Dear Diary... September 2014

Tuesday 30th September - Totti-ering On The Edge

It was a busy day as ever at work, and I must have worked up a fair amount of sweat by numerous walks around buildings, ensuring printers were ship shape, swapping over a fair chunk of toners etc. Most of the morning was taken up by that and in the afternoon I spent most of my time looking at a poorly Mac and making sure that it was much happier once I'd finished with it - turned out that there was a directory error on the disk and a run through with DiskWarrior sorted it all out for me. It was loads happier and allowed the critical updates it needed to be installed too.

However, that was all following a fair bit of a nightmare journey into work this morning. I was waiting at the bus stop and for some reason it was way busier than normal. In fact even though one of the bus routes I take is usually very frequent, every bus that went past was full and so didn't stop. Eventually one of the buses I get to work arrived, some twenty odd minutes or so late, and it was that much delay for me getting into work (the bus itself passed lots of stops on the way in as that too had got full.) It transpired that the trains through Stockport were all suspended or cancelled as someone had got on to the viaduct there (believe me, it's a long way up) and were threatening to jump off, which would have been a very messy affair indeed had they done so.

Anyway, it was off to the Etihad later on with my friend as it was Manchester City up against Roma in the Champions League - and a game we really needed to win. City had narrowly lost 1-0 at Bayern Munich in the opener, and Roma had impressively crushed CSKA Moscow at home, so the stage was set for a good contest. Roma had the evergreen and still (for me at least) one of the proper legends of Italian football, Francesco Totti up front. He's now 38 and has been playing for the same side for twenty three years or so - a one club man and loyal to the hilt. The likes of him and Paolo Maldini are two of my Italian football heroes, so to see him play was also admittedly going to be a pleasure too (although not too much!).

The traffic had been pretty mad and delayed my friend getting over, but it wasn't that bad to get in the ground and we got there in good time thankfully. A considerable number only just made it before kick off though, with the rather spine tingling Champions League theme being played which as usual I sang along to (yes, I know the words despite it being in three languages) - so tune of the day there. The players came out and we were both hoping for the win we needed.

And what a start we had. City got forward early and the ball was played in from the right, it went to David Silva who laid the ball towards Sergio Agüero, who turned past Maicon (former City defender) but was hauled back with a deft arm. The referee gave a penalty and should have been a red card for Maicon but wasn't. Sergio dusted himself down and scored the penalty for 1-0, and that was four minutes in, the start we really needed. We needed a second though to settle things, and it didn't come early on.

And we were made to pay for that. The ball went forward and was flicked on towards Totti, who had beaten the offside trap and was clear in space, and without a challenge from Martin Demechelis, he dinked it over Joe Hart for the equaliser. It was a well taken goal and Totti became the oldest player to ever score in the Champions League and that still showed his class. Ironically City's official Twitter account had mentioned he'd never scored in England in the Champions League. Three words I can think of: kiss of death.

City tried all they could, particularly in the second half, but the impetus wasn't there. The atmosphere was also a bit on the flat side with 37,000 or so in the ground. I mean, my friend and I will sing and chant till we're hoarse, but many others don't seem that bothered, which narks me off somewhat. City did improve once James Milner and Frank Lampard came on, with Lampard's shot testing the Roma keeper, but despite some near misses we couldn't score, and Roma on the break also looked dangerous too.

So it was 1-1 then and really that doesn't do anything for our Champions League chances. Realistically we need to beat CSKA Moscow home and away and then hope that Bayern turn Roma over home and away so that will be helpful for us I think. It could go down to the away game in Rome to determine the fate of ourselves, but to be honest, we need to improve in Europe. Somehow it just doesn't seem to grab the attention as much as it should. Is it because it's not just the champions that compete in it I wonder?

Monday 29th September - Busy Bee

It was another pretty busy day and the first week of the term where everyone is back up and running. As such I knew this would mean plenty of calls coming in and not enough time to deal with them all, but at the same time I wanted to make sure that I kept things ticking over. One problem I had to sort out today though was with a piece of specialist software which looks like for some reason didn't apply one of the things it should: it needs certain permissions to a registry key, which are applied via a batch file, but if said batch file isn't run as administrator, it doesn't play. And it seems to have been a few machines, but got them sorted in the end.

In the afternoon I spent most of my time between buildings, sorting out printers for the most part. In fact the large format printers needed some paper and checking over so my colleague and I went over and got that done - as well as at the same time checking over parts of the building and ensuring that everything was running shipshape and spot on. It only seemed the right thing to do somehow, and it felt positive to be proactive actually. I also spotted that one room might be ready for me to do the next stage of its work so we shall see what happens there.

I headed home and once I'd made some rather nice chicken and mushroom with singapore noodle stir fry, I set about sorting out a present: and actually (I'm sad to admit this but..) the first Christmas present. I knew what to get my nephew now and so once I'd located the same seller on Amazon for both items, it was an easy win. And no doubt the closer I get to Christmas the more expensive that those items may become, so strike whilst the iron is hot as they say and get things ordered now.

In fact I did notice whilst out and about in the city centre at the weekend that there's plenty of sales still on. If I knew what to get everyone now, I could do a chunk of present shopping and therefore save some money into the bargain whilst still getting some really good presents. Although it also has to be said that I'm going to do things a little differently this time around: maybe a bit more purchasing in store instead of online, depending on how things go. I've got a few trips to the capital between now and Christmas plus a few gigs in other locations to go to, so might put two and two together!

Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Watch The Bitch Blow", the title track of said EP from Pop Will Eat Itself. If you failed to order it and make your pledges when it was available on PledgeMusic, the band are now selling it themselves via their online shop. And believe me, it's well worth it - six quality tracks, and the title track really is up there with any classic PWEI single from yesteryear, only with a lot more edge and politically charged, and already a live favourite. Buy it if you haven't already. Sort of now.

Sunday 28th September - Bounce

It was good to have a reasonable lie in after a long week, and The Love In My Heart headed home to sort some stuff out at her place before heading back to mine later. This meant I was going to settle in, watch some of the men's world cycling road race (many laps of a tough course including a really good climb uphill and dramatically through over a dam and through a tunnel) and then put on the old classic Boom Blox on the Wii. I'd not played it for a while and fancied heading through some of the adventure levels. They're still as fun as ever it has to be said!

The Love headed back later and the two of us headed first of all to the recycling tip near me so that she could dispose of parts of an old wooden desk that was no longer needed. Once that was done and the car all sorted back to how it normally is, we then headed over to my sister's place. It was my nephew's fourth birthday tomorrow but she was having the birthday do today, and had hired a bouncy castle for the kids. It was also good for us to go along and hand over his presents (and my auntie was also going to be there so she could keep hold of the other presents for her grandson too, so double win.)

It was good to see my sister and brother in law and the birthday boy in question was more than happy bouncing around, not least when he saw me and came up bouncing to have a little hug. Awww. In fact I did one of his little favourite things: lifted him up and kept him up tall enough so he could swing across on the bars as part of an adventure playground set (incluidng ladders, slide etc) that my sister has in the back. He loved that last time I was there and thought I'd be good and indulge him a little, and he was one happy little bunny.

My brother in law put on some nice burgers on the gas barbecue (including toasted buns too, fab!) and that was really nice. We all chatted for a bit and I sorted out his laptop and also the front room DVD player whilst I was there. I wanted to check if it was multi-region capable because one of the things we'd like to get for Christmas for my nephew is US region 1 only, and so if the DVD player is multi-region, easy peasy. Anyway I had my Region 1 DVD of Finding Nemo, and at first, no joy. I soon had the remote hack and a few button presses later, all was well. Easy peasy.

Later on The Love and I headed out to The Gateway pub where a very nice pint of the Brightside Brewery's "Odin" ale had my name on it. We had a nice chatter outside and it was still pretty warm, so it was good to just rest and relax as the afternoon drew to a close rather well. It was just good too because we'd been chattering to other relations at my sister's, so got to spend some quality time together in the end. Before I knew it, The Love was heading home later and I tuned in to see Europe smash the Americans at the Ryder Cup golf in Gleneagles.

Tune of the day talking of the golf is the original proper golf theme, not the remix that they cart out now. The original is called "Chase Side Shoot Up" and is by Brian Bennett (who also did the theme for Rugby Special as well.) And yes, who would have thought that the drummer from The Shadows would have come up with such an awseome gem as that? Really the BBC need to restore this proper theme back and then beautifully pan over to Hazel Irvine to introduce coverage of the final round from Augusta..

Saturday 27th September - Super Frankie Lampard, Again!

It was a lie in for me this morning after a long night last night, and I must admit that the whole week had taken it out of me somewhat. I did get woken up a little by the noise outside from people parking up for the local market nearby, but that was fine as I needed to head up and out to the city centre anyhow, I had two birthday presents and cards to get as well, plus I wanted to have a nice mooch around the local market as the last Saturday of the month is usually the best one of them.

