Dear Diary... September 2012

Sunday 30th September - Beer in the Rain

I must admit it was rather nice to have such a good night's sleep last night and lie in a fair bit this morning. I hadn't been sleeping too well as of late (primarily because of over the top noise next door which I'm not very happy about to say the least) so the idea of staying over at The Love In My Heart's place was a very good idea to be quite honest. I slept longer than I thought and I do think that maybe it's done me a lot of good to try and wind down a bit and avoid the stress of work and the situation at home.

We eventually got up and we had the Great British Bake-Off repeat on in the background as we had breakfast before we got ready to head out into the city centre later on. It was chucking it down though and wasn't too pleasant as we headed towards the bus stop near her place and for the city, and as we got off the bus, The Love was very happy that she'd brought her brolly with her as the rain bucketed it down. We went into Debenhams and had a look around there and she had some ideas for some clothes as did I and then after a quick stop in That's Entertainment went along to TK Maxx.

I'd seen a couple of jackets in there and wanted The Love's opinion before purchase to see what she thought, there was one that we both liked but it was only available in a large size, not a medium one which was a real shame to be honest. I might have to see if I can see the same one online later and also see what the price is compared to it, but we both agreed that it suited me perfectly and also looked smart - and the dark green was a sensible colour, not some loud in your face colour like some of the ones were.

We then headed in Clarks to look at some shoes before then walking along St Ann's Square to see some of the stalls in the food and drink fair, and we had a lamb burger for lunch from one of the stalls - which was very nice indeed! We also spotted the actor who used to play Martin Platt from Coronation Street who was selling his cheese, but he was having a break and a well earned coffee at the time. We also spotted a few Manchester Flickr people as well who were out on a meet, and they did say that the rain put a lot of people off! Rain and camera lens = no good!

Still, we headed to Albert Square where the Food and Drink Festival was in full swing and The Love and I had a well earned drink. The Robinsons beers were on in the tent which meant I could have had the Elbow "Build a Rocket, Boys!" beer if I so wanted, but I was intrigued by this guest beer with a slightly unpronouncable name (Cwrw'r ddraig aur) - which actually meant Golden Dragon Ale in Welsh, very nice and palatable that was too and was perfect whilst listening to the acoustic musicians who were playing outside in a (thankfully covered) stage and providing a nice backdrop for a drink or two.

To end the day off together, we headed to Kro Piccadilly and I had the coffee and cake deal (the St Clements Cake was as gorgeous as ever so it made it all worth it!) and The Love had a glass of wine, and we chatted for a while in there and perused one of the Sunday newspapers as well and it just felt like a relaxing way to wind down after a long week, with The Commodores' "Easy" playing in the background. I remember it being in vogue in the 1990s due to Faith No More's cover version (which I'll make tune of the day as it's ace) and it just seemed to suit the mood somehow, and I felt really sad when The Love headed home...

Saturday 29th September - A Burning Furniture Issue

I was going to head into the city centre this morning to collect a couple of items I'd ordered online for one of my relations' first birthday next week. I set off thinking that the main road near me was a bit quiet even for a Saturday morning and as I was going to cross the road to head to my bus stop, I soon saw why. One of the local takeaways not far from me was completely burnt out. It transpired later on that the flat above had caught fire overnight and someone had to be rescued off a burning roof at around 3am. The damage though had wrecked the upper floor and the roof upstairs and the roof damage spread either side next door. Not good.

This meant I had a lengthy walk to another bus stop about half a mile down the road as the buses were being diverted, and it was still like that later on when heading back from the city centre. I did have a walk through the Northern Quarter on the way to Go Outdoors in Ancoats as I wanted to look at some coats in there, but it also gave me the chance to shoot with my Nikon F80 film SLR camera, as I needed to use up the remaining film that I had (a 36 exposure film at that) so it was good to walk, take some arty shots and then shop too. Once that was done and I'd been in Go Outdoors, I headed to the two shops to collect my items from, stopped for a coffee in The Mcr Coffee Co in Oldham Street and then headed home.

I didn't have too long before heading to my sister's for my nephew's birthday, so I did the lottery and made sure that was ready just in case I happened to win the quadruple rollover that was happening tonight, and then packaged my films to be sent off to the usual place (DS Colour Labs in Didsbury, they do a fab job with them) to be developed, printed and a copy of the images put on CD so I can easily use them online if I wanted to. It was good that I'd got all the domestic stuff done as well which meant I could head out and then straight to The Love In My Heart's place later.

I had a nice time at my sister's and my two year old nephew was far too occupied with the bouncy castle that my sister had hired and set up in the back garden. It worked really well as lots of the kids were having fun bouncing around in that and using up all their energy, whilst the adults had some nice food along with a cuppa and generally were able to relax. I even had a go with my niece on the bouncy castle myself which was good fun, even if I kept falling over in true Bob Mortimer style (ie: "Vic, I've fallen!") etc.

After being there for a while I walked to the main road to get the bus to Piccadilly Station, where The Love was picking me up and we were heading off to Ikea in Ashton as she wanted to get a couple of things for the house, namely one Billy bookcase and the long Malm chest of drawers. I hadn't been to Ikea in ages so we had a good look around the showroom as well and there were a few things that caught my eye, mainly some new bedding but also how much the pine table and chairs have gone up since I bought them a few years back (and as I varnished mine, they're still in perfect order, sensible me!)

We got to the warehouse and located the aisles where the bookcase and the chest of drawers were. The Love wanted the long Malm one and the bottom of the shelves had none but we could see in the cage above that there were some, so she went to ask an assistant to see if he could get her one down. He was a bit miserable and said that it'd take them ages to get one, and that upset her a bit. I had a brainwave though, we could get two of the smaller size ones, which when put together equals the big one, plus it meant if you wanted to change things around it'd be easier to manouevre around, and it worked out cheaper, so guess what we did? Got it in one.

It also meant that the boxes were much easier to put in The Love's car as well and we were able to lift them easier also, so once we'd gone through the till and got with the big trolley to the car, we were able to load them in and get everything sorted. When we got back, she made us a lovely evening meal courtesy of the dine in for two deal at M&S, some gorgeous chicken and ham in a pastry case with some gorgeous sauce, along with some herb potatoes, carrots and peas. That certainly filled the hole nicely after I'd made the Billy bookcase up.

After the meal and with The Love engrossed in X Factor, I offered to make one of the two Malm chests of drawers up for her and that worked out well - I was able to get it all together. The frame was fine and that didn't take too long - it was the making of the drawers themselves which took the time. There was one fiddly bit where you had to put the bottom of the drawer on and slot it in three places at once, then bang in these plastic stoppers as well. Once I'd sussed it out for one drawer, doing the rest was easy peasy and managed to get them together without too many issues. It looked good when done and I was very happy!

It meant that it was perfect timing for Match of the Day so I could see Man City's 2-1 win at Fulham thanks to a last gasp Edin Džeko winner, and then the Million Pound Drop where some of the contestants weren't that good unfortunately. The mother and daughter did somehow get to question seven but then were undone by a question about which songs David Cameron didn't take with him on Desert Isand Discs. I knew straight away he'd take a Smiths song namely This Charming Man (make that tune of the day), so if I was them I'd have ruled that one out and split the money on the other two. They didn't - they went all out on Fake Plastic Trees, which was the wrong answer. Oooops!

Friday 28th September - Shopping With A Difference

It was a sort of good but also sad day at work today, as our Modern Apprentices finished their two a bit years of service with us, and although some of them at least have been able to get new jobs, for some it was the end of an era which to me was a bit of a shame - on the whole they've been very helpful and willing to muck in with everything, get involved with projects and generally learn quite a bit along the way. We had a bit of a lunchtime get together with us all donating towards some pizzas, cakes et al for everyone, and that was nice to do, and later on after work a lot of us headed to one of the local pubs where games of pool and drinks were to be consumed, the least we could do.

I was also stuck in two meetings during the afternoon which took up most of my time, one of which was our platform team meeting which we tend to do over Microsoft Lync with web cameras so we don't have to physically travel to another venue, and straight after that a couple of us had another meeting straight afterwards as well. I can understand the purpose of all the meetings of course but part of me just wants to be able to get on with stuff and actually do things out there - maybe it's just me!

After joining a few of the folks in the pub as I mentioned, I headed home and my brother in law and niece came to pick me up as we were heading to Costco so I could get the presents that my sister wanted me to get for my nephew's birthday. I hadn't been there in ages and the one in Chadderton was the one of choice. Of course my seven year old niece was in her element and was truly goggle eyed at all the potential things that she could want. I did get what I wanted though - a book with giant floor puzzle and another book which had a play mat and some figures, so all good there.

On the way back we headed to Tesco so I could do my food shopping and thought it was a good idea for my niece to help me out, so if I saw something on the shelves that I wanted which she could reach easily, I'd ask her to see if she could find it and put it in the trolley for me - which was a good idea. It kept her occupied nicely and I did admittedly treat her to a strawberry milk drink (with father's permission of course!) and she was more than happy to help. So much so that as we were loading the trolley at the till she said "Can I come shopping with you again?" which made me smile massively. Awww.

Once all that was done, I headed home, had something to eat, wrapped the presents up and wrote the card out, and then spent some time watching some more classic F1 on Youtube but also listening to some Cabaret Voltaire again, I've really got back into them as of late primarily because I've played a few tracks and really wanted more again. I still need to get a few of their albums on CD, but I have a massive number of them really. I still enjoy some of their early really experimental stuff, none more so than "Silent Command", so make that one tune of the day.

Thursday 27th September - Buy Art Fair

I had a bit of a different and more cultured night planned after work, with all thanks to The Love In My Heart for it really. She had an email at work which mentioned the Buy Art Fair on in the Spinningfields part of the city centre, and it was an invitiation to the preview show on the Thursday evening with the promise of free drinks and even some canapes. It sounded interesting and so The Love sorted out two tickets for us both (which we printed out complete with bar code) and that meant we'd have a nice night ahead of us tonight. As I finish work earlier than she does due to her late shift, I grabbed a coffee in Gorilla after work whilst whiling the time away and that was quite nice to do.

I met The Love after work and she looked lovely in her Matthew Williamson cream top and jeans, and I also looked good too (well I think I did anyway) and so we looked the part for the evening ahead. A few minutes later and we were coming off Deansgate and down towards Hardman Square where the large marquee was that hosted the art fair, and once we'd scanned ourselves in, we had a good look around. A lot of the art was really expensive but you could also tell that some time had been spent in creating the work in the first place.

We got some wine and beer and it was good to walk around having a leisurely drink and admiring the work on show too. A few pieces caught my eye - one was of plenty of the Pink Floyd album and inner sleeve work done in a square grid and that would have looked good in the front room. Another one was of Lego people disguised as famous faces, so for example they had Morrissey, Mark E Smith, Bradley Wiggins et al, and that was smart. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that my brother's girlfriend had some work on show - she wasn't there but one of the artists where she works was, so it was good to see them and chat to them.

A few celebs were there too - and a few from Coronation Street, who were putting their money into buying some works as well. A former star from the show Bill Ward had some photography on show and we spotted him mooching around, but also we saw Antony Cotton (Sean) buying some work, and we kept passing Mikey North (Gary Windass) and Ian Puleston-Davies (Owen Armstrong) - who looked the part with slicked back hair and designer glasses. I also spotted former Manchester City player and legend Gary Owen as well - we do well, we do!

