Dear Diary... October 2013

Thursday 31st October - Scary Stuff

It was Halloween tonight, and surprisingly no one knocked on the door of the house for Trick or Treat. I'd even managed to get some chocolate and some sweets ready just in case anyone did pop over (they would have been nicely rewarded if they were nice children in good costumes, supervised by their parents) but generally I think the cold weather might have put some people off wandering out - it did feel a little nippier later and on top of all that, there was rain in the air - so not ideal.

Most of today was spent on a course organised by one of our departments - in order for us to learn a new system that was being brought in to place to deal with orders. Unusually, the course was not an internal venue, but an external one, and indeed one that wasn't the easiest to find - the building was, but it was a good job that there was signage all around the fourth floor or else I don't think that we'd have found the actual room that the training was in. Some of the corridors felt rather grey, blue and desolate and it didn't seem like the sort of place you'd want to be leaving late at night.

That said, the course itself was very well run and the training material generally spot on. The people doing the training knew their stuff, were very personable overall and that made things a lot more enjoyable. Sensibly, a large TV screen in the front of the room had the presentations and that meant that you could see it pretty well and understand the concepts, and having a full test system was also good and with some meaningful exercises to get some good practice in. Effectively it'll mean a few changes for us, but I'm thinking positive instead of negative to be honest.

I headed home later, and then headed off to the local Tesco and the local pound shop to get a few things, then back home to a shed load of washing and ironing which needed to be done. In a good way it meant that I was able to get everything sorted before The Love In My Heart came over for the evening. I made us a spaghetti carbonara with tons of pancetta in, and some really nice garlic ciabatta slices that did the job wonderfully well. That definitely meant that it filled us up nicely before settling in for the evening, with the Bake off Masterclass being a case in point.

I did have on Frank Black's "Teenager of the Year" album on whilst I was doing the ironing and even some nineteen years after its release, there's still some great tracks on there. I quite like "Freedom Rock" as well as the short but sweet "Bad, Wicked World" but my favourite is actually the album opener, the short "Whatever Happened To Pong?" - possibly one of the finest songs ever written about an arcade game ever, even having some of the blips from the machine near the end - a classic. Tune of the day was an easy decision - "Paddle the paddle to the side to the side - Pong! Ball in the machine..."

Wednesday 30th October - Time on the Toon

After another busy day, it was good to head home and indeed via the hospital to see my friend again. I think it was good that I was able to pop in for an hour or so and keep him company, and hopefully get his spirits up whilst he was having his tea and a cuppa later. When you just have to stare at the same walls most of the time it can be quite daunting really, especially if you're not 100% so the way I see it is that any quality time that you can get is time that makes it feel less isolated and alone.

It doesn't stop me worrying that one day he might end up becoming too ill to do some of the stuff that he does now, and a fair chunk of it with me - watching Manchester City, going to plenty of gigs and really just spending quality time together as friends should do. It does make me feel rather more lucky that I have what I have in life, and it's a massive reality check in so many ways. Yes, I may complain about the job or indeed at times stuff going on, but really I don't have that much to really feel bad about, and compared to other people I definitely don't.

I headed home, made myself something to eat for tea and then headed over to my uncle's place. It was my cousin's birthday today so it's always good to pop over, say hello and generally have a good natter. What I didn't realise was that Manchester City's game against Newcastle in the Capital One Cup was going to be on the telly, so I was very kindly asked if I'd like to stay and watch it - of course I didn't mind! My brother in law and later on my brother came over too, so the six of us in all were there cheering City on.

Not that it was anything to write home about I should add - well not the ninety minutes anyway. City had one chance where Jesus Navas beat their keeper Tim Krul to a ball, and pulled it back for James Milner to shoot just over. But City didn't look that good and at times the defence (apart from Costel Pantillimon in net) worried me a fair bit. I also didn't really want us to have to go to extra time either, but that's what happened and it was a case of seeing if we could hold our nerves.

Surprisingly, we actually could. Nine minutes into extra time Edin Džeko pulled the ball across the box, and Alvaro Negredo nipped in to score a well taken finish, and so be in the lead. Right on the stroke of half time in extra time a lovely weighted James Milner pass found Džeko and the Bosnian Diamond casually walked past Tim Krul with the ball before slotting it home for 2-0, and no way were Newcastle going to recover from that to be honest. They didn't, and so City were safely through - facing Leicester City away in the fifth round.

Not a bad job all round then, and as I headed home I thought that it might just be the year we might even win this, although with Manchester United and Chelsea still in there, it might well be tricky to do so, and none of them are facing each other next time around. Tune of the day in the meantime though is the rather good version of the Manchester City classic "The Boys In Blue" performed by local band 10Acre, who clearly understood what the passion of the original was all about when adding rocking guitars to it and making it their own. Cracking stuff.

Tuesday 29th October - Spanish Railway Inquisition

It was another productive day of sorts, and I spent a fair amount of time looking at SCCM and doing whatever I could in terms of cleaning up from my side. One of the main things I wanted to concentrate on was getting all the Adobe applications into one collection folder, and then having the separate versions of the suites (and individual packages) in collections, so that effectively you'd (once you got a licence) place the machine in the collection, and you'd be all good to go, which means everyone can use it.

In essence I think I had around 35 or so different collections for campus based applications and with some careful planning, I've massively reduced that to at least a third of that, which has to be a positive going forward. Realistically I know as new versions of packages have been released, we've not always been so up front as to getting rid of the old stuff, so now seemed the perfect time to be able to do that, so that's the next task: do what I can to get it all sorted.

I headed home later and once The Love In My Heart had arrived, we headed to the Royal Infirmary to see my friend, who had been admitted to hospital yesterday. He wasn't too good by all accounts but seems to be slowly on the mend, with the course of antibiotics that he was taking starting to kick in. He did show us both a picture of what he looked like yesterday when he was admitted, and it wasn't pretty. I do worry that one day it might not be so lucky that he happened to be in for a check up at the hospital and so it was easier to get him in.

Later, back at mine, I started to make the tea and we settled in to watch the recording from Sunday night that I'd saved for us both - Great Continental Railway Journeys, featuring of course Michael Portillo. As you can imagine, another great series of this was to start and it didn't disappoint, as he headed down South from Madrid to Seville, and then along some spectacular views on the way to the rock of Gibraltar. It did sadden me somewhat though that some of the lines might well be closing in the future, in almost a replica of what the Beeching cuts did for the UK back in the day - and that would be a shame.

Of course what's always fascinating about programmes like that is the urge it gives me to travel and see more of the world, not just what's around me. And I don't mind the odd train journey of course so you can imagine that exploring a country that way would work out rather nicely for me. Maybe that's something I need to do more of, finances permitting. It made me think of songs about travelling, so "Wanderlust" by REM for that reason happens to be tune of the day.

Monday 28th October - Get Into The Groove

So, back to work then. And with the stresses of the last few works finally calming down and getting to a more manageable level, it was time to take a long serious look at SCCM and get some cleanup work done, which is more then essential if we're going to attempt to migrate things over from 2007 over to 2012. As it transpired, I noticed that we had multiple versions of installers for the same product, so removed all but the latest ones (as this is one which we place in a site wide collections folder and advertise to that, so in theory only one advert and task sequence should be running anyway).

I also did notice that the sheer number of task sequences were set up for various different reasons but worked hard to try and start to reduce the number considerably - I'll need to do some careful liaison with some of the team to be sure we only remove what we need and keep what we really wish to take over. I think too that I know this is where some of my application packaging skills come in as well - so I can effectively do what I can to try and see what can be done more smartly in the future.

I also had some investigative work to do this afternoon and it meant that I could spend time doing some research on my least favourite web plugin - Java! Since Oracle have taken it over from Sun they've effectively made it even more silly to try and turn updates off, and when it extracts the main offline installer into a Windows MSI installer, it puts it in a non-standard location for the installation process. That didn't stop me of course, and a bit of MSI modification later proved that you could turn off all that automatic updating stuff to make it a bit more locked down and corporate.

I headed home later on and spent a bit of time with The Chase on ITV whilst relaxing with a coffee. My, I've seen some thick game show contestants in my time, but one of them on tonight's really took the biscuit. She barely got three questions right during the cash builder part, and even then that was a struggle, and then despite taking the lower cash offer from The Chaser, got no questions right at all and was caught in a record low of four questions from him. Just so unbelievably stupid, oh how I giggled at that!

I also spent some time listening to Yellow Magic Orchestra, whose rather poppy synth numbers are actually quite a good pick me up for a Monday evening. Tune of the day is the excellent "Firecracker" from their debut album, which has an amazing amount of synth work for its era and also has an immensely catchy little background bassline which pins it all along. Of course there's that and also "Rydeen" from their Solid State Survivor album which are real classics.

Sunday 27th October - Four on the Bounce

I left The Love In My Heart to have a lie in, and having remembered to set the clocks backward last night due to us going back to Greenwich Mean Time for the winter, it was time to head up and watch the Indian Grand Prix from the Buddh circuit near Delhi. The Grand Prix almost wasn't going to go ahead but with Sebastian Vettel on pole the only thing I could hope for is that one of the two Mercedes drivers got past and made his soft tyres on first strategy fail to make it more interesting.

That didn't happen - he sped off, changed tyres to the medium after two laps, and then proceeded to get past the opponents one by one will he was second behind Mark Webber, eventually then taking the lead after some more pit stops and drivers then changing to the medium after having to take the soft for a small middle stint. Webber's alternator blew putting him out, and then Vettel almost cruised to the line with Nico Rosberg second and some smart tactical driving by Romain Grosjean meaning he went from 17th to 3rd and a well deserved podium - driver of the day for me, closely followed by a good drive from Sergio Peréz to finish fifth.

What that meant, and even more so with Fernando Alonso outside the points (so it didn't matter what Vettel did anyway) was a fourth straight world title for Sebastian Vettel, and thoroughly deserved to be honest. Granted, he didn't do himself any favours with his controversial pass of Mark Webber and race win in Malaysia (part of the main reason some F1 fans like to boo him) but behind the wheel he's just on it in so many ways and really is a class apart right now. Next year's mass of regulation changes might prove to be a change in who wins, but I can imagine even with that he'll be up there.

Later on The Love In My Heart and I headed into Stockport for a little bit of shopping, where she managed to get herself a nice little outfit, but I must admit it gets frustrating for me as a bloke. I am body conscious at the best of times so do worry about that, but it seems that in almost every clothes shop the men's section is treated like an after thought and put right at the back in most shops, meaning you either have to dodge past the women's section or even worse, they put it next to lingerie. What the hell? Not great. Mind you, I didn't see anything massively I liked anyway.

