Dear Diary... October 2012

Wednesday 31st October - Surprise Surprise!

Plenty of Halloween surprises to be honest, and not all of them were scary ones either, but instead something rather nice. I spent some time this afternoon in our Conference Office, where I was getting some preparatory work done for the replacement PCs but also imaging their current PCs as well. It was nice and relaxed too so it allowed me to crack on with things and get everything done well. It also meant I could be slightly ahead of schedule and hopefully get things done in good time for the rest of the week.

I've worked out a plan of action for the rest of the week and next week and so will need to try my utmost to keep on schedule where possible. I've also had the time to respond to a few emails and take the time out to do that in order to plan, so it's really a case of concentrating on the task in hand and making sure where possible that everything is done the right way and indeed done with the minimum of fuss. I guess I've got used to it over the last six months or so that I've really needed to try and just get the head down and get on with it massively.

I stayed back a bit after work to try and work out a few things but also see if I could work on a further plan of action down the line, and I got a text from The Love In My Heart to say that she was finishing early for the day and if we fancied meeting up. That was nice, as to be honest I was also thinking the same thing as well, and so we decided that heading to Sandbar would be a good idea. We both braved the rain and I was pretty glad that I had my Winter coat on with hood, the fact it was waterproof came in handy considering just how much it was weeing it down.

I had a very nice pint of Black Cat in there (pretty apt after all considering it was Halloween tonight) and the music being played was all of the ilk of the theme of tonight, and so the John Carpenter score from the film Halloween was being played (make the title theme tune of the day whilst I'm at it) and the place was generally being done up to be a bit more spooky with possibly a band playing there later as well, so that worked out pretty well. It was good to chat and catch up for a fair while and it was also really nice just to have that surprise.

We headed to the city centre and towards The Bank on Mosley Street where a pint of Pendle Witches Brew was waiting for me, and very nice it was too. We had a meal in there too - The Love had the gammon and eggs which looked very lovely, and I went for the chicken and mushroom pie. I didn't ask if it was a proper pie, assuming it would be one, so was a bit miffed when it came in a dish. However the pastry on top was proper pastry and there was plenty of chicken, lots of mushrooms and a nice taste to it all, so it could have been a lot worse.

With the rain still teeming down outside we headed towards the bus stop and then home, but it had been a very nice time had by us both and it meant that we wouldn't feel so lonely tomorrow night when I'm off to a gig on my own - going to see 2:54 at the Soup Kitchen you see. I didn't want to leave (I never do) but will go to sleep tonight feeling that little bit nicer inside with the Ready Brek type glow on the outside to keep me warm in these cold times. Awww. I know.

Tuesday 30th October - Wrestling With Imaging

It was a tough day at the office today, primarily because lots of time had been spent working on imaging several PCs, and not all of them succeeded at the first attempt, so it was a case of working out what had gone wrong and putting it right. That, admittedly, did put me behind a fair bit so it was good to eventually work out a plan of action to catch up and get myself right with lots of forward thinking planned - getting the relevant replacement monitors for some of the replacements being planned later in the week and loaded up but also sorting out one room with three PCs that were out of date and changing them over in double quick time all felt rather positive.

Once I got home I had a couple of nice surprises in the post, and one of which was the new album from The Floe - Simple Pleasures Live. It was recorded at The High Barn on 1st June of this year and showcases all the tracks from the five track Simple Pleasures EP plus some older songs as well, and mainly with a piano and occasional string backing. The more stripped bare it seemed to be the better it was, and I had a couple of listens all the way through just to check that what my first thoughts were rang true - in that it's an excellent album and well worth a listen.

I guess it's a direct comparison to the sort of in your face on the telly all the time X Factor artists and the exposure they have compared to two ladies who musically know where they're going and have both an accomplished pianist and a vocalist who sings so sweetly and clearly that you know exactly what the songs are about and can relate to. For me, it's no contest - The Floe win massively every time and I just wish that they'd get a little more exposure. Tune of the day is "Glove" which sounds so simple and perfect with just piano and vocals.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over, and I made us some spaghetti carbonara for tea - handy really as it's pretty quick to do but also there's a lot of the ingredients that I needed to use in the next week or so it made perfect sense to get them all done now and save some time and effort, as you do. It was nice to enjoy that together before settling in with the telly, with first George Lamb on Channel 4 and some rather different back gardens complete with all sorts including a vintage American caravan customised to be a different place to rest from home that was spectacular to say the least.

We also saw the last in the series of Don't Tell The Bride which was slightly different - the couple were both wrestlers but seemed to be madly in love with each other, with the groom doing his best - proposing when they were about to be apart for three weeks and then getting a couture person to make the wedding dress to his design. The bride liked it and the hair do was certainly different but also very striking, reminded me of something Kate Bush would do in one of her 1980s music videos and I liked that for that reason. She was very different as a bride but yet looked really nice, and the reception complete with wrestling ring somehow worked, but I wouldn't think that it did!

Monday 29th October - Dark Nights Ahead

It's a bit much when you leave work and it's now already dark, but that's how it's going to be for the next few months or so now, so I've got to get used to it. I did spend a fair bit of time though today heading from one office to the other, getting plenty of work done for one department as we were upgrading all their PCs to Windows 7 en masse. Well, sort of en masse, I was trying to do it so that I wasn't disturbing too many people at once. I did at least though manage to get a few of the desktops done and it seemed pretty smooth and seamless on the whole.

One laptop did bug me a little as for some reason I couldn't see it in the SCCM server for absolutely ages, despite the fact that I know that the machine was in the Active Directory domain with the correct name. I tried a repair of the SCCM client, restarted, and bingo! There it was. Might have to remember that in future I have similar problems like that again. I did also have two laptops to sort out as well (both non-standard Toshibas so I had plenty of fun digging out the hotkey drivers and the likes for those).

I headed into the city centre after work as I wanted to get a couple of bits of wrapping paper and possibly a birthday card as well, but found that almost all the card shops are now set for Christmas and not much else, meaning that their usual stocks of cards aren't as good as they normally are. I eventually did find some good wrapping paper in Asda on the way home, but the journey to the city wasn't wasted as I picked up a Christmas present along the way, so making the journey thoroughly worthwhile.

Also what I've been excited about is that lots of the Frank Zappa albums are being re-released on CD, but unlike the first reissues on Rykodisc which were effectively the albums remixed by Zappa himself, here the reissues this time, with the Zappa Family now owning all the rights of the back catalogue again, are all from the original vinyl masters. Yes, that's right. So now many people who've never heard the original vinyl version will get to hear his iconic "Hot Rats" album as it was released. It's worth it just to hear the original versions, notably "Willie The Pimp" with vocals by Captain Beefheart and some storming guitar work - tune of the day obviously.

Sunday 28th October - Coffee Shopping In The Rain

The clocks went back last night of course which gave The Love In My Heart and I a well deserved extra hour in bed, so that's always good. It was looking pretty horrid weather wise though and I didn't particularly want to go for a long walk if it was going to pee it down, and neither did The Love. I got up eventually, made us some nice sausage toasties and had a coffee with it, just the thing to get us awake. Once we got ourselves ready we thought it'd be a nice idea to head out to John Lewis in Cheadle and have a nice mooch around there.

It actually worked out good for us both in terms of freebies as on the ground floor there were people from both the Dolce Gusto and Tassimo brands of coffee makers showing off their wares and giving away samples of coffee. We tried the Dolce Gusto one first which seemed pretty simple to use, and the coffee came out all nice and lovely, even if it was a bit more milky than we'd first thought it would be. It did taste nice though and certainly was spot on to warm myself up with the cold weather outside.

We then went to the Tassimo counter and thought we'd give them a try, not least because of course they have exclusivity over being able to use Costa Coffee in their pods. I went for the Americano as I knew that there was some milk to go with it, and it was very nice - in fact even better than the Costa Express machines you see in the likes of Tesco to be honest. The Love was suitably impressed and I think that might just swing it for me and any others who might be interested in such a machine in the future too.

It was interesting to see just how much Christmas stuff was already in there though considering it was late October, but on the other hand I suspect like many other retailers they know that everyone can't do their shopping in one go any more and are spreading the cost out over many months, and so I guess the idea is that they capture the market that way. We did notice this too when we headed down the road to Stanley Green Retail Park and saw the same thing with Next and TK Maxx too. In fact I saw quite a few winter jackets similar to the one I eventually got online that I'd seen one of in TK Maxx in the city centre first - so maybe in future heading out of town might be better to get what I want?

We headed to the Ashlea pub in Cheadle on the way back and settled in by the fire in their nice lower ground cosy area, which was full of books in their book amnesty but also a local real ale guide which in turn alerted me to an application for Android phones which showed you the nearest pub awarded the Cask Marque for looking after their real ale. As a test I searched for Penzance in Cornwall and sure enough up came the Dolphin - had a few nice pints in there and so I had to give the app the approval really.

Back at mine I made us the tea, all part of the Tesco Finest Meal Deal for two for £10 (clearly inspired by M&S, but no bad thing I guess) - we had the lemon and herb chicken with a gorgeous centre filling of garlic too, and had some minted pea mash which worked well. I had some steam fresh veg to go with that and we had the Valencia orange and apricot tarts to have for dessert, remarkably light and gorgeous. There was also a bottle of the Fiano wine which The Love had, and she's had that before and said it was pretty nice, so happy evenings all round there.

The evening was then spent with me watching the F1 highlights from India, followed by indulgence for The Love with The X Factor and Robbie Williams' new single (cue unexcited bored shouts of "woo" from me anyway) before seeing one of the girls go out. Well, serves her right for doing the Sugababes' "Freak Like Me" which only found success because of several Gary Numan riffs in the song from "Are Friends Electric?" In fact, let's make the Numan track tune of the day - there, feel better already. And then it was on with Downton Abbey and the latest developments in the saga. I suspect there's plenty going to happen next week for the last in the series mind you!!

Saturday 27th October - Swanning About Poorly

It was back to the routine of the Premier League for Manchester City today, which meant myself and my friend were off to the Etihad Stadium to hopefully see City bounce back after their pretty disastrous defeat at Ajax during midweek. We were both a tad apprehensive though and just wondered if we were really going to be any good after appearing quite tired and also frustrated, and also with the late kick off on telly, what that would do to any pre-match preparations. I knew one thing though - we needed the three points which at least would take us to second until the Chelski v Man U game tomorrow.

But first before all that excitement, it was off to do the food shopping at the large Tesco, and I managed to get something for tea tonight and tomorrow night for myself and The Love In My Heart, who was staying over Sunday night as well as Saturday, which was a nice change for me but also something which might take some adjusting - The Love after all did want to watch the X Factor results as well as Downton Abbey, so there you go. I also then spent some time during the Saturday rocking out on Rock Band 3, managing Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" on guitar with suitable aplomb. I even did hard bass on The Cult's classic "She Sells Sanctuary" and did very well, so tune of the day right there because it's a classic rock anthem.

My friend came over and we were off to the Etihad, and as we'd got there a bit earlier than usual we headed to City Square, where there was the band Black Lights playing a few songs (only the drummer was a City fan in fact) and their song "The Enemy" is bloody ace, and well worth a listen if you get the chance to. Having a coffee and relaxing in the square seeing that was a good pre-match build up, and it goes that City are way ahead of their rivals when it comes to decent pre-match entertainment, enhancing the supporter experience.

