved her presents - we got her the new Bill Bryson book in hardback, the new Barenaked Ladies CD, the Paloma Faith CD and A Single Man on DVD, starring one of her favourites, Colin Firth. She really did enjoy the night and it was nice to see her as well, all looking radiant and happy with her boyfriend. In the past it's usually been one or two of us in relationships and being happy, but seeing it's now us as three couples having a great time, it really does make the evening good. We went home happy if a little tired and ready for the rest of the weekend.

Friday 22nd October - I Rock!

It was a pretty busy day in the office for me today, but I did manage to complete the second part of the rollout project that I'd been doing for the revised academic and technical staff PC image. It was good to be able to get it done and the last three PCs on the agenda were done today, so that felt good that it was able to be dealt with and solved. I had some fun and games this afternoon with a couple of jobs that I wanted to sort out, but managed to get there in the end and that meant that I could go into the weekend conscience free.

It was then off to Tesco to get the weekly shop done and it felt pretty good knowing that most of what I needed was pretty straight forward stuff, and even more so when a fair chunk of it happened to be in two for x amount as well, thereby saving me cash and hassle. It was pretty good to go round, get what was needed, not have to queue for the lottery (done that online already you see) and then head home, where I made myself something to eat for tea and after a phone call to The Love In My Heart, decided that enough was enough and I needed to feel the urge to rock out.

So on it was with Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock and I did rock indeed. I wanted to see if I could five star some songs on medium guitar, and one of them that I really wanted to nail was Megadeth's "Holy Wars.. The Punishment Due". The opening is bloody tricky to say the least but it does seem to get a little less hassle as the song progresses, but still, five stars was mine. I also noticed that one of the achievements that you could aim for was by getting a million points plus in Quickplay+ mode with powers enabled. I wondered what song I could do and what powers I could do it with.

Then I remembered: I seemed to get around 400,000 on medium in Filter's "Take A Picture" (from Band Hero, which I've imported in Warriors of Rock of course) as the song's pretty long but it's also got tons of chords in that play pretty quickly, so that made perfect sense. I went for the two powers of star power x6 and multiplier at maximum x6, which meant that with star power activated I could clock up a x36 multiplier which would help. Anyway, activating the star power during the choruses with plenty of chords and fast notes meant that each time I did it, the score was cranking up. I wondered how close it would be, and at the end of the song I'd gained 12 stars with the powers enabled, and a score of over one million. Wowzers, it can be done! So tune of the day right there methinks.

Thursday 21st October - Pole-Axed!

It would have been off to the City of Manchester Stadium tonight to see Manchester City against Lech Poznan in the Europa League, but I had a phone call from my friend's wife who told me that my friend had been throwing up pretty much all day and so was unable to make it. A bit of a shame really, but I know I'd rather have him well than attempting to go and make himself worse. The game was on normal telly anyway (Channel 5 to be precise) so I could always watch it at home anyway if need be. I do love being at the game and all that and my friend's always said to me that the atmosphere is always better when you're there, so I hope we'll all be good for Sunday's visit by Arsenal.

I was going to invite my uncle and some relatives to mine, but as it happened he was off to my nephew's place where my auntie lives to watch the game there, and a couple of phone calls later and I was on my way there with my uncle. That worked out well because we could have a nice cup of tea, watch the game on a nice big LCD screen and also have plenty of us to chatter as well. It was nice and comfortable there and with some snacks laid on, it was almost like being at home and watching it, which is a massive compliment to the hospitality all round really.

The game itself was pretty good, and it wasn't long before Emmanual Adebayor read Patrick Vieira's through ball, slid it around the Poznan defender and slotted it low and hard past their keeper for 1-0. We kept going forward and were duly rewarded later in the half as some neat movement by David Silva, carrying on his excellent form from Saturday resulted in a perfect cross for Adebayor to head it in and make it 2-0. It was a good header too and up till half time City looked pretty comfortable really - no fancy stuff from the defenders, some skill in midfield and Adebayor looking lively up front.

City did switch off at the start of the second half though and it wasn't a surprise when Lech Poznan pulled one back, much to the delight of their travelling fans, who were very loud and raucous and showed our supporters a thing or two about getting behind the team and singing for them. We needed a third to finish the game off and kill it off we did, and yet again David Silva was involved. His inch perfect through ball split the defenders and the six yard box and again Adebayor was on the end of it to rifle it home for his hat trick and 3-1 to City. In fact it was the first ever hat trick scored in Europe by a City player, so that's a scalp for him to have isn't it?

It was a good night all round and after I headed home later it was time for some rocking, and rock I very much did, as I managed to 100% Megadeth's "Sudden Death" on medium bass. No mean feat this, as it's one of the hardest songs in the game to complete, but the bass seemed possible to do, even with the open notes left right and centre during it. I kept going, got through a difficult middle phrase and I knew I'd earned enough notes on the bounce to get all three Quickplay+ stars for a note streak, and at the end, the sixth star appeared for my playing efforts and a magical 100%. I bloody rock! Tune of the day without a shadow of doubt.

Wednesday 20th October - Confessions of an IKEA Shopaholic

I had an enjoyable time after work today as I was meeting up with The Love In My Heart after work - we were going to head into the city centre for a bit of shopping before heading to IKEA later to get some bits that I needed for the house and some bits that she needed too, so killing two birds with one stone (hurrah) so that would hopefully work in our favour. I walked up to where she works and she was heading out of work with her manager, whom I'd not met before - she seemed lovely and I'm sure that The Love's been telling her about me anyway, so it wasn't that big a surprise thankfully!

We soon headed into the Arndale Centre as I wanted to hopefully pick up a book from Waterstones that I'd ordered. Despite the website emailing me to tell me it was ready for collection, it wasn't there when we got there. Darn! Apparently the delivery had been mucked up and so it was possible it could have been delayed in arriving there. Oh well, these things happen. As it was, The Love had picked up a birthday card for someone and also some wrapping paper and other stuff that she needed, so it wasn't as if I was going there just for that anyway. We did also check out some clothes shops for The Love and she was tempted by a pair of shoes but resisted (for now!)

It was then back on the bus to her place and whilst she was getting showered and changed, I had a few minutes to relax and also check if one of the items I wanted in IKEA was actually in stock. As it turned out, it was, so that was good. Before we knew it, we were on the way to Ashton under Lyne and to the IKEA there, but we were stopping off for tea first, so it was a visit to The Sheldon Arms, which is on the way there anyway. It's a nice pub and they happen to do a very lovely carvery. Even better we got there in time so it was still £5 each for the carvery, no complaints there - and so I had some honey roast ham and some roast beef with new potatoes, carrots, stuffing ball, massive Yorkshire pud and gravy - all coupled with a pint of Coronation Street real ale. Ah, delightful, let me tell you.

Once in IKEA we decided to avoid the showroom bit becuase that would tempt us into plenty of ideas, but we then headed via the café and the IKEA Family section on to the kitchenware, where The Love got some napkins and some other little bits. I also looked at the frying pan and pans set I'd put on my Christmas list and they looked pretty good, so that was good. We then went to the bedding and The Love saw this quite nice single bed set, which happened to also be a mere £1.99! It was the Vildris quilt cover and two pillow case - so perfect for use for any spare mattress and quilt you might have.

I did manage to get the new shower curtain that I was after, but not the one that I actually saw on the website. In fact The Love and I saw a nicer one called Toftbo which really did look smart, and it happened to be cheaper than the other one as well, so win win all round. I also picked up a couple of their big Baven green bath sheets for a mere £3.99 each as well, so in total it worked out I spent less than I thought, and The Love also picked up some other little bits along the way as well. I only realised when we got back to mine later that I should have really got some candles too, ah well.

We then watched The Apprentice and yet again were treated to another task where the contestants didn't seem to have a clue. I'm really getting narked by that Paloma, she seems good on giving orders and telling people that they are wrong without looking at herself, a point that Lord Alan Sugar seemed to be making during the elimination process as well. In the end, I think the wrong person went - Shaheen should have gone as she didn't seem to be enthusiastic about the task whatsoever and didn't seem right to me. Making a bad order of some cakes and buns didn't seem to be that inspiring but it made for good television.

