Dear Diary... September 2010

Thursday 30th September - Barcodes Part 1

It was off again to the City of Manchester Stadium for me and my friend tonight as we were to see Manchester City take on Juventus in the Europa League. I knew that out of all the three home games this was the biggest draw we could have had - and in terms of prestige this was right up there as a fixture. After our excellent performance against Chelsea on Saturday I just hoped that we didn't go too gung-ho about the task and realised that it would be a tough test. And with the Italian fans bringing quite a few of themselves along, it was a slightly subdued atmosphere from the City fans at the game kicked off.

And I guess maybe we all knew why - it just didn't feel the same as Saturday. The team selection was different and I think that upset the balance of the team, especially with no Nigel de Jong in the middle (or as my friend said: "Hong Kong de Jong, number one super guy" - to the Hong Kong Phooey theme!) it looked like we'd be dominated in the midfield, even with Patrick Vieira. Sure enough up popped Iaoquinta a quarter of an hour in with a long range shot that to be honest Joe Hart should have saved. It was a good finish and all and I think it might have looked harder than it was, but that wasn't good going down 1-0 at home.

City did spur into action though and sure enough pressure would eventually tell, as we hit the post with a header from Gareth Barry and the rebound couldn't be turned in. However that was just a rehearsal for a goal later on, as a superb through ball from Yaya Toure found the run of Adam Johnson who calmly slotted it home under the keeper to make it 1-1. Most of us did admire the finish and it was an excellent effort and pass all round - really showed how we could unlock the defence.

Second half was pretty even and both teams did go for it. Alessandro del Piero was making all the right moves with his free kicks too - the second one he took was only just wide and the last one rattled the crossbar and bounced on the line before being cleared - a real heart in the mouth moment to be honest. We did have a couple of chances as well but their defence held firm and even with the likes of David Silva and James Milner off the bench we couldn't do enough to unlock them. So it finished 1-1 and with Lech Poznan winning 2-0 at home against Salzburg they now topped the group on goals scored.

On reflection it was a good result but it did make me wonder if we'd missed an opportunity to win it outright, but hey ho. Tune of the day is "The Boys In Blue" by Manchester City's 1972 squad, a song that always makes me think of City when I hear it, usually at the game. The boys in blue never give in, so the lyrics go, and there was plenty of battle in the boys tonight, especially from the outstanding Vincent Kompany. Thank heavens he's not injured!

Wednesday 29th September - Parcels of Presents

I had a bit of a longer day than planned, only because of a couple of parcels that I needed to collect. One of them had actually been attempted to be delivered whilst I was at work yesterday and that meant it went back to the depot concerned. Thankfully the depot is in Trafford Park and as the bus that goes to the Trafford Centre goes by there anyway, it wasn't a difficult task to head from work on the bus and head out there either. Thankfully I had all the ID and stuff needed to be able to collect what I was going for, and it was the thing that I was expecting too - hurrah!

I then headed back into the centre of Manchester to collect another parcel that had arrived as well - but thankfully this time it was a collect from store job, so that wasn't too difficult either. This too was a Christmas present (I've started early this year in case you wondered) and so it made sense to collect that as well. I do really like the click and collect thing - it's much easier as you can get any online discounts (or of course earn some cash back via the Topcashback website) and then pay the discounted price but still collect it at the store of choice. Anything to make life easier has to be a massive plus doesn't it?

Anyway, I got home later after having to pit stop as well at Boots for some Christmas wrapping paper and tags (and yes, their whole three for two gift range is already in there so that might be worth considering in the run up to the event) and so it was then a happy me who headed home to a shed load of ironing that I'd needed to do after doing the washing. It's the only thing with all the domestic chores you have to do - you've really got to be on top of them so that it doesn't become a massive pile of stuff thereafter!

Meanwhile, tune of the day is "Panic Attack" by Dream Theater (excuse the spelling but the band spell it the American way you see) which is pretty epic where metal's concerned. It's almost eight minutes long and it's one of the toughest tracks on Rock Band 2 to play, but I've managed it okay on medium drums and expert vocals so that's good. It's got plenty of intense moments that make it well worth a listen anyway and I might have to see if I can convince someone to get me their "Octavarium" album for Christmas - I've put it on my lists...

Tuesday 28th September - My Lovely Masterchef

I had a really nice time tonight and it was all thanks to The Food On My Plate, who said that she would cook tea for me tonight at her place. I managed to get out of work on time and after checking to see if the hairdresser was open to get my haircut (they weren't sadly) it was time to head on the bus to her place, and the bus decided (for once) to peg it along the main roads and towards where she lives. This did mean that I got there a little earlier than planned, but we snuggled up for a bit and watched Escape to the Country - and ironically one of the places featured was Little Moreton Hall! Small world or what, methinks.

She had sorted most of the tea out anyway, so we headed out to Next as she needed to take back something she'd got in the sale at weekend - the fit wasn't quite right and they were very good - refunding without any issues whatsoever. We then headed back to her place via Asda for a bottle of red wine and then soon we had tea - a really gorgeous spaghetti bolognaise complete with added mushrooms and carrots, and the sauce was lovely and rich, but not over-rich, the spaghetti was lusciously soft, and the whole thing just melted in the mouth with the taste buds tingling. If it was on Masterchef, they would have loved it - and I certainly did.

Then it was time to tune in to Masterchef - The Professionals. I was a bit surprised that they moved the series to BBC2 this time around as certainly the pro one really does up the stakes. Of course that means the rather scary Monica Galetti is back - fail when preparing for her, and you won't even get to cook for the food legend that is Michel Roux Jr. Certainly even the basic test of washing and preparing mushrooms was incorrect for some - they just didn't really get the idea and when Monica had to go and spit out one contestant's mushroom because it was full of grit, then you just know that it isn't right somehow.

It was good too to see just how tricky it can be getting a classic dish right, and the sole dish really did merit some serious skills in getting the outer skin off and then cooking the fillet part right, and making all the sauce. I'd not have a chance to be honest in doing all that and I have to take my hat off to the professionals who make it look a lot easier than it is. Some of the sole did look gorgeous enough to eat though and it did make me feel a little bit hungry, even after eating all that gorgeous bolognaise. Thankfully The Food had got a really nice jam and cream scone with some coffee for afters and that went down a treat.

What was a little more bizarre was Don't Tell The Bride on BBC Three afterwards, where the bloke arranges the wedding by himself. This time he thought that making it all snow-themed in the middle of Summer was the way to go, with the bridesmaids in ice blue and a little snowflake in the middle of their dresses as well. It shouldn't have worked, but it did! And on top of that it was snowmen central complete with the theme from The Snowman as well, bizarre yet it did work quite nicely. And the bride even had had dance lessons for the first dance, which in a really good way, was "You're My Best Friend" by Queen. At last, someone who's picked a decent first dance song - hurrah! Got to make that tune of the day - well, I mean it's Queen isn't it?

Monday 27th September - Birthday Monday

After a hard day at the office it was time to head over to Mum's and to see my brother's girlfriend, whose birthday it was today. I'd managed to get this really cute mug with doughnuts on the outer pattern and also a really nice little gift set from Next with some nice hand cream, eau de toilette and shower stuff and it just looked very classy. She was really appreciative of the fact that we'd got her a little something as well as a nice birthday card, and the way I look at it is that she makes him very happy, and so why shouldn't she be treated like one of the family now?

Mum had also made something nice for tea and in the end I couldn't resist - it was sausage casserole, done with some mushrooms and carrots, and on top of that some new potatoes and peas too, so all very filling and tasty - and she'd even found out that one of the ranges of sausages at her local Sainsbury's were actually less fat and calories than even the Weight Watchers ones, so in fact they were better for you and better for everyone - and still tasted pretty tasty too, so that was good. I must admit I really enjoyed the sausages as well and I'll have to have a look out for them as well.

Once I was back home it was back to Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock, and carrying on with more of the quest mode to see if I could get further in the game. As you do each character's level and make them into a warrior, the songs were getting a fair bit trickier to say the least, apart from for some reason Slash with Ian Astbury's "Ghost" which I fully nailed 100% on medium guitar first go, so that was good. I did enjoy some of the later ones as they really seemed a fair challenge, and wanted to work out how far it would get me to the really uber difficult ones.

Mind you, I did like ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" and still do after all these years of hearing it. It felt quite good playing along to that in the game (obviously in my case with no beard though!) and it was pretty good fun to do all round - tune of the day there. I would have imported the stuff from Guitar Hero Metallica and Guitar Hero 5 in the game as well, but my 4GB SDHC card doesn't have enough space to do it, so I've taken it on myself to order a 16GB card to do the job - I can always use the 4GB card in my digital camera if required so no loss really - thankfully. Now, when can I get to Slayer's "Chemical Warfare"?

Sunday 26th September - A Little Moreton Time

We decided after a relaxing morning and peace and quiet that as the weather was reasonably dry we'd be daft not to do something and head out for the afternoon at least. With the guide book for the National Trust in hand, we'd thought about heading to Little Moreton Hall, which is close to Congleton and pretty much straight down the A34 all the way from Manchester, so easy peasy to get to. The Moon In My Night Sky didn't mind driving whatsoever, and I was more than happy to head along and have a look around (after all being members we'd get in for free anyway) so with the knowledge that I would be able to watch the F1 on BBC3 later (well the extended highlights anyway) off we went.

The journey there was pretty adventurous. Getting to the A34 Kingsway, we saw a cat in the road that was stunned when it jumped out into the road and almost got thumped by a car. It lay there stunned in shock and then managed to bound away before we realised that the car had possibly hit it, and one of its legs wasn't 100%. We hoped the owner would find the cat safe and sound and once we got to the A34, it was through Parrs Wood, Cheadle Royal and past Handforth Dean and bypassing Wilmslow before heading through Alderley Edge and beyond. Getting towards the village of Marton we noticed that plenty of animals had been hit on the road by cars including squirrels and pheasants too - must be effective roadkill around there. We did get stuck behind a horse box till Congleton centre but then it was plain sailing to Little Moreton Hall.