We got to our seats and hoped that despite the weather getting a tad colder, that we'd be able to make easy weather of it today. Not a chance though. We didn't hit anything other than first gear, and Swansea had the best of the chances with Michu, one which was offside and the other where he went clean through but was stopped very well by Joe Hart. We just couldn't get going and any crosses in were woeful, with Aleksandar Kolarov in particular not playing so well - no wonder he got subbed at half time. A lot of City fans booed the team off at half time, that's how poor we were.

The second half substitution did bring the team more into life a bit, with Sergio Agüero going close, and Mario Balotelli possibly being held back when through, but apart from that it degenerated a bit into dourness, only woken into life by a thunderous strike from Carlos Tévez which from almost thirty yards out nestled its way to the bottom corner. The Swansea keeper Michel Vorm landed awkwardly and injured himself, which took a few minutes to sort out, and also Micah Richards later on did his knee in without any challenge close by prompting a lengthy stoppage, so much so that we had twelve minutes of added on time at the end.

It wasn't the best game ever and the result was far more important than anything else, but nonetheless nine games unbeaten, six wins and three draws, with twenty one points is very good going, so we can't be too upset. Just wish we could play a bit better like I know we can and start to destroy teams like we were doing last season. I think it also goes to show that the struggle we've had all season to hit form hasn't hurt us massively domestically, but when you up a notch in Europe and teams finish you off, we've been found out a fair bit.

The Love In My Heart and I headed to mine later on, and I made us some tapas which I'd got this morning, and we even had some tortilla chips and dips to keep us occupied as The Love watched The X Factor. I just couldn't work out what the Halloween theme was, just a very loose connection for everyone to do the songs they wanted, and nothing related to spooky as such. If I was pushed, I'd have to say that the last guy (James I think he's called) did a more edgy version of Sweet Dreams, more akin to Marilyn Manson's cover and that deserved a little praise (but not that much as he'd gone on such a bobbins show in the first place, hey ho...)

Friday 26th October - Eating Out Twice

I had a busy day today but it was mainly imaging PCs for Windows 7, and in fact I'd actually got two desktops for a purchasing project who were temporarily being housed in one of our buildings to swap out, and also got one of their laptops ready too. I also then went over to another department, and two of their machines were done, and also took one of the laptops and got that done before the rest of the day was up too. I felt pretty productive and pretty positive, not least as I'd treated myself on the way in with a nice Costa Coffee in the morning from the Tesco Express close to work.

I went out for lunch with one of my work colleagues (and a friend too) who is based at another site. I decided that lunch in Odder on Oxford Road was a good idea, as the food is good in there. It didn't let me down either, I had the ham and mushroom pizza with bags of flavour and my friend had the smaller version of the English breakfast, which still looked plentiful and rather nice. I even had a nice pint of the Acorn Blonde real ale as well that they had on cask, so kudos to them for stocking it I reckon.

After work I had a bit of a mad sort of rush on, I headed home, got showered and changed, got my nice new shirt ironed and headed into the city centre to meet up with The Love In My Heart in Kro in Piccadilly. It was busy but we managed to find a space to stand and have our drinks by a table, and our friend came in shortly and was happily chatting away - his partner was a little delayed in getting there but sure enough turned up quicker than we expected, and with the time ticking away far too quickly it was time to head for a nice evening meal out.

And that we did - it was at the Grill on New York Street, just behind Piccadilly Plaza and seemed to have a really nice intimate setting. It was also very warm in there though so I was pretty glad I hadn't layered up massively in the meantime. It was tough what to decide to have but we had some little warmed loaves of bread with some olives as we decided on the main - The Love went for the steak sandwich with some very nice chips, our friend and partner both chose the burgers which looked good, and I did the fish and chips which was spot on - and a generous amount of fish as well!

After a very nice meal indeed, we headed to one of the pubs in the city centre for a drink, and although the real ale was spot on (they had a Dunham Massey seasonal ale which tied in with Halloween) for our liking there were way too many loud women screeching in conversation which became annoying, so once we drank up we headed to the Lass O'Gowrie. Not only was it much more comfortable and warm being sat in the snug, and admiring all the hand drawn pictures of the likes of Doctor Who in black and white, but the ale was on form and they did a bottle of wine for around £8 which was better for people to share too - result!

Even more of a result was that in keeping with its retro gaming feel, in one part of the pub they had a few arcade machines - not least Paperboy, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but best of all - Track and Field!! As this is one of my all time favourite arcade games of all time, you can imagine that I just had to have a go. Well, two, actually. I even managed to get through all six events on the second attempt and as it was on tournament play, it was game over after that but had produced a pretty good score nonetheless. Yaay! Tune of the day is going to be Vangelis' classic theme from the film "Chariots of Fire" which also happens to be the tune that plays during Track and Field if you manage to complete the game as well. And I did.

We headed back then towards Piccadilly so that we could all get our respective buses and trams back home, and we'd all had a very nice night indeed - good company, lovely food and beer, and above all that, some great conversation too. It just feels good to have had a Friday night out for a change with The Love and I'm hoping that it's the start to another great weekend, well if City manage to win tomorrow that is of course! I went to sleep very relaxed and very happy indeed.

Thursday 25th October - Fighting Fit

It was a pretty busy day today as I managed to work on quite a few projects at the same time and also be able to try and get what I could done with regards to the Windows 7 rollout. We're actually getting a department done in a few weeks time and a lot of them are due new kit, and so as such it means that we're getting some of that new kit ready for staff so that when we get to do that rollout, it's all ready to go. My colleague and I spent some time imaging those machines and also I've been testing a couple of things for another office, who need access to a program that requires a certain mapped drive. So far, so good.

After work it wasn't time to head home, instead it was off to Toys R Us in the Central Retail Park to pick up a Christmas present that I'd ordered online for one of my relations. It was the only place that had what I wanted and it was also at the right price too, so that was good to get it all sorted. What made me smile was that the staff were very friendly and also attentive, one of them saw I was waiting at customer collections and came over to assist, and with a smile too. It's the little things in my view that make a massive difference in the grand scheme of things.

On the bus to The Love In My Heart, it was a bit worrying though. I was sat upstairs towards the front and at the back all I could hear was "are you looking at me?" and sure enough there was one bloke with his girlfriend who looked like he was going to get into a fight with another bloke who was sat at the back, with the bloke and girlfriend giving him the eyes. The bloke got up, tried to launch forward and hit, and instead ended up glancing against a woman sat behind, with plenty of swearing to boot. Idiotic behaviour with him threatening to "knife yer" against the other man. I just hope the bus got that on CCTV as it wasn't particularly pleasant.

I got to The Love's place safe and sound, and we had a lovely evening meal - a pork steak with mushrooms and a lovely sauce, complete with dauphinoise potatoes and vegetables, and it hit the spot really well. It got us in the mood for food too as The Great British Bake Off Masterclass was on later, with both Mary and Paul guiding you through some of the trickier bakes out there. It was good fun especially as you could tell that there was a bit of banter between them too.

We settled in for the evening as The Love then watched Emmerdale on ITV1 +1, and we even saw the feature afterwards about all the affairs that had been going on, and plenty of them as well. The Love remarked how Charity's hair cut was massively different years ago with a shot crop, and how some of the families have grown together or grown apart depending on the affairs, and how also that clothes and hair styles changed too. The Love has a soft spot for Marlon I reckon judging by the comments she made during tonight!

Tune of the day though has to be something I've had in my head for most of this week, and for no apparent reason either - "Sensoria" by Cabaret Voltaire. Admittedly I'd played the 12" single the other night and it just now seems to have got stuck inside me, with lots of me wanting to attempt to sing the vocals and then realise that I'd look pretty stupid if I was on my own with no one around. It's got one killer beat though and it's that which really draws you in, especially on the 12" mix, which is the one to listen to.

Wednesday 24th October - Disappointed

First off, the bad bit of the day out of the day. I ended up listening to Radio 5 Live to listen to Manchester City's game at Ajax and kind of wish massively that I hadn't bothered, so bad were we. We had been poor from the start of the game and yet had managed to break away and take the lead through Samir Nasri after twenty minutes or so, and yet Ajax pressed on, equalised at half time, and capitalised on some very poor City defending to not only take the lead but also go 3-1 up as well. It simply wasn't good enough and by the sound of Robbie Savage, we were simply poor. As Morrissey would have sung, "Disappointed" is putting it mildly (that's tune of the day by the way)

And talking of disappointed, another thing too. I had been notified yesterday that there was a photo competition over at Hour Manchester, where they were after shots taken in the last month or so, so that they may (if picked of coruse) feature in a coffee table style book and the money raised go to charity. All seemed good I thought and so I created an online profile and started to upload some entries for submission, only to then read on their blog that they had closed entries. However, they'd stated publicly on the Manchester Flickr group forum that the closing time was midnight tonight. Hmm...

Thankfully the working day wasn't too bad. I'd spent some time today sorting out a few issues with a printer and realised that we needed to get the engineers out from our suppliers to look at it. It seemed to have everything set right and was also set to talk to the central server, but for some reason wasn't playing ball at all. I did see the engineer this afternoon whilst out and about and so hoped that he'd managed to get an idea what was going on and get it sorted.

I had also a course committee meeting this afternoon and that was good to go to - not least as a lot of the academic staff are people I get on pretty well with, so that's something. It was good to be able to positively respond to any queries but also put across how things are with us, and so at least be honest with them. I was also able to give some live updates during the meeting as I had the laptop with me, and so was able to accurately get an idea of what was happening and let them know (not least as one of the systems used had an account synch issue and so was able to report that live to them - get me)

I think too that over the next month or two I might be having to work longer hours than intended, because we're really needing to push on massively with getting Windows 7 out to the masses. On the whole we have a schedule for staff now which we need to make sure we stick to, and also it takes some understanding from them to realise that we need to get this done ASAP. Most people have been pretty good and realised that and so are doing what they can to be helpful, which is a good thing. We shall see how it goes...

Tuesday 23rd October - Baking To The Future

It was a busy day in the office today, mainly because I'd been working on a few things at the same time. One of them happened to be that our Exchange server appeared to be down, hence lots of people calling us asking if there was an issue (which there was). Thankfully it seemed to be that everyone had the same issue, so it made more sense for our central team who deal with the email to get onto it with highest priority and get it sorted. I could log in though with my full AD account username, so at least I had a workaround and could get some staff in as they needed to be.

I also spent some time working on a staff laptop that had been brought into us for imaging to Windows 7. The laptop thankfully imaged first go, which was good, but on top of that the person who requested the upgrade had also asked for a raft of additional software to go on. A lot of which had been packaged for SCCM distribution so at least we were able to easily get that lot done, and a few others I had to either download or install from a pen drive which the user had thankfully provided with the installers on, so that did save me some time.

It was then over to one of our departments in another building, and I started off their remaining PCs to be imaged as well that we had arranged to do. What was good was that most of them were already pre-warned and so were switched off ready to go. That made life easier and I was hoping that most of the PCs will have finished overnight so saving us less time during tomorrow. I got that all started and then headed back to the office and then home, where I'd start to prepare the tea before The Love In My Heart would be coming over.

I made us some chicken kievs with some charlotte potatoes and some vegetables, and that was nice and wholesome, perfectly timed so we'd finish eating before The Love would be watching Emmerdale. She watched that and relaxed and then we saw a nice little programme on BBC Four, where it was Timothy Spall and his wife in a large barge heading along the Cornwall coast and spending plenty of time moored on the Helford River. It seemed all very nice and serene with the two of them enjoying the landscape. Tomorrow they'll be around the Lizard and in Newlyn, and that should be good.

