Dear Diary... September 2007

Sunday 30th September - Aquaplaning

Well I decided against staying up all night to watch the Japanese Grand Prix and instead opted for the 11.30am re-run. Part of my reasoning was that a 3am start was just not worth the hassle even if it was live. And in the end it proved a correct decision. Okay, so I missed the pit walk, but it looked pretty treacherous on the telly it has to be said. The water was everywhere, it was hammering it down and the fact that the first nineteen laps or so were behind the safety car was something else. It got better slightly as the race went on but to be truthful it was a war of attrition, it really was, with survival being the absolute key in everything. I was just hoping for some good racing and it turned out to be that the conditions were to play a part.

If anyone dares begrudge Lewis Hamilton the world title after that display though they are fools. He stayed on the road, Alonso didn't - not just his crash either, but he kept making mistakes under pressure where the others (particularly Kimi Raikkonen, my driver of the day for today) were keeping their heads and making sure it was no mistakes and a suitable pace to get round. It was a bit manic and almost too dangerous to race, but at the same time the conditions made it exciting too, as it was knife edge stuff. And that's how you earn your F1 wages, folks, you really do. I'd like to see some people try and drive up to 180mph down a long straight and brake into a corner without spinning off in those conditions.

Well, with that done I settled in to watch some of the football, and notably the Women's World Cup Final. I was quite pleased with Brazil beating the USA in the semi final, but they were up against Germany, who are to be honest a bit good. And so it proved too with a 2-0 scoreline being about right. I am sure that Brazil will be regretting missing the penalty that they had at 1-0 down though: their substitution not being the ideal plan either - why the hell do that just before the penalty was taken to add pressure to the taker? That was not clever management if you ask me.

With the Rugby World Cup on today it was time for France to make sure that they qualified okay, after Wales went out to Fiji yesterday. It looked like a good win for France as I'm typing this, with them 59-7 up against Georgia. Now if Ireland beat Argentina it'll put Ireland through but it will also mean that France top the group as well - so I imagine quite a few of the French fans will be donning green shirts later in the day and cheering the Irish on. The group winners play Scotland and second play New Zealand, and I know full well who I'd want to be playing out of those two!

Keeping up the French theme, been listening to some MC Solaar today. For those of you who don't know him, he does funky intelligent French hip-hop all sung in his native language. None of this guns and shooting malarkey, it's much more laid back and relaxing to listen to. One such example is my tune of the day, "Relations Humaines" which has a great back beat, killer bass line and it's just really funky to be able to dance to as well, which has to be rather nice doesn't it?

Saturday 29th September - A Goal From Elano And A Journey From Oxenholme

What about me team, eh? There I was thinking that the bubble might be bursting for Man City, especially after the 3-3 draw with Fulham last week, and with me being out for the day due to a long standing arrangemenr, it was a case of having my uncle watching the game in the pub and keeping me in touch with the scores by text. So you can imagine receiving one that said "3-1, great goal from Elano" and that's all I needed until I could watch it on the telly later on in the evening. And when I did see the game and the goals, an impressive performance all round. Elano ran the show and now that Martin Petrov has scored, he looks a more confident player. Not only did he score one himself but set one up for Stephen Ireland too and that was a definite plus as far as I was concerned. Even if Man U did win at Birmingham we're still third and up there with the top teams. It's only a start, and the Premiership is after all a Marathon and not a Snickers (see what I did there?) it does bode rather well.

On the way back from my day out, I had found that there were a couple of people lost at Oxenholme station. They were from New Zealand, and their car that they had bought some time ago had broken down a few miles from Kendal, and had managed to get to the station to continue their journey. Last thing I'd do with anyone is leave them in the lurch and as I was headed back to Manchester anyway, I made sure the tickets were all sorted out, and then got them to Preston, changed the trains to Manchester and made sure that they got there, and then found them somewhere to crash out as well. I think sometimes when you're in another country it's the hospitality of those that are in the country that you remember, and if I've done my bit, then that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

In the meantime I also saw the qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji. And if anyone wants to know just why it's not had the race for thirty years, the proof was right here. The weather was awful and it was absolutely hammering it down, and it really was survival out there for qualifying positions, which wasn't that good. I could see that there were lots of opportunities to aquaplane all over the place which can't be good for tomorrow. And the mist and fog overhead has got to be a considerable risk factor when you consider that visibility could be reduced to start with. Interesting times ahead for sure..

In terms of tunes, a nice Saturday night wind down was in order, not least as I was waiting patiently for City to come on Match of the Day (and indeed it was a cracking strike from Elano!) and so with that in mind, I needed something to keep me awake as it had been a long day. And as the Joy Division album reissues had just been released last week, a bit of the Unknown Pleasures album was really what suited my frame of mind at the time. And "She's Lost Control" is just still a great piece of music. If you're in any doubt, listen to it again, note the punctuation of the percussion, the way that the guitars work really well, and the underpinning of a fantastic Peter Hook bass, and you've got it right there. Tune of the day, easily.

Friday 28th September - A Little Manners Go A Long Way

You know, it would be nice in the world if some of the basics of life in people were actually taught? I was thinking this today in particular as one of the induction sessions I was doing was interrupted by constant chit chat despite my efforts to actually teach people some useful information. At one point I thought to myself "why the hell am I putting myself out when I could be doing other things?" because it really felt like to me that it was just ignorance. Third time around I thought and said "Excuse me, but we have people actually trying to learn here and a bit of hush would be appreciated, please." Thankfully the politeness did the job and I think I did get some respect back. Does make me wonder though what parenting standards are like these days, you know?

Anyway, that done and lunch consumed, it was time to order some birthday presents for a friend of mine - although it's the birthday next month, they are off on a holiday for a couple of weeks so it was good to get an idea of what they wanted now so I could get things ordered. Thankfully all of what I was going to get was in stock so that was a nice and easy online purchase job for me all the way. Sometimes the convenience is just rather lovely and it saves trapising everywhere to find something. I reckon that a fair number of my Christmas presents this year will be done the same way, and I even have some good ideas for combination presents too so I'm going to see how that comes along...

I also watched the Premier League Allstars tonight and was gutted that City drew 0-0 with United and it went to penalties and after five penalties we'd lost 4-3 and went out. Admittedly though at 2-2 and with us having missed a pen, it was great to see Andy Dibble save from the fan and keep us in it for a bit longer until we then had Nigel Bond the snooker player miss for us only for the Radio 1 DJ Chappers to score and put them through. It was an intriguing 0-0 though and it was really nervy and edgy. To be fair both sides in the dressing room were really talking the game up and you could tell that they were taking it seriously...

As for tune of the day, what could be nicer than the perfect tune to start off any weekend, namely "Hurry Up Harry" by Sham 69. After all, the great line of "We're going dahn the pub..." is just sung with such gusto and the fact it's a bit of a punk anthem always helps.

Thursday 27th September - The News Of The World..

After a bit of a hard day's graft, I was really glad that a friend of mine was coming over to see me. Not least as we'd planned to go IKEA, not that I needed anything that much but thought it'd be nice to see if there was anything there I could pick up and anything for my friend to grab at the same time. Plus it meant being out of the house and generally relaxed too - it's so much easier to go round there during the week when there's less people around: IKEA on a Saturday is one of my ideas of hell to be brutally honest!

After a cup of coffee at the Towers it was time to head out and before long it was on to the M60 and then off again a bit later and soon before us came the yellow and blue facade that is Ashton under Lyne IKEA, and after getting a spot in we went, and first stop - the foody bit! As much as I was tempted with the salmon and rice medley, I thought it was meatballs time whilst my friend had salad, and craftily used the Family Card thingy for free coffee all round. Not daft me you know! So with food consumed, time to get round IKEA and get stuff. I didn't get anything, my friend on the other hand stocked up on candles, and also one of these Hol storage tables in walnut too. Rather nice all round.

Back at the ranch, it was then time to watch Mock The Week (thanks heavens for Sky Plus is what I say) and although it was the highlights show from this series it did also have some great out takes which makes things hilarious to say the least. And it had the classic Points of View unlikely letters sketch again which was great fun even second time around. Cue Hugh Dennis: "Last night.. I watched your new porn channel.. CBoobies!" And it was still giggle worthy even then which was just absolutely wonderful stuff. Interestingly, three of the regulars are on tour and pretty much sold out: or else I'd have gone to see Andy Parsons. Ah well.

In terms of tune of the day, I did spend some time when I got home from work having a good listen to some Rollins Band classic stuff: not least as a fair bit of it is used on The Henry Rollins show, which bloody rocks! And one of the tracks, which is on the "A Nicer Shade of Red" album is the absolutely driving "10X" which is just full of grunt, power and Rollins really giving it some. Which is just perfect stuff really.

Wednesday 26th September - The All Stars Of Wednesday

Another long day at work to be honest, and I really am getting stuck in to some tasty tasks which has to be something I guess, it's keeping me occupied and the day going pretty quickly which is always a good thing. I also knew that I needed to get my hair cut too as it was getting a little too long, which meant it was going all over the shop. Not good. So it was off to the usual lovely people in the Northern Cutter and getting it all sorted so I could feel really ready for the world again. It's amazing what one small change can do sometimes!

