Dear Diary... September 2009

Wednesday 30th September - End of an Era

It certainly felt like the end of an era today for a few reasons. Firstly, I was imaging Macs, not PCs. I know, scary new world and all that, eh? Well, in fact it's pretty simple once you know how. We have a Mac machine which we use for various tasks in the office, and it happens to have a decent sized hard drive, so yesterday I hooked another Mac to it via Firewire in Target Disk mode and therefore this meant that by using Disk Utility, I could transfer the data to the main Mac as a mac disk image (.dmg) so I could use that image again on other Macs that have been purchased recently.

Having created the master yesterday it was a case of then copying it back. In Disk Utility, it's pretty easy - select the image you want, do "scan image for restore" first, and then when done, restore the image, selecting the Firewire hard drive as its destination. It actually worked when I then booted up the Mac afterwards, all the software, users and settings had been retained no problem. So much so that I imaged another two in the same way in the afternoon which at least meant that I was able to have some level of consistency in how everything is set up and also meant that I wasn't having to do the set up five times over!

Also late in the afternoon our Dean had her last day at work. She's been a real pleasure to work for and her character and passion for what she does is infectious, let me tell you. If everyone had the same sort of enthusiasm fo her job, then the world would be a nicer and better place. The turnout was rather impressive to say the least and of course lots of people wanted to come and say farewell and also admire all the rather unique items which have adorned her office over the years. In a unique twist, she gave a lot of them away to the staff that wanted them which I thought was rather good.

It does all feel like the end of an era and the start of a whole different ball game out there, but I guess it's either having to sit tight and see what happens or if anything else fails, deciding my next move. But nonetheless it felt quite sad as I left the building and headed over to see The Honey In My Ale later, who did us both a rather fab tea with chicken, a flat mushroom and plenty of vegetables, which was rather excellent all round. We settled in for the evening and ended up watching Masterchef The Professionals and seeing how all four contestants under pressure couldn't do a potato rosti properly, and then cook some pretty good stuff for Michel Roux Jr later on. I wouldn't have minded one of the lemon tarts anyway!

We saw Dragon's Den later - a sort of On Tour following the Dragons' investments and how well they were doing. I must admit I did smile when I saw that Hamfatter were struggling and that one of the band is now doing a solo album. I don't think they've been taken seriously but also going on TV to raise money could have been seen by some to be selling out. You reap what you sow and all that sort of thing. Still, wouldn't mind having the Dragons' backing to one day write and record my own album - hehe. Tune of the day incidentally is Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" because of the part which gets covered by Vic and Bob in Shooting Stars when describing Matt Lucas' character George Dawes. "He's a baby, he's a baby!" :)

Tuesday 29th September - Get On T'Internet!

My mum and her friend came round to mine tonight, as they were planning a weekend trip out and wanted my assistance and advice on a couple of things. Since Mum has been using my brother's laptop, she's getting to learn how to work it pretty well which is a good thing, and her and her friend had been checking out possibilities of the accommodation of where they were staying. They wanted to know how far the places were from the train station at their arrival and so I worked out the post codes of both and did a Google Maps directions via walking so that they could see just how far it actually was to get where they needed to go. This also helped them in deciding just where to stay.

Their only snag was that the weekend they were looking at going, most of the accommodation was pretty much booked. Mum had managed to ring one place and as luck would have it, there became some rooms available so they pretty much snapped those up, and indeed it did look pretty nice from what I could see. It's good when you're able to see that everything's going to work out for them. It also was then intriguing to see just how they'd plan the weekend and what they would do, as well as where to go. I forgot to mention one rather fab pub that does lovely pies for their evening meal, must remember to mention that.

Then it was a case of booking the trains. As I explained, the earlier you book normally the more you save, and in addition to that it would also be beneficial to try and get a train for the right time, which might mean leaving a little earlier or later than planned. Getting the tickets for the going there was pretty cheap, it was the going back which proved a little bit more expensive, but sometimes that's how it works out I'm afraid. It's just one of those things I reckon. But all was done, especially as Mum's friend was booking the train tickets, so this meant that at least she would have them at home and be ready to go when the time came.

I spent some time after they had headed home to catch up on a few things including some domestic chores, and I don't know about you, but it seems a lot easier doing stuff like that if you're able to at least put some good music on to make the time seem less when doing them. As myself and The Honey In My Ale are seeing Richard Hawley this Friday, it felt appropriate to play his stuff, so "Tonight The Streets Are Ours" was an obvious choice. The video is pretty cool and so is the song - so tune of the day there and it certainly helped me to get done what I needed to do.

Monday 28th September - Carlos At The Double

It was off to the City of Manchester Stadium to see the mighty Man City take on West Ham. A Monday night game isn't what I'd call a night for football to be honest, but that's primarily down to the fact that some of the Premier League live game rights are now done by ESPN, and so most of their coverage tends to be at different times of the week. And of course with Monday usually being quite a busy time at work and with plenty to do as well, it was a case of getting home, making something to eat for tea and then getting everything sorted out for when my friend arrived to pick us up.

The traffic did seem a lot busier than normal on the way to the ground, maybe it was the case of the Mondays, I don't know, but we eventually got there okay and in good time for the kick off. Of course, it would be an interesting game because of Carlos Tevez facing one of his former clubs, and to see what happened there. Naturally of course some of the pre-match focus was on that and also how City would respond in the league after losing narrowly in the Manchester derby last league game out. The side seemed the same as Wednesday apart from the fact Stephen Ireland was ill so Martin Petrov came in down on the left much to the delight of the City faithful - we love him we do.

And it wasn't difficult to see why after just five minutes. City cleared from defence and the ball headed to Petrov who ran down the left and put the perfect low cross across the six yard box and it was a fairly simple tap in for Tevez to make it 1-0. Fair play to him, he didn't celebrate in front of the West Ham fans and held his hand up, almost apologetic, but saluting their fans too. That was a good thing - especially as their fans had applauded his name when the teams were announced, showing a lot of them still respect what he did for them when he was there in terms of getting them out of a difficult period.

West Ham did equalise a bit against the run of play when a free kick wasn't cleared properly and the ball found its way for Carlton Cole to deflect the ball home for 1-1. Two defining moments soon followed though. First off, City had a free kick and up stepped Petrov to smash it home low and hard via a slight deflection for 2-1. He went to the City dugout and pointed to his shirt, as Uwe Rösler did once, clearly making his point to Mark Hughes that he should be playing more often. Then West Ham attacked and they were unlucky to have a goal ruled out for a supposed foul on Joleon Lescott in the build up. To be honest I think Lescott lost the plot and the ball and for me the goal should have stood, but that's inconsistent refereeing for you.

Second half seemed a bit more calm than the first and it was no surprise after the pressure that we were putting on that it was a third goal for City as a cross from Craig Bellamy was headed home by that man Tevez for 3-1. It was a great effort and it showed a good team ethic for the goal. Petrov hit the bar and there were other chances for City to score more than three, but the chances were spurned. It was good to see Roque Santa Cruz and Michael Johnson come off the bench and make their comebacks from injury, although Santa Cruz did miss a golden chance after being put through with an excellent run and cross from Bellamy.

That said though, 3-1 was a good result and to be fair to the West Ham fans, some of them started to sing "there's only one Carlos Tevez" at the end. Most of their fans recognised the effort put in but also the respect he showed them by not celebrating his goal a la Adebayor, and I think also some of them realise when they've been beaten by a better striker on the night. It made for a good atmosphere in the ground, not least with City's classic "The Boys In Blue" at the end and also before the game Supra's superb version of "Blue Moon", which is tune of the day for me. My friend even went in the City shop on the way home and got the third shirt!

Sunday 27th September - The Peveril Of The Peaks

Myself and The Honey In My Ale decided that we were going to take things relatively easy today and relax in the morning, just being quite chilled out and also taking our time to do things. We also thought that it would be nice later to head out somewhere, and I suggested Castleton would be a nice day out to do. I hadn't been for some time and The Honey had never been whatsoever, so a quick check on Google Maps and working out the directions along with seeing what we could do whilst we were there, and all ready to go a bit later on too. I had a feeling this was going to be a good day, and how right I was!

We headed in The Honey's car along the A6 and remembering to turn off just after the roundabout for Chapel-en-le-Frith, and off we went over the tops and down to the Winnats Pass, which lurches its way down a 20% hill and towards the centre of Castleton. Before we entered Castleton itself, we turned left and the end of the pass and followed the road as far as you can to Odin Mine, where we parked up. We then walked what was the old A625 road towards Mam Tor, and walking along you could just see how bad the subsidence in the road had become overall. Particularly when you turn one corner and start going uphill, it's clear to see how many times the road had been resurfaced and also how much the landslip had affected it. It's sometimes a gap of a few metres in height between parts of the road and other parts and quite a scary proposition.

We then headed back down the hill, admiring the sheep who were perched everywhere in high and dangerous places, and then into Castleton itself. The only slight difficulty was finding a parking space, as the little car park in the village centre was full as we heard the bagpipe players hard at work near the visitors' centre. As we headed through the centre though we saw a sign for car parking and after around 100 yards or so, we turned right on to a local farm and they charged us £3 for the whole day, which was rather smart, and not that far out too, so that worked out pretty well. The farm even had a little farm shop for their home grown stuff and also a little area with ponies that you could feed if you wanted, which was a good idea.

We walked back into the centre of Castleton and by this time it was lunch time so we headed into The Castle pub for lunch. I had been there before when I visited there and suffice to say it was a good decision this time too. I had the Sunday roast with lamb and The Honey had the same but with turkey, and both of which were very filling and delicious indeed, not least as you got plenty on the plate for what you paid for it, all good. In fact the roast beef had sold out very quickly despite them putting loads on, a sure fire sign for me that it was popular. In fact, the real ale selection was also top class. I went for the Doom Bar, but you also could pick Broadside, Wadworth 6X, Landlord and Black Sheep, so no arguments about any choice there let me tell you. Lunch was gorgeous and being sat outside watching the world go by was rather lovely to do.

We then walked along one of the main streets and up to the entrance to the site of Peveril Castle, one of the older castles in the region. Most of it is in ruins now but there's still the keep which offers commanding views over the area and seeing indeed how the castle would have been back in the day. The climb up the path from the entrance to the main part of the castle was a fairly steep and long walk, so certainly helped us both to work our lunch off, and we got to the top and admired everything inside. In fact inside one of the parts of the keep was even the old latrine, and oh yes, you could tell. It smelt not very nice indeed let me tell you.

It was also nice just to be sat in the grounds of the castle at the top and just admire the view. To the left you could see the former Mam Tor road and indeed the hill itself, and from the middle the hills over which Edale stands, and to the right more of the Hope Valley area. It was a gorgeous view and even walking back down into Castleton itself you could tell how sheltered some of the place actually is from the worst of the weather at times, and really does make you feel rather humble that such nice countryside is so close to you, and yet you don't always manage to explore it.