It was thoroughly enjoyable and I do wish I had the money to buy some of the pieces of art there, as some of them really did look ace and there was one which The Love was attracted to because it was bright and colourful with a big heart in the middle, but was classy and not tacky in any way. It was a good evening all round and we can head back any time during the weekend if we so fancy, so we might even do that yet, but we'll see how the weekend pans out.

After all that art we headed towards the city centre and to The Bank on Mosley Street to grab something to eat. There were five ales on cask, including Pendle Witches' Brew (yes!) but also the Nicholson's Pale Ale, made of course by the St Austell Brewery, so Cornish beer = epic win. And they had two courses for £9.95 on, so The Love had the brie and I had the calamari to start (both good!) and then we both had the haddock and chips with mushy peas for main, which was totally gorgeous with a crispy batter. Happy days indeed.

Tune of the day played whilst in there - some nice laid back relaxed tunes including Average White Band's "Pick Up The Pieces". After that it was off to Kro for a final drink and a pint of Dizzy Blonde for me before we headed off homeward. It was a lovely night and we just had a relaxed time together, and it reminded me (as if I needed reminding) about how lovely she is and how much I love her to bits. I really was super impressed that she'd got tickets for tonight and I think we genuinely fitted in with the arty clientele as well. Woo, get us eh?

Wednesday 26th September - Come Fly With Me

I had stayed behind a little while at work as I wanted to try and get a piece of software installed on a laptop for one of our academic staff so that she could collect the laptop tomorrow back from me. She had ordered a licence for Vectorworks 2012, and so I spent some time doing the install. The install DVD is pretty massive and it turned out that it was extracting files from the CD in real time during the install, so it did take a considerable amount of time to do (around half an hour or so). I wasn't in a major hurry though so it was good to get it all sorted really.

I got home and made myself some basa fish and some lemon rice whilst I caught up with the Great British Bake Off on BBC iPlayer. Playing that through my Humax Freeview HD box is well smart - it just works really well and the quality is spot on. I was pleased that Danny was star baker - she's been threatening to be really good the last few weeks and she got it spot on this time, with Brendan being a close second - he was consistent all the way through yet again and is my pick to win it. Knowing that two were going home, the pressure told and it was right that Ryan and Sarah-Jane headed homewards.

My sister came round later with her boyfriend as they were heading off on holiday next week. They had to do their online check in for going and coming back, as they were flying with Ryanair from Manchester next Monday. The process wasn't too bad but it was clear that on each page Ryanair were tempting you to add more things on and pay more (such as for example £10 per passenger each way if you wanted to pick your own seat!) and that to me just added to my premise that they're quite sneaky in the way that they get extra money out of you.

Thankfully the three of us were all sensible enough to say "not having any of that!" and went through all the screens without being conned, and at the end thankfully there was an option to download the boarding passes as a PDF, which I could then print for them. I'm always a bit wary of having one chance to print now in case the printer messes up, so best to be safe instead of sorry, and they were most pleased to have got it all done so that they could look forward to their holiday.

I spent a bit of time later on watching on Youtube via the Blu-ray player the full 1993 Monaco Grand Prix (complete with BBC commentary!) that someone had uploaded. It reminded me of how great Ayrton Senna was and tactically got it right after Alain Prost had jump started and then had clutch issues in the pits, and then Michael Schumacher retired with hydraulic failure whilst in the lead. It was also intriguing to see some of the older teams, and the way that the track has evolved even since then - the run to La Rascasse was still rather narrow back in the day!

Tune of the day in the meantime belongs to some more Cabaret Voltaire. I spent some time listening to their "Remixes" album which gets together a number of 12" and remixes of their songs, mainly from their 1987-1990 output. Thankfully this also meant that the five extra tracks on the bonus 12" that came with their "Groovy, Laidback and Nasty" album are on here on CD, and so means I don't have to play the vinyl but keep it in good condition instead. Out of those, their remix of "Magic" is pretty good, continuing the house inspired theme the original had but developing it, so an easy choice really.

Tuesday 25th September - Not The Thriller With The Villa

It was another tough and long day at work, the least said about that the better to be honest, but at least I could get through the day knowing that The Love In My Heart was cooking a nice meal for me for tea - she was on her early shift which meant she could get home in good time and be prepared for me heading to hers. As it was absolutely weeing it down in bucket loads, I decided to take a different bus from the city centre which stops a bit nearer to her place - they're less frequent, but I timed it pretty well and so it meant that I didn't get completely rained on. Result, I think.

The Love was being as lovely as ever and had even got the sparkling Feelgood cranberry and lime drink to have with our meal, which was much appreciated. She had made a lovely chicken tikka masala with rice, naan bread and even some poppadums too, so that really did fill the gap nicely and we were able to chat about our respective weeks so far whilst munching the food, which was gorgeous. We also spent a bit of time checking out some potential winter coats for me to purchase before my friend came over, and we were then off to the Etihad Stadium to see the Capital One Cup game.

We both thought that a game against Aston Villa should have been relatively okay to go through against, and as their form wasn't too hot going into it, we'd look like we'd play a decent side. We sort of did, we had two youngsters in midfield but did have Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tévez up front, but the defence was certainly (apart from Joleon Lescott) a second string, and that worried me immensely considering how leaky we've been in front of goal as of late.

The first half had a fair few chances and Villa could have scored a couple of times but only for some poor finishing, but as we piled forward it made me wonder when we'd score. I didn't have that long to wait as a superb ball in from Tévez found Balotelli, who turned and shot past the former City keeper Shay Given to take the lead. That was the score till half time and it didn't look too bad at that point, although the danger signs were there, especially with the rubbish handling of Costel Pantillimon which didn't fill any of us with confidence, it has to be said.

And sure enough, a Pantillimon part palm out of goal went straight to Gareth Barry, whose outstretched leg diverted the ball in for the equaliser, and the Villa fans took the mickey a bit (as Barry used to play for Villa but left in acrimonious circumstances) with "There's only one Gareth Barry" and "Barry is a Villa fan". City did go back in front with a beautiful free kick from Aleksandar Kolarov, but it was clear that our defensive frailties were there, and later on Gabby Agbonlahor basically ran through the centre of the defence unchallenged and belted it home for 2-2. It wasn't good and although we had a couple of chances late on, extra time was the right result.

Unfortunately despite us having brought Edin Džeko on as well and having three up front, we were short of ideas really and the defence was bobbins still. A costly mistake again from Pantillimon meant the ball was palmed right into the path of Charles N'Zogbia, and he doesn't miss from there for 3-2. And eight minutes gone in the second half of extra time and it was time for the City fans to head for the exits as Agbonlahor made it 4-2 and deservedly so. I did actually boo at the end as it was a rubbish performance all round from City and I wasn't really pleased whatsoever.

Tune of the day is the song that the teams now come out to for the second half - the old classic that is Josh Wink's "Higher State of Consciousness". I kind of think that the City team themselves need to be in that state right now as they're all over the place defensively with no clean sheets having been kept as of yet and with us out of one cup already, it does worry me a little bit how the season is actually going to go - mind you as a City fan I'm used to all that side of things!

Monday 24th September - Rain, Rain, Do One!

Even for a city that's usually pretty rainy, today in Manchester just felt like one long grey deluge of rain everywhere. It started when I left for work this morning (and left early too as I had a fair few things to be getting on with) and even with a detour via the city centre and heading home later on, it was still hammering it down somewhat with just constant pelting of heavy fall. The umbrella sellers on Market Street would have probably made more money had they brought bigger and better brollies to be honest!

It was the start today as well of a slightly different way of how we do things and I think it'll take a bit of time to bed in and see what actually works for the best. It did mean I could multi task a little, so I was testing out a new driver package for this rather large and hefty HP Z220 Workstation, which as well as having 8GB of RAM and a high end nVidia Quadro graphics card, also had USB3 built in as well as multiple displays out (2 x display port and DVI if I remember correctly) so all good.

I was going to head out for a walk during the lunch break but with the weather being so horrid I decided against it, and thankfully I'd brought some lunch in as well which saved me lots of hassle of having to queue in places near work with everyone else. It's amazing how exponentially you've got to wait in shops near work at certain times of year and at the moment it's certainly proving to be the case somewhat. And when you've not got that much time to waste during a break, every minute spare you can get for yourself counts massively.

In a sort of tribute to the rainy conditions I found that on Youtube someone had put up the whole of the infamous 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, complete with endless rain, a watered track in the tunnel to make it a bit less contrasting conidtions, and lots of spinning off on corners. The picture and sound was cutting out early on for Murray Walker and James Hunt, makes me wonder how they managed back then with the equipment being nowhere as good as now. Of course I was thankful that I got to see qualifying and most of the race in the dry this year!

Tune of the day is from the rather epic Nine Inch Nails album "The Fragile" which is still my favourite album of theirs - it's just so desolate and yet moody and dramatic at the same time. The track in question is "We're In This Together" which sounds defiant as well as full of controlled noise and anger, and coupled with its video at the time really does show how much they were pushing their own boundaries. Well worth another listen to the whole album if you get time - and you do need to.

Sunday 23rd September - F1 and Frustration

We had a leisurely morning, did The Love In My Heart and I, not least because we were both rudely awoken at around 3am by the sound of one of the neighbours rowing at full blast and at full volume. We had opened the bedroom window to get some air in but it was clear that even if it had been shut, we'd have still heard what was going on. It wasn't very nice and took us some time to get back to sleep as well - so the least I could do was have a bit of a lie in and try and get a decent amount of shut eye.

After a coffee and some bacon toasties, we were up and ready and just in time for the Singapore Grand Prix, which turned out to be a fairly long race - so much so that I was pleased I'd set the box to record it as I ended up watching the final part of the race later when I got home. I felt gutted for Lewis Hamilton that he had unfortunately had a gearbox failure when leading the race, as Sebastian Vettel went on to win with Jenson Button a good second. It was more gutting for Hamilton as a 1-3 for the team would have also meant lots of constructors' points, and it would have closed a bit more of the gap to Fernando Alonso who ended up third.

It always intrigues me with it being a night race though - it speeds through the dark and even though the streets are really really well lit, it does take some getting used to, not least because the heat and humidity there also makes it a very tiring race as well, one for the endurance specialists I think. It's also unique in that the track goes underneath one of the grandstands that is close by the river front, so makes it a different viewpoint entirely, and with plenty of roads heading above the track itself as well!

My friend and I headed over to the Etihad Stadium to see if Manchester City could bounce back from their European escapades in Madrid with a win over Arsenal. I knew that the game was going to be tight and after wins for Man U and Chelski over the weekend, a win was what we needed to stay up there near the top of the table. I also suspected that there'd be plenty of hangover from midweek and it would be good to see Sergio Agüero back and in the side after a month out injured.

The game was pretty tight first half with Arsenal on the break having a few good chances with the likes of Gervinho missing a fair few, and we went close once or twice without really threatening. Just before half time we got a corner, it was floated in and up went Joleon Lescott to score and take the lead. A minute or so after that Agüero's attempted cross to the box fell to the feet of Edin Džeko who brought a great save out of the Arsenal keeper to prevent us going 2-0 up before half time.

Sadly, the second goal didn't come, despite a couple of close calls early in the second half, and one incident where Agüero stayed on his feet to put the shot in but clearly looked like he was fouled. Maybe he could have gone down and claimed a penalty, but he should have been rewarded for at least trying to play the game in the correct manner instead of whinging and diving every few minutes like some players tend to do. The more pressure Arsenal put on, the more worried I felt that we didn't finish them off, and with a few minutes to go a corner was cleared only as far as Laurent Koscielny, who thundered home a shot from close range for 1-1.