I headed into the city centre then, and once there I had a nice mooch around Vinyl Exchange to locate some CDs. I didn't buy anything but I did notice that they did have an original first pressing CD of Cabaret Voltaire's "The Covenant, The Sword and The Arm of the Lord" for a tenner. Granted it's had a CD reissue recently but the first issue was deleted for years and copies aren't pretty easy to find. For Commodore 64 fans "Whip Blow" is the most notable track on there as it was covered by Rob Hubbard in the game "I-Ball", so tune of the day is the Cabs' original. The second half of I-Ball is also "I Want You" on the same album.

I did manage to get two nice presents and the only thing then to do was to get some nice cards, and Clinton Cards had an offer on that if you bought two cards, you got a third free. Can't argue with that, and their birthday cards were cheaper than WH Smith for exactly the same card as well, so that's what I call a double win really. And so once the cards had been purchased, it was then over to Piccadilly station on the way home to collect the tickets I'd booked yesterday from the ticket machine, saving me the £1 postage cost that Thetrainline were going to charge me instead.

I did have a nice mooch around the local market later on and there were some good stalls, mainly with some food on but also some nice crafts as well, including a picture of the street with no name close to the local train station which definitely was worth considering at one point - maybe though I thought that as I've taken pictures of that myself I could do with maybe framing and mounting one of my own images instead and thus saving time and effort. Hmm...

I was keeping an eye on the Manchester City game away to Hull City courtesy of BBC Final Score, and even though Sergio Agüero and Edin Džeko had scored to go 2-0 up, Hull had pulled it back courtesy of a Elaquim Mangala own goal and a penalty conceded by Mangala. It wasn't good at half time but I was thinking that maybe if we turned it on again second half we could turn it around. Half way through the second half Džeko scored his second to take the lead, and with a few minutes left it was that man Frank Lampard again who got on the end of a pass from Pablo Zabaleta.

4-2 looked a better scoreline (and one my friend normally puts a quid on at the match, I hope he put a bet on today!) and that for me was good to see. Frank Lampard's scored four in three now and suddenly the loan move for a few months is actually working out massively in our favour. He might not start every game but the composure and experience is helping us right now. I can see why the Chelski fans held him (and still do hold him) in such massive esteem and how he was such a great player for them.

Friday 26th September - End of An Era, Part 2

It really did feel like the end of an era at the end of this week. Not least because the week had been busy and I'd been spending lots of time trying to get everything up and running and sorted, including re-imaging a desktop machine for two associate members of staff starting next week and also spending some time sorting out a few issues that I needed to work on as well. Thankfully it was good that a lot of things happened when a few of us pulled together, and also we've been able to get together for a project meeting and move forward in a few things.

The main event was after work though, as it was the leaving do of one of the nicest people I've ever worked with, and for over one third of my life as well, which is quite an amount of time when I think about it. I knew that he was a popular person with lots of people and the fact that a considerable number of staff from plenty of departments turned up for a drink and to pass on their best wishes said a heck of a lot. In fact, that pleased me immensely as it was definitely deserved in my view.

We headed to The Footage, which had been given a considerable makeover over the Summer, and with good reason - it has been transformed from being a bit dark and dingy to making the most of its inner features, having comfier chairs and tables, and feeling a bit more cosy because of it. And, in a very welcome addition, three different cask ales as well as five craft beers too. That is a massive improvement to be honest. I had to therefore have the Trooper ale at first, as you do, which quickly ran out due to its popularity. Later I also had the Harviestoun's "Bitter and Twisted" ale, as well as the "Bonkers Conkers" from Greene King, a bit darker and quite a nice malty finish too. Woohoo.

Some nice nibbles of food had been laid on which didn't last that long because of so many of us having little bits of it, and later on as people were heading home it was nice just to stop and chat to many different people that I work with, and actually really nice to do so outside of a work setting. For me at least it's been telling how many people also signed the leaving card and put a contribution in as well, it was only right somehow. There were some good tunes being played in the background later on including The Jam's awesome "A Town Called Malice" so that's my tune of the day all sorted.

It was late when I finally decided to grab a late night pizza from Babylon before heading home on the bus, but it was a really good send off for someone I've been proud to work with for so long. I know that wherever he may be the way that he has a very calm and professional persona and is unshakable in any situation that may cause others to panic speaks volumes, and I know too that if I ever get the opportunity to work with him again, I'd rather take that opportunity by the hands and grasp it. Massively.

Also today, as a little side note, I did manage to get my train tickets sorted out for the forthcoming trip to Birmingham in December. I'm actually seeing The Wonder Stuff acoustic set at Birmingham O2 Academy 2, and it'll mean two gigs in two days for me. I had booked the gig and the hotel already (Ibis Birmingham again because it's a nice place to stay and this time a mere £37, can't argue with that) and so all I needed to do was to wait for the trains to go on sale and get it all sorted, and at the cheapest rate possible on CrossCountry. Hurrah!

Thursday 25th September - Connect, Protect and Buy Art

It was a busy day today at work, with most of it spending time doing the "connect and protect" clinics that we offer people at the start of the year. It's a good chance to meet people, talk about the services we offer, also help them to get their phone connected to the wireless network if need be, and explain about how they can get software etc at student discount. It also meant that we had to set up a little stall in one of our buildings, and I found a decent spot close to the main café area, so hopefully attracting footfall as well.

And the plan worked - it was a busy four hours or so, chatting to lots of people, getting to know them and also being able to explain things. I must admit too that it was just good to be a people person and be someone who could listen to their queries and resolve them at the same time which was good. I also knew plenty about what the students would want to know, so asking them which course that they were studying meant I could then point them in the right direction for a few things too, so it was pretty useful to know.

The day whizzed by because of that and I spent a fair amount of time in the afternoon playing catch up and making sure that lots of our printers were suitably topped up with supplies: in fact there were that many it was a case of taking a trolley with me and then delivering them all across one building. It worked out pretty well to get through the rest of the day and so once I had worked out one final job, it was a case of then heading up towards the city centre and meeting The Love In My Heart at the tram station.

From there we headed along Quay Street and the entrance to what was originally the Granada TV Studios, aka Granadaland, for this year the Buy Art Fair was being held there. For me it was good to see the space being used, and once through the security entrance and round towards the studios themselves, they had been transformed into an open market place for people with stalls to display their art and hopefully sell it to the public and art lovers. It was of course a nice touch that the preview included a glass of wine, certainly made walking around that bit nicer.

In fact my brother's girlfriend had teamed up with two or three other similar artists and had a stall there, and it looked good: lots of nice illustrations and also some very nice work with porcelain and papiermaché too by one of them. It was all very neatly laid out and hopefully that would get people in. I did think one of them having smaller little porcelain pieces for around £30 was a good move: try something different, like it, making it a conversation piece when your friends come over, and then they might be a larger one for more money. Sensible move really.

We had a good time mooching around the stalls and getting some nice ideas. One picture I'd have really liked if I could afford it was a portrait of Morrissey: but done by the titles of Smiths and Morrissey songs in lettering but with different coloured letters to get the face and features right. A mere £429 or so, but I know that it would make a very interesting conversation piece if I could have it. One of the songs featured in the lettering was the Smiths classic "This Charming Man" and so that's tune of the day. All in all, a very enjoyable evening then!

Wednesday 24th September - Seventh Heaven

It had been a busy day again at work but I knew that up and coming was Manchester City's game against Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup. City of course were the holders and I was hoping to see that we'd try to defend our title in some style, and with Sheffield Wednesday supposedly bringing around 5,500 fans or so, it would be good to see the atmosphere ramped up as well as being a decent test for us - they're not doing that bad in the Championship currently either.

My friend came over and we were soon heading over to the ground, and the traffic had already been pretty bad: he was stuck in traffic coming over to mine and I had been stuck getting home from work too. As it turned out the M67 at Denton and the M56 had also had accidents which meant slow traffic there, so possibly an impact with people attempting to locate alternative routes. We managed to get to the ground in good time and were soon taking our seats ready for the action tonight.

The team was a pretty strong one: no Pablo Zabaleta due to suspension but the likes of Frank Lampard, Yaya Touré, James Milner, Jesús Navas, Aleksandar Kolarov, Edin Džeko all started, so definitely not that weak a side, giving Sheffield Wednesday full respect to be fair. The first half too was a close affair, we had a close chance with Elaquim Mangala hitting the post from a corner and the opposition threatening on the counter occasionally with one chance going close, but it was fairly well contained in the end. I was pleased that we were pushing forward and trying what we could to break them down.

Whatever was said at half time did the business though, as it was soon the opening goal. A neat move found James Milner down the right and his perfect low cross was met at the near post by Frank Lampard who snuck it home. Super Frankie Lampard had done it again and that opened the proverbial floodgates as it turned out. A few minutes later Navas broke down the right and pulled the ball back perfectly for Džeko to place it wonderfully well in the bottom corner for 2-0. He did need that goal to kick start the season so was pleased for him that he got it.