Afterwards it was time for the Great British Bake-Off, but as the current series had ended this looked back at the contestants from the previous series and how the experience changed their lives. The top three had different stories to tell - Holly has become a roving reporter for BBC Radio Leicester and even has hosted her own radio show, Mary-Anne has been a creative consultant in terms of cakes and baking for a tea room in Cardiff, and Jo has written a book with baking recipes and appeared on various BBC Good Food shows as well as doing baking classes from her kitchen. All good fun and you could even see Mel Giedroyc's slightly more drastic hairdo from Series 2 (she looks tons better this series)

Then it was Don't Tell The Bride on BBC Three. Dear me, what was that bloke from Wigan thinking of, having the wedding in Magaluf, with the reception at Lineker's Bar for crying out loud? A mile away from the much classier and nicer Haigh Hall which the bride wanted (and I could see why - the views from the place alone made it massively worth it in my view) and it represented everything that makes the British abroad seem loutish and almost want to be like being in Blackpool or somewhere like that. I think the bride could have walked out especially after seeing those ghastly bridesmaids dresses, but love is blind sometimes I reckon. Tune of the day featured on the programme, and suited up that mood: "D is for Dangerous" by Arctic Monkeys. Oh, so true!

Monday 22nd October - Connecting Walls

It was a busy and yet productive day in the office, for many reasons. First off, I had to image a couple of machines in one of the buildings, who had specifically asked to be upgraded as they were on a course all day. I'd managed to set things off in the morning but what took the time was that our SCCM server was being a bit icky, but that somewhat helped to my advantage in a strange way as it meant that after imaging the renaming steps were a fair bit quicker, and so had them done.

What did though take time later in the day was a full install of Adobe CS6 Master Collection (64bit at that) - I'd remembered that the member of staff concerned had got a licence and so made sure that her machine was Windows 7 64-bit imaged, and then it took a fair bit of time to get the install done - simply because there's so much of it and because Acrobat Pro X also goes on as part of the install too. It was good to stay back a bit and get that done though which meant the member of staff would be able to use the machine first thing in the morning and that's a positive thing as far as I can see.

I headed home later on, had some haddock with lemon rice for tea, and settled in for the evening with Only Connect on BBC Four. I have to say that I really liked that green dress which Victoria Coren had on tonight - suited her well and made her look very lovely (which she usually is). I must admit I got some of the connections myself and in the connecting walls once I'd made one connection I did solve it, as did the winners of tonight's show who were on fine form, especially in the sequences round as well. It does test the brain but is perfectly suited to BBC Four as well, fitting right in with their more intellectual programming.

I also finished off my Christmas wish list, so that The Love In My Heart could have it and peruse accordingly. I think that I managed pretty well to get a lot of varied things on there, but also a few surprises along the way. I also had a quick email from my sister to say that one present for my nephew for Christmas sounded good, so I'll get that ordered in the next few days to make it another present ticked off the list of stuff to get. I think overall that it's quite good to get started because then I can get to say early December and relax with it all done, and deservedly put the proverbial feet up.

Finally to end the day I had on The Sword's second album "Gods of the Earth" which sounds really heavy and doom-laden, and really does test the low end capabilities of any rig. It just sounds really low but also really rocking as well, and "The Black River" is a perfect case in point - just really does have lots of breaks in it, some heavy drum riffs and crunching guitar, just the sort of thing you want really. Tune of the day it is, makes me want to dig out Guitar Hero Metallica and play that track on drums, guitar and vocals. Oh yes indeedy.

Sunday 21st October - Shopaholic

The Love In My Heart last night had a lovely meal over at Mum's, along with my brother and his girlfriend. The pate was nice to start, the lamb with all the trimmings was an excellent main and the wonderful apple pie for dessert filled us all up very nicely. I'd brought some beers over and my brother really took to the Stone Faced ale from the Lymestone brewery, and it was good to see everyone and have a natter with them. I was getting tired and a little sleepy though so it was good to head home in a taxi and have a well earned sleep.

We decided to head out for some shopping and retail therapy today, primarily because I wanted to head to Cheshire Oaks to get myself a couple of things and possibly do some Christmas and birthday present shopping into the bargain. The Love had some ideas too and so off we set down the M56 and on the M53 for the tiniest bit before heading off and to Cheshire Oaks. The car park was pretty rammed but we spotted someone leaving and we were just behind to get right into the space, and right close to the shops as well. Get in there!

We took a walk around and the first stop was the Fred Perry outlet. Last time I was here I got this nice blue and green check shirt which I've often worn when wanting to look good out and about, and it was at a vastly reduced price as well so really did get a bargain. I saw this lovely red white and blue almost tartan-like check number which The Love liked and so did I, and one try later that was me well and truly sorted. It had been reduced from £72 to £36, which for that brand is pretty cheap really, so it just had to be mine. Might wear that when we head out on Friday night.

We also took a good look around all the shops and did a complete circuit, and in Clarks I managed to get a pair of shoes which would be my everyday work pair - the previous pair I got didn't have a proper leather upper and so the upper would just come off which wasn't too good. However I saw this pair and they were proper leather throughout, in black, and also featured their "air" system and so felt rather light on the feet as well, and in my size. The price was half price (£34.99 instead of £69.99) and so that was me well sorted on that side. Sometimes you just know when an item is right for you.

I also visited a few other stores and managed to get a birthday present for my nephew (which my sister took a look at when I sent her the online link and gave it the thums up) and a present for Mum, as well as a few Christmas presents as well. I ended up spending a fair bit admittedly but knew I'd just been paid and so was able to afford it. The Love had managed also to get herself a nice gift set from one shop (again as a Christmas present) and also got a few nice little items for herself along the way. It was just a nice leisurely afternoon's worth of shopping really.

We then headed over to the other retail park close by to Cheshire Oaks where a quick stop there resulted in two more Christmas presents and a birthday present being purchased (I was on a roll me!) before we headed to the pub close by. They do buy one get one free on the main meals plus they have decent real ale on cask, and this time around they had Hobgoblin and Boondoggle! Two quality ales there but had to go for the Hobgoblin. The Love had the beer battered fish and chips, and the fish was massive. I went for the steak and gammon, where you got a 5oz rump and a 10oz gammon with chips, peas and onion rings - which would keep me going for the rest of the day. Oh yes.

We got home later on and The Love headed homewards to watch The X Factor (noooo!) and Downton Abbey, whilst I got on with some housework and also finishing off the Christmas lists (well almost). I did however watch Dragons' Den and I had to laugh when the first contestant on there wanted a mere £150,000 for 1% of the business - yes, that wasn't a typo, he really did want one per cent. Needless to say that he was soon shot down in flames afterwards and didn't get very far, but had to giggle when one of the people wanting cash was the same name as one of our work colleagues at another site!

Then I stayed with BBC HD to watch the documentary "You've Been Trumped", which if you live in the UK, you absolutely must watch on BBC iPlayer, I implore you. It follows the story of the local residents of the Menie Estate, near the village of Balmenie a few miles north of Aberdeen. The sand dunes where they lived were an area of scientific importance and natural beauty, and the local residents were proud of that. Donald Trump wanted to build a golf course there and despite having the planning application refused on environmental grounds, managed to convince Alex Salmond to pull the application to the Scottish Parliament and get it passed there - overriding the local council's (in my view) correct decision to refuse.

As the documentary went on you could see how the local people were intimidated, how one former professor of the University there decided to hand back his honorary degree in protest at Trump being awarded an honorary by the University, and how in all this the strength and resolve of the locals, including one man who used to work with The Clash. "Janie Jones" was played during the documentary and that was tune of the day - just fitted the moment perfectly. There were also contrasts with the classic 1980s film Local Hero (clips were used to emphasise this) and that again was done well and showed just how similar things actually were between fact and fiction.

One scene that will remain with me is when the two film makers went to the estate offices to try to help one of the residents get their lack of water supply sorted. The estate officer clearly was threatening towards them, and must have seen where they were going as a couple of hours later had the local police arrest them for no reason - they were filming from private land with the home owners' consent (perfectly legal as far as I know) and documenting the changing landscape around them. It smacked of the police and council effectively being bought, and that both sickened and angered me in equal measures.

As someone who genuinely cares for the environment, it was bad enough seeing such an area of natural beauty being destroyed in such a way by workers who clearly didn't understand the remit and were doing what they wanted to do regardless. Also, to call the locals as living in slums was a bit callous, not as least one of the buildings in question is a Grade II listed former lighthouse station which had been converted carefully into a house and actually kept all the original features. I could go on of course but I hope you get the idea - and do watch it with an open mind and see what you think.

Saturday 20th October - CD Temptation

I had a plan of action today in that I wanted to try and get hold of the album by Hey, Rube! which features no less than Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire in a collaboration for the whole project, and from the samples I'd heard online certainly seemed quite a good and somewhat experimental album, right up there with what CV did best of course. I had a suspicion though that being released on a small indie label might mean it difficult to find, even if we do have a couple of decent indie record shops.

First port of call though was The Northern Cutter on Oldham Street to go and get my hair cut - it needed doing and I wanted to look neat and tidy for The Love In My Heart as we'd be off to Mum's later on to have a very nice evening meal along with my brother and his girlfriend. It was also the chance to have some good football banter whilst I was in there as well, so set off the morning rather well. I went into Vinyl Exchange and Piccadilly Records for the CD I was after, but no joy whatsoever, so headed on down Market Street.

I went into HMV and there was no joy there (perhaps sadly but also unsurprisingly). I did check the DVD and Blu-Ray selections upstairs for some ideas for presents and came up with a couple, so all was good there I reckon. I headed back down Market Street, turned off for Fopp and was happily perusing the CDs. I didn't find the Hey, Rube! album and so resigned myself to ordering it online later when I got home (which is pretty much what I did, so I'm looking forward to that coming in the next few days.)

However, there was plenty of temptation in Fopp, not least when I saw the Frank Zappa "Hot Rats" CD. I wondered why it was £12 and then when I carefully read the back inlay, I knew why. The original vinyl version has at long last been reissued on CD properly, without no remixes or anything - just the vinyl as was but remastered so it sounds rather lush without losing any feel of the original. I suspect that my brother as well as I might be rather pleased to hear about that and that did tempt me, but I had my eyes also on a couple of new releases.

In the end, I got four CDs, two of which were in their "Swap Shop" section for a mere £2 a throw. Okay, so they've been used, but they both looked like they were well looked after, so perfect to get Black Flag's "Damaged" and Bat for Lashes' "Two Suns" with a nice card foldout sleeve for that price. In fact the new Bat for Lashes album was one of the reasons I went into Fopp, so of course that had to be purchased as well (I'd heard a couple of tracks from it and liked what I heard, so thought "why not?"). I also saw near the front counter that there were two CDs for £15, but the only one I fancied was Garbage's 2012 release "Not Your Kind of People". Looking at the back, it was £7 for that CD, so I'd still be better off buying the one anyway. Haha!!

So with CD purchases done, I headed over to the Virgin Money Lounge where a cup of coffee would be there with my name on it. I love relaxing in the lounge and sat on the top floor overlooking King Street is rather relaxing especially with Football Focus on in the background. I also had a quick browse on the iMac in there as I wanted to see if I could spot if the Zappa CD was indeed the original recording, and one fan site confirmed it (and had comparisons between all the CD editions!) with other fans raving about it, so one future purchase to note I think.