We then had a good walk around some of the shops before going into one of the very nice coffee shops in the village and having a rather nice little cake and cup of tea. The Honey had this rather nice Victoria sponge and I had this lemon drizzle cake, which was gloriously tasty, all with a pot of tea to share, like a café should do really. I felt tempted by the clotted cream tea, not least because they did actually use the proper Rodda's Cornish Clotted Cream, but decided against it and the lemon cake was a good substitute all round for me. What made it even nicer was that the gardens at the back of the café that we were sat in were very picturesque indeed!

It was time to head back later on and it was a relatively relaxing journey back apart from a slight wait at Furness Vale due to road works on the A6, but it was a good day out and something that we both enjoyed. In fact I am tempted to head back for a weekend there, stay at The Castle (they have an Innkeeper's Lodge there so you can stay over, which I bet is rather fab) and go and do all the caves and that - I might even have to look in to the possibilities of that. We got back home and after a blast of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire on the Wii, The Honey headed home and I watched the Singapore Grand Prix (thank you Sky Plus) which made the weekend just that bit more sweeter.

Tune of the day has to be something that just really came in to my head as we were heading out of Castleton along towards the Mam Tor road, and Talking Heads' "Road To Nowhere" came into mind. It was once an open road but when it was closed it really did become a road to nowhere, as you can't really get a car anywhere along that road now, and even a mountain bike would struggle, leaving you as a walker to try and take on the Tor yourself...

Saturday 26th September - Play Rubbish Pompey, Pompey Play Crap

I did my food shopping this morning and went to one of the larger Tescos near me to see if there was anything in the clothing department that I could then buy using my "double up" voucher to get a fair bit off what I was going to get. Unfortunately the shirt that I wanted was only in large and above, and in their sizes I'm happily a medium, which cheers me up no end I can tell you. I did though manage to get some nice wine for tonight for when The Honey In My Ale comes over for tea, and also a few other nice little offers along the way which always makes my shopping a good experience. I even had breakfast in the café afterwards and treated myself - what am I like, eh?

I then headed home, put the washing away to dry and a new load in and set off for the direction of the City centre. My friend was meeting me later to watch the Portsmouth-Everton game (they are a fan of the blue half of Merseyside after all) and I wanted to head to the Lowry Outlet Mall for some clothes shopping too as I'd not been for a bit. Once I did a couple of things in the city centre it was off on the tram (I got a weekend ticket on the tram last night which means it's unlimited travel from 6pm Friday to the last tram on Sunday for a fiver, good eh?) and to Harbour City stop, and a quick walk from there got me to the Lowry. I went to the Outlet Mall and in the Marks and Spencer outlet even found a nice shirt reduced from £38 to £8.99, and in the right size too, so obviously that was mine!

After just missing a tram back I knew I was going to be delayed slightly so I texted my friend just to inform of my delay. As it turned out I was only a couple of minutes late getting in to St Peter's Square as the two of us went to Varsity to see the Everton against Portsmouth game from Fratton Park. On paper at least it should be an Everton win as Portsmouth have lost the first six on the bounce. Just about as I was to head to the bar to order our lunch and around forty minutes in to the game, the ball came across the right and it was controlled well by Louis Saha to smash it in for 1-0. Happy bunnies all round the place as I suspected there were quite a few fans in there watching them.

The second half got more nervy and especially as time went on with Portsmouth doing everything possible to try and make an equaliser. They got close on a few occasions with a couple of headers off the line and some excellent saves too thrown in to the bargain, and of course if Everton were better on the break they could have scored a second too. My friend was getting nervous but in truth they weren't troubled and it was in the end a well earned 1-0 win for them. We then discussed about when analogue is being switched off here and what the scenario is for digital at my friend's place, and it was mentioned the other day about possibly an LCD small television for the bedroom as the existing portable is on its last legs (otherwise of course a Freeview box would be the weapon of choice) and so I'd specced some up at Richer Sounds and given the details over - so now up to my friend to make the decision.

We made our ways home later and I got all the house tidied up for when The Honey came over for the evening. After a good chat about the weekend that we'd had, it was time for me to start making the chorizo sausage pasta bake, which of course is one of my little specialities. It was made nicely and just at the start of The Cube on ITV1, it was ready, so we enjoyed that and then settled in to watch the remainder of The Cube, with particularly one contestant doing so well on the opening few games, not losing any lives at all and then fluffing up on one which required perfect poise to position a pole through two holes and to touch the end rod without touching the holes at their sides. It took six lives and the confidence was somewhat shot after that.

Afterwards, it was time to watch a film I'd rented and no less than All Over Me, which was something I'd loved when I saw it on Channel 4 many years ago. It's not lost any of its grittiness for me, it still really feels quite a raw emotional and arty sort of film, but also really does deal with how tough a place can be to grow up in and also dealing with your feelings about yourself and your own sexuality. It was better this time around for me because I was able to appreciate the soundtrack (which I have on CD) and put it into context with the rest of the film as a whole. Tune of the day has to be one of the songs from said film, and I'm going to go for Patti Smith's "P**ing In A River" which really does set the scene for one of the key moments in the film emotionally (particularly as the lead character is a huge Patti fan) but also because it's a tune you can really feel intense about too. Excellent all round, then.

Friday 25th September - Presentation Mode

I had to be really smart at work today, and for good reason: I had two meetings in the morning, and the first one is one I wouldn't normally attend. It was the Campus Team (and Deputy) Leaders' meeting, and I was there to demonstrate the fruits of the labours I'd been working on as the side project I've had time to do. It was good that all the audio visual kit worked and soon the projector screen came up, the PC came on and I was ready to be able to do my thing. Thankfully I did know several of the people there so it made it all a little bit less hassle for everyone concerned.

I did my presentation and it all went pretty well - I managed to explain everything without tripping up, the live demonstration worked and it was less slow than it had been all week (an issue I'd been trying to resolve due to other systems being on a go slow, which they also knew about!) and it managed to do exactly as described. I think I answered all their questions with a degree of confidence and self-assurance, and thankfully one of the managers there was basically bigging it up too, which was good. My own manager came up with a couple of questions to keep me on the toes but hopefully it went well enough, and as I was first up it meant I could leave them to the rest of their meeting and head for my technical group meeting later that morning.

With all that done, the afternoon was fairly busy - not least because my own PC decided to blue screen constantly. I narrowed it down to some possible rogue system files due to a Windows Update and replaced them with the versions from the Windows CD, restarted the PC, still nothing. I opened it up and noticed how warm the hard disk was. I had a feeling it was on its way out so time to bang a spare one in and re-image the beastie (which thankfully has all our software on there) and then do all the post-imaging stuff so I had a working PC on the Monday morning. It did of course mean that I'd have to transfer some stuff off the old drive before it got hosed, but I should be able to do that if required.

I then got home via the chippy and had some tea, and then got myself ready and headed off to my friend's place to deliver the laptop. I went through all the features and also explained what everything does and where all the buttons are (notably of course the Fn key combinations) and also showed OpenOffice off (cue response of "it looks the same!" which is what I was hoping for). We then got their digital camera and hooked it up to the PC and it transferred the pictures with no fuss and indeed really did do well to organise it all. Dead impressive that of course and cue one very happy friend. Now they've just got to decide which broadband provider to go with and that'll probably mean a visit by moi just to check things over and make sure it all works when they do.

We headed out into Altrincham later for a couple of drinks and ended up at The Orange Tree - we like it in there, the rooms are cosy and they have real ale on cask too (which of course pleases me no end) and the prices aren't a rip off either which has to be a positive thing. We had a good natter about all sorts and it was good to have the time to do that and be able to talk about the music we liked (I'd even put a bookmark for one of my friend's favourite bands, Barenaked Ladies, on Firefox, cos I can!) and what gigs I'd had lined up etc. In fact, I'm going to make a BNL tune tune of the day so "One Week" just about sums it up for this week, plus of course you can sing it on one of the Singstar games for the PS2 (it'd be hard though I suspect!).

Thursday 24th September - It's Better To Travel

I had another pretty busy day at the office today, and lots of stuff going on in the background too which just means that the workload for us all is getting increased steadily by the day. It's nothing less than we would expect of course, but at least the enrolments side of stuff finished today so we were able to bring back all the laptops and all the PCs that are used during the enrolment sessions, putting the gallery back in place ready for the next show there. Also, there's no lift between where enrolment is and our office, so we have to hump some of the stuff off the trolley up the stairs and then carry the trolley up manually and replace everything back on it again to wheel it. It's not the best, let's put it that way, but it's something that we know has to be done.

I made my way home and set to work about finishing off the laptop for my friend. I had reinstalled Windows XP from the restore CD last night and so it was a case of adding on all the stuff that you would need, such as AVG Antivirus, Firefox, all the web browser plugins including Adobe Reader and Quick Time, OpenOffice (and I have a handy set of files which set the save as MS Office defaults - rather good that) as well as all the usual bits that you'd do such as Windows Update. The wireless card picked up my router no problem and connected easily so it was a case of adding all the updates and what not and getting on with it rather nicely.

In fact I had it all done for when The Honey In My Ale came over, and so the two of us were able to enjoy some pizza for tea and relax and chat together about all sorts what had been happening in the week. We've both got stuff at work not going to plan but it's good to be able to chat about it together. My Mum also rung me about a potential weekend that she was planning with her friend and asked my advice on a couple of things. I don't mind to be honest - I'd rather she ask and get an answer than just not do so and sort of wing it. Thing is though that knowing that the weekend they want to go is the St Nicholas Fayre markets, then I'm not surprised that finding accommodation is a bit on the tricky side.

We settled down later and had a good game of Scrabble whilst playing the CD that arrived in the post - Swing Out Sister's debut album "It's Better To Travel". It was a mere £2.99 at Play.com, and for that price I simply couldn't resist to be honest. It reminded us both of seeing the band last year at The Lowry and how good it was, and as soon as track two played, The Honey exclaimed "I love this one" as she sometimes does. Can't say I blame her though, it was after all "Twilight World" so tune of the day it's got to be. Being the first album means it does have Breakout and Surrender as well, so well worth having just if you wanted those three tracks never mind the rest of it. Hurrah for online shopping and for Swing Out Sister, yaay.

Wednesday 23rd September - The Morning After Game

Myself and my friend headed to the City of Manchester Stadium to watch City against Fulham in the Carling Cup. Interestingly, both City and United were at home that evening, something that normally never happens. I think the police and both clubs weren't expecting full crowds, and they were right. City managed just over 24,000 and United 51,000, both around 24,000 down on what they could get if the place was full. I guess that also shows that not every fan is that fussed about the tournament at this stage but wait till Wembley comes if either club gets there..