So a score draw wasn't good enough and as we headed back home I thought that we are suffering from the hangover of winning the title last season and not quite getting back to full form as yet. I just hoped that we would be able to pick things up soon because there seemed a definite spark missing today - I don't know what it is, but something wasn't quite right. The rain was trying its best to dampen the spirits as we left the ground as I kept thinking of what might have been today.

I ended up watching Dragons' Den late and seeing the two sisters from the lovely Sweet Mandarin restaurant get some well earned cash from the dragons, so that was a good way to see out the evening before taking an early night. Tune of the day in the meantime is Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain", the proper F1 theme and absolutely perfect to get you in the right mood before the racing, complete with stunning bass and guitar lines. Bit concerning that Jake Humphrey's gone to BT Vision and is leaving BBC F1, but he might live to regret that..

Saturday 22nd September - Hard Drives and Hard Questions

Had a bit of a busy but leisurely day today. I needed to get my hair cut though as it was really getting thick and clumpy, and it's not good when it's like that. Thankfully the lovely people at The Northern Cutter did their usual wonders and got it all looking rather neat and tidy, which always makes me feel a fair bit better inside if I feel good on the outside. I went over to Kro in Piccadilly and decided to have a nice big coffee and a St Clements Cake to go with it for elevenses, and that just seemed to work well with the likes of Motown music in the background providing a chilled out Saturday morning.

I met up with one of my friends from Flickr with her son in tow as I had offered to take a look at her external hard drive to see if we could rescue any data from it. After heading back to mine and me unscrewing the drive enclosure, leaving the bare drive in tact, I plugged it into my PC to see if I could see anything. The answer, unfortunately, was a big fat no - it looked very much like a stuck spindle in the drive and each time you tried to start it up, it would just not move anywhere and be recognised whatsoever. Not good!

We did have a bit of a break and as her son was intrigued with the Wii I whacked on Rock Band 3 and we did a few songs with him on vocals and me on guitar, and that worked pretty well actually, as it meant a bit of team work was involved to play well. I even went solo a bit later on and did David Bowie's classic "Space Oddity" on vocals which was good fun - not least as I managed 100% on expert - ooh yeah, I still have it after months of not playing it - so tune of the day there.

I even took the film camera into the city centre for a bit and we met up with another couple of people I know from Flickr, and had a bit of a wander around the Northern Quarter, avoiding the potential flare up that was a Muslim protest over an American film basically satiring their religion, and a extreme right white only group that looked to be setting their stall close by Piccadilly Gardens and by the statues. It was a case of getting out of there as soon as possible and instead walking around a much quieter and calmer part of the city.

I headed home later on and The Love In My Heart came around, and I made us a nice three course meal for the evening, starting off with some rustic mushroom soup and some lovely crusty granary malted grain bread to go with it, followed by braised steak in diane sauce with potatoes and vegetables, with a New York cheesecake to finish. It went pretty well and I think The Love was pretty pleased, and she had a nice bottle of wine as well and had X Factor on (much to my dismay) so she was a happy bunny at least.

Later on we saw The Million Pound Drop, and it was pretty tense with some of the questions being pretty hard and I can see why not many people were winning at the moment. One couple were a bit stuck on the first question but got through, and then on the second they didn't have a clue about the film Gremlins, which was sort of essential to answer the question about which answer wasn't an official guideline to looking after the gremlins? Obviously it was saying their name three times, but if you've never seen it, then you don't know, and they lost all their money. Ooops!

Friday 21st September - Mixed Bag

A right mixed bag of a day, and one that was a really difficult one at the same time. I had got in early partly because The Love In My Heart stayed over and gave me a lift to the office (she was on a late shift herself) and so that meant I could crack on with today's task in hand - getting four replacement PCs up and working in our AV store on the sixth floor of one of the buildings. It meant that I could also reconfigure one of their swipe card readers to only read the eight digit numbers on the ID cards, and it means typing in a series of commands in Notepad at a mere two characters per second, slow but sure.

It did look good when done, and after that it was doing a fair bit of cleaning up. As we're moving stuff over to Windows 7, and an Active Directory environment, in essence that's dropping off the old Novell and Zenworks workstations as the clients are no longer needed. However, the workstations are still registered in the Zenworks database unless they're deleted and got rid of, so spent a bit of time today working on that and getting things cleaned up. Part of the reasoning behind that is that then we'll have an idea as to what's left out there to do - not daft, us!

It was a hectic afternoon getting some last minute things tied up and all good to go, but on the whole it was a tough week and one I must admit I'm glad to see the back of. I just hope that things start to calm down a touch next week but I don't think that they will somehow. Ah well. I consoled myself somewhat by heading to Tesco and getting all the food shopping done - and plenty of it, too. I got myself some nice food for tomorrow night as I'm cooking for The Love In My Heart, you see, and that'll make for a good night in - not least as I got a nice bottle of rioja as well.

After that and having some tea it was a quick trip down the road to Aldi as well as they have real ales in bottles for not that much money, and got myself some more Brewers Dark for 99p a bottle, Batemans Gold Medal ale for the same price and then some Jennings Cocker Hoop for £1.29 a bottle too, so that wasn't an expensive do but proved to be worthwhile, and I might even have one of those tomorrow night, we shall see. It was good to get all that sorted and so be able to relax for most of the rest of the weekend to be honest.

I spent some time this evening listening to the Orbital album "Wonky" and this is growing massively on me, I think because in a way it's gone back to their more simplistic but well smart techno style with no faffing about either. I still love the closing track "Where Is It Going?" as it has the feel of epic progressive techno if you know what I mean, but the other track that's really getting into the brain and not letting go is "Stringy Acid" which pretty much does what it says on the tin, with a killer hook line or three and a main string chord that just draws you in wonderfully well, so tune of the day it most definitely is.

Thursday 20th September - Time For Tea For Three

After a lengthy day in work, where I spent most of the afternoon on one floor of the building I used to be based in, basically renovating and setting up some of the new PCs in there (now we can actually get in the front door it makes life considerably easier, let me tell you) and be able to network up some points so that everything where possible can be made live and all set up very nicely. It wasn't without its nightmares though and it really does feel like everything is happening for a reason at the moment. Ah well, just have to grin and bear it sometimes..

I headed home and started some of the washing of clothes off and then headed out and avoided the rain as I was heading over to Mum's for tea. The Love In My Heart was also meeting me there as well so the three of us could have a chat and catch up, and knowing how nice Mum's cooking normally is, I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss really. And Mum didn't disappoint either to be honest - the roast pork that she did with potatoes and vegetables with lashings of gravy really did fill the gap rather nicely to say the least.

It was good to chat to Mum and she wanted me to check over the train tickets that she'd got for her forthcoming trips out and make sure she knew what she was doing. I guess if it's organised in a way that she knows what is what, it does make life easier. I also suggested to her that when she heads with my sister to Birmingham in a few weeks time, she uses that as a trial run for her solo trip so that she can get used to a few things herself as well. We've also arranged to take her out for the day on her birthday as well, so that will be nice without question.

We had a coffee and some bakewell tarts (not the proper Bakewell puddings I should add but more the Mr. Kipling imposter style) and chatted more about all sorts, and it was nice to be able to relax for the evening and take it all relatively easy. I chatted with my brother about his forthcoming trip away and how he was seriously considering a camera, so we were working out what would be best and how he'd be able to get the most for his money, so he was pretty pleased on the whole.

We also showed Mum where The Love and I had booked for our holiday next year, and I was so glad we booked the place when we did as it's now completely full for June, July and August. And with the views that you get from the front window, it's not surprising really. I'm just so happy though because it means one thing - we'll be going back to Cornwall! And that always makes me happy thinking about it. In fact, I'm going to make "One Fine Day" by 3 Daft Monkeys tune of the day because it's such a happy song and because they're from there, so that makes me feel happy.

Wednesday 19th September - Attempting To Catch Up

It's still been pretty hectic in work, but I expect nothing less and as such I just had to crack on with it. The main task of the day was getting over to set up the new PCs in the CAM suite, and for the first two of the four I had to install the drivers for the Universal Laser Systems laser cutters, and once the PC restarts, you then connect it via USB and it should detect without issues. One of them did and that was perfectly fine, but the other one didn't. I remembered having the same issue last time out and the way to resolve it was to use a utility which sees the device with its wrong USB ID, then reprograms the device to the right USB ID, so you can then connect and drive it.

The third PC is used for working on designs and as such doesn't have a laser cutter attached but the drivers are on there anyway, so in case it's needed for a hot swap it can be done fairly easily, and the fourth one runs a HP Designjet 3D Printer. Yes, that's right - 3D! It's larger than an über-washing machine down the local launderette and takes its time but really does produce some stunning designs in three dimensions. It actually sends the data via a network crossover cable, but the new PCs are small and so you can't insert a PCI network card in them.

I had a solution to hand though - we had a Belkin USB docking station (one of a few spare) which had an Ethernet connector at the back. Once I installed the drivers this meant that it'd effectively be seen as a USB to Ethernet adapter, and so I could assign that a standalone IP address and connect to the 3D printer that way - and it worked flawlessly, and the HP software showed the printer as present and able to send stuff to it if we needed. I was pretty impressed.

The last of the laser cutters to get running was an older Kaitian Tech CM90 laser, and the drivers and software are particularly icky to get running. Eventually I had to install an older 2.1 version of the driver along with its ACE USB utility, which happens to work as a bridge between the driver and the software you run, and then update the driver to 2.9.5 so it worked on Windows 7. As it turned out, the driver only shows the panel to send the job to the printer's USB onboard memory if you're an admin for some reason, so I had to work around that somehow to get it to play ball. Ouch!

I did feel satisfied though and that meant I was catching myself up with stuff that I couldn't do over the Summer period because the building was being renovated, and so gradually it's feeling like everything is being done right now. I went home later feeling a little bit better about things than I've been doing. I do like to get my teeth into projects and to try and get them done gives me some form of satisfaction at least. And as I knew that The Love in My Heart was on a late shift at work tonight, it gave me time to catch up on a bit of telly, namely the Great British Bake-off from last night, which was bloody and dramatic - who'd have thought that from a baking show?

The Love came over later and I made us some spaghetti with meatballs for tea whilst we chatted for a while about our respective weeks so far. I also snuggled up a bit in front of the telly with her as she wanted to watch Mrs Biggs on ITV1, as I know she's been seeing it every week. It was the first time I saw it and it wasn't as bad as I thought, although of course Daniel Mays is more familiar to me when he's been in Ashes to Ashes in the final series, but tonight he seemed pretty good as well which was good to see. Lots of 1960s music featuring in the background as well which really did make it feel more authentic somehow.

Tune of the day in the meantime is something I had on full blast when I was home earlier. I'd been listening to a lot of Cabaret Voltaire singles as of late, especially those on CD as I wanted to transfer them to MP3 format for the portable music player in the near future. The Mute re-issue CD single of "Nag Nag Nag" does have that classic track on of course, but it also has the John Robie 12" version of "Yashar" which I happen to have the original of on Factory Records as well. It's classic stuff and proves just how ahead of time they were.

Tuesday 18th September - Harsh Real-ity

It was another fairly lengthy day in the office, as you'd expect, although the mass of everyone arriving yesterday did at least die down a fair bit, which was good to see. I had spent most of today getting the four PCs that are for a specialist CAM suite ready for tomorrow, they just needed a bit of extra software adding on as well as making sure that any Windows updates that were added since they were imaged were done. There were plenty of updates that needed to be added so it was good that it was all taken care of now rather than faff about tomorrow, so here's hoping.