We decided to have a late afternoon lunch together so we headed to the Elizabethan in Heaton Chapel, where a very nice gammon steak for me and some gorgeous haddock for The Love was just what we needed, nice to just sit by the window and chat and see the rest of the afternoon go speedily by. We headed back to mine, had a game of Scrabble whilst seeing a bit of Countryfile (and indeed they had One Man and His Dog on as part of it, bizarre, not the same without the late Phil Drabble of course.)

The Love headed home and I spent a fair bit of time in the evening bowing to the gods of rock in Rock Band 3 on the Wii, with me finally managing to do the goal of nailing every single song at five stars on hard (mainly bass and vocals with some drums and guitars thrown in) - the final one being "Hey Man Nice Shot" by Filter, which vocals was the option and I just about managed it. I also did Queen's classic "Bohemian Rhapsody" on hard vocals and almost got 100% on it - but my score was ranked 125 overall, so no complaints there really - tune of the day for obvious reasons.

Saturday 26th October - Re-Make, Re-Model

It was a fairly quietish day as I wanted to take things relatively easy (Cadbury's Caramel not even an option of course). I headed up, got the house cleaned up and also did a fair bit of washing, and later on I ventured out to Morrisons in Openshaw to check what real ale selection they had. I wasn't disappointed either - they had Black Cat and Fraoch in their selections - oh yes indeed. Needless to say some of those were mine, as were a couple of birthday cards for some forthcoming birthdays. I even managed to time it so well to head on the bus home.

The afternoon was a sporting one in the main, first of all watching the lunchtime kick off on BT Sport (well it was free this weekend so I took advantage) and saw Arsenal beat Crystal Palace 2-0 despite Arsenal having Mikel Arteta sent off for professional foul. I then flicked between the racing on Channel 4 and the rugby league World Cup on BBC One, with England starting well but eventually succumbing to Australia for a good opener under the roof of the Millennium Stadium.

The Love In My Heart came over later and once I'd made us a Tesco Finest Pizza for tea with ham, mascarpone and mushrooms (which was gorgeous) it was time to get ourselves ready and changed for the evening ahead. We'd booked tickets ages ago for an evening with Bryan Ferry, and it would be intriguing to see how it would turn out - not least that I much preferred the 1970s pink rim palm tree Island label output of Roxy Music (the first five albums in particular) and The Love preferred the late 1970s/1980s EG label more commercial output of said band, and Bryan solo doing the likes of "Slave to Love".

We knew that The Lowry had road works which meant that the trams weren't running and also only one way in by car, so The Love drove. The approach to The Lowry was busy because there was also the Christies' "Night of Neon" charity fund raiser event going on at the same time, but we managed to locate a space and then head towards the theatre. As it turned out, the ticket said 7.30pm start but the announcers in the venue said it was 8pm, so gave us time to have a drink and a chat before the gig commenced.

No support, so on came Bryan Ferry. Well, he did eventually. His orchestra started proceedings off with a selection of tracks that made up "The Jazz Age" album, selected solo and Roxy Music compositions re-done in a 1920s jazz style, thus starting off with the likes of "Do The Strand", "Avalon" and "The Bogus Man". This all felt a bit surreal without Bryan there himself, but after fifteen minutes or so, on he came and the mood change to one much more akin to the likes of rock, and that did feel better - the likes of covers such as "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", and even "Oh Yeah" which The Love did appreciate. We even got "Carrickfergus" as well which was an unexpected bonus.

A twenty minute or so interval was enough time for us to head to the loo and get a bottled water to take in for the second half. Many older fans were a bit perturbed when they were told they couldn't take in their glasses of wine, made me wonder if they'd listened to all the announcements - plastic bottled drinks only, folks. More of the jazz style stuff came on to start with (and the two backing singers had changed costumes and were dancing around looking rather cool and funky) before Bryan came back on.

Certainly he was entertaining the crowd by saving the big guns till later in the set which got a lot of people on their feet and going for it. We did get "When She Walks In The Room" and "Sign of the Times" from "The Bride Stripped Bare" solo album (we also had the jazz version of "This Island Earth" too). Mind you, I did get "Out of the Blue" which was simply awesome - with his guitarist doing all sorts of cool stuff to attempt to be like the electric violin with phasing that the original had - tune of the day for me as it was rather brilliant.

Of course when it came to the likes of "Street Life" and "Love Is The Drug" everyone was really enjoying those, but a fair number really appreciated his version of the John Lennon classic "Jealous Guy" (ironically Roxy Music's only number one single) and to really get the diehard fans happy like me, a blistering version of "Editions of You" with one of the keyboard players doing his best to do all the Brian Eno knob twiddling weirdness of the original. As I know all the words to that one I happily sang along, much to The Love's amusement. Well when you have a line like "Too much cheesecake too soon" you just have to smile don't you?

It was all good then but maybe a little bit pricey for what it offered - being at one side of the stalls for a mere £55 each was a bit of a dear do really. I think too having him not around for sections of the gig wasn't that great either - but the songs when he rocked out were bloody great, and makes me all the more sad for not being old enough to have seen Roxy Music in their 1970s heyday. We headed home, snuggled up with coffee before heading to bed, and reflected on a good night all round.

Friday 25th October - Time Is Temporary, Class Is Permanent

With the incessant rain lashing down in Manchester, I was heading home from work when flashes of lightning and a huge clap of thunder meant I was sheltering from the elements as much as I can when waiting for the bus. I got on and you could literally see the clouds darken and the heavens open up as the rain fell even more at a rather venomous pace. I was a bit concerned that I'd end up getting drenched later as I was going to be heading to the Bridgewater Hall to see Roy Harper live.

I headed home, had something to eat for tea and had a quick chat with The Love In My Heart. She wasn't coming with me tonight: the epic progressive folk rock that Roy has produced over the years isn't her thing (I did try her out with the Stormcock album: she wasn't that impressed.) For me it's a much more personal journey as I had grown up at home listening to his music, particularly the albums during his 1970s Harvest label era that defined him as one fo the true Mancunian music greats (even if most of you probably haven't heard of him - a real shame that is.)

The Bridgewater Hall, despite the rain still hammering it down, was busy and a hive of activity, and mainly people older than myself who have followed him since his career began. What I did notice though were quite a fair few people younger than me, who had discovered him, maybe via the likes of Joanna Newsom or Fleet Foxes, and were just as enthusiastic about his music, judging by their conversations. I had a nice seat in the side circle which overlooked the stage.

First off was Jonathan Wilson, who had produced and played with Roy on his recent album "Man and Myth". Jonathan played a few lengthy but lovely acoustic pieces, including a few from his new album "Fanfare" including "Moses Pain", and closed with the delightful title track of his album "Gentle Spirit". He really had a lovely voice to go with the softness of the acoustic guitars, and the Bridgewater's own acoustics just filled the room rather nicely, which would bode well. I might have to buy the Fanfare album sooner rather than later as some of the tracks reminded me of a younger Roy, and no bad thing.

No interval either - Roy came straight on at the end of Jonathan's set, and Jonathan would play with him on a fair number of tracks, meaning that the room would be filled rather nicely. In fact, there was also a string and brass section coming along to play on some tracks too which would add either the more original feel to some songs or a different interpretation. However, first up was "Highway Blues" which Roy played mainly solo, and his voice sounded in rather fine fettle, sometimes emotional but always distinct.

The first half of the show had a good mix of songs from his new album "Man and Myth" including the rather epic fifteen minute "Heaven Is Here" as well as a gorgeously delicate "Time is Temporary" complete with gentle plucking from the string section at the right point - made it even more lovely. We also got "Hallucinating Light" from his HQ album which just had massively lovely swathes of acoustic guitar all the way through, which was simply lovely. And to end proceedings, "I'll See You Again" from his "Valentine" album. He wasn't sure about playing it, but the strings and brass section wanted him to, and it was the right decision all round - it was simply delightfully lovely.

My highlight of the first half though even surpassed that, complete with delicate strings, it was "Another Day" from the Flat Baroque and Berserk album, a song that has personal meanings to both me and my mother, so she would have rather loved it too. It was a great rendition and the soft playing and strings just underpinning things nicely meant it was almost as good as hearing the original being recorded. It would have been my tune of the day only for something else to even surpass that.

A twenty minute break ensued and I noticed the man who was sat near me had moved (complete with digital SLR camera) along to the upper side circle, where no one was sat, to try and get some crafty shots of Roy - he had been doing so all during the first half of the show. The policy at the Bridgewater Hall is strictly "no cameras" which to be fair they do publicise with signage etc. I must admit when the ushers escorted him out during the second half I was pretty pleased: I'm a photographer myself but it's people who don't respect the rules who gives us all a bad name.

The second half was even better than the first and I was admittedly very emotional by the end of it - primarily because of a few songs that mean a lot to me personally. More tracks from "Man and Myth" including "The Stranger" (my favourite from it) as well the ode to forbidden love that is "January Man" and a great although less rocking rendition of the album opener "The Exile" got an airing, with Roy and Jonathan belting out the chorus with real gusto and passion. Add to that a lovely string-laden "12 Hours of Sunset" and that alone would have been brilliant.

Nothing though could prepare me for the final two songs: the opening guitar picks were played and I recognised it straight away, the beautiful, epic, brilliant "Me and My Woman". And my did it not disappoint, with the strings and brass section coming in with their parts really well, and Roy absolutely on top form as he sang the words with increased passion, notably the "break through the silence" lyric, where everyone stopped before Roy took up the acoustics and vocals. The endings had even more strings and acoustic for an instrumental final flourish and it just was massively moving overall. Tune of the day, if not live tune of the year. Honestly, it was that good.

Roy came off briefly, with a standing ovation from the fans, and on he came and started to talk about cricket, which meant one thing: "When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease". It really did feel special to hear him sing that here in this venue, with the brass section in full form and really giving it a feel of being in a cricket field in Yorkshire somewhere, and just was evocative and brilliant. At the end he said it might be the last time he plays his home town live: I'd like that to not be the case but if it was, then what a way to go out. It was simply brilliant, and definitely my gig of the year so far.

Thursday 24th October - End of The Railway Line

Even though the series did actually finish last week, I missed it for some reason and tonight therefore I settled down with The Love In My Heart and watched the final episode of The Railway: First Great Western, thanks to having Demand 5 on my Blu-ray player, so I could just fire that up and then watch it. It proved to be another excellent inside look at what actually goes on behind the scenes of the railway itself and just how much is needed to be done to keep things going.