But anyway, we were really there at Eastlands and the weather was fine and dry, although the darker it got, the colder it got too. I had a feeling it'd be like the morning after the night before, with I'm sure plenty of mentally drained players after the epic derby at Old Trafford on Sunday. I was to be right. Out of nothing the ball broke to Zoltan Gera and he struck a beauty from a full thirty five yards to make it 1-0 to Fulham. Even though City had dominated for most of the game it didn't really help that we didn't make it happen in front of goal, with some of the shots aimed like they were lead balloons.

Whatever the half time team talk was it certainly worked though as City did kick into gear early on in the half. The corner came over and up popped Gareth Barry to head home from close range as the keeper missed the chance of a clearance. 1-1 and all to play for, and for the next twenty minutes or so we did what we could without looking too threatening, with lots of trying but no end result. My friend almost wanted extra time just to get the money's worth but somehow I didn't think that was worth it, I wanted it all settled in the ninety minutes. My friend got his wish though as the scores stayed the same.

Extra time was all City and eventually in the second period we were rewarded. A beauty floated in by Martin Petrov from the corner was headed in by captain Kolo Toure, and that certainly seemed to settle it even though Fulham still wanted to try and equalise late on with no avail. It certainly felt a bit flat but I think to be honest I'd have taken the win before the game no matter how badly we played. In fact we both bet on first goalscorer (me Craig Bellamy, my friend Joleon Lescott) and both got it hideously wrong! Ah well, always worth a go just in case, especially with Lescott at 16-1 which seemed half decent odds at the time. We left the stadium and it was almost 11.30pm by the time I got home, tired but happy nonetheless. Oh City, why do you put me through all this anxiety and pain every game? Can't we just win 10-0 for once at a canter? Oh well. "The Boys In Blue", the classic 1972 club song by the City team is tune of the day because as it says, the boys in blue never give in, and that's so true.

Tuesday 22nd September - The Madness Continues

More of the same from yesterday to be honest as we're all back and really getting in to the busy side of everything at work - again like yesterday to be honest. It's rather that there's so much to do in so little time and on top of that you have staff who are really on you time after time to get things done - and that can be really time consuming. Not because of the staff per se but because there's so many requests that need to be carried out and in so little time too. I did though however manage a couple of things today: I started to image the remaining laptops for the other trolley now I'd got all the image working like I wanted it, and I also had them all lined up so I could boot from the boot CD and then image away, which also meant that I could register the network card addresses too (method in my madness you know).

I was glad to get home later and work on some more stuff at home, including getting the house tidy and ready for when The Honey In My Ale came over for the evening. It was lovely to see her as ever and I made us both a chicken tikka massala curry no less! I'd done a chicken curry ages ago but she told me that she wasn't too keen on the korma sauce, and so I thought it would be quite nice to do it with a sauce she'd like instead. It worked out really well actually and felt pretty pleased with myself that it turned out so well too. Sometimes it does, and you just have to go with it and treasure the moment.

We later settled in and relaxed with a bit of telly and some music whilst I was taking a look at a laptop that I had sorted out for one of my friends. It was a case of that it came with Windows Vista but also had an XP restore CD to go back to XP, which is what I'd do, but once Vista was installed you needed to make the Vista restore CDs before you installed XP, just in case you wanted to go back to Vista. Of course it was checking that the CDs worked as intended so that you were able to do it if you needed to and once I was happy that they worked properly, it meant I could do it all up as my friend wanted later in the week (hurrah to that)

Tune of the day is something just to take my mind off all the busy goings on at the moment, and what better than the rather excellent Skunk Anansie? "I Can Dream" so reminds me of when I saw them first time out in 1996 and how that and the whole of the first album "Paranoid and Sunburnt" (which on reflection was my album of 1995, definitely - I'll have to do a best albums of 1990-1999 rundown sometime) really got me back into the annals of rock. Oh yes.

Monday 21st September - Back To The Madness

Of course, where I work is the same picture mirrored across similar places of work today, as all the students came back and with a vengenace. The first few weeks are generally when you are asked the most questions, but also you are really facing a million tasks at once, and in a short space of time too. It's when you feel the heat, and those that can manage to do, and those that can't are found out. Thankfully we're all well drilled here in the office, and we got in early so we could set up the enrolment stuff and get it all sorted before the start of the session. I also took over one of the older card printers to the other site we look after and got them to try and sort things out and that seemed to work once we'd run the cleaning card through it and sorted the settings out.

In essence then, it was then a case of making sure that everything ran shipshape and it also allowed me to get on with some other tasks, such as sorting out the second trolley's worth of laptops. In fact this proved to be a bit trickier in essence because it was a case of making sure that everything worked perfectly when certain software ran. The only way to do that wirelessly was to use the secure wireless network and to then authenticate to the Novell network that way, and you were then able to run applications and do what you needed. It worked pretty well on the whole too so that did at least mean I made some progress, felt pretty pleased with myself.

Mind you, plenty of staff were having enquiries and phone calls with regards to all the new starters as to what was going on. We saw plenty of them having tours of the building and where they would be working and also how the new look workshops would be ready for them to use, and also what was happening with regards to the new build and how all that would play ball in the years to come. What of course was the most important of all though was that it needed to be tight today and we all pulled together well, which was what had to be done.

It was good to get home later and sort out a few things and of course be able to have a blast of Tiger Woods 09 to relax myself nicely. What makes me smile is of course that I can really get the hang of it now and be able to pull off some good shots which is what it's all about. And to have some music playing later had me relatively relaxed too. I am debating going down to London for the Totally Acoustic gig on 1st December that MJ Hibbett is doing, unfortunately it'll all be by myself as The Lemon In My Cheesecake can't get the time off - but just thinking of all that nice acoustic goodness reminded me of "It Only Works Because You're Here" by MJ Hibbett - so tune of the day it is. Well, isn't that how all IT works sometimes?

Sunday 20th September - What Time Is It? It's Fergie Time!

Well, it was derby day today. United versus City. Red versus blue. Or of course if you're at Old Trafford, the clock versus Sir Alex Ferguson in terms of time being played in addition to the ninety minutes. You see, it always seems that more stoppage time than normal is always added on at Old Trafford and whether that's down to the ground, the fans, Sir Alex, who knows, but it's just a known fact. Therefore of course you expect it and have to be prepared for it, and indeed know how to survive it. We managed it in 2008 when we won 2-1 there, so I knew that the team would be well up for it, and indeed it would be a case of making sure that we'd carry on our good form that we showed against Arsenal.

I made it home from The Cutlery On My Dining Table's place, and she wisely left me to it whilst she got on with a few things she needed to catch up on. I had pretty much got the house sorted out when the first knock on the door arrived: it was my sister with her boyfriend. He was the only Man U fan coming today (and normally there's none!) and my uncle and nephew then arrived, as did my brother in law, and then my brother. In fact my auntie had asked my uncle to bring some pizzas over that she'd made for all of us, which was very nice indeed and certainly made for good munching in the build up to kick off and during the game.

We were all on tenterhooks: both sides near the top of the table and with good league records, and of course being a City fan means that I didn't expect to win there but this year of any year I felt that we might get a victory as we did in the 2007-08 season. Importantly most of all though was the fact that it was going to be a rather nice day on the pitch, so fitness and being alive and alert certainly was the order of the day. Kind of wish that I'd said alive and alert to the City defence a bit more before kick off though, as soon Wayne Rooney received the ball from a throw in and beat a couple of City defenders before slotting the ball low and home to make it 1-0 in a matter of two minutes.

It was mostly sad faces from us all, but gradually City found their feet, and the hard work was to be rewarded, and thanks to former Red Carlos Tevez. He chased a hopeless ball from Joleon Lescott, and as their keeper Ben Foster hesitated, Tevez intercepted the ball, beat the keeper and had the vision to spot Gareth Barry, who was alert to what was going home and he slotted the ball home well. 1-1 and the crowd were going mad in the house, and as the half wore on, City grew in confidence. A subliminal pass from the City midfield had Tevez hit the post, and that might have been a vital chance to go up 2-1 at half time, but honours even it was at 1-1 at the interval.

My brother in law and uncle had got the part needed for the toilet and so saw to that at half time and for the start of the second half, which meant that they missed Darren Fletcher's header to make it 2-1 to United early in the half. But how City responded! Craig Bellamy, by far City's best player of the game, wasn't giving this one up and he cut in from the left hand side, and with United giving him room, he unleashed a shot in to the top corner to make it 2-2, and it was a thunderbolt. We went mental and a rush from the stairs down told us all we needed to know: we were right back in it!

A few minutes later the loo was all fixed and working again, and we settled in position and watched nervously. United were having plenty of possession and they could have scored a couple of times had it not been for Shay Given really pulling off some excellent saves to really keep it all level, but disaster struck minutes from the end as yet again the City defence failed to clear a cross and Darren Fletcher scored his second to make it 3-2 to United. Bah. And it didn't look good for City, even with us bringing on Martin Petrov for Nigel de Jong to attack, United could easily run the clock down, couldn't they?

But no. With a mere 30 seconds to go before stoppage time would come into play, somehow Rio Ferdinand tried to chip the ball forward, gave it straight to Petrov and he released Bellamy, who pegged it down the left and slotted it home from the narrowest of angles to make it 3-3. The clock said 89 minutes 54 seconds and we all were going mental, singing "We're not really here" and in delirium. The fourth official said four minutes of stoppage time and as the time carried on you couldn't help but think that the whistle needed to go to send everyone happy with an impressive draw.

Not a chance. Time carried and carried on, and of course it was a contentious issue. City boss Mark Hughes looked at the officials to say "come on, time's up" but their requests went unheeded, and in the end seven minutes were played, and 95:26 was on the clock when Michael Owen scored the winner. That said, though, City needed to play to the whistle and just get on with it, but here's what I found puzzling: the ref afterwards said that you're supposed to add on the time for the goal celebration. Fine, so that was 45-50 seconds with Bellamy. But did you see that being added when Owen scored? Erm, no. So there you go - it's stuff like that which narks people off to be honest and it wasn't the nicest way to lose.

But to be honest, there's also positives to be taken: City went there with no fear and played with no fear, and battled well and kept at United all the time during the game, and the never say die attitude will go a long way. Most other teams would have found it hard to cope with us and indeed such a performance like that can only at least mean that we do mean business. I can only hope others see that and not just focus too much on all the kerfuffle about the added time. What's done is done but let's hope it shows we mean business. Come on City!

After all that excitement it was out with my friend later to see Sean Hughes at The Lowry. I've been a fan of his comedy work for ages, even seeing a really good show back at the Free Trade Hall back in 1994 which lasted absolutely ages. I also saw him in Liverpool in 2007 and he was really funny then, and hasn't lost it now. He did an almost two hour set with interval, and came across very funny still and with plenty of quick fire gags as well as being able to talk about the little bit parts he's going to be in on the telly and reminding us "you'll be thinking 'where did I hear that from' when you see it on telly Boxing Day" and also putting little nuances on everything.