I had a couple of friends come over later and as well as having a good chat about all sorts, we watched some of tonight's Premier League All Stars, and there was some good stuff being played tonight: not least from some of the fans who were really making their mark in the tournament, so that has to be a good thing. It's shaping up nicely and they also announced the top half of the quarter final draw: and it would be Man City v Man Utd on the Friday evening show! Now that's going to be something, and I think that it would be worth staying in on the Friday night to see how that one shapes up. Nonetheless, always good to catch up with my friends and have good conversation along the way, and plenty of laughs which helped me take my mind off a few things at the moment.

I spent the rest of the evening having a good think about things in general (maybe too much actually to be truthful) but I did at least spend time listening intently to the new PJ Harvey album again: and it's still as good as on first listen last night. In fact it made me dig out some of the back catalogue CDs as well, and because it sticks two fingers up at her hairdresser, the track "Who The F***?" from her album "Uh Huh Her" wins my tune of the day vote for today. Got to be better than some of those annoying songs that BBC Three have been running down: but how dare they put "Money For Nothing" on there?

Tuesday 25th September - Feed The Greek Some White Chalk

Well it was off after work to the City of Manchester Stadium to watch my beloved Man City in the Carling Cup against Norwich City. I thought that it could well be a chance for us to win something, and as we'd for once not gone out at the second round stage that it'd be nice to see how we progress. Plus if you bought your ticket before the day of the game it was £15, which isn't that bad compared to the cost of a normal game so that's something. It didn't look that busy outside the ground, and as I had a bit of time to kill, I headed to the Next Clearance place and the big Asda opposite. I did want to nip into Asda anyway to peruse the clothes section but also because I wanted PJ Harvey's new album "White Chalk".

Went round Asda, and found a couple of things I liked the look of and ended up getting myself one item, plus the new PJ Harvey CD. There was no price tag on the CD so I just bought it anyway, and it came up at the till as Asda's usual odd price of £9.77. Yeah. Whatever. Still, that wasn't bad, and it felt nice just to be able to purchase the new album pretty much the same week of release. With purchases done and around fifteen minutes to kick off, it was back over the road to the ground and to get myself in my seat in Level Two of the South Stand. Cracking view too, overlooking the goal near the right hand side end on telly, and having a great view as well.

The game to be honest wasn't that great, I'll freely admit. In fact one bloke sat just to the left near the front was falling asleep and leaning on the fan next to him as he was falling asleep. After a while a few of us noticed and so were able to go "Whoooooooooooooooa!" each time we thought he was going to fall over. The fan sat next to him whose shoulder was being leant on also moved, so it was quite funny to see if the sleeper was going to fall over, and he almost did. That was the highlight of the first half and in truth it was a pretty dour game all round. In fact it only got more interesting once the sub Kelvin Etuhu came on, he looked lively and it was his through pass that set up Georgios Samaras for the 90th minute winner. Bit harsh on Norwich as they didn't play that badly, but to be honest extra time and penalties would have been really awful on a cold night and in a dour game. Feed The Greek - and for once, he actually scored. About the only good thing he did though, and as for Bianchi, if any City fans are wondering why Mpenza's starting in the Premiership, tonight should give you your answer.

Got home and put on the new PJ Harvey album on. And I'm going to say this - it could well be my favourite album of this year. I'm deadly serious. In fact I feel a review coming on later in the week as I need to really put into words just how beautiful the whole thing is, and how moving and different it is from her previous work. As such, I could have picked any track I love, but the closer "The Mountain" is just absolutely emotionally beautiful and it has that feeling of desperation which is so well done, so that's tune of the day right there.

Monday 24th September - The Legend Of The Song We Love To Hate

I caught the back end of the Sky One Premier League Allstars show last night, and I was glad I did. Manchester City were on against Everton and it proved to be rather good fun, as well as a 3-0 win for City too. The basic premise of the Allstars format is that there's ten players, one goalie (ex-playing legend) and the other nine players are three normal fans, three celebrity fans and three ex-pros who were "legends" for the club in question. It's actually seven a side so that there's two of each plus goalie on at any one time. For City, the legends were Rodney Marsh, Keith Curle and Mike Summerbee with Andy Dibble in net. You'd think that they'd get some other players, maybe even cox Shaun Goater into it, now that would have been cool.

The three celebs were Nick Leeson (you know, that Rogue Trader blokey), Nigel Bond (snooker player, saw him at The Crucible in the World Championships earlier in the year!) and Ant Genn, who used to be the guitarist of Pulp many years ago but is now in a band called The Hours, who aren't bad. The skills of Ant Genn were something else, he bamboozled Everton legend Dave Watson with some amazing skills, and just before the half time interval in the final minute "power play" the ball broke loose for Nicky Summerbee to score. Now as Powerplay goals count double that meant it was 2-0, and one of the City fans scored in the second half to make it 3-0, so that was rather nice all round really.

Today was a fairly busy day: as well as getting all the induction sessions done in the morning, I spent a long while with a laptop that seemingly had a rather nasty piece of spyware and trojans. I worked out that what it did was enter something in the registry that disabled you from running the command prompt, registry editor and a whole host of other things, as when you called them it was trying to call the virus instead. Crafty so and sos! I managed to eradicate the virus fine, but it was locating the registry entries that I needed to delete that proved tricky. However, I found them, and I should at some point mention those to our anti-virus vendors so that they can add the fix into their details accordingly.

Had a bit of a relaxing evening on the whole, spent tonight watching more of the Premier League Allstars (Wigan beat Tottenham 5-2, and West Ham won 4-0 against Reading with both their goals coming in the final minute's power play!) and a mini series on BBC Three, "Songs We Hate To Love" or something like that. It was the first run down from 100 to 81 tonight, and I was absolutely shocked to see some classic tunes in there which don't deserve to be in any annoying songs chart. Stuff like "Orinoco Flow" by Enya, "Eat It" by Weird Al Yankovic for example. One song that so deserved to go in there though was Color Me Badd's "I Wanna Sex You Up". They even interviewed one of the blokes who used to be in that band and even he said it was annoying. And as for those dance "moves" in the video, oh dear oh dear. I'll have to record tomorrow night's installment though as I've just got my ticket for Man City's game against Norwich City tomorrow night..

As for tune of the day, well there could only be one choice today. I had a think about things in my life and how much they've been changing in so many ways really, and how I feel like I've re-prioritised things and how much better I am for it. John Mayer's "In Repair" pretty much sums up my mode of thinking that I've had for a long while, and I feel thoroughly vindicated in my decisions around a year ago - not easy to make, but I know I feel better for them and more of a complete person.

Sunday 23rd September - A Walk Before The Wetness

I'd decided late last night that it would be nice to take a walk, and if the weather held enough, then today would be the day to do it as the weather was looking a bit rubbish for during the week to be quite honest. And also as it was a Sunday I didn't have to think about work for a bit, and so I could just take it easy. I thought too that as I'd not been up to Hollingworth Lake for a while that it'd be a good idea to head out there and just see how the mood takes me from there.

As I headed into the centre of Manchester I decided that for today, I'd take it a bit more leisurely and take the bus instead of the train (which I'd normally get to Smithy Bridge and then walk up from there) - the advantage being the bus would drop me off closer to the lake and that I could go a different route, and thought "why not"? as I headed on the 17 bus to get me to Rochdale first. That wasn't too bad and I was sat upstairs at the front so I could take in everything on the journey as I went along. It was intriguing on the way to see what they'd done with Middleton bus station, much nicer now. But Rochdale's bus station is still horrid: it's underneath a car park and to be honest it needs either knocking down or re-siting elsewhere, I can imagine this place being rather well dodgy at night and I wouldn't want to go there.

As I knew that the 455 bus to Hollingworth Lake was one every hour on Sundays, I had a quick walk around the centre of Rochdale and grabbed a chicken sandwich for lunch from one of the bakery places. There's lots of work going on in one of the main streets to the pavements have been dug up, meaning lots of people cramming into a smaller walkway - at least it wasn't rammed. And there seems to be some redevelopment work tying in with the eventual Metrolink expansion phase too: which is good to see. I really hope though that all means a new interchange, cos it does need one.

I then got the 455 and a few minutes later I was facing Hollingworth Lake, and as usual the beauty of it all and the surrounding hills made me feel positively serene, and I did my now usual circuit of the lake, stopping half way round where all the benches are that overlook the lake (in the summer there's a little shop that sells water, ice creams etc but summer has gone, apparently) and then just taking in the views, and indeed of many people either canoeing, sailing, or using one of those surfboards with a sail on to look really hard (and then look like idiots when they fall in, hehe). It was tempting to go walking in the hills around the lake but it was a little on the windy side, plus as well the clouds were gathering rather ominously to say the least.

I noticed a couple of things today: firstly, the amount of people with dogs who walk them around the lake. I counted at least thirty canines on my way around, and indeed one of them looked like next door's dog, I had to double take for a second just to make sure that it wasn't him. Secondly, the amount of horses and kids learning to horse ride was also very nice to see. I think in this day and age children don't necessarily get to see that much of nature and being able to ride a horse and be able to see things cos you're above ground must be really nice to be honest. The little ones looked like they were enjoying themselves to say the least and it was rather lovely to see. Oh, and one thing which I always notice. The former Lake Inn pub which is now called The Wine Press is a regular bikers' haunt! There were loads of them with their bikes outside today and going in for lunch or a quick coffee.