Back at home, on went the Bat for Lashes album, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. Thankfully the whole album is as good as the tracks I'd heard thus far and it sounds more mature, insightful but also with some gorgeous melodies which underpin the tracks so well. "Horses of the Sun" reminds me of PJ Harvey at her peak (no bad thing because I've loved the last few albums by her). The opening track "Lilies" sets it all off perfectly well though and has that slightly dark edge whilst sounding epic, so tune of the day right there. I suspect already that with more listens this is going to grow into an album I will very much like, so I made the right decision. Yaay for buying new CDs on the week of release.

Friday 19th October - The Friday Night Spiders From Mars

It was another long day in work but I could see some proverbial light coming at the end of a dark tunnel this month. I also came to the rescue of a member of staff who had had issues with her Blackberry not working. For some reason there was no response from her initial call so she had rang me to see what I could do. It wasn't that difficult to fix either - she had turned off the mobile network in her network settings and so that meant no mobile signal, and hence no bringing down her Blackberry emails over 3G. I also added the staff wireless network connection as well at the same time so making life a lot easier - aren't things good when they work?

I also had been working on the final installs of Adobe InCopy for the marketing staff, and a couple of the machine names I'd been given were the wrong ones, and so once I managed to speak to the staff and get the right name, I got the SCCM advert to run on those machines and happily install. One of the staff on another site had mailed me in a panic, but once she realised the software had been installed and was already running happily, that made her day. I like making people's days - it just gives you so much of a boost sometimes without realising it.

I headed to Tesco on the way home from work and realised that I needed quite a few things for around the house as well as food, so as well as the usual bits of food, such as stuff to make my lunch during the week and also some wine for tomorrow night for The Love In My Heart, it was also time for me to get cleaning stuff, fabric conditioner and bin bags as well, and just easier to get it all done in one go so I could head home and relax for the evening, and once I'd had some smoked haddock with some lemon rice for tea, that was what exactly I was going to do.

I checked my Freeview HD recorder box and noticed there was a recording I'd not seen for a few months from BBC Four - which was a documentary about David Bowie and how the whole Ziggy Stardust era and character came to be. Expertly narrated by Jarvis Cocker, it really gave insight into how Bowie had struggled earlier in his career but eventually had managed to escape the shackles of one hit wonder ("Space Oddity" of course) and become an artist everyone wanted to be. The whole Ziggy Stardust album really shows how some of the previous works was a sign of what was to come and how it all fell together well.

The more intriguing aspect was what would happen to the band, as the "Spiders from Mars" and how the drummer in particular was shafted in terms of not being paid the same but also amongst the last to know that Bowie would announce during late 1973 that one show would be his last. It had some excellent input from Mick Ronson's widowed wife, who really could see the inspiration happen, contemporaries such as Elton John waxing lyrical and the likes of Hooky formerly from New Order also explain just how it was an influence to so many. A great watch and one well worth seeing if BBC Four ever repeat it.

Unsurprisingly tune of the day is from that era, but "The Jean Genie" from the Aladdin Sane album, which was of course the one after Ziggy Stardust. Seeing that live Top of the Pops performance from early 1973 showed how much Bowie was on a roll and how the band really were tight live (and unusually for TOTP this was a live performance). It's also one of my favourite Bowie songs which was mercifully ripped off by The Sweet for "Blockbuster" as well (check the bass line and opening riffs if you don't believe me!)

I also then spent some time working out a Christmas wish list. For many years now I've compiled a list so that people know what to get me (notably as I have quite a few CDs I wouldn't want anyone to get me something I already have) and it also means that because I make it such a large list, I'll get something lovely and won't necessarily know what that is, so it's actually pretty good to work out. It was a good hour or two on online shops checking out some possibilities but also what I might be purchasing for myself first...

Thursday 18th October - Scrabbling For Points

It was a fairly long day in the office and I stayed behind a bit to tie up some loose ends as well as draft an email which had to go to a few people tomorrow, but wanted manager's clearance before sending the email out. The time spent back though also meant I was able to try and catch up a bit in general after having to do a lot of running around during the day. I did though manage to get a few things sorted including a couple of PC replacements as well as be able to fix a few printers as well.

I also was then able to try out my package for the German Language Proofing Tools for Office 2010, and that worked first time on the office laptop and when rolled out to the member of staff, that worked really well too so they were most pleased with our speed of response. I also packaged the Italian tools as well just in case any of our Languages staff might need it in the future, it makes sense to do it now and then it's ready in case it's needed. I counted over 30-40 languages though so you could have a bit of a field day if you wanted to.

Once I'd got home I spent some time on Rock Band 3 having a bit of a guitar blast for the time being, and just nicely nailing a little couple of songs, and then set to work on the pasta bake that I was doing for myself and The Love In My Heart. I timed it pretty well so that when I put it in the oven by the time she came over, Emmerdale was starting and so when it had finished, the evening meal was ready, so that was all good. It was my usual lovely chorizo pasta bake which went down very well with us both, and set us up to have a relatively relaxing evening together.

We played Scrabble together for the first time in a while, and I put on the new Icicles album "Renegade Parade" as well, which served as lovely background music whilst The Love told me a lovely story about the World Cup dog Pickles and how the National Football Museum are attempting to turn that into an interactive children's story, which to me makes perfect sense - a bit of history, themed on football, and with lots of simple breakdowns to make history a bit more fun. Good that if you ask me.

On we played, and The Love produced the seven letter word ADVERTS which was pretty impressive. It was a shame it was played off an existing D (she actually had a D tile herself) and nowhere to put the S down for a plural of something else, or it'd have been plenty of points. Was still very impressed though and throughout there were some good moves, such as DOZEN on a double word and stuff like that. It was just nice to take it relatively easy and relax and make the evening so peaceful, and we had plenty of hugs afterwards (because it's lovely!)

Tune of the day does come from the aforementioned Icicles album. Even though a lot of the tracks are more mature and insightful they thankfully haven't lost that pop edge which made me like the band in the first place, what The Love calls "happy songs". And I can see just why when you hear "Sunshine", short, sharp, sweet and clocking in at under two minutes but with lots of happy pop brilliance. One day there'll be no X-Factor and the people will realise how bloody brilliant this band are, but until then... they're our little secret.

Wednesday 17th October - Rock On!

I had another pretty busy day of it all, and I had another course committee to attend to this afternoon. It was quite good though as it meant that I was able to see some of the staff on one of the courses that I get on really well with, including the director of studies, who's a really lovely person too. It's nice when it's like that and I was able to provide the information they needed and generally get on with things well. It did make me feel more positive about things and put me on the right footing.

I also had a dilemma to help one of my colleagues sort out, as an academic was after the German proofing tools for Office 2010. I do know that previously we used to have to do the installs from a separate DVD disc from Office, and one of our colleagues who deals with licencing confirmed that we do have a licence for the extra tools as well, and provided me with a disk ISO image, which I then burned. I then noticed that each of the languages has its own little MSI installer to install the tools, but trying that proved to be no success - nooo!

I then did a bit of research on the IT Ninja website and it turned out that a simple edit of the MSI with Orca to create a transform recommended removing a single line from the MSI itself, and once that was done and the MST transform made, I simply chucked that on to the SCCM server, and then added the transform command in to the MSI command line, and Bob should very much be everyone's uncle. I'll have to give that a blast tomorrow and see what happens.

After heading over to my uncle's for a bit and seeing my cousin for his birthday (he quite liked the card too, always a bonus) I then headed back home to relax a fair bit and as it turned out, indulge in an evening of online rocking with Rock Band 3. I first of all though played the game with the guitar and ended up doing one road challenge to complete the set, which was good going, and notably as I was playing some of the more tricky songs on medium guitar also meant I achieved some other goals too.

However I wanted to nail one guitar challenge where you have to score 90,000 plus points on four songs. Three of them are pretty easy and I did them on all on medium without too much hassle, but the last one I worked out required you to do it on hard level at minimum to get a decent score enough. I'd previously got around 77,000 on the song in various attempts but today decided to concentrate and see what would happen. I tried to save the overdrive as well for when I had the score at max and when there were plenty of chord notes to play through.

So on went Def Leppard's "Foolin'" and I had one go to practice getting it right and scored around 75,000 or so, around average. I did remember though that it's when to switch the hand over so that you're hitting the orange note, and once you learn where that is on the song, it does actually become a lot easier to manage. I really went into the zone and just tried to activate the overdrive for when I was maxed out at the score, and at the last opportunity of this, I noticed the score creeping closer and closer. And then... I noticed what the score was, amd it was over 90,000 points. Yes! So for obvious reasons it's tune of the day.

I did do some online co-operation as well, mainly with someone else on drums and me on vocals but that was good, and I was able to at least better my score massively on Avenged Sevenfold's "The Beast and the Harlot" as well as get a good band score on several songs of rock, so felt pretty good after all that. I just really want to get a four player online band together as I suspect that would be lots of fun and indeed get the online band scores ramped up to the max. Bring it on!

Tuesday 16th October - Another Baking Day

It was another busy day for me, but one that was ultimately quite rewarding as I managed to get to the bottom of a few issues to do with work. One of them was a laptop which a member of staff dropped off with us as it was taking forever to boot up Windows 7 (if at all). Having managed to get into recovery mode, it looked to me as if the hard drive was on its way out and a check of this with chkdsk proved that to be the case. It was then a case of calling our hardware vendor out as a support call so that they could check it over and verify the fault at hand.

I did stay behind a little later than planned as I wanted to sort a few things out that I wasn't able to do during the day, and I think that little bit of extra time worked quite well, not least as I was stuck in traffic in the morning and it took me ages to get to work, so as I wasn't heading home quickly any time soon it seemed the right thing to catch up and see what was going on. It also allowed me to try and write up some notes after being stuck in a course committee for over two hours during the afternoon.

I started to make the evening meal for myself and The Love In My Heart, with me planning a spaghetti carbonara as I had the ingredients and needed to use the spaghetti and the pancetta pretty quickly, so made perfect sense for me to do that now and make something nice for us both. I timed it pretty well so that a few minutes after The Love arrived that it was all ready, and as she had some wine that made her a happy bunny too. I'd even got the nice Feelgood cranberry and lime drink to go with it too.

We then settled in to watch the final of The Great British Bake-Off, and The Love wanted John to win because he was much more down to earth and normal, and because he was from close to these parts. Any three of them could have won and after the first challege John and Brendan were level and James fell by the wayside a bit because of the lack of crispness in the puff pastry. However the technical challenge wasn't so good with James the best of a bad bunch, which meant going into the final challenge it was almost level with everything riding on the final challenge.

That last challenge involved a chiffon cake with a celebratory design. James' design was way too overambitious (five cakes in union, and all of them way too dry for the judges' liking) so in my view he was out of the running. Brendan's family reunion cake was a bit twee but also well made, and John's heaven and hell cake with lots of chocolate ganache and marshmallows with lemon in the middle really did seem to work. It was then up to Paul and Mary to decide and they both said the same name together - and so when it was at the end The Love was happy as her favourite John had won, yaay.

Tune of the day though was during tonight's usual mad escapades in Don't Tell The Bride, where it was a mix of Africa and Northern Ireland as the couple had a wedding with a difference, but thankfully the groom did all he can to ensure it was in a local Catholic church (as they were both Catholic) and that I knew meant a lot to the bride. During their hunting for table decorations in Liverpool, The Stone Roses' "Mersey Paradise" played and it seemed pretty appropriate, that. Kudos for the masses for that one.