And on the day when the cuts were announced, it did feel a little odd to be spending money in IKEA, and even more odd when I saw that the cuts were really going to hit the places we both work at, and as you can imagine that's going to be a worry over the next few years or so, especially as we've got the prospect of frozen pay and possible job losses left right and centre. In view of all that, tune of the day is a little less happy than normal - "Ghost Town" by The Specials, as it reminds me of the 1981 situation and how the country seemed to be completely ill at ease. It was a song that captured the time of the era and would still do so now in my view.

Tuesday 19th October - Amy Mac, When Are You Coming Back?

It was a long day again at the office, but I felt like I'd got a lot done, so it was a case of then me heading home, having something for tea, even getting some of the clothes washing done and setting the dryer off before my friend came over to collect us and whisk us both off to the O2 Apollo Manchester (to give it its new proper name) to see Amy Macdonald there. I've seen Amy quite a few times over the last few years, including the Roadhouse in Manchester, what's now Liverpool O2 Academy, and at Manchester Academy 1 twice so this would the fifth time I've seen her.

We got in to the O2 Apollo and found that it was for some reason a fully seated gig. I thought that to be unusual because all previous Amy gigs had been standing and usually with a good atmosphere. Thankfully we were close to the front anyway, but it made me wonder just what sort of clientele would be here tonight. We soon had that question answered - quite a few Radio 2 listener types and also a fair few families who had brought their kids along to cheer her on. It was a little surreal that there didn't seem to be that many twenty somethings there who I'm sure I'd have seen at the Academy 1 last time. That said, it was filling up nicely despite it not being a total sellout, so I hoped for good things.

Up first though was David Ford (official website) (myspace) and who to be honest didn't completely float my boat. He had a reasonably good voice and could carry the tune well with it, but to get all the backing to be in time he'd play each bit, record it so it was on a loop, record the next bit, and build up his instruments that way. Once that was all assembled it seemed fine, but it was all that waiting to get it done at the start of each song that was a little frustrating, although at least he was playing his own stuff. The better tunes he had were where it was just him and a piano, and that seemed to be better for me. Just not quite sure what to make of it, to be honest.

There was a bit of a pause for people to get a drink and stuff, and then on came Amy Macdonald (official site) (myspace) and proved just why she has such a big following, not just here in the UK but in Europe as well (the fact she's playing large venues in Germany should tell you something) as she and her band did a very good one and a half hour set of her songs, with a mix of tracks from both of her albums. The band were really tight and you could tell that some of them had played with her for a while, and it was a nice mixture of full on rockier stuff and the more gentle pieces such as Youth of Today, which she still loves to play years after she wrote it.

She called the tour the Love Love Tour, in view of the single of the same name "Love Love" being out recently, and that sounded very raucously good. Of course, the likes of "Mr Rock and Roll" had everyone standing up and enjoying themselves, along with "Run" which really does sound tons better live than on record (I'll make that tune of the day). There was also an excellent version of "Poison Prince" and off the new album "Don't Tell Me That It's Over" really was rocking, but I really also loved the closer of the set "What Happiness Means To Me" with a nice crescendo to close the main set.

Other highlights included a full on "Next Big Thing", a very gentle paced "No Roots" and a really powerful opener of "An Ordinary Life" as well as her ironically saying that despite being engaged to a footballer she didn't want to be like those in her song "Footballer's Wife". However, the encore also had "Let's Start A Band" which finished off the night rather well too. I do think that a lot of people enjoyed it and as everyone piled out of the Apollo post gig, I think there were plenty of happy faces clutching the live CD that you could buy on the night of the gig for instant memories, which was good to see. I just hope that the rest of the tour goes as well for her - as it was Aberdeen next night. I just hope it's not too long before she tours again...

Monday 18th October - Shopping On A Plate

After another long day at the office, which meant that I was yet again out in the field re-imaging the PCs and dealing with the after effects of us as administrators heading into the dark and dangerous world of Active Directory Dynamic Local Users (scary stuff if you're a Novell nut let me tell you) it was off with The Love In My Heart to the local über-Tesco. A while back I'd bought a dinner set from there with four plates, bowls and small plates all in a nice white with black swirl shapes on, and it really did the job nicely. The other day I accidentally hit one plate against the cupboard door as I was putting it in, and the side chipped off. Boo!

So the mission was to try and get a single plate on its own without getting the whole set again, and so a walk around Tesco later and we came across all the dinner sets and individual bits. The dinner service I had was there and one quick look up later saw the holy grail - the one plate that I wanted to replace. Got that, got a birthday card for Mum's birthday coming up, and the job's a good one. I was pretty pleased though because sometimes it's hard to get the items as separates, but I reckoned it must be a pretty popular set and people must want to either go from 4 to 6 plates for larger families, or be able to keep their sets going for longer by being able to replenish what they have. Makes sense, that.

Back to mine and it was time for me to cook. I was going to do my chorizo sausage pasta bake, but I had other ingredients that needed to be used before their sell by date, so I nominated those instead. I ended up making some chicken wrapped in bacon along with some new potatoes and vegetables. It still went down very well and we had some time afterwards to keep an eye on Masterchef and the latest developments there. One chef was way ahead of the others and you could tell to be honest just how good he was.

A game of Scrabble ensued later and it was a very close run thing, with The Love really putting together a string of excellent moves, including KEY down the bottom centre for 30, and JESTER for 26 along with some useful triple word moves too. I had Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins on, and so I'll make "Rise Up With Fists" tune of the day as even though it sounds a violent song, it actually isn't - it's beautifully mellow and with Jenny's voice sounding crystal clear, you can work out what she's going on about. It's lovely - and perfect backing when you're stuck with a Q, a J and not much else in terms of good letters, let me tell you!

Sunday 17th October - Oh We Do Like To Win Beside The Seaside

After a bit of a relaxing breakfast and later on a coffee with The Cream On My Cheesecake, it was time for us to part for the day, as I was heading off to Blackpool with my friend to see Manchester City hopefully do the business there away from home. The Cream very kindly offered to drop me off in the city centre so I could get the bus to my friend's place, which was lovely. We had a nice chat on the way and we worked out what was happening next week in terms of a busy schedule, so it all worked out quite well. I felt really sad leaving her this morning though, especially after spending most of the weekend together as well...

It was then on the bus to my friend's place and I arrived there just before 12.30. We got everything together that was needed (including the all important tickets of course) and then set off and headed to the petrol station first to get some juice in the tank before then getting to the M60, coming off for the M61 and then all the way down there to the M6, followed by the M55 to Blackpool. At the end of the motorway the road carries straight on and becomes a single lane each way road, and this leads you to the major car parks in Blackpool - which happen to also be close to the ground as well. We managed to park up in there and had plenty of time on our hands.

So we did what anyone else would do - head to the seafront. Soon we were heading along the front down towards South Pier, passing many really tacky hotels and stalls selling rock and the usual stuff, and at South Pier we noticed that the arcade wasn't that accessible if you didn't do steps. Shame as it had a Guitar Hero arcade machine in there that I could have played (only the second time ever that I've seen one incidentally) but there you go. We walked back down the revamped front with the new sea wall and that looked pretty good the way it's been landscaped - certainly better than it was before. We just had to watch out for the trams!

We then headed back to the ground and located the away entrance - eventually. You have to go right round this disused pub/bar/club whatever it is, and then head down what looks like a side alleyway to three turnstiles and a gate which opens if wheelchairs need access. As you go in you've then got two portakabins doing the food and coffee (Holland's pies for £2, coffee for £1.50 so not that bad really) and then portakabins for loos before the temporary stand, with big pillars at the front so if you were behind one of them you'd be stuck with a horrible view. Thankfully myself and my friend were at the front so the view was fine for us, and the seats were comfortable even if it looked like the stand was sponsored by Easyjet with its orange everywhere.

That said, the away end was the only temporary bit and the rest of the ground looks very smart indeed, with the exec boxes at the top of the stand and the normal seats below, all laid out very well. I just hope that they can complete the rest of the ground as it'll be a cracker when it's done. The atmosphere was spot on too - the Blackpool fans are a credit as they get behind their team and with the City away following in full voice, it does make for a good atmosphere just the right side of bubbling. We hoped City would win but knew after Blackpool's win at Anfield two weeks ago, anything could happen.