I also worked on getting a couple of desktop machines imaged and also was showing a colleague what to do if the user logs in and they end up with a constantly repeating user profile that seems mandatory. It turns out that a registry key needs to be deleted as well as the profile folder, so the next time it generates a proper non-volatile profile for the user. It's fairly easy to do once you know where the key is, but at least it meant that the staff user could carry on working and know that everything was done properly, so that felt positive at least.

It did drag on a bit throughout the day, if only because it just felt like everything was happening at once and it was a case of occasionally catching breath to get yourself together. We had a laptop back from the repairers so was able to make one member of staff very happy by handing them theirs back, and also I was able to then get everything set up on the trolley for tomorrow morning's rollout. Planning ahead has to be the thing I need to do most of all right now, so good to be able to do that.

After having something to eat for tea and seeing a twosome win a cool £11K on Pointless, I awaited everyone coming over in the family to see Manchester City away at Real Madrid in the Champions League. Of course, I didn't expect City to win but thought that a draw might be good enough for us to be able to show how much we'd progressed. I made us all a brew as me, my uncle, my brother and brother-in-law were glued to the telly to see what would happen.

The first half was mainly all Real Madrid admittedly with Joe Hart pulling off some excellent saves, and the odd break from Yaya Toure was about the highlight of the half for us. We had to change slightly when Samir Nasri went off injured and was replaced by Aleksandar Kolarov, who went left midfield and looked rather purposeful as he marauded down there during the course of the game. Must admit though that at half time I'd have happily taken 0-0 and so it was. We didn't look like scoring but we were doing enough at the moment to be able to keep it together.

The second half started and Real came at City in waves and I thought it might be a matter of time before we score, but could we do something on the break? We were soon to find out as Carlos Tévez played a one two with Yaya Toure, he then released the sub Edin Džeko. I was thinking "please, please!" and he was coolness personified as he slotted it low and hard past Iker Casillas... yessssssss! - couldn't believe it and we all went pretty mental as that meant we'd unbelievably taken a 1-0 lead at the Bernabau. This doesn't happen, does it?

It was too good to be true though as a few minutes later a shot from Marcelo deflected off Javi Garcia for 1-1, and his two previous long range shots had been pile drivers which were just over and something we should have learned from but didn't. Still, didn't stop us though and after Pablo Zabalata went in bravely for a challenge and was fouled, we had a free kick. Kolarov floated a beauty onto the six yard box, it bounced, missed everyone and went in the back of the net!! 2-1 to City. Now I was dreaming wasn't I? But it was good to see us bounce back like that.

Sadly that was as good as it got as Real had piled on the likes of Luka Modriç, Karim Benzema et al and it would be Benzema who was given a little bit too much time to pick a low and hard shot into the bottom corner for 2-2. And as if that wasn't painful, right on the 90 minute mark Cristiano Ronaldo turned inside, shot low and hard and the ball dodged Vincent Kompany's head before boucing in front of Hart and in for 3-2. A harsh lesson to learn and one that made me feel so gutted that we'd thrown it away from a possible winning position. At the same time though I can't really argue that Real were the better side, but to have pushed them all the way at their place, that had to make me pretty proud it has to be said.

Tune of the day seems appropriate enough for today - the official theme from the Champions League. When you hear it, the hairs on the back of the neck stand on end as it builds in a crescendo of classical instruments and plenty of epic choral singing, and in three languages too as it gets to the high ending of "Les grandes equipes, the champions!" and really does set you in the mood for the game ahead too. I'll be hearing that in the Etihad Stadium soon enough...

Monday 17th September - The Onslaught Begins

It is always the week that is the mental week at work, and one that no matter how well you prepare for, there's always something that happens. And today was positively mental. Of course every single student was back, and with an influx of new ones, it was a case of all hands on deck to be ready to support the day's enrolments, the ID cards being issued and photos taken, and all that sort of thing. The plan to use one of the doors which didn't open on the day was changed slightly but in the end I think we got there relatively unscathed.

I had plenty to do though - imaging a few laptops and getting them ready for a couple of new starters, and also sorting out a desktop PC to replace an older desktop PC for an office so at least a member of staff would be up and running by the time it was done overnight tonight. I also had to head out to try and sort out an issue where a laptop wasn't talking to an external monitor and once I realised that the relevant Samsung hotkeys installer wasn't present, I soon sorted that out and we were up and running.

I know full well that it's always the week where everything happens and it certainly felt like it today, and I'd almost clean forgotten that I'd packaged up Adobe CS6 Master Collection and it was ready for testing. I'd only packaged the 64-bit version simply because in 32-bit half the applications such as Premiere are missing. I sent it down to my test 64-bit laptop and everything worked rather well, so was pretty pleased that it all worked as intended. I think I've got the hang of this packaging lark now..

On the way home I went via the city centre, initially to get the new Skunk Anansie album "Black Traffic" as it was out today and from what I'd heard, it sounded decent - and it was on their own label too so at least the dosh would go more back to themselves as artists. I managed to pick up the limited CD and DVD set in a hardback book type sleeve which looked rather good, but then I saw the 2 chart CDs for £15 deal and picked up the recent Vaccines album release "Come of Age" plus Orbital's "Wonky" album which was still in the deal despite the album coming out in March. Had to get them both too and as I'd just been paid last weekend, why not?

It was therefore a nice evening spent listening to my new purchases. On went the Skunk Anansie album first and I have to say I'm pretty pleased. I think having their own label has allowed them more freedom and this certainly comes across like a band in total control. Hard to pick an outstanding track at the moment but I have to say that I really like the ballsy feel of "Spit You Out" complete with a rocking chorus that's right up there with some of their great moments. Tune of the day that one, and I think this album might be getting a few more listens over the next few days.

I also listened to the Orbital album "Wonky" and I really wished that I'd bought it earlier. One review it was like the band rediscovering all their great bits and I have to agree, especially the closing track "Where Is It Going" which has some simple yet wonderfully put together clear electronica which builds and builds into an epic main theme that just progresses throughout the whole track. It's so simple and so wonderfully done, and I can see this track going on full blast very soon again let me tell you.

Sunday 16th September - Rainy Lancashire

The Love In My Heart and I had a nice night out last night, heading to Kro in Heaton Moor for a drink first (they had bottles of Build a Rocket Boys beer in the absence of cask beer, unfortunately it was in the fridge - meh!) and then on to the Elizabethan for an evening meal, where the steak and ale pie was on even more top form than it usually was, and The Love's steak and chicken sizzler was rather sizzling and looked very nice indeed, before heading into Didsbury for a drink in the Milson Rhodes, with some very nice Hawkshead ale to boot, happy bunny. We even got back to snuggle on the sofa and watch Million Pound Drop on Channel 4 +1 - cos that's how we roll.

Anyway, we had planned to head to Gawthorpe Hall which is just outside of the town of Padiham and on the way to Burnley, and as we left Manchester the weather was okay. We headed on to the M60, then the M66 and then the A56, skirting around Rawtenstall and Haslingden (and the massive sign for Winfields on the roundabout) before then heading under the M65 and towards Padiham. However as we were just getting beyond Ramsbottom at the end of the M66 the heavens started to open (you had to feel for anyone being at the Ramsbottom Festival today) and started to lag it down.

As we got along the tree-lined narrow road that led you to the small car park for Gawthorpe Hall, the rain abated a little and we managed to get quickly to the house and have a look around. It was well worth it, especially the really nice old rooms lovingly restored in the ground and top floors of the house, along with the long gallery that takes up most of the back of the top floor. It was good to see that plenty of the floors sloped massively and would have probably done so when it was built, and that's just how it was back in the day.

What fascinated us both though was the textiles and embroidery collections that were all on the first floor - many of them were curated by one of the former family menbers who ran the house and restored the house lovingly before passing it on to the National Trust for safe keeping before her death. Her legacy in all things craft is in the exhibitions with different styles of craft including Kashmir, Irish Crochet, European lace work, and even plenty of costumes as well dating from various eras. For any art and design student, it's worth the admission alone to see that to be honest.

We left the house and walked quickly around the garden so I could get a couple of shots of the house, but to be honest the rain was that bad and the ground looked a little muddy, so we made this a pretty short escapade outside before heading back to the car park. It was a shame as if the weather had have been decent we'd have walked around the gardens a lot more and explored the wooded area. Made a mental note that we'll have to head back when we get better weather.

On the way back we were thinking about a Sunday lunch (well, late afternoon lunch/tea) but we didn't see many pubs en route as it was dual carriageway, so we came off for the A676 at Edenfield, headed down through Stubbins and Ramsbottom and stopped off at the Hare and Hounds in Holcombe Brook. I'd passed this pub many a time before and never been in it, so thought it'd be a good time to do so now. And it proved not to be too bad a move either with ten different cask ales on (ooh yeah!) so I had the Windermere Pale first and then had the Moorhouses' "Witch Hunt" which was rather luscious.

We had the Sunday Roast deal in there too which was two courses including the roast for £10.75, and the roast topside of beef I had was decent, although they skimped a little on the potatoes but gave you lots of veg to make up for it. The treacle tart and ice cream was good enough, although no treacle tart will ever beat the Midland at Marple Bridge. Ever. It was a very nice meal and a nice relaxed atmosphere too, and they even had "pie of the day" which someone on another table had and it was a proper pie, so that was something else to make a mental note of.

It was hard to say goodbye to The Love after a lovely time together but she wanted to head home and watch the likes of Downton Abbey, so I watched the recording of the Australian Rules football semi final that I'd recorded off ESPN last night, and then saw some of the women's golf Open final which looked to be in pretty bad conditions and a miracle if you got round in anything approaching par. I also had some classic 12" singles on including Cabaret Voltaire's "Sensoria" which on my turntable and rig sounded just as powerful and punchy as it did back in 1984 - great stuff and tune of the day.

Saturday 15th September - Wireless Woes Gone!

I had been getting a tad frustrated with my USB wireless dongle as of late, as it seemed to lose connection far too often despite showing a signal strength of either four or all five bars, and maybe it was an incompatibility issue with the PC I have. I had previously used it in conjunction with my Humax Freeview HD box (it uses the same chipset as Humax's official dongle and is rock stable on the Linux-based OS that the box has) and when I decided to move the router downstairs and plug all my AV stuff into it wired (Sony Blu-ray player, Onkyo amp, Humax box and eventually if money is okay a new Samsung Freeview HD smart TV) I went wireless with the PC.

I decided to take some action and headed to one of our local PC suppliers who also do lots of spare parts as well, and they had the TP-Link TL-WN781ND card in. Not only is it really small with it being a PCI-Express card, but also for those PC users with low profile brackets, even came with a changeable bracket. Nice touch that, but I didn't need it. It's also based on a pretty solid Qualcomm Atheros chipset, and I've used plenty of laptops at work with the same chipset in and they've always been rock stable for wireless too. One quick trip in there, and the card was purchased.

I got home, put the card inside the PC, switched the PC back on, installed the driver (which I'd already downloaded in advance, not daft me) and reconnected the card back to my wireless router, and it was all done, nice and quick and painless. During the course of use during today (and right now in fact) it all seems pretty good and pretty stable as well, with a solid connection. Crucially it's also got a detachable antenna, so if I wanted a bigger or stronger antenna etc, I could easily replace that instead and not have to fork out for a new card. Isn't it good when these things work out for the best eh?

I headed to my Mum's to see my brother, as it was his birthday today. He is heading away in November for a few weeks and so wanted the money so he could either buy himself some new clothes or swap it for some local currency where he's heading to, which is fair enough. It was good to have a chat to him and he showed me that on his Sony Experia phone he had an Atari 2600 emulator - complete with the Activision Decathlon! Of course we had to have a quick go, but controlling a joystick waggling game on a touch screen phone wasn't quite right somehow. I did get 8.47m in the long jump (cue little jingle!) and that showed to me I still had it. Excellent.