Monday 15th October - Pay Day Is The Busy Day

My, does it feel like today suddenly got very very busy in our office all of a sudden! I think it's inevitable when staff are off and there's less people around, you manage to end up with an exponentially increased amount of work, but even more so than if all the staff are in and able to take things on. It was also a case of catching up a bit for myself after having had the day off on Friday (well earned and well deserved though it was). I was even able to work out a plan of action for the week, but that had soon fallen a bit by the wayside come this afternoon.

I also was working on packaging Adobe InCopy CS6 because a department had ordered several copies of it. To my dismay it's actually no part of any of the CS6 suites whatsoever and has to be purchased as a separate program (oh joy). The department concerned had purchased thirty plus licences, and now I had the correct serial number and had downloaded the installer, this meant I could use the Adobe Application Manager for Enterprise tool to effectively package up the software, which worked.

After a tweak or two I had the installer running on a 32 bit and 64 bit Windows 7 machine and both of these reported success, so it was time to distribute the installer out to the masses, and so far so good with the few I'd done so far. Hopefully during the rest of the week, that will push out nicely and be all sorted out, so felt quite positive after getting it sorted. I also then spent a bit more time working on some laptops and getting one of them fixed, so did feel pretty positive after all that.

After work I had to head into the city centre to get a few birthday cards for occasions coming up, and noticed that all the card shops that I went into were already sorting out their Christmas card displays, with WH Smith having racks of them already there to buy now. I mean, I know I'm organised and all that but somehow I kept thinking that the middle of October was just a tad early for all that sort of stuff, and so decided to keep well away from that and get some nice normal cards instead.

Once I got home, which was pretty late, I settled in and watched Cowboy Builders on Channel 5 with another bad builder brought to justice and a home done the way it should have been. I must admit it does see the blood boil a bit when you see how much of a bad job some of them do. I then had the intelligence section of the day with Only Connect on BBC4. I can't be the only one to actually find Victoria Coren rather lovely, am I? I must admit though that it was a right panning for the accountants tonight, they really did struggle massively.

Tune of the day though is "Panic Attack" by Dream Theater. After aeons of trying, I finally nailed the song on expert vocals on Rock Band 2 and 3, with 100% accuracy. I'd got close before but there was one phrase with some rather odd pitches (it's the first occurrence of "run, try to hide") and as I got through that I kept thinking "please, please don't balls it up now." I didn't and managed to do it all, so had to play the tune back a few times tonight to listen to it in celebration. Because I can.

Sunday 14th October - End of the Weekend

It felt rather like the end of it all when we got up this morning, and even though three of us had made it up in time for the 7am start that was the start of the Korean Grand Prix, it was plenty of coffee required to keep us all going I reckoned. It was pretty good though as a race, even if Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg were carted off by Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber, going to try and fit into a gap that didn't exist. Felt sorry for Jenson as on a track which was going to be very hard on tyres, he might have made something out of the race today.

It was settled at the front though and Sebastian Vettel had got in front of Mark Webber before turn one, and pretty much the two of them held the top two places all the way through. Fernando Alonso got a well deserved third with his Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa hot on the heels - and after having to pit stop once more than everyone else due to an issue with the rear suspension causing unease for him, Lewis Hamilton had collected a bit of the astroturf off one of the run off areas and carried it with him till the end just holding off Sergio Perez for 10th place.

After some coffee and croissants for breakfast, it was time for Neil and Dan to head home, and as per usual it was rather sad to say goodbye but knew that we'd had a brilliant time and really did make the weekend go quickly when we were all into stuff. Barry stayed back for a bit and I'd had a card from a parcel delivery company who'd attemtped to deliver me a parcel on Saturday afternoon - and when I saw what it was after I asked next door for it as it'd been delivered there, I knew what it was - the keyboard for Rock Band 3 that I'd ordered. It was in mint condition, new in fact and looked well smart.

We tried a bit of the keyboard first trying it in normal five button mode before heading to pro keys mode, which was rather difficult to say the least, but quite fun trying to get the hang of it to be honest. I did manage a decent effort on Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and so that's tune of the day. It looked like a good weapon of choice to use and it'll be something I might have to have more of a go at. Certainly in pro keys mode there's plenty of buttons that you can press and so it'd be intriguing to see what it plays like in the harder levels I reckon! It was a final goodbye around twelve noon but it had been a great weekend all round.

The Love In My Heart came over later on and we headed towards Marple Bridge, taking a walk down the bottom nine locks of the Marple Locks before following a path down and around towards Brabyns Park, and then along through the park back to Marple Bridge again. It was good to chat and catch up and we had plenty of quality time walking around. We were going to go to the Midland at Marple Bridge for Sunday lunch but it was completely full and we'd have a half hour wait, so we decided to head via the A626 to Glossop and the Norfolk Arms.

This proved to be a good move - the food menu was two courses for £12.75 or three for £14.50, so that worked out pretty well, and you got a drink with it too. I had the garlic and stilton mushrooms to start, which came with some garlic bread, very nice too, and the fish and chips was spot on that I had. The Love had the French Onion soup to begin with which she enjoyed, and the chicken dish for her main was excellent too, lovely peppery sauce, tons of vegetables and potatoes, very good. I'd done the three course deal so I had the carrot cake with cream and it was gorgeous. All was very well there and we both enjoyed the nice atmosphere and quality food, happy days all round.

We headed back to mine and we watched the repeat of the Cornwall series that was shown on ITV1 a while back, and it was getting us back in the mood to go there when we do next year, especially seeing St Michael's Mount and its pirate day, remembering the parts of the Mount we'd been in such as the café and all that, and also the little former beach shack now serving all sorts of snacks, and the villagers of St Issey getting behind their local singer. All good stuff and a perfect way to wind down the weekend for us both.

Saturday 13th October - Another Great Weekend, Day Two

It was an early(ish) start to the day, but not too early, as sensibly I'd recorded the Korean Grand Prix qualifying so that we could watch it at a more reasonable time than 6am (not least considering the 2am sleep time) - it was a decent session of qualifying even if Jenson Button failed to make the top ten shootout by finishing 11th and just outside by five thousandths of a second. Epic but also unlucky I reckon. It ended up being a Red Bull lockout on the front row and it definitely was exciting at the end as everyone tried to pull it out of the bag as late as possible, including Sebastian Vettel who had to settle for second in the end.

By the time we'd watched that and flicked through a few things on the TV, it was time for us to head out and towards Tenpin in Parrs Wood for three epic games of tenpin bowling. We had a lane booked and it made perfect sense to keep us at the other end where it was a bit quieter, so we could relax with some drinks and go for it. I came back strongly in the first game after being way back (Neil did have three strikes on the bounce!), and had spare, strike, spare and strike to almost pull it back, but lost by one point to Neil - he got 144, I got 143, Barry 99 and Dan 90. Thankfully the lane had righted itself after stalling during one frame for some bizarre reason.

The second game was also good fun too, and it was a pretty close run thing for most of it as we all traded spares and strikes throughout to keep things interesting throughout. At the start of the tenth frame, any one of three of us could potentially win, but it was Barry who kept his cool with a strike and a spare to get enough points to overhaul Neil's spare and three, which swung it just. Final score was Barry 142, Neil 138, me 124 and Dan 108.

I started off nice and strong in the final game with two strikes and then a spare, and looked to be heading for a good score. Unfortunately after that I kept getting 9s and not a strike or spare, and so was a little frustrating to see that last pin just not go down. Boo! In the end it was another epic battle between Neil and Barry, with Neil winning it on the final frame and the two best scores of the day - it was Neil 153, Barry 145, me 126 and Dan 91 and that was again excellent scoring all round. After that we stopped off for a drink in the bowling's bar area before heading on the bus to the Milson Rhodes in Didsbury for some well earned lunch and a rather nice pint of Hopback as well, set me in the right mood for the rest of the day.

As we headed to the city centre and to The Waterhouse pub on Princess Street, close to St Peter's Square, we had a couple of extra people arrive - namely Tony, who was over from Adelaide in Australia to go to the PlayExpo at Event City close to the Trafford Centre, and also Dan had been in touch with someone I know well as well and as he was in Manchester, he agreed to come and join us - no less than former Commodore 64 musician and legend Fred Gray! It was great to see him and chat about all sorts as well, so the six of us had some well earned and very nice Buckeye pale ale and a couple of them had the beer and burger deal for tea.

It was then off to the Lass O'Gowrie on Charles Street, which apart from its excellent real ale selection also has a line in retro gaming, with the walls adorned with all sorts. We spotted a Commodore 64, Atari 2600 and Spectrum by the bar along with some games as well on display, and a NARC arcade machine and Doctor Who pinball machine, excellent all round really. It was good to drink ale in a relaxed atmosphere and endlessly chatter, even about the Commodore 64 stuff itself, and Fred revealed something as a bit of an exclusive to us all - the loading/main theme of the game Mutants was directly influenced by Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" even if the lead arpeggios don't sound the same, you can see where the idea came from. I'll make the original tune of the day for the hell of it.

We then walked towards Oxford Road, said a fond farewell to Fred as he headed to the station and back to his native Liverpool, and then we walked down to Sandbar, always a regular haunt for our weekends. There was some music being played but it was decent enough, I heard some Pixies and some Breeders as well (Cannonball no less, yaay) so that definitely hit the spot, as did the Black Cat ale, and of course the Augustiner Helles had one of us rather pleased to bits in terms of quality too. It was nice to relax in there with beer and conversation and also admiring the rather good vibe too.

After that it was round the corner to Babylon for food and take out before we then said our goodbyes to our Australian comrade before heading back home to mine, where once Dan had got some fried chicken from a local takeaway, we pretty much were all tired after a good session of drinks, food and fun, and so I crashed out to sleep around midnight, knowing that I wanted to try and get up before 7am to see if I could watch the F1 race live - well that was the plan. And it was another great weekend with the lads going too bloody fast, again!

Friday 12th October - Another Great Weekend, Day One

It's been a long time coming (around a year to be exact due to some personal circumstances amongst us) but at last myself and three of my good friends who don't live local to me were heading to mine for a weekend of football, gaming, F1 and of course, beer. It's always a great weekend when we get together and becuase it's been so long since the last one we've all been looking forward to getting together for a while now. I did some last minute preparations and waited in for most of the day, just in case a parcel delivery arrived for me which might have been handy to have over the weekend, but not a show stopper.

In any case the day flew by as I had plenty to keep me occupied, maybe some rocking in Rock Band 3 or even a blast of the tennis on Wii Sports for the sheer hell of it, but either way it was good to be able to spend some wind down time and just generally take it easy. The weekend started in earnest though around 3.30pm when my friend from Ulverston (Dan) arrived, and we had plenty of chatter over coffee and catch up time, and that was excellent. We're both quite similar in music taste so it was good to chat about that sort of thing, and then just before 5pm my friend from Doncaster (Neil) arrived - he'd been stuck in traffic, mainly at that roundabout where the M67 ends (it's a nightmare at the best of times that is).

We had some more coffee and settled in to watch some retro F1 on the blu-ray player as uploaded to Youtube, and I showed them the muzu.tv channel on the player. We saw some Suicidal Tendencies and Mike Oldfield, and as we'd been talking about Rammstein's "Du Hast" (make it tune of the day) then we thought we'd locate the video. What came up was a cover version by some odd folk band called Los Colorados, where the keyboard lead part was played with a kazoo, and some of the vocals were sung in Russian as well as German. Odd, but yet strangely compelling.