What made me smile the most though was that he had plenty of banter with the front row of the audience and really made them feel part of the show as he chatted about all sorts, including how even at his age of 43 you wake up at silly o'clock every morning and also that you think all sorts of thoughts during moments of passion - his included how he thought that Morrissey's new album wasn't that good (and this is coming from a fan - Seanie is one) and that all these thoughts come through your head and it doesn't help you reach that vital moment. It was irreverent but also very witty.

As indeed is tune of the day - Mitch Benn's "The Yellow Light of Death" that he recorded specially for the BBC's "Watchdog" programme which talked about the infamous fault with the Playstation 3 console and how it could be fixed by just some heating method to resolder all the connections again. Imagine Johnny Cash writing a song about modern game consoles and being The Man In Black during it and you've pretty much got it in one. It's hilarious and did cheer me up at the end of a rather mad day. Sean was fab too - and well done him! The Yellow Light of Death is here.

Saturday 19th September - Birthday Bowling Bliss

Myself and The Cutlery On My Dining Table had a very relaxing day today. It had been a late night the night before and so we wanted to take things easy and just veg out in front of the telly. I did venture out to Asda to get the lottery tickets and a couple of other minor things, but that was all really. In fact I did spend a bit of the day sorting out a netbook. The Cutlery's friend's partner had asked me to take a look at it because it wasn't playing ball so well and was being quite slow in browsing and accessing things in general. Of course I wanted to try and do my best to make it all work as well as it could despite its resources, and indeed to make sure it would do as it needed to do.

The first thing I spotted was that the Asus Eee 900 has a solid state hard disk, but it's not that quick. Of course that can slow everything down, as can a measly Celeron processor inside it too. The 1GB of RAM is normally enough to run XP without any problems, so I doubted if it was that. I did see a whole website forum dedicated to Asus Eee tricks and employed a couple of them which helped a bit to make things more bearable. I also did the right thing too: updated the BIOS, and uninstalled Avast and put AVG Antivirus on there, primarily as it does use less resources, which is what you need when using the Eee.

I also found that the wireless card drivers weren't too hot and either kept authenticating when it didn't need to for the wireless connection, or that in fact it decided not to play ball, so after some searching, I used the ones on Toshiba's site and they worked a dream - it was much more stable and played ball nicely. Once I'd finished everything and did a defrag and chucked Firefox on, it was tons better than before and seemed pretty stable and workable too. In fact I even kept an eye on the football over the web just to test it out and that seemed to do rather nicely to say the least, it has to be said.

Once all that was done, it was well timed, as The Cutlery and I were off to her sister's, as it was her niece's birthday party. It was actually her birthday on the Friday but it was easier to have the do on the Saturday. I have to say that her sister made lots of effort and even picked up some real ale for me, so I had a couple of nice bottles of Bishop's Finger to have, which certainly went down rather well. Isn't it nice when people think of you? And the food was rather nice too, plenty of choice for everyone and the chicken skewers and the prawns went down nicely with me, the piri piri chicken was a tad hot for me but I could see that it was a good move though, so that went down rather well.

Mind you, more fun was to come later as the niece in question brought down the Wii from her room, and both her and The Cutlery's other niece (from her other sister) were really good on the balance event on Wii Fit. I even had a go and although didn't do so well, did land the ski jump events rather well and so that was all good really. In fact, I even tried the one where you have to tilt the balls into the holes and that proved rather trickier than it seemed, although getting to level 5 by all accounts wasn't so bad really. I'll have to practice if I ever decided to get one, but the thing is that my balance is shot to pieces and I'm not always so sure if it would be such a worthwhile move. Something to contemplate, anyway.

Mind you, on went Wii Sports and on with the bowling, and The Cutlery and I were up against the two nieces in four player mode. The Cutlery was hitting some strikes as was I, and in the second game I even managed four on the trot, woo! Later on The Cutlery's dad had a go, and he was pretty good all round, hitting a couple of strikes in the process whilst The Cutlery's nephew was trying to do well (and I think impress his girlfriend who was lovely) but failed in the attempts. Fair play though, he did take me on at the baseball later and that was a good all round fun game to do.

Apparently though both nieces had said to The Cutlery whilst I was chatting to some of the family that they were watching what I did on the Wii bowling to take some tips, which was complimentary. In fact the two of them ended up rubbing a balloon on my hair to see if it'd stick on end. I didn't mind: in fact I took it in my stride as a compliment and massive acceptance that they were quite happy to have a giggle and a laugh with me - and isn't that good? Well, I think so anyway.

Tune of the day came to my mind later when we got home and relaxed, and E4 were showing the top 100 sex symbols or something, and some of them you thought "how can the public find them a symbol or something?" but of course there was Serge Gainsbourg, and of course you can't mention him without his infamous duet with Jane Birkin, "Je t'aime Moi Non Plus" and that was rather racy even now, never mind back then. But it's full of love, so there you go. And je t'aime is certainly how I feel about the woman I love, so there.

Friday 18th September - Come Dine With Us

Myself and The Cutlery On My Dining Table had received an invitation from her friend and partner earlier in the week to come to theirs for some dinner and indeed plenty of conversation (and possibly some wine, hehe!). In fact it was nice to be able to be invited to something nice like this and of course if someone else is taking the time and effort to cook for you, then that's all rather lovely isn't it? It saves plenty of hassle and time - the only thing was that I needed really to try and get home on time today so I could get changed and ready to be out later.

Fat chance of that, sadly. It was definitely a case of everything at work conspiring against me to get out on time, mainly due to issues that we had been having with the ID card printers and indeed with them not for some reason encoding the magnetic strip on the other side of the card. We eventually found out that the newer printers had been serviced and weren't quite the same since for some strange reason - and so we kept faith with the older one that we had and that seemed to be playing ball. But as ever time was conspiring against everyone and so it was with a fairly heavy heart or so that I left work on the Friday because I felt a bit frustrated at not managing to get everything done that I wanted to do.

I got home, had to dash and get some cash and a couple of other minor bits, then got home, dived in the shower (well not literally that would have been painful) and then got changed into some nice clothes for the evening. I'd also pre-packed my little case for the weekend as I was staying at The Cutlery's place, and so it was a case of then having it all ready. Thankfully The Cutlery picked me up from mine and then we headed back to hers, which gave her enough time to get changed and ready - and she looked gorgeous. Just how lucky am I, I reckon!

The Cutlery's friend picked us up from her place and we headed back to theirs, and it was all very nicely laid out indeed, with the dining table all set with plates, cutlery and wine glasses a plenty. Whilst dinner was being prepared I was offered a very nice Australian beer - not quite real ale, but quite palatable indeed and certainly went down a treat, that's for sure. We chatted about their recent visit to Blackpool and how the EOS 5D camera that they had had decided to stop working. I reckoned possibly a visit in the log flume might not have helped it, even with it being pretty rugged, and just hoped that it would dry out and work so well. We did have a good chatter about all sorts before we took our seats for the meal.

The starter was a very hearty leek and potato soup. I must admit it did fill me with dread because I can't stand leek normally, but the fact that it was blended pretty well seemed to make it much more palatable, and I didn't mind it one bit. The main was rather fab though: a massive steak pie with pastry case lid, enough for the four of us, filled with steak and soaked in some ale, and tons of carrots and gravy inside - and that served with some seasonable vegetables really did hit the spot. I'd have had more of the pie but I was feeling rather full at that point and really did want to save myself a bit for dessert. The chardonnay pinot noir we'd brought round was going down a treat, and The Cutlery's friend had some more wine in stock too, so plenty of chat ensued as we settled in after the main had been vanquished.

Dessert was also very nice too, a parkin cake with some apples and custard, and really did hit the spot very nicely indeed. It had a good rich taste to it and certainly that along with some Illy coffee (posh, I know!) to end the meal off worked wonders. In fact, lots of more chat ensued and it was good to see that when going back to the 80s and retro, I wasn't the only one to remember the infamous Jim'll Fix It scouts episode, or the fact that Irn Bru paid tribute to it in their advert that featured the goths going to Blackpool, so all was well. And with plenty of dance mixes on in the background but not too loud, it certainly made for a very entertaining evening, and was gone midnight when we got in a taxi back to The Cutlery's place. All was brill.

I do think The Cutlery's friend should go on Come Dine With Me: he has all the skills required to host a good dinner party: he looks after his guests, and has plenty of good conversation to share and divulge, he has a similar sense of humour to yours truly (and that's good) and also pays attention to detail when presenting food too: and can cook! I reckon he'd be a match for anyone on there and wouldn't be afraid to give anyone a low score. Well, if he's reading it: get applying!

As for tune of the day, well it was only one choice really. When I was listening to all the dance tunes it reminded me of how even I sometimes don't mind the odd dance tune, and so because we were having such a good time, I used to think of the stuff that I'd like to listen to on a Friday night, and a good late night chillout tuen that you could dance to was Massive Attack's classic "Unfinished Sympathy" so I'm going to go for that one.

Thursday 17th September - I Am Tiger Woods (well sort of)

I had a bit of a relaxing evening of sorts tonight, as I wanted to get a few things done. I nipped to Asda on the way home from work to get all the food shopping done a day early, and I also managed to stock up things that I'd need for Sunday's derby game and for lunches next week. It worked out pretty well as I'd had to stay late at work to sort out a few things relating to enrolment: one of the PCs wasn't playing ball and I wanted to make sure that it was playing ball with the card printers before I left for the day. And this of course meant that it was definitely a time to get everything done to avoid any form of mad rush.

It was then once I got home time to make myself something for tea and to kick back and relax nicely too. I recorded Mock The Week as I'd watch it early next week once the weekend was over, and instead had a mighty blast of Tiger Woods 09 for the Wii. I had in fact nipped into Asda as well to see if I could still get it at the massively discounted price that I paid for it, as a friend said that he quite fancied it, but unfortunately it looked like it was back to full price. Darn and blast, I said to myself.

Anyway, Tiger Woods 09 is great fun. Being able to swing the Wii remote like a golf club certainly helps you to really feel that bit more realistic. Although I'm not yet playing it in advance mode, where swinging the club wildly will mean a wild shot, it's tough enough just being able to time the swing motion correctly to hit the ball at the right pace, and take into account the wind, lie and indeed any draw or fade you might want to place on the ball. In addition, in career mode, of course you've got to play the tournaments to build up your golfer's attributes, meaning you can hit the ball further and also gain more accuracy, better putting distance accuracy, a bit of luck and how good you can spin the ball if you want to stop the ball dead.

It's all good fun - just a shame that the soundtrack's a bit iffy really. It's all mainly in house type EA musicians doing the stuff, and some of it sounds okay but doesn't really quite fit well with the game. It saves licencing issues and all that, but why didn't EA Sports spend some money on the proper BBC golf theme instead? Having that for an intro piece and title screen music would have been rather good and would certainly have got everyone well in the mood for a good round of golf around the fairways I reckon. So Brian Bennet's "Chaseside Shoot-up" is tune of the day - and yes, that is the BBC theme!