The hall itself was very nice indeed and you could tell it was built in the Tudor era - lots of old wooden beams and plenty of floors which weren't level whatsoever - some were lime ash floors which were flame retardant back in the day and most of these were restored where possible. The Long Gallery upstairs was rather neat, and you could tell that it sloped quite a bit. You could imagine the Elizabethan women walking up and down the gallery for exercise or even playing skittles on there. The hall is surrounded by a large moat and the gardens at the back of the property offer some nice views as well as plenty of ducks roaming around.

It was a little small all round though and I had to duck my head to get through some of the doors and all, and as the property itself isn't that big, I think if I'd have had to pay the £7 entrance fee, I'd have come away a little disappointed, but I wasn't going to complain too much as part of the membership costs that we have (plus of course free parking). As we fancied lunch we stopped off at Ashbury Meadow Garden Centre down the road, had a look in there at some possible ideas for the back garden at mine as well as the gifts, and ended up having a hot beef sandwich with a coffee, and the sandwich was stunningly gorgeous - full of meat freshly cooked with some lovely brown bread. Spot on for lunch, that.

The journey back seemed to take much less time and we even had time to head to the Stanley Green retail park close to Handforth Dean and do a bit of shopping as well for some presents, so that worked out rather nicely. Before we knew it we were back at mine, and we had a good game of Scrabble whilst I left the telly on Come Dine With Me so that The Moon could see it during play. I started the tea off as well during the game and even managed to get rid of all seven letters, making SPOOLING (S in play already, blank used as I, and O on double letter, and double word) for 72, which made it pretty worthwhile to do.

We had the tea I'd made with some lovely chicken wrapped in bacon together with potatoes and vegetables, and snuggled up for a little while with Countryfile in the background. I didn't want her to go home but she wanted to head back for X Factor and also wanted me to watch the F1 without distractions, so I reluctantly kissed her goodbye. Time goes by way too quick when we're together and I sometimes wish I could stop time so that it doesn't pass at all. Tune of the day by the way is Beth Rowley's "A Sunday Kind of Love" which sums up the day all round - and we were listening to that in The Moon's car as I'd done her a tape of Beth Rowley's album plus any B-sides and other stuff that she'd sung (all paid for downloads too, I should add) which just made the day even more lovely.

Saturday 25th September - The Day Is Sky Blue

Had a rather good day all round today. Everything worked out for the right reasons and on top of that, it was great to spend times with friends and most importantly of all, The Moon In My Night Sky. I decided that I had to get up earlyish and get the house sorted out - I'd started last night but wanted to make sure that I could get the last bits done today, so did all the bathroom and even washed the shower curtain (it's a nice one from IKEA that you can put in the wash, thankfully) so once that was hung up to dry off and with all the domestic chores done, and even a couple of Christmas presents ordered, my friends came to collect me and we were off to see Manchester City against Chelsea.

The two of us headed over to Eastlands whlilst his wife (my friend too of course) and The Moon decided to head out to do a little bit of shopping - and as it turned out they both got a good bargain in Next in the sale, so that was rather good all round really. Meanwhile over at the City of Manchester Stadium we were both pretty nervous. This game was a big one and the way Chelsea had been playing at the start of the season, a win would be good for us but also for Man U and Arsenal as well, so I'm sure that they were watching the game with some interest to be honest.

The first half started off well enough and it was a real game of determination and passion with some tight defending and the odd chance now and then. It was a real battle of wits and will, with Vincent Kompany at centre back and Nigel de Jong doing his usual hard man in midfield role, the Chelsea attack were being thwated at every chance possible. Only once did they really breach the defence, and Branislav Ivanovic headed against the bar followed by a header well saved by Joe Hart. We had some good crosses and the odd chance to speak about, but honours were pretty even at half time and I thought 0-0 was a good and fair scoreline really.

The second half was much better, both sides went for it a bit more in terms of chances but the City defence were holding firm, and from defence it turned into attack. The ball got to Yaya Toure who released Carlos Tévez on the half way line. He kept running at the Chelsea defenders who were back tracking and he saw a gap through Ashley Cole's legs to aim into the corner. Wham! In went the shot, well past Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal and in to the bottom corner off the post for 1-0. The crowd went mental (as I did of course) and you could tell by the celebrations how much it meant to the lads to get that one.

The rest of the second half was a pretty end to end affair with both sides not wanting to give much away. We had a couple of chances to make it 2-0 with David Silva forcing a good save from Petr Cech and Tévez's free kick going just wide, and they also could have equalised, and as the time went towards full time I was getting worried that we might concede. But Kompany and de Jong were magnificent all game and they really showed their mettle - Kompany was immense at the back to say the least. And 1-0 was a deserved win for us - it may not have always been pretty, but the pride, passion and determination was there in bucket loads, and that was what mattered for me.

We were happily heading back to see The Moon and celebrate, and have a good chatter for the afternoon as we saw the traffic dwindle away from near to the stadium. It was good to catch bits of the F1 qualifying whilst having a well earned coffee and be away from the cold wind, but also of course to see how the other teams were doing, and with Arsenal struggling against West Brom, it could well be a chance for us to close the gap on the teams at the top even if we weren't moving up any places. And with that in mind, we headed first back to mine so that I could get a change of shirt (football kits and pub restaurants are a no no these days) and drop off the camera I'd used to take the pics, it was then time for something to eat.

The four of us headed to The Ashlea in Cheadle, as we'd eaten there before and the ambience was very nice. And they even do real ale, which was good for me. The place had been renovated over the Summer since we last visited and it really did add to the feel of the place, all cosy and wood beams everywhere. We got a table and got ourselves comfortable, and I then headed off to the bar to order the food and drinks. And what did I see at the bar but Tribute - on cask. Oh yes, that made me even more happy today. I had a voucher for a free bottle of wine when four of us ordered, so the ladies had that to share and that kept the cost down too. The food was lovely - I had a vegetable soup to start followed by this thing called the Traditional Pie Collection - it was four mini pies with different fillings along with some mash, peas and gravy. It looked gorgeous and tasted it too, very nice indeed - I can highly recommend it too.

Before we knew it time had ticked away and it was time for me and The Moon to say goodbye to our friends - we'd had a lovely time all round and I know that times like this are always appreciated by us both. We headed back to mine and I then poured her a glass of wine and allowed her, against my wishes I should add, to watch X Factor. Dear oh dear, they were a right talentless bunch to be honest, the least said about that the better. Still it did allow me some payback time in a few quick goes in Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock, and so I did Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" on guitar and did pretty well (make that tune of the day for its epicness, and for the fact that during play your band even get together and do the vocals like Queen do - a neat touch that) but it also showed how much fun it could be.

We had a game of Scrabble which was pretty tough going with a tight board, and then on to Match of the Day, to see if City would be on first. Sadly it was Arsenal's defeat at home to West Brom first, which I sort of expected because it was a shock result of the day really. Then it was us second, and dear me, what are the BBC doing with this show these days? It was bad enough that the coverage was biased towards Chelsea, when the game was around 50/50 and close to call. But then in the analysis Alan Shearer kept referring to David Silva as David Villa. Erm, no, we don't have him Alan. And Alan Hansen of course wasn't that complimentary to City either. Shows how much they're all up the backsides of the likes of Man U on there doesn't it? Ah well, I'm not going to let it spoil the day especially as City won, I had a great time with friends and had The Moon to cuddle up to as well. How nice is that?

Friday 24th September - I Am The Warrior of Rock!

It was another pretty busy day at work today as well, and I had a little problem which I might have to resolve on Monday. I was re-imaging a new PC with the standard admin sysprep image which works on everything else that I can throw at it. However, this laptop that I am imaging to insists on using AHCI for the SATA controller, and there's no way that you can turn it off in the BIOS (bit silly that) so what it effectively means is that I may be able to add the controller driver by doing a repair installation of Windows XP, but then that means creating the image again. However, I have two options available - I do have a previous image so I could update that, or I could update the BIOS and see what happens - I'll need to install Windows for that to be done though, and then if AHCI is disable-able, if you know what I mean, job done. We shall see.

I went to do the shopping at Tesco a little later than planned, because an arrival in the postbox made me stop short and have a nice little break before I headed to do the shopping. It was no less than Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, which I had pre-ordered from Amazon a while back (I had a online gift voucher for there, so it kept the cost down, you see). I was excited of course and had to dig the game out and start playing it to see what it was like. Immediately I felt impressed and the Wii version looks rather smart all round to be honest. I really like what they've done with the story line, really gives the quest mode some purpose.

Anyway, it was then off to Tesco to get the shopping done and I managed to pick up some bargains as well as remember not to get too much in terms of stuff because of next weekend's trip up to see my friends, so it was a planned shop but not going overboard. I even did the EuroMillions as well just in time but that was in vain as I didn't win the main draw or the raffle either. Ah well. But nonetheless there were plenty of domestic chores to do when I got home such as ironing and washing even before I thought about getting out the guitar and rocking, so that was all done first.

And then it was back to Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. Oh yes. It seems rather good fun. The warrior aspect means that once you've played enough songs and earned the stars for the warrior in question, they take up warrior form which enables you to rack up points and stars with all the warrior powers. What's also nice is that there's a really clear display for the playing of the guitar so that you can get on with rocking, and that's good. But of course no rock game would be complete without the music and that's what counts doesn't it? Of course, there were plenty that I wanted to try and rock out to, but there's one I wanted to get to but it was locked...

A couple of hours later and I'd managed to take the first four warrior forms of the rock artists and this meant that a new place was unlocked, where you go and recover the guitar from a hidden cave. And during all that, you get to play the whole of Rush's "2112". Yes, all of it. All twenty minutes plus. Sensibly and to fit in though, the seven main parts are the playable songs and the whole story's told by Alex and Geddy from the band in that part. Unbelieveably good to do the whole lot - so tune of the day. I felt rather satisfied when I managed to play through it (not perfect by a long way) in medium guitar, and felt like I'd got there and really nailed it nicely. Must be a bugger to play on vocals though...

Thursday 23rd September - Scrabble Demons

It was another busy day in the office today, and certainly it was the theme for the next few months in that it was going to be pretty manic. I thankfully managed to get plenty done in a short space of time, including fixing some potential issues with a PC before it happened but also making sure that any queries were answered with plenty of efficiency. At times like this it's pretty important to make sure that the time you do spend is constructive - for example if you want to image a workstation, then whilst that's bringing the image down you can head off and do something else as well, so be it.