After I walked past there, rather than complete a full lap, I walked down the road towards Littleborough. I thought that would make a change, and it did: as you go down the hill towards the town, there's a farm entrance to your right and just after this, a field with lots of sheep munching grass. They seemed to peaceful and even when I walked past to say hello, it was just more grass munching for them, they seemed rather contented to say the least. Soon I reached Littleborough and saw that it was quite a nice little place, but with it being Sunday everywhere apart from one restaurant was shut, real shame that, so I grabbed a bottle of water and waited by the train station for the 455 bus to take me back to Rochdale, and I'd timed it well enough so I only had a five minute wait.

As I headed back to Rochdale, the rain started to come down a fair bit, and as I got back to the bus station it was getting harder. I then thought of an alternative route back, I'd go via Ashton-under-Lyne and take the bus from there back home instead of going through Manchester. As luck would have it, the 409 to Ashton came in a few minutes after I'd got off the 455, so it was straight on that and through Royton, Oldham and Hathershaw and before I knew it I could see Ikea and Ashton centre. Got off the bus there and around five minutes later was a bus that would take me home. Amazing what a little bit of research can do, and I'd worked the timing out really well and so from leaving Littleborough around ten past three, I was home just before five. Not bad considering three bus journeys, and indeed the really heavy rain which must have made driving through it rather difficult to say the least. I was glad to get home nice and dry it has to be said.

Tune of the day comes courtesy of a compilation CD that a friend lent to me (you know who you are so thank you) and it has a rather bizarre but excellent cover version. It has Arctic Monkeys doing "Love Machine" originally by Girls Aloud. I shouldn't enjoy it, it sounds so perverse, but you know what? It's rather funny and gives you a big giggle throughout hearing those Sheffielders putting a real Northern twang on proceedings. What indeed would the neighbours say, eh? Indeed, during the song you can hear Alex Turner giggling in parts as he can't help himself.. makes it even more fun if you ask me.

Saturday 22nd September - Fopp and Fulham

Well I was going to head out today, but the weather didn't exactly look too good and so I thought what I'd do instead is do a quick bit of shopping and then watch the afternoon's football with both the England women on at lunch time and then Man City away on Setanta Sports later - thankfully there's a few pubs near me that have the subscription and so I could always watch it there if need be. I was actually thinking about subscribing for the one month so I could watch the City game here at the Towers, but when you added on the £10 initial registration cost (something that's in very small print on their ads, naughty!) then to be honest it wouldn't be worth it and so I thought "pub it is, then!"

In the morning I headed into the centre of Manchester and first port of call was Vinyl Exchange. If you go early Saturday it's still quiet (Saturday afternoons tend to be rammed) and I had a good browse of the UK and US indie racks to see if there was anything that took my fancy. There was one CD that I was tempted by but as I suspected it could well be that price elsewhere, I decided to hang back for now and see if my hunch was right or not. Nonetheless it was good to see some of the rarities in the vinyl section holding their own downstairs, in a world of digital this, digital that, there's still a home for vinyl. And that was further proven when I went into Piccadilly Records and saw the gorgeous 180 gram vinyl Joy Division album reissues. Ooh, rather nice. Well they would be but I already own an original Factory pressing of "Unknown Pleasures" as well as on CD..

I then headed down Market Street to Fopp. Yes, that's right, Fopp. As HMV had bought them out after they went bump, they'd decided to keep the brand name and re-open a few of its stores in strategic positions, and one of them just happened to be Manchester, hurrah. One of my work colleagues told me it was back open and I really wanted to see what it was like in there. In truth, not much had changed. Still the racks of CDs for £5 around the outside walls of downstairs, with plenty of genres in A-Z order as well if you needed to find something, and still the cheap DVDs and books and stuff upstairs along with a wall of new releases and stuff. It was really heart warming and after browsing the racks for a while, I decided on PJ Harvey's "Uh Huh Her" album for a fiver, same price I'd seen it in Vinyl Exchange. And I really wanted that album, not least after seeing her live in the Bridgewater Hall a couple of months ago.

So I then decided to do what I normally used to do whilst in Fopp, and have a coffee. And the good news is they still serve coffee downstairs and everything, and still for a pound! In a word, result. I kicked back with a latte and chilled out with some nice background music whilst reading one of the free magazines, and that had a really good interview with Charles Michael Kitridge Thompson IV, aka Frank Black, aka Black Francis (as he was in the Pixies). He's gone back to Black Francis for the new album Bluefinger (got it as you might have guessed) and the interview was fab. Even with my pace of reading, that and the latte kept me really relaxed nicely and it was just nice to be able to chill out.

Got home afterwards and watched the England women in the World Cup Quarter finals against the USA. Now as the USA are pretty much the best women's team out there, it wouldn't surprise me if England did lose but wanted to see them put up a good show. And with it being 0-0 at half time that was certainly the case, Faye White the England captain having her nose smashed by a deliberate elbow from one of the American forwards - well out of order, that was, and it did rattle her a bit. But she came back on with nose bandages a la Terry Butcher many years ago and kept battling, which to me showed determination and spirit that the men's team don't always have. Inevitably the Americans turned it on in the second half and scored three goals in 12 minutes to seal a 3-0 win. You have to wonder though if our goalie Rachel Brown has been taking lessons off Paul Robinson though: just how bad was she for the second and third goals? She had a nightmare to be honest. However, the team did well just to get to the quarter finals and they should be applauded for their efforts.

I then spent some time listening to my new purchase, and I'd got it for a reason. One track near the end was one that I really loved seeing her do live, and it's beautifully sparse, acoustic and emotional, even on record. So tune of the day is PJ Harvey's "The Desperate Kingdom of Love" and if you've ever heard it, you'll know what I mean. It's the sort of song that you could only write if you really were feeling that emotional, and the sort of song that sticks in your head after you've listened to it and refuses to let go. I've been humming it for most of the day, which isn't a bad thing is it?

My uncle came round later and I explained that I wasn't getting ripped off by Setanta (or Sultana as we call them) so it was off to one of the pubs nearby to watch the game there. Thankfully they had it on the big screen and due to the absence of some proper cask stuff I settled on press a button Boddingtons Extra Cold, which was okay but it still doesn't taste the same as it used to when it was brewed at Strangeways. In any case it was good to sit with a good view of the big screen, and after Arsenal's 5-0 demolition of Derby, a win would keep us second in the league.

But alas, a win was not to be. We went a goal down with some sloppy defending, but then Martin Petrov ran the show for us. His run and shot evaded the Fulham defence and a rather embarrassed Antti Niemi in net and it was 1-1 coming up to half time. Start of the second half and a Bouazza free kick evaded everyone and so 2-1 to Fulham, only for us to score ninety seconds later as Petrov's shot wasn't held, and Emile Mpenza kindly headed in the rebound. Then we went forward, Petrov slammed in a low shot under Niemi and it was 3-2 with around half an hour to go. But then.. alas, we went too defensive (yeah, nice one Sven - not!!) and that allowed Fulham back in and it didn't surprise me when Danny Murphy hit a low shot to make it 3-3. And to be honest we could have easily lost 4-3 in the last ten minutes or so, so in the end a point was about right really. Me and my uncle were gutted but didn't stop us heading to the local chippy for tea and scoffing it back at mine seeing the closing overs of the World 20/20 semi final. So all in all, a busy day.

Friday 21st September - Throaty..

It's the only problem with the start of the academic year. Everyone comes along at the start of the year, and no doubt that everyone within a week has got what we commonly call the first week cold. It only takes one person with a bad flu and as soon as that happens, the germs have plenty of new blood to find and before you know it, you've got plenty of people sneezing. I always try and protect myself from this because I know that I can be quite susceptible to them which is not what I really want, and also because I really need to actually keep my throat intact for being able to assist people and talk to them.

I spent most of the afternoon dissecting a PC to bits and seeing if there was a way that I could daisy chain the hard drive and CD drive inside the same very tight fitting case, and I got it sorted. Part of my reasoning was that there was a Serial ATA hard disk which I really needed to take out of there as the person concerned didn't want any data destroying off it, and as I'd not had any SATA hard disks available to put in there instead, I dug out a good IDE one and so did the daisy chain - the PC only had one IDE channel and not two, you see, hence my need to do all that. But I got it working and brought down an image to the PC so see if that all works out Monday and go from there.

I whizzed around Tesco on the way home and did my food shopping, and when I got to the till I was going to use some of my clubcard vouchers to get some extra points. Despite the fact that I'd bought a couple of Onken bio yoghurts, which you think would qualify as yoghurt, the tills didn't recognise it as that and so wouldn't let me have the extra 25 points on offer. Damn! I bet that doesn't happen if I buy some Tesco's Finest yoghurt, pretty crafty ruse I reckon! Mind you I did rack up some points for the ice cream, frozen chips and carbonated drinks (I got some flavoured water and that qualified, woohoo). Ah well. I even managed to get there despite the roadworks in Fallowfield at the moment because of the new bus lane they're building to make the stop for students a bit safer etc which meant I whizzed round and still got home at a reasonable hour.

So now I'm just kicking back and taking it easy this weekend, which might not be a bad thing. Part of me is tempted to subscribe to Setanta for one month just so I can watch Man City's game against Fulham tomorrow - I could go of course but when it's £60 on the train, plus the game ticket and then getting to their ground, all of a sudden it becomes bloody expensive and all that. I'm sure it'd be worth it, but I'm trying to keep money back so that I can start getting Christmas presents - I know, I know, I'm so darned dull!! But I have my reasons you know.