As expected, the home side did much of the first half dominating, with the only glimpses of City doing anything were an early Adam Johnson shot which their keeper saved well, and a cross that came in which both Emmanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tévez failed to finish and get the ball in the onion bag. Orchestrated by the excellent Charlie Adam in midfield, they really did look good did Blackpool and DJ Campbell's header wide was perhaps their best chance. But 0-0 at half time was good for us and I hoped that we'd improve somewhat in the second half.

The game turned on a few moments in the second half - DJ Campbell missed when clean through and that really was a bad miss, and then Blackpool had a goal disallowed for offside. The fans and players were even sort of celebrating and didn't notice the linesman's flag. The warning signs were there though and really City needed to up the ante. On come David Silva for Adebayor and the game changed big time. Silva and James Milner hooked up well down the left, and Silva's low cross was neatly flicked in by Tévez for 1-0. It was nothing more than he deserved, and he went and celebrated near the City fans and was mobbed by them all!

Blackpool weren't lying down though and from a Charlie Adam free kick Marlon Harewood headed neatly in for the equaliser. It was a good goal for them but as they were celebrating, forward went City with Wayne Bridge, and after Silva and Tévez robbed the Blackpool defence of the ball, Tévez hit a low hard shot which deflected off the Blackpool defender past the keeper for 2-1. It was literally around forty five seconds after they scored and to go straight back in front showed some character and that for me was great. It also makes him the leading Premiership scorer too, so that was good.

Near the end, Tévez hit the bar when going for a ha trick, Milner had also rattled the woodwork, but with the ninety minutes almost up, we got a free kick and Milner passed to Silva. What happened next was a sublime goal - he took on two of their defenders and used Charlie Adam as a guide to curve the ball round him, leaving their keeper unsighted as the ball curved in the net beautifully. It was a joy to see that on Match of the Day 2 later let me tell you - it was a great goal. And even tough Gary Taylor-Fletcher flicked in from a low shot from a corner deep in stoppage time we had just about done enough to win 3-2. A win for my friend's first City away game and he was well pleased.

When we left the ground we were both interviewed by the people at WinkBall, who were getting opinions of fans before and after the game to see how they saw it all. We both happily obliged with it, and their neat little cameras must have been busy uploading to the web, as they're now online for all to see. You might be able to spot me (clue: I'm in a green jacket with part of my City retro away shirt just visible) and see how I did. I am sure though that I could do the whole match reporter thing given the chance.

We headed back along the road and out to the M55 and once on there sped out of Blackpool pretty well to be honest. We came off the M61 near Chorley and stopped off at The Hartwood Hall for something to eat for tea, as I've been in there often and it's a decent place to munch. They do two meals for a mere £10 so my friend had scampi and I had the gammon, and they were both spot on and filled the hole well. It was a good pit stop before we headed back on the motorway and then my friend kindly dropped me off on the way back to his place. We had had a great day and City did the business, what more could we want?

Tune of the day summed up the mood of the whole day to be honest: "Cars" by Gary Numan, primarily because we're both Numan fans but also my friend played it on the CD player as we headed down the M61 on the way back and it seemed pretty apt for the journeying up and down that we did, and of course seeing plenty of vehicles heading back down the M55 with happy smiles inside. A bit like us then. At least we're not Liverpool at the moment!

Saturday 16th October - Saturday's Shopping and Capturing

The Cream On My Cheesecake and I had a leisurely morning at her place, keeping an eye on Saturday Kitchen amongst other things and I also did some updates on her PC, such as putting on the new version of AVG and generally making it behave much more like it should. That done, it was time to nip over to Asda and get some food and bits before we headed to her mum and dad's place - as I'm sure that her dad wanted me to have a look at something for him - and possibly not just putting on the new AVG on his PC as well.

When I got there, I found out what it was. He had bought a USB video capture dongle but couldn't get it to work when attempting to record from a video recorder. As I've seen this dilemma myself with the capture card I use (it's actually part of my graphics card, nifty eh?) I had a pretty good idea what it was, in that he needed a little SCART to composite and audio adapter, so you could plug that into the SCART out of the video recorder, and then connect the yellow, red and white cables to the capture dongle. A trip over to the nearby market close to their place proved to be fruitful and I managed to get what I needed, and so I set it all up. We even did some test recording from the video to the PC, and then made a quick DVD of it, and it played and worked well on the DVD player downstairs. I could tell that he was really pleased with himself and I know that The Cream appreciated my efforts too.

After that and having a nice cuppa at her folks' place too, we headed on the motorway and to Stockport, as I wanted to get a present for my nephew for his forthcoming birthday and I'd seen it in a shop there. Thankfully when we got there the present was still in there, so I snagged it rather quickly. I also went in TK Maxx and The Cream got herself a couple of things including a possible Christmas present for someone, and I got a Christmas present for my youngest sister in there too, so that was pretty much mission accomplished all round really. I was pleased as the item I got wasn't the easiest to find in the right size, but there it was, so snagged it immediately to make sure I got it.

We then headed back to my place and then on to my auntie's place, as one of my nephews had his birthday tomorrow but as I was going to watch Man City away tomorrow I wouldn't be around, so we ended up having a cuppa and a chat there for a bit, which was really nice to do as I caught up with a few things and we chatted away about all sorts too - so that was pretty good. In fact there was a Norman Wisdom film on, "Press For Time" whilst we were there and as my auntie's a bit of a fan it was good to be able to see that and have a giggle too.

I made us a bit of a posh tea later at mine too - I did a really nice rump steak. I followed the advice from The Cream who in turn had learnt it from Gordon Ramsay - you put some oil on a plate and soak both sides of the steak in that, warm up the pan and then put the steak in so it cooks nice and even. It worked really well and doing that with some chips, peas and some peppercorn sauce worked wonders and tasted spot on. I even left hers in longer so it was well done as opposed to my medium, so all was well there. It was admittedly the first time that I'd ever cooked steak so I was pleased how it turned out.

After us not winning the lottery, I did some of the ironing and The Cream watched the X Factor before it was then time for some Scrabble with the telly show still on, so I sat at the table with the back to the telly so I didn't have to watch it. From what I could hear, it was pretty lousy anyway and there was one guy who really ruined John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" simply by overtrying in his vocal style, so that didn't work at all well really. I harked for the original or even the passable Roxy Music version just to hear something decent, and even with an all-tiles used play of REFRAINS for 74 in Scrabble (apt considering it's musical, no?) it made me want to get rocking.

In fact I had done earlier when The Cream nipped out for a lottery ticket, and did Poison's classic "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" which although is a little soft rock for some tastes has stood the test of time very well indeed - and I can sing it pretty well too - so tune of the day right there. It just has a good hook, the guitar solo in between verses and some really well built verses that hold it all together. Well it was either going to be that or Children of Bodom for today's tune, but that song's bloody mad on guitar and took me considerable skill to get through it...

Friday 15th October - That Friday Feeling

It was a nice end to a positive week for me, as I managed to finish the last PC that I needed to get re-imaged, and on top of that located the voice recognition software that they had too, so I was able to install that and run it in order to be able to make sure it all works. This meant me as a user attempting to do some voice training on it so I was able to see if the headset microphone and the software worked. Once I did that I then attempted to dictate a Word 2007 document to see if that played ball, and surprisingly enough, it did so pretty well. That pleased me immensely.

After work I headed home to get changed and collect my overnight bag, and would later meet up with The Cream On My Cheesecake for the evening. We were planning to head to Ego for a meal, but it turned out that the place was already fully booked till 9.15pm, which was a shame especially as we were going to use their 40% off voucher, but no biggie really. We first went over to the Ape and Apple for a drink, and they even had the very very nice Touchwood beer that you can hardly ever get on cask, so I had to have a drink of that and we settled down and relaxed after the day's work.

It was then over to Frankie and Benny's on St Ann's Square, as we'd not been there for a while, for a meal together. We both ended up having their New York chicken which was smothered with bacon, cheese and barbecue sauce with a shed load of herb potatoes and corn on the cob, so that was me well and truly sorted out. In fact I even had the cinnamon waffles for dessert too because I know how nice that they are. It's good to see that not much changes in there, in terms of the music that they play. It's a nice warm feeling to be honest and certainly hearing the original 1960s stuff is a nice thing. So much so that I'll make Johnny Tillotson's "Poetry in Motion" tune of the day - it fits in nicely with the era.