The managers had a "meet the managers" stand at Paddington, which quickly became quite popular when a train had broken down just outside London, causing a bottle neck of trains coming in and everyone wanting to know just how long the "delayed" meant rather than just have a sign without no time span. The station manager there did think pretty quickly and was able to get some clearer notices, and only one train eventually had to be cancelled, which wasn't that bad going.

More fascinating was a look at a training exercise for the train drivers, where they sealed off part of a railway close to Okehampton in Devon (mainly now used by heritage lines, but part beyond it is disused) so that they could simulate the effects of "leaves on the line" by the cunning use of vegetable oil and other mixes similar, to see how different braking techniques could be used in stopping the train, and which was the best one to use. It showed that applying the rear brake did work out best for one driver, in terms of a shorter distance, so proved rather invaluable.

I had made us a pasta bake for tea with chorizo in (one of my specialities) and I have to say that using a pasta sauce with mushrooms in just seems to work wonders. Tesco's own is actually quite good for this, and of course I could even add some freshly chopped ones as well should I wish, but it's a nice mix of flavours nonetheless. Understandably, with the rain lashing it down outside it was also rather an inspired choice to get ourselves warmed up for the evening too.

It was just good after a tough week to spend some time relatively relaxed and just taking it easy on the whole. I think that I've needed to focus more on what I need to do, and today was just a different perspective that I took on things: sort of "well I can't change the world and if things can't be done, then you have to hold your hands up and say that they can't be done instead of complaining about it really". I think that was the right thing to do and overall it's meant that I didn't feel as stressy today.

Tune of the day in the meantime is Roxy Music's "Out of the Blue" which is from their fourth album "Country Life" (the one with the controversial cover of course). I think although it starts off fairly rocking, the end part with the violin and all the phasing effects around it really makes for a brilliant bit of art-rock, and part of me is semi-hoping that it's one of the tracks that Bryan Ferry plays when myself and The Love In My Heart see him on Saturday, but we shall see.

Wednesday 23rd October - Maxed Out

I must admit that I am getting massively worried about the workload right now. In fact I had three meetings to head to today, two of which were involved and detailed and that took a lot of concentration and thought. I think though too that I needed to try and take a break in between everything, but that proved to be rather difficult. I suppose too that I don't mind being busy and being able to use my analytical skills to good use, but I think too that there's a limit to what I can do.

Part of my worry really is that I don't like to fail at anything that I do and that I like to do well and succeed - and if I don't for some reason that does bug me. It's probably me trying to be somewhat of a perfectionist a little bit I admit, but also it's because I do feel more confident in my ability if I do succeed somewhat. I might have to start making some very tough decisions over the next few days, but we shall see what happens. Needless to say it was a long day and I was glad to be home.

And indeed glad to be doing something else too, so as well as some washing that needed doing, I sorted my online food shopping out and got that delivery scheduled for tomorrow night - the slot I really wanted which is cheaper had already been taken, but hey ho. I did also look at an email that I was sent by The Lowry - it looks like one of the roads close to the venue is shut this weekend, so no trams to there and indeed only one way in by car as well, so I informed The Love (as we'd be there on Saturday for a gig) and so we could make alternative plans for what we were going to do.

Tune of the day is Orbital's rather good version of the Doctor Who theme, simply called "Doctor?" - it simply has all the great bits that would have featured in the theme tune circa the late 1970s and turned it cleverly into a bass hungry technological fest - it's actually lots better than all those strings and things in the current version. And of course it's a month today that the 50th anniversary special gets shown on BBC One, which I think might prove to be rather special....

Tuesday 22nd October - Fantastic Finale

Everything stopped for myself and The Love In My Heart tonight at 8pm. I had made ourselves some lovely chicken in a cheese and leek sauce with some Cornish butter mash and some peas, and it went down a treat before we had a drink in hand, and BBC Two HD ready to transmit the final of The Great British Bake Off, filmed a few months back of course live from the tent somewhere in Somerset where this and the previous series had indeed been made.

Out of the three finalists, it was a very close call as to who I thought might win. At the start of the show I went for Ruby, as I think despite her somewhat worried and stressed look and often downcast demeanour, she genuinely produces the goods at times and also seems a little sometimes even humble. Mind you, Kimberley could be methodical, although at times maybe a little too smug, and Frances has a debate of style over substance going on - yes she can design, but the baking does have to match you know!

So on with the first bake then: and indeed a lattice type picnic basket pie was what was needed to be made. Frances went creative and hers looked good with the layers, and both her and Ruby had cooked their inside bits first and then put the dried in portions to bake along with the pastry, and Ruby's vegetarian pie looked very appetising, even to a meat eater like me. Kimberley put all her meat and stuff in raw, and when it cooked inside the bake, liquid everywhere, so not great. I'd give Ruby the win, Frances second, Kimberley third.

In the technical challenge the making of twelve pretzels, six sweet and six savoury, proved to be a tough task. Not least because the shape was unique but also because the way you had to put them in this hot liquid for a very short amount of time before baking them - and they did make the mistake of keeping them in too long (to be expected really). It was judged though that Frances was bottom because hers were rolls not pretzels, Ruby was second (the sweet ones were ace) and Kimberley won, so if it was on points scoring, I'd make it five to Ruby, four to Kimberley, three to Frances.

The showstopper would probably therefore decide the winner with a three tiered wedding cake. However, this is where the pressure did tell on Ruby, and although her ideas were good and the top tier of the passion fruit filling was really lovely, she'd overbaked the other two sponges which dried up the tiers somewhat. Not great. Frances' cake had all the design of confetti, albeit down one side, but the three cake tiers themselves looked and tasted rather gorgeous (although not sure about the rhubarb with the ginger - the ginger cake alone would do rather lovely). The three layers of Kimberley's cake were okay, but they weren't impressed with the decoration (getting your own stamp to put on the cake was a tad pretentious maybe?)

So I reckon Frances won that one, Kimberley second and Ruby third, so that would mean six points a piece if I was scoring them 3-2-1. However, if the showstopper were to be the one that carried the most in terms of prestige, then that'd be a Frances win. The Love and I both agreed that for the final bake alone she would be a deserved winner, and so it proved to be. I did notice too that Ruby was so lovely when Frances won, giving her hugs and saying to her "I'm so proud of you!" which is lovely to see. I must admit we've both got mixed feelings about it moving to BBC One next year - I mean, people can find BBC Two can't they?

Anyway, after all that baking excitement, Don't Tell The Bride was on and for a second I thought that my wish would be granted and that the couple were going to not get married after an idea to take a bride skydiving on the wedding day was just one move too far and clearly not impressing the bride one bit (apart from the fact the dress he chose wasn't what she liked and changed it to one he had shortlisted but didn't go for) - but it worked out in the end. Falling flat on the face might have been appropriate, but tune of the day simply had to be "Free Falling" by Tom Petty, a classic tune anyway but one that might have summed it up if they did do the parachute jump!

Monday 21st October - Clearing Out Connections

I had a bit of a manic and busy day today, mainly trying to focus on a few things that I'd been tasked to do and also making sure that where possible I was able to try and get the basics done as well. On a slightly more positive note, I finally nailed the correct configuration for the software I'd been spending a little bit of time on in the last week, and so am pretty close to a position in being able to deploy it in a way that we'd like. The one massive positive that we have from this is that I've pretty much got it working and it's easily deployable as well, a massive relief to be honest.

On a less positive note though, I do seem to be snowed under with other work going on at the moment, and I do think that the more I think about that, the more it genuinely does worry me somewhat. I know I can do the job and do it well but when there is so much going on where you're really having to face making tough decisions as to what to do first and when, and that doesn't always sit comfortable with me. I guess it's something too that I have to look at personally and see which is the lesser of multiple evils.

I did however have a plan of action of sorts to clear out some of the stuff in the house, and started off with some of the DVDs that I don't watch anymore, or indeed I have duplicates of now I have the same films on Blu-ray (because I can). Overall, it meant that I could sell some on eBay and hopefully manage to get rid of them that way, and for some of the others I may even have people in mind to have them. I think sometimes that it's good to purge through stuff.

Also Only Connect was on tonight, and two teams who had to battle through the first round repechage, as they had lost their opening games. It was a close call between the Globetrotters and the Pilots, with both of them getting maximum points on the connecting wall, but it was the missing vowels round that won the day for the Globetrotters, with their skill of knowing the likes of world famous ports, people who have played Dracula and so on standing them in good stead. Effectively they head to the second round repechage, where they may meet a second round loser.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather excellent "It's Grim Up North" by the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (also known as the KLF of course). The rain that was hammering it down tonight reminded me of the video to the said song where it looked like the band were on a desolate part of the M62 as Bill Drummond belted out the names of the Northern towns through a CB radio and the band giving it some full blast. Surreal yet absolutely brilliant at the same time.

Sunday 20th October - Anarchy in Timperley

Today was a date I'd put in the diary for the last few weeks, as I knew that it was a special day for all fans of the late and sadly missed Chris Sievey and his comic alter ego, the one and only Frank Sidebottom. For the last three years fans had raised enough money to have a statue built and sculpted in his honour, and the local council agreed that the only place that it should be is in Timperley itself. So, it was announced that the unveiling would take place at 11.37am this morning and so we thought "best get there for this!"

We got up, I made us some bacon on toast with a coffee, and we then headed out towards Timperley itself. The roads on a Sunday morning were pretty quiet and even though we'd allocated a half hour to get there, it took us twenty minutes. Sensibly we used the large free car park close to the library and walked to the main crossroads from there, as I would imagine that the smaller car parks closer to the centre were packed (and they were). We also spotted The Love's friend and her husband about to park up, and they'd join us in the main crossroads shortly.

It was pretty busy and by the numbers still turning up in the next half hour, it was clear action had to be taken to prevent too much overspill. The local police effectively closed the road where the crossroads and statue were to allow people to stand in the road and try and get a view of the unveiling from there. The statue was effectively contained in wooden shed, an homage to Frank's Fantastic Shed Show, and included one of his catchprhases, 11:37, on the roof of it. There were also four balloons representing the same time of day which were tied to the shed as well.

The atmosphere was happy and plenty of fans were around, some of which had made their own Frank Sidebottom heads which they had on, and they looked pretty good it has to be said. Some of them had made their own cardboard Little Frank (complete with small head to go on top) and they also looked excellent as well. Lots of people had either t-shirts or Timperley Bigshorts football shirts on, and so you could tell people had travelled from some distance to come and see the event unfold.