One minute later and it was 3-0. Jesús Navas bombed it down the right, and he could have crossed, but instead saw a gap in the top corner and rifled it hard and high past Chris Kirkland in the Sheffield Wednesday goal. It was a brilliant strike and a definite goal of the month contender for me. And the fun didn't stop there - a few minutes later and Lampard was fouled inside the area - definite penalty although the red card fot the Wednesday defender was a bit harsh. Touré's last action of the match before coming off was to smash the penalty home for 4-0. Four goals in fifteen minutes, amazing stuff and we were turning it on.

The goals didn't end there either. Kolarov's burst down the left and inch perfect cross found the head of Džeko for 5-0, and making his full debut for City, Jose Angel Pozo, who apparently has been having rave reviews for the EDS squad, broke forward, the ball went to Navas who drew the keeper and then pulled the ball back for Pozo to score his first ever City goal. He enjoyed it and rightfully so. One of the fans close to me had a bet on 6-0 tonight, but not to be - still time for a ball towards the edge of the area from Kolarov, and Lampard slotted it home with virtually the final kick of the match!

Wow, so 7-0 in all then, and indeed the first time I've ever seen City score seven in one half. More than twenty five years ago I was at City's 10-1 home win against Huddersfield, and we scored six of the goals in the second half, which was a record for me to see then. Impressive it was, and certainly Sara and Tegan's song from the Lego movie "Everything Is Awesome" sums up the second half perfectly for me. It was awesome, so tune of the day and a really well needed victory too!

Tuesday 23rd September - Surprise, Surprise!

It was another busy day at work, and as I walked around the area close to work during my lunch break, it was pretty amazing to see just how much stuff was being given out to anyone and everyone walking past. The local Domino's Pizza normally give out vouchers for a free personal 7" pizza, and let's just say that free food is rather popular to say the least - if the massive queues are anything to go by anyway. I suppose too that it's very easy to be bombarded with everything on that first week, and it is a lot to take in at times.

I've been spending some time as well looking at a couple of things to plan for the future - not least because I want to be sure that I work out what I need to do next. One of these tasks was a piece of software which came on (count them) five DVDs in all. I managed to note that each of them had a silent installer, but for some reason the fourth one wasn't even burned correctly and so refused to play ball (I even tried different PCs and laptops with different DVD drives, and still computer said no followed by a massive cough later on.)

It was good to eventually get home after I'd stayed back a bit to check on progress on one Adobe installation that we needed to do in one of the rooms, and once that seemed happy, it took an age to get home. The only thing is at the moment is that the traffic seems especially bad going out of the city: whether that's a knock on effect with the Labour Party Conference still going on I'm not sure, but it wasn't good to really spend ages on a bus in fairly warm clammy conditions!

Still, got home and started to make the chorizo sausage pasta bake for tea for myself and The Love In My Heart, and she came over later. As it was double Emmerdale (woo for her not for me!) I tried to make it so she didn't miss much of that whilst having tea. In fact I was surprised how well the pasta bake turned out - it really did seem nice and crisp on the cheese on the top and the chorizo blended nicely with the pasta sauce with extra mushrooms, so really did taste good. One of my better efforts I reckon, it has to be said.

Later on we settled in and watched Cilla which I'd recorded from ITV1 the night before, whilst we were at Victoria Baths. It was pretty good again, and I have to say that Sheridan Smith really plays the lead role well, even down to the accent. It was a nice moment seeing when she went with the red hair and the bob, and also when they went down to London with Tom Stoppard as Brian Epstein, whose penchant for homosexuality and rent boys wasn't known to those outside his inner circle at the time. Tom Stoppard played the role really well, being convincing as a manager and yet had that dark side.

Of course convincing Cilla (and George Martin as producer) to sing a ballad was the crux of part of the episode: and so "Anyone Who Had A Heart" became recorded, released and number one no less. Sheridan Smith was bloody excellent performing that and in fact it was lovely that they showed the whole song at the end of the episode with her belting it out: a great showcase for her talents, so tune of the day was a very easy decision really. I have to admit that's one thing we've both loved - the fact that she sings all the songs herself and really does get into it.

Monday 22nd September - Romeo and Juliet at the Baths

It was the first day of term, and you could tell. It was pretty busy everywhere, with lots of stuff going on, and people asking me most of the day for directions. I didn't mind one bit actually, to see people a bit happier and on their way to where they need to be made me feel happy too. In fact the atmosphere was one of that feeling of newness, orientation, finding their way and also working out what needed to be done on the first day. I also was making sure we all pulled together and did what we could to keep things ticking over nicely.

It was good that the day went so quickly, but also in a bad way it wasn't, because it felt like there wasn't that much which could have been done in the time frame alotted. I was also feeling fairly warm due to the slightly muggy conditions out there, and also because of a lot of running around I'd done, and so once I got home it was time to get some stuff ironed, get in the shower and then get changed and be ready for when The Love In My Heart came over.

We were heading off to one of my favourite places in Manchester, Victoria Baths, to see the Home production of Romeo and Juliet there. In case you didn't know, Home is effectively what the Cornerhouse and LIbrary Theatre are merging to, and until their building is complete in early 2015, the theatre shows are going out on the road in different locations. And certainly if you're going to do something different, a classic iconic swimming baths building would be the place to do it for definite.

We got there early and had the green wristbands which meant we'd be seated for virtually all of the show, which was a good thing after a hard day's work. The bar in what used to be the second class males pool (covered over since the 1980s) was good - very fair prices, especially for soft drinks (70p for a can of Coke, 65p for sparkling water), and even the Marble Brewery's "Pint" on cask. Well, it was rude not to, so I had that and we both reserved a drink for the interval, thinking it was going to save us some time (and as it proved, it did) - and we just admired the baths as per normal before the ushers escorted us upstairs to what is the females pool for the first half.

Straight away you could see the work into staging a production here: the middle of the pool had a suspended stage which also opened out in two halves for later scenes, and there were disco balls suspended above too, along with a swing / trapeze which was used later on. The staging and the lighting were first class, really gave that mood of light and dark wonderfully well. Before we knew it an hour and thirty five minutes had passed, so it was back to the bar for the interval, where half a Pint and a glass of wine were there ready for us courtesy of the lovely bar staff.

In the second half, you had to move around the Baths in order to take in the various scenes, and I won't tell you which way this was done, but suffice to say that it worked really well to get people to and from the various sections of the building with some incidental music playing. The acting too was first class: Alex Felton as Romeo was just the right side of estranged and the way he looked really was rather bohemian: but Sara Vickers as Juliet was just... wow. Amazing. She really conveyed all her emotions wonderfully well and dashed around the Baths with grace and flow. It was really rather excellent all round.

The three hours or so passed pretty quickly, always a good sign for us both, and one scene even had Romeo reciting lyrics from The Beatles' "Love Me Do" (make that tune of the day) and so had a slight twist and nod to the modern as well as keeping the classic Shakesperian feel in parts too. It was thoroughly enjoyable and it's no wonder that the production has sold out. If you have managed to get a ticket, you're going to love it, and if you haven't, then you seriously need to do all you can to get one, go take in the atmosphere, and enjoy it.

Sunday 21st September - Super Frankie Lampard

After a relaxing lie in, and making both myself and The Love In My Heart a well earned breakfast, and just pottering around the house for a little bit, it was time for me later on to head with my friend off to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City take on Chelsea. Of course, knowing that Chelsea have a decent record against us and that our form as of late hasn't been perfect, it was going to be a tricky game and one we both knew that we had to get something out of.

As we left for the stadium, stopping via the Asda near the ground to top up the fuel in my friend's car and seeing The Love In My Heart make her way over to Asda as well, we were parked up in the usual spot in the stadium car park and were heading up to the ground, with anticipation at pitch. Quite a few fans had stayed in their cars to listen to the game between Leicester City and Manchester United on their radios, and unbelieveably Leciester had come back from 3-1 down to win 5-3. Wow indeed.

So the stage was set, and the sun was out too (rather nicely) and the game kicked off. It was a bit of a midfield battle but Fernandinho and James Milner were immense, winning tackles, getting stuck in and really creating as much as they could. The defenders were keeping the Chelsea strikers away, with Vincent Kompany having Diego Costa in his pocket and Elaquim Mangala also looking very useful indeed on his debut, power and pace combined in equal measure.

The referee was far too card happy though and had booked numerous players by half time for tackles that didn't even warrant one. I had a feeling that they'd come back to haunt us later, and in the second half, it did, as Pablo Zabaleta tackled Diego Costa, Costa went down and then rose up to virtually attempt to strangle Zaba, but of course the decision had already been made by the referee, and it was a second yellow for the popular City defender. He went off reluctantly with the Zabaleta chant ringing very loudly inside the stadium, and rightly so.