After that we headed back to The Cream's place, where we would watch the tribute to the late great Norman Widsom, and that worked out to be pretty good. You could understand just why he became a comedy legend and for me seeing the tough upbringing he had and how he managed to turn his life around was inspiration for anyone who thinks that they're down on their luck - he really did show that. In fact it was good to see all the old clips from some of the classic films again - just showing the comic timing and that immortal phrase: "Mr Grimsdale! Mr Grimsdale!". They don't make them like they used to, that's for sure...

Thursday 14th October - Shop Till I Drop

After a constructive day in the office with us in the team working well despite being two members of staff down and getting on with plenty including another bit of rollout as well as keeping a busy room of PCs going for the students and what have you, it was good to be able to see that the time went really quickly and it was time to head into the city centre to do a bit of shopping, mainly for Christmas and birthday presents for people. As you can imagine, the city centre was a little busy but I was able to get around where I needed to go.

I had to get three birthday cards for people's forthcoming birthdays and so managed to get them via WH Smiths and then Clintons, and it just frustrates me somewhat that everywhere you go it's that bloody Me To You bear (aka Tatty Teddy) everywhere, it looks like no other cute card is allowed to have any shelf display at Clinton's. Meh. Still, I got some nice cards mainly humourous ones so it proved to be an okay trip for that. I also got a Christmas present whilst in the city centre and would have got another one only for the item that I was after to be not in stock. Ouch.

Anyway, I headed then to Asda on the way home as I know that they do some of the steam fresh that I like and cheap too, so I got that all sorted out as well as the meals for lunch for next week, and once I'd dropped that at home it was then off to Tesco to get the rest of the food shopping, my thought mode being that if it was done now I'd have the rest of the weekend to myself to be able to relax, as well as a trip out on Sunday with my friend that we'd planned, so it was good to get it done. In fact there was an offer on wine in Tesco and so I couldn't resist it - especially as it was 3 decent bottles for £12 as well!

It was then a case of relaxing during the evening with some more rocking and this time on Rock Band 2 - just wish that the new REM downloadable stuff would be made available for the Wii sometime soon, but hey ho. In the meantime I gave another spirited effort on vocals on Dream Theater's "Panic Attack" and belted it out big style. I did pretty well and one day I'll get it nailed 100%, but still it felt good to really be able to get further with it and go through the tune on a decent rating. Tune of the day it most certainly is...

Wednesday 13th October - You're All Fired

I had a pretty busy day in the office and took the opportunity in the afternoon to have a chat with our new head of service. He had been organising some open sessions for staff to come and chat and I thought "well why not?" as I headed over. It makes more sense to me to be able to have an open and honest approach but it would also be interesting to see just how it came across. On the whole it was reasonably positive and I did find out a couple of interesting bits of information as well, so that was good to know.

I'd also managed to blitz some more of the PC rollout as well today and re-imaged the PC that was in the glass area. Interestingly the glass technician was showing me some of the glass work the student was doing and two of them were also showing what they'd managed - and it was pretty impressive. I wish I could do something like that and be creative, but I know that at the same time I'd have to really have a steady hand to hold the glass at the end of a rod and in the kiln, and then get it just the right temperature to get it shaped just like I want it. I envy anyone who has those skills, I really do.

Later on, The Love In My Heart came over and she'd had a bit of an up and down day at work, so it was good to make her some peri peri chicken with potatoes and vegetables for tea as she settled down to watch Masterchef The Professionals. It was a pretty daunting task for them to cook for the food critics but straight away I knew which two deserved to go through and which two were going out - the quality of the food and the appeal said it all for me straight off. We both got it right, and so it was a really interesting time ahead for the winners. I'm sure that The Love quite likes that Michel Roux Jr on the quiet..

It was then over to BBC HD for The Apprentice, and dear me, I thought some offices could be bitchy but it ended up in a right cat fight for the women's team. In fact their behaviour was so shameful that Karren Brady, Lord Sugar's aide since the Junior version earlier this year, said that they really did put professional women in a bad light with the way that they acted, and I couldn't agree more. If I was Alan Sugar, I'd have fired more than one of them as proof of the lack of professionalism. Although Joy went for mainly being on the periphery, that loud mouth Joanna should have gone as well - she pushed her idea all the time even though it was bobbins, and the one moment she needed to be more forceful (getting the exclusivity from Boots) she didn't. And the boardroom was just everyone shouting above each other. Oops...

Tune of the day is the rather epic "Sudden Death" by Megadeth. It was written specially for Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock and the band's new record label Roadrunner weren't daft - it got released as a download single not long after. It's a really tough song in the game (not the hardest, incidentally) and you need to complete it in Quest Mode to beat The Beast, after doing two other Megadeth songs. It really rocks hard and has pounding bass line, plenty of guitar licks all the way, and gets even faster and more furious as it belts along. As Beavis and Butthead would have said:" Yes! Rock! Rock!" or something like that.

Tuesday 12th October - Drawing A Blank

After yesterday's day at work, I re-focussed my efforts today and realised that in fact I would be able to get things done, but in a different way. What made me think about this was that I knew that some staff had left and so I was going to take the PCs back to our office, and therefore be able to re-image them and get them ready for the members of staff that I wanted to upgrade. In fact I spent a fair chunk of today setting them all up and making sure they were good to go and imaging them, as well as creating a brand new image for our workstations in the office, which have all our particular stuff on too.

It felt much better heading home and I did so via the local Iceland to get some bits in for tonight, as my uncle and nephew came over to watch England against Montnegro at Wembley. My brother and brother in law would have come over as well, but they both were laid low with a bit of a chest infection. As it was my uncle wasn't 100% but the incentive of a good cuppa and of course watching the game in HD kind of swung it the right way for him. The three of us settled down with a cup of tea and we were ready to see hopefully England perform.

Two hours later, and to be honest the three of us were wanting to have those two hours back in our lives. It wasn't the most exciting game and although England had chances they couldn't get past a well disciplined Montenegro defence who battled and rallied all the way. In fact they had the best chance of the game when a dipping shot hit the bar with Joe Hart well beaten. If it wasn't for that bar, we'd have lost and that would have been even more a disgrace. It looked poor up front with no Jermain Defoe available, and Peter Crouch looked out of place - inevitably plenty of hoofed balls went up front. Wayne Rooney looked even more lost than usual too.

And to be honest, I didn't know where a goal would be coming from, and that isn't good really is it? It was one of those games where you knew that no matter what happened it wasn't worth seeing if we'd score, as we wouldn't do so whatsoever. It wasn't too good though and I'm sure that the papers would have a field day tomorrow. It was good to chat to my uncle about all sorts though and he was keeping me posted with some of the stuff that was going on in the family, so that was nice to know. He also mentioned about some forthcoming birthdays and what to get people so that was good too.

Tune of the day in the meantime is Stone Temple Pilots' "Interstate Love Song" which I managed to play on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock before the England game. In fact I got 100% on medium and was pretty pleased with myself all round on that - I'll have to try hard on that and see what I do and how I manage. It was pretty good to be able to nail a song I pretty much like and reminds me of the grunge era of the 1990s when most indie clubs would play their music as well as the likes of The Smiths. Happy days, they were indeed.

Monday 11th October - Born of Frustration

It was one of those days at work today which started off well but ended up a bit frustrating in terms of progress. I got in a little early and managed to get one machine finished off with the new staff image, and also did another one during the morning, but was going to sort another machine out later in the day. I knew it had a different motherboard and what have you, and I brought the image down on another hard drive to be sure it'd play ball. However, it just seemed to go really slow and not play ball - with constant hard disk churn left right and centre thrown in. Not good.

I did all I could and even ended up downloading the BIOS update for it and also making myself a bootable USB pen drive to do the update with as well, but even that didn't help whatsoever. A read up on it revealed that the IDE and SATA controllers on this particular board weren't the best ones and it didn't therefore surprise me that there were issues. As I still had the original hard disk in there, I knew that they'd have a working machine and so put that back in for now so that all was well, but I just felt like I'd spent most of the afternoon for nothing. Aaargh, frustration!