Wednesday 16th September - Spare Us The Cutter!

I had to try out some test prints on the massive new Océ Colourwave 600 that we've got at work to try and see how good the quality is with the paper that we'd got - it was 120 gram heavy stuff, and certainly looked the part. We accessed the printer remotely, set up the paper size and what type it was in its remote console, and then loaded the roll. All good so far. However, when we printed out the documents, the quality was fine, but it was being spat out of the back of the printer rather than through the top of it, which meant that no one was able to collect anything without going round the back. Not good.

Anyway, we tried a couple of things out and it still printed from the back, and probably down to an issue with the way that it was designed, and a phone call to their support people confirmed this. Thing is, we weren't informed of the maximum paper weight for the top tray when all the negotiations were going on, so obviously that was a nightmare. To cap it all, just after we'd printed all the stuff off, on the next job, it failed to cut the sheet properly, it jammed up and then refused to do anything else, and came up with an error code. Another call to their tech support revealed that it was a problem with the cutter that cuts the sheet after printing, and so they're going to sort that out tomorrow for us. What a nightmare!

But in other news, I did at least manage to head to the Academy box office after work and sort out tickets for me and my friend to head to see Marilyn Manson at Academy 1 in December, which will be rather good all round I reckon. The last few times he's played has been big arenas, so to be able to head to a smaller venue always ticks the boxes for me. The staff at the box office are all lovely people and dead helpful, and of course going there and paying means no booking fee (as opposed to £3 per ticket at Ticketline - meh!) so that's all good. Should be interesting now when we go and in fact the gig calendar's looking pretty busy, sort of like this at the moment for me:

October 17, Franz Ferdinand, Manchester Apollo
October 22, Juliette Lewis, Manchester Academy 2
November 1, 3 Daft Monkeys, Manchester Academy 3
November 13, Seth Lakeman, Manchester Academy 2
November 21, Gary Numan, Manchester Academy 1
November 24, Skunk Anansie, Manchester Academy 1

Like I said, pretty busy in terms of gigs, and there could be more to come yet, but we'll see how that pans out over the next few months I think, possibly the likes of Slayer at Academy 1, and maybe even Massive Attack at the Apollo, but who knows. I certainly have done quite a few gigs this year and that has to be a good thing I reckon, definitely getting a few lifetime's ambitions done too, such as seeing Kraftwerk (possibly my favourite gig this year), seeing four gigs in four days again like 2007, and of course Kristin Hersh three times, like you do! In fact tune of the day is Kristin Hersh's "Your Dirty Answer" simply because when she played that live you could tell she was into it big time and that's what you want!

Tuesday 15th September - Birthday Bikes

It was my brother's birthday today, so tonight after we'd had some spinach and ricotta tortellini in carbonara sauce (made by my own fair hands) it was off with The Sunshine On My Horizon to my Mum's to see my brother. I'd bought him a part for a BMX bike he was building, which was one of the support posts for the new seat he was going to get. It was what he wanted, and I'd much rather get him something that he's going to make use of than not. He is still waiting delivery of the seat, but the part I ordered had got to him in time so that was rather good all round, methinks.

Quite a few of the family were already at my Mum's when we got round so it was nice to catch up and chat and have a cup of tea with some cake - oh yes, Mum had sorted a couple out, so I passed on the chocolate one (that was The Sunshine's department) and had the lemon tart instead, much nicer, let me tell you. It was also good because we'd been able to try and educate Mum a bit more about online stuff. My other brother had a niced analogy about email - it's like someone sending you a letter, but electronically instead, with your email address being the postbox. I guess that made it easier to explain, but I think when you're new to all the technology, at first everything seems daunting!!

We headed out later on as one of The Sunshine's friends had invited us to dinner on Friday evening and we thought that getting some wine to bring with us would be a good move. In fact I spotted a couple of rather nice bottles, so we were able to get those and have them in the fridge to cool for Friday evening. It's nice that her friends have accepted me so well, and that my friends have accepted her. It makes life a heck of a lot easier and it also means that we've both made new friends too, which is certainly how I see it anyway. Plus I know her friend is rather a good cook at heart, so I have a feeling we'll be eating heartily then. In fact her friend had also put up some pictures of when they went to Yorkshire last weekend, so we head a peek later when we got back to mine.

We then had a blast of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire 2nd Edition on the Wii, and we tried to get the million - and failed. In fact I'd got to £20,000 and even with one lifeline left (the 50/50) I wasn't sure of the answer to the question so I walked away with the money. Meantime The Sunshine decided to have a go at her question and failed, taking her down to the £1,000 mark. I win, hehe. Mind you, I think the questions are only easy if you know them, and I'm sure some of the subjects are ones I'd struggle with if I was in the chair for real. On the other hand, give me anything on certain subjects and I'm there, so it's swings and roundabouts I suppose.

As you may have heard, Patrick Swayze died today, and The Sunshine actually texted me this morning as she saw GMTV were showing lots of clips of his films and in particular Dirty Dancing. Of course, as a heck of a lot of women are, she loves the film, and so it was a bit of a shock to see him go, even with his long battle that he'd had with cancer. Suffice to say that tune of the day had to be something from the film as some small form of tribute, so "She's Like The Wind" would be suitable, especially as Patrick himself sung it.

Monday 14th September - Feeling Not So Flush

It was one of those sort of days today, when you felt that nothing would go right for you and indeed everyone wanted your attention as quickly as possible. It certainly felt like that when I got started and settled down to some work, managing at least to try and alleviate some of the problems we'd been having with one of our servers recently. I even managed to decipher how to uninstall some software from the server without giving it grief too, so there were some positives to be had.

But what wasn't so positive was what happened this morning: I went to the loo, flushed, and, not much happened. I had to give it another couple of presses of the lever before it finally did what it was supposed to. It'd been getting like that during the weekend and to be honest it wasn't good that it needed to be done, so I sent a text to my uncle, who's usually excellent on these sort of things, and asked if he could pop over later to take a look and see what the score was. In fact, I was on my way back from Tesco with some shopping when he rang to say he'd arrived at mine, and thankfully I wasn't so far away. As it was, my sister's husband wanted to pick up some stuff from my uncle, so they arranged to meet at mine and they'd both take a look at it for me.

Sod's law - first couple of attempts it worked, and then it did what it did this morning and failed. They both came to agreement what part it probably was and how it needed fixing, and I think one of them's going to try and get me what I need, very nice of them and all that. I'm rubbish at DIY, and although I do know some basics I'm always a bit heavy handed to be honest and what I don't want to do is cause some damage or make things worse, so sometimes it's best to leave it to the experts I reckon.

I had something to eat for tea later and then settled in to have a blast of Tiger Woods 09 for the Wii. I had bought it at my local Asda the other day for a mere fiver (bargain) and as I'd hired it from Tesco DVD Rental some time ago, I knew it was a decent game, and for that price, had to be had. I played as Ian Poulter and did a round of Pebble Beach, which wasn't as easy as I thought. A lot of the shots require good accuracy as well as getting the power right, and sometimes I'd either get one or the other but not both. Mind you, I did chip in on one hole from some eighty five yards or so, which pleased me no end, let me tell you. The music in the game screens isn't really needed to be honest, and more could have been done on the graphics instead, but still all good.

I also had a good listen to some Skunk Anansie tonight. Myself and my friend are heading to Academy 1 in November (which is now sold out!) and that'll be a grand night. In fact we saw them on numerous occasions in 1996 and 1997, and myself and one of my other friends saw them in 1999, with Muse supporting. How times have changed, eh? Anyway, I love Skunk's first album "Paranoid and Sunburnt" and even have the t-shirt somewhere that I used to wear at Skunk gigs, because I could (even once when we went to Academy 2 and it was bloody freezing outside!) and I always remember us going mental to one of the B-sides, "Skunk Song" so that's tune of the day. And if you are going in November, we'll see you there!

Sunday 13th September - Robert De Niro's Waiting, Eating Italian

It was time to head out in the late afternoon for my friend's birthday meal. We'd had to delay it a couple of times because he wasn't so well, so it was good for us all to head out today and indeed to enjoy a good meal together. As the location was central for everyone, we headed out to Don Giovanni's on Oxford Street, close to St Peter's Square, and all was good. In fact the place only opens at 5pm on the Sunday, so we were able to meet up as it opened and then be able to pick whatever table that we liked. It did get pretty busy later so it was nice to be able to have a booth for the six of us and be able to chatter away like you do.

The food was spot on, as it was when we were in there for my birthday earlier this year, although this time I felt 100% so I was able to enjoy it a lot more. I had the chicken and sweetcorn soup to start and then the mushroom risotto for main, which was really light and creamy, and even had some lemon to squirt on if you wanted too, which was a nice touch. The dessert of the tiramisu was really lovely too, it tasted spot on and at no time did anything feel too heavy either, which was good. The Strings on My Guitar had these mozarella stick things which looked fab for starters and then a main of a really gorgeous spaghetti carbonara, oh yes, and I wished I'd had that as it was also rather lovely.

Conversation flowed and plenty of catching up for us all too as my friend told us about the wedding that she'd been bridesmaid at, and how all that went (and it was fairly manic). It was also the first time we'd met her boyfriend, and he seemed a really nice down to earth bloke, who was really easy to chat to and get on with. I feel so chuffed for my friend too cos she deserves someone lovely, and it looks like thus far she's got that wish. Hand on heart I can say that, because it's really true. What really impressed me was that even though he was a Man U fan, he could see how well City were doing and was even admitting he'd be worried that City might win on Sunday - we shall see, methinks. But nonetheless, definitely a big plus, and the bill for the six of us wasn't that bad either it has to be said, so all good there.

Time went by very quickly and before we knew it, it was almost a quarter to eight and time for us all to make our way home. My friend and his wife went via the Bridgewater Hall to get tickets for Richard Hawley (we were already going!) and we all made our ways home. It was nice to see everyone and indeed when you have a good meal out like that it shows just how good it is to have friends that you value dearly and how when you do get together how much fun you can all have. In fact, Richard Hawley's "Tonight The Streets Are Ours" is tune of the day as that's how lovely it felt too.

And the F1 was smart too - watched that before I headed out. Lewis Hamilton spoiled his race a fair bit with his last lap crash, but Jenson Button held his nerve and stayed second behind the impressive Rubens Barrichello, who managed to close the gap to Button down to 14 points with four races left. And with Red Bull's two drivers struggling (Webber was a DNF and Vettel inherited eighth due to Hamlton's crash) it also meant that Brawn could indeed have stitched up the Constructors Title in all but mathematics. Jenson seemed content with second knowing that accumulating points is of course the way to win the title and if he finishes in that position for the last four races, the title is easily his. We shall see.