Chelsea then went and scored not long after with Andre Schürrle putting the finish in, but City didn't give up, and after a couple of substitutions, on came Frank Lampard against his former club of over a decade or so. Obviously when he signed for New York City, there was no idea of a loan deal with us, so that was a good susprise for us to have him. And so it proved too. James Milner was now down the left and his cross was met by Lampard, and.. yes! Get in! Fair play to Frank for not celebrating and even after the goal the Chelsea fans were singing "Super Frankie Lampard" along with the City fans. They haven't forgotten what he did for them and it was quite a special atmosphere to see that.

So 1-1 at the final whistle then and with us being 1-0 down with ten men earlier, I'd have taken that. It was great to see the determination of City at that point and it showed that when up against it, we play as a team and get stuck in properly. Tune of the day is "The Boys In Blue" by Manchester City's 1970s squad, as the key line throughout is "The boys in blue never give in" and they certainly didn't today that's for sure, I was really proud of them all for giving their all there.

Saturday 20th September - Something Old, Something New

It was good to be up and about on a Saturday morning, and I knew I had to be up fairly early as I had the grocery shopping being delivered from Tesco. It all came on time which was fine, but one of the items that was in the Finest Meal Deal for £10 deal was substituted, and so I'd been overcharged. A quick online chat to Tesco sorted out, but it's worth noting that for those items I specifically put in the substitutions to "pick another dessert in the Finest Meal Deal for £10" offer so the picker should have actually known that and acted accordingly. Always why I double check the shopping bill when I get it!

I also had some good news through today courtesy of Virgin Trains. The train I'd got back from London with my friend was delayed by over half an hour, and so I put the Delay Repay claim in (as everyone should when their train is delayed enough.) In the post therefore was a letter of apology from them and rail travel vouchers for £27, which was half the cost of the two journeys for the way back, so spot on their word as per usual. I was going to use them later today to book some trains to London for a trip for myself and The Love In My Heart, and the only thing is with the vouchers you get - you have to book trains at a station!

That wasn't a biggie, as I was heading into the city centre anyway as I needed to get my hair cut, and the ladies at The Northern Cutter weaved their usual magic with the clippers and got everything all nice and lovely for me. I also ventured over to Fopp to have a mooch around the new releases and the CDs, especially the fact that Frank was out on Blu-Ray as well. I was tempted, but I resisted, and headed over to the Virgin Money Lounge for a well earned coffee and a relaxing sit down in the comfy chairs whilst Football Focus was on in the background. Ah, the simple things.

I headed via Piccadilly station on the way homeward, and got the train tickets sorted. I also knew that the local market was on close to me, so I stopped off there as well and had a nice look around all the stalls. I did see a couple of people selling CDs, so I had a mooch through them and located the first Dream Theater album "Images and Words" for a mere £2.50, so that was obviously mine as you can imagine. I also saw a nice stall with lovely knitted little brooches, so I got one for The Love In My Heart as a little present for a surprise, thought it was the nice thing to do.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over and we had a relaxing evening in, with me making a nice meal for tea and us also relaxing with a catch up of Who Do You Think You Are, and the episode with Sheridan Smith in. It was really nice to see her with her parents doing Country and Western, but also tracing their musical history from the Victorian era and how the humble banjo shaped a lot of that - so much so that she purchased one herself and learned a few songs on it. "There's No Place Like Home" which she learned and performed with a real sense of sensitivity is therefore tune of the day.

Friday 19th September - Musing in the Academy 2

It was good to get everything done today I wanted to get done, and then some. For some reason I managed to get really focussed on the tasks in hand and got everything done that I needed to do, so that was good. I also managed too to finish off all the PCs in one of the building, so they all have the software on that was needed, and on top of that it meant that everything that we needed to do was done. Now roll on Monday and a rather manic week to say the least, and I've got three nights out minimum that week as well, amazing just how it all works out in the end!

I headed with a colleague after work to a leaving do of one of our former colleagues and someone whom my colleague worked closely with for a number of years too - so it was a walk over to the Kim by the Sea bar in Old Birley Street in Hulme. They did have some bottled real ales on but all in the fridge. Aargh! Still, a Fursty Ferret was mine and it was good to sit and natter for a fair bit. The staff must have laid some nice food on as well as they were bringing up all sorts of nibbles, chips and even a couple of pizzas. It was nice to see a few people and chat to them as well.

I headed home, primarily for a quick change of clothes, mainly to put one of my t-shirts on (namely a black one of the band I was off to see) and off to Manchester Academy 2 on the bus to see Throwing Muses. Of course it was going to be special as former Muse Tanya Donnelly was supporting, and part of me hoped that she'd hook up with the band old school style and rock out with Kristin Hersh (whom as some of you may know I have the greatest admiration for anyway.)

It was very warm in the Academy 2 as it always is (someone really needs to sort this out, it's just too warm in there and I always feel uncomfortable) and there was a queue for the bar, but behind me in the queue was one of my lovely friends off Flickr, who said to me that she might have been going to this gig. She had a couple of friends with her too, so it was all good to natter in between bands and then enjoy the bands when they were on (aren't we good?)

Tanya Donnelly was on first, and her set was rather nice. Accompanied by some lovely slide guitar throughout, it was an intriguing mix of solo stuff and from her former band Belly as well. What I didn't expect was which ones she'd pick though: Low Red Moon and Dusted sounded lovely, but the final song of the set was one of my favourites of that era: Slow Dog, and it sounded as fast paced and wonderful with some lovely guitars really setting the scene perfectly, and Tanya in fine voice. Hurrah to that!

Before long on came Throwing Muses, and it was an intriguing set. They started off with a number of tracks from their recent "Purgatory/Paradise" release, which I suspect not everyone had heard. That said, it was bloody great to hear the likes of "Sunray Venus" and "Static" really giving it some. The Academy 2's sound system and mixing didn't help though, sounded boomy in parts and I know that wasn't down to the band whatsoever. We also got a solo Kristin number, the wonderful "Mississipi Kite" which really sounded gorgeously electric too.

On came Tanya Donnelly and so it was a selection of classic Throwing Muses songs, all from the era with Tanya in. So we got the wonderful "You Cage" which made me smile a lot, so tune of the day there, and with the likes of "Devil's Roof" and "Say Goodbye" as well, it was good stuff. It just made me really happy to see them both on stage together and rocking, not least because I was too young to see the band at venues when they were together in the band, and only got to see the Muses post-Tanya, so this was the next best thing.

The threesome (sans Tanya) came back on for the encores and I got three of my favourite post-Tanya era Muses songs back to back, the wonderful "Shark" followed by an electric charged version of "Bright Yellow Gun" as well, and then "Pearl" to end it all wonderfully well, which I still adore massively, especially how it just builds and then slows down oh so delicately at the end. I was very happy and as the night fell on the Manchester sky, it made me realise that gigs are ace.

Thursday 18th September - Birthday Bonus

It was good to just concentrate on the stuff I needed to do today, so I headed back to room 214 that I'd started on yesterday and did the piece of work to start adding the extra software on, so the first task sequence was run with all the specialist software on that they have. In fact there is a second run I need to run later which does a mass install of all the components that make up Autodesk Building Design Suite 2015 - it all has to run as separate steps on its own from a distribution point as the installation is massive, and trying to see it all download to a machine and run just wasn't feasible - not least when it's a massive 38GB worth!

Anyway, whilst the software was installing, I headed down to the ground floor of the same building and to a room that was going to be a new base room for one of the courses. The staff had asked for a couple of PCs in there and had sorted out its location, complete with table. I had brought a couple of PCs with me and so started off imaging them - the hope was that if I could image those, get the main additional software on, I could then fire up the Autodesk task sequence overnight so they'd be done by morning. Not daft me you know!

It was good though to focus on that and in the afternoon I took on plenty of smaller jobs and was able to get things done as much as possible to make sure that things worked correctly for everyone, and was quite pleased to see the day speed by rather quickly and rather nicely - always good when that happens. I then headed not home but into the city centre first and then out again as I was off to see The Love In My Heart - we were off to one of her niece's birthdays and was having a get together at her sister's.

The Love had asked me to nip into the local Asda on the way back to get a bottle of wine but also some cat food for the two cats Jô and Brian. Just lately they've been very happy cats they see a tray of Sheba tuna, so that's what I got. I also saw that Dreamies were knocked down to £1, so I got a pack of them as well as an extra treat. And yes, all cats love Dreamies - trust me on this. Once Jô had seen the pack he was looking at me with that "please give me some" look that he has. Aww.

We got changed and ready and headed out to The Love's sister's place later on. There was some very nice food laid on including some barbecue chicken and some rice to go with it, and some nice cheese, chicken satay skewers, and plenty to nibble on too. I had brought some ale with me but her sister had also got some too (very thoughtful) and so it was nice to relax and have some food and drink and chat with The Love's relations. She had got her niece a lovely piece of jewellery - a Guess bangle - and with the nice posh pouch to store it in it looked really classy, and her niece appreciated it massively.