After all that it was time to head home and it was good to be able to relax a bit and put on the World Open snooker for a while and see what was happening with that. Certainly the short knockout format is proving a hit with some of the people there as it's on off on off nice and quickly. It refreshes things nicely and of course people get to see more players in action and on one table, so that's a really good thing to do. The random draw certainly proves to be pretty useful indeed and I'm sure that it's a rather good idea that we'll hopefully see next year. I've noticed that any pictures I've taken of Michaela Tabb have had their views rise a heck of a lot on Flickr, such as this one. I wonder why!

The Milk In My Cornflakes came over later and she had had a long day at work and it was pretty stressful for her. I did suggest to get her some wine for tonight but she decided against it, as she had to be up early for work the next day. What I did do was make us some peri peri chicken along with some baby new potatoes and some vegetables and that fed us nicely. I indulged her a little as well and so she watched Coronation Street all cuddled up next to me and it came to a head with Nick Tilsley and the baby that never was from Natasha, with Gail being unnecessarily evil!

We dug out the Scrabble and had a game with the delightful Ben's Brother album "Battling Giants" in the background. I'd not put it on for a while and I know that The Milk quite likes it, so thought "why not?" and proceeded to listen whilst concentrating on a pretty tough board, as it turned out. It didn't stop The Milk from scoring her best ever score, beating her previous best, which was good, and "What If I?" certainly must have given her the extra concentration as after that her moves were blinding. Tune of the day that one, definitely.

Later on once the game had finished and we reflected on some good fun, we put on Duke Special's "Huckleberry Finn EP" and played the five tracks off that to wind down nicely. In fact the last song on there is "Catfish Song" which the Duke performs with the rather lovely Beth Rowley, whom we also both like, so that was rather nice to be able to listen to that as well. It made the end to the night lovely, although I did have time to show her my prowess on Rock Band 2 and Morrissey's "Irish Blood, English Heart" beating my score in the process, so that was good.

Wednesday 22nd September - Around The Family

After a pretty hard day at work, I thought it would be nice to pay some of the relations a visit and see what was happening with them. This meant taking a different bus from work, but that wasn't too bad as it meant a different journey too. Mind you, the traffic was pretty bad all round really and it meant that it was a slow drag on one of the main roads out of the city centre, even with the occasional bus lane making for a speedier journey. It also shows just how many people are pretty lazy and just use the car for every journey too, regardless of how far it is.

I soon arrived at my sister's place, where she was taking things relatively easy. She's due her second child any day now and the bump is very much in the stages of sticky outedness as you'd expect. Not that it stopped my niece being full of anything but boundless energy as she was creatively making things that looked like Masterchef meals but in plasticine style, which looked good fun for her to do. It was good to sit with a cuppa as well and have a catch up - and my brother in law arrived home so we set up their standby saver power extension that they'd been given by their energy supplier. Once we'd got that all set up it meant we could plug in all their stuff at the wall plugs behind back of the telly and it all worked really well.

In fact later on we set up the Wii and myself and my niece were rather good on the spin control bit of Wii Sports Resort's bowling. I was pretty pleased with the strikes that we both did and cheered each other on, so it was a nice bit of team play. I had sent them my Mii character a while back so it meant I could play as myself too, so that worked out rather good. We also did the table tennis as well and she was excellent at it, I have to admit. I was going to pop in and see my youngest sister too but she was heading out, but my nephew was at Mum's so I headed to Mum's on the way home too.

It was good to see Mum of course and my nephew had tons of energy about him as he was keeping himself amused with the potato heads from Toy Story 3 as well as having Buzz, Woody and Slinky with him as well. It was good to chat to Mum and she was certainly thinking about Christmas as well as I was, so we managed to work out what she could get me and I had some ideas of what to get her too, so that'd get me off to a start. We also mentioned about the forthcoming trip we're taking as well and how that'll work out, and over coffee that was nice to do.

I took a nice walk home and had a quick mooch in Blockbuster on the way before indulging in some salmon and rice for tea and chatted with The Star In My Sky for a bit as well on the phone. It was good though to wind down after a hard day and knowing that at least the week was on its way towards its end. Tune of the day has to be "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood band, the proper snooker theme. The World Open was on red button when I got home and had tea so watched a couple of matches from the evening there - all good.

Tuesday 21st September - Feeding My Ego

It was another pretty busy day in the office today, and I've mainly spent today working on a brand new updated image for the Admin PCs - as it would be nice to have the new stuff on the image build for future use. The other reason for updating it as well was that I wanted to create an up to date sysprep image at the same time, so it made perfect sense to do that once I'd got the straight image up there. It meant as well that I could handle the calls and make sure any work was delegated within the team as well. It was one of the good days where I felt that everything was working effectively.

I got home and got showered and changed and ready to head out later, as I was meeting up with The Star In My Sky and her friend for a nice evening. First off I met with The Star at the Cornerhouse which isn't too far from where she works, and we were then able to walk into the city centre to meet her friend. We headed out for a drink first and had a chat with one of her friend's friends as well, complete with kilt and everything (well he is from Oban, so perfectly allowed). We had plenty of chat in the evening and sat outside as well as the weather was still reasonably decent.

It was then on to Ego on Princess Street, which overlooks Albert Square, as the three of us fancied eating there, not least because I'd got a voucher for 40% off the food, so no complaints there really. We got some bread with balsamic vinegar and also some olives to start (I left them to the olives!) and had plenty of chat about all sorts whilst we were having a drink. We ordered the mains and when they came we were all happy with our selections. The Star's friend had the mushroom risotto, she had the rather lovely Tuscan meatballs (I've had them before, way too nice) and I went for one of the specials - the chicken and leek risotto in a camembert sauce. It was really nice and filling and tasty and well worth it.

More conversation happened and I mentioned to The Star's friend about the Top Cashback website and how he'd be able to possibly get cash back on online purchases including flights, hotels, CDs etc. He seemed pretty pleased so I promised that I would email him the link later, and also mentioned about the Heaven 17 Penthouse and Pavement tour in November. As it turned out he'll be away on holiday then which is a shame as I think he'd have rather liked to have gone to that one. We had coffee all round and I had a rather nice creme brulee for dessert as well, can't be bad can it?

We then headed over to Kro in Piccadilly where I decided to have one alcholic drink for the evening, the rather nice Landlord in pint form. And it was on form so no complaints there. Plenty more conversation followed as well and it was nice to see The Star's friend on good form as he usually is - he's not had the best of times lately so it was good to be out and have a good night all round. Certainly I think by the end of the night we'd all agreed that the time was great and it was time very well spent - and it's moments like those where you'll make the most of the time you have.

Tune of the day in the meantime had to be "Temptation" by Heaven 17, not least because the three of us were talking 80s music and all that, but because it's one of the real classic 1980s songs that doesn't seem to age whatsoever. It probably also describes how much it was tempting to drink more tonight but knew that I had to think about heading to work tomorrow and getting things done, as you do.

Monday 20th September - Everyone's Back!

It was a fairly early(ish) start for me this morning as I headed to work and helped get everything set up for the first day of term. Lots of things were happening of course and the main one was definitely the fact that all the students were back for their first year or returning years. There's always a buzz around the streets close to work when everyone's there - it's absolutely mad busy and the comparison between then and last week is just like chalk and proverbial cheese. It's a good warm friendly buzz though and you know that there's a hive of activity there during this week before it settles down a little bit.

As such, it's always worth knuckling down and getting things done - particularly as the work you do in the background helps things run smoother. We had to sort out a couple of issues with the enrolment session but then also we had to make sure that an important bit of Zenworks policy changes were in place due to a policy decision - so I got that carried out and done. I've spent most of the day checking out some laptops and also fixing some problems with user's accounts on a couple of PCs as well, so no two days the same and I must admit I do like the problem solving concept a heck of a lot. One of the jobs resulted in me visiting the very office and desk where I first started - it was like coming home.

The way home took a while due to the massive increase in traffic but I got home eventually and after having some tea, my uncle came over so I could have a look at his friend's laptop. We arranged for him to come over and after switching it on, the BIOS reported a SMART failure with the hard drive, and he'd already suspected that the drive was on its way out. I checked how easy it would be to get the drive out, and the answer was very easy indeed, and so as such I could easily recommend getting a replacement hard drive and putting that in. I did also suggest that if his friend had the original restore disc that came with the laptop that it could be used to put it back as it was, and then update it completely.

I settled back in the evening and watched some more of the World Open snooker from Glasgow. I'm quite intrigued by the whole concept of it all and it's certainly made for some fast exciting close games as well - the random draw and the first to three frames format certainly means it's a turnover of players to watch as well for the masses. I like the FA Cup-style draw too, in that anyone can meet anyone, and it's a different but very welcome tournament. Barry Hearn thankfully isn't that daft and realises that the World Championship is something you don't change - it's the pinnacle of the sport - so far, so good for him.

As for tune of the day it was nice to be able to put on something fairly relaxing before possibly rocking out on Rock Band 2 later on the Wii. So with the relaxing mode in mind, what better than the title track of Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins' album "Rabbit Fur Coat". Jenny's voice is stunningly clear and divine and it has a real sense of mellowness and beauty all at the same time. It's the sort of album that makes you realise that real talent is out there if you look for it. Go get it. Now. Here.

Sunday 19th September - Sunday Shopaholics (well sort of)

After all the exertions of enjoying the Barenaked Ladies gig last night, it was nice to have a little bit of a lie in and take things relatively easy. I also had a couple of ideas floating around my head as to what to do today when The Rainbow In My Sky came over later, but as the weather wasn't looking too good I thought "well if we do go out let's head somewhere indoors-ish" and had some thoughts as to what to do. I guess that it's nice sometimes just to take things easy and do things as couples would do, like shopping, and as I was thinking of some ideas for presents for people for Christmas and birthdays before as well, so kill two birds with one stone.

The Rainbow arrived and looked as lovely as ever and we had a bit of a chat and a coffee to catch up whilst I enthused about how good Barenaked Ladies were (cos they were) as well as look through some catalogues which had arrived at mine so she could peruse them for any gift ideas. It was also good to be able to see how our predictions were doing in the Everybody Votes channel and there were some surprises in there in terms of how they turned out. It was good though to be able to have a bit of relaxation time.