Some of Chris' family and close friends took to the mic to thank everyone for coming along, and one of them said "We've caused anarchy in Timperley!" (because of the road closure and a nod to one of Frank's cover versions) before the wooden shed was dismantled and the statue itself unfurled to show the public. And I have to say it looked rather excellent - mainly in bronze apart from the head, which was painted and an exact replica of what Frank would have been like, even with the thumbs up. Underneath was a plaque which had one of the lyrics from his songs: "As long as I gaze on Timplerley sunset, I am in paradise" which was fitting really.

As the statue had its unveiling, a local brass band did a version of one of Frank's well known songs "Guess Who's Been on Match of the Day?" - the question was asked to the fans to which of course we all replied "You have! In your big shorts!" and it was a joyous moment - tune of the day without doubt really. It really did feel a together moment and we waited around for the opportunity to take a picture with the statue and indeed I got mine with it, and had to do the same thumbs up pose as Frank himself would have done - it only felt right somehow.

The time went by so quickly but it was a memorable occasion and I think the numbers that turned up was much more than any of us expected to be honest, and that was good to see. It was also interesting to see so many people turn up mod style in scooters to get their own shots with Frank, and once the hubbub had died down, Damon Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy) was there with his Mercury Prize, which he had written on a thank you to Frank for the memories and donated it to Frank's family, which was a rather inspired move all round.

The Love and I said our goodbyes to her (and mine I hope) friends, and it was off to Cheadle Royal to have a leisurely look around John Lewis and The Love even picked up a Christmas present, and I found a birthday present in Sainsburys next door before we headed over to the Ashlea in Cheadle for a very relaxing late afternoon Sunday lunch, and my roast beef was stunningly gorgeous, with a massive Yorkshire pudding, crispy roast potatoes and vegetables and lashings of gravy - simply just the right thing to do really - and a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon together.

Saturday 19th October - Marple Magic

I had a bit of a lie in this morning, primarily as I'd felt a little tired with the week's work but also because I knew that I was going to be up a little earlier than usual tomorrow, and so wanted to make sure that I had a day that was fairly relaxed before a nice evening out tonight. I headed downstairs to see what post had arrived, and you can imagine my delight when I saw a large padded envelope in the postbox - it was no less than the new 3 Daft Monkeys album "Of Stones and Bones" complete with A3 poster (folded in half and fitting in a board backed envelope no less). That was good to receive.

I spent some time sorting out some washing and also ironing a fair few shirts, and so spent the time listening to the new album whilst doing so. It's really enjoyable and the tracks are based on stories based where they live in Cornwall. Although their trademark fast paced folked up numbers are here, it's often the slower ones here that show their versatility and songwriting, and straight away one of my favourites was "The Lovers of Porthgwarra Cove", an enchanting tale of forbidden love and played with a warmth and passion too. Tune of the day was an easy decision, but when the album properly comes out on Monday, I suggest purchasing it.

I then headed into the city centre to have my hair cut to bits, which desperately needed doing. It was a quick in and out job as the hairdressers was unusually quiet, but no bad thing for me to get things done. I then headed over to the food stalls by Piccadilly Gardens to get a blue lamb burger for lunch - a gorgeous lamb burger with some blue Stilton cheese (hence the name) on a gorgeous brown roll with some ketchup thrown in - I have to say it was rather lovely.

Once done, it was then off to Chorlton, where after a bit of a mooch around Kingbee Records, it was over to the local Morrisons to see what real ale they had. Some of the offers weren't as good as I thought, but I did get some decent bargains, two bottles each of the Build A Rocket Boys ale, Ashes Ale and Pendle Witches Brew, so no real complaints there. I then headed home and indulged myself in a bit of rocking with Rock Band 3 on the Wii, and that was good fun doing a bit of drumming to the likes of The Human League and Fleetwood Mac before The Love In My Heart arrived.

We got ourselves changed and ready and it was off out for the evening to the Midland in Marple Bridge. It was off on the bus to Stockport first and the bus driver wasn't exactly Mr Happy, and then preceded to not see us on the upper deck as he headed to the bus station so we were risking our lives clambering downstairs. He was just being a right miserable so and so, and to be honest, I'd have happily reported him to the bus station manager had we had the time to do so, but thankfully we just about made our connecting bus to Marple Bridge, and we were soon in the very lovely village and in the Midland, where we had a reserved table by the window.

It was a lovely relaxed atmosphere with plenty of nice people out for a meal, so that was good, and The Love had a rather nice cocktail whilst I went for a pint of the Molecatcher ale, which was rather dark and gorgeous. The starters were both lovely - I had the mushrooms in marsala sauce and ciabatta, and The Love had an egg which was poached and then had breadcrumbs around it along with some proscuitto ham and some piccalilli, which really did look gorgeous on the plate too.

For the main, I went with their beer battered haddock with some gorgeously chunky chips, minted mushy peas and tartare sauce, which was heavenly to say the least. The Love went for the pork belly which had an amazingly crispy crackling, black pudding, green beans and a gorgeous buttery mashed potato, which to be honest I'd have been more than happy to have as well. The Love let me try a bit of the pork belly for myself and my theory was correct - it looked gorgeous. I also got myself a non-alcoholic cocktail at the same time - a Spicy Mandarin - which had mandarin juice, ginger, cardamom and topped with ice cold lemonade. It was simply gorgeous!

I couldn't resist dessert of course, only seemed right to really, and I had the rather lovely ice cream, which came in a gorgeous sundae dish - I went for three scoops, one each of the clotted cream vanilla, raspberry and strawberry, and The Love said that she could smell the berries from where she was sat - as could I. It was just a beautiful dessert to end a lovely meal with lovely staff, and we reflected on it as we sat together. The Love also looked gorgeous in her Matthew Williamson top as well - it's one of my favourite outfits of hers and she looked beautiful. How lucky am I?

Even better was that as we paid the bill and left I suspected a bus back was due shortly, and within a minute or so up it came, so we got back to Stockport on that and changed for the bus home, again it was virtually within a minute to get that and to head back home, where I saw Manchester City's win against West Ham United on Match of the Day. It was a lovely evening all told and it's moments like this which make me realise how lucky I am to have such a lovely person to be with.

Friday 18th October - Harmonious

It was a fairly productive day today, and I feel finally like I am getting on top of things. However the main problem I've had at the moment seems to have sort of resolved, with me being able to finally configure and set up correctly an installation for a piece of software, and it's now just a case of being able to ensure that everything works correctly as intended and that it's distributable quickly and easily - well that's the thoery anyway. I suppose to that I need to really crack on with a few things now next week.

I also was quite clever in a way too and worked out something useful to plan ahead for the next few weeks or so. It transpires that Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 doesn't fully function as a limited user, because the software doesn't create a certain folder it needs in the user's My Documents folder. However, there's two ways I can look at that - either ensure that the folder is created beforehand so it saves plenty of time and effort, or find another way of seeing how we can make it run. That might well be a job for Monday I think.

I headed home and tidied a few things around the house before my friend headed over for the evening, which was going to involve pizza followed by a large dollop of rocking. On went Rock Band 3 and two microphones came out for the vocal harmonies, which actually proved to be great fun. We completely nailed "Whip It" by Devo that way and then turned our attention to the Human League's classic "Don't You Want Me" with me doing the Susan Ann Sulley parts, leaving my friend to be Phil Oakey (minus the flicked back hair of course).

More rocking followed as we then did David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and also a rather good rendition of "Tubthumping" by Chumbawumba, with us getting plenty of excellent scores on that and keeping the song going nicely with some harmonies in the final choruses. We finally managed a great effort on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" as well with us all nailing at least five stars and getting our way spectacularly through the opera part which is notoroiously tricky.

I got the drum set out and I drummed whilst my friend sang, and so Electric Six's "Gay Bar" just had to be done - the drums weren't too bad but it was vocals where my friend excelled, getting a good score for both that and Pixies' "Debaser". We finally did Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" and best of all, we had a good go at the classic that is "Blue Monday" by New Order, although the drums in that are trickier than you think and I was pleased to have got through all that relatively unscathed, so tune of the day was an easy decision really.

We then played the Fun Fun Minigolf that's stored on one of my SD cards on the Wii - granted it's rather simplisticish miniature golf, but it's very playable and very entertaining to have a go of, and finished the evening off with some pool on the Cue Sports Billiards and Snooker WiiWare game - with some excellent pool shots being played by us both. A perfect way to relax and wind down for the start of the weekend and good to see my friend too.

Thursday 17th October - I Should Coco

It was an enjoyable and somewhat relaxing evening tonight, although for some reason it just went by far too quickly to be honest. I got home, put on Pointless and did pretty well in answering the questions on that, although I did wonder somewhat if I was able to actually one day get three pointless answers in the final round, and with its choice of categories is now argubaly a little bit easier than it was before, when it was not uncommon to roll over the jackpot to a massive £20k plus.

I made myself something to eat for tea and then wrote out a couple of birthday cards, and one of which I was to head off to my uncle's and deliver, as it was my cousin's 20th birthday today. He was in as well and seemed in fine form, and I could hear the faintest squeal and miaow in the distance. It wasn't hard to see why as he had got himself a little kitten called Coco, who seems to love playing with little things at the end of sticks and also jumps around a lot of on his scratching post and house and generally just becomes all cute.

He even was more than willing to pose and stood in the kitchen whilst we were both there taking pictures, and then came up to me on the sofa for a fuss and lots of attention. It was good to see my uncle and his wife too and we had a good chat about a few things, whilst the dramatic conclusion to the siege plot in Emmerdale was on the telly in the background - I'm quite sure that The Love In My Heart might have stopped to watch that in between doing a few things at her place to be honest.

Later on I decided that the best course of action was a little bit of telly to wind down, and so as I'd been out when it was on I'd set the Freeview HD recorder box to record Top of the Pops from 1978. Some of the tracks were admittedly terrible, and I did wonder why the hell the band Darts ever made it big really - their songs just sounded way too safe and somewhat dull and boring to be honest, that's my view anyway. On the positive side though it did have the Boomtown Rats climbing the charts with "Rat Trap" and that's of course a classic of its time.