It was nice to chat to Mum as well and with a cup of coffee and a lovely home made cake, I showed her a couple of things on the laptop and she looked at the pics of myself and The Love In My Heart's trip to the Paralympic Games last week. She seemed pretty pleased we'd had good weather and liked The Love's scarf too - I forgot to tell her though where we got it from!) and it was good to catch up - plenty to share with The Love when I see her later I reckon.

Tune of the day today is a classic eighties Cabaret Voltaire number - namely "I Want You". It's their full on Industrial beat-driven era stuff, and really does pound massively with the drums and bass line. The 12" mix is well worth locating for yourself and I proudly have that (and the 7" single too) as well as the album on CD that it appears on - "The Covenant, The Sword and the Arm of the Lord" - try finding it on CD now, well pricey. Also for retro gaming fans, that track provided inspiration for the second half of Rob Hubbard's main theme to the game "I, Ball" as well. Wonder if the game makers knew then what the song is actually about??

Friday 14th September - The Long Good Friday

It was a long day but ultimately rewarding, as I had arranged for a number of our technicians in one of the buildings to have their PCs upgraded. Basically we're just swapping over the base units for a better model with faster processor, more RAM etc and we've already imaged them all with Windows 7 - the idea being that we can quickly get everything deployed out and use everything else that exists because it all works well. We'd also then know that in the future we could upgrade the whole kit a couple of years down the line. It's worked well so far and today I did four more machines to add to two already done.

I also had to head up to the seventh floor of one of our buildings and drop off some A3 paper for the staff that use one of the printers up there - and thankfully we'd kept a stock of paper in the building on the first floor (good job too because there's no lift to ground because of the building work). As I got up to the seventh floor and dropped off the paper, the fire alarm went off, so myself and a fair few colleagues ended up heading down seven flights of stairs and outside - I was a bit lucky with the timing there to be honest, as it meant I could head over to another building and finish off two PCs that I had been working on.

A fair amount of time during the afternoon was spent sorting out some last minute things for Monday but also ensuring that I had managed to keep the office reasonably tidy too - with the influx of PCs and laptops that we're replacing or upgrading, it's always good to keep things neat and tidy in the office so we know where we are. Storage space is at a premium (particularly as we can't use one of the rooms anymore as that's needed from next week) and so it's a real case of keeping everything tight and shipshape. It did feel good to leave the office and head home for the evening knowing it was all going according to some sort of plan.

After the weekly food shopping trip to Tesco, it was nice just to take things relatively easy during the evening, and spent a bit of time with a cuppa and enjoying some entertainment delivered to me via the Blu-ray player. One of the online features it has is the Music site muzu.tv, where you can watch lots of music videos via the telly. It works out pretty well, and even doing a search for the likes of Suicidal Tendencies came up with their classic "Send Me Your Money" (had to play that) as well as lots of Swing Out Sister. That's kind of how I roll really.

However, what I was really surprised at was the fact that the search for Cabaret Voltaire even had some videos on there! That I didn't expect as after all the Cabs are a bit more obscure, even though musically they have a solid reputation. I had a trip back to the late 1980s with the likes of "Don't Argue" (got to love the "Who's Arguing" mix on the B-side of the 7" single though), "Keep On" and best of all their house inspired "Hypnotised" which even was filmed over in the USA. It's a great tune as well and the video sees messrs Kirk and Mallinder in house style gear of the time - a tad surreal. Still, tune of the day no question.

Thursday 13th September - Incomplete Without Scrabble

It was a long day at work, but justifiably so, as there's plenty of work to do before next week when it really does get pretty mental - and a week that you do have to prepare for massively. Thankfully we'd managed to do a lot of preparatory work today and so should mean that with all the testing we did, it should be super smooth as possible. It was a frustrating experience though when a printer for ID cards that had been working fine all week suddenly decided not to work - and even worse, miss out the barcodes for some strange reason. We got to the bottom of it but it did make me wonder how flaky the software actually is in a Windows 7 environment.

Another little task for me today was to work out why a pretty high spec laptop was running like a dog needing water. I did some tests by running our Windows 7 task sequence via SCCM and it seemed to fail every time. I thought and suspected it was the hard disk and so had a spare to hand - put that in, task sequenced it - and it worked, first go! Happy days indeed, and even more so once I looked at rolling out Adobe CS5 Master Collection to it (the staff member concerned had a licence) - it set off overnight, so here's hoping it'll work tomorrow.

After heading home and spending a fair bit of time watching Pointless and inevitably shouting the answers at the telly, I started prepping the evening meal for when The Love In My Heart was to come over. I ended up doing us some nice chicken kievs (fresh ones from Tesco) along with some charlotte potatoes and garden peas. All very nice and just in time so that The Love could watch Emmerdale whilst happily munching away - she liked it and that's what matters.

After she'd watched the soaps for the evening we got out the Scrabble and decided to have a game. We hadn't played for ages and I think at first we were both a little rusty in parts, but eventually we got the hang of things again and were scoring well. One of my best moves was FLECK down the right hand side, with a triple word score scoring me a very nice 42 points, and followed that up later with LAX (maxing FA and EX) for a massive 56 points due to the X being on triple letter score both ways. Neat little moves like that (as well as good uses of the blank and S if you have them) were the key.

Whilst that was on, we listened to the Swing Out Sister album "Private View +2" which I'd purchased on import from Japan. The +2 indicates that there's two extra tracks on this release, and sod's law now is that the UK release (albeit without the extra tracks) is due out soon. Still, it's very enjoyable with much more chilled out versions of some of their singles over the years, including a lovely version of "Incomplete Without You" (make that tune of the day - love that song), a much more mellow "Breakout" (more how they play it live now) and a beautiful rendition of their cover of "Am I The Same Girl" too. I'd strongly order it now if I were you.

After that was a documentary on BBC Four about "the age of the train" and how the InterCity 125 helped change the perception of the railways in the UK, along with the advertising campaign with Jimmy Savile presenting - with the classic Peter Auty rising vocal "this is the age...." and Jimmy cuts in his Leeds accent "of the train!" There were plenty of classic moments with those adverts, and the fact that they had a man running British Rail who actually understood that the customers came first and it was getting them back on the trains that mattered, and it's a recipe for victory.

A couple of ads follow, the first of which was filmed in no less than Bodmin Parkway station in Cornwall (I know this station well, you get off here to get the bus to Padstow and pass it on the way down to the far west of the county):

And this one - another classic - was him on business doing the classic "right gamers!" thumbs up that you used to see on the old shows such as Games Master in the late 1980s:

Classic stuff, and considering that the adverts are so well known for their time, it also proved that first class was a tad more nicer - the cooked breakfast looked rather good and these days you don't get that on a lot of first class services anymore...

Wednesday 12th September - The Truth Will Out

It was good to see that at least the fix I suggested yesterday for the card software worked, and now the Lifecam Studio webcam could be seen by the software and capture images, so felt at least sort of pleased that it was going to do something useful. I guess that these days most software packages use the likes of DirectShow because it's fully DirectX supported and pretty standard, but also because there's not that much programming required, whereas in the old days of TWAIN you had to really write more into the driver to talk to things properly - and could be quite hit and miss as well.

It did feel like far too much was going on with too little time to do everything. I managed to swap out three new laptops for staff and collect their old ones back, and set up any printers etc on the new laptops. It's a bit easier to do that when the staff aren't around because you can get on with it, and later in the day I was in the old building I used to be based in to patch up some network sockets with my colleague. It felt a bit strange being back in there but at the same time strangely familiar as well.

Of course, the big news of the day was the news that many people, especially Liverpool fans, have been waiting for - the independent report into what actually went on at the Hillsborough football disaster of 1989. I have to say as a football fan, I can remember where I was on that fateful day - seeing Man City get tonked 4-0 by Blackburn away. But as we left Ewood Park with the radio on, it was clear that the result (and every other that day) didn't matter - the disaster unfolding over in Sheffield was where all our attention was, hoping and wishing that no one would be fatally injured, but sadly they were.

What was shocking though was just how much of a cover up there was, and how much blame tried to be deflected to the Liverpool fans for somehow causing the disaster - this despite previous warnings that the ground was unsafe and the way fans were treated like animals in pens was contradictory to what should happen with crowd control - safety first, not treating everyone like thugs first. The amount of statements that were changed by South Yorkshire Police to make it a massive deflection of blame was truly sickening to know of, but to be honest nothing that us true football fans already knew.

I've always believed that it was gross mismanagement by South Yorkshire Police, the stewards and the authorities in general to pack far too many people into a ground that couldn't cope, and I can only imagine what the families of the victims, who have worked tirelessly to get to where we are today, are feeling. They above anyone else deserved the truth and today the whole world got it. It also showed what scum The Sun newspaper is and why no one in Liverpool ever buys it (and I refuse on principle). We have truth - but now we must have justice and there need to be people held to account for this. Simple as.

It only seems right therefore that tune of the day is Gerry and the Pacemakers' version of the Liverpool terrace anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone". Such moments in football transcend any rivalry between fans, with notably on Liverpool's website they interviewed fans outside the ground - and one of them was a West Ham fan working in the city who wanted to show his support. Proof if any were needed that we as a family of football fans will always be together - and that in times like this, fans never walk alone - they walk as one, together.

Tuesday 11th September - Bake Off Breakthrough

I had a break through of sorts today which was good. We'd been trying to get the Microsoft Lifecam Studio web cameras to try and work with the card maker software that we use, but no matter what we tried it wasn't recognised in the software to actually capture the image correctly. I had a feeling it was because the software was relying on the older TWAIN and then WIA technologies, and either of them didn't exactly perform as intended in Windows 7. A call to the software vendor directed me to where there was a more up to date plugin for grabbing the images, and I left a note to my colleague so that she could try that in the morning - but it looked like it supported DirectShow, which was what I suspect the web camera used.

I got home and straight away decided that I needed to get a few things done - and so I spent some time checking out holiday cottages and apartments in Cornwall for next year. Knowing how popular some of the cottages are, I wanted to see what was out there and what we both liked. I showed some of them to The Love In My Heart later and there were a couple that really did take our fancy, so I'm going to make some more enquiries about them too. One of them really did overlook the sea nicely with a patio to boot, and a gorgeous interior that really did feel like a home from home - always handy if it rains and all that.

I must admit even though the two of us have been for long weekends in Cornwall over the last few years, not having a full week there since 2009 has made me really miss the place so much. I love the far West corner in particular with its rugged scenery, gorgeous beaches and locations that really do make you think you're in the most beautiful place around - and believe me, it does. Part of me really does want to try a few different places next year too - maybe even a day to the seal sanctuary at Gweek, as well as a trip to the likes of Porthcurno etc, we'll see.

We later watched the Great British Bake-Off, and it was all about the pies this week. I was expecting them to have to do a proper steak pie with shortcrust pastry (that would have been good for the tasting session if they'd done it right I imagine), but they had to do a wellington, not necessarily with beef, but to prove their pastry skills. Some did well, others pretty badly. The technical challenge of the chicken bacon and apricot filled pie with the wooden instrument proved pretty tricky, and reminded me of the methods used to make a proper Melton Mowbray pork pie. The final "American pie" challenge had one key lime pie that I wanted to scoff myself - no wonder it earned the maker Star Baker and all that.