And it was then time to head out. We first went to Tesco near me as I'd got three numbers on the lottery and that meant a £10 win for me. No complaints there either with that so I went in and cashed it, and then it was off to John Lewis in Cheadle. I'd thought of some ideas for presents and The Rainbow had also thought of some things for herself for Christmas too, so we thought it'd be good to head there. It was nice looking at all the kitchen and dining stuff and I even saw the Emma Bridgewater hearts stuff that The Rainbow loves (and with good reason, it's so her!)

We then headed upstairs which meant that she could look at all the clothes, and in one section (Oasis, no less) we saw this rather nice spot and lace dress that they have. It had been reduced (as I later found out later on Oasis' website too) and the price reduction was really good. I reckoned that she should try it on later and so after checking out the cameras, TVs and stuff like that as well the menswear in the basement we then headed back to the first floor where she tried the dress on. It fitted beautifully and she looked stunning in it, so I offered to buy it her (only fair in love and all that) but we eventually compromised and went half each for it, which was fine - after all I could use the £10 lottery win towards it. I think she was rather pleased! I even managed to get a couple of Christmas presents whilst I was in there myself as well, so it felt good to be able to get the presents sorted out and it meant that I was able to get up and running with it all.

We then went to the café on the ground floor and had a well earned cuppa along with a slice of cake to go with it, and we were able to look at our purchases and feel pretty pleased. It was nice watching the world go by for a bit to be honest, and then it was over to Sainsbury's next door so that we could get a bottle of wine in for later. We then headed back to mine where Scrabble was the order of the day and I could see some of the World Open snooker from Glasgow at the same time, so that worked well. When that finished I put on the Barenaked Ladies CD "All In Good Time" and relaxed to that for a while. "You Run Away" is therefore tune of the day because you can feel it from the heart when Ed Robertson sings it, and why not?

The rest of the evening was mainly in relaxed mode as I did some chicken wrapped in bacon with new potatoes, baby corn and mixed vegetables, and after the panna cotta that The Rainbow had brought with her for dessert I then indulged her with X Factor whilst I checked out some bits on the PC and uploaded some pics to Flickr at the same time - that way I tried to avoid most of it. She loves it: I hate it. I'm half hoping this is the last ever series so that plenty of untalented wannabes can think of doing something else rather than pinning their hopes on a glorified karaoke contest.

Saturday 18th September - When Five Became Four

It was a rainy Saturday for the most part, which didn't exactly encourage me to head home from The Rainbow In My Sky's place late morning. We did watch most of the Pope's service in Westminster Cathedral though with the dulcet tones of Huw Edwards commentating on proceedings. What I did notice was that the Pope was very much embracing the youth a lot, and outside where one of the youth groups presented him with a large candle in a really nice holder, you could tell it meant a lot that the youngsters weren't forgetting what good religion can do. I think in an age where a lot of bad things are blamed on religious nutters, it's good to see that when an important figure makes a visit that people do take the time to respect him. I have no problem respecting people's religions as long as they respect my view that I'm not religious at all - it's my choice as much as theirs what they do.

After that I headed home and I just avoided the rain before getting there. As I had a lot of ironing to do I got most of that done whilst seeing Inverness lose to Hearts in the Scottish Premier League, and then I had to nip to Tesco to do some food shopping, so I put the rest of the washing in the dryer to dry off so I could iron that later on, and headed shoppingwards. Thankfully I whizzed around there in no time and unpacked and watched some more sport on telly before brandishing the iron again and getting it all done. My theory was that if I managed to get it all done now it'd be much less hassle to do it tomorrow, and it meant I could relax a bit.

Soon it was time to head to Piccadilly and meet my friend off the train, as she and I were heading out for the evening to see Barenaked Ladies at the O2 Apollo (as it's now called). We'd been to see them several times before and enjoyed it each time, and so we were determined to go along and make the most of it this time too. Of course it'd be the first tour as the band as a foursome since the departure of Steven Page, and so it would be noteworthy to see how they'd change the songs around to see who would cover his former parts, so to speak.

We headed first to The B Lounge (formerly the Brunswick) close to the station and got a nice table for us both to sit and chatter at, and we also ordered some food for tea. We both went for the hand battered fish and when that arrived, it was lovely. The fish was lovely and crispy battered and the chunky chips were a real revelation too - add to that some lovely bread and butter (posh bread too note) and some pea puree, and it was a good wholesome dish enjoyed by us all. We then headed to Kro in Piccadilly for a drink in there too, and the Landlord was on top form so that was me rather happy all round as well.

It was then through some light rain that we went past the station, the Macdonald Hotel and Ardwick Green and on to the newly refurbished and renamed O2 Apollo. It felt different inside - clean, for a change, and in fact the carpets were all very plush and lovely in there - definitely feeling more like a theatre. The merchandise stand had these smart little tote shopping bags with the BNL logo on them - and seeing as there weren't many left, my friend snapped one up which was a good move all round. We then headed to the front circle, and we were in row AA, seats 3 and 4. In the Apollo, AA to GG are the front left and right sides of the circle, and the seats we had gave an excellent view, quite close to the stage as well so that was rather fab.

Up first then was Boothby Graffoe (official site) and he was brilliantly funny as ever, and in fact his mickey take out of Wayne Rooney got several cheers from the crowd (must have been a fair few Man City and Liverpool fans in then!) and his songs were his usual surreal but yet warm sense of humour. He even got the audience joining in on one, which seemed to be about Hartlepool (wonder if Jeff Stelling would approve) and that got everyone involved too. What was nice was that several of the Barenaked Ladies joined him on stage including Ed Robertson on drums (normally he's guitar!), Jim Creeggan on bass and Kevin Hearn on guitar. There was even a song at the end about how to hop for hope, and that had the audience hopping along!

Next was Joel Plaskett (official site) and whilst he was good, I did think he should have been on before Boothby, just my thoughts. Assisted by Peter Elkas, the two of them did a few good songs including one that had the use of a really old battered Casio-type keyboard and even a Stylophone at the end as well. A lot of his songs were from his three-CD album "Three" (compressed into "Three Into One" for a single CD release in the UK, meh!) and the likes of "Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'" and a song about how you have to travel for miles to get to anywhere in Canada really did hit a good chord with the crowd.

After a quick delay for set up, on came Barenaked Ladies (official site) and they didn't disappoint whatsoever. It was always going to be difficult to convince people that them as a foursome could still do it, but did it they did. Of course any songs off their recent album "All In Good Time" were easier to do, as they were made as a foursome, so the likes of "You Run Away" (which sounded gorgeous) and "Four Seconds" which although can be a little daft, actually came across as a really good foursome for that song. In fact Tyler Stewart on drums got the end bit spot on. I really liked "Another Heartbreak" though as that allowed Kevin's piano playing and vocals to come across really well, so I'll make that one tune of the day.

But the older stuff was just as good too. They really did pull off "One Week" well with Kevin doing the Steven parts spot on, and it was seamless. "Pinch Me" of course came with the obligatory throwing of underwear during the right line, and in fact some really natty red pieces for the band from what we could see. Then there was an excellent "Maybe Katie" and a rather fun "If I Had $1,000,000" with them interspersing a bit of "Faith" by George Michael before getting the crowd to join in with the last verse and chorus. Add to that the likes of "It's All Been Done" (or the Argos ad music if you remember it that way) and a rather mad version of "Alcohol" with Tyler running around the stage on the main stage doing the vocals, and it was a very enjoyable show, which passed far too quickly.

It was soon 11pm and we walked a little quicker to make sure my friend got the last train back to her boyfriend's and I made my way home on the bus. It was a great night all around and great to catch up with my friend as well, and of course seeing Barenaked Ladies do what they do best - a great live show with lovely people and a really warm atmosphere inside a much much nicer Apollo venue as well. And even the sound system sounded better too, so all round, a win win situation!

Friday 17th September - That Friday Feeling

It was a pretty busy day all round today, as we mainly spent the time getting all the PCs and kit ready for the enrolment sessions next week. It's a real team effort and we have to spend time getting all the laptops set up for self-enrolment etc, and as well as all that it's then getting the PCs that are used for printing the cards, and any enrolment queries etc all set up. The place it's held in isn't exactly the most user-friendly in terms of being able to network stuff, so you do have to improvise and get things sorted out. Of course, what proved to be quite useful was that we had a printer with a long enough network cable to be able to use that normally.

After work I headed home first to get changed into something more suitable for the evening, after all I was pretty hot and sweaty after moving lots of kit around, and that wasn't attractive whatsoever. When I did get home I noticed that my birthday present for my friend had finally arrived, so I made sure I printed the postage online and got that posted off as I left. I was pretty quick but it turned out that The Rainbow In My Sky had finished work a little early, so she rang me to tell me that she'd be heading to meet me in the city centre and I'd see her there. It was lovely to see her of course and it was even nicer that we'd be spending Friday night together too, so that was good.

We got back to her place and took things nice and easy, and as she was making us a lovely tea, she could watch the soaps as doing so. It was really nice too - she'd been to Marks and Spencer and did that two dine in for £10 deal, so got a lovely bottle of chardonnay, some chicken with bacon and asparagus, garlic mushrooms, some really nice potatoes (bought separately) and then these little summer fruit pot things for dessert. Even better was that she'd been over to Asda and got some real ales for me, so I had a choice of Tribute, Black Sheep or Hobgoblin. How nice was that? I was really made up by that and the effort shown really did show me how considerate she is. Awww.

Tea was rather lovely all round and we snuggled up whilst she caught up on Corrie (well it'd be rude not to for her I guess) and after that and with nothing on telly, it was time to dig out the Travel Scrabble and put on Paul Weller's "Studio 150" album which I know she loves (and I don't mind, Weller is fine in my book). It's intrigiuing to hear him do cover versions in his own different way, and I guess his version of "All Along The Watchtower" is different enough to be good too, so tune of the day there. In fact the game of Scrabble proved not to be that easy with a tightly packed board, but we both scored pretty well and even used three triple word scores as three of the last four moves at the end of the game too.