Even better than that was to follow though, as it was Polly Styrene singing her way along with X-Ray Spex, and no less than the title track of their album "Germ Free Adolescents". It was classic then and still sounds rather brilliant now, so no contest - tune the day - granted, it's not the pure anger and energy of "Identity" but it's a still a great punk pop tune that you should all have a listen to. Sometimes the old punk classics are the best, and anything's better than another week at number 1 for one of the songs from Grease as well!

Wednesday 16th October - Rocking On

Another busy day today, and I spent a fair amount of it working on one of the kiosks that we have, and getting that up and running. I had left it imaging overnight but it was clear that imaging had failed massively, and so it was a case of getting it all started all over again. What makes it a bit more tricky is that you have to image it on a network that supports DHCP and so can network boot, but the machine itself gets assigned a static server IP when it's actually complete, so you then have to move it over to a network socket that supports it, fun and games really.

I also these days have to spend an increasing amount of time writing emails, which to be honest is probably why I don't often send that many when at home. I'm just glad I can type pretty fast and be able to do what I need to do without any interruptions on that scale, and express the wording articulately. For me at least I've managed to save time sometimes by being to the point but fair with it, and that's how I have to operate now - and get on with it all.

I arrived home a little later than planned but decided that rocking out was the way forward and so headed on with Rock Band 3. I wanted to nail Poni Hoax's "Antibodies" track as vocally I'd had a couple of listens when drumming on it last week and so managed to get the vocals spot on, posting a very reasonable score indeed to proceedings. There's two verses and two rise and fall choruses which aren't too bad, it was a case of knowing how the vocals go. Mind you, until that became a minor hit and indeed was used in the game, I can't see that many people having heard of this French electronic act before.

So it was on to the land of proper rock and what better than Pantera's classic "Walk" which appears as a downaloadable track for said game. I have the CD single of that as well as the album "Vulgar Display of Power" which its on, and also the guitar riff was the theme to the late night metal programme on ITV "Noisy Mothers" as well. And yes, I can actually sort of do Phil Anselmo as he blasts the lyrics out. Happy days moshing like a nutter to this in Rockworld as well, so tune of the day. Unsurprisingly the next track on the album isn't a download for a music game, I wonder why :)

Tuesday 15th October - Brazil Here We Come

It was a fairly long and tough day at work and to be honest it was good to get through the day, get what I needed to do done and then head home for some much needed rest and relaxation. I also think that it's been a case at the moment of getting all the little bits done, so after the extensive testing we had we're now rolling out the updated installation of Dropbox to around 160 plus PCs that have it on. It seems to work pretty well and means we can get on with things nicely.

The Love In My Heart came over and we had a good chat and catch up, whilst I made us some spaghetti and meatballs for tea along with some garlic bread. I was trying to time it all so we'd be able to have the meal together in a leisurely manner, chat for a bit during the meal and then sit back on the sofa for the semi final of The Great British Bake Off, as I knew I could then watch the England game on ITV1+1, thus getting the best of both worlds. Not daft me you know!

Anyway, the semi of the Bake Off was pretty tense but after the first two challenges I knew that it was a case of who would do best between Beca and Ruby that would see them in the final: with Kimberley and Frances' first two rounds alone pretty much assuring them of getting there. The final round was an opera cake challenge, and Mel Giedroyc ended up in Paris at the Garnier Opera House no less, delving into the history of the cake. As it turned out although Ruby's case looked untidy, it was probably the best tasting of the four and was most likely enough to save her, so Beca went, shame really though cos she seemed the most personable out of all four!

So on with Eng-er-land then. And I suspected it was going to be a tense ninety minutes or so. Everyone knew that Ukraine were going to give San Marino a good panning and it was down to us to do the job and beat Poland. The first half was tense and Robert Lewandowski had a shot just wide, but as England got into the game more the space opened up, and a delightful Leighton Baines cross from the left was met by the head (and that headband!) of Wayne Rooney to knock it into the bottom corner for 1-0 just before half time. Perfectly timed and a massive boost for the team.

The second half was still nervy with Joe Hart producing a cracking stop to keep out Lewandowski when one on one (of course that stems back to when City played Borussia Dortmund and it was the one man Joe Hart show that night) and as the game ticked on I kept thinking "please, please, score a second!" just so that the game would be out of reach. And as James Milner came on later on, he threaded a ball to Steven Gerrard who battled past a couple of defenders and dinked it over Wojciech Sczescny for 2-0. Yes! Excellent.

The final whistle went and the joy and happiness on the faces of the players, managers and fans was plain to see. I have to say it was thoroughly deserved and it was good to see that the way we played and went for it got its rewards. As you can imagine any flights to Brazil etc shot up through the roof once the result was known, but it shows that we really needed to be there to be honest. Tune of the day reflects the England football team - the classic "World In Motion" by England with New Order from back in 1990 - still the best national team football song ever in my view.

Monday 14th October - Dropping Boxes

So, the start of another week, and indeed the start of a mass round of application packaging, and first off, Dropbox. It transpired that a couple of staff members had mentioned that they were getting prompts to update Dropbox and couldn't do so because they needed to be an administrator to do so. However, I knew this would also mean a good opportunity to repackage the Dropbox installation as a MSI for all users (as we've done previously) and so set to work for both the 32bit and 64bit installations to be sure everything worked as we wanted it to.

I was also asked to package up another piece of software one of our departments are using (they've even purchased a licence) called Axure RX Pro. It looked like the installer was fairly small and minimal, but used InstallAnywhere as the technology. Thankfully one of their own staff posted on the software's forum how to do the silent install (dead easy: just add the /s switch at the end) and so that wasn't too bad. The only thing to work out then was where the software key was stored once you entered it, and that was in the current user's registry, so I made sure that got piped down when a user logged in to the machines it was being installed on.

All in a day's work really, and I had a couple of bits of positive feedback as Dropbox was tested before we plan to do anything with it. I do think that testing is massively important: if you don't test properly then things will inevitably fail and that isn't good no matter which way you look at it. I think that it's often overlooked because it takes time, but it's time actually well spent. And sometimes time isn't on your side, but I'm trying to make effective use of the time.

Anyway, enough rambling. I headed to Piccadilly station on the way home to use their fast ticket machines, so I could collect the tickets that I had reserved online for a couple of trips in the future that I've got planned: the theory is that seeing as I have the tickets with me, I know I won't necessarily need to be rushing in the station in the morning of the planned trips - and because one of them is a first class train to London, it means I can effectively relax in the First Class Lounge with a coffee and everything first, and why the hell not?

Later on I turned on BBC Four for this week's episode of Only Connect, and I have to say that these days I'm getting progressively better at the missing vowels round. I think it's trying to actually work out what part of the phrase might be and working back from there, so for cooking styles I had the likes of nouvelle cuisine (which of course might be shown as nvl lcsn with the vowels missing) and such - I even got molecular gastronomy (or mlcl rgst rnmy) so felt pretty pleased really.

I also spent some time listening to some of the clips that people had put online from Paul Weller's gig at the Apollo last night, and I have to say that there were some quality moments that I looked back on and thought "ah yes, that as well!". For me though, "Sunflower" still stood out as a great rocking version of an older song of his and certainly one that I think sums him up well so tune of the day right there. I think too that I might have to track down something for The Love as well...

Sunday 13th October - The Modfather Returns

Today was a relaxing day and a great evening, sort of planned that way really. It was nice just to rest and relax in the morning after a long week, and I think it did us both the world of good, and I made us some lovely sausages for breakfast, on some nice toast. And coffee. Because I can, and that's how it rolls on a Sunday morning when it's a case of taking it easy and not having to rush around everywhere. I must admit actually that I did get up for a bit myself and watch the Japanese Grand Prix, but left The Love In My Heart to rest on her own and get some well earned sleep.

In the afternoon we had a quick trip out to the local Tesco, mainly to get a few bits I needed and so that The Love could get some cat litter for the kittens. The place was properly packed, and on top of that, it turned out that everyone was trying to get a look at their new Hudl tablet, only to be informed that it had sold out and that they were awaiting stock. I think that goes to show that sometimes it's all about the price as well as quality, as for £119 for an Android tablet, you can't go that wrong really.

Later on we both had a couple of games of Scrabble whilst I had some Barenaked Ladies and then some Paul Weller to get us in the mood for the evening's gig. Both games were pretty good fun although the second board just worked out harder as lots of vowels were coming out early on and making it difficult to try and make some decent words, I think my QUERY for 34 points was one of the higher scoring moves if I remember, lots of moves scoring a fair few points, and I was consistent: 365 in game one and 366 in game two!

I made The Love and I some tea later, it was some nice chicken in a cheese and leek sauce, coupled with some Cornish buttered mash and some peas: it did the job well and The Love commented that the chicken was really nice, and I should get that again. I couldn't agree more: it was rather lovely and I think it was just the thing to keep us going before the evening's entertainment. And with us both changed and ready, it was off on the bus down to the O2 Apollo Theatre to see the modfather himself Paul Weller hopefully play a top notch gig.

Our seats were ace, they were in row CC in the circle, which is actually close to the front. Rows AA-FF are in fact at the front sides, where it drops down towards the lower stage level, but the view is excellent, and because there's only 5 or 6 seats in those rows, there's usually no heads in the way either - perfect for The Love and good for me too. It's well worth it if you manage to get those seats when booking the tickets, we were in EE for The Human League last year and that worked really well.

So on came the support Syd Arthur, and they were effectively attempting to rock, sometimes in a slightly progressive style. Their sound mixer fell victim to not knowing how the acoustics of the Apollo works, making for a cloudy and often not that audible sound mix. They seemed to know what they were doing in terms of playing, but their prog rock workouts didn't exactly sit that well with some of the audience, which was a shame. Out of their set, the final track seemed to be their best one as they went for it with some passion and some control, but the sound mixing made the name unintelligible. Shame that.

After a quick break to set everything up, on came Paul Weller, and for just close to two hours a quality set, spanning his solo career and beyond, was played to the happy Mancunian masses. The fact he has a great band around him including Steve Cradock, and they all play tightly like he does mean it's no messing, no silly stage or video effects, just a band rocking to the masses and playing some quality songs - and that's what we both really wanted.

Hard to remember everything off the set list, but "Sunflower" from the Wild Wood album was played with massive verve and gusto, and also the rather brilliant "Dragonfly" from his recent album Sonik Kicks also seemed to be great fun, as was "The Attic" from the same album. He also played "Bull-Rush" from his first solo album which segued into a cover of The Who's "Magic Bus" which I spotted straight off. "Above The Clouds" from that same album was played, as was a version of the old Style Council hit "My Ever Changing Moods" which pleased The Love massively, as she loves that to bits.