We both had to giggle madly at Don't Tell The Bride on BBC Three as well - with possibly the most stroppy, awkward and moody bride of all time. Despite the groom's efforts to make it a different sort of event (getting married at a festival and actually having centre stage and lots of attention) it was clear that from the hen party (which featured a trip to a lovely bar in Edinburgh which I think a lot of people would have been happy with!) that the bride to be was spending far too much time in her day job of wedding magazines and not enough time in the reality of that a) weddings are expensive b) her dress was nice and not to be stropped at and c) if she wanted the perfect wedding then why the hell go on BBC Three and take part? I said to The Love that if that woman was my girlfriend, I'd have dumped her pretty quickly after a few dates once her true colours showed.

Tune of the day played whilst the hen and stag dos were taking place, "This House is a Circus" by Arctic Monkeys, which was a neat touch by the producers to get something with a fair few swear words in but craftily edited during the show so that you wouldn't hear the bits with the swearing in, or at a low background volume so that you wouldn't actually know if it was there. Still, nice to see one of Sheffield's finest get some recognition there I reckon.

Monday 10th September - Out of Control

Traditionally, this week at work feels like one of the longest weeks of the year as everything attempts to come together before the start of term. And my, I mean everything. It's all of a sudden that all that could possibly go wrong or be thrown at you is, and you do have to be ready for it, massively. To give you an idea, there's plenty of setup with regards to enrolment sessions, including laptop configurations, checking that all the ID card software and card printers work as intended, and testing the software with webcams in Windows 7 to make sure everything plays ball. It's a real nightmare of sorts to get right, and it's always the same.

Still, I decided that with the levels of stress possibly up a little, that I was going to take a break for lunch and I thought "well sod it, I'm having pizza" which for me is basically a trip to Babylon to have one of their lovely ham and mushroom (or tuna and sweetcorn if I feel like a change) for a mere £4. Their pizzas are a decent size, a nice crispy crust that's not too thin, and they don't hold back on the toppings either. When one of my friends was down in Manchester whilst studying, it was a regular Saturday haunt for us both and it's so good to see that some things don't change - value for money is always the important thing here.

I got home later, albeit a little late after staying behind to finish off a job in the meantime, and decided to catch up a little on some telly I missed over the weekend and due to the late night at work on the Friday. It was good to see both episodes of Pointless, and I'm always surprised sometimes just by how many people said or didn't say certain answers and the scores can really fluctuate as well. I must admit part of me plays along to see if I have an obscure knowledge of certain things and if I ever did decide to go on the show, how well I'd do (or not!)

I also watched on BBC iPlayer a documentary about when rallying went out of control: "Madness on Wheels" in the 1980s with the introduction of the Group B cars and the lack of attention of safety and regard for accidents. Most notable of that era was the then FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre, who praised the Portugese Rally organisers in 1986 for carrying on with amateur teams despite the works teams pulling out due to a fatal accident involving spectators. Horrible stuff to see, but it needed to be seen in the context of the whole thing, with the final nail being Henri Toivinen's death as his car plunged into a tree on a ravine , the fuel tanks burst, game over.

I think as well that the documentary, like that of Grand Prix: The Killer Years, produced by the same team, shows that as well as motorsport being exciting to watch with drivers on the limit showing their skills, how much the quest for safety mirrors the sport developments, but how it wasn't always that way. Tune of the day is from the rallying documentary: "Tubular Bells Part 1" by Mike Oldfield, which somehow those opening few minutes sum up the sheer tension and drama of being stretched to the limit in that way..

Sunday 9th September - Didsbury Sunday Afternoon

It was a deserved lie-in for myself and The Love In My Heart after the epic Paralympic day out yesterday. I did get up in good time though to make us a coffee and a bacon sandwich for breakfast and also to see that the wheelchair marathon was starting. I was expecting lots of coverage, but no. It turned out that the OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Service) didn't cover that or the road cycling events at Brands Hatch, which was pretty bad really. Thankfully Channel 4 had some cameras, one on the home straight at The Mall and one at Tower Hill, but that really wasn't enough. They at least got to see David Weir get his fourth gold medal and kick backside so that was good.

Later on in the afternoon once the rain had stopped, we headed out to Didsbury as we fancied a walk around Fletcher Moss. As The Love parked up, we noticed that it was the Heritage Weekend this weekend and so both the local St James' church was open, which allowed you to explore this Grade II listed building as well as peruse the stalls with home made jams, coffee and cakes. There was also a sizeable queue of people waiting to go up the narrow stairs to the bell tower and ring that - no wonder you could hear it for quite a bit!

We then crossed over to Parsonage Gardens and as well as having a walk around the gardens themselves, we noticed that the Parsonage itself in the middle was open, so we had a look inside there. It turned out that it had been lovingly restored and decorated, and as such meant that it could now be used as a meeting space and with lots of nice original features such as the stained glass windows and the large bay windows and the wooden staircase rails intact, it looked lovely and was nice to head in there and look around, we both enjoyed that a lot.

It was then back down the hill as we did a lap of Fletcher Moss, following the tree-lined path towards the River Mersey, heading along the river bank for a little while before following the path around to Stenner Woods, cutting through there and then past the Alpine Tea Rooms and the closed tennis courts (which look like they might be closed forever which would be unfortunate) and then to the Didsbury pub, where a well earned pint of Old Golden Hen was to be mine (they also had Hobgoblin as well so was rather spoilt for choice there it has to be said)

It was nice to sit outside with a little bit of a breeze with a drink and have a late Sunday lunch/early Sunday tea of the Sunday roast there. I had the gammon and The Love had the pork and both of which were rather gorgeous all round, spot on with the vegetables and mashed potato and lots of meat for the money as well. It was just good to be so relaxed and after we got back home it was hard to say goodbye to The Love, but we had a great weekend and I always appreciate the time we have, as it's always special. In fact "Crazy" by The Icicles is tune of the day as we both like that song and it sums up how I feel...

Saturday 8th September - Paralympic Saturday

Thankfully I didn't have to get up too early today, as I knew that tonight was going to be a pretty late night. The Love In My Heart and myself were off to London to see the evening athletics in the Paralympic Games, which was to be the final session of athletics in the Olympic Stadium. It worked out that the final final would be the T44 400 metres which meant seeing the great Oscar Pistorius in action, so that in itself would be good, but also seeing plenty of other finals (in fact the timetable said fifteen in all, no complaints there then, although there'd also be a lot of medal ceremonies of course).

Our train to London was at 1135, so not too early a start and The Love headed to mine first and then it was on the bus to Piccadilly station in good time to collect the pre-booked tickets from the ticket machine and on the train with a nice cup of Costa coffee to see us right. As per usual, the Virgin service was fast, on time and efficient. I can only hope that when the Commons committee meets on Monday to discuss the West Coast Main Line decision that the thoughts of passengers like mine are not ignored. Put it this way, it was a mere £10.80 each way for each of us to London, which is cracking value for money, the likes of which you will not see with First. Guaranteed.

Once we got to London Euston, it was a short walk to the Crown and Anchor pub for some well earned lunch. We both love it in there, and I was as usual spoilt for choice with five real ales. I went for the Wandle, which was rather golden and gorgeous, and went perfectly with the lovely beer battered haddock, chips and minted peas that we both had, totally spot on and The Love said that it showed how much care and attention had been put into the meal as it tasted very fresh but also no greasy batter or anything - yaay them. I even had the lemon cheesecake for dessert which was well up to standard as well. That got us right in the mood and ready to take on the rest of the day.

We walked down Euston Road to St Pancras International station, admiring the gorgeous hotel that now adorns the front as you walk up, and we headed to platforms 11-13 for the Javelin train to Stratford International. It was really quick and all fresh, air conditioned and lovely, and once we'd got out of the station and walked through parts of Westfield Stratford, we were there at the Olympic Park, got through security easily enough (The Love remarked how smooth it was and how reassured you'd feel having our army check your stuff) and was heading past the Aquatics Centre.

We stopped to look left, head past Orbit (including a Mexican band inside doing their version of the Human League's "Don't You Want Me" like on a recent television advert - classic stuff and tune of the day for definite) and stopped off in McDonalds for a cold drink. Two things of note: one - they charged the same prices in there as they did in all their other branches, and two - this proved to be much cheaper than the soft drinks on sale inside the events themselves. Hence a medium Coca-cola was 99p as opposed to £2.30 for a 500ml bottle. Epic win.

We walked along one of the main paths through the Olympic Park, passing the former BBC Studio where now only Radio 5 Live had a presence, past the Copper Box which had been used earlier on for the goalball, the Riverbank Arena which was hosting the football, the Velodrome, and the Basketball Arena where plenty of noise was coming from those who were cheering on the wheelchair rugby (aka Murderball) athletes in their semi finals. We also stopped off in the Park Live grassed area, and someone kindly handed us a plastic sheet with the Union Jack on it to sit on the grass with - which was appreciated. I walked up the hill to see the Paralympic Agitos logo, and we sat in the sun and saw the TV screen with the second half of the football five-a-side, which Brazil won 2-0 to take the gold medal.

It was nice to do that and indeed follow one of the paths that took you through an area of trees and plants and some recycled old red telephone boxes as well - and good to admire the scenery before heading up, over one of the main bridges with a few of the Games Makers volunteers making plenty of noise about keeping left and really getting you in a good mood, and before long it was over to Bridge E and inside the Olympic Stadium. With an hour or so to the start of the athletics we didn't want to miss anything so got there, got a cold drink inside the island and then headed to our seats. We were high up in block 205 (row 69 of 75) but the view was still pretty good and we looked down on the 100 metre starts as well as had a good view of the podium too.

The athletes for the first events came out and according to the schedule five of the events were 100 metre finals of various classifications, so that was good for us to see all that. Wenjun Liu set the tone of the night with victory in the women's T54 in a world record, closely followed by the T36 final with Elena Ivanova winning for Russia. The men's T37 final was very dramatic as both the front two athletes dived for the line with South Africa's Fanie van der Merwe getting the decision - they couldn't be split on 1/100ths of a second so both he and Yongbin Liang now share a world record in that event. Epic stuff that was.

The T11 100 metres followed soon after with Lei Xue and his guide (the T11s need guides you see) winning in emphatic style over the Brazilians, and then Walid Ktila of Tunisia winning the men's T34, so five 100m finals in the space of an hour. On the field, the men's F57/58 javelin was going on. To make the event quicker, each athlete threw three times in succession, so gave them time to get settled when they threw. Plenty of 40m and even some 50m throws were done and considering the lack of run up was pretty impressive.

The T44 high jump though captured the imagination of the crowd though as four athletes cleared 1.98m, breaking the previous Paralympic record, and then they all went for 2.01m. The Polish athlete Maciej Lepiato cleared it first go and then went and cleared 2.04m at first go too, which meant that his rival Jeff Skiba of the USA, having missed 2.06m on his first go, decided he had to go straight to 2.08m which Lepiato cleared first go having also cleared 2.06m at the first attempt. Every time Lepiato went the crowd clapped for him and got him motivated, so much so that he then raised the bar to 2.12m and broke the world record, which was awesome. He even went for 2.14m but after two attempts he felt tired so shook the hands of the officials and did a lap of honour for everyone.

Back over on the track, Yunidis Castillo of Cuba won the women's 400m T46, Mateusz Michalski of Poland won the 200m T12 (and got many congratulations from Lepiato as he did his lap of honour!), then it was the 4x400 metre wheelchair relay for T53/T54. Of course having a baton made no sense, so instead the athletes touched the body of the next to go to make it a fair changeover. China were miles ahead and clinched the gold medal in another world record, and it was a close thing for second with Thailand edging out Australia, and that was pretty close as they with Korea went down the home straight all looking for the silver medal, great stuff.