Anyway, I was going to head outwards to do some shopping after work but I just felt brain drained and felt the need to head home. I got in and noticed that the council had dropped a notice through the door to tell me that the communal recycling bins are to be replaced with a blue and a brown one for each of us, and added to the green one for food waste in effect that means plenty of different bins to put out, but also to store as well. I suspect not everyone has room in their back garden or yard to store them all so it'll be interesting to see what people do with them to be honest. Here's waiting and seeing.

In the meantime, my candidate for tune of the day will be James' "Born of Frustration" which is quite apt considering the day I've had. It gains extra points for the line which sounds like "Don't need no Stretford exorcist" and coming from a Man City fan like me I guess you can work out the reasons why as well. Ah well, now for a session of rock methinks - need to work off this frustrating day and do something a little more constructive!

Sunday 10th October - A Real Ale Icon

After a relaxing morning and even rocking online on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock for a bit to see how it all worked online, it was time for me and The Love In My Heart to head into the city centre. We wanted to check out the Manchester Food and Drink Festival especially as the main festival pavillion had a beer tent with plenty of Robinson's ale, and that meant real ale a plenty. I thought it'd be good to check it out and also to see how popular it would be, especially as the weather was set fair to be pretty decent as well.

We headed first though through the Arndale Centre as I wanted to look in a couple of shops and so did The Love, so it was nice to walk around leisurely and just have an idea of some presents to get in future, and also to have a good look in some of the electrical shops too. We ended up walking through Marks and Spencer where I saw some nice shirts for myself and then on to St Ann's Square, where there were plenty of food stalls selling lots of lovely smelling food. We did try one of the cheeses at one of the stalls which was lovely, and we even spotted another cheese seller, who was no less than Sean Wilson, who played Martin Platt in Coronation Street! Small world eh?

We then walked to Albert Square to check out the festival pavillion and see what real ale that they had on, and it was plentiful for me with up to eight different Robinson's beers on cask and all looked rather splendid. I was tempted to have a couple but went for the Dizzy Blonde, which I've had up at my friend's in Ulverston and is rather lovely - as proved to be the case here as well, nice and light and with the sun out, almost like a late summer instead of the middle of Autumn, so that felt rather good to be honest. We even spotted some rather nice freebies but also the BBC's "Olive" magazine had a stand with three issues for £3 and a little shopper bag, which The Love of course got hold of.

We headed back to St Ann's Square and one of the stalls that we admired was the one selling fresh meat from the Lake District. We both had a Cumbrian lamb burger for lunch and the lamb was cooked spot on, it tasted very nice and fresh and you could tell someone had made the effort of making it too, so that was lovely. We also then had someone at Stabucks nearby handing us a taster of their dissolvable "Via" coffee, so we tried a little sample which wasn't too bad either. I even tried a chicken burger with some spicy salsa from this other food stall too, so it was a real foodie's heaven.

It was then back to Albert Square and I was going to try the Ginger Tom but it was only in bottled form and I really wanted it on cask, and daren't risk the Old Tom because at 8.5% it's a tad lethal! Anyway, I decided up on the special beer that they'd made for the festival - Manchester Icon, and that was very palatable indeed. The sun was still out, The Love had a glass of pinot grigio as I supped my ale, and the world was a very happy one, even if the bus journey back to mine later took ages due to being stuck in traffic being diverted away from the closed Mancunian Way.

Later in the evening it was a case of rest and relaxation as I had a little bit of a bash of Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock online and tried out "2112 Part 2: Temple of the Syrinx" by Rush which I did pretty well on guitar at - tune of the day there - and although I was half tempted to do vocals as well I gave it a rest afterwards as we relaxexd to watch The Cube, where someone won £100,000 and was sorely tempted to go for the quarter of a million prize, and then afterwards Downton Abbey, which I know that The Love has been enjoying. I quite liked it but suspected that I'd have to watch it from the start to truly get it!

Saturday 9th October - Anarchy In The University

It was a long but all round great day for me today. I started off by heading into Stockport for a look around some of the shops and also to try and get some present ideas for Christmas presents for people. I also had a peek in Game and the Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock guitar was there with the game - but was it usable? No. Darn! I was going to try the new guitar out and see how that played, but never mind. I did have a look in a couple of the clothes shops as well to possibly get some ideas, so it was a good little trip out and I was able to spend some quality time.

I then tried to hook up with my friend from South Shields playing Guitar Hero 5, but it looked like to me that his wireless router wasn't allowing connections to and from my Wii here to be able to play it. I did a bit of research later and found out that any GH game on the Wii from 5 onwards uses port 3074 to connect - which just so happens to be the same one as XBox Live! And as my router's got a pre-determined config to allow XBox Live ports, I knew I could set mine to that and then play online in Warriors of Rock with other people too - just in case it needs to.

The Love In My Heart came over and she was ready for us to head out, as was I after some quick checks around the house, and it was then time to head into the city centre and to Table Table, where we had a soft drink and waited for our friends to arrive, as the four of us were eating out and then seeing Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds at the Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama, which is located within the University of Manchester's campus. I'd already done some checking of where it was etc, and managed to also work out close by parking for my friend too - so all was well there.

Our friends arrived and we had a nice cosy table for the four of us to have plenty of chatter and lovely food. The staff in Table Table are spot on and they even recognise us now, which is good. The waitress on tonight must have been fairly new, but she was really polite and friendly and that was good to see. I plumped for the breaded mushrooms with some lovely barbecue and sour cream sauces to start, followed by a chicken and mushroom pie with chips and peas for main - and it was a proper pie, all in a square shape. It was gorgeous as all our food was, and it set the tone for the evening nicely. My friend also told me about how lucky he was to get us tickets for the Blackpool away game next Sunday and all was well with the world.

We then headed in my friend's car along Upper Brook Street and after a quick diversion around the back of the Royal Infirmary, we soon got to Booth Street East and the car park for the Martin Harris Centre, which was £2 all day, so no complaints there really. We'd got there fairly earlyish compared to the start time, as I wanted to make sure my friend was going to be okay in terms of the space allocated for us. The staff in the centre were really good and said to us "if the rest of you head to the bar, I'll show you where you'll be" and took me to the main Cosmo Rodewald Theatre to have a look at where we'd be sat - and front left, reserved seats too. No complaints there - the staff were brilliant.

We had a drink in what was the "bar" although technically it's normally a room for practice but they had tables and chairs and also plenty of soft drinks or wine or beer for whoever fancied it, and as you could take soft drinks in, that was a nice touch. We got to our seats and the view was excellent, with the stage and the theatre showing that it could have some very good acoustics. My friend and I were looking forward to it lots as we'd seen them at the Lowry a few months ago, but I wasn't sure what The Love would make of it - but hey she's giving it a go, so fair play to her.

Up first was the support, Ella Edmondson (official site) (myspace) and she was pretty good. And before you ask, yes she is Adrian Edmondson's daughter. It was just her on her own instead of her band, but with one acoustic guitar the more raw stripped down sound really boded well for her. She played the title track of her album "Hold Your Horses" and even played some new songs too which she hadn't even titled yet. I quite liked her stage presence too - really warm and friendly but with a sharp edge to her wit. The other track I really liked was "Hunger" which had a slightly dark feel to it but still invited you in nicely. My friend ended up getting the album and Ella kindly signed it for us before heading off back to Devon on the motorway, ah, rock and roll!

Then after a break on came The Bad Shepherds (official site) and they were as good as I saw them last time. They came on and Adrian reminisced about his time at the University of Manchester, and how when he was there that this building (the Martin Harris Centre) wasn't there, possibly some old psychology department! They then started off with a superb rendition of "Anarchy in the UK" to get things going which was ace, tune of the day for definite. And that was just the start, with a mix of songs from the first album and their new release "By Hook or By Crook" that had everyone in the right mood.

Honestly, you've not heard covers like it till you hear it. Hearing them do "Panic" in folk style and a much slower and much less noisy rendition of "Ace of Spades" and you'll either get it, or you don't. I think The Love really liked their rendition of "The Model" along with "Up The Junction" but she did say to me afterwards that it was an acquired taste to be honest. Amongst the other versions played was the likes of "No More Heroes", "Sound of the Suburbs", and "Making Plans For Nigel" all done with their different folk style. Certainly it was good to spot the original tune and the enjoy their take on it.