It didn't end there though, we even got a version of The Jam's classic "Start" which sounded just as good as it did when Weller was in that band, and a great version of "Picking Up Sticks" from his Heliocentric album to boot. Back on he came for the encore and played some more great tracks including "The Changingman" before eventually finally coming back on for a second encore - and what a song choice, the classic "A Town Called Malice". Everyone was up on their feet singing along and it made for a great end to a great gig - tune of the day was not a difficult decision let me tell you.

We headed back to mine on the bus and The Love was clearly happy seeing one of her favourite artists rock out and show the masses how it's done. I was too - it was good to see her smiling and pleased like that, and believe me, I think there'll be a few songs in my head in work tomorrow which might make things interesting if I blurt out "smashed against the Co-Op" without people realising what the words actually are. Third different time we've seen him together in three different venues and cities, and all just as ace. Consistently bloody good!

Saturday 12th October - Turning Japanese

I had a relatively early start to the day, as I wanted to get a few things done around the house and relax during the afternoon. I had also arranged at some point to speak to my brother in Japan, and so bearing in mind the time difference we were to arrange a time later on in the day. However, when firing up my old Logitech webcam it was clear to me that in fact the quality was rubbish, and so I thought it best to source a replacement. A quick comparison online revealed where was cheapest for a suitable one, so off I went to the city centre.

In fact it was in the city centre, and then a walk up to the Central Retail Park where Currys was. Unbelieveably, for the camera I wanted, they were actually the cheapest (shock horror eh?). And they had one remaining in stock, so it was a case of locate it, head to the till, job done. I managed to get a Microsoft Lifecam HD3000 which was more than adequate for what I needed: it did 1280 x 720 pixels, the quality of them is pretty good (I've used some of their other models) and the driver support just works. And that was the case when I got home, so all good there.

I also went across the road to Aldi to see if there was any cheap real ale to peruse and purchase, and you know what? There actually was! The Wychwood Brewery, who make the rather lovely Hobgoblin, King Goblin and Goliath, also had this one for Halloween called Pumpking, which even had some pumpkin in the ale, for a mere 99p a bottle. Well, I thought to myself, why not, and so promptly purchased a few bottles of said beer. Rather nice too as I would find out later.

I arrived home, sorted the house out, installed the drivers for the camera (you have to get them off the web, but no biggie) and it all worked and with good quality video - there'a a mic built in too which actually worked very well indeed. I arranged a time and had a good half hour or so conversation with my brother, who was actually using the camera on his mobile and he and his wife were walking back to their place after he'd picked her up from the train station. What was clear at the stations were plenty of bicycle parking spaces and lots of people about, and a relatively safe environment.

It was good to see my brother happy and that made me feel good too, I know he's emailed about how much he's enjoying life there but to see him actually really happy in person made it all worthwhile for me. I was enthusing about that to The Love In My Heart later as I made the tea for us both - I did some rather nice pork medallions with a mediterranean sauce, and coupled that with some dauphinoise potatoes and some lovely peas too, just perfect really - and minestrone soup to start as well.

We settled in for the evening with some Strictly Come Dancing, and that proved to be more than worthwhile with plenty of songs for the love themed week that were actually not that bad. Dave Myers of the Hairy Bikers decided to do a pasa doble to Meat Loaf's "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" (make that tune of the day) which always makes me wonder what the "that" is. All the other channels had commercials for 1980s compilations which was apparently down to the theme of X Factor tonight. Joy, oh unbridled joy. Thank heavens for some proper music tomorrow night then.

Friday 11th October - 'Andy Andros

It was good to get the first trolley of laptops completely boxed off this morning and my colleague started off the second set, and I was able to finish those off late afternoon, complete with all the software and the correct graphics driver on, so that felt pretty productive. I think because everything including the software additions pretty much worked first go, it meant that we were able to do what we needed to do in a minimal time frame and because I wasn't massively distracted, I could get on with stuff as much as I could.

This morning though I had a more important task and something that I scheduled correctly via our change control process: one of our licenced pieces of software talks to a USB dongle on a licence server and gets its licences from there. We were moving the dongle to our correct licencing server today and I had already worked on some of the preparatory work, effectively setting up the dongle drivers and also the licence monitoring software in advance, so it was a case of add the dongle in, check the licence server was fine with it, and then run the piece of software concerned to see if the dongle would see it - and it did. I also did some tests on the live kit (as well as my laptop for testing) and all of those effectively saw the software on there as well without any issues, so felt rather pleased really.

Later on after making myself some tea I headed home with the potential of the England game against Montenegro to consider. England were pretty much needing to win, especially with Ukraine leading against Poland as the England game kicked off, and the manager Roy Hodgson had made a brave judgement call by picking Andros Townsend, currently at Tottenham, for a first start, with the idea he would get along the flanks and be able to provide some width for the team.

It was clear during the first half that Montenegro was effectively going to park the bus and mainly stay defensive, and as much as England came at them with Townsend and Kyle Walker linking well, the chances came and went with one from Wayne Rooney being the closest to a goal during the half. I wasn't worried though as I've seen many games where it's been like this with Manchester City and it's been once the first goal has gone in, it's then been a comfortable win.

The start of the second half proved me right. Townsend made a great run down the right and the cross that came in went to Danny Welbeck, whose shot was saved by their keeper, and straight to Wayne Rooney and he made no mistake for 1-0. A short while later the pressure told as a cross in for the left was turned into his own net spectacularly by one of the Montenegro defenders and that was 2-0. However, Montenegro surged forward and inspired by Manchester City's Stevan Jovetic, a shot was deflected in by one of his fellow team mates and at 2-1 it was a little uneasy.

However, Andros Townsend was having nothing of that whatsoever. He went on a short run and blasted a shot from twenty five yards in off the post to cap a wonderful debut with a superb strike. It goes to show that the brave move was justified and his overall play was really good - and he fitted in well with the side. Late on Danny Sturridge was fouled in the box and he got up himself to score the resulting penalty - so 4-1 made for a very good scoreline!

I finally watched Synth Britannia on BBC Four, which I know was a repeat from a while back. However it was still good to see the likes of Phil Oakey, Martin Ware, Richard H Kirk, Andy McCluskey at al wax lyrical about how their fascination with synths and how they wanted to create music differently really provided a common bond of sorts. I did quite like the early more dark and moody Human League stuff before they went in a more pop direction, but still, they did show "Blind Youth" by the band which is ace, and so tune of the day was an easy decision.

Thursday 10th October - Reading Thursday

Another busy day and this time most of the day was spent starting off imaging the first batch of 10 laptops that are in a trolley, mainly used for teaching purposes. The idea is that the staff can borrow them out and then they will be used by the students accordingly for various reasons. Of course they needed to be task sequenced to get everything on there that they needed, and it made perfect sense for us to use our small workroom. We had enough power, and with our switch, we had enough network points. It wasn't that bad in the end but just took time to do the main sequence.

As it was, after I merged the conflicting records in SCCM (they'd been task sequenced with an OS before) then it was a case of leaving them to do the additional software overnight. I did notice though that they had for some reason two graphics adapters: a standard onboard Intel HD chip and a Radeon HD 7470 used for acceleration purposes. It seemed to work pretty well on the whole, although when I did try to include the driver in the driver package, we just got a black screen - it looks like it has to be added after the fact. Not a biggie as such but good to know that in advance.

I did stay a little later than planned but headed home in good time to see The Love In My Heart arrive and the two of us had some very nice chicken kievs with a peppercorn sauce along with some mash and some carrots, which I did rather crunchy style. The Love wasn't as keen as I was on them, but that's kind of how I prefer them cooked at times. Nonetheless that went down well and a glass of wine for The Love made things instantly more lovely for her.

We spent a bit of time watching The Railway: First Great Western on Channel 5. It was a fascinating behind the scenes thing again, and best of all was seeing how many people had turned out at Bristol Temple Meads station to see the retiring train driver and a little do that they had for him was a nice touch: shows that staff loyalty and commitement to the cause is something much appreciated by most employers. It was good to see the Reading folks arrive at the festival with many of them being fined a penalty fare for trying to get off with a child's ticket. Oops, you wouldn't want to mess with the lady revenue collector - she meant business let me tell you!

Also the new platform had opened in station in time for London bound trains to arrive, although someone decided to drop a ton of beer on to the tracks and jam one of the trains there for a little while, which was inevitably going to cause delays of some sort. I did notice too that some of the public were complaining that they had to queue with the people leaving the festival, but to be honest, it's once a year, organised around the Bank Holiday so not to disturb people too much, and the station staff were very polite and explained things too. Good to see.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather true "Feel Like S*** Deja Vu" by Suicidal Tendencies. When you've had a tough day or week at work and you don't feel 100% then this is the song for you to get out the frustrations to, trust me on this. It's good to whack it on full volume and just let everything go and even sing along if you know the words - and plenty of rather good guitar solos as well. Personally, I'm happy outside of work but work is just not really the ideal atmosphere at the moment that it needs to be.

Wednesday 9th October - Supporting Role

All seemed a bit better today and I was able to get through a chunk of work in the time I had, so did feel like I was slowly getting back to the manageable workload. One thing I did have to try and sort out today was an issue where a network needed to be changed to a different vLAN and indeed the PC attached to that socket have its IP changed as well. Thankfully, it wasn't too bad because everything looked like it was working in the right way, and added to that I resolved an issue with Outlook with a colleague where we found out that in fact the client itself was corrupted.

So good to be on a roll in parts, and I also had an interesting conversation just before I got home - with a Police Community Support Officer no less. I had been writing to the local doctor's surgery near my house to complain that they don't lock their gates at night and so people were using the car park as a place to hang out and generally keep away from anyone. Although not directly in my way as such, it just meant that for others living locally they may not have felt as safe.

So I had a chat with the officer, and it turns out that the surgery had called them out on a regular occurrence this week to keep an eye on the surgery and see that no one was getting up to no good. But also interestingly they had the same concerns as me: that they don't lock their car park gates at night and that they're in a way responsible for their own problems if they aren't serious about security. It was actually pretty good to chat to them because I was being polite and civilised about it all and not winging like some local scroat or something similar.

That done, I felt positive after chatting to The Love In My Heart about a couple of things and we both compared notes on her respective days, and I have to say that mine are sort of put a bit more into perspective really. I just wish I could magic us both a massive lottery win so we could both give up work (that would be ace) but failing that, just being together would be enough for me. See, I know sometimes which is the highest priority to have when the choices are there to be made.