Going back to that Studio 150 album, I must admit opinion is still divided about his version of the Carpenters' "Close To You". The Rainbow loves it better than the original, but even if I'm not a fan of them, the original with Karen Carpenter's vocal somehow feels more right, if you know what I mean. Maybe because it's something I grew up with as Mum was quite a fan of them and liked what they did. I'm not sure Mum would appreciate some of the stuff I'd listen to now though, but there you go.

Thursday 16th September - Red Bull Gives City Wings

After another long day at the office I got home as quick as I could in the anticipation that I might have all the equipment necessary to receive ESPN on my Freeview telly and so be able to see Man City's game at Red Bull Salzburg in the Europa League tonight. My friend had let me know he wasn't 100% and so wasn't coming over, but had subscribed for one month only to it via Sky, so at least he was sorted. My uncle was planning to head to mine around 6ish,and so watch the game with me so I wasn't alone in watching the game either.

I got home, and thankfully the necessary CAM module had arrived, so I texted my uncle to say it was here. I then put the viewing card the right way into the CAM, placed that into the slot in the back of my Freeview LCD telly, tuned in to QVC on Channel 16 and waited the required half an hour plus for the activation signal. It didn't come (I tried ESPN and it failed) and it was almost ten to six. I rang up Top Up TV and they promised to send another signal, and at around 6pm I turned over the telly, and Channel 34 came up clear, and it was ESPN, right on kick off! Phew.

It meant that the two of us could watch City, and it proved to be a good game for the Blues all round. Nine minutes in and a ball in from Wayne Bridge from the left was helped on by Jo to David Silva, who slotted home beautifully to score his first goal in a City shirt and to make it 1-0. That calmed the nerves and we were consummate in our performance, not looking in too much danger and had Jo had his shooting boots on it could have easily been two by half time. That said, it did at least look good that City were doing the business and showing that the recent performance was just a blip.

As the second half started, we both agreed that we needed another goal to really finish the game off, and half way through the second half, the moment came. Carlos Tevez blasted a shot from outside the area which the Salzburg keeper could only parry straight into the path of Jo, who managed to slot the ball home by bouncing it into the ground and over the keeper. Maybe not that conventional a finish, but 2-0 away from home was good going for us. It was a fairly easy rest of the game apart from a late scare due to Joe Hart's miskick, but they didn't look that good at home and a 2-0 win was good - and with Juventus only drawing 3-3 at home to Lech Poznan in the other game, we were already top of the group and good to go.

I later watched a drama on BBC Four about how Coronation Street came to be. Part documentary as well as drama, it had me going "I know where that is!" as several scenes that were filmed were actually in the building I work in, and of course I recognised them. It was really well filmed and shot all round and the biggest surprise was Jessie Wallace playing Pat Phoenix and actually doing a really good job of it as well. It was good to see the likes of Jane Horrocks and Celia Imrie do their parts ever so well, and as a nice little thing, the actor who plays William Roache in this is actually the real son of William Roache, who of course plays Ken Barlow in Corrie. Small world but a good move all round really - I'm sure he could get plenty of tips!

It was good to see ESPN working and of course there's more footy on that as well as other sports, so even if I only have it for a few months, at least it'll be good to see what it's like and of course I've always got the CAM and the card for whenever it's needed in future, so that's good. In the meantime tune of the day is the rather excellent "New Kid In School" by The Donnas, as it reminds me of what it'll be like next week in work, but also what it might be like for anyone else starting off their new places in the last few weeks - I've seen the nervous looks all around me at the moment. And it's also a good girlie rock number - oh yes.

Wednesday 15th September - Rocking All Over Wednesday

I got home from work and after doing the domestic boring stuff, I decided that I needed a little bit of rocking to set things off nicely for the evening. In fact I thought that vocals might be just the thing to do, and so I decided to get the microphone out and start rocking. I managed to beat my score on "Irish Blood, English Heart" and that's currently very healthy indeed - in fact 99% on expert, so almost completely got it right. I feel pretty pleased purely because I feel like I'm doing some sort of justice to the great Morrissey original.

I then did "Gay Bar" by Electric Six, possibly the easiest one to do on vocals in terms of getting 100%, but it's knowing when to hit the overdrive for best scoring effect. In fact, after a few attempts I managed to get 126,000, which puts me at joint third in the all time list on the Wii, so that does say something about the prowess I have. But best of all was that I tried one of the hardest songs in the game on vocals, "Painkiller" by Judas Priest, and surprised myself by getting 93% and five stars into the bargain. Granted, not perfect, but considering that was my first attempt on the song and giving it a go, I did feel pleased. Obviously it does help if you've heard the song, but you've still got to try it all. Tune of the day for me that one.

Later on I had The Rainbow In My Sky come over, and I made us some pork with potatoes and vegetables for tea, followed by a general chat and catch up before heading to Mum's to see my brother as it was his birthday today. It was good to see them both, and his girlfriend had made a rather nice pie as well, which we had with a cup of coffee - it tasted good. It was good to be able to chat to them all and to see how things were, but also it meant that Mum could have a gooa natter with The Rainbow, and I know it means a lot to me that they both get on so well.

It was then off to Tesco later to make sure I got some bits of food in for tomorrow night in case everyone was able to come around, and more importantly, if I was able to get ESPN in time for the City game at Salzburg tomorrow. We shall see what happens there methinks and hopefully all will be well there. It was good to head around Tesco with not many people around and soon enough The Rainbow got what she needed as well as I and we were able to get plenty done in the meantime as we walked around. We ended up snuggling back at mine for a bit and checking some stuff out on the Wii, namely to find out which TV adaptation of The Forsyte Saga my Mum used to like - and in fact it was the 2002 variant with Gina McKee in it. How the mind boggles...

Tuesday 14th September - This Charming Rock Band

As you can well imagine, when my friend informed me that both The Smiths' "This Charming Man" and Morrissey's "Irish Blood English Heart" were going to be available for Rock Band 2 on all console formats, I was pretty excited, as was he. We both hoped that they'd be available for the Wii when they were released today and I really wanted to give them a go on vocals as well as guitar and drums, primarily because a) I know the words and b) well, it's Morrissey, isn't it? You've got to like that.

I spent most of the day at work sorting out various queries and being able to resolve a few problems that people had as well as make sure that plenty of the PCs we usually use during enrolment were getting themselves ready - I've imaged three that we use to make sure they've got something more up to date and of course at the same time ensured that all the card printers are all working fine as intended, and it's good that they are working well. I even resolved an issue with another card printer as well in another office during the day so it felt good to be able to get all of that sorted out.

It took a while for the bus to take me home tonight - I must have missed the earlier one, and when I did I felt it best to head to Tesco and get some washing powder (as I'd run out) and then some other little bits whilst I was there. When I got home I was half hoping that I'd have a package arrive for me, but nothing as yet. I'm a little worried that I'm hardly getting any post whatsoever lately and wondering if either I'm not that popular or in fact what I've ordered isn't going to arrive, which would be a right nightmare..

However, back to Rock Band 2. I downloaded both songs (but of course) and went straight into vocals on "Irish Blood, English Heart". At the second attempt on expert I nailed 97% and over 82,000 points, which might just set a good standard for people to aim at (well that's the theory). The first phrase oddly is pretty tricky because of the very low notes at the start, but the rest I managed pretty well with "awesome" streaks a plenty in there. Tune of the day methinks. I might have to give it another go, but it looks like you can only really activate the overdrive in two places so it might be difficult to get past that score...

Monday 13th September - Back To The Grind

It's been a right puzzle of a day today in terms of work. It's either been full on or even more full on, but I do know that plenty of preparation is in play for the weeks ahead. I've got back all the card printers for enrolment after service and after having to tweak one of them to make sure that the card thickness lever was set correctly, they printed out everything properly so that was good. I was also able to help rectify a problem for a member of staff that for some reason wasn't getting a log on screen. It turned out that the driver for the HP printer had played silly and installed two of the same service running, and that they'd get in the way of stuff. I disabled one and all seems well so far - so fingers crossed.

I then headed to Debenhams after work to collect an order I'd done last week - it's easier to collect in store for me because the way I look at it, I'm not always in to have parcels at home and this way I can collect at convenience and often straight from work making life much easier too. In fact the parcel was a pair of shoes that I got for The Rainbow In My Sky whilst they had a discount of new season stuff - and as that made it less expensive I thought "get them for her now and can wear them for work before the price goes up again" and that's what I did.

I arranged to meet The Rainbow in Kro in Piccadilly after work, and I had a glass of wine ready for her (I know what she likes, me). It was lovely to see her and she was pleased to bits with the shoes, and we chatted about our respective days. It's always good to spend a little extra time together like that and I know that she was chuffed to bits that I made the time and effort. I must admit too that the Deuchars was on good form surprisingly there, and it made me feel nice to relax after work too. One thing I did notice was that when we got there dead on 5pm it was pretty dead but by the time we left later it was a bit wet!

I got home later and after a bit of catching up, felt the need for some good tunes, and whacked on The Prodigy's "Invaders Must Die" - as it reminded me of Saturday's game as the City folks play it interspersed with shots of Carlos Tevez doing the business against plenty of teams, and certainly gets the masses fired up. It sounds even better on record of course, and it has that real bounce and energy that the band have - so tune of the day easily for me. It rocks!

Sunday 12th September - Button and Baths

We had a bit of a lie in today, did The Rainbow In My Sky and I. And why not? We'd had a hard week at work and we both wanted to wind down nicely. Sometimes it's nice just not to get up too early and take things easy before settling into a nice day out. I had an idea or two as did The Rainbow and we both worked out that if the Italian Grand Prix finished on time, we'd be able to head out to Victoria Baths later and see what was happening with the latest phase of its restoration. We'd not been for a bit so it'd be good to head around there and see what the crack is.

The F1 at Monza was pretty dramatic as Jenson Button managed to get past Fernando Alonso's Ferrari at the first corner, with Felipe Massa third in the other Ferrari close behind. Lewis Hamilton tried to take Massa at the next chicane, he tangled wheels but damaged the wheel tethers and next corner - off and out he went. Of course for Button and Alonso this meant a chance to gain ground, and for the next thirty odd laps with Massa in close pursuit, Button held off Alonso before making his only pit stop a lap earlier. Alonso got ahead (just) after the pit stop and he stayed there to the flag with Button second.