Controversy reigned in the T46 800m though, as two different incidents involving possible tripping and blocking looked a tad dodgy. No problem for the winner, Gunther Matzinger of Austria, or for the silver medallist Samir Nouioua, but in the home straight with 15m to go, Hermas Muvunyi of Rwanda had seemingly tripped Abraham Tarbei of Kenya. On the track, Muvunyi finished third but at the medal ceremony he was nowhere to be seen and the Kenyan had the bronze.

Two more events to go, with Hongzhouan Zhou of China winning the T54 400m women's event, but then the big one. The crowd cheered as Oscar Pistorius was introduced and there was a deathly hush at the start, followed by a massive roar as the event took place. Oscar took the lead with 200m to go and his rivals faded a tad (especially Alan Oliviera) and he was imperious in doing a time of 46.68. He did a lap of honour, and later on his was the last medal ceremony in the stadium (we stayed for them all as we both wanted to give Maciej Lepiato a massive cheer for his high jump win and word record, he really appreciated the crowd you see) and before we knew it, it was all over.

The atmosphere was brilliant and I was surprised how much The Love got into it, I helped her a bit explain a couple of things but it was good to see that she could sample the atmosphere for herself and see how much it meant to be there too. I think also she could keep an eye on the action in the field and track and be absorbed in the events, remarking that the Tunisian athlete who won the women's F40 shot put was so pleased with her world record and with a smile on her face that showed how much it meant - and like the stadium announcer, the great Paul Dickenson had said, for many it was the first time they had 80,000 people cheering them on - and for the mere £20 for a ticket, it was unbelievably worth it.

We saw the masses of crowds as we left the stadium heading to Stratford station with the exits laid out for the javelin train, central line tube and Jubilee line and London Overground, all seemingly having massive queues. Despite it being a bit more of a walk (20-25 minutes or so), we decided to head to West Ham station and that proved to be a good move - we waited a couple of minutes and got the Hammersmith and City line to Euston Square, straight there, with no fuss and no queueing whatsoever. From there it was straight to Euston and after getting a baguette and a cold drink, it was on the train back towards Manchester and the night bus home from there.

It was a very long and very tiring day and because of the heat we were pretty hot and sweaty as well, but it had been a rewarding one in terms of being at the Paralympic Games and seeing the athletics close up and first hand. No amount of advertisement interrupted coverage from Channel 4 can prepare you for what it's actually like when you're there, and I hope for The Love in particular it's going to be a memory that she'll always have. We had a great time and even though it was 3am by the time we slept, it was just simply epic. I now have plenty of pictures to go through as well.

Friday 7th September - Quiz Champion Again

After a longish day in the office, it was nice to be able to wind down somewhat on the Friday evening. And in fact it was quite a nice surprise too in how well it went. The management of the department I work in had a bit of a get together for all the department's staff spread across the sites, with a "time to celebrate" evening. There was food and alcohol laid on, and best of all, two different real ales, served from their firkins with proper hand pumps so that you would be able to enjoy the ale as it should be. That was a really good surprise and I thoroughly enjoyed the Spittin' Feathers ale, as did a lot of other people as that one actually ran out.

We did have a little bit of an awards ceremony as such with some gift vouchers as a prize and also a little trophy award for those that had done well and were going to be recognised over the course of the year. It was good to see that the winners got recognition for what they did, and it felt pretty positive on the whole for everyone to see that hard work was at least being recognised in such a way. There were some more "fun" type awards too which to me didn't quite sit right, I think the proper rewards were much more motivating, but hey, that's me.

It was good too to mingle with a few of the staff from other sites and chat to them about everyday normal stuff (I have to admit that I don't particularly like talking shop even if we were in a work building as such) and that informal atmosphere suits me better. There was a quick announcement that pizzas were on the way (and from the local takeaway Babylon that does very nice pizzas as well) and so with that due shortly, it was time to prepare for the pub quiz that one of our management team had planned.

In the end the team had six of us, myself and my manager from our site, one of our former colleagues who was now in another site, our communications manager, one of our training staff and our video producer, and it was quite a good mix of people and we all get on pretty well, so it was good to use that knowledge effectively. The first general knowledge round we did pretty well on but the sport round really did get us forward nicely, with us getting all ten questions correctly (notably I knew that Ted Lowe commentated on snooker, and that a game of four quarters where only two players per side can score is of course netball).

The movies round was a mixed bag but we did at least get all four actors who had played Batman in the recent series of films, and even though we struggled a bit, we didn't do too badly in the lyrics round. The most difficult thing of all to be honest was the fact that the words didn't always ring bells and was hard trying to place the songs - particularly as I didn't know them all either. We did okay, and the picture round to guess the buildings around our workplaces we all did well in - we got nine out of ten there.

The last round "guesstimates" was I think where it was going to be decided who might actually win the quiz or not. A few of them were easy to work out (500 sheets of paper in a ream, 1920x1080 resolution for a 1080p TV display) but some were really tricky (we guessed 1200 goals in the Premier League last season, there was actually 1,066) and others were just a case of randomly putting an answer down. Amazingly we did rather well on that one and when the scores were totted up, we'd won. Nice to see that myself and my manager made it two quizzes on the trot at work that we'd won, hehe!

Tune of the day seemed pretty apt considering it was in the lyrics round and we got it right, "A Day Like This" by Elbow. It seemed to sum up the mood and feeling of the day as a whole and to be honest if it was just a night out with a few people I'm sure it'd have been the same, but to be able to win the quiz just topped the cherry on the proverbial cake of the day. It'll be mental next week I am sure but at least it was good to be able to get on with things at the moment!

Thursday 6th September - Terrific Thursday

Another pretty long day in the office for me today, as I had plenty of support calls to resolve, but also lots of getting organised for some kit that had arrived yesterday. I knew that the workstations all needed to be imaged in order for them to be able to then be distributed, so I spent a bit of time hooking them all up, getting the network MAC addresses and then be sure that I would assign the machines nice new names, get them all imaged and then be able to have them distributed out pretty quickly. Of course the bigger problem long term was that for some reason the imaging side of it took absolutely forever.

Normally it takes around two hours from start to finish for the SCCM task sequence to bring the image down, add all the extra bits and make it all neat and tidy, which does at least mean that everything works as intended, but I noticed with one laptop that I was working on as well that it was just taking too long. In the end it was easier to make a decision to leave them running overnight rather than just have to stop them midway. That allowed me to be able to get on with other things such as writing some documentation and playing some form of catch up with a couple of emails as well.

I headed home and knew that The Love In My Heart was coming later, so tidied around the house a bit and made sure that everything was up and running as it should be. I also then tuned in to Channel 4 to watch some more Paralympics action and together later we saw some of the racing unfold. As we were heading there on Saturday I wanted to give her an idea of the atmosphere inside the stadium so that we knew what to expect and how it would work, and of course with Britain winning some gold medals tonight, you got an idea of how much the atmosphere was cranked up.

As it turned out, tonight was probably the golden ticket to be on track if you were British. In the space of the evening, we'd won three medals on the track and each of them were comprehensive wins. The ever bubbly Hannah Cockroft did the double in the T34 200 metres to add to her 100 metres, and it was a massive margin of victory as well - the sort of thing that Usain Bolt would do. Then it was to David Weir and in another close and dramatic finish he really timed his sprint to perfection to win the T54 800 metres to add to his existing 1500 and 5000 metre titles, cracking stuff.

And then the big one - and as far as these Paralympics are concerned, possibly the moment of the Games. It was the T44 100 metre final with Oscar Pistorius, Alan Oliviera, Blake Leeper and Johnnie Peacock all featuring. And the silence as the gun went followed by the sheer noise of the crowd during that race was simply epic. Peacock took the gold for Great Britain and really did nail it, and fair play to Pistorius, who afterwards said that the best man won and that he hoped Peacock would be around for a long time to compete and do well. So much of a contrast from the T44 200 metres on Sunday night too.

Tune of the day in the meantime is Public Enemy's "Harder Than You Think" in which the more you hear it, the more it makes sense as the perfect tune to be using for the coverage of the Games. Of course there's little snippets of the theme as Channel 4 gets to another commercial break (the real nightmare of the coverage it has to be said) but when you hear it in full at the start, it all makes perfect sense - and these athletes, us letting them be themselves, are really excelling in their sports. It's a real eye opener.

Wednesday 5th September - Temptation

Another good productive day today for me, as more laptops were deployed, and also I worked on fixing a couple of issues that were occuring during imaging a desktop machine. I'd seen a similar behaviour before, so the first time it failed to be imaged, I remembered to open the case up, reseat the memory and then try again, and it worked without any issues first go, so that was good all round. It also meant it freed up time for me to get some more laptops deployed out.

I also was working on getting together some proposal quotes on the Apple E-Commerce website. Effectively this is the new site that we go on to get any Apple Macs at educational discount and also to ensure that the prices are correct when the orders are raised for the kit. We had one member of staff who wanted a replacement Macbook Air, primarily with weight being the main reason for one as well as them being a Mac user. Got everything together and one quote later provided, so all good there.

I got home later on and watched more of the Paralympics, and saw another two gold medals as Channel 4 did their bit to get people at work to catch up - first a gold in the swimming pool, excellent, and then Sarah Storey's third cycling medal - this time in the time trial. It was good seeing the backdrop of the Brands Hatch motor racing circuit that was used - and kind of felt right when I saw former F1 driver and now hand cyclist Alex Zanardi win gold in his time trial class - showing that on a former F1 circuit, the man still knew his way around big time.

I also saw some of the wheelchair basketball quarter final and it was a tense last minute or so as Great Britain squeezed past Turkey to get to the semi finals, and it was truly awe-inspiring stuff as the team held their nerve with some great baskets near the end to sort it out. They could well be facing Spain in the semis though if they get past Canada, which will be a pretty tricky task, but the fact that the crowd get behind them so much and that there's so much support should count for a lot.

After tea I spent some time looking at potential holiday places for next year. I've already made a decision in that where possible it would be lovely to head back to Cornwall for a week, I feel so at home there and usually the weather's pretty decent too, so it would be good to make the most of the time and enjoy it. The only hard decision is actually picking where to go, with quite a few places offering rather lovely cottages that are either in picturesque villages or close to the sea - some even with a sea view as well. Of course because of the nature of how a lot of places are, the cottages are either small or they've been adapted to fit well the needs of the people on holiday, but there's still some stunners out there.

It's so tempting to even book one for next month and just pack up and go, even though realistically that probably isn't an option of course. Still, it tempts me so maybe apt that tune of the day is Heaven 17's "Temptation" - although I would be tempted now at the start, like the PlusNet advert to go "Glenn! We've talked about this" and all that. It is massively tempting to just book somewhere though, especially when you see that some of the places already have bookings for next Summer!

Tuesday 4th September - Bake Off

It was another lengthy day in the office as I spent a fair bit of time getting on with a few things - not least sorting out plenty more laptops for deployment to staff to replace their current, out of warranty model. It's been good that staff have replied to the email we sent and are all arranging times to get themselves up and running - and I think from our point of view it's also good that we're able to do as much as we can to get stuff sorted and clear out the amounts of boxes that we've currently got in storage. Much better to have things in use, I reckon.