One final thing of the day: one of my work colleagues remarked that I don't often swear, and that's usually because I think that in a work ethic you remain professional to the last, and it's not really right to do so if you're attempting to set an example. However, I guess my outlet for kicking backside is when singing on the likes of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and I guess it proves to be a conundrum when singing some of your favourite rock songs (Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" being a case in point - make it tune of the day) in that you don't often feel the force of the original song unless the swearing is there. With that song, it was right because of the anger that is felt in the song and in my view, justified. However, swearing for the hell of it - not always big and definitely not clever.

Tuesday 8th October - Bake Off Bonanza

It was good to get through another busy day and make some breakthroughs in the way that some of the software that we have could be possibly distributed, and I have to say that the whole experience at work at the moment isn't exactly filling me with joy right now. In truth, I'm not at my happiest with regards to that. I think it's primarily because of a balance between being busy and feeling like I'm failing to do what I need to do, and I don't like to feel like that. I like to succeed and make people feel valued and happy when helping them out, and did get a boost early this morning from one job I did.

Anyway, enough of me complaining. I did have a lovely evening with many thanks to The Love In My Heart for being such a ray of sunshine and looking so lovely, and before all of that, when I got home I fired up Wii Fit Plus for the Wii and tried out some of the newer games that it had on there. The rhythm kung fu was immense fun as I expected it to be, with The Love's Mii appearing to mirror my moves (awww). I really liked the obstacle course as well as you moved and jumped and stepped to get through the obstacles, making sure you didn't fall off or were hit by any of them. I think with practice I could do well on that!

I got showered and changed and The Love was soon with me, and I made us one of my specialities, a chorizo sausage pasta bake for tea, which went down rather well it has to be said. I really like that because it makes it a bit less drab than a standard bake, not least with a good pasta sauce and some well browned mozzarella cheese on top to give it some flavour. It was nice too to relax with a nice real ale, not least when it's Hobgoblin and in a proper Hobgoblin glass to boot as well (well why not eh?)

On went The Great British Bake Off, and I have to admit I was a little torn this week. I really liked the look of Beca's foccacia (good job we'd eaten or I'd be personally be asking her for a piece of that!) but then the technical challenge saw Ruby do really well, she seems so lovely and humble. In fact in the showstopper both Christine and Beca suffered from bland tasting cakes, Frances went over the top (style over substance - again!) and Kimberley's was nice but The Love now finds her annoying. However, Ruby again showed her stuff and despite her untidy bench made a cracking cake, so won star baker and rightly so. Christine left, but I think she knew her number was up.

Finally then Don't Tell The Bride, where the plan to have a beach wedding was beached by the rather bad weather - with people heading down a slippery slope of steps to the beach initially, only for the tide to come in and then have everyone head back up before the bride arrived. Mind you, the bride had a dress two sizes too big and had to have some emergency seamstress work before it could look good, and on top of that she wasn't too happy initially about leaving her native North Wales either. Ironically, of course, Travis' classic "Why Does It Always Rain On Me" was played during the rainy day, still a tune that and so tune of the day.

Monday 7th October - Football Crazy

It was the start of another busy week with plenty to do and too little time to do it, but in a strange sort of way having plenty to do is keeping both the brain and the mind massively occupied to say the least. I do think positively in a way and that's certainly helping me along, with plenty of things to be getting on with. One issue that I had been having was being able to image a couple of machines recently and worked out that a clearing of the hard disk partitions would be useful, so did that and they all worked first go, excellent.

I also had a bit of an interesting time trying to sort out another small issue I had - whereby the laptop I use on a day to day basis wouldn't re-run any advertisements in SCCM despite the fact that I had full rights to do so - turned out it wasn't able to ping the workstations involved. Then I remembered: I tried a ping command manually and it looked like that it was attempting to ping the IPv6 address of the workstation, not IPv4. I simply did a netsh command to turn off the 6to4 interface, thus forcing v4, and everything then worked. Yaay, sort of.

I got home in the evening and after making myself some tea I flicked through the TV guide. Interestingly I noticed that channel 57 on Freeview (normally the BT Sport preview channel) looked like it had a free game of football tonight - the Scottish Premiership game between Partick Thistle and Hibernian. In fact on further research it looked like each night between 7-11pm Monday to Friday there'd be free stuff available, so that includes Spain v Belarus on Friday night, which might be worth a switch over if England are doing bobbins.

I ended up seeing most of the game between Patrick and Hibernian, and although as the home side Patrick were quite dominant, they couldn't finish the job properly in front of goal, and mid way through the second half Hibernian took the lead and despite hanging on near the end as Patrick pressed (the Hibernian goalie was man of the match if that tells you anything) it showed the old adage of football in that you have to take your chances in front of goal.

I did make sure I recorded Only Connect and watched it later, and the Science Editors team were on for a real pasting with them not scoring many points in the first two rounds, and struggled massively with the connecting wall. On the other hand the Oenophiles did pretty well and spotted the Mike Oldfield song connection straight away (one of my friends is a big fan of Mike and so would have been pleased that they spotted that one). It proved too beyond doubt that if you've got history as being a bit of a quizzer down the pub, then you do well on stuff like this.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the beautifully haunting "Me and My Woman" and Roy Harper from his 1971 album "Stormcock", one of my favourite albums ever and still vastly under-rated in reality. Even with recent nods from the likes of Joanna Newsom and the blokes from the Fleet Foxes, it's amazing how many people haven't listened to how good it actually is (and believe me it's cracking) - seriously, you should all go and buy this album. Sort of now.

Sunday 6th October - Food, Drink and Bargains

The Love In My Heart and I headed up and had a nice little breakfast with some coffee before working out what to do for the day. I suggested as the Food and Drink Festival was still on in the city centre we could go and check that out and also have a nice walk around the city. We first of all headed back to The Love's place to check on the two kittens, and we fussed over them for a bit whilst I saw the climax of the Great Scottish Run, with the legend that is Haile Gabreselassie winning and showing them how it was done, excellent stuff.

We decided to take the tram into the city centre from The Love's place. However, Metrolink need to sort out their departure boards though - according to them the trams were terminating at one station, when the trams themselves (correctly) stated that they were going further, but not on its usual route due to engineering work. You do wonder sometimes if people might have looked at the board, thought "sod it" and got the bus instead without realising that.

Anyway, we got off the tram in St Peter's Square and walked around to Albert Square where the bulk of the festival was going on. There were lots of street food stalls which looked good, and we also spotted one of the ice cream vans that we've seen around the city, as well as plenty of people selling fresh food, cupcakes and the like, which all did look rather tempting it has to be said. We settled on heading for the beer tent where The Love had half of a German lager and I went for this rather nice pint called "The Beast" from the Brightside Brewery in Bury.

After a relaxing drink we headed along towards King Street, where a rather large poster that dominates the whole of the corner between King Street and Cross Street showed an advert for the Michael Bublé gigs in Manchester, which is already out of date as it turns out - there's actually now five dates in Manchester not three, and they're pretty much sold out apart from the odd ticket here and there. You'd think that everyone would have seen him in London but apparently not, hey ho. We then headed to the Virgin Money Lounge on King Street (one of the benefits of being a Virgin Money credit card holder) and we had a nice cosy sit down on some comfy seating and some coffee as well, always good. It was good just to take a break there and relax for a while.

It was then off to Fopp and we both got ourselves a bargain or two. In fact there were four CDs for £10 in total there, so between us we got four that we both liked: I got three and The Love got one. My three were Ultravox's recent 2012 album "Brilliant", and also Queen's "Jazz" remastered album. However, what I amazingly found was also the soundtrack CD to Toy Story, and well, being a Pixar fan and all, it just had to be done, and yes, I was humming along "You've Got A Friend In Me" by Randy Newman for the rest of the day - so tune of the day it simply has to be. The Love also picked up a Michael Bublé CD "Totally Blonde" which are some songs from the film of the same name!

We then headed to the pub for a late Sunday lunch: I had the roast pork which was gorgeous, and the roast beef that The Love had wasn't too bad either it has to be said. It was just nicer too that the real ale on offer was the Moorhouse's "Ruby Witch" which was very red in colour and up to their usual standard (the likes of Pendle Witches' Brew, Black Cat and Blond Witch are all favourites of mine) and that certainly relaxed me nicely during the rest of the afternoon. All good!

Saturday 5th October - Bargain! I'll Take It!

I had a pretty busy day all told, but it was good to see Manchester City back in some sort of form as they defeated Everton 3-1 at the Etihad in the lunchtime kick off. It was worrying of course when Romelu Lukaku took the lead, but when Alvaro Negredo equalised and Sergio Agüero scored before half time, taking the lead was crucial and even if we got a fortunate penalty as Pablo Zabaleta was blocked off by Seamus Coleman, the penalty itself was even more fortunate as it rebounded off the post, off the head of the Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard and in for 3-1, so that at least made the game safe.

I did have a bit of a bargain hunt though later in the day, as I was after a second microphone for the Wii so that vocal harmony mode in Rock Band 3 was doable (not least for when I have some friends coming over soon) and also just wanted to see if I could pick up any CDs on the cheap as well. I headed into CeX in the Arndale Centre and although they had no microphones for the Wii, they did have Wii Fit Plus for a mere £4, so I thought to myself "why not?" and treated myself slightly. I'll have to try out the extra games with that and see how they measure up.

I then headed via Vinyl Exchange, where no CDs jumped out at me, to Cash Generator on Oldham Street. I wasn't expecting much to be honest, but I thought "I'll take a look anyway and see what they have" and I was really surprised to see no less than the U-Sing game, complete with two microphones for the bargain basement price of .. £2.49! I checked that it was for everything and that game was basically mine. So it means I can have all three microphones on vocal harmonies now (might be handy for Beatles Rock Band as well) and that's all good.

U-Sing of course is okay but nothing special. There are a few songs that I don't mind singing on it, such as The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry" (make that tune of the day) and there's even the videos that go with it, but in truth it's not necessarily that special compared to say Singstar on the Playstation 3 or even Rock Band, but it's passable. I guess the track listing is aimed much more towards pop singers instead of those wanting to rock out, or teenagers for that matter.

Later on The Love In My Heart headed over to mine for the evening and I made us a lovely meal, with some stuffed garlic mushrooms to start, followed by some gorgeous chicken with garlic and herbs, dauphioise potatoes and petits pois with leek and pancetta, which went down rather lovely, as did of course the strawberry and prosecco trifle for dessert. It was just nice to have a nice meal together and just relax and enjoy the moment, and I think after the hard week we'd both had it was good to take it easy.