In the meantime, Frank Zappa's excellent "Hot Rats" album is on and as pure genius goes, it's about the best thing he did - the six tracks are just such a good cross section of what he was about, and "Son Of Mr. Green Genes" just builds everything up from a few bars and just adds separate instruments and pieces of instrumentation every time but works really well in doing that, and so for that reason it's my tune of the day - just the thing to wind down with. Hot meat, hot rats, etc...

Thursday 20th September - Are You Graham Poll In Disguise?

I settled down tonight to watch the Everton game against Metallist Kharkiv, hoping that they would do the business in the UEFA Cup and do okay - one of my friends is an Everton fan and so it would only be fair if I got behind their team after all. But what I didn't expect was a mixture of the brilliant and the lacklustre, completely spoiled by a referee who makes Graham Poll seem like Pierluigi Collina in comparison (those of you who know football will understand that analogy.) - it was just really really awful to watch in so many ways.

Everton did take the lead with an excellent Joleon Lescott header and that was rather good stuff, and throughout the first half the atmosphere was electric and the players responded well, and all looked okay at that point. However it was clear in the second half that it seemed a little disjointed and that in fact they were missing Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta badly, both key players in midfield. The Kharkiv lot were doing much better in the middle of the park and it was only a matter of time before they were keeping the ball quite a bit and frustrating the Everton players.

But still, Everton got a penalty, and rightly so, and up stepped Andy Johnson to make it 2-0. Or so we all thought. The referee pulled the penalty back and had it taken again because of encroachment in the area. Whaaaaat? Since when did a ref pull a penalty back fro that? It's well rare! Indeed the replays showed that if anything it was the Kharkiv players who encroached and so the goal should have stood. And when the penalty was re-taken and it was saved, the encroachment was worse but yet the penalty wasn't even taken again. Where was the consistency in that I wondered??

And so sod's law says that after something like that the ten men of Kharkiv would score, and they duly did. And Everton then pressed forward relentless, got another penalty which Andy Johnson almost cleared the Gwladys Street End with, it was that bad a miss, and then even with Kharkiv down to nine men and six minutes of stoppage time there was no way through and a really disappointing 1-1 draw all round, which said a lot about how really the game just went into one that was more infamous for the appalling refereeing than the football, a real shame that. I would recommend Everton use another person to take the penalties though.

I felt quite tired out after that, not least as the kick off was 8.30pm, and so it was time for a quick blast of some songs before bed. And I uncovered another gem that I'd not listened to for a while, namely New Order's "1963" which is on the B-side of "True Faith" and on the Substance 2-CD compilation too. It just had to be tune of the day because it was at a time when New Order made great songs and weren't bickering with each other. For Tony's sake, get it bloody sorted will you?

Wednesday 19th September - Hit For Six!

It was another busy day at the office today, not least as the start of term really is getting into full flow and there's students everywhere asking about where things are, what to do, where to go and such like. It's always like this at the start with everything a bit manic and with many introductions to various things going on. It'll never change simply becuase of the sheer influx of students that are coming along each and every year, and that might well be even more pressured if the reported fee cap on tuition fees comes off and it's a massive free for all and expensive education like it is in the USA. Bah, I say to that.

Anyway, got home and decided to whack on the cricket. England knew that they were out of the World 20/20 anyway and could only play for pride, but India needed to win there and against South Africa tomorrow to have any chance, and as it was, the English weren't doing that bad in the game. Until right near the very end. Yuvraj Singh had already signalled his intent with fourteen from the 18th over, and then in the 19th over, he absolutely went for it, with a world first for 20/20 and only about the fourth time ever that it had happened. Yes, six sixes in one over. It was painful to watch but in the same breath you had to admire him for what he was doing and only one of the balls could have been classed as a bad one, so it was just quality hitting all round. Indeed for Yuvraj it was also quite sweet to be not on the receiving end, as he'd been clobbered by Dimitri Mascherenas for five sixes in one over in a recent one day game against England.

The total ultimately proved too much for England and we lost by 18 runs, so at least we made a fight of it, but I couldn't help thinking that if we'd have had our wits about us and not lost vital wickets at the wrong time then it could have gone to the wire. The difference though was that six sixes in one over, and it just goes to show that in the modern cricket era results do end up being on one moment of brilliance that can turn a game in your favour (or not as the case may be). Even Arsenal and Man U tried to redress the balance a bit by winning their Champions League games tonight, much better than Chelsea could have managed the night before. Something's not right there I reckon, but we shall see.

As I wanted to mellow out after the disappointment of the cricket and had put on a comedy DVD to cheer me up, I then decided to revisit some old classic tunes in a modern way, by listening to the acoustic version of Alanis Morrissette's "Jagged Little Pill" album. It's still a classic in its original form, but the acoustic one sounds much more raw and stripped down and on there the rather excellent "Head Over Feet" just sounds incredibly luscious and pure, so that's my tune of the day right there.

Tuesday 18th September - Where Did That Day Go?

It's been so hard to keep track of time during the working day to be honest - it's been a case of being rushed off my feet with so much on and seemingly so little time to do it. And I suppose that everyone wants everything yesterday with minimal delays, despite the fact that we're now logging the major calls on our help desk system so that we've got better tracking of things that are being done, which has to be a bonus. I think as well that the staff are very slowly getting used to the fact that our door won't be so open anymore and that we have stuff to do - not least myself with the mornings virtually taken up for the next two weeks..

But anyway, had to go and get some stuff sorted when I got home - it was off to a friend's to have a look at why their laptop wasn't exactly playing ball with their BT Home Hub. One quick look later and I pretty much had it sussed: apart from the fact the laptop had about 10-12 wireless networks set to automatic connection, the laptop wasn't seeing the Home Hub transmitting its SSID as it's channel was set to automatic and so was channel 1. For some reason, some wireless channel numbers don't work so well near other pieces of kit, so after a manual change to 7, it was tons better, it recognised the SSID straight off, and connected first go once the WEP password went in. Rock and roll!!

And talking of Rock and Roll, I got home earlier and whacked on Amy Macdonald, so "Mr Rock and Roll" is therefore tune of the day. It's still a great pop song and it could well be a contender for Single of the Year for me. Whether or not it's the Celtic tinged-accent when she sings or whether it's just the nice acoustic guitars I don't know, but it just works for me. And I like it when that happens. And as a sign of her success, her gig at Academy 3 is a complete sell out already!

Monday 17th September - Everyone's Back..

The roads are much busier, it's taking a bit longer than normal to get to work on the bus, and Oxford Road is littered with plenty of people giving out free flyers and stuff and plenty of litter all over the place resulting in the road looking rather rubbish. It can only be one thing: the students are back! And aren't they just? From the many visits to our Help Desk in order to change the password to the confused looks as they're bombarded with information to take in, and also the many takeaways near work all vying for their business and cash. It just goes from fairly quiet at the beginning of the month to this mad rush. And every year it seems just that bit more insane. I don't know if that's because more students are being taken on or if it's purely down to me getting a little bit older...

Anyhoo, I pretty much put the finishing touches to my compilation I was working on tonight, so now the songs of two minutes or less are a reality. And I managed to fit a massive 45 tracks by different artists on to an 80 minute CD, so that's going to be rather nice for the CD player to try out. Thank heavens Nero Burning Rom has a "normalize" option when doing an audio CD from different sources or else it would be quiet then loud then quiet then loud. Which wouldn't really be that good having to change the volume control really. Nonetheless I was well chuffed, and I'll probably reveal the track listing and some notes in the Music section when I get a spare hour or two to jot it all down - there's plenty I could write as the whys and wherefores of the whole thing.

But despite all that short track stuff, my tune of the day isn't a short song at all. In fact pretty much the opposite, it's lengthy and it's something I admire, namely Frank Zappa's "Willie The Pimp". It has great guitar workouts, it has Captain Beefheart belting out the vocals in the opening section and it just has plenty of really excellent instrumental bits which really go off into one, but in a good way. It also has this rather nifty start and end bit which underpins the whole tune and it just so works. In fact the whole of the "Hot Rats" album is well worth a purchase so why don't you buy it now?

Sunday 16th September - Another One Nil At Home

Well as I'm writing this the final whistle has sounded a few minutes ago at the City of Manchester Stadium, and for the third home game this season it's another 1-0 win to Man City, this time against Aston Villa. Now with that putting us second in the table and just a point behind the leaders Arsenal (and indeed back above Man U which is always a good thing) normally I'd be quite happy, especially with Michael Johnson's excellent run and shot which proved to be the winning goal, but to be honest, I'm not. Why? You may ask. A 1-0 win against Villa is normally a good result, considering also that they did beat Chelsea in their last game. But unfortunately it's not the case.

The moment we went 1-0 up Sven decided that it was going to be enough to win and we went really defensive. When Darius Vassell went off injured I was thinking that it was a perfect opportunity to get Rolando Bianchi on and go for the kill with the second goal, but no, on comes Sun Jihai to have an absolute nightmare instead. And each of the substitutions weren't that good in terms of tactics and had Villa's finishing been better then they would have equalised, no question. Also, I thought that it was questionable to actually play only one up front at home, and that's a bit too negative in my view to say the least!

But I guess I should be happy with the 1-0 win and the positives were that Vedran Corluka proved he can play central defence instead of right back (Dunney Monster was suspended today) and indeed that Michael Johnson continued to prove that if you're good enough, you're old enough, with another mature display in the centre of midfield. It wasn't just his goal, good as it was, but his all round battling and getting stuck in where needed. I like to see that, and I'm sure when it's a local lad it must mean more to be able to play for your home town club and wear the shirt with pride - I think he was trying to kiss the badge earlier!