It was quite fun in that plenty of the songs that her niece listened to as a child (Spice Girls and Westlife) were played - not music to my ears of course but each to their own. It was just a nice relaxing evening on the whole and the time flew by with The Love chatting to her family and I spent a bit of time with her father as well, having a good natter too. We headed back to The Love's place fairly late and it was time to head back, with thankfully (as the soundtrack was also played) "She's Like The Wind" by the late Patrick Swayze in our heads - tune of the day just because it's The Love's classic film!

Wednesday 17th September - Retro 214

It was a nice surprise to wake up to this morning as the first preview remake track by former Commodore 64 musician Matt Gray (who ended up being a record producer of some note) was unleashed to the masses, namely a more modern rendition of the Central Park loader theme from the game Last Ninja 2. Those of you who owned such a machine back in the day will know that the Last Ninja series of games were pretty superb, and the soundtracks for each were clearly genre-defining. The gritty atmosphere evoked by Matt in Last Ninja 2 matched the New York theme of the game, and so was a great accompaniment.

Fast forward to now, and with a whole box set of reworkings of his Commodore arrangements looking possible, it was important to gauge interest, and so the preview was released. And wow. Once the Oriental introduction gives way to the opening bars, with some subtle but lovely Commodore arpeggio from the original, the drums kick in. It's spine tingling. It was just as I imagined that the whole track should have been reworked for a modern generation thus far. The fact I've played this on numerous occasions before work and now once I've got home from work says all you need to know - tune of the day it most certainly is!

At work today once I'd got the laptops all sorted and put back in place, it was time to focus attention one room in another building, Room 214 to be precise. The room required a lot of the PCs and Macs that were there putting back, and as most of the work for power and data in the floor boxes have been done (but not all) it made sense to hook up what we can and at least get things done for the reimaging of the PCs. They all at least started by the end of the day but it was pretty hard work in all getting things together for it.

It also meant that I was out of the office for most of the day and that was keeping me on my toes, only managing to sort out emails and the like in between when I could. Interestingly as well it looked like that the room plan I'd worked out meant that there was just enough power for all the PCs plus their monitors and the iMacs as well, so it was sensible to where possible keep the cables all together so that they wouldn't get in the way of people at the same time.

I think what the last few weeks have shown is that there's so much to be done and so little time and with less resources it seems. It'll be interesting to see what the next few weeks bring but I already think that there's going to be a lot to do. So any free time I've got in the evenings are going to be purely spent as quality time for sure. Like tonight. City are on later against Bayern Munich and so the plan will be to watch that and see how the boys do overall - fingers crossed!

Tuesday 16th September - Up and Running

It was another busy day ahead, but one which I was organising myself nicely for. I had in the main got the laptops imaged with the main OS deployment task sequence, and so now it was a case of making sure that all the software applications in one task sequence went on afterwards. On the whole this was a pretty good case of being able to work together with one of my colleagues, set everything going nicely and then be able to plan the next stage: which was to then switch on the PCs in the same room and make sure that any critical updates that were needed for them were done, as the room had been painted and so they'd not been switched on for a while.

It just meant thinking on the feet a bit and then being able to sort out whatever I could in terms of the day to day stuff, and where possible making sure that there were enough of us around to try and deal with that as well. I think in essence the start of the year is always fraught with a lot to do, and I think this year more than ever there's an increasing importance on just how much front facing activity that there is, and how much that a smile really does go a long way when times aren't that easy as well!

I got home later and after sorting out a shed load of washing and ironing, The Love In My Heart headed over, and I started to make the tea - some chicken in a spicy arabiatta sauce with some mash and peas to go with it. it was pretty nice actually, and just the job after a long day as well. The Love settled in with a glass of wine and after tea we caught up with something we both wanted to watch the night before: the first part of the Cilla drama with Sheridan Smith as the main role. It was pretty good on the whole, and Sheridan seemed to do her to a tee, surprisingly enough.

What was good to see though was all the energy in the musical live performance scenes (and yes, they were recorded live during filming) which really added to the immediacy of it. Having quality musicians who can also act really did give a feeling of Liverpool being the place to be in the early 1960s and how the likes of The Beatles were starting out, how Ringo Starr actually did his bit for her etc, and all filmed with some nice gritty urban backdrops which would have been for its time. We both are looking forward to the other two parts of this drama immensely.

Don't Tell The Bride inevitably was next, and I have to say that even The Love is getting fed up slightly of the show now - it almost seems as if they're picking people who are going to be more outlandish than the last. In this week's episode the groom didn't even like weddings and wanted it on top of a suburban car park where they occasionally have summer parties on. He did get the top of an old factory warehouse in the end and the horrible bride's dress (actually a signature Vivienne Westwood piece that didn't fit her at all) and weird looking white sneakers just made me think how much it was away from what the brides want, nice romantic feelings and all that.

Still, if there's one thing to learn from, is that everyone is different and that sometimes convention isn't the norm - and what works for them is what works. They did interestingly have some Nine Inch Nails playing in the background just before the ceremony though: no less than "The Frail" from their excellent album "The Fragile" - so tune of the day there. Would have been good if it continued into the next track "The Wretched" which is what I am sure that the bride made of her dress!

Monday 15th September - Hamlet Heroics

It was a very busy day in the office, and because of the fact that it's ramping up to the start of the new year, no surprise to learn that there's plenty of things to do, lots of queries to answer and also plenty to have to try and organise to the best of our ability where possible. It's a tough balancing act sometimes, but I suppose it's a case of prioritising the work that's been planned, and in my case that was sorting out two laptop trolleys full of laptops which needed to be re-imaged. I'd booked out a room for it all and so was able to use that room's network points and get started on it, which was a good thing in my eyes.

I headed home and got myself showered and changed into something much nicer before heading to the city centre to meet up with The Love In My Heart. We had got tickets for the production of Hamlet at the Royal Exchange Theatre, which by all accounts has been extremely popular, and so were going to see it tonight. It's been a while since we've been there: in fact it was probably when we saw Macbeth there a few years back, which was also rather good it has to be said.

We met in Piccadilly and headed to The Waterhouse pub for some food and drink first - and I had the haddock and chips that was on special for a mere £4.99. Add to that a rather lovely pint of the Wild Blackberry Mild from the Offbeat Brewery (and very nice it was too) and that was me all nicely sorted. The Love had a steak sandwich with some wine, and it was just nice to relax and chat for a while too. I even had a carrot cake and coffee afterwards which set me up nicely for the evening to come.

We had good seats in the second row of the first gallery, and the view of the stage was rather good from there, and comfortable seating at that on a raised level. We were both pretty excited as we knew Maxine Peake, who is an excellent actress and whom we have both enjoyed as Grace Middleton in The Village recently, was Hamlet, and the other actors looked pretty good too in their roles. I could only hope that despite the three hours or so running time that it was going to go at a good pace and not be dragged too much.

I had nothing to worry about, really. What followed in the two hours before the interval and the hour or so afterwards was a very different and yet very engrossing version of Hamlet, with the emphasis on the personas of the roles and somewhat breaking a little with tradition. I certainly think if you're expecting it to be followed to the original Shakesperian letter, you wouldn't necessarily enjoy it, but this certainly focussed on the turmoil and torturous soul of Hamlet, along with the madness of Ophelia and the haunting of the ghostly Claudius as well, along with some gender swapped roles that yet remained rather spot on.

Maxine Peake was superb as Hamlet, with the Bowie-esque short cropped hair and striking figure, really did get the emotions and the somewhat slight madness and drama really nailed nicely. Her rapier delivered wit (not to mention swordplay near the end) was just right, with an odd nod here and there to a more slightly Northern influence, which worked well. Gillian Bevan was brilliant as Polonius, carrying the role off with gender change well. Her somewhat domineering character really did come to the fore wonderfully well.

You had Katie West as Ophelia, stripping herself bare emotionally (and most of her clothes) during her madness sequence, and she was a perfect foil to Hamlet too. John Shrapnel's Claudius and haunted ghostly figure did somewhat look inside itself, wondering just how he would resolve things, and Gertrude was rather subtly but all the better for it played by Barbara Marten (Mrs Greg in the recent series The Mill on Channel 4 no less) - and I could go on about the number of rather excellent performances.

In short, it's pretty much sold out its run for a reason: the prospect of seeing it on a small intimate stage, imagined in a different manner and also with some lovely lighting touches, makes it a winner. So much so that there's even a nice David Bowie reference in one scene, so once I got home I played some classic Bowie - and because of the obvious Manchester reference from the TV series "Life on Mars" is therefore tune of the day - and an excellent one at that.

Sunday 14th September - Lock and Load

It was a very nice Sunday morning, being able to have a well deserved lie in after a long day yesterday. It was also good because I felt I needed to have a day of relative rest and relaxation before having a fairly intense week at work during this week coming up. I gradually got myself up and started to get a few things sorted, and made some nice sausages on toast for breakfast, with a well earned coffee to keep me going as well. It was really good to just take it all easy and then give one of my friends a quick call to see how they were after having had two weeks off work (lucky them!)