Near the end the band did a bit of a folk medley for the encore, and Adrian encouraged people to get up and dance, and quite a few of them got up by the side of the stage to dance including an elderly lady in her sixties. Fair play I thought to myself, and good on her for still having the courage to get up there and enjoy yourself without a care in the world. Afterwards, myself and my friend both bought the new album as they had it on sale, and after a while Adrian and Troy from the band came over and signed the copies for us, which was lovely of them. In fact Troy had spotted my friend and gave him a thumbs up as he went off stage earlier. But yes, I've now met Vyvyan off The Young Ones, and he's a really nice down to earth person. So there.

We even had time back at mine for a bit of a rock fest, so with me on guitar and one of my friends on vocals I put on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock and then let the rock fest commence. As I'd imported the stuff from Band Hero, Guitar Hero 5 and Guitar Hero Metallica, it meant plenty of rocking in good way, so we did some of the poppy stuff from Band Hero and that worked quite well. I even did Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" on expert and got a massive 97% and so was pretty pleased at that too. I can remember that song well even from Wayne's World back in the day - ah old school me!

Friday 8th October - If You Wanna Be My Vocalist..

Had a bit of a long day in work (again) and actually worked over a little later than planned due to some jobs running behind schedule somewhat. I must admit I was pretty pleased to be able to nail one job where we needed to try and back up plenty of data - and it worked a treat because of the nature of how the network has become faster - so was able to transfer some files internally and do things that way - especially when using a secondary hard disk attached to the PC appeared to be failing. Ah, the old days of Windows NT...

Anyway, decided to head to the big Tesco on the way home as I wanted to get one of the birthday presents for my nephew's birthday next month, and that meant I could get that and so the usual food shopping as well. In essence that worked pretty well too, because I was able to have some more choice. Interestingly though the medium sized trolleys that work so well for me weren't available and one of the staff explained that they were being taken by the less desirables and put into vans - you couldn't make this sort of thing up to be honest!

Took the bus home and decided to have some salmon and rice for tea, which went down rather nicely. I had a chat with The Love In My Heart, and then rang my friend to see if he fancied a bit of Band Hero online action. We ended up playing for a while, although my friend isn't quite happy with the calibration of lag on the game as such because it feels like the game misses the notes that he's singing, even when changing mic. It did strike me as a bit odd, not least because I'd tried a song on vocals and nailed a pretty good score with it.

Anyway, as a further experiement and also for fun, we set it up so we were both singing vocals too. It was good to nail the likes of David Bowie's "Let's Dance" (make that tune of the day) along with Duran Duran's "Rio" (which is harder than you think) and also Culture Club's "Do You Want To Hurt Me". I lastly picked Spice Girls' "Wannabe" which was purely for fun, although how the hell I got 98% on vocals is anyone's guess to be perfectly honest. Still, it was a good bit of fun and I think when I'm next at my friend's place I might try a bit of singing just to check that the mics are okay and that the calibration is spot on. Guitar Hero World Tour seemed to work with everything zeroed, but Band Hero even with that wasn't quite right either.. Hmm.

I might have to try some more Band Hero songs on vocals though and see what happens for me - I was doing pretty well on most of them including Let's Dance when I tried it - so who knows how that'll end up? I do think that in Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock it's slightly allowed for more rockier vocals, which is a good thing for me especially when I'm going to attempt the likes of Pantera, NIN etc. Oh yes. I'll have to head back there and do some NIN right now...

Thursday 7th October - All A Board

I had had a pretty long day at work and was glad to be heading home via the Arndale Centre, as I had to pick up a present that I'd ordered. It made more sense to that and then head straight home, as the traffic that's been heading down the roads I take home has been getting pretty bad over the last few days. As it turned out, even with a pit stop in the city centre, it didn't take me that much longer to head homewards. It indeed allowed me to get some washing put in the machine and also clean the house a bit before I had the visit of The Love In My Heart.

It was good to catch up with each other and then as she was settling in to watch Emmerdale I was attending to the tea. In the end, I made us some gammon steaks with some chips and peas, and it looked the part and tasted it too. I gave her the prime position on the dining table so that she could still see the telly if she wanted to watch a bit of Emmerdale. As she was watching the second half at 8pm, this allowed me for a little bit of time with Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock and off I went with the likes of Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing" (make that tune of the day) and that kept me pleased as it went back to ITV for Emmerdale and so on.

I dug out the Scrabble later and we had a good couple of games, and at one point during a game I had three different seven letter words which I could have played, if only the board allowed me to do so. This is one of the joys and frustrations of Scrabble really - you can get good words in the head but you still need to be able to get them played on the board and have them all sorted out. It's one of those things that I contended with, and still managed to play some decent words. In fact at one point we had three different moves which were on three treble words, and the scoring was good too.

As we listened to some Swing Out Sister as we played our second game of Scrabble, it made us both think about the times we've seen the band live and really enjoyed it, and wondered just how they were doing, so I had a peekie at the official web site. Nothing to note of there, but it did seem like they may be touring the USA in 2011 - so maybe some dates over here would be good too. One of the things I've discovered a lot more about The Love and I is that if we both like the same band, a gig night becomes rather good all round with some lovely times to be had. I can remember seeing Swing Out Sister at the Lowry and being front row, and it was a joy to see them play so well, and at Shepherd's Bush Hall it was fab too for different reasons.

One of the things The Love also said to me is that she prefers it in nice small intimate venues, and I couldn't agree more with her either. Somehow, seeing a band do their thing in a smaller venue means that the sound system does the job properly, you can hear what's going on and often those that are there aren't chatting away all night as a social event instead of enjoying the music on offer. And I love the smaller venues in Manchester too - we've had happy times in the likes of Ruby Loung, Deaf Institute and Academy 3 seeing bands and really making the night special.

Wednesday 6th October - It's All Go

Another pretty busy day for me today to be honest, starting and finishing in the same office - that's not even my own. I went back to the AV room and finished off the three PCs that I set about imaging late yesterday, and got them all done. As the other two PCs had a small hard disk, what I did was pre-image a couple of hard disks and then late in the afternoon I imaged those and got them up and running once their office was closed, meaning less downtime. In the middle of that I took over a PC from repair and got that up and running for the member of staff - the hard disk had died so it was a case of changing it and getting that sorted.

I headed back to the office and was working on a new image for the PCs in our office with all our administrative stuff on - and realised that in fact not everyone might need HP Web JetAdmin on there. To be honest, the fact that it has to run SQL Server stuff does mean that occasionally it can slow machines down, so I thought that it would actually be best to remove it from the image and then if anyone needs it, they can install it on demand, making a much better use of the time and space of the machine and should in turn speed things up a bit too - and that has to be good.

I got home and bunged a Holland's pie in the oven and then had a bit of "go go go!" on the BBC F1 website as I watched the classic F1 highlights of the Japanese Grand Prix. They're not showing it on red button because of the Commonwealth Games going on, but it did mean I got to see more of the 1993 race as well, and it was a right ding dong with changing conditions between those old rivals Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, with Senna's brilliance in the rain really proving that in an inferior car you can still do the business if you have the craft - and no doubt he had. Cue the excitable Murray Walker, as ever of course.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "The Black River" by The Sword, a tune I've given a good play on Guitar Hero over the years. Unfortunately it turned out that their UK tour has been postponed due to illness so I'm now not going to see them in Leeds after all which is a bit of a shame really. I guess I'll have to find something else to do that night, especially as I've booked the trains and a Travelodge as well, which is a tad unfortunate really. Ah well, you live and learn!

Tuesday 5th October - That Monica Is Scary!

It was another long day at the office today, culminating in me starting to image two PCs in one of our AV rooms last thing. The idea is that I could start them off then and finish them off first thing in the morning so that it would mean minimal downtime for the users in there. I backed up the data off one machine and then started them both off to be imaged. It worked pretty well and it meant that I could head home, although for some reason the traffic was rather busy to say the least. It was at a crawl until the main road to get home and a normally twenty minute or so journey took almost half an hour.