Our friend from South Shields (Barry) finally managed to get here at 6pm after a bit of a nightmare drive, being stuck on the M6 and M61 as he'd had to drop some of the family off on the way at a caravan park and then head across to Cumbria and down the motorways, and of course this means that the M6 around Preston is just rammed with peak hour traffic and the journey probably took double the time that it normally would. It was a perfect time to get the beers open and plenty of beer would be consumed during the evening from then on in.

I made us a barbecue chicken pasta bake for tea with some garlic bread on the side and some lovely toffee and apple crumble with cream for dessert, which hit the spot and was well timed before it was time to get ITV1 HD on and watch the England v San Marino game. I have to say that England weren't that good at all and it was a case of not being able to break down the 10 man defence that the opposition had. The goals came in two main blocks of time, and despite the eventual 5-0 scoreline (correctly predicted by two of us including me) it wasn't overly convincing and if we play like that in Poland, we'll get hammered.

More beer was consumed as Rock Band 3 was powered on the Wii, and with two guitars and a vocal, we powered out way through several songs including (of course!) "Du Hast" by Rammstein, with two of us together doing the "Nein!" bit during the vocals, and plenty of 1980s stuff such as Duran Duran's "Hungry Like The Wolf", "Blue Monday" by New Order, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division, and plenty more. It was pretty good fun to be a band together and it really did make for a giggle, and before we knew it, it had gone midnight, but the night was still young.

It was therefore on with Wii Party and we did the four player Board Game Island game, which was hilarious with all the little mini games and indeed each of our Mii characters going through various hazards on their way to the top, which on first attempt at the final throw of 6 was achieved by one of us, and that was pretty awesome stuff. More conversation and chat flowed including watching old quiz shows on Challenge before heading to sleep around 2am - a great night and one that set the tone perfectly for the weekend.

Thursday 11th October - Shopaholic

It was a productive day today as I spent some time mainly in the office getting a considerable number of admin tasks done, including clearing out old workstation names from our Zenworks tree. When machines get replaced or upgraded to Windows 7, the Active Directory record is of course changed to the new name (in terms of a re-image) or the old name deleted from Active Directory, but the old Zenworks record is still there. My ingenious plan of sorts is as we upgrade is to remove the old name out, so that in theory any Windows XP machines still running Novell client and all that will be easier to spot.

I had to venture out to the new Tesco Express today at lunchtime as I didn't have time to make any lunch to take into work. No biggie as it's down the road, but dear me, why do people spend so long thinking about what sandwich they want as part of the £3 meal deal that they have? Just pick one, get a drink and a snack or crisps, and go to the till. I had to stretch into the fridge past a lot of indecisive people and get a chicken sausage and stuffing sandwich, and I was out of there in no time. Ironically the manned tills with people on were quicker than the quickpay ones, so I timed my queuing to perfection. Yaay.

After I got home from work later on I spent some time cleaning the house a fair bit and then The Love In My Heart came over. We were heading to the large Tesco near me so I could get all the food shopping in for when my friends come this weekend (I've got tomorrow off work, but handier when there's a car to carry all the stuff home, thanks darling!) When we got there and were heading down the aisles, I bumped into my sister, brother in law and the two children. My niece said to her dad "Can I do the shopping with uncle Warren?" which was quite sweet, actually. Obviously she enjoyed herself!

We soon headed around and managed to get everything that we needed in time. I got a nice meal deal for the Friday night for the four of us, and also plenty of stuff for breakfast for the Saturday and Sunday, some cold drinks, snacks, chocolate, food for during the week, some wine for The Love, all sorts. I even got a four port USB hub as well, which I needed for Rock Band 3. You see, if I were to get another microphone to do vocal harmonies and all that, and wanted to use the Rock Band guitar, I'd run out of USB ports on the Wii, so a handy hub straight away gives me four - also good if I were to get the keyboard or drums later on.

After all that shopping it was good to get back home and make some gorgeous Wiltshire cure gammon (Tesco Finest no less) with some chips and peas for tea, which turned out really well. The Love snuggled up and watched Emmerdale as the storyline had the music festival on, which included the likes of the Proclaimers (the real ones too!) and naturally they did their classic song "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" as well, so tune of the day there for the hell of it. We also watched an old episode from the first series of The Great British Bake-Off which had caught my attention because it was based in Mousehole in Cornwall. Oooh yes. And they made Cornish pasties as well, yummy.

Finally for the evening we watched the plane crash documentary on Channel 4, which was a massive experiment but one that should hopefully be handy to learn from for aeroplane safety. The engineers and staff came up with a master plan of having the plane be remote controlled by another small plane following so that the crew could parachute out of the plane (the Boeing 727 has a drop hatch escape door at the back, meaning it's actually doable to escape easily) and then the remote control could then mean that the plane could be directed towards ground at the right speed and pitch to simulate a crash.

It was rivetting stuff, the crash went almost as intended and landed nose first, and went a bit sideways before kicking up a mass of dust and shuddering to a halt in the Mexican plains. It didn't catch fire, so it meant that the scientists and specialists could later on when safe head in and see the damage but also get all the data to learn from. A few important things were learned: the brace position is much safer in the event of a crash and you are more likely to survive, and also depending on which end crashes, the G forces are mental - 12G for those near the front nose but only 6G for the rear, more than survivable. Obviously if it crashed tail first, then it's in reverse. Overall though a really improtant bit of viewing and one that showed a lot of planning, common sense and coming together of minds to produce a superb documentary, it should win awards.

Wednesday 10th October - All Good To Go

It was a nice day today for very different reasons - first, the working day. I finished off the Macbook Air and got back the Macbook from the member of staff who was upgrading to the Air, and after an attempt or two, I managed to get the two Macs talking to each other directly via Ethernet and just launched the migration wizard, which did the business of transferring the account over. Once that was done, I cleaned up the redundant dock icons but also realised that the member of staff needed Skype sticking back on, so that was done too. Happy days I think! I spent some time also sorting out a few issues to do with users and setting up two PCs for future use in departments as well, so all was getting to be pretty good.

We all went out to lunch with one of our colleagues who finishes on Friday to head out on maternity leave to have her second child. As today was the last day that everyone in the team was in, we arranged to head to Odder Bar and had already rang through and pre-ordered the lunch, thus saving us plenty of time. And they still had cask ale on so a pint of the Kelham Island Easy Rider was therefore mine to have with the fish and chips - which was very nice, beer battered fish with some gorgeously large thick cut chips and mushy peas. The only bad thing was the tartare sauce, which I left well alone as it wasn't as nice as the rest of it. But no biggie.

I headed home and then on to Stockport to visit CEX, as I wanted to see if they had a Rock Band drum kit for the Wii. They didn't, but they did have the Beatles Rock Band game for a mere £3.50, so I thought "well why the hell not?" and indulged myself in it. I remember playing it at a friend's place and having good fun, so might be handy to have and play occasionally if I have people round and have a bit of fun with it. The staff in CEX even very nicely gave the disc a thorough clean with their cleaning machine beforehand, and it worked perfectly when I got it home - no complaints there.

I then spent a fair amount of the evening doing the housework, as I wanted everything to be neat and tidy for this weekend, as I've got some friends coming over to stay and make a great weekend of it. This meant amongst other things blowing up two spare airbeds, setting up the futon, getting out the spare bedding and getting all that sorted, and arranging everything so it's all nice and clean, neat and tidy. It actually worked very well as I had some Skunk Anansie on, namely their first album Paranoid and Sunburnt, so I could set to work and rock out at the same time. "Selling Jesus" needs to be tune of the day - still a killer track after all these years.

By the end of the evening I'd got all the upstairs sorted pretty much with just a go over of the bathroom to do on Friday morning, but all the bedding is out, clean and tidy, the floors are all clean and the surfaces dusted, and it just feels good to be so spot on now. I am now looking forward to having some good friends around where it'll be plenty of gaming, watching football, possibly bowling as well and lots of beer and laughs throughout. It just has to be done!

Tuesday 9th October - I Want To Go To France and Eat Cake!

It was a long day at work but one that I had plenty of enjoyment with as well. I spent a fair bit of the day with a new Macbook Air, and oh, it's rather nice. It's the 11" version with a nice solid state hard drive, 8GB of RAM, Intel Core i5 processor, and just seemed very sleek and compact. And the keyboard's even pretty nice to type on, it has to be said. As we had no working Mac image for a Macbook air as yet, I followed my colleague's notes to the letter and set about getting it up and running with all the default software that we put on, and tested it to bits to ensure it all worked as intended.

We connected our Thunderbolt hard drive to the Macbook Air once we'd got a working state ready to image, and using Disk Utility from our Lion boot disk, we were able to successfully create the Mountain Lion disk image and indeed scan the image for restore as well - and normally if this happens, it's actually good to go in terms of using it again to image to the next Macbook Air we get, thereby saving us tons of work and hassle. And that's the sort of thing we like to do. Good job we got a Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter to connect it to our wired network too..

After work it was time to head through the city centre and then on to see The Love In My Heart, who was very kindly cooking the tea for us both. She had suggested it as there were a couple of things she needed to do at home and so meant we could stay in and relax for the evening as well. The Love of course cooks very well too, so that was an added incentive. The spaghetti bolognaise we had with extra mushrooms, a lovely tomato sauce and a really nice rosemary garlic bread on the side just filled the gap wonderfully well, and was nice to feel all snuggly towards later.

The Love checked out a few things which she liked the look of in clothes shops online, and I have to say that they all looked lovely and they'd look even lovelier on her. I suspect that she'd actually quite a ring from the Pandora shop (no, not an engagement ring before you start asking!) but it's a case of getting herself measured first and seeing what size is right. There were some pretty necklaces as well which I can more than imagine her looking rather lovely in, so yaay there.

It was then time for the Great British Bake Off and three rounds of French bakery to test the semi-finalists. Lots of the petit fours looked gorgeous on the first round, I could have had plenty of the macaroons, the little pastries shaped like a swan and plenty more besides, and the second technical challenge was to make a rather nice French classic - the fraisier, which has strawberries around the outside of a layer of creme patisserie, which has the Genoese sponge at the top and bottom, and has to hold itself. I felt bad for Danny as her creme patisserie didn't work which meant the whole thing just fell apart. Ouch.

The final challenge was to make a showstopper cake with choux pastry at its core. All of them looked rather nice and with the choux pastry it seemed to be intriguing what they'd do. I liked the idea behind James' bicycle, very different and intriguing, but I suspected as did The Love when Paul and Mary said that the rosewater was overpowering in Danny's creation, it was the writing on the wall for her - and so it was. That meant an all-male final, and pretty much the three I might have expected to get there. The Love has a soft spot for John to win so she might be a happy bunny next Tuesday!

Don't Tell The Bride was mad though - the groom decided that he wanted the wedding ceremony underwater in the swimming pool, and that was a touch over the top bonkers for me. Whatever happened to tradition? When the bride was trying the dress on and was crying, the way the Mum and sister reacted was that of horror before they stupidly realised that the bride was happy crying instead. Oops! Looking a fool on the telly. Tune of the day happened to be apt for the show - Bobby Darin's version of "Beyond the Sea" which with water fitted in well as the groom rehearsed the underwater ceremony.