The Love In My Heart came over, and we had a chat and a catch up at first before deciding to head out for the afternoon. We were going to take a walk along the Marple Locks, and then possibly have something to eat (or just a drink) at the Midland in Marple Bridge, one place we both really love. We'd also decided to head via the large Tesco in Stockport, as I had some of the Fuel Save money off to use, and it also meant The Love's car could be filled up nicely with money saved at the same time - and so it proved, money off was good.

We soon were close to Marple Bridge and The Love parked up, and then it was following the path close to Brabyns Park, and once we'd got to the park's car park, we noticed a path to head upwards and along, which was a little bit of a shortcut to one of the main paths. This then took us all the way up to the stone wall that runs alongside the canal towpath, so we headed up the stairs there and on to the tow path, and we actually saw a boat heading up the Marple Locks (it had got to lock seven, but I suspected there was still much more for the people on the boat to do, if they realised it!)

For a change, we crossed the canal and headed along the road on the other side, which took us gradually downhill, with the line of sight of the water not being that far away. This eventually took us to the bridge over the canal and to the nice house there, with the railway bridge not far away (in fact the junction that takes one line to Rose Hill Marple is about here too). We then headed past the lovely house and alongside the path that we normally take, but of course now heading up hill. We could hear the trains to Sheffield heading past us, and in one case underneath us, as the line passes below the canal in a tunnel between locks four and five.

We were soon at the lock nine by the main road, so we headed downhill (the best bit of the walk after all that climbing uphill following the locks) and then towards the Midland. It was relatively calm and chilled out, and even Paul Weller's "Broken Stones" was playing in the background, so tune of the day there. We got ourselves a drink and got a really nice table by the window, overlooking the River Goyt and the village of Marple Bridge as well. All lovely, and the Doom Bar real ale was also on fine form. Not much more I could wish for really, especially as The Love was with me and looking beautiful.

I ordered the fish and chips, and it was gorgeous - a really nicely battered haddock with minted mushy peas, and some nice tartare sauce and chunky chips to die for. The Love had the Sunday roast pork, and the pork loin looked and smelt beautiful, and tasted that way too. With a backing soundtrack from the likes of Nouvelle Vague, and with it being nice and quiet and chilled, we chatted and had some gorgeous lunch together. See, this is what Sunday afternoons are really for I think.

We headed back to mine later and snuggled up on the sofa whilst having a watch of Sunday's repeat of The Great British Bake Off, and I even did my best Mel and Sue impression: "On your marks, get set, BAAAAAKE!" whilst watching it. We both still liked Luis' version of the Lyme Park Cage building, although it did make us both wonder why he wasn't allowed to mention where it was - would people actually want to go there en masse and then be disappointed to find that the building isn't open most of the year? The mind did boggle slightly..

Saturday 13th September - Emirates Enjoyment

It was an early start for both me and my friend this morning, as we were heading off to London to see Manchester City's game at Arsenal. I'd had to do a bit of research beforehand, as my friend who is as much a diehard City fan as I am, is a wheelchair user, and as such I had to work out if all the methods of transportation were doable, and then where need be book them all first. Thankfully Virgin Trains on the Manchester to London route do offer wheelchair spaces and plenty of asisstance as well, so that was good to see, and having booked all that a few weeks back, the staff were really nice and friendly and went through everything with me.

My friend picked us up and I directed him to the long stay car park in Piccadilly, which is a mere £4 for the whole day at weekends. This means also that you are able to place the car pretty close to the station and not have to worry about getting there, so that's good. We had plenty of time, so went to Bread Box and got ourselves a sausage barm and a coffee and a tea, which of course was brilliant value and not expensive. We got to the train and waited outside the coach, and the train manager was lovely - she had to head up to the main concourse to find the person on duty to sort the ramp out for us, and then once that was done we were all on and good to go. She even asked if we needed anything from the shop as we set off, and rang ahead to Euston to make sure we were met at the other end (which we'd booked too.)

It was the first time my friend had been on a train in a very long time and on the whole I think he liked it: nice wide space for the chair and to manouevre to the toilet, which wasn't that far away - the toilet was also large enough for everything to fit in without any issues as well. The wheelchair space has a nice window view so although we could transfer to a normal seat if he wanted to (and booked that too) it was easier to just be relaxed on the way down, which we were. It was also good that he was able to try out the loo during the journey and see how it all worked, get the confidence up etc.

We arrived at Euston bang on time, and the station staff were there ready to get the ramp out for us so we could exit the train, and once that was done we headed up and out of the station, through the concourse and on to the bus station. I knew we needed to get the 253 bus to Hornsey Road, where it was a short stroll to the ground itself. All buses in London are wheelchair accessible, although I'd heard various stories from users in London who'd said that the drivers and Transport for London don't always follow the law (in which a wheelchair user has priority even over buggies) - so be interesting to see what happened.

Well, thumbs up to this 253 driver, he was excellent. As he entered the bus station, he didn't open the front door, but activated the wheelchair ramp in the middle door, we got in, I went to the driver and swiped my Oyster card (I have to pay of course) and he asked me where we were getting off so he could make sure we could safely depart. And we headed through Camden Town, past Holloway Prison and on to Seven Sisters Road, we pressed the bell for Hornsey Road and the driver was spot on, got the access ramp done, and we departed safely. He even waved to us as the bus left. Now that was really nice. I don't think they'd all be like that but well done him!

We headed down Hornsey Road and were soon at the impressive Emirates Stadium. I spotted Steve Claridge walking across to the ground and there were two women giving away free little bottles of Coke Zero - so we weren't going to say no to that! I headed up the ramp to the ground and as we entered I spotted one of my relations on my Mum's side, they were going to be sat next to us in the spaces and it was good to catch up and chat with them. They had got the coach and had left really early, so one advantage of taking the train: you could leave later. Oh yes.

We went to the food kiosk and perused their menu, and it was actually cheaper in most cases than City's catering, and apart from a lack of chips, had a better choice. Holland's Pies for one (as a Northerner this is a good thing) as well as massive sausage rolls, nice tea and coffee (yes City, not Nescafé in a sachet!) and friendly staff too. We had a brew and sausage roll (two for a fiver instead of three quid each, nice deal that) and so we were soaking the atmosphere in nicely with a good view from the corner of the Clock End as well.

The game itself was also excellent: Arsenal started brightly but City held firm despite Danny Welbeck chipping over Joe Hart and hitting the post following a poor David Silva back pass. Frank Lampard also started and although he wasn't at full speed, he did look at least as if he was holding the midfield nicely with Fernandinho, so that was good. And as the half went on City got more into the game as well, with chances coming thick and fast at each end.

With half an hour or so gone, Sergio Agüero challenged for a ball in the middle of the pitch - and it spun off to the right wing. Jesús Navas was on to it like a flash and he ran down the right, and laid in a perfect ball for Agüero to finish for 1-0. We all went mental and the crowd were in full voice too, singing nice songs for Samir Nasri who was going to get a barracking from the Arsenal fans: "He's won the league twice, he's won the league twice, Samir Nasri, he's won the league twice" and "Na na na na na-na-na na na na, Samir's won the league, won the league, Samir's won the league" to just wind them up a tad.

Half time came and 1-0 to City, all good so far. Lampard went off for Nasri and inevitably he got boos from the Arsenal contigent. The second half was a real battle in the middle with Fernandinho having to be on good form to cut out most of the attacks from Arsenal, with Alexis Sanchez being dangerous on the attack. The ball was won in the middle (possible foul on Agüero but the ref didn't give it - no surprise as it was Mark Clattenburg, say no more) and then down the right went Jack Wilshere, who chipped it past Joe Hart at the near post for 1-1. Not good.

It was less good a few minutes later as Arsenal pressed forward, and Vincent Kompany was challenged to the ball by Danny Welbeck. The ball came back out and it was chipped left to Alexis Sanchez who rifled one home - it was a cracking finish. Mesut Ozil looked offside as the ball was played (but was not deemed to be interfering with play) and although there was the odd offside protest, Kompany didn't protest the challenge from Welbeck (which City manager Manuel Pellegrini did afterwards) and somehow a 2-1 defeat would make our day out massively less enjoyable.

On came Edin Džeko and Aleksandar Kolarov, and they made a difference, Kolarov's cross was deflected for a corner. The corner came in from him and it just missed the head of Džeko, but it didn't miss the head of Martin Demechelis who planted a great header in for 2-2. Yes! And in fact Džeko forced the Arsenal keeper Wojciech Sczesny into a superb save near the end, and also had a shot from Džeko hit the post as well close in stoppage in time. In the end, a fair result, although I must admit a win would have been really nice to snatch at the end.

We headed out of the ground and soon made it back to the bus stop for the 253 bus back. It was still busy with people so we let the first one go past, and other buses came and went before the next 253. The driver was less co-operative this time around, and although the ramp came out and we got on, we politely asked the lady in the buggy to move as the wheelchair had priority. The driver called out "she doesn't have to move if she got on first". Actually he's wrong, and the posters on the bus even said so. Ah well, one that needs training but at least he did let us on, so that's something.