We did see some of Strictly Come Dancing, and I have to say that on the whole the standard wasn't that bad for week two. My favourite though had to be Sophie Ellis-Bextor, she looked cool and classy, and apparently her partner Brendan Cole had never done the Charleston before, but you wouldn't know it, they had a whale of a time. They were the best dance of the night, and rightly so. Must admit though that I did also quite like the moodiness of the dance from Natalie Gumede as well, these two are in the front running right now I think.

Watching Match of the Day did prove annoying later on though: not because of the fact that the England manager Roy Hodgson was on, not at all - more the bias shown against us and how it seemed to be a closer victory than it actually was. Whilst I do agree that the refereeing left a lot to be desired and that Everton could have had a penalty, no doubt, I do also think that we didn't get enough credit for showing some character especially at 1-0 down. Ah well.

Friday 4th October - Let There Be Rock

I was glad that today was the end of the week to be honest - there's been so much going on and I think to try and keep the head above water has been the way forward today. It was mainly sorting out the large format printer in the afternoon and chatting with a couple of architecture students about one of their projects, which is actually based not that far from me. I was able to give them an insight into the area and what would work and what wouldn't, so that actually was quite good to be helpful in a different way.

I headed home and felt the need to just take it relatively easy tonight, but knew also I had a shed load of household chores to do, so got them all done first - so plenty of ironing of shirts, check. Plenty of washing up - check. Lots of cleaning of cupboards - check. Cleaning out the fridge before my shopping comes - check. It was just good to get all of that done and it meant that I was working up a sweat, having already carried up numerous things at work today as well.

Once everything was all sorted out I had a well earned shower, and it was then time to settle in with some telly whilst I waited for the Tesco delivery to arrive. I first of all saw some Family Fortunes on Challenge, which came up with a corker of an answer in the big money round: the question was to name a South American country, and the person said "Kentucky". Oh, how I laughed and thought that if it was later era Les Dennis presenting, he'd have said "If the answer's there, I'll give you the money meself." Of course it wasn't there, but they still won the money despite that (no bonus for all the top answers back then either)

I had started to watch World's Strongest Man (a repeat of one of the heats from 2012) when Tesco turned up with the shopping, so I sorted that out, put everything away and made the tea - and then it was on with Rock Band 3 on the Wii to wind down. I played some tracks on the drums at first, and did pretty well on a few solo before joining a three player online band which included a rather good expert vocalist, and even ended up doing "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, which was actually really good on drums to try - so tune of the day there really.

I also had a blast on vocals later and managed to do Devo's classic "Whip It" on expert vocals with 100% - it's not that bad to do but just good to nail it nonetheless. I just wish though that there were more songs of theirs you could get - but still. I also sang my heart out to The Police's classic "Don't Stand So Close To Me" and got 100% on that too, so felt very pleased with myself that I managed to do okay with that and get a good score - in fact my ranking went up on it too. Yaay me.

 

Thursday 3rd October - Rail Trail

It was another busy day at work and one which I had to try and focus on getting several things done. One interesting dilemma I had was for one of the postgraduate researchers in one building, whom for sorme reason wasn't seeing any connectivity with their laptop. After a bit of investigation, I worked out why - the network socket that they were connected to wasn't playing ball. I eventually worked out that it had been error disabled and so got one of our guys to re-enable it and get it to work, yaay.

I spent a bit of time this afternoon working on a couple of things - mainly setting off four laptops to be task sequenced with a recent image - mainly to replace some laptops which had been stolen. It's one thing that does get me down about working in the city centre - and in an open access type environment. I make sure that anything I use is securely locked away each night and then out again in the morning - and whilst this takes time it just means that I know I've done what I can.

I headed home later on and sorted a few things around the house before The Love In My Heart came over. I indulged her with some Emmerdale whilst I was making the tea - I had some Tesco Finest rump steak along with some chips and peas to do, and that went down nicely with Top of the Pops on BBC Four in the background - and plenty of punk and indie songs to keep me happy - namely "Rat Trap" by the Boomtown Rats, "Public Image" by Public Image Ltd (make that tune of the day) and even "Teenage Kicks" by the Undertones. Not a bad show at all!

Later on we watched The Railway: First Great Western on Channel 5 which has been a fascinating behind the scenes look into how their services operate. Of course the journey into Newquay full of holidaymakers had to be rather busy and exciting, but I've done that journey myself (well, from Par anyway) and going through parts of the Cornish countryside proves to be rather lovely. We also got to see some of the behind the scenes at Bristol Temple Meads (been there myself!)

One thing it did also focus on was the Dawlish Air Show, and how the small station gets completely rammed with people arriving for the show, moving away from the station to the show, and then all getting on the train back again later on. Some people were complaining as per usual because it was busy, despite extra trains stopping there, but to be honest that's sort of expected for any event. It did look good fun although if I was going I'd probbaly be staying somewhere nearby I think. Still, another good episode.

Wednesday 2nd October - Bayern Brilliance

There are times as a football fan you have to take your hat off to the opposition and just accept that on the day they were the better side and that victory for them was deserved. Tonight's game of football, Manchester City v Bayern Munich in the Champions League would prove to be just that. I suspected even before kick off on the day that it would have been pretty difficult to stop the current European champions in their tracks, but nonetheless with our recent home form you'd think we'd maybe get a draw out of it.

Optimism reigned for my friend and I as we approached the Etihad Stadium, and with us getting there early to avoid the rush and also have a well earned cuppa and relax with a chat before the game itself, the excitement was mounting with a brass band outside the stadium playing versions of 808 State's "Pacific State" as well as "Cübik" - inspired move that. In fact the latter was excellent, so tune of the day goes to them for that. It didn't quite want to have me raving circa 1990 style, but you know, the thought was there and all.

The teams came out and the spine tingled on end as the Champions League theme was played. Unashamedly I know all the words to it and so was able to sing along to it and then cheer loudly for our team to get the job done. The team sheet showed no Pablo Zabaleta, with Micah Richards on the right and Gaël Clichy on the left, pace was preferred by the looks of things, maybe to stop the Bayern attacks but also to possibly get forward. I was excited though that these were the sort of nights that we could have only dreamed of ten years ago.

The first half was all Bayern and how City only ended up being 1-0 down was a minor miracle. Seven minutes in though and the task was already uphill, Franck Ribéry cutting in from the left and belting a shot home that in reality Joe Hart should have saved easily, but could only parry it into the net. City did have a couple of minor attacks but Arjen Robben was a threat massively, he put a cross across the face of goal that should have been 2-0 and he was everywhere giving us all sorts of problems. I was just hoping for some showing of battle in the second half to be honest.

We didn't get it though: the City offside trap was ruthlessly exposed by a through ball to Thomas Müller who slotted the ball calmly past Hart, with Clichy having played the German striker onside, for 2-0. A few minutes later and a mazy Arjen Robben run down the right resulted in no one stopping him and he belted a shot towards goal, which, to be fair, Joe Hart should have also saved and made it too. So, 3-0 down and to be honest, it could have been seven or eight, you just had to admire the Bayern brilliance.

City made some changes and on came David Silva and James Milner, after Alvaro Negredo had already came on. Negredo scored a really good goal with thirteen minutes to go, and with six minutes left, Yaya Toure had been professionally fouled by Jerome Boateng with the goal at Yaya's mercy, and the red card was an easy decision. As Boateng did have a spell with us the chant of "City reject, City reject, hello, hello" rang from the stands. Silva hit the bar with the free kick, and also late on Milner's cross saw Negredo's header just wide.

But that would have been papering the City cracks and to be fair to Bayern, they had taken their foot off the accelerator and were in cruise control. They were brilliant and sometimes, like I said, you just have to admire when a team is that good - and they certainly were tonight. For City a win against Everton on Saturday is now vital to ensure that we don't end up going on a losing run, and for Bayern and their loud and loyal fans, well done them - they look like one of the favourites to win the Champions League.

Tuesday 1st October - Productive

For many reasons, I felt productive today. Maybe all that drumming last night did me good in terms of being able to just focus on something and keep the brain ticking over, or maybe it was the fact that I needed to just try to stay calm and keep going where possible. It was a combination of both earlier today when I had an influx of jobs to try and sort out, and I was keeping going where possible. It was also a case of balancing out what I needed to do to ensure lots of the student PCs were working correctly and with all the software on.

I also spent some time at one of the PCs in question as it wasn't getting one of the pieces of software that it should. A quick visit to its location showed exactly why this was the case - there was no network cable plugged into it. Once I was able to get that plugged in everything worked as intended and it also distributed the piece of software I needed to. Isn't it great when automation actually works the way that you want it to really? Well, I'd like to think so to be honest.

I headed home a little later than planned due to me doing some software testing as well as writing some documentation, and that didn't prove to be too bad really. I got home in good time to make The Love In My Heart and myself some tea - a nice spaghetti carbonara with lots of lovely pancetta, and a nice garlic ciabatta baguette on the side - which was rather good at its low price that we were charged for it too, so yaay there. I think it was just good to enjoy the meal together.

It was then time for the Great British Bake Off which proved to be quite compelling stuff - the sweet buns in the main looked tempting even though for the technical challenge some of theme didn't quite get the créme patisserie right but got everything else done properly for that. The showstopper was pretty tricky and in terms of the timing it was all about getting things spot on, and we both estimated that Glenn was in danger of going out, and with him doing so, it'd be a guaranteed female winner (the 2012 final had three men in, but the last five this year are all women!)

After we watched that we stayed on the telly for a bit and also saw the rather enjoyable, as it turned out, Don't Tell The Bride. The husband to be decided that he wanted a wedding to be more like a gig, with him all trying to be mod and cool. In the end he went for the Kentish Town Forum, a venue that I've actually been in to myself for a gig as well. It's a very nice place inside in terms of its architecture and I can see why he went for it, and in the end despite a rather rubbish hen do, it did work out well, and I think she was pretty pleased (she might not have wanted the Paloma Faith hairdo though!)

Still, as you'd expect from any themed wedding like that, the music used was pretty good during the whole show, and during the wedding itself. The bride walked down the aisle to a band playing Oasis' "Champagne Supernova" and afterwards they had a first dance to an old 1960s hit "Baby I'm Yours", performed by Barbara Lewis in the US and then later covered by Peter and Gordon in the UK the same year. The Arctic Monkeys also covered it on a B-side and their version is pretty good, so that one is tune of the day - quite nice actually!