A bit more exciting than the F1, which almost had me reaching for the remote to turn it over. It was a procession, and we needed some of the infamous Spa weather to mix things up a bit to be honest. Raikkonen got the job done well, fair play to him, and Lewis Hamilton's mistake at Pouhon near the end was a sign of nerves setting in him quite a bit: he should be thankful there was no gravel trap or else he might not have finished at all, which would have definitely let Raikkonen back in the title race with a massive shout. Should still be interesting at Fuji in two weeks time, especially if the rain comes like it used to up there!

As for tune of the day, well I found another great tune under two minutes, namely the Pixies classic that is "Rock Music" from their Bossanova album. It's pretty much everything that rock music is all about in such a short space of time. That compilation plan I'm doing is taking shape, thanks for suggestions thus far but feel free to send me some more over and I'll consider them!

Saturday 15th September - Sonic September

It was my brother's birthday today and so it was off to my Mum's this afternoon to see him and give him the birthday presents that I'd got for him. We both had a flick through the T-shirts section in Play, as he wanted a couple of new ones, and we saw one straight away that we both liked (Sonic The Hedgehog dash one in dark brown) and he'd also picked a Marshall amp one with the eagle on its logo which also looked pretty smart. Thankfully for me they both arrived on Thursday and so I was able to actually wrap them and write out the card and drop them all off. He was pretty chuffed with them and they even fitted him nicely, as he's lost a fair bit of weight and gone down to medium from large now, so well done him!

I had watched the F1 qualifying before I went, and to be honest, with all the spy scandal row that has gone on in the last week and indeed with the disqualification of McLaren from the constructor's championship, there was no surprise that Ferrari were much more on it, and Kimi Raikkonnen gave a flawless performance to get pole position, that's for sure. I think he'll win tomorrow if the car stays reliable as he seemed to have the raw pace that was needed as well as handling the legendary circuit of Spa as it should be handled. I'm still not sure about that new bus stop chicane though, and as for the pit lane entry road, it's way too narrow, I can see someone brushing the wall before the end of the weekend.

I spent some time tonight as well watching the World 20/20 cricket, which has been great fun to watch overall. Not least because the games have been fast and frenetic but also because of the way that the game has been played in the right spirit. It was a closeish game between South Africa and India last night, but the South Africans really upped the tempo in the last eight overs or so, with Jacob Oram absolutely smashing it around everywhere with some enormous sixes, and a total of 190 looked a bit too much for India - but only just. Nonetheless it was wonderful entertainment, and I have to admit that the game against England tomorrow is going to be pretty intense to say the least.

Whilst out shopping in Stockport this morning (had a bit of a shopping mission which was accomplished - one birthday present out of the way!) I did notice that there were so many shops still having a bit of a sale in terms of items that they can't shift. I went into HMV and very nearly was tempted to buy some CDs, but as I'd had a nice package arrive for me this morning I didn't feel the need to. That said, I did play some nice tunes late in the day, including the rather brilliant "Tired of Waiting For You - as covered by Green Day. You wouldn't think they'd do a good job, but they did! Tune of the day it most certainly is.

Friday 14th September - CBoobies!

Mock The Week last night was absolutely the best one I've seen in ages. Not only were all the regulars on form but having Gina Yashere and Ed Byrne on there was a master stroke to say the least. They were discussing about the new regulations with regards to skilled migrant workers, and Gina mentioned her Nigerian mum (which she often does during her live shows) and said: "My mum was like: "I don't need any of that. British passport!" which in the way she did it was completely giggle-worthy. And Ed Byrne's skit about Liverpool John Lennon airport can't have always gone down so well with some parts of the country, but it was funny.

Funniest of all though was Hugh Dennis as ever. He very nearly brought the infamous Mr. Strange character (you know, Milky Milky!) back to life as he and the rest of them were doing the last round "Scenes We'd Like To See" and the scene was "Unlikely Letters To Be Read Out On Points Of View". He went "Last night.. I turned on to your new porn channel... CBoobies.." and it was done in such a way that it was just like that character. Hehe. Lovely. Milky Milky! In fact you can watch the whole of the Scenes We'd Like To See here (can't embed it here otherwise I would..) and it was an absolute hoot to say the least. The whole "Nuts on the Road" skit earlier on was just pure genius, not least with Andy Parsons and Frankie Boyle really ripping into it in such an intelligent and witty way.

Had a good day today: got lots done and helped set up all the PCs and trolleys ready for Monday's enrolment sessions and made sure that the camera software and ID card printer were all ready to go so that they were ready, and that kept us all busy sorting that out. Once done it was out for lunch to Chinese buffet as it was pay day today (and as usual Buffet City was as fab as ever) and set me up nicely for the weekend. I really am going to take it easy though cos it was pretty good fun last weekend but I need to try and catch up with some of the other things like housework and indeed getting to see people over the weekend, see how it goes I guess!!

Been listening a lot to some classic tunes today over the radio and one of them is going to be tune of the day, namely Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing". We all remembered the classic video and indeed the tune with a long intro and then some blistering guitar that just makes for wonderful listening, even now. And if you don't consider that guitar riff a classic, then quite frankly shame on you!

Thursday 13th September - Not Broken, And Fixed Nicely

Well, I have to say that the England game was a good performance, but what pleased me most was the fact that the eleven players out there performed like a team and not with so-called big names trying to take some of the limelight. No Wayne Rooney, no David Beckham, no Frank Lampard, and you know what? All the better for it. Gareth Barry for me was Man of the Match, he really carried off his midfield role superbly and was in the thick of the action for the game and really worked hard. Owen Hargreaves? Nope. Don't need him either. Emile Heskey did a job and did it well, keeping the ball and getting the other midfielders and Michael Owen involved, and I always say as a striker if you're not scoring, you make them instead, and Heskey's neat flick to Michael Owen for his second typified his unselfish performance. Heskey and Owen worked well together, Joe Cole on the left and Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right were running at defenders, Micah Richards was again excellent at right back, and it all worked.

Now I must admit that I'd be tempted to keep the same side for the next qualifier. The team worked as a team and you could tell that the team spirit actually worked well, working for each other and not being bigheaded about it. For me and my relations watching, it was a refreshing change, let me tell you. It's just really nice to see that for once it wasn't about the players, it was about the team. And more fool anyone if they think Rooney should just come back into the England side now he's approaching fitness again. He's a waste of space in an England shirt and has done nothing much since Euro 2004 - the stats speak for themselves.

Had a good day at work today really, managed to get everything sorted out in terms of preparation for next week and also any induction sessions that I'd been sorting out with all the info that I need to mention to the students, together with some revisions and some laptop configuration wizardry. Felt positive today and more so tonight as I had a friend round, and it was just a great laugh and great company all round, which is always a good thing in my eyes. You know, isn't friendship great?

Anyway, you know how I had a whale of a time seeing I'm From Barcelona the other night? Well, look what I found, it's the kazoo choir I mentioned during "Chicken Pox":

And for that reason, that song's going to be my tune of the day - it sums up everything about I'm From Barcelona in a nutshell. They're mad and fun, and I love them for it.

Wednesday 12th September - If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Well it's the England v Russia game later and I just hope that we can do the business and win really. I don't want the side to be changed from a winning one: it's after all what most managers shoud do. Only we have Steve McLaren as manager. He should count his stars that the rather excellent Micah Richards and Shaun Wright-Phillips were bombing it down the right wing, which has to be a definite plus for me. I really have to hope that I'll be screaming at the telly later with my uncle and his two kids in tow for all the right reasons, such as cheering on the England masses to another three points. We still need them and we have to be completely on form I think. But we shall see, won't we?

An old adage I always thought that held me well was that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and sometimes that is so true. I was lucky enough today to be able to finish off the spare camera PC for enrolment, and as the web camera that we use is the same make as the other one, then all I had to do was slightly update the drivers, test and away we go! It also meant much less hassle than last year where I had to get all the TWAIN communication stuff going with the ID card software - cos I imaged it after I got it working so I wouldn't need to do those steps again. Looks like my move paid off handsomely, hurrah.

And indeed I was thinking today that with the enrolment next week, best to actually check all the network sockets actually work, because I didn't want to set up the PCs on Friday and find that we have to go patching sockets either, so I did a quick run down to the place we do enrolments and checked them all out. And they all worked first go and were configured properly. But best to check. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? And with that I felt very happy and was able to relax at home before the game tonight.

And to get me pumped up, what better than a proper football tune? Now, whilst Three Lions is excellent, for me the song that set the standard for the Official England song was EnglandNewOrder's "World in Motion" which had the England squad with New Order doing the business. Not least John Barnes' rap and of course the likes of Keith Allen having a good laugh as well as write some of the words. It would always get me pumped up during the World Cup 1990 and it still does now. "You've got to hold and give, but do it at the right time". Tune of the day, easily.

Tuesday 11th September - I Knew I Should Have Bought A Kazoo

Rather long day at work, and it's also six years to the day today since the terrorist attacks in New York. I can remember me being sat in our old office at work with the team I work with and we all were just watching the streaming footage from BBC News and seeing the whole thing unfold. It was a horrible thing to watch and to see happen before your eyes, but it also made me aware that nothing necessarily is safe in the world anymore and to really defeat terrorism you have to defeat how people think, not just how people act.