As sometimes happens on London Buses though, the destination changed from Euston to Camden Town, so we got off there when it terminated, but that meant I was able to have a walk around there with my friend and show him parts of it including the high street. And to be honest, it's not that far from Euston anyway, so we headed down Eversholt Street and to Euston, and had a quick stroll to the Crown and Anchor (so he could see one of my favourite haunts in London) before arriving back at the station. Nowhere did pizza, which my friend wanted, so instead we were going to head to the Harry Ramsden's in there to have some food. As we entered the station I spotted Džeko and Kolarov walking past, and shook their hands and said "well played". The day just got a little bit better!

We then had some nice food, and reported to the assistance desk, and the staff there were ace. The 1800 train was already in and so he said "would you like to get on now if you're ready?" - so he informed us we were on platform 15, and then sure enough one of the staff was waiting, sorted the ramp out, and on we got, well before anyone else. If you've ever had that mad dash as the platform is announced from Euston with everyone heading to the train you'll appreciate how useful it was to get on first!

The train journey was delayed: but we already knew why. There had been a fatality close to Atherstone, and so we were either going to be divered via Birmingham, or what did happen, in which was that we went slower through Rugby and Nuneaton and then once past Atherstone, we picked up pace again. There were quite a few people who might have had a little too much beer and were singing some Manchester classics such as The Smiths' "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" (make it tune of the day) but it was fairly jovial.

Despite the forty minute delay in getting back (Delay Repay claim already filled in) it was good to see someone waiting for the ramp and got us off without fuss, and my friend and I headed back to the car and headed home. I know he had a great day and so did I - another ground to tick off the list that we'd been to, but also it was good to make my friend's birthday that bit better by planning something which gave him a day to remember as well. And that was really good.

Friday 12th September - Looking Forward

Another very busy day at work, and another varied one at that. From specialist embroidery software to sorting out a printer, from having to report a faulty laptop to then fixing an issue with a driver package in SCCM, it's all in a day's work for me. Somehow being able to master all that and keep on top where possible of any incoming calls that come in is rather tricky to balance, and I think that I've been doing what I can to keep the head above water where possible.

It was quite interesting to test out a couple of things too: and I was able to get a machine deployed in the morning and visit an office to start it all off. I know one of the other staff in there so it was good to have a catch up and chat, and also discuss the Dogs Home fire from the previous night. Thankfully it looks like lots of money has been donated, and so much so that there was even talk of over half a million pounds being raised for the cause, which is pretty good going it has to be said.

I got home via a quick detour to the local Asda, mainly to get the cash out for the weekend. I'm massively looking forward to tomorrow as my friend and I are off to the Emirates Stadium to see Manchester City at Arsenal. It's going to be a good test for us to see how viable heading to and around the capital is (more for my friend and me) and also to see just how the Emirates Stadium is. I've been to the old Highbury back in the early 1990s, seeing us get an epic 2-2 draw from being 2-0 down in a midweek night in 1991, ah the memories.

With everything also booked for my November jaunt, it was time to listen to some 3 Daft Monkeys and their excellent album "Of Stones and Bones" which to me really has lots of meaning: notably because the songs are based about their home county of Cornwall, and a place I love with my heart too. In fact one of the songs on there "The Lovers of Porthgwarra Cove" inspired me this year when I was on holiday there to actually head to the cove itself and see what it was like - and indeed it is a beautiful place. Said tune is tune of the day for that reason.

In fact totting up, I've seen the band several times: Bury Met (November 2008), Manchester Academy 3 (November 2009 and November 2010), Manchester Band on the Wall (November 2013), so this November will be the fifth time I've seen them, and December will be the sixth at Bury Met (already booked that before I'd even seen the Cornwall dates for the jaunt I'd planned.) Falmouth will also be the first gig I've done in Cornwall and the twentieth different town or city I've done a gig in - and believe me, there's plenty more I'd want to do.

So in alphabetical order, I've so far done gigs in Birmingham, Bristol, Burnley, Bury, Cardiff, Glasgow, Halifax, Holmfirth, Huddersfield, Liverpool, Leeds, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Preston, Sale, Salford, Warrington and York. Wowzers. I've also totted up seventy five gig venues in that time (and there's at least three new ones in the next few weeks) of which I've done twenty eight different venues in Manchester. That'll then be twenty nine when I see Baskery in a few weeks time. Double wowzers.

Thursday 11th September - For The Love of Dogs

I'd had a pretty busy day at work and I must admit thinking about the amount of stuff that needs to be done before the start of the new year is a pretty scary prospect. Part me of in truth isn't thinking about it - because if I do stop for a moment, that could be quite worrying. I think too because we are genuinely down a number of staff that we need to try and do what we can to make what we have work - even if that means taking on a chunk of stuff myself in order to try and keep things going as much as possible.

One task I was looking at earlier was a piece of software that was connected to a tester machine which is used for analysis in one of the laboratories in the ground floor of one building. The machine and software were all installed but they weren't talking to each other. I thought about it and looked into it a bit: the USB cable was seeing the device at the other end and assuming it was a sort of USB to serial dongle - and the device was functioning okay. But the software wasn't seeing it.

I had a feeling it was a software issue, so I downloaded the updated version of the software from the website, which was a newer version than that which was on the CD. And once that was done - badabing! It asked if I wanted to use the machine with the software (well, yes I do) and also was then able to transfer measurements from the machine to the PC and was able to view the results there. Granted there's still an issue with exporting data, but at least it's much further than it was before.

I got home and cleaned up the house as well as do a shed load of ironing, and then The Love In My Heart came over for tea - so I made us some rather nice spaghetti carbonara whilst she was watching the first of an Emmerdale double header. I like to time the meal so we have it in between episodes for her: I am not meithered about the soaps but I know for her it's a big thing - so best to indulge where I can. I even had the London Glory ale with the tea which wasn't that bad either.

We then settled in to watch Paul O'Grady: For The Love of Dogs, as Paul headed around Battersea Dogs Home seeing many of the dogs getting rehoused and being able to be loved back to health: notably Soldier, one dog who had been allowed to get really thin and boney, and was full of infections so he had to be in quarantine whilst he was being attended to. Once he was back to health and two loving owners had him, the difference was amazing and Paul is a real dog lover: you can tell that he fusses over them and means to.

At the same time I was starting to hear news of Manchester Dogs' Home being on fire. A quick check around the web revealed that a fire had been started, and that potentially there could be many dogs that have been killed because of it. As the evening developed and we heard of what had happened, it was pretty sickening to hear. I am not a dog person by a long way, but I do know many people have dogs as their close companions and that they're often well looked after and a valued member of a lot of families, and they feel about them the same as I do about The Love's two cats (more of a cat person you see.) To see so many dogs perish is horrible to hear.

In view of that tune of the day is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' version of "Death Is Not The End" which somehow is also the perfect closer to the band's "Murder Ballads" album. The words sum up everything really, and that in the chorus it's uplifting and positive and that death is indeed not the end. Nor should it be - the dogs still need to be rehoused where possible, and that the public's already generous nature has come forward and donated left right centre to help shows how much humanity there still thankfully is in the world.

Wednesday 10th September - On Your Marks, Get Set, Bake!

It was a fairly busy day at work today and it meant I could focus on several things at once and do what I could try and do to get stuff done. One positive somewhat not work related that I was able to take back from today is that one of our admin offices was having a bake sale to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, which I wholeheartedly agree with backing anyway - they're always a lovely bunch. For my donation I did have a rather nicely baked lemon drizzle cake that was just the right side of lemony without being too much.

This kind of set things up nicely for watching The Great British Bake Off in the evening, and of course with the theme being European desserts they were going to make all sorts of different and wonderful creations. I thoroughly admit that I did like the idea of the Scandinvaian Princess cake as the technical challenge, notably because of the fact that the marzipan top of the cake needed to appear as a rounded dome with all the layers of cream, jam and creme patissiere underneath all looking rather lovely.

On top of that there was then the showstopper - which was to make the design based on the layers of a Hungarian torte receipe. I quite liked the idea of this, and some got the idea and went with it - Luis decided to pick something close to home and made a scale replica in dessert form of The Cage in Lyme Park, a place I've been to many times myself and enjoyed the time there. He looked good to stay in as did Martha and Nancy, with also Chetna pulling off some really good flavours and nailing the challenges throughout pretty well.

So it was down to two: Kate or Richard. Both were pretty close between each other in terms of their challenges that they did and it was going to be a tough decision to make. In the end, and primarily because of the fact that Diana had left to illness the week before, it was decided that no one was going. Cries of "cop out" from me though - surely if everyone was on a consistent level then there'd be no one in danger, or there could have always been a double exit to really spice up the action and then leave the remainder in for two to three weeks of semi finals with all of their challenge scores counting!