Saturday 12th September - I Said Blue Moon!

Well I was a very happy little contented bunny at around 5pm today, and with good reason. Myself and my friend had just seen Man City demolish Arsenal 4-2 at the City of Manchester Stadium - the first home game that we'd been to this season. We had been due to see City against Wolves but my friend was rather poorly that day, but he said to me that he'd been waiting for this one for a while, as even with early season form this would be a genuine test of our credentials. It's pretty much what they were saying on Football Focus on BBC1 this morning with pundit and massive City fan Lee Dixon (whom of course was part of the classic Arsenal back four) really possibly talking up our chances, he seemed to think that we could do it. With no Robinho, and no Tevez?

My friend picked us up later, perfectly timed as I was able to watch the first two qualifying sessions of the Italian Grand Prix, and see how the Brawn team were getting their campaign back on track - good news for Jenson Button of course. We headed to the stadium and I had my City Legends Shaun Goater t-shirt on, good job too as the weather was rather warm to say the least. In fact my friend had the long sleeved retro away shirt on and I bet he would be rather warm in that. We got in the ground, I had the chicken balti pie, but wasn't that happy with it. For a start the price has jumped up to a massive £3, and it wasn't even that nice - I don't know if they've changed pie suppliers, but it just didn't taste as good. And £2.20 for a bottle of Coke? Sheesh!

The game soon kicked off and it was clear from the outset that the Arsenal fans were going to give their former player Emmanuel Adebayor as much stick as possible and try to put him off his game. Of course I think what they were also worried about was that he was going to score against them too. The first half was a bit scrappy in parts and certainly play was disjointed, apart from one free kick midway through the half. The cross was floated in by Gareth Barry and Micah Richards headed at the far side to head goalwards. It came back off the post, off the Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia's head and in the net for 1-0. Of course it technically is an own goal, but I bet Micah will want to claim that one!

At half time I sought some shade for a couple of minutes to evade the heat, as it was rather warm out there, and then on with the second half. Arsenal were getting back into it and when they brought on Tomas Rosicky, it looked like that was an inspired move, so it didn't surprise me when Robin van Persie equalised to make it 1-1. He took the goal well but celebrating right in front of the City fans and giving them v-signs wasn't exactly the right thing to do. Still, they were all over us for the next quarter of an hour and I really did think we were on the rack. However, all that soon changed.

Stephen Ireland was taken off, he didn't play that well to be honest, and on came Martin Petrov. This meant that Craig Bellamy could now push up front with Adebayor and go to a 4-4-2 formation, and soon enough we would get our rewards. Shaun Wright-Phillips interchaged with Micah Richards, and Micah bombed it down the right and laid a lovely pass to Bellamy who smashed it home for 2-1. It was so loud in the stadium once he'd scored with Blue Moon on in full pelt and everyone really on song with chants of "We're Not Really Here" at full pelt.

Controversy followed though: Adebayor had already followed through on a tackle on van Persie, which did look not that good, and a ban might follow for him having seen the incident on Football First on Sky later that evevning, but more was to come. Wright-Phillips had advantage played despite being fouled, he put in a gorgeous cross and Adebayor met it with his head and 3-1 City. He ill-advisedly ran right down the other end of the pitch and slid down in front of the Arsenal fans to celebrate. The Arsenal fans kicked off big time and were trying to throw objects at him: Shay Given wisely waved him away. But I have a feeling that's not the last we'd hear of it either!!

Wright-Phillips then scored to make it 4-1 with a lovely chip over Almunia and I was in dream land, as was my friend. Beating Arsenal was a sure fire sign that City meant business this season and with the derby next weekend, it was certainly a sign that we were not to be messed with. Even a late goal from Rosicky didn't dent the spirits and plenty of us went home later very happy people indeed. My friend even got himself the new home shirt and I had Supra's version of "Blue Moon" in my head, because it's rocky and gets you going - tune of the day most definitely!

Friday 11th September - Birthday Bash

I'd managed to get plenty done at work so it was with a smile on my face that I headed homeward that afternoon. Not only was I going to be spending most of the weekend with The Strings On My Guitar but also doing plenty too, so all was good there. And tonight it was off to my Mum's friend's birthday bash. She'd booked somewhere quite local to her and we both felt really pleased to be invited, so naturally we said yes and were more than willing to come along to join in. My Mum was going as well so at least we wouldn't be on our own, and so it meant that Mum and The Strings could natter along if they wanted to.

The Strings was working late, so in a cunning plan she'd parked her car at mine in advance, and so she could stay over tonight and drive home tomorrow before I went off to the footy, and so once she arrived the bathroom was hers, we both got ready and headed out to Denton Conservative Club where the do was. In fact it was pretty busy by the time that we'd got there, with lots of people having a drink and seemingly having a good natter with people too and also enjoying themselves. I went to the bar, and as I feared, there was no cask ale at all. Meh. The best of the bunch was the Hydes Dark so I had a drink of that instead and that was reasonable (ish) and sat with Mum, The Strings and had a good chat.

The DJ was a right character though: he kept playing more recent songs which were okay for the teenagers and the boys and girls there fair enough, but this do wasn't about them: it was about the sort of stuff Mum's friend would want to hear. At one point the DJ even played a track where he showed off his breakdancing as well, which was a bit bizarre - although one of the youngsters upstaged him beautifully with some little dance move tricks of his own - that worked out pretty smart actually. The buffet then opened and as everyone was pretty hungry it was time to enjoy the food there. As I'd predicted, the first things that went were the sausage rolls, crisps and nuts with some of the sandwiches soon to follow. The chicken skewer things also proved to be a big hit too.

No one was on the dancefloor so my Mum decided to tell the DJ that if he wanted to fill the floor, the easiest way was a bit of Motown. And sure enough, once he did that, the floor did fill - my Mum's friend, Mum, The Strings, and quite a few of the ladies were all up dancing to a bit of soul and indeed some 70s stuff thereafter, which worked really well. Of course, as soon as he went back to more recent stuff, the floor emptied again. It goes to show - sometimes it's best sticking with what works to fill the floor, even if it's Motown. To be fair though, I don't mind it, so tune of the day happens to be The Temptation's version of "Sugar Fly Honey Bunch" as that sums up the era rather nicely, if I say so myself.

More food and drink was consumed but you could tell that the DJ was just trying to keep the teenagers amused with their choices of songs. What we did notice though was one couple really dancing a lot, and she was looking good in a nice black dress which suited her fuller figure, and the bloke was going for it and occasionally holding her close. Nice to see romance wasn't completely dead. Last orders were at normal time though despite the fact there should have been a bar extension, so it was at around 11.30pm that we headed homeward bound and having had a rather lovely time all round. And no, I don't dance, by the way. My legs just don't do it...

Thursday 10th September - Mocking The Week

It was a fairly relaxed day overall really. It admittedly was very busy at work but I felt like I was getting on top of things nicely and also getting several jobs done that were tidying up some outstanding work, so I felt like I was getting on top of what I needed to do. That's always useful to be honest because you always think that there's more on than you've actually got, but also because you don't necessarily know how long each job is going to take. I also managed as well to type up some documentation that I needed to do with regards to recent image builds and also complete all the laptop imaging too, so a good day all round there.

After work it was time to head into the city centre to get a little present and a card for my Mum's friend, as myself and The Strings On My Guitar had been invited to her birthday party tomorrow evening. I was getting what I needed to get and needed to make sure that I'd got the right item, so I'd rung Mum up. Little did I know till I rang her that she was literally a few shops away in the Arndale Centre, so I walked down there and had a chat with my Mum and my sister, so that was good. It also meant that I could then see what the arrangements were for tomorrow night and work it out from there.

Later on it was time to make some tea, and I made The Strings and I some really nice pasta with some sauce, which went down rather well it has to be said. It also meant that we could take it really easy and relax for the evening with a bit of telly (and indulging her slightly on the soaps and all that) before having a look at a few things on the PC and spending a bit of time sorting some stuff out, and planning possibly what to do when we head to Cornwall again sometime in the future (oh yes, we are going to go back, and I'm really excited!)

Then it was time for Mock The Week at the later time of 10pm (which I don't agree with, but hey ho). Mind you, it's still as funny as ever to be honest, and Dara O'Briain was really on top form as the presenter as per usual. Of course as usual the best round's normally the Scenes We'd Like To See at the end, and this week one of the unlikely scenes was Unlikely Things To Hear on a Breakfast Show, which really did make me smile. Hugh Dennis though is my favourite of all the regulars, he really does the facial expression well. Ed Byrne was on as a guest, and he was very ascerbically funny too. (I've seen him live, he's a top bloke all round to be honest.) Tune of the day incidentally is the theme tune from said show, The Jam's "News of the World" cos it's ace. Simples, as Compare The Meerkat would say.

Wednesday 9th September - South Africa, Here We Come!

Well, I've just watched a rather enjoyable game of football to say the least. It was good having some of my relations round, and being able to watch ITV HD on Sky is of course a massive bonus, as we got to see the whole of the England game tonight in glorious high definition, and what a game to see in HD eh? Of course, in case you don't know what I'm on about, it's put like this: England thrashed Croatia tonight and therefore have qualified for the 2010 World Cup Finals with still two group games to go. How good is that, I ask myself?

My relations got over in good time for kick off, and on paper at least, it did look a stiff test, the Croatian side might not be as good as they were a few years back but certainly not the worst team ever, and I knew that defensively we'd have to be better than we were against Slovenia on Saturday so that we weren't going to concede so easily. The team looked good with Aaron Lennon getting his chance down the right, and with a solid back four and midfield, it looked like there could be a possibility of a win. That was helped enormously because Ukraine drew with Belarus before kick off, which meant a draw would be enough to get there. As it turned out, a draw was not in the question.

A few minutes in, Lennon cut from the right and was clattered by one of the Croatian defenders - stonewall penalty. Frank Lampard smashed it home and 1-0 to us. Better was to happen ten minutes or so later as Lennon's excellent cross was met superbly at the far post by Steven Gerrard and his powerful header down in to the corner meant 2-0. It could have been more by half time but Emile Heskey missed a couple of gilt edged chances, their keeper saved well from a Gareth Barry rasper half way through the half, and if anyone had said to me we'd be 2-0 up at half time, I'd have taken that no problem.

Second half carried on in the same vein once the first few minutes had passed and England settled down a bit. The referee played an excellent advantage when the impressive Lennon was fouled, Glen Johnson pegged it down the right and his cross was headed in superbly by Lampard for 3-0. More was to come, as the ball broke for Wayne Rooney and although he was heading out of the byline, he put in a looping ball back into the box which Gerrard expertly headed home, perhaps the best of the three headed goals and 4-0. Croatia got one back through Eduardo, and I did feel sorry for the England keeper Robert Green as he pulled off two good stops just before the goal.