With that in mind it was nice to be able to switch off and go to see I'm From Barcelona at the Academy 3 tonight. I really do like the band, and seeing them back in January was a hoot. I was hoping for more of the same, and not least because I'd recently been seeing quite a bit of that T-Mobile ad on the telly with their "Collection of Stamps" song on there. So as you can imagine, that also set me up for the night nicely - as did bumping into one of the former students where I work, who'd graduated this summer and whose wireless problems I fixed a while ago - it was nice of her to remember me and say hello. And indeed I even spotted one of my work colleagues from another Faculty who was there with his friend for the gig too. Suddenly the world felt a smaller place and I didn't feel as bad being on my own!

Anyway, the support was a guy called Jeremy Warmsley, and he was a bit too whimsical for his own good, really. Not least also because his on-stage persona was a little lacking, and his anecdotes before each song were delivered too quietly and if you were stood at the back you couldn't necessarily hear that much. Musically, it was okay, but to be honest not the sort of album I'd buy and I couldn't see me seeing him as a headline act, but it did the job and everyone in a way was more pumped up to see I'm From Barcelona.

And did they deliver? Oh yes they bloody well did. From the opening salvo of "Treehouse", which I've had in my head all evening and just won't escape me (therefore that's tune of the day) which included letting lots of balloons into the crowd, plenty of normal sized but a few super sized as well, you knew it was going to be a rather fab gig all round. With Emmanuel Lundgren being his usual off the wall self, and despite there being only around 14 of the band touring (there's a mere twenty nine band members, in case you wondered) it still worked rather nicely. During "Rec and Play" the band ended the song with a nice impromptu version of Madonna's "Like A Prayer" which everyone happily joined in and bounced around, me included.

I knew something I should have brought with me tonight - a kazoo! Last time I saw them two of the audience got up on stage with them and performed the kazoo part during their song "Chicken Pox". Well during tonight it was a request from Emmanuel to get the kazoo players down the front so that they could join in, and didn't they just? In fact there were seven of them who managed to get on stage and play the kazoo, even if one of them actually wasn't really playing it, because it was actually the wrong way around. Doh! But nonetheless that just made it so much more fun. And the fun continued as confetti was handed out to the audience to throw around for sheer fun and then jump when prompted to bring in the introduction to "We're From Barcelona", which went down a real treat.

The fun and games continued, not least with the last bit of "Treehouse" as well, which I didn't mention yet. Why? Well, Emmanuel had brought along a lilo with him and wanted to do some crowdsurfing on the lilo and wanted the audience to carry him around, and it worked - well sort of! But that set the tone off nicely for the whole evening too, and it really did have so much elements of fun that you felt like you were at a party just having a whale of a time, and isn't that how it should be?

I craftily noted the set list in my phone as it was playing, so it went a little something like this:

Treehouse
Oversleeping
Rec and Play (including "Like A Prayer" segment)
Collection of Stamps
Chicken Pox
Britney
We're From Barcelona
The Painter
Ola Kala
Jenny
Life Aquatic
Barcelona Loves You

It all went by far too quickly and they were on stage for around an hour or so, which wasn't bad really. At the end of "Barcelona Loves You" it was a bit of a stage invasion by those at the front and I'd say that there were around 10-15 of the audience singing along at the end, which actually was quite lovely. So there you go. Yaay!

Monday 10th September - Get Emlyn On!

After a long day, which wasn't the easiest day ever, I felt the need to wind down quite a bit. Now I knew that my uncle and his two sons would be coming over to watch the England game on Wednesday, which as always will be great to see them, and also that the last time they were here my uncle was talking about the days of us all playing Emlyn Hughes International Soccer on the good old Commodore 64. Frequently the cry up to my room when I lived at mum's was "Get Emlyn On" and it'd usually be a league format with at least four of us playing, or indeed sometimes it'd be two players against the computer to see who would win.

Way back in 1993, I played around with the game a lot, and not only changed all the teams to be proper Premiership teams, with proper player names and everything, but also changed the adverts by the side of the pitch to be a bit more football related, such as major sponsors of clubs like JVC and Brother etc, and that worked really well. I even managed to find the disk with my modified version on, and so with the 64 still being downstairs after the gaming session I'd had with friends over the weekend, classic moments that they were, I hooked everything up and loaded the game for pure fun and nostalgia. And my, wasn't it just? I can still remember how to play and how to score some neat goals too - not lost it just yet you know.

Whilst it was on I thought it was time to update the teams with up to date squads and also the correct shirt colours too for pure authenticity, and so after about an hour of adding in all the names and sorting out all the colours, I was done. Emlyn Hughes 07-08 was pretty much looking good. The eight teams I whacked in were Man City (obviously), Man Utd, Liverpool, Everton, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Newcastle, and that therefore should be good enough for a lot of people out there. I can of course always edit a team and change it to someone else if and when I'd need to, so always something worth considering. The main thing was that it always feels much better if your real player names are being displayed and you score a goal with them, don't you think?

With me feeling rather flushed it was time to kick back and chuck on the Renegade Soundwave 1987-1995 2CD set for some quality tunes to be played. The band were so darned under-rated and they made some great dance anthems, and also some great little singles that really had much fun in their lyrics, Probably A Robbery being the most infamous for that, as I mentioned earlier this month. But for pure bass heavy enjoyment, you can't get much nicer than the great track "Women Respond To Bass" so that's my tune of the day. Whether or not they actually do respond to bass is debatable, I'm sure that it would be possible to find out!!

Sunday 9th September - Homeward Bound

Well it was a happy and sad day today really. Got up and sorted everyone out with breakfast (mainly croissants, yoghurt and coffee) and then after watching a few football videos and DVDs, it was time to head back into Manchester to drop the friend off at the coach station and for my other two friends to head back home as well in the early afternoon. I felt a tinge of sadness really as I didn't want the weekend to end whatsoever, but at the same time know that I had a right blast. Not least I'm going to have to suggest that we do this again at some point over the next few months and go from there, that's what I reckon!

After I'd got home and sorted the house out a bit (mainly deflating the air beds, putting the duvet covers in to wash etc) I decided it would be nice to pop over and see one of my friends too whom I'd not seen for a little while, so made sure it was okay and over I went, and there was a rather nice latte on the go for me as well which was absolutely lovely too. See, that's what's nice about having nice friends: they're really instinctive as to what you like and will try and look after you, which is such a great thing! Spent plenty of time chatting and it was just a really positive thing all round - and lots of debate and stuff like that.

I think on the whole as it's coming up to around a year of me really thinking about changing my life around, one thing that the whole weekend has told me is that friendships are a very important thing, and no one is worth losing your friends over. Friends are there for the long term and you choose them wisely, and also act with them wisely too, if you know what I mean. If you don't appreciate that, then trust me: one day you will. And it'll be the day when you least expect it when everything clicks into place. With that in mind, I think James Taylor's version of "You've Got A Friend" is not only to the point but very apt for how I feel, so that's my tune of the day - I should blame my Mum for putting that song into my head!!

Saturday 8th September - Four Go Mad In Manchester

Another day, another round of immense fun. Honestly, this weekend's proving to be rather good! Once everyone woke up this morning I got breakfast on and it was sausage barmcakes all round, which worked a treat for us all and together with some yoghurt and a coffee did the job to get everyone feeling rather nice and awakened and ready for the day ahead. Spent some of the morning listening to some DVD-Audio surround stuff, not least REM's "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" which was rather nice to hear in the advanced res, not least the superduper "Leave" which just has to be tune of the day for me to be honest. My friend remarked that during "Electrolite" you can hear the banjos really well and he didn't realise that they were there. It really comes across from the rear channel in the surround, top tippety top top.

Headed into the centre of Manchester and had a quick look in the Northern Quarter and most notably Vinyl Exchange - was so tempted to buy something but as I'd had delivery of the new Black Francis album that morning, I decided against it but nonetheless it was good to see that it was still its rather wonderful self. I've reminded myself that I also need to locate for my friend a copy of Renegade Soundwave's "Soundclash" at some point cos he's missing that from his collection and that surely needs to be rectified, and quickly too!

Settled in The Waterhouse pub and also did lunch in there - the mixed grill I had was rather nice to say the least, and came across really lovely with plenty of succulent meat and some garden peas too, perfect. That pub has now started to brew its own ale, so three of us tried it and all really liked it, so that worked very well - not least as it was a rather inexpensive ale as well, how good was that eh? Unfortunately it had no telly and so wouldn't be showing the England game, but I had an idea for that. So a bit later we walked past the Art Car exhibits in Albert Square (how mad was that?) and then on to the Lass O'Gowrie to watch the game there on the big screen. Not least cos they also do a mean pint of Black Sheep. Lovely.

As was the England result. It was a good performance, we looked hungry and shock of shocks, Emile Heskey had a great game in an England shirt, he really did. I was glad to be proven wrong. I was so pleased to see Micah Richards at right back with Shaun Wright-Phillips right wing, and the two of them were terrorising the Israeli defence all game. The first goal from Wright-Phillips was a good finish to a good move, Michael Owen's turn and shot for the second was classy, and as for Micah, well I think those contract negotiations with Man City might be a bit harder now especialy after his excellent header to make it 3-0. Oh yes. He's a legend already!