Fair play to Alonso though, he was the first in the drivers' conference to credit Jenson Button for a great drive. For anyone to hold off him for thirty odd laps was good going and I think he respected what Button did. It was good to see and close racing like that is just what the sport needs at times. In fact, it's also meant that the top five in the running for the title are less than one win apart from each other - so if one wins and the rest fail to finish, it could yet decide the title if it stayed like that near the end. We shall see.

Off we headed later to Victoria Baths, and it was good to see how much of the restoration has now taken place. Best of all was the fact that there were two major developments: the new Sunny Lowry stained glass window, devoted to the first English woman to swim the English Channel and indeed a patron of the Baths' restoration (and she trained there when she was younger) as well as the roof of the main first class pool being completely restored and now watertight, so all the work on the innards can be done to really get it back to the way it was. Feel free to have a look at the pictures to see what I mean.

After that we walked down from there down Upper Brook Street (a good walk or so too) and on to Sandbar where we were able to relax with a nice drink and have some good tunes on the jukebox. I even put three selections myself on and The Jam's "In The City" was on first, and The Rainbow likes that like I do - so tune of the day of course. The Black Cat was still on tip top form and they even discounted the wine for her because the fridge had packed in so they used ice cubes to cool it instead - fair dos really. It was a nice way to relax before we headed home for tea and then snuggling up to watch Countryfile. Ah, the day goes by too quick it does!

Saturday 11th September - Downpours and Disaster

It was not the day to be out and about watching the football this afternoon at the City of Manchester Stadium. All day before my friend came to pick me up it was rain, sun, rain, sun and then rain again. As he collected me it was sunny but we both knew that it would possibly rain later, so I made sure I had my rain jacket with me to keep off the really bad weather if it happened. It was actually sunny as we got to the ground and indeed still okay when we got to the ticket office and sorted out our seats for the three Europa League group games. Just as we got into the ground itself the heavens opened and it chucked it down.

Even during the game it was the same - glorious sunshine with me with coat off and basking in the sun from the East Stand to it having wind and rain and putting it all back on again. Of course to add insult to injury after all the good work he put in for England, Joe Hart had a calamitous moment as he went outside the box to call for a ball that he should have left Kolo Toure to, they both missed it and the Blackburn striker had the easiest finish possible to take the lead and make it 1-0 to them. Even despite our efforts, their keeper Paul Robinson was on top form, saving two excellent chances and keeping the score as it was.

During the second half the weather changed but City at least went for it, and after a neat interchange between Patrick Vieira and Carlos Tevez, it was the Frenchman who slotted home from two yards easily beating Robinson to equalise. But for all our efforts, even chucking Jo on (who wasn't that good) we couldn't score the winner and many of us including the two of us were left sorely frustrated at the lack of firepower and result. Certainly it wasn't looking good outside, and we certainly caught the rain as we headed back out of the ground.

Later on The Rainbow In My Sky kindly made us a brew at her place and we all chatted about all sorts. It's really nice that she's taken to my friends and made them all welcome, but I do know that they think the world of her too - so it's all mutually good stuff. It was nice to be able to dry off a bit and chat onwards, and also see what was happening in the Championship game between Burnley and Preston (and what a hummdinger that turned out to be later!). Of course, time went by far too quickly and my friend was heading home and I was heading out with The Rainbow, but the day was good and it's always good to see my friend too.

Then The Rainbow and I headed back to mine, where a three course little meal was on the cards for us both: mushroom soup with a nice granary stick sliced to bits, chicken wrapped in bacon with exquisa potatoes and vegetables, followed with New York cheesecake and cream. It was a really nice meal together and I was really pleased to do that for her. I allowed her to watch X Factor whilst I sorted out the pre-order for the new Rare Record Price Guide, and did the trains for my gig trip to Leeds in early December as well, made use of the time that way. And we relaxed with Scrabble later.

Tune of the day is Roy Harper's "Me and My Woman" from his superlative "Stormcock" album. I played it as we played Scrabble as I wanted her to understand just why he's highly regarded and an inspiration to one Joanna Newsom (yes, she indeed.) It wasn't her cup of tea but that's probably because it's quite an intense album, four songs totalling some forty minutes and all lengthy pieces. I may try his "Valentine" album as that's a bit more upbeat and see what she thinks of that. One day, I'll convince the world how good he is...

Friday 10th September - Friday Farewells and Finger Fretting

After a very tough and stressful day at the office, I was pretty glad to be leaving work at the end of it - but I wasn't going home. Oh no. One of our admin staff was finishing as she is due a baby in a few weeks' time, and she had invited quite a few people over to one of the bars close to work for a few drinks afterwards. I thought that it would be nice to go along, especially as the member of staff is a really nice person, and someone I get on well with. I thought too that after the week I'd had at work I deserved a nice pint or two, and why not, eh?

I headed to the bar and there wasn't that many people there yet but there was soon a long table full of a few people - lecturers from certain courses, a few of the admin girls, a couple of my friend colleagues and of course me. And best of all Sandbar had Black Cat on, and I'm more than pleased to tell you that it was on top form. For a real ale buff like me, let me tell you it's always well worth it. In fact I was quite pleasantly surprised to see that the leaver's fiancee also admired the same pint too - which was good to see, and in fact one of the female lecturers who was trying a fruit beer said "I could murder a good pint of Landlord!" - which again was nice.

The time sped by and I tried to head around the long table chatting to groups of people along the way so it worked pretty nicely all round I think. It was good that her fiancee was pretty sociable and chatty, and we ended up discussing how bands always tend to play Glasgow more than Edinburgh (he's from there) and music in general too - and of course most readers know that I'm pretty passionate on that subject. I'm sure too that the Black Cat was going down very nicely as by the time I left at around 8pm, I'd had three pints of the stuff and it felt good.

It was a lovely start to the evening and wound me down nicely as I headed home via the city centre to collect a delivery from a store that I'd placed an order at. They were open till 9pm tonight so that worked out perfectly - I was able to head there, collect what I had ordered and then head home, where I had a nice chat to The Cream On My Cheesecake on the phone for a bit and she said to me how much she was looking forward to seeing me but also to enjoy my rocking session with my friend tonight.

And that's exactly what I planned next - I rang my friend and soon we were in rock mode on Rock Band 2 - this time he'd organised it as band online tour so he could hopefully unlock some more songs in quickplay mode by working the way through the career, sensible that. We ended up with at least an hour's worth of rocking with me sometimes alternating between bass and lead guitar. My best achievement was doing Billy Idol's "White Wedding Part 1" on hard bass and getting a note streak at one point of over 300 notes, which was not to be sniffed at!

However, tune of the day because we just couldn't resist playing it (and because it also is a big 80s classic) is Duran Duran's "Hungry Like The Wolf". In fact at one point we did pretty well on both bass and vocals and nailed it nicely - and a couple of our selections in the tour mode we both did 100% on medium so that was pretty good to see. I think though that the Duran Duran song just reminds me of how many classic videos they did at their 80s peak and also how I grew up with that as the Top of the Pops soundtrack back in the day. Ah, memories....

Thursday 9th September - Let There Be Rock

The day started early as I was up at just before 6am and ready to try and snaggle a bargain stay at a Travelodge close to the end of January. The Cream On My Cheesecake had discussed it the other night and thought of plenty of places to go and we narrowed it down to a list of a few we'd like to go. I managed to get on to the website and by 6.10am I was all done and sorted - we've got three nights in Windsor (Friday to Monday) for the bargain price of £15 per room per night. Granted, it wasn't £9 per room, but it still wasn't too bad in terms of getting somewhere nice to go. Definitely worth looking forward to now.

And at last, later on, I exclaim, myself and my friend have been able to rock online as a band on Rock Band 2 for the Wii, and I have to say we both feel pretty pleased as we finally got there. I had done some tests last week but for some reason my friend's broadband speed was going slow, and we had to wait for the exchange to re-synch his line. That done, we had some ideas and worked on them. First, we both had the necessary ports open in the firewall and that didn't connect. I put my Wii in the DMZ of my router (that's de-militarized zone so doesn't use the router firewall) and that didn't work. However, when we put my friend's Wii in his DMZ on his Netgear router, we were able to connect and play! In fact it worked even without my Wii in my DMZ!

I had a feeling that Netgear routers tend to be more strict, whereas the Thomson one (rebadged as an O2 Wireless box) is generally very good with Universal Plug and Play and accepts pretty much anything that you throw at it. Certainly any online games I've managed to play thus far on the Wii have always worked, so it was good to sort this one out and get going. We had a quick blast with a promise to rock tomorrow night, and so did Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" with me attempting hard bass into the bargain. I did okay on it and at least it showed that online rocking does work well in the end. Oh yes, as AC/DC would have sung, let there be rock!

By this time The Cream On My Cheesecake had arrived and after us both fussing over next door's cat, I got the evening meal on for us both - it was some peri peri chicken with some new potatoes and vegetables and went down well for us both whilst we both caught up and chatted. I ended up indulging her slightly allowing her to watch Coronation Street, but not before we'd done some research on the Internet about the forthcoming trip I'd booked earlier. I guess we'll have to see what the weather does when we go but I know there'll be plenty of things we can get up to, so see what happens.

We had a game of Scrabble later with Beth Rowley on in the background, and the wonderful "So Sublime" is tune of the day as we both love that track from the album. I even managed a seven letter words to get rid of all my tiles too, I did TRAINER across the bottom making YE and PATER at the same time, scoring me a pretty mammoth 83 points - so that proved to be useful. It's quite a good feeling when you use all of your tiles to good effect, let me tell you.

Wednesday 8th September - Everything Done! Now!

It's one of those days today where it felt like everything needed to be done and done now. It's a pretty difficult thing to do at times to try and please everyone especially when you just want things to be simple and to be able to rattle off support calls left right and centre. Unfortunately it's not always worked like that and today was no exception - I spent most of the day in another building checking that the network sockets were live after the move around the office was happening, and then a fair chunk of time sorting out some badge making software that for some reason had the configuration files missing, resulting in me in a bit of a mission to try and locate the files and get it all sorted.