Monday 8th October - Going Underground

It was back to the ranch at work today and cracking on with plenty of things, including taking over a couple of new PCs to offices in one building. The difficult thing now though is as that building doesn't have a reception at all, to get keys you have to go to another building, which is up some stairs. Therefore if you've got a trolley of stuff to wheel you've either got to get the keys, head back to the office and then to the building in question, or risk the trolley being stolen while you nip inside the building to get the keys with the trolley outside. The latter isn't an option really so it was the first option which proves to be a massive inconvenience. It'd be better if the adjacent building (all level and reachable) was where you'd get the keys from, but hey, that'd be too sensible.

I knew that one of the staff in question had a specialist keyboard and mouse that was shaped differently, and so left those in there and replaced everything else (so new base unit, monitor etc) and that seemed to work fine. It was a much better experience and had to use some initiative to get around a parallel printer issue. The user uses a HP Laserjet 2100 for printing out scripts etc, and the only port available is parallel. The new PCs don't have that port, so remembering what we had stock of, I used an older Belkin docking station, which connects via USB to the PC but has a parallel port on the back for connecting a printer to, effectively using the station as a USB to parallel adapter. And it worked too.

The day went by pretty quickly and so it was off into the city centre to get a couple of things for the house - not the most exciting thing ever to do, but they needed to be purchased and it'll just make things that bit nicer as well. I also got to work with the paper shredder when I got home as well - lots of bits of paper in the bookshelf etc to clean up and make all neat and tidy, and being a bit conscious of the security side of things, the crosscut shredder came out and I had a therapeutic time shredding lots of documents and other bits that I didn't need anymore, so that worked out pretty nicely too.

It was then on with Rock Band 3 for a bit and this time I went for a bit of punk and 1980s songs, so as well as singing the likes of Duran Duran and maybe a bit more Pixies, I also went for The Jam's classic "Going Underground" which is half price at the Rock Band music store, so it simply had to be snagged I reckon. I surprised myself by getting 99% on expert vocals on first go, and amazingly that was enough to get me to number 1 in the online rankings on the Wii! Make it tune of the day and make it now.

I also watched 8 Out of 10 Cats on Channel 4 tonight, which was excellent for many reasons: one - the lovely Hannah Cockroft was on there and her bubbly personality which came across when she won two gold medals at the Paralympic Games certainly suited the show format here. Also, Sean Lock came out with a classic line about the X Factor - "It's like having a gap year from Argos!" referring to how many hopefuls used to work in the likes of supermarkets and that, and indeed how it's always "the most important thing to happen to me ever". Yeah. As if.

Sunday 7th October - Pirate Party

It was off to my auntie's place this afternoon as my cousin's little boy was one today, and to celebrate we'd all been invited over there for some fun and some food, and also the theme was pirates, so I suspected that some people would make the full effort to dress like a pirate. The Love In My Heart had made me a hat with a skull and crossbones on, all in black, and together with the black and white stripey top that I'd got the other night, it did at least make me all set for the high seas and all that. The Love had a good scarf on as well that fitted with the theme so we were all good to go.

It was already reasonably busy by the time we got there, and plenty of people had gone the full hog with the pirate outfit, covered from head to toe in a costume! My mum had done so and she wasn't the only one - must admit that it did make me feel a little underdressed even though I was going for a little understated, so to speak. There was even a bouncy castle with cartoon pirates on, which all the little ones were enjoying massively, and the second time in over a week that a bouncy castle was in operation for a child's party as well!

The buffet opened and the food was pretty good - lots of nibbly bits basically along with later some chicken curry as well for the adults that fancied it, and by this time I'd got the children entertained by throwing a small soft toy, almost ball shaped, into the bouncy castle to see who could catch it. Sometimes the simplest things are the most fun and a few of them were bouncing around anticipating (or attempting to) the throw, which definitely made things a bit more fun as well. I do aim to please sometimes!

After all that pirate related stuff, we both needed a change of pace later on so we headed to the Ashlea pub in Cheadle for a well earned relaxing drink, and the downstairs part of the pub is indeed rather relaxed and a little more chilled out than the restaurant part. There was even Black Sheep best on cask so that was me well and truly sorted as we had a good chat together and generally was pretty relaxed. We did hear a different version of Soft Cell's "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" but all that did was make us both pander for the classic original, and then someone who sounded like Joss Stone (or it was her, definitely sounded like it to me anyway!)

Later on I spent some time on Rock Band 3 doing some more vocals and indeed having a go at plenty more Pixies tracks from "Doolittle" so the likes of "Tame", "Crackity Jones" and of course "No 13 Baby" had to be played. Of course the censorship kicked in on the latter one so the word "tit" is removed, but of course being a Pixies fan, I straight away sang the line back in, be rude not to really. Tune of the day because it's a classic and vastly under-rated track by them to be honest.

Saturday 6th October - Back To Winning Ways

I had to nip to the local sorting office this morning as I had a delivery on Friday which I suspected was too big for the letter box - and once I got there, I knew what it was - my new Winter jacket! I had seen one in TK Maxx on Sunday but didn't have my size, but going online proved fruitful as it meant I was able to get the same one for less than what TK Maxx were charging but also with no extra delivery charge - a result all round I reckon. I tried it on when I got back home and straight away I thought "oh yes, I look the part!" In case any of you were wondering, it's the Moah Morph Selvedge jacket in a dark green - with inside pockets, lots of insulation, it's water and wind proof, and it just feels cool.

My friend and I headed over to the Etihad Stadium for the early kick off for Manchester City's game against Sunderland. It'd be nice to get a win and a clean sheet, and we noticed numerous changes to the team sheet, some forced by injury but others a change to rest some players, so Micah Richards was back with Joleon Lescott in defence, Gareth Barry with James Milner in midfield allowing Yaya Toure and David Silva to roam around, so all good. Former City player Adam Johnson, now a Sunderland man, got a very warm welcome back from the City fans, which was good to see.

City went for it and the industrious Carlos Tévez was fouled on the edge of the area and for me it was a red card, but the referee went only for a yellow. The ball was on the left side so I'd have expected a right footer to try and curl one in - but no, up stepped Aleksandar Kolarov to bury the free kick around the wall and in the net for 1-0. Four minutes gone too so that was all good. City kept pressing and had a fair few shots on goal with the Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet performing well to keep the score down - he was to be their man of the match as far as I was concerned.

It was still only 1-0 as the second half started and Steven Fletcher came close for them with Joe Hart pulling off an excellent save to keep the clean sheet. Kolarov looked dangerous down the left all day and one cross should have been finished by Mario Balotelli, but he missed, and that triggered Roberto Mancini to put on Sergio Agüero on instead. And within three minutes that proved to be right, as Kolarov thundered down the left, put the cross in and Agüero finished off wonderfully well for 2-0.

After that it was cruise control and a case of how many could we score. Micah Richards had two or three chances with headers saved by Mignolet or cleared off the line when they were going in, Tévez went close with a low shot and a lovely pass to him from Agüero, and Silva had hit the bar with a lovely curling shot. All was good there then. Right near the end we got a deserved third goal as James Milner curved a free kick in and the scoreline looked a lot more like the actual balance of play. Although Kolarov was rightly man of the match, Milner ran him close, he was everywhere, working hard, getting stuck in with some meaty challenges and also worked well with Pablo Zabaleta down the right. Positive days!

So with that done, we headed later to see The Love In My Heart and we all had a drink and chat together, and that was good. The Love and I then went over to my place and I started to make the evening meal - I'd got a few of the tapas from Tesco last night and so we had some meatballs, Moroccan chicken and some patatas bravas along with some rice and couscous, which worked well. We also had some Doritos with salsa and sour cream dips to start whilst the tapas were being cooked in the oven, so that was nice all round.

The Love later settled in and watched The X Factor, which I loathe to bits but felt it better to let her watch it because then Match of the Day will be on later for me to watch (bit of a trade off there you see). Straight away I could see why I loathe it so much though - sugary sweet versions in some cases of songs all loosely based on the theme "heroes". What made it worse was that one group decided to do an absolutely abysmal version of Queen's classic "Don't Stop Me Now". When you consider the British Olympic Team's lovely homage video with the original Queen track (tune of the day for me) - especially Jessica Ennis with that basketball - then this was just pale, dancified for the hell of it, and awful. If I was a regular watcher of this pile of bobbins, I'd say that they'd be first out.

I kept quiet as I really wanted to turn the telly over and watch something else, and indeed you could at least see that some of them had some level of promise. I had to giggle though when Louis Walsh compared acoustic songstress Lucy Spraggan to Victoria Wood - straight away I had flash backs to Victoria's classic "The Ballad of Barry and Freda (Let's Do It)" which if you've never seen it, you must - it's still hilarious now and reminds me of the 1988 "Audience with Victoria Wood" which included that and the classic "Kimberley" sketch!!

Friday 5th October - The Singing Pixie

It was another long day at work but one I felt more positive about. We had a co-ordinators meeting in the afternoon via Lync and web cams (get us!) and overall we all agreed that it was good that we'd actually taken steps positively to reduce the queue of queries and be able to respond to things as soon as humanly possible. It also went to show that when you've got people who are on the case and appreciate the situation in hand, that together you can get lots done.

In fact earlier in the day a few colleagues and I were heading over to one of the buildings as the first floor was being handed back soon and this meant that the PCs etc needed setting back up in the main student area, as well as the 3D area which is part of the former gym. I couldn't help but notice in the middle of that room a large bucket as well as the steady drops of water that were coming from a leaking pipe - I understood it was being looked at soonish but it did make me wonder just how efficient the work has been in getting everything ready in time. We shall see.

After work I headed into the city centre as I needed to get a top which is part of something I'm wearing for a children's birthday party on Sunday - my cousin's little one is one and there's a theme to it you see, so I wanted to at least try and look the part for it. I managed to find just what I was after in H&M on Market Street, although I wasn't sure of the size so I took a medium and a large one in. The medium was just too tight although it did fit, so the large it was and that meant that I had accomplished my mission, yaay!

I then went to meet The Love In My Heart after she had finished her late shift, and admittedly I was missing her lots so it was nice to head out for a drink together. We ended up going to Didsbury and to the Milson Rhodes pub for tea, as there were lots of nice real ales on (I had the Headless which was stunning) and also some good food deals too. I had the hand battered fish which was spot on - the batter was even a bit more done and crispy than normal but tasted spot on, so it was good to be able to enjoy that and relax and chat. I missed her lots and it was therefore nice to spend time together being together.

Later on after The Love headed home I did the food shopping at Tesco, getting some stuff in for tomorrow night, and then it was on with the Wii. I had noticed that several of the downloadable tracks on Rock Band 3 were half price, and even better, they were also doing the same for track packs and album track packs as well. I topped up 3000 Wii points on my account (I was looking at other available content in the Wii Shop Channel you see) and therefore had plenty of choices to make as to what I wanted.

When I saw what was available, around 900 Wii points went in one go as no less than the whole of the Pixies' "Doolittle" album (minus "Wave of Multilation" as that was a song on the original Rock Band game) so that meant fourteen tracks available, ooh yes. As it's my all time favourite album, it was a no brainer at half price so snagged the lot - and this then meant a fair hour or two having a good go on vocals at some of the songs. I did manage to 100% a couple of them, notably "Monkey Gone To Heaven" - even if the vocal chart in the chorus actually uses the lower pitched vocal instead of what you'd expect - Black Francis' higher pitched efforts. Tune of the day no less though.