Spent most of the evening after that in Ra!n Bar, very chilled out on the balcony and plenty of chat, and then back to The Waterhouse for another pint of their fine ale, before heading back to the Towers stopping off for a kebab on the way back (well not me, cos I don't like them, but I at least had the sense to take my friends to the best place near where I live which is immense value for money) and then chilled out more and watched the F1 qualifying highlights, as you do. The weekend's gone too quick already and I feel sad it's going to be Sunday and friends are going home.. boo!

Friday 7th September - Three Barrels, Surely?

With everything set in place for the weekend, a time to really kick back and relax this morning, with a job well done I felt relatively flushed with success. I'd got all I needed and the only thing I really needed to do was to nip into Cooltrader to get a couple of bottles of Coca-Cola, and some ice cream, just in case. I actually ended up getting some Mars bars and Snickers as well which thought "might be nice". I was just excited really - so good to see friends and especially as I'd not seen them since June, and I was just hoping that the weekend was going to be a good one.

Well, if today's anything to go by, then definitely so. One of them turned up around 1, the two of us met up with one and then another in the centre of Manchester as we had one travelling by coach into Manchester, and then it was a case of piling back to mine for much beer or soft drinks, and plenty of relaxing chat and conversation. I also played quite a few CDs of tracks that inspired Commodore 64 tunes (and there's plenty of obscure ones in there, such as Synergy's "Shibolet" which was what legendary C64 musician Rob Hubbard covered for the soundtrack to "Master of Magic" - so the original version's my tune of the day.) That was quite nice in a way especially for one of them who hadn't heard lots of the originals before, so good to invoke plenty of chatter there as well.

After ordering Pizza Hut delivery (still as nice as ever, especially the cajun chicken and sweetcorn number I had, and swapped pieces with some of my friends so I had ham and mushroom, and meat feast too - rock on) it was time to dig out my C64 and have much multiplayer fun. And the prime candidate was World Games, an absolute classic for the day, and it still is now. When you consider the events are weightlifting, barrel jumping, cliff diving, slalom skiing, log rolling, bull riding, caber toss and sumo wrestling, then you do have an idea of the fun and games on offer - not least the version of "Piobaireachd of Donald Dhu" which plays for the caber toss, complete with authentic sounding bagpipes on the C64, really! It's amazing.

Two four player tournaments went down very well and it was great fun along the way, especially as one of my friends and I recreated a classic moment we had many years ago where we did three barrels in the barrel jumping event, just to take the mickey (clearing three is dead easy, so my commentary was like "three barrels, surely? Ooooooh, I think he might have cleared it, and he has! Three barrels..") so that was hilarious to be honest. It was also good second time around as we all remembered what to do on some of the events and so was a much more closely fought contest, and definitely some good positive vibes all around. Must admit I did go to bed around 1am feeling proper happy with myself that I've got everyone together and all seemed very well indeed. Should be a right blast tomorrow!

Thursday 6th September - Preparation, That's What You Need

Been a bit busy after work, but I was clever enough to save some time for the weekend by nipping into the usual place to get my hair cut (namely the Northern Cutter in Affleck's Palace - as usual thanks to Joanne and Michelle for their usual efficient job!) so it meant I didn't have to go there after work, which of course was a plus. Time saved equals time made for me - and this enabled me to go to Tesco and get stuff in for the weekend. The least I can do is get stuff in for breakfast for my friends, right? So barmcakes and bacon and sausages (in case they fancy a bacon or sausage barm), cereal, croissants, yoghurt, bread for toast etc. Mind you I also needed some coffee, some sauces, and washing powder, so that soon racked up the weekly shop cost to some degree. Ah well.

Got home and knew I had to get stuff sorted, so it was vacumming everywhere and dusting down, sorting out the bathroom and giving that a good clean as well as the kitchen, and also weeding out some of the pesky weeds that were trying to grow in the back yard: managed to pull those out from the roots and then whacked down plenty of Weedol to be on the safe side to see if that would sort it all out. I suppose realistically that it's always best to have somewhere tidy because it makes for a nicer place all round really. And I feel rather tired, hot and sweaty (it's still pretty warm here) but at least I can feel pleased with myself that everywhere is nice and ready for the weekend ahead, which is going to be a blast.

And to get me in the mood, what better than a bit of Senser? Dunno about you, but isn't "Stacked Up" one of the most under-rated and lyrically intense albums of all time? It's just an assault on the brain and unless you're in the band, I'd have no idea of anyone else who could recite all the lyrics 100% accurately, they're just in the zone being delivered that fast. Anyway, the opening track "States of Mind" sets the album off perfectly and gives you an idea of exactly what you're in for - lots of intensity, guitars and plenty of excuses to go mosh around at your local indie night. So that is tune of the day and I feel the need to mosh right now...

Wednesday 5th September - Autumn? Late Summer, More Like!

I couldn't believe the weather today. Not only was it dry here in Manchester, but the sun had come out and it really felt quite warm. Not therefore the day to be running around various floors of a tower block with a whole South facing side letting in lots of heat getting all the student PCs configured for the start of the year, that's definitely for sure. Mind you, it was a case of blitzing quite a bit of the rooms today and getting them all done so that the delay in them being used was minmal. What really was good to see was that everything worked well together and we'd found out that if we'd previously registered the workstation using Zenworks registration etc, the image safe data keeps the name - and then renames it when the data kicks in on second boot. Ooh, rather nice, that.

I was going to go over to a friend's but they weren't too well, and so I decided on the spur of the moment to go over to my Mum's and see some of the family. It turned out to be a good move, as my sister was there with my niece and she was being all lovely and cute - awwww. And my other sister then arrived later with my nephew, so I got to be a big kid with both of them, so no complaints there. It was good to catch up with them all as well and be able to relax quite a bit. Mum even did me some food too which was very nice of her to say the least.

Got back home and thought of the two minute songs compilation. A friend emailed me and suggested Suicidal Tendencies' "Cyco Vision" which would work. I'll have to get hold of either "Six The Hard Way EP" or "Freedumb" and get it off that, but nonetheless I remember it from the very first Tony Hawk skateboarding game which had to be a classic back in the day. There's also many US hardcore bands that could well qualify for the short songs: Black Flag would be one of them. Maybe the reworking of "Police Story" done by Rollins Band with Ice-T on vocals would be a good contender: keeps all the original feel and rocks just as hard?

But there was no stopping me in terms of my varied selection tonight, I went from dance to acoustic and then back again: I was in that sort of mood. So it was Renegade Soundwave's classic "Biting My Nails" first up, which is just marvellous, then from that to Kristin Hersh's "Nerve Endings" - because the slide guitar is just sooo nice, and then back to dance again with some more RSW, namely the excellent "Probably A Robbery", a top tune that. In fact, you know what? It's tune of the day, so there. Got to love the slight Cockney accent and the great rhyming lyrics: "If you want my advice get it all above board, just pop into Lloyds and get yourself insured.." - yeah, it probably makes no sense, but that's exactly why I enjoy it. Sometimes it's just good to switch off.

Tuesday 4th September - Baby, Come To Daddy

I had a nice surprise when I returned home from work (another long day at the office to be honest) and I had a package waiting for me when I arrived through the door (and next door's cat Pinky doing his usual best to be sneaking in and wanting lots of fussing, the cutie that he is). It was the delivery of my order from Mute that I'd placed online last week. They did have a sale on and I decided that it would be a good idea to take advantage and get some nice back catalogue stuff I thought to myself. So, what did I get then I hear you ask?

Well, there's the 2CD compilation "RSW 1987-1995" which is just a summing up of the quality that was Renegade Soundwave, in my view they were vastly under-rated and some of their tunes in the late 1980s were dance classics of the era, and the Leftfield mix of "Renegade Soundwave" is just so bloody fab that it makes me want to just play it at full blast and have the house shaking with the deep bass lines. It's also got the early stuff as well such as "Kray Twins", "Cocaine Sex" and the uber classic "Biting My Nails" which was later used on a Gameboy advert, no less. And here's your proof:

Cool stuff I'm sure you'll agree. So that was that, but also there was Nick Cave's "Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus" 2CD set, which I missed getting when it got released so I thought the least I could do was pick it up now and get it for myself whilst I had the chance to, only seemed right to me somehow. I really like what Nick Cave does, and many of his albums already grace my collection, such as the lovely "The Boatman's Call" and "Murder Ballads". I think as well that Cave's always been vastly under-rated by many people and not appreciated as much as he should be.

And on top of that, a couple of Nitzer Ebb singles too! Now I've always liked the band and have all their CD albums, quite a few of the CD singles and oodles of vinyl 12"ers. So when I saw that both "Lightning Man" and "Shame" were heavily reduced, I thought to myself "well, I might have to snap those up" and so did. In fact, the great thing on the Lightning Man CD single is that it features the excellent 12" "The Industry vs The Ebb Mix" of that track, which is going to have to be my tune of the day. Nitzer Ebb kick ass, and this just proves it beyond any doubt. The key lyric within Lightning Man - "Baby, Come To Daddy" is just so well done - and that explains the title for today's entry too. I did feel very flushed with my successful purchase, not least because it was stuff I wanted, gaps in collection filled and so on.

I was saddened to hear about the death of Jane Tomlinson as well. She's a shining example of what you can achieve when you put your heart and soul into it, and despite having terminal cancer which ultimately took her life away today, she managed to achieve so much and inspire so many through her feats of endurance, such as doing The Great North Run, the London Marathon and the Iron Man Triathlon. Oh, and just for good measure a 4,000 mile bike ride across America which was finished earlier this year. Now that's some going, and most mere mortals couldn't achieve that. And yet she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2000 and only supposedly had six months left to live. The last six years or so of her achievements will leave a lasting legacy, and certainly an impression on me. Jane, rest in peace.