But 4-1 wasn't enough for England either, and when Ashley Cole pressured the Croatian defence into a backpass, their keeper sliced the clearance, and Rooney said thank you very much and slotted it low and hard to make it 5-1. I like the 5-1 scoreline, always reminds me of England beating Germany in Munich and Man City tonking Man United a while back, so this can join those in happy memories for me. In fact all went well and it's South Africa for the England boys now for sure. What's good is that we've won eight out of eight in the qualifiers thus far, and I'm sure anyone would have taken that before the start of the qualifiers. In fact, only ourselves, Netherlands and Spain have a 100% record thus far.

So all is well there - and I can't wait. In fact currently of the teams that have already qualified for the World Cup, Man City could be taking as many as seven or even eight players: Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Wayne Bridge (England), Nigel de Jong (Netherlands), Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast) and Robinho (Brazil). Depending on the remaining qualifiers, and in order of most likely to join, it could well be Vladimir Weiss (Slovakia) - he did well tonight providing their first goal in Belfast, Carlos Tevez and Paolo Zabaleta (Argentina), and Roque Santa Cruz (Paraguay) - so that could be almost an entire team there, we shall see. In the meantime to rekindle the classic memories of England's footy songs, New Order's "World In Motion" is tune of the day.

Tuesday 8th September - Coasting To Tea

Well, it was another lovely evening spent with The Flowers In My Vase, and for that I'm eternally grateful. What wasn't so good though was that late in the day at work, one of the servers decided not to play ball so well and it ended up that I had to give it a couple of reboots, tweak the startup file slightly and then restart it - by which time it was getting past time to leave work. However, fortune favoured me as I headed into Piccadilly and the bus that takes me directly to The Flowers' place was there waiting - it had been late delayed leaving because of a bus change. So that worked out rather well and so I was soon speeding towards her place.

It was nice to do a fair bit of catching up and chatter about all sorts, and indeed it was also nice just to take it easy and relax whilst a very nice lasagne was cooking in the oven for us both - that she had prepared last night with plenty of mince, mushrooms and so on and all smelt good as the oven heated it all up nicely. And some garlic bread to go with it too - all good there. Later on, it just tasted divine too and certainly was very filling. So much so that we waited for dessert - these really rather gorgeous lemon swirl cheesecakes that just tasted spot on, the lemon was ace. Isn't she just a complete darling?

We settled down after tea to watch Coast, as we both love the programme, and even though it was an older series, it went from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Aberdeen via Edinburgh. Of course seeing Edinburgh from above and from Arthur's Seat just does show you how close to the sea you actually are, and how Leith docks had a part to play in eventually forming the Act of Union in 1707 which made the UK what it is (you'd have to watch it to work it out). One of my favourite parts though was when Alice Roberts went inside the Forth Road suspension bridge and worked out just why the suspension bridge might be having to close in a few years' time if remedial action can't fix the bridge. You could actually hear the cables snap inside, which must be quite scary too.

Tune of the day is Paul Weller's "You Do Something To Me", as The Flowers does do something to me - make my heart all a flutter. She's also a bit of a Paul Weller fan, so having the deluxe edition of Stanley Road on CD served as perfect background music whilst we were having tea and chatting. I think that I've always quite liked that one myself and so I don't mind one bit. I'm sure we might even hear it when we see the Modfather in December - that'll be something good to look forward to!

Monday 7th September - Just Another Manic Monday

Well it's two weeks to the start of term where I work, and to be honest it really does feel like everything's running in slow motion and slightly behind schedule. I think partly because we've had so much on with so little staff to do anything, and also because there's been plenty of other things to have to sort out as well - so it has definitely been a case of getting things done in some sort of priority. That said, I did manage to really nail down some of the laptop images and get the majority of them done properly for the forthcoming start of term. I also was investigating a problem into just why there are certain settings which seem to be reset upon post-imaging, and I worked out why they did it, so felt pretty pleased by the end of the day.

I had to nip into the city centre to put some credit on the phone but also to possibly get some ideas for the Christmas list as well. I went into Boots to do the phone credit thing, because if you top up there you also rack up Advantage Card points for doing so (you can see my logic there now eh?). I also had a good look in HMV to get some ideas as to what I could possibly put on my wish list, and also saw there was a rolling game demo of The Beatles Rock Band. As much as I don't mind Rock Band as a game, I'm not a Beatles fan whatsoever, and so it wouldn't interest me as much as say Guitar Hero Metallica did, simply because the songs by them and other artists were much more my sort of thing.

I got home later and after sorting out some domestic chores around the house, it was time to relax with some motor racing - namely the V8 Utes from Sandown, Australia. The Utes are basically the same front as the V8 supercars but with the classic Ute truck back instead. Because of the nature of what they are, racing is often close but also pretty hairy at times too, and that was certainly the case in the races that I watched. A nice touch was that they race at the same circuits as the standard V8s, even going to Bathurst this year to be one of the support races. It really did seem quite good fun and I'm sure that I'll have to keep a lookout for that in the future, all seemed good there.

I also rocked out a bit more on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits, as I wanted to try and get through career mode with the guitar instead of the vocals. Admittedly, I was still on easy but thought best to try that first and then gradually build things up. I quite liked Extreme's "Play With Me" although I'd struggled with it before vocally, the guitars really felt like you were rocking hard, which is fine with me - tune of the day no problem. I even started a couple of the first tier songs in medium mode and managed to do them pretty well, so that did cheer me up no end too.

Sunday 6th September - Let The List Commence

I started a list today. Not a list of what I want to do before I turn the big four zero, and not a list of the poems I'd like to write before the end of this year, and not even a list of the concerts I'd been to over the years (that might take some time anyway, let me tell you). No, my Christmas list! Now, I know what you're saying - that's a bit early isn't it? Well, these days time on my hands is precious, and I know too that ideally it's easier for people to pick something from a list knowing I haven't got it - especially as the CD collection is pretty varied and I wouldn't want anyone to feel bad if they'd got me a duplicate of something I had. So, years ago I thought "do a list - then I get what I'd like and it makes people's lives easier".

Usually I'm pretty good with ideas so a bit of online traipsing around the likes of Amazon and Play.com gave me some good ideas, and I also had some thoughts too about what else I'd really like. I'm going to be a bit more adventurous this year, but still manage to have a good selection. You see, I then split the list into separate parts so no one has the same item on any list, meaning that they've got their own sub-list of stuff that would be rather good to have. It all then works rather well and certainly it's proven to be a good idea over time. I know too that this year I've got to really pull the stops out as it gets more difficult to think of stuff I'd love to have!

With that started and on its way commencing, I watched the England against Australia cricket to the end of the Australian innings, and it faded away badly for England there - and even some of their innings in reply seemed to go okay but I had a feeling that any wicket would show up some batting deficiencies. I was right - and later on England would lose by 39 runs. Not good. The weather though had cleared up here enough so it was time to take a walk over to my Mum's - she had left one of her pairs of earrings at mine and I wanted to get them back to her as soon as possible.

It was good to see Mum, and later on with a cuppa she dug out the laptop and updated a couple of things on her Facebook page and we also went through the process of completing the profile on Friends Reunited. One thing that became apparent was that no one had necessarily told her that to type text into boxes on a web page, it's normally a good idea to click the box first. I soon sorted that out and indeed after that I also gave her a couple of useful tips when using Google as a search engine, and also how to do various key strokes (usually involving shift) which would help her. It was good to see that she was taking it in and learning well - hurrah!

I got home later and decided to rock out a bit with some classic tunes - and tune of the day is one of them - the opening track from Slayer's "Reign In Blood" album - "Angel of Death". Although the subject matter is quite controversial, if you actually read the lyrics you can understand the angle the song's taken from, and it's hard as hell - lots of fast paced drums and guitars everywhere in the riff parts, and certainly the way the song is handled it just smacks of thrash metal perfection. It was going to go in Guitar Hero Metallica but got pulled - shame that cos I'd have loved to have rocked to that! Still, a classic of its genre.

Saturday 5th September - Get On T'Internet, Mum!

It was a very nice day out all round today, as myself and The Flowers In My Vase had arranged to take my Mum out to lunch. It's something we do occasionally as The Flowers and Mum get on well, and it also means that we're able to have a good time and a natter without any other distractions either. We decided for a change to head to one of Mum's favourite places to eat. The Cheshire Line. I've been there many a time before myself and know that the food is pretty good - it's just on the road between Parrs Wood and Cheadle and just before you get to the bridge over the M60. There is actually an old train line next to the pub, as the building used to be the old Cheadle North train station back in the day before it was closed.

We got there in good time, and of course yours truly was impressed by the nice range of cask ale on show - always a good thing for me that. I had the Jennings Dark Mild and later on I'd have the Breakspear's "Honey Bee" which was absolutely gorgeous - in fact Mum and The Flowers commented on how much that beer smelt of the honey and that it certainly must have been lovely. Mum even tried a bit and she said it was good stuff, so all well there. With everyone with a drink and chatter in hand, the only difficult bit was deciding what to have for the main course to be honest.

Mum was debating on steak, and so was I, so we thought "hang on a sec" and did one of the offers the place has - where you get two eight ounce rump steaks with all the trimmings, and a bottle of house wine for £16. Of course this meant the ladies could share the wine and I could then get a beer for myself later. Job done - and The Flowers had a Barnsley Chop. All the meals were good sized portions and the steak was cooked just the way I like it - medium. It was enjoyable and certainly good to see that time was taken to cook everything properly rather than not, and indeed all the staff there were very friendly and courteous. It makes you wonder why everywhere's not like this to be honest.

Mum admitted to us both during lunch that she had started to get on the Internet and everything! We both think that a certain someone (not me I should add!) had kind of dropped hints to Mum to do it, but also I think that she'd wanted to for ages, and so with help from my brother, she now has an email address, and even set up her own Facebook page. Bloomin' eck! I don't do Facebook whatsoever, but full kudos to her for giving it a go and all that. She was explaining some of the stuff she was doing and we both were ever so pleased, and I promised that we'd try something out at mine later and see how she got on.

Dessert was then ordered: Mum and myself had the caramel apple pie which was the right side of gorgeous, especially with some lovely vanilla ice cream. The Flowers had a lemon blossom which looked a little like cheescake, but very full of lemon and with a nice little jug of cream to pour on, so all was good there too I reckoned. I was ever so pleased too that dessert was just as good: a perfect finish to a good meal all round. In fact what was really nice was that time just went so quickly without even thinking about it: and after a quick trip via the garden centre next door, we headed homeward with a nice full tummy of yummy food, and I'm sure that agreed with us all.

Back at mine, we spent some time with Mum going through a few things on the Internet with her, and I explained the importance of logging out as well as logging in to sites, and also that each site has a different password, so it's important to try and keep them different if possible. As she wanted to try and locate people from her old schools, we got her to sign up to Friends Reunited (as it's free now of course) and started to put in some basic details - and all seemed to work nicely including the confirmation of her valid email address. Everything worked as it should and that pleased us all no end - and Mum went home later a happy bunny.