I had also been into the city centre at lunch time to pick up a present and I must admit that the buy online and collect in store ethos is rather good. It means that I can still earn cashback via the Top Cashback website, and also pay less for the same item compared to what I would pay in store, so it's a win win situation all round - and that's what we want. I also took the opportunity to look in Comet in the Arndale as well quickly, and saw some possible purchases in terms of Blu-ray - but not the recorder that I really want that also records Freeview HD stuff as well. Ah well.

Later on it was lovely as ever to see The Love In My Heart, and she had come straight from work so we had some time to relax and catch up before she got changed into non-work clothes and was able to take things easy. I made us some pasta with meatballs and it turned out really well as we had a lovely tea together. She had also brought these lovely cheesecake type desserts from Sainsbury's as well, and so we had those as we snuggled up to watch Masterchef The Professionals.

Dear me - is that Monica Galetti scary or what? In both of the programmes tonight the contestants had to make something which to them should have been simple, but the way that Monica stares at you with those eyes and really makes you feel nervous as you do it is something else. And of course there is then the scathing criticism that she gives the contestants as they really fail in front of your eyes. It was no wonder in one show that only one instead of two contestants were put through after failing pretty badly for Michel Roux Jr too. I would have quite liked to have had the doughnuts he was making, mind you!

Later on we also watched "Don't Tell The Bride" on BBC Three. It was a quite different episode as it was the first time that they'd featured a civil partnership (ie: a gay wedding) and it was intriguing how the one who was designated the bride wanted it all to be posh and the other one wanted it to be a bit more camp but more in central London. It all worked out in the end and during the wedding there was even a good choice of music: no less than "I Hope You Know" by The Floe, which the two of us recognised immediately. Tune of the day methinks, and rightly so - it's a class song.

Monday 4th October - Rolling Out, Downloading In

I started one of my major projects today - the rollout of the new academic staff PC image. I thought it would make perfect sense to actually get this up and running now and be able to sort some machines out, and I'd decided in advance that I was going to start from the top floor of the building that I was working in and head downwards, and so imaged two of them in one room in the morning, and even had time to do another in the afternoon complete with a fix of a possible PC fault on another machine as well, so it was really good to get that heads up start too.

I headed homewards and noticed that a package had arrived through the door - no less than the 16GB SDHC card that I had ordered from play.com last week. You see, I thought that it would make sense to have a bigger card to store stuff on the Wii, not least because I was going to import tracks from Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero and Guitar Hero Metallica into Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock so I could play them all in there and do lots of challenges with them, but also have them in one place which made perfect sense - and a 4GB card wouldn't cut it whatsoever.

I worked out too that I could copy the content of the 4GB SDHC card to the PC and then copy that to the 16GB card and go from there. In the end it worked out perfectly well, and after testing some stuff off the 16GB card such as Wiiware games and existing SDHC content for Guitar Hero 5 in Warriors of Rock, it was then off to the music store to import the Band Hero and Guitar Hero Metallica stuff in there, which would also mean that they'd work in Guitar Hero 5 too so I could play them on that as well was Warriors of Rock too. Aha, all sensible really.

Tune of the day is "Cult" by Slayer, which I really do wish would be a download for Guitar Hero sometime soon - it's a really fast paced number at the end but the lyrics are all anti-religion which is fine by someone like me who doesn't really like it. It's intense, fast and really shows them for actually being accomplished musicians not just people who thrash their heads around either. It's good to note, that. I am sure though that on drums it'd be bloody hard but I'd still like to give it a go sometime, let me tell you.

Sunday 3rd October - Barcodes Part 2

It was an early start for me this morning, as due to Manchester City playing Newcastle at 1.30pm, I had an early train to catch home. I didn't want to go home too early otherwise as I'd had a great weekend with my friends again, and I know that it was a slightly hung over but happy me as we all gradually got up and had some coffee. It was good to see everyone before I went, and I know that the weekend had gone really well as it always does. I'll have to work out when we can have one at my place early next year and work it from there - but it'll be great to have everyone at mine again if possible.

My friend kindly gave me a lift back to Newcastle Central station (I'd have been happy to get the Metro there, it was easy enough, but he insisted) and of course quite a few Newcastle fans would be on the same train as me, which sped along down to York, across to Leeds and then across via Hebden Bridge and Rochdale back to Manchester Victoria, as the normal route back to Piccadilly was having some engineering works. The rain was lashing it down from the moment I left Newcastle to Manchester, and The Love In My Heart had come to collect me and was not getting out of her car for one moment. Don't blame her, it was hammering it down!

We soon got back to her place and my friend and his wife joined us, and soon myself and my friend braved the rain to face Newcastle at The City of Manchester Stadium, Newcastle being the original barcodes of course. It was interesting to see how we'd do after a tough game on Thursday and the squad was changed a bit because of that - but good to see Nigel de Jong back. It didn't take him long to make an impact, but unfortunately not the best way. He made a hard clean challenge on Hatem Ben Arfa and got the ball, but we could hear something crack from the stand, and it turned out that the Newcastle man had a broken tibia and fibia. It was one of those things and thankfully on Match of the Day 2 later they all said it was just one of those things with the firm tackle. But it wasn't nice to see.

City though did get forward and a challenge on Carlos Tevez brought a penalty early on. Having seen it at home later, it looked not that good a decision to be honest, but I'll take it. Tevez slammed the penalty hard and home and it was 1-0, but this only sprung the barcodes into life, and a few minutes later Jonas Gutierrez got the ball back from a Vincent Kompany clearance and slotted the ball home high and hard to make it 1-1, and they had chances to go 2-1 up too. We weren't playing so well and I thought that we needed to change things a bit after half time.

Ten minutes gone in the second half and we got our wish, with Emmanuel Adebayor coming on - and with two up front it did help change the game somewhat. We looked more potent and Adebayor was causing them problems too. On came Adam Johnson and that turned the game even more, and he soon cut inside two Newcastle defenders (including Joey Barton - haha!!) before slotting it low and hard into the bottom corner to make it 2-1. I went mental and so did Johnson, he really knew what it meant to us. We battled on for the remainder of the game and it was hairy at times but we held on for a vital 2-1 win.

This meant that we'd moved up to second, and depending on the Chelski v Arsenal score, we might stay there too. When Chelski won 2-0, although that put them back four points ahead of us, we were second in the table as of right, and two wins on the bounce have put us right up there at the start of the season. We don't know what will happen from then, but seeing us above Man U in the table does make very pleasant reading, let me tell you! It felt good as the sunshine came out almost on cue after City's second goal, and knowing what would happen.

Myself and The Love had a bit of time back at my place before heading off to see my sister and brother in law with their new baby arrival, their second child and a son to go with their daughter. They'd had the child very late Wednesday night, ago but wanted to make sure all was well before popping around with a card and some gifts. I even held my new nephew, and despite him being so tiny, his eyes were looking around all curious with a really nice nature. I had plenty of "Awwwww" moments along the way, and it just felt really nice to be able to see how happy my relatives were too - I can see him being very popular in the next few weeks.

We ended the day by heading out to The Elizabethan in Heaton Moor for tea, where I had a lovely steak and ale pie (proper pie too - get in!) and The Love had the Sunday roast beef - and even better, Fools Gold ale on cask as well, so we were able to catch up and chat properly with some nice ambience together. I really have missed her loads and it was lovely to spend some time being a couple like we should do. Tune of the day in fact is "All You Need Is Love" by The Beatles, purely for continuing the rocking from the other night, but also sums up exactly what I was feeling sat opposite her in the pub. I know. Awwwww. Again.

Saturday 2nd October - South Shields Weekender, Day Two

It was a relatively slowish wake up for us all this morning after rocking out till around 1am last night. It was great fun and more good times were planned for today, as my friend had booked us some tenpin bowling in Dunes in South Shields, which was good because it was near the beach, and they do two for one on the bowling, so it was four games for the price of two. Couldn't really argue with that and for the cost of around £9 including the shoe hire, definitely well worth doing - and I hadn't bowled properly for ages so it'd be a good test of nerve, skill and accuracy.