I had also been testing some optical character recognition with Adobe Acrobat Pro for a member of staff. We'd tried the site licenced Corel PDF Fusion to interpret the text within a document and convert it to a Word document for editing, but the original PDF, despite being a decent quality scan, just wasn't up to the job really. It was much better to use Acrobat Pro to do it, and advised the staff member accordingly that a licence for that might be a better option if they were doing this sort of thing in the long term. It's pretty good at OCR actually (especially considering the original was German text) and that was quite a positive outcome in the end.

After heading home and relaxing watching plenty of Paralympic action on Channel 4, including some gold medals for the British team and an inspiring performance in particular from Sophie Christiansen in the dressage, getting her third equestrian gold of the Games as well, it was good to take things a bit slower when The Love In My Heart came over. I indulged her with some Emmerdale on the telly before I had made the tea, some spaghetti with meatballs in a nice bolognaise sauce as well - just the job for a hungry twosome after a hard day at work.

We then settled in for the Great British Bakeoff, which for different reasons we both adore. I was gutted that Mel Giedroyc wasn't on presenting duty this week and I think some of the chemistry of the show was lost because of that. I must admit that in terms of performance, Brendan really did show his stuff this week. Granted he went a bit 1970s with the first torte's toppings, but the creme caramels were spot on, as was the idea of his showstopper bake as well - all three very consistent and having a cracking taste, so he was star baker and very much safe. Stuart went, and pretty much the right decision - not using the whole egg for the creme caramel equals disaster, really.

I must admit that for me what sets the show apart from other "reality" type shows is that for the people who take part, the passion in what they do is clear to see and that their enjoyment of the challenges is something that they relish, and in Paul and Mary, two fair judges who also know what they're talking about, not least as Paul's artisan bread regularly can be found in the likes of Harrods, and he's recently expanded that to Waitrose now, which did tempt me to head to the nearest one and see if I could try some out. (I know, shallow or what eh?) - but still, all good.

Tune of the day in the meantime is something that we heard last night during BBC Three's "Don't Tell The Bride" where the groom hired a big posh house overlooking Mevagissey in Cornwall (which looked lovely as ever, so want to go there again!) and a hotel for the ceremony in nearby Gorran Haven as well. In fact, anyone can rent the house - it's on the Unique Home Stays website if I remember. But anyway, the tune that played that I really liked was "Born Slippy" by Underworld - quite apt considering the mad binge that the groom and friends went on a few days before the wedding!

Monday 3rd September - Back To The Grindstone

It really did feel like everyone who was coming back was back today, with us rushed off the proverbial feet most of the day. It's been coming, we know, and it still hits you pretty hard. The good thing is though that it should mean that most of the laptops that we need to deploy can at least start to be deployed in good time and clear the mass of boxes in one of the rooms close to us. Of course we are bringing equipment back into the bargain but there's less boxes than what we currently have, so who knows what will happen there.

I went briefly into the building that I used to be built in - and there's still plenty of work going on in there. A couple of colleagues based in that floor told me that it really did feel like a live site down there and it was not the best place to be, so I'm kind of glad I made the move to another building when I did - best to be there sooner rather than later to be perfectly honest. I also got to try the new hot food eatery that's opened on one of the sites, and it seemed pretty good - not least the Spanish meatballs with patatas bravas thrown in - a winning combination in my book anyway.

I got home and it was straight on with Channel 4 and with the Paralympics coverage. It turned out to be a good move as there were three swimming finals on and one of them featured Ellie Simmonds, who had already won a gold in the 400m freestyle on Saturday. It was the 200m individual medley today and although one of the Ukranian swimmers was ahead up to the freestyle leg, I knew Ellie would cruise past, and so she did, powering her way to gold and breaking her own world record in the process, and with her British team mate third, all good there.

The other highlight for me was in the T53 wheelchair 100m final, with British hopes resting on the broad shoulders of Mickey Bushell - and my did he deliver. As soon as he was out of the start, he powered forward and the further the race went, the more he went ahead, and really did look the part. As he crossed the line you could tell how much it meant to him to win the title, and to do it in front of his home crowd, that was something else, and really pleasing to see too.

It was also good to see some of the wheelchair basketball on the interactive coverage as well - they really do go for it in that sport and thankfully Great Britain got through to the quarter finals after beating Japan in their final group game. A tricky game awaits in the quarter finals of course but at least they did make it - and looked very impressive in the first half and eased off a bit in the second to make sure they saved as much energy as they could. I also really have enjoyed goalball as well - a very different sport but one that is fascinating too. Tune of the day in the meantime is New Order's "Blue Monday". I certainly did feel blue after finding out a few things during the day, and also because the track is one of my all time favourites of all time. Somehow belting that out at full blast just seems to do the trick after a hard day's work with plenty to think about

Sunday 2nd September - Button and Birthday

It was nice to relatively take it easy and have a little bit of a lie in this morning. The Love In My Heart and I were off out later to celebrate one of our friends' birthdays, and a meal and drinks were planned for the evening which was all good. I didn't want to get changed into our going out stuff till later, so I simply got showered, threw on what I had on the night before and then after some very lovely bacon on toast, settled in to watch some Paralympics on Channel 4 to warm me up nicely before the F1 got started on BBC1.

And it was a pretty exciting race from Spa, despite there being no rain in the Ardennes Forest like there usually is. The first lap was mental (the first corner actually) as Romain Grosjean ran right across Lewis Hamilton, there was a collision, and it resulted in the two of them along with Fernando Alonso (scary moment when Grosjean's car passed him very close by overhead) and Sergio Pérez all were out because of it. It did make me wonder if Grosjean would be punished for his careless driving (he's had so many other first lap incidents this season) and he was, with a one race ban, which I thought was still a touch lenient to be honest.

Jenson Button, who had found his sweet spot and got pole superbly, was in no mood to give up the lead, and after the safety car, got away superbly and did a perfect lights to flag race, even having time for his only pit stop to still be ahead of Sebastian Vettel in second, who also used the one stop strategy really well to come up from tenth on the grid. It showed how well Button looked after the tyres too because the Mercedes team tried a similar move with their cars and they both had to two stop in the end. Jenson was imperious and he showed that on his day when he's at one with the car, you won't catch him - simple as that. In fact, tune of the day is Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" - perfect for F1 and when it's live on the BBC, even more so.

After a while it was time for us both to get changed and head out, and we headed for the city centre and then for one of the nicer pubs in the city, which had the added advantage of serving all the Beartown Brewery real ales, so it was a pint of the Ginger Bear for me as we met our friend and his partner, and soon enough all his friends turned up too so there were eight of us in all. I hadn't met most of them before but they seemed a very nice bunch indeed and so conversation was pretty simple really.

On to the restaurant then, and the food in there was lovely (The Love and I had eaten there previously and so we knew the food was good). They did a two courses for £15.95 deal before 7pm, so that worked out well, and I had the rump steak for main, which was cooked to medium perfection, along with some hand cut cooked chips and a nice large flat mushroom to go with it - very good indeed, as was the gorgeous sponge I had for dessert with cream too. The Love had the leek and sweet potato soup to start followed by lots of spicy fried chicken with chips and that looked rather lovely as well, it has to be said.

Lots of good conversation and drinks flowed and it was good to just chatter about all sorts, with lots of humour thrown in along the way, before it was back to the pub we were in earlier for some more nice beer (I went for the Zesty Bear this time and it was quite nice with a lemon kick) and it was good to end the evening all nice and relaxed and with some nice company and ale. The Love and I headed back to her place later and we both agreed that it had been an excellent evening out and I'm sure our friend appreciated a good birthday do and the presents (we got him some nice Molton Brown stuff, which I know he loves, so that was good.)

Saturday 1st September - A Kick Up The Rs

Had a very productive day all round, with shopping in the morning and Manchester City in the late afternoon. First of all, I headed off to the large Tesco Extra around a mile and a half from my house, as I wanted to get some bargains in terms of some new clothes. I had £10 of vouchers which I knew I could double up to £20 worth off clothes in the Clubcard Exchange thing. However, I am usually pretty crafty, as I know you have to use those vouchers up before a certain time period. What I do is check that the things I want are in stock first, and only then exchange the vouchers, that way I know I'm going to use them!

And use them I did. I was after some new jeans, maybe, and managed to find a nice dark blue pair and a nice black pair, both in my size (good) and both at a good price, the blue pair being £9 and the black £14 (I've had a pair of the black before and they last well, so all good). It was therefore not a difficult decision to make to get the exchange done, and then head to the till with my new purchases, which effectively meant two new pairs for a mere £3. And I can't really complain at that!

I headed into Chorlton later as I wanted to get some nice real ale from Carringtons, and the only difficult decision I had was actually picking what to get. I was thinking ahead as three of my non-local living friends will be heading down my way next month for a weekend of beer, retro gaming, football and maybe some more beer, and so I always like to vary the selection of ale on offer. In the end I went for two bottles of each of the following: Barnsley Owd Tyke, Thornbridge Wild Swan, Lymestone Stone Faced and Nook Red, and the brewers in each case are from Barnsley (well, erm, yes!), Bakewell, Stone and Holmfirth, so quite a varied selection there.

Carringtons had been shut earlier in the day though so I headed along Beech Road and had a very welcome coffee and carrot cake in On The Corner, one of my favourite little places to have coffee in. I just love the fact you can browse the music books and read them if you so wish, and also be able to peruse the vinyl and CDs that they have, which makes it feel like a nice little record shop too. It's just got that nice atmosphere that makes it different, and that for me is rather good. Hurrah for that!

Later in the day my friend and I were heading over to Fortress Etihad to see Manchester City v QPR, which of course four months ago was the game where City came back from the dead to win the title in unbelievable cirumstances. I still watch Sergio Agüero's goal on a daily basis and it just fills me with pride. Of course with that event happening three days after my 40th birthday as well it's ingrained into the memory, and rightly so. What would today bring?

Well it wasn't quite the same scoreline, but we did have five minutes of stoppage time like that eventful 13th May, and the sun was also out too, so some similarities though. City had Edin Džeko and Carlos Tévez up front as Agüero was injured, but a strong lineup nonetheless, with new singings Scott Sinclair and Javi Garcia being paraded beforehand. City started well enough and after a period of early dominance, a corner wasn't cleared by the QPR defence and Yaya Toure blasted it home for 1-0. We did miss a fair few chances to go 2-0 up though and I did wonder if those would come back to haunt us.

The second half started and a flowing move saw Pablo Zabaleta hit the bar, almost scoring like he did against them last season. QPR though fought back well and after a mix-up in the City defence, a shot was well saved by Joe Hart but no one was tracking Bobby Zamora for the follow up and he had the easiest header in the world to make it 1-1. It didn't take us as long to bounce back this time, a mere two minutes later some good work on the left from Tévez resulted in a cross finding Džeko's head and it was City back in the lead at 2-1, and this time it was eleven v eleven without QPR losing a man.

It was still nervous and edgy for the rest of the game with ex-City player Shaun Wright-Phillips playing pretty well and getting respect and applause from the crowd if he did something decent - we love him really and if he was going to get more starts, he'd have stayed at City no question. City though did look like they'd score another one and in the five minutes of stoppage time, a Džeko cross-cum-shot was deflected in by Tévez which meant three in three for the City striker (can't argue with that) and so a 3-1 win in the end, so all good.

Later on The Love In My Heart and I had some very nice pork for tea, and we relaxed in the evening with a nice piece of cake and coffee too, and that was all good. We saw Mo Farah on Jonathan Ross and he was great to listen to, and I even saw City's goals on Match of the Day, so again all good there. In the meantime tune of the day happens to be the theme Channel 4 are using for their Paralympics coverage, "Harder Than You Think" by Public Enemy. It just works really well, especially the line "thank you for letting us be ourselves" which really hits home. Tune!