It seems to me that in all this moving around the needs of everyone haven't necessarily been taken into consideration or the current workload. After all it's fast becoming the busiest time of year for us all and we really need to get into gear. I did seriously consider staying back tonight to see if I could try and get more stuff done but when I thought about it I realised that it wouldn't do me any good to do that and so headed home to try and get some suitable rest and relaxation.

That I did soon enough with Rock Band 2 on the Wii and ended up playing quite a few tracks on there, most notably the excellent "Panic Attack" by Dream Theater, which definitely really kicks pretty hard and is lengthy too - over seven minutes. It's one of the toughest songs in the game to do and as such I can do it on medium but the jump to hard is just a little too much for me at the moment. I do like the challenge though and listening to the song in more detail shows how much work has gone into it. Tune of the day definitely, and I might have to think about getting the album that it's on too.

I also read with interest the news that in the snooker tribunal with regards to John Higgins and his alleged involvement in match-fixing, he had a six month ban and fine for not informing the authorities of the meeting that went on, but seemed to be cleared of actually doing anything about that meeting itself. However his former manager really seems to have been the one to be the bad guy, which is what a few of us snooker fans suspected back in May when the story broke. It looked like the manager had arranged it with the investigative reporter from the News of the World well before the meeting happened and as such was acting dishonestly and he was the one who got Higgins along. Scumbag.

Tuesday 7th September - A Greek Tragedy Avoided

It was another pretty manic busy day in the office, and to be honest I can see it being like this for the next few months at least as the start of the new year approaches and everyone is trying to get everything done in the least amount of time (or something like that anyway). As such it's been non-stop for me and I was glad to be able to head homewards and not think about anything else other than the fact that I didn't want to get stuck in the traffic jam due to the hole in the road near the house. Thankfully that had been sorted so traffic was flowing freely and so I was soon in Tesco getting some bits and out of there in rapid succession.

Thank heavens for that I thought as I headed home, ended up doing a shed load of ironing whilst listening to Slayer's "Seasons in the Abyss" title track from their excellent album (tune of the day) and it meant that I could rock out whilst getting all the domestic chores done. I did at least have the company of The Rainbow In My Sky coming to me and that would be lovely, as ever. In fact she looked lovely when she arrived and so it was soon time for me to make the tea - I did some pasta with some fresh meatballs and a napoletana sauce, and some garlic bread to go with it as well. It all tasted spot on and I was pretty pleased with myself.

Later on we checked out some stuff on the Debenhams website for the sale with a view to some of it possibly being ideas for me for Christmas. It's always good to peruse the offers on there occasionally to get some ideas in the head, so I can think to myself "I'd really like to get that myself" and so as such makes for good Christmas list perusing. I'm thinking that the more I try and sort out now the easier it will be for me to think of plenty of suitable things at all price ranges. I know too how tight money can be for everyone at the moment and so I'm thinking of lots of little things too. I'm that kind of person.

We then saw the BBC Three show "Don't Tell The Bride" and it could have been a real Greek tragedy in the making as the groom of course had to organise it all. He ended up booking HMS Belfast in the centre of London for a nautical theme and then getting a Titanic-like dress for the fussy bride (which amazingly she actually loved, shock horror!) but not leaving much money for much else. I wasn't sure what to make of the wedding cake idea of just piles of Krispy Kreme donuts, and the wedding invites with Banksy designs on. Surreal really. However the bride seemed happy in the end and even the Greek band he picked satisfied the fussy mother in law (wonder where the bride gets it from then?)

The time went by far too quickly and soon it was time for The Rainbow to head home, and that always makes me feel sad. It's good we've got our own time and indepedence to be able to do our own thing, and I treasure that as she does, but it also proves that absence does make the heart grow fonder, as we do end up making the most of our time together and not sitting around doing nothing - which is what I'm particularly wary of in an attempt to keep the weight off and all that. We shall see...

Monday 6th September - Grinding On

Another Monday at the office and not without its fair share of fun and games either. One of the staff offices had moved recently and what we found out was that the printer was attached to a JetDirect external box. Fine, you may think - except the box only operated at 10Mbits network speed only, so I had to trace the network socket, get our central team to set the speed on the switch for me, and when that was all done, then had to plug it into another socket, configure the IP to be the right one, and then plug it back in the socket required for it to start printing out. Nightmare!

Still, I was glad to get home and relax - although the journey home was anything but. In fact there's been roadworks close to my house and as a result on occasions the traffic tails back a fair bit - simply because some lazy slackers can't be bothered sorting out the hole in the road that they've dug for some maintenance. As a result I actually made the decision to get off the bus two stops early from what I'd get off at and walk - and believe it or not I actually made it home quicker than if I stayed on the bus. I guess with the schools starting today there's the inevitable increase in traffic and so it proved.

I made a start on my Christmas wish list tonight. I know, I'm thinking about Christmas already - I should be certified really. I think it's mainly because I know what I'd like to get some people for Christmas and I figured that by starting my shopping early, I could get a couple of presents every so often and by the time December comes around, it's all done and finished. I had plenty of ideas what I could get, inspired in a way by what I saw on television earlier (ah, you'll see what I mean soon enough!)

Tune of the day meanwhile is the epic "Panic Attack" by Dream Theater. It's possibly one of my favourite tracks on Rock Band 2 simply because it's pretty long and epic and has plenty of rocking guitars within it, and of course Mike Portnoy of the band has a massive drum kit which he uses during their three hour live shows, so you'll always get your value for money if you see them live too - so that's nice.

Sunday 5th September - Take Me To The River

As ever, it was lovely to see The Sunshine In My Day, and we were determined to make the most of the last warm day before the rain looks like it's creeping in over the next few days. We had a thought or two about where we'd like to take a walk, and I had an idea which meant it wouldn't be costly to head anywhere too, and after a coffee at mine we headed on the bus towards East Didsbury, and stopped off at the Tesco there to get a sandwich and a drink of water so we could stop for a little spot of lunch and then take a nice walk in the warm weather.

We headed to Fletcher Moss, walking past the tennis courts and the café which was very busy and then past the grass tennis courts to the little gardens there, where we sat and had our lunch and had a good chat together before we headed back on the path and along Stenner Lane to the end of Ford Lane, and followed the path which runs towards the River Mersey along what's now part of the Trans Pennine Trail. Once we got to the end of there we headed over Simon's Bridge and followed the river for a while till we got to the outskirts of Didsbury Golf Club, and followed the road and past the caravan park (yes, really!) till we got close to the outskirts of Northenden, where The Sunshine saw plenty of pine cones for her autumnal display at work!

We then headed along Boat Lane to Mill Lane past the old pub by the river side now closed down and headed along Northenden Riverside Park to Palatine Road, and crossed over there following the wooded path close to the motorway before reaching the far end of Kenworthy Lane, and as we couldn't head any further along this road, followed the path which took us to Princess Parkway, and the end of our walk. We could have gone under the motorway bridge and re-joined the Transpennine Trail along the River Mersey towards Chorlton, but enough was enough for one day. We soon got the bus heading back into Manchester.

As the bus got closer to the city centre I thought it'd be nice to stop off for a drink, and so we headed to Ra!n Bar, which was surprisingly peaceful and quiet. And they had the Coronation Street beer on, so that was me well and truly sorted on that score. We had a drink and relaxed and chatted looking out of the window and even partaking in the jukebox that they had there. I had to put on La Roux's "Bulletproof" as it's a great little synth pop tune, so tune of the day there methinks. It was nice just to take it easy after a good walk through the urban parklands.

We headed home later and I made us some peri peri chicken with potatoes and vegetables and later on had a nice game of Scrabble, where The Sunshine pulled off the best move of the game with ZESTY (Y on double letter) for 42, so that was pretty good. I'd actually played ZESTED in the move before which was also double word, but she topped me straight off. In fact she's playing really well at the moment I have to say - good to see that she enjoys the fun we have.

Countryfile was on later and we enjoyed seeing the bits about Adam's farm and parts of Oxfordshire. Of course as they went to Blenheim Palace we watched with interest and I have to say it looked rather nice - and I'd like to go sometime. What was really nice was that they use some of the wood from the trees to sculpt special designs for some of the fences for their horse trials event - and a lot of them can be used year on year because the wood's so durable that they use. Nice to see how the sculpting worked too.

Must admit it was hard to say goodbye to The Sunshine at the end of the day as well because the more time we spend together the more I feel closer to her and the more special we feel as well. When we've seen how things have been before we met I know that this feels completely different, more like what a relationship should be when you get to my age. What is the loveliest feeling of all is when we snuggle up with something nice on the telly on and we just feel that level of contentment. Yaay!

Saturday 4th September - Goddamn Right, It's A Beautiful Night

I headed into the city centre this morning to get my hair cut, and the wonderful staff at The Northern Cutter did their stuff for me. It felt good to head out of there with a nice clean cut and to look the part for the next few weeks. If I keep on top of it, it looks fine and that's what I do. I headed to Boots also to put some credit on my phone (top tip for anyone: if you have a Boots Advantage loyalty card, then top up at Boots as it's 40 points every time - they soon mount up). With that done, it was a short walk over to Vinyl Exchange as I'd not been there for a while.

I felt like the proverbial kid in a sweet shop as ever when I'm in there though. I was sorely tempted to buy lots but the first thing I found was in the metal section - The Sword's new album "Warp Riders" for a mere six quid. Well I'd be daft not to get that I said to myself and promptly handed over the cash. It's great when you can just go in and get what you want, and I love Vinyl Exchange anyway, it's the sort of place you can just listen to whatever is on and do a search for plenty of vinyl or CDs and stumble across something well worthwhile. With that done, I had a quick look in Waterstones and noted that there's a new Sophie Kinsella book out - and it's a new Shopaholic one. I have a feeling that The Sunshine In My Day just might be interested in that!

I headed back home after that and there was a very nice package awaiting for me - no less than The Cygnet Ring's "Hopeful Monsters" album on cassette that one of the band had dug out for me and sent along. I'll have to scan everything in and update my pages on the band at some point, but it was great to finally see it in the flesh and prove that it existed, and with a proper tape and everything. So far then the day was going well, and even if some roadworks meant I missed a connecting bus, it didn't take me too long to head over to my friend's house.