We spent most of the morning keeping an eye on Sky Sports News, and my friend mentioned that he was having issues getting his son's PC to connect to his wireless router. I had a quick look for him and got it sorted in less than five minutes - turned out that the wireless adapter's own utility was stopping autodetection of the correct wireless protocols, and once that was all sorted out, it was a case of connecting to it with the password and being ready to surf the web. I'd brought along a CD-ROM for them each with some audio bits on and gave that a whirl so that they could listen too - and that worked perfectly fine. Ah, the good old days when fixing stuff was easy!

It was then time to head out, so after a quick pit stop at the Sainsbury's Local near my friend's place, it was off to Simonside metro station and, having purchased a day ticket, it was then off to South Shields. The station's terminus above the main shops reminded me of Brixton tube station, that sort of feel, but it was a fair bit more sedate here. We had a quick look around a couple of the game shops and even a pub before we then headed towards the seafront and to Dunes, where some bowling action was waiting for us. I was pretty raring to go as we all were, and with them having a licenced bar, you could have beer too if you wanted (all press a button rubbish mind so I avoided that.)

The four games of bowling we had were very enjoyable fun indeed. We all scored over 100 almost all the time, and it was a case of finding the right ball to suit and making use of it. I managed okay really, although the second game we had was very tight. I needed to get at least a spare and some balls in the final go, having had a spare previous. I got nine first go, so the spare before was worth 19. This meant if I took the final pin out back left, I would then only need one on the final effort to win. I hit it, and it was a really nice moment. My friends to be fair said that under that pressure it was a good effort too. We all had a good laugh and played well, and in fact in the final game one of my friends almost got a turkey (he got a nine on the third strike effort) so that worked out pretty well too.

After that we headed around the little funfair close to the beach, and two of my friends went on the waltzer, they were much more brave than me, and then three of them got on the ride where you stand up and go round in a circle a lot. I watched from the safety of the ground and filmed a bit for them to see them whizz around in stupid speed. No wonder they were feeling a little dizzy afterwards mind you! We headed for the beach and had a walk on there, which was good, and stopped off at one of the local fish and chip places on the way back, and the fish and chips I had was spot on. My friend tried the local delicacy, a "beanie" which was basically baked beans in batter (urgh!) which was an acquired taste to say the least.

We headed back to my friend's place where we all had a bit of a rest and breather, and ended up seeing some of the Rumble in the Jungle fight between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali, before then getting freshened up and heading back on the Metro but this time into the centre of Newcastle for the evening. We were going to go in the Criterion next to the station, but that was rammed, so my friend guided us towards a pub close to one of the older Tyne bridges, affectionately called The Bridge Hotel. It's close to the old castle ruins and indeed the High Level bridge, and even had a balcony outside with some good views. The beer on here was on top form though - I had the Hexham Brewery's Shire Bitter, which was lovely and palatable, and really good as a session beer. It was a winner all the way and had we not been doing a little pub crawl, I imagine we'd have been in there for a bit longer.

It was then on from there, down the many steps from close by to the castle (believe me there were loads) and on to a rather unique place, The Crown Posada. They look after their ale well in here, and the pub is really narrrow with a long bar followed by seating, but must have been around eight feet wide at its maximum. They also had a jukebox like no other - an old turntable with some vinyl records, and the staff would change it at the end of each side, so it was The Beatles at first and then The Smiths as well - no arguments from me there. In fact I'll make "This Night Has Opened My Eyes" tune of the day because it really was an eye opener that despite all the loud bars and annoying people in outfits everywhere, there were some lovely pubs with a proper atmosphere - just like we wanted. And nice pint of Jarrow Bitter too - what more could I want?

It was then on and towards the quayside for the next stop - The Quayside. Okay so it was a Lloyds No 1 type place, but the outside courtyard was fine with the old cobbles and there were heated outside lamps so it wasn't as cold as it could have been. I had a very good pint of the local brew in here - the Big Lamp Bitter, made by the Big Lamp brewery in Newburn, not far from Newcastle. It was really nice and all three of us real ale diehards had it and loved it. I'll have to see if I can get some of that in bottled form or else it's a good excuse to head Northwards again, that's for sure.

The final stop on the little tour was all the way back up hill and towards the city centre, and this time to The Bacchus, which had won some CAMRA awards for the beer and the pub. The loos were out of action which meant a quick escape elsewhere for a wee if you needed one, but the beer was on tip top form - well my Summer Marble was anyway. It was nice to see a Manchester ale doing so well up here and knowing how good it is, I had to try it of course. It was a nice end, and so then it was off to a local takeaway for pizza and kebabs before heading to Monument metro station - only to find that the last one direct to South Shields had gone and we could only go as far as Pelaw! Anyway, we got off at Heworth as that was a local interchange and got a taxi back to my friend's place - and the driver pegged it down the main road to say the least...

Friday 1st October - South Shields Weekender, Day One

It was time for another good weekend with three of my good friends, and a change of location too. My friend who's normally up in South Shields had the place to himself this weekend, as his partner was heading away on business from Newcastle Airport Friday afternoon, and he'd arranged for one of the relations to have the kids for the weekend, so it meant room for us all to crash out but also a good base for us all to have a weekend at, and as that helps keep the costs down for all of us, that had to be a good thing. In fact it's the third different location for our weekend get togethers following a trip up to the Lakes to see my friend in Ulverston last time. I really look forward to these weekends too, they're all good people and we get on really well and have a great laugh, and isn't that what it's all about?

I headed off to Piccadilly Station around lunch time, having had sense to book the day off work, so I'd done all the domestic chores, the food shopping and everything else I needed to get done in the morning, so that was a lovely thing - I could truly relax. The iPod was on charge for the morning and it was ready for me to use as I left, so it meant some quality tunes I could listen to on the train and be away from the world. I'd also got a card this morning for The Love In My Heart, as I will miss her this weekend so I'll send her a little something to say that I love her (which I do) and write that on the train going up there.

The train journey was really fast and reliable, as Transpennine Express normally are to be honest. It sped through the countryside to Leeds, and then along to York before heading Northwards through Northallerton, Darlington and Durham before heading over the River Tyne and into Newcastle station, awash with its grand curves and architecture. My friend had also called me to say he was on his way back from the airport and would pick me up from the station on the way, and he kept me posted as to his whereabouts. I noticed that the entrance and exit to the station car park/drop off point was one way, so I moved to the bit of road before the entrance so my friend could collect me from there - a plan which worked a treat!

Our other two friends had already arrived and were having a couple of drinks at a nearby pub, so once we got there in my friend's car, we joined them for a drink ourselves and immediately all the good conversation and banter started. The good thing is we all love football too, so we were able to natter about that in the pub (seemed the right place) before heading back to my friend's house. He showed us all the sleeping arrangements, all well laid out, and his son had left me a note to say to enjoy my stay, which was a really nice thing actually. Once all settled in, we noted that the weather was a bit rubbish, but we had enough beer and food in, so we decided on a chill out Friday night.

My friend showed us the piano he has in the dining room, and he's actually a very good piano player. He was rattling off renditions of Commodore 64 themes like no one's business and doing a very good job as well, using both hands expertly. I could only stop and admire to be honest - I could never be as good playing any form of instrument whatsoever, even with lessons. It was a joy to behold and we even had a spot of "Name that C64 tune" when he was playing bits on the piano. I made a mental note to have the camera on video record mode tomorrow if he felt the urge to play them again.

Later on after some nice pizzas and some sausages plus some chicken dippers (we were spoilt, and it was good) we then decided that it'd be good fun to do some rocking out on the Wii, and so Guitar Hero 5 went on. As my friend has a guitar and a mic, we took turns to do the two person band combo and that worked out quite well in the end. It worked out even better on Rock Band The Beatles though, as we were really getting into playing the tunes and singing them as well. One lovely moment was when we played "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/With A Little Help From My Friends" and during the latter song my two friends who weren't taking part joined me to sing the chorus parts etc on vocals, and it was ace. Well, we got 99% on medium, so you work it out!

Tune of the day will have to be a Beatles one for that same reason - and it's one that I actually nailed 100% on, which was pretty good going, especially as there were some high pitched shenanigans going on there, so "Can't Buy Me Love" it is then. As with all these sorts of games, it's much more fun if you have at least two of you doing the business and rocking out, just seems more enjoyable to me - and sure enough it was a great laugh playing those and really feeling the groove of the era. We are the fab four, reincarnated!