I also had a good go of the likes of "Debaser", "Hey", "There Goes My Gun" and "La La Love You" (really easy to 100% that one on expert as the vocals consist of spoken parts and David Lovering going "All I'm saying, pretty baby, la la love you, don't mean maybe" in a rise and fall pitch, which repeats considerably, so easy to get right) - and I also tried "Gouge Away" which is bloody difficult because of the way that the pitches are in the opening few bars and indeed the verses - more screaming Black Francis style needed I think!

Thursday 4th October - Winding Down For The Evening

It was a pretty busy day in the office for many reasons, but one of them was because I was mainly taking on a fair number of the backlog of jobs and ensuring that they were getting done. In some cases I found that some of the jobs had been raised in duplicate, as the original member of staff had emailed another member of staff and CCed our helpline, but then the second member had forwarded it on, thus creating a second job. It's good therefore to actually narrow it down to just one thing to do, and indeed to get it done.

I headed to the new Tesco Express at lunch time which has opened near work (but it also took the place of a former bar which was rather nice to go, so really mixed feelings about it to be honest.) I needed some coffee and it was good to get some at a reasonably normal price, and I couldn't help but notice that the rather demolished state of the former BBC Manchester building just down the road. It's literally almost been raised to the ground now, and not much of it left at that. I do feel rather sad to see it go too as it was part of the local geography for ages.

After work I headed to meet a couple of female colleagues who work in another department, and the three of us thought it would be nice to have a few drinks and catch up and chat. This is always good because you can occasionally try to speak during the working day but inevitably there's always too much to do - but also that if you go for lunch there's a time limit and you never feel like you can get enough time, so it was more sensible to head out for the evening and then be able to take the time to relax and chatter about all sorts.

And that is pretty much what we did. First stop was Sandbar which meant a very nice pint of ale for me and there were plenty of seats to sit down and relax, and it was just the start of a lovely evening, with lots of chat about all sorts, including Don't Tell The Bride, which we all find hilarious because no way would I want to marry any of those ladies, and The Great British Bake Off, where the three of us predicted who would win (or not) and how ridiculously over the top and twee that Brendan's gingerbread house was (believe me, it was!)

We then moved on to Odder and although it looked rammed downstairs, I remembered there was an upstairs bar so we headed there and there was no one around whatsoever, yay! So this meant a much more relaxed atmosphere with comfortable chairs as well, so it really was good. They even had real ale on in the downstairs bar so that was another plus which made for that evening being that little bit nicer. It was good that the three of us were talking about how some people seem to lack common sense, whether or not marriage is really necessary these days and stuff like that.

Time sped by and before we knew it, the lights dimmed and some nice chilled out songs played including Massive Attack's classic "Unfinished Sympathy" so that's tune of the day for me. It just was really enjoyable and the three of have agreed that we need to meet up again sometime and have a similar sort of evening out - maybe when the Christmas markets are on and then we can walk around, have food and drink and also feel all Christmassy too. That to me said a lot that we all get on really well but also that it was just a really good time - and I certainly felt positive after a negative week at work!

Wednesday 3rd October - Why Always Last Minute?

It was another long day at work but ultimately rewarding too - I was resolving a problem for a member of staff who had accidentally overwritten a file on the network - but thanks to the "restore previous versions" option that we have running on our filer system, it meant that I was able to bring back one that had been last saved at 8am this morning, which was more than adequate for her before the mistake had happened. When you get a nice message of thank you it does make things a lot more happier inside and I've kept that with me during the day to keep me going.

Another little issue I had to resolve during the day was that to do with some swipe card readers maybe not swiping cards correctly. I did some investigation and got the member of staff to swipe their own and my ID cards, and they worked fine. I suspected that the hardware was perfectly okay but that it was possibly that some of the cards didn't have the magnetic stripe encoded correctly on the back, or they had kept their ID card too near to a mobile phone, which I've seen before do some weird things with mag strips on the back of cards (especially one day travelcards on the tube for some reason!)

I did another hour of helping to clear the backlog of stuff tonight and I did manage pretty well to get quite a bit done in that time so was pleased at least to be able to help out there. I didn't want to leave it that late though as I was off to the Etihad Stadium with my friend later to see if Manchester City could kick start their Champions League campaign against Borussia Dortmund. They are a good side though and I am sure that we'd have to be at our best to beat them - and my friend and I munched a pie and thought tactics before the game.

To be fair, Dortmund had brought plenty of fans with them who made lots of noise throughout, they bounced in unison, sang lots of songs and really got behind their team and put us to massive shame really. Maybe we knew in advance how difficult the game was going to be? And with good reason too. Dortmund were excellent and knocked the ball around like we weren't there. Our midfield went missing with Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri all having shocking performances. In fact, only Joe Hart was keeping the score at 0-0 with a string of fine saves, whilst the Dortmund keeper pulled off a great save to stop Sergio Agüero.

So half time and 0-0 and I figured it wouldn't stay like that for long, and so it proved. A mistake from the sub Jack Rodwell let the Dortmund attack in and it wasn't too long before Marco Reus scored in front of their fans, who made even more noise than they had done before. They went for the kill and at least twice came close to the second goal with Joe Hart pulling off a couple of superb saves - if he wasn't man of the match for City, I don't know who was. We plugged away going forward but even with some good crosses from Pablo Zabaleta, nothing was happening with converting chances.

It was the 89th minute when we had a corner, the ball came in and broke to Agüero who lifted the ball over the Dortmund defender Neven Subotic instinctively put his hand up and stopped the ball from reaching the City strikers waiting with a massive clear handball. The referee spotted it straight off and pointed to the spot. Mario Balotelli was on by this time and in my mind there was no doubt that he was going to take it, and he did indeed. An excellent finish from him and cool as you like too slotted it home for 1-1, and a draw which to be honest our performance didn't deserve, but I'll take that any day of the week after how we had played.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Lust For Life" by Iggy Pop, which was blasting over the speakers in the Etihad Stadium during half time whilst the half time highlights were being shown. It really did sound good over a big PA system and you can imagine if it was in a nightclub it'd still have that galvanising effect - it's just one of those songs which gets you in the right frame of mind really. I think some of the City defenders needed to be more awake and listen to that at half time, mind!

Tuesday 2nd October - On Your Marks, Get Set, Bake!

I had a fair bit of work to do this morning and I was spending a fair bit of time taking on a few jobs and sorting them out, but I was also conscious of the fact after dealing with one call that we hadn't as yet written a new guide for connecting to our revised wireless network with Android phones. The instructions I'd emailed a member of staff worked first go, so that was good, and so armed with my own Samsung Galaxy Y phone, I captured all the necessary screen grabs of the setup screens, and then transferred them via USB to my PC. I then emailed the images and instructions to another of our teams so that they can put this information up on the web sooner instead of later.

I was asked though as well if I could fill a gap in the staff newsletter and provide a personal profile for it, as they like to have one each time for the newsletter, and being the considerate person that I am, I gave myself around fifteen minutes or so to answer all the questions as needed and then was able to send it back to the Information Officer who asked for it (I get on with that member of staff well, which always helps) - and so later in the afternoon when the newsletter was published, there was the quick profile and questions to boot - good to do, that.

I did another late stint tonight, aided by the fact that The Love In My Heart was on her late shift and so wouldn't be coming to mine for tea till later anyway, so it made good sense that I was able to at least crack on and get as much as I could done done in the time alotted. It again worked to my advantage having a quiet room with no one around so I could analyse things and get on with the job in hand - and indeed I spotted a few instances where there'd actually been a duplicate call raised, so made perfect sense to sort that out.

I headed home and avoided most of the rain, and settled in to sort out the evening meal for when The Love In My Heart came over. I did us some chicken wrapped in a little bacon with stuffing balls, a little sausage and some gravy, along with some charlotte potatoes and steamed carrots, peas and green beans. Healthy(ish), I thought, and The Love had very kindly brought along a couple of bottles of real ale as a thank you for me helping build her Ikea stuff the other night. Yaay. One of them was the Courage Directors ale which I'd not had in ages and went down so well with the meal too.

We then watched the Great British Bake-Off, where biscuits were the order of the day. The technical challenge with the teacakes was brilliant fun, not least because of the intense heat in the tent that day making it difficult for the bakers to get things to set properly. The fact that they had to make all of the components was something else too, and in the end it was good to see that they had managed reasonably well. Up till the final bake, we both agreed it was Brendan (again!) or James that would be star baker, and the final challenge was controversial - James' barn looked like an abandoned barn and even if the gingerbreads were good, it didn't look as appealing.

Still, we both thought even after the first two challenges we knew who was going and we were proved right as Cathryn said her goodbyes at the end of the programme. It now leaves Danny as the only female left in the show up against John, James and Brendan, so will be intruguing to see how the semi finals go next week. I think for me it shows just how good the ordinary person can be with baking, but also I must freely admit I do have a soft spot for Mel Giedroyc as well - she seems to know when to laugh, cry or offer a hug. Bless, she's lovely.

Tune of the day was one I played just after The Love left for home later on and sums up how I feel really - "Make You Mine" by Donna Marie. It's three minutes of lovely acoustic brilliance and just seems to capture a gentle soft emotion of how you really feel when you feel for someone (if you know what I'm getting at) and the solo stripped down acoustics of it just really give it that gentle, warm feeling that means it's perfect for listening to whilst snuggled up in front of the fire (that was the plan anyway!)

Monday 1st October - A Co-Ordinated Effort

Hard to believe really that we're already in October - it really feels like that the year has gone incredibly quickly and that it's soon getting to be quite dark in the evenings as well as really busy where I work as well. And it's because of the busy period that I'm helping out, along with one of my colleagues who is also doing the co-ordinating role at the moment, to try and get a backlog of outstanding jobs and calls cleared so that we can get back to some form of normality. I know it's been pretty mental as of late and it does make me wonder just how much you can get pushed before someone falls.

Anyway, it was good to be able to help out and indeed to take stock of the calls in question and see what could be done with them. A fair few of them were ones that I could easily resolve or even be able to remotely do some work from, so it wasn't too bad to be able to get on with things. Half the time spent though is actually working out the requirements within the call, as it's often not always clear what needs to be done, but once you know, you can then apply your knowledge accordingly and get on with it.

I think also because I was effectively doing the work after hours, it meant that I could concentrate on the job in hand and not be disturbed by anyone so effectively making a better use of the time to do the job in hand. When I consider how much you have to do during the day and how many interruptions you get during the day as well, it goes to show that sometimes it's more effective to have that quality time to be able to concentrate. Well, I think so anyway and it soon sped by before I knew it.

I headed via the city centre on the way home from work as I wanted to nip into TK Maxx and double check out a pretty nice Winter type jacket that I saw yesterday, mainly just to confirm what make and style it was so I could order it online later. It certainly fitted the bill well and when I got home, I did a bit of searching on their website - no can do, but I did a search on the make and located a website that sold the jackets of that same make - and they were also £10 cheaper than TK Maxx. Win win all round, and so I ordered one in a dark green colour, which looked good when I tried it on yesterday but it was the wrong size, so good to order the right size really.

I had a bit of a rock fest listening to some music tonight, notably a bit of Slayer and their 1990 album "Seasons in the Abyss". It's all very well to dismiss them as just thrashing really fast, but some of their slower songs are actually really melodic while keeping a dark edge to it, and not least the title track which has an epic two minute plus opening section which sets the tone before it speeds up pretty well but keeps in tune too. I've even sung it on vocals in Rock Band 3 (yes, I downloaded all three Slayer tracks in the same pack!) - so all good there - tune of the day without question.