We settled in for the evening and after some tea and seeing that we didn't win the lottery (meh) it was then time to watch The Cube. If you've never seen it, it's a show where contestants take on a series of challenges inside a cube (hence the name) whilst a voice describes each task to the contestant. They get a certain number of lives for the whole game, and they have to do each task before running out of lives or - game over. The contestant also gets a "simplify" (to make one challenge easier) and a trial run, meaning they can have a practice go to see if it's worth taking the challenge. Generally, as per last night, you get to around £10,000 before running out of lives and sensibly walking before you lose the lot!

As for tune of the day well it'd have been slightly rude not to mention that whilst we were out it was a pleasant change not to have music blaring around the pub we were in. I hate pubs that make such a racket you can't hear yourself think, and it was only when I got home later that I had some tunes on so that worked out well really. Anyway, simply because I mentioned it'd be a great alternative first dance song at a wedding, "Love Song" by The Cure gets my vote. Also because the words are really sweet and they're the sort of words that would describe my feelings spot on right now.

Friday 4th September - Rain Rain, Go Away!

Well, it's done nothing else but rain. And rain. And rain. All day. Thankfully I was in work for most of it, which meant I finally nailed a small problem with one of the laptops that was preventing me from completing the laptop image. It was all down to some integration that I wanted to include, and once I had that worked out what I was going to do with it, it was then a case of cleaning everything up and then imaging the thing up to the server. It worked out pretty well actually, because the imaging was quick and whilst that was being brought down I was able to head out into the city centre for lunch, and get my hair cut, so the time wasn't wasted. Clever, eh?

In the afternoon we were having a clear out of some of the back of the office, because that might be where my colleague and I might be moving to in the near future. Part of the reason for that is that if there's staff joining us then we need to be sure that we can look after everyone and accommodate them - this despite having not much space for anything to be honest! Mind you, I did manage to set up some of the laptops and get them imaged, and they were done just before I left for home tonight, so that was one less thing to worry about as well at the same time - so good for me I reckoned to myself!

Sadly, my friend let me know that we weren't heading out tonight for a meal as he had become pretty poorly, so I did the decent thing, rang the restaurant and cancelled, and let everyone else know too what was going on, so that was the least I could do. I really do wish he gets well soon to be honest - especially having just been released from hospital as well. It never rains but it pours - literally in this case. I'm going to instead then make a meal for myself and The Flowers In My Vase and possibly watch Confessions of a Shopaholic that I'd rented from Tesco DVD Rental (with her in mind because she loved it at the cinemas - you see, cunning plan here!)

Tune of the day is the mighty "War Ensemble" by Slayer. It's a really hard and fast classic, and also it's one of the songs on Guitar Hero Metallica to have Expert plus mode, where the drummer can use two bass pedals to mimic the likes of Lars Ulrich from Metallica and Dave Lombardo, the drummer from Slayer. In any case if you want to see how it's done, then the video below shows you all four band members nailing the song in Expert Plus mode - just watch the drummer's feet - it's insane to say the least!

Thursday 3rd September - Family Values

After work today I went to see my sister. She hadn't been 100% well lately but seemed to be okay now. It was nice to see her and have a cup of tea and chat about things actually. I mentioned about my cousin's happenings as well so it gave us a bit of catch up time as well as me being able to admire my niece's new look bedroom. Certainly the new paint job and also the fresh look really felt inviting and she was happily playing along which was rather nice all round. In fact, it reassured me that sometimes spending time with family is just a lovely thing as anything else you can do.

In fact, my niece has developed a love for an old school board game that I played as child - and which I now have as WiiWare on my Wii! Yes, it's Pop Up Pirate. Having not played the real thing for ages, the three of us had a few games together and it was usually me out first making the pirate pop up from his little barrel. He does pop up at quite a rate though, so whatever you do, don't lean over the barrel when inserting your little sword thing - or else it could get pretty ugly! Nonetheless though the fact that she was beaming with smiles and giggling as we played the game made it all worthwhile too.

Went round to see my Mum for a brew later on, and my sister and her boyfriend was there, both of my brothers, my nephew too. It was a busy house but good to see everyone and chat away, and also catch up a bit with them as well. It was pretty manic at times especially as my nephew was using up any excess energy before his bedtime, but the two of us were on my brother's PS3 doing a car racing game and doing pretty well, once I showed him how to do it he soon got the hang of it, so all was well with the world there.

I headed back via Blockbuster to see if anything for the Wii was on discount, and to my surprise there were a few items I could have got. I was going to be good though because I need to save up with Christmas in mind and all that, but the two for £20 was tempting, especially as there were two games that I wanted in that selection too. Nonetheless though it was a nice walk back home, and I headed to Tesco later to do the food shopping to save me the fun and games tomorrow evening when everyone tends to go out and get food for the weekend et al. It was fairly quiet, so I got home quickly, had something to eat, watched the Pro40 cricket between Hampshire and Essex and that was a good game, so all was well there.

Tune of the day was something I heard earlier in the evening. Whilst rocking out to Guitar Hero Greatest Hits, I had a good go at Judas Priest's "Electric Eye" and did pretty well. I did notice though that on Youtube plenty of people were doing their track "Painkiller" on Rock Band 2, apparently the hardest song on the game. Well, the drums are pretty fast in parts, as is the lead guitar and bass, and the vocals are Rob Halford at a very high pitch, which as you can imagine makes it hard. Oh, and not to forget a held note at the end for some seventeen seconds or so. Ouch. Hard.

Wednesday 2nd September - Velvety Wednesday

It was a pretty hard day at the office today - not for one particular reason but mainly because of the fact that the scale of having so much to do is really being brought upon us nicely. We've managed to get a fair bit done, but at least my colleague was back today which meant that he and I were able to make some great strides into doing some of the student rooms that needed re-imaging. In fact the two of us blitzed all the post-imaging steps in the PC lab and really got things done quick. In a way, I think we both motivate each other, we know our stuff and we get on it - which is what team working really is all about sometimes.

I got home a little bit delayed and got changed and showered, as I was heading out a bit later on to meet The Flowers In My Vase for the evening. She was working on her late shift and so was getting changed in work, so we met there and headed for a drink first in The Waterhouse - I always love it in there because the atmosphere is pretty chilled out and the clientele tend to be pretty much nicer than your average Wetherspoon's tends to be, and so does she. Hurrah for nice pubs, that's what I say. It gave us both to have a catch up on the day and see how things were, and then it was off towards Velvet.

I'd never been in there, but The Flowers reassured me that the food was lovely and that I'd feel really relaxed in there. We were meeting her friend and partner for her friend's birthday, and knowing that he likes to eat in nice places and really doesn't like to faff around with any old place, that also did reassure me too. When we got there they were both there sat in the upstairs bar, and over a drink we had a good chat and catch up and certainly plenty of conversation steered towards how the birthday had gone and the CDs that they'd got in HMV. Thankfully The Flowers' present, the new Calvin Harris CD, wasn't one of the ones that he'd got, so as you can imagine he was well chuffed to bits with that.

We then headed downstairs to the restaurant part, and I have to say it was really relaxing - nice plush surroundings with fairly large hefty sturdy tables and a good menu that meant the only difficulty I had was picking something to munch! In the end we got some sharing plates to start between the four of us which included spicy meatballs and chicken wings, that's my kind of thing. We then had the mains - and as The Flowers had warned me, they were massive. I had the gammon steak, with a large egg and plenty of chips and some mushrooms, really did hit the spot they did. The Flowers had a steak sandwich with chips, and that also looked massive. Didn't stop me having dessert though: a rather nice lemon tart, yaay.

It was great too that we had plenty of conversation and banter along the way too, and certainly that made the evening go by very quickly, and even more so considering it was hammering it down with rain outside to say the least (understatement). The place also had plenty of 80s tunes going on as well which of course put us all right in our element big style, so kudos so whoever was controlling all that. In fact, tune of the day happens to be an 80s number, namely "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell - it wasn't played during tonight, but we did talk about the song, as it happens to be one of The Flowers' all time favourites, and I mentioned I'd got that and the likes of Now 1 at a car boot sale a while back.

The Flowers and I headed back to her place and said our goodbyes to her friend and partner, but it was such a good night, it really was. What's been lovely is that they both get on well with me (in fact they're both friends of mine on Flickr!) and that also they really do see that I love The Flowers to bits, so it means that they know that she's in safe hands. As I cuddled her later, I just thought to myself "how lucky am I to have such a lovely time with a lovely beautiful woman!" and that's exactly how I feel.

Tuesday 1st September - Here Comes Autumn With A Vengeance

Call me old fashioned if you like, but I've always seen the 1st September as the start of Autumn and the end of the Summer season. I tend to split it into months in that September to November is Autumn, December to February is Winter and so on. Some people get really anal about the 21st June being the start of summer, but it just happens to be the longest day in terms of daylight time - indeed the days get shorter from that point onward, so always seemed a bit daft to me. What hasn't changed though is that the rain in Manchester always seems to come down when you pretty much expect it. There was a big black cloud I could see from the office window and sure enough within around ten minutes it started to hammer it down. Shame then that I had to head out to another building to check out some new network sockets along the way..

But anyway, I had to nip into the city centre later as I needed to get my friend a birthday present, as it was his birthday later this week. I had some idea what to get him and saw a couple of items that he wanted. Now, call me daft, but I always price compare before buying: after all why buy the same thing for more, right? It's a good job I did. Despite there being three branches of the same high street chain store in Manchester, one of the items I got was a different price in one of them (in fact half the price of the others!) and so obviously that was a winner. It just goes to show though that uniform pricing between the same stores just doesn't happen so it's often worth that extra few minutes to have a check around.

What the rain did was put paid to any chance of any cricket being played at Old Trafford for the England versus Australia Twenty20 game. It was a shame but not unpredictable, yet questions will be asked of the ground staff for not covering certain areas, particularly with the heavy rain around 3pm that everyone in the area had. Of course not hosting a test match this year was a big blow to the place but when you consider this sort of thing happening it doesn't make people want to come back quickly. If it will regain a test venue status, it does need some impovement work and to stop concerts being held at the stadium: think of the cricket before the profits that six nights of Take That might earn you (and before anyone complains, it's not Take That's fault, it's the cricket club for being greedy so and sos..)

I also was checking out a new game coming out for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 called Brütal Legend, which has the voice of Jack Black as the main character and even features the likes of Lemmy from Motorhead, Rob Halford from Judas Priest as voices of others too, and some of their songs feature in the game's extensive soundtrack. Intriguingly, Judas Priest's "Electric Eye" gets a nod, hardly surprising as it's an enjoyable number on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits (well it is for me - I an nail the vocals) so that song's tune of the day.