We spent the afternoon mainly on Rock Band 2 and a bit of Guitar Hero World Tour - the idea being is that if we played as a band and unlocked some songs then he could try more singing on the ones he really wants to have a blast on. Seemed sensible enough, and so what we did was try and unlock cities by doing various challenges. This did mean he had to try some unfamiliar songs to him though, such as Paramore's "That's What You Get" and The Donnas' "New Kid In School", and perhaps most trickiest of all for him, Steve Miler Band's "Rock 'n' Me". We got through it though so at least he can play more stuff in the game.

I gave him the tutorials in Guitar Hero World Tour with the guitar that I brought over, and he was getting the hang of parts of it. We set off on beginner level for some songs he knew and he was getting into it and playing pretty well. It's good fun when you're able to get into things I reckon, and before we knew it the time was ticking away and it was time for us to head over to the Academy 1 to see Eels. My friend had seen them four times with a different show every time but he reckoned that the one with them all using strings was pretty impressive. I was excited too as I'd not seen them live before.

Anyway, we got to the Academy 1 and in we went, and up first was the worst support act ever. I mean it. Ever. He came on and had a backing track and sung an appalling version of "Hoochie Koochie Man" whilst at the same time constantly baiting the crowd for not looking interested. Oops. He then proceeded to get out a puppet and start telling rubbish jokes and asking it quiz questions. He was literally dying on stage and it was a case of even the worst X Factor audition actually being better than this. It was around eight minutes in all before the audience were really turning on him and I think had he not left when he did, there'd have been plenty of glasses of beer flying in his direction.

It could only get better after that and it slightly did with Alice Gold (myspace) and although it was just her with her guitar, her sounds sounded okay enough but it was let down by the appalling mixing from the mixing desk. It was mixed just incorrectly so that it sounded too distorted and didn't allow her voice to shine through. As such it was hard to judge how good she was, especially with most of the crowd partaking in my major gig annoyance, talking whilst someone is playing. I do feel that had she had most of her touring band with her it might have been more helpful, but she seemed a little lost on such a big stage.

None of that though for Eels (official site) (myspace) as they really went headlong into an hour and a half plus of live excellence. It was hardly a stop between each song as Mark Everett (aka "E") and the rest of the band pulled off a set with some tight playing, lots of intricate riffs with the guitars and on top of that plenty of good tunes too. Of course with the new album "Tomorrow Morning" completing a trilogy of releases within the last year and a half, there had to be some songs from those recent releases, which sounded very good to my ears. There were also nods to classic tunes given their treatment too, with the likes of "Summertime" really handled carefully as well as "Summer In The City" by The Lovin' Spoonful too - that was ace.

Perhaps the highlight of the night for me (and tune of the day) was "Mr E's Beautiful Blues" which they basically did with the band doing the backing instruments for "Twist and Shout" but sung perfectly in time with it to fit the lyrics in for their song. It worked really well and showed that it would be too easy to rest on the laurels of some of the hit singles, so to do it in this way was great. They came back on later for three one-song encores before finally calling it a night, but I was pretty impressed by what I saw. They may be more of a cult indie band these days but the full sold-out Academy told you that the fan base was there and they loved it. Yaay for gigs!

Friday 3rd September - Beating Bulgaria

It was the England v Bulgaria game tonight and a Euro 2012 qualifier at that - the first one of the campaign. I was of course watching it later tonight and after a long day at work, I headed to Tesco to make sure I got all the food in for the week and of course some essentials for tonight, some soft drinks, chocolate (not for me!) and crisps etc so in-game requirements for some of the family coming round were all sorted out. I even made sure that I got enough to make some lovely evening meals for myself and The Sunshine In My Day for during the week, so all was good there.

I headed home and after doing plenty of ironing and cleaning I dived in the shower and got myself changed for the evening's game, putting my Man City retro home shirt on in recognition of the fact that there'd be at least three City players on the pitch tonight: Joe Hart in net, and Gareth Barry and James Milner in midfield. To me it was good to see that, but I was also wary of the fact that the England team had performed really badly in the World Cup just gone and hoped that by putting some fresh new blood in proceedings, it would mean that the team would be able to try and perform better.

And with some of the family over, it was already proving to be the case early on. The ball came over from Ashley Cole and Jermain Defoe volleyed it home for 1-0 within three minutes. It stayed that way till half time and the closest Bulgaria got was when Glen Johnson almost put through his own net, but Hart was well alert to the danger. In fact it was a Hart save that started the England move for the second goal, with Barry and Milner combining to set Wayne Rooney off, and his ball to Defoe was slotted home under the goalkeeper's legs for 2-0.

Admittedly this made things considerably easier for England and on came Adam Johnson, making it four City players on the field. It didn't take him long to put a shot just wide and then minutes later do the business, picking the ball up on the right from Rooney's pass and turning the defender inside before slotting it in the corner. Maybe the keeper should have done better, but I'm not complaining - it was a good finish from Johnson and shows that the £6m that we paid Middlesbrough looks like money very very well spent. And with Defoe rounding off his hat trick for 4-0, good times around.

Tune of the day has to be "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve, which ITV are now of course using in their football coverage whenever England are on. Which is all well and good, but if they could sack off the talentless Adrian Chiles as a presenter (he just can't cut it, sorry) then it'd be even better. And of course the Verve song in turn covers a classic Rolling Stones song too, so it's a bit of the old and the not so old combining to make a classic tune. Ah, those were the days...

Thursday 2nd September - Vinyl Revival

After a long day at the office and a long trip home because of being stuck in traffic due to temporary lights near my house, I decided that the best course of action would be to have a bit of a relaxed evening, especially as The Sunshine In My Sky was coming over later for a while too - always lovely of course. I did all the domestic chores first and got everything all sorted in the house, and then was ready to start making the tea. I was doing some pork loins under the grill along with some charlotte potatoes and peas, and that all went down nicely when we ate it later.

I was in a mood for nostalgia a little tonight too and with not much on the telly whatsoever, we thought we'd have a nice chat and catch up along with playing some older albums. I had to put on Fleetwood Mac's classic "Rumours" on vinyl, and ended up playing The Chain twice (once before she arrived, once after) simply because it's a classic of all time classics. It sounded really good on vinyl though after all these years, showing how good the Pioneer turntable I have is. I then put on mainly for The Sunshine Roxy Music's "Avalon" album, primarily because I do actually like a couple of the songs there myself, and "The Main Thing" sprung to mind (make that tune of the day).

Although that album is probably post the Roxy Music era I really like (the early stuff with Eno and the two albums thereafter) it has its moments and as The Sunshine quite likes Bryan Ferry, I indulged her more as we had a game of Scrabble together and put on the first side of his "The Bride Stripped Bare" album. It's one of the few Ferry solo albums with original material and some of the songs were about his break up with Jerry Hall. It's a roller coaster of a first side with the epic "When She Walks In The Room" ending things there.

Then time for another classic album: "Hotel California" by The Eagles. Having recently nailed the title track of the album on expert drums on Guitar Hero World Tour, I felt it was only right to listen to the whole album. Of course, the likes of "New Kid In Town" is on there but for me the standout track is "Wasted Time" at the end of the first side - a vastly under-rated song of theirs in my view. It has more feeling than say "Desperado" and written in that sort of mode. Bit odd why a reprise instrumental of said track starts side two of course, but that's how the album was I guess.

It was good to be able to play the old vinyl and do it justice, and certainly there's always a warm feeling whenever I play that sort of stuff. It reminds me of childhood, when vinyl was all you could listen to, there was no Internet or anything like that and you had to amuse yourself a lot more than you do now. Music seemed more important and it's no surprise to me that some of the albums I grew up listening to back in the day are ones that have stayed with me - and indeed the passion some of the family have had for music I carry on to this day. It also showed me too that sometimes you need to re-evaluate what you may have thought of an album on first listen and truly appreciate why such albums are deemed classics.

Wednesday 1st September - September Sun

It's surprisingly warm today, as it was yesterday actually. It's almost like the Summer has decided to make a belated comeback just in time for most children heading back to school and lots of us going back to work if they've spent time with their children for the same reason. The issue is as well that one of our buildings we work in is a real sun trap - one side gets the sun all morning an the other in the afternoon. Thankfully we were doing lifting and moving PCs in the cold side of the building in the morning and only doing post-imaging stuff with them in the afternoon, so that at least made things bearable.

It also allowed us to look down below at the building work going on in one of our adjacent buildings, where the former two storey square shaped building is coming down and a nice new four storey glass fronted modern building is taking its place. In theory that'd all be well but to knock it down means a lot of taking things down carefully and not just belting it with a wrecking ball (although I imagine that it would be quite good fun to do so) and so bit by bit we can see the roof coming off and then the supports for each of the sections in turn. Eventually it'll all be flat to start work on so it'll be intriguing to see what happens there.

I went home and then headed to the local Tesco, as I needed some supplies including some milk, as I'd got a bit too generous with the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes the other day and almost ran out of the stuff. At least it means I can have coffee later and a breakfast tomorrow morning before heading for work. I also noticed as well that one of the shops close to my Tesco that used to be a catalogue clearance shop is going to be, guess what, another pound shop of some description! I was half hoping that it might even be a Poundland, as that would be rather excellent all round, but it doesn't quite look the part.

Still, it proves that where I live is pretty much the Mancunian capital of all things pound shop wise. No bad thing in one part, but... let's see if they make as many spelling and grammar mistakes as all the others do. The usual contenders in this are "stationary" for pens and pencils and of course "fancy good's" (note the very poor use of the apostrophe when not required). There's plenty of bad ones out there, and dotted around Manchester are some prime examples, such as Pound Palace and Pound Choice Plus, but possibly my favourite of all has to be Pound-Mart on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. Dear me, I don't know where to begin with that one.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the S&M live version of "Of Wolf and Man" by Metallica. I spent a bit of time listening to this album tonight whilst typing up this missive and doing this month's poem and it gave me plenty of inspiration. It's one of the gigs that I'd have loved to have been at when the band recorded this with the late Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra - it would have been just a great mix of metal and classical together to hear it there and then. It's a good job that it was recorded for posterity as it shows that if you're brave and try something different, it works out. We'll let them off with the fact Deep Purple were the first with their "Concerto for Group and Orchestra" because it had been done that long ago...