Monday 3rd September - When You're At Full Metal Challenge, I Am The Law!

I had a fairly long day at work for one reason or another: well it seemed long but in fact the time just flew by as we're rolling out the rest of the student images to the PCs, and that does take time and effort. We did manage to completely image the 6th floor in one go, and indeed also get the whole of the 4th floor at least imaged, whilst the 6th floor is all registered and done, so that's now usable too, has to be a definite plus that is. It just was good to get plenty done and feel the reward when I got home and relax and chill out for a while.

Even better of course is that each night on UKTVG2, they're showing the whole series of.. Full Metal Challenge! This was one of my favourite TV shows of 2002, and with good reason. It featured Henry Rollins as presenter (and as you may know, Rollins is one of my icons) and Cathy Rogers hosting too, and had many teams making their own ultimate vehicle which took part in a series of tests all based on fairgrounds, so you had the Roller Coaster, Wetropolis, Tenpin (yes, ten pin bowling with cars and 140lb pins!), Bumper Cars (pinball for cars..) and so on. Not to mention of course the car Sumo at the end which decides the winner of each show. It was just great fun to watch, engineering to marvel at and the fact that the producers allowed Rollins to wing it just worked really well on the whole.

Last night's episode on there was a classic, with the US team The Law Dawgs doing the business on the day - but it was a close run thing between them and the English team The Pole Cats, and so was immense fun. I didn't always see the earlier rounds so it's good to catch up and see just how mad some of the people were to make these machines and put them through mayhem. It's just really good to see the show getting a proper run on the telly again though, to make people see what they missed. And of course to see the man Henry do his thing. Oh yes. Cathy must have been splitting her sides so often with his humourous comments.

Kicked back later on with all sorts of music: I was deciding to try out some stuff in DVD-Audio surround, and REM's "Crush With Eyeliner" sounded most excellent it has to be said. And of course Metallica's "Enter Sandman" always sounds good in full advanced res. But I felt in quite a reflective and thoughful mood too, so I decided that it would be nice to put something on a bit more mellow and chilled out, and Nick Harper's first album "Light At The End Of The Kennel" got an airing. I love the track "Is This Really Me" as it's gorgeously soft, and it reminds me of his father Roy Harper a heck of a lot. And so that's tune of the day sorted. It was just nice to be able to have those sort of moments though where you just feel like a change in feelings.

Sunday 2nd September - Lazy Sunday Afternoon And Evening

Well, I decided to go along to Night and Day for a gig today, and it turned out to be a very nice move on the whole. It was basically The Country Club, organised by the very lovely Miz DeShannon and featuring a wide range of artists doing acoustic stuff, string stuff and even some country stuff too. It proved to be a good day with plenty of good acts on. Naturally, yours truly was going because Donna Marie was on (yes, I know, I'm predictable) but Donna did mention that she might be playing a new song live, so that was more than enough incentive for yours truly to come and do the stuff. It also looks like being a regular feature every first Sunday of the month there, so might be well worth checking in the future too.

Anyway, on came Emma Black (myspace) first, and she was pretty good, not least having a keyboardist and backing guitarist to help out and come across with a good feel. It was countryfied and very nice with it, and her debut album "Where Dark Horses Roam" has had good reviews too, such as this one. I might even check that out myself - so if Cornflower Records get an order in the next few days, one of them might well be from me. Nice to see though that even this early on, it was going to be quality.

Next was Becca Williams (official site) (myspace), who despite her diminutive frame did a really lovely job too and there were some introspective numbers that were enjoyable, and definitely more for the girlies out there. I particularly enjoyed "Travel Blind" as that's really lovely and reflective. One thing that I did notice at this point: it was warm on stage, and Becca was really suffering with the heat - a common theme for everyone later on. Part of it sounded a bit folky as well, which is fine by me, and you could feel the emotion in her voice: lovely.

Donna Marie (official site) (myspace) was on next, and her two guitars Gretschen (that's the acoustic one) and Gracie (the electric one) were tuned in to do the business. In fact there was quite a bit of distortion going on with Gracie, don't know if it was intentional, but it made the overall sound a bit dirtier which was fine by me. As ever, I noted Donna's set and it went a little bit like this:

Paint The Sky
Sinking Deep
A Night Like This
The Other Half
I See Clearly
Perfect Fit
Holiday From Myself
Imagine

You may have noticed that "A Night Like This" was the new one. Although she'd premiered it at the ALL FM Broadcast that she was on the other week, it was nice to see it done live and with a bit more edge to it. I enjoyed that so much that the song was in my head for the rest of the night, so that's tune of the day right there. It just sounds good and raw, and it'll be interesting to see how it sounds when recorded in the studio for sure. It was also nice to hear "I See Clearly" as that's one of her earlier songs which has a bit more wistful range, so a nice mix. Not sure about the cover at the end, personally Goodtime Girl would have been better, but hey, who am I to nit pick?

Next up was Gabe Minnikin (myspace), who had come over all the way from Nova Scotia. Whilst he was good, there were about 11 or 12 in the band including lots of violinists and string players, and you know that too many cooks spoil the broth? That's how it felt at times, a little too overblown and you couldn't always hear Gabe's dulcet tones, so it was a bit of a shame as the overall sound of the songs was okay. And as Night and Day weren't serving food after 6, I headed out for something to eat and so missed Sophie's Pigeons.

I was glad to be back for Alexis McLean (official site) (myspace) though, it has to be said. She was really good, a bit rootsy, a bit country but overall with a smile on her face and an eye for a good song too. Her EP is something on my "to buy" list now, and definitely she sounded wholesome and good. I kept thinking that the guitarist with her looked a bit familiar, and after a bit of research I remembered that he used to be the guitarist in (hooker), whose first two mini albums I really loved to bits. Small world, especially as I'd actually seen that band in Night and Day as well. Alexis was really nice at the end with her doing a solo vocal song with her boots stomping on the stage to keep in time, and that really put the seal on it. Hopefully I can get her EP! Lisa Redford (official site) (myspace) was last and probably wasn't helped by the fact people were leaving to go home and the oppressive heat inside Night and Day (it was uncomfortable on stage it has to be said) but she was pretty good also.

All in all, good value all round and I'm sure next month's night might have to be something for me to have a look at and check out - but I have a feeling it might clash with Andy Parsons at the Lowry - and I'm tempted to see him it has to be said. Still, no complaints from me, good night all round and a nice vibe. Even had one of the fruity beers in there and that tasted rather lovely it has to be said. You know, there's so much nice stuff out there that it's hard to take it all in, but Miz, take a bow, you're doing a bloody good job organising these things! If you or any of the artists are reading this, do get in touch.

Saturday 1st September - Autumn Is Here, And How!

For those of you who prefer the 1st of the month to be the start of something new, well technically for some people it's the first day of Autumn today, although the weather over the last few years in the first week of September has been that good that it's still felt like Summer, and I know that I've had my main holidays around that time of year before, so it's always been pretty decent. But definitely last night with the rain throwing it down and even this morning with it being quite chilly, it certainly felt to me as if Autumn had arrived with a vengeance. No bad thing of course as it means I can start to get out my Autumn/Winter wardrobe and that includes some nice stripey jumpers for me, which I do quite like myself in. Might need to get a couple of new ones, but on the whole I'm pretty sorted on that score.

Went out this morning primarily to get some stuff for next weekend, when I've got three friends over for the whole weekend - a right blast that's going to be, let me tell you. First off it was off to Asda to stock up on some mighty fine ales and beers for the weekend ahead, and it'll save me getting it with the rest of the shopping next week. Had fun and games at the till though: apparently the offer they have of 3 real ales for £4, you're not supposed to buy more than six of the same one - and even though I'd bought different ones, because the till detected them as "ale" it failed to know the difference and flagged it to the till operator. Bah. But I got round it and the assistant was happy to do it in two lots, so it was four bottles of Tribute (well you knew I was going to have to get myself some), two of Black Sheep, two of Black Sheep Emmerdale, two of Golden Glory, and two of Badger Champion - along with some bottles of Cobra (50p each!!) and a couple of multipack cans too - should be plenty for us to enjoy over the weekend I reckon! Also managed to pick up some pillows at the local discount shop near me, so that I've got enough of those for the spare airbeds and the futon. Hurrah!

Spent some more time today on the "two minute songs or less" compilation, and thought it would be nice to ask you, the dear reader, what you think. If you know of a great tune that lasts two minutes or less, and it's easily available to obtain on CD, then feel free to contact me and nominate your suggestions. They'll all be welcomed, and I'm sure they would help in me making what could well be a great little CD to listen to. I might even make the track listing available on line in the music section so you can see what was picked too. You've got until the end of the month, so that should be enough time. Get nominating!

As an example, the sort of thing I'd be looking for would be this tune of the day, namely Johnny Cash's "Country Trash" from his "American III: Solitary Man" album. It clocks in at 1:47, so perfect, and it's actually a good little song which explains that how he's managed in his life and that he's doing alright for "Country Trash" and it's just good fun really. It also shows Cash's later career voice off at his finest and no wonder that the whole "American Recordings" series found him a new audience (me included it has to be said) based on the quality of that track as an example. So there you go. That's possibly one track in the can. Another thirty nine or so to go!