That said as well, I suppose that they wanted the programme to run its more natural course and all that. It just seems to me that since the move to BBC One it's almost a case of having to cause a slight bit of controversy to keep people watching. In truth, it doesn't need it. It was all nice and cosy on BBC Two, and now the general masses have also decided they don't like Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins much, despite the fact that they help make the show as lovely as it is. Dear Auntie Beeb, can we please please have it back on BBC Two - where it belongs?

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather excellent "Control I'm Here" by Nitzer Ebb. I've been playing a lot of the band's 12" singles on vinyl that I have, and it really shows itself to be the best format for the band somehow, with the electronic dark mood of a lot of the singles really having that nice bass thump in the background. When it sounds all nice and warm and analogue, well isn't it good? Actually, it is, and I can highly recommend any of their singles.

Tuesday 9th September - Salutations and Stories

It was a pretty busy day at work, notably the afternoon, where I was spending most of my time at the Salutation pub. Now that might sound glamorous and all that - woo, a day in the pub with some fine ale and all that, but nothing could be further from the truth. The pub was having a re-opening tonight after a massive refurbishment, and as the place where the late great Frank Sidebottom played his last ever gig, and having seen him there live on numerous occasions, it has some rather special memories to say the least.

So effectively it was a race against time to try and get the till sorted - it had a network socket to connect to, but that wasn't live in the switch upstairs. Even then when it was, it needed to be on a certain vLAN, so once that was then changed over, and the till was at least visible, we then headed back to the old Students Union building, checked that we could at least download the updates for the software to the till (which worked beautifully) and then everything was running. I was doing my bit, and it was good to be able to leave it all happy and smiling and ready to go.

I do think though that somewhere there should be some permanent memorial to Frank Sidebottom in some way - he regularly played there and I saw him on several occasions, really hamming it up to the audience and getting them all singing along to his songs. In fact he did a brilliant rendition of "Guess Who's Been On Match of the Day" in there, which was well up to standard. Not least as those of us who got the "you do, with your fantastic shopping trolley" line right! Tune of the day for happy instead of sad reasons.

Later on I headed home and The Love In My Heart texted me to see if she could come over earlier. Well I wasn't saying no to that, and so we were able to spend some time chatting about our respective days, and I even had a beer, the rather nice and very drinkable Thwaites Original ale, a mere 70p or so from B&M Bargains if I remember correctly. I made us the tea - some very nice pork belly slices coated in a barbecue sauce, together with some mash and some petits pois, all good.

We watched Long Lost Family: What Happened Next, and it was intriguing to see that at least some of the stories from when the people met who were lost from each other finally met. What was really inspiring to us both were the two twins who were separated at birth, and who went on to live their lives in Rotherham just three miles from each other. When they did finally meet it was a really lovely moment, but even more so many years on that they still do plenty together and even talk about it to lots of people and how their experience is.

A lot of people don't realise it but Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall are both really good presenters for this: Nicky himself had a similar story to some of the families on the show and has that humility and warmth from him, and for different reasons so does Davina, and really feels it a lot with the people as well, a more emotional side that you don't always see, but I'm sure being able to bring news to those searching for their family must give an immense amount of joy - as it did when one of the twins was able to say to her daughter "they found her" and they both jumped around and hugged, it was a beautiful moment.

Monday 8th September - Fixing and Football

It was good to be home after a long day at work, and once I'd got a few things purchased on the way home from work, my friend arrived. The original plan was that he and I were going to watch the football and then do a bit of gaming on the Wii afterwards. That plan slightly changed primarily because of yesterday, so I'd invited my brother in law along as well to watch the football with us, and first he was heading there earlier to sort out the faulty ball valve and anything else needed to be done with the overflow tank in the loft.

Thankfully he'd managed to get all the parts that were needed and was soon up in the loft and heading to where the tank was. We'd turned the water off, drained it more than enough for him to do what was needed, and it soon was looking all as good as new again. He did show me the old ball valve and so I could see that it was totally gone, and that the new one should last me a very long time. The old one was probably there for many years even before I moved in, and I've been in the house for twelve years now.

With all that done and the pizza in the oven, it was time to watch the England game, and for the first half admittedly it was a little on the cagey side, but England looked a bit positive, getting forward when they could, and when called upon Joe Hart was there to save the day with a good save to the left with his feet towards the end of the first half. We all suspected that Switzerland away might be the trickiest tie of the group anyway so to get that out of the way wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

The second half started and England were plugging away, and one break away later resulted in a goal. Wayne Rooney broke forward, gave it to Raheem Sterling on the left and his cross went across the six yard box and was met perfectly by Danny Welbeck for 1-0. We were pretty pleased, and even more so once it got late in the game and the sub Rickie Lambert burst forward, saw Welbeck on the left and he finished very nicely for 2-0 and a very good away win. The only concerning thing is he now plays for Arsenal, and who are they playing on Saturday - City!

My brother in law headed home and my friend and I put on the trusty Wii, and as I don't recall him having ever played Wii Party, I put that on for a bit. He really enjoyed that and the mini games within, especially as you headed through Board Game Island, which he won and won pretty well to be fair to him. I think too that some of the pair team games in there are also cracking fun, such as popping balloons via targets as you ride a rollercoaster, and the basketball too. All decent stuff if you ask me.

Tune of the day in the meantime, despite its massive overuse by ITV's coverage of the England games, is "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve. In many ways it's actually pretty true. It was kind of bittersweet to see England perform reasonably well after the massive disappointments over the years, and that the long road to gaining back the confidence of the fans has to begin here. There should be no expectations of winning anything but just making a start and inroads into making sure we qualify first and then concentrating after that.

Sunday 7th September - Sunday Lunch and Strictly

I had a nice relaxing morning in whilst The Love In My Heart was doing a local carnival, primarily to generate some publicity for her work place and also because it was a good idea to meet some of the community at the same time, so she was up very early getting all that sorted, and I was having a sort of lie in. Well I say sort of till I heard a drip sound. Noooo! I can't imagine it being the roof but I did start to think it was that, and so my roofer said if I needed to I could arrange something tomorrow. I had a feeling it was something else though so I called my brother in law and asked him if he could pop over.

He did so in the afternoon and then later in the evening and he confirmed to me that the overflow tank above the hot water tank in the loft had a bad valve, this effectively should be stopping any overflowing of water and so keeping the tanks at a reasonable level but not going OTT. It looked like it was leaking, so eventually the leak was causing the noise - which he's temporarily managed to stop for now. Whilst in the loft he did confirm the roof was all good (hurrah) and so at least I won't have to take another day off work to get that done. And he'll be able to get me the parts and sort them out for me, which he'll do tomorrow before he and my friend and I watch the England footy. Many thanks to him for the time today though: he's a good'un, and I'll be returning the favour tomorrow I am sure.

The F1 from Monza was pretty good: notable that they've relaid the classic banking that formed the old track and in many ways is an iconic part of the circuit when you look at it on the telly. Granted they don't race that now, but still. Lewis Hamilton had a poor start but he blitzed past to be second, and then when Nico Rosberg didn't brake correctly for the first chicane and had to take the escape road, Lewis seized his chance and won the race easily from there - good. Interesting to note Nico was being booed by the Ferrari tifosi on the podium whilst Felipe Massa finished third: and as he used to drive for Ferrari, the tifosi went nuts for him, fair dos really.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over after the parade had finished, and she had told me that it had gone pretty well and it turned out to be better than thought, with the carnival seemingly well attended too, so it was good. I decided to treat her to Sunday lunch so we headed to The Greenfinch in West Didsbury and all was well there, with the Sunday roast being on - and two for one at that! I had the roast beef which was tender and succulent. and the veg with it lovely, and The Love had the leg of lamb which looked like a huge chunk of meat as well - so all was rather good there to say the least.

We headed back to mine later and we watched the remainder of Wednesday's Great British Bake Off repeat together before seeing some of Don't Tell The Bride on Really, and then some A Place In The Sun: Home or Away, where the focus on the Home part was West Cornwall, so that got us rather excited. The three properties all looked good: one was in Cape Cornwall, overlooking the golf course and the sea, the second in the village of Sheffield high above Mousehole, and the third in Pendeen, which the male of the couple slagged off as a place something rotten: I hope the residents would have complained to the programme at the time!

The Love headed home and I settled in for the Strictly Come Dancing launch show. It was good to see Sir Bruce Forsyth come on and officially hand over the reins to Tess Daly and the lovely Claudia Winkleman (ooh yes, I have more reason to watch Strictly now I have to admit!) Tonight was about who was being paired with whom and overall it went pretty well for some: I had a feeling that Jennifer Gibney from Mrs Brown's Boys would be paired with the new Irish dancer Tristan, and Kevin Clifton's wife Joanne (now of course aka Joanne From Grimsby) can consider herself pretty happy with Scott Mills too.

It was quite notable that the musical guests appealed to all tastes: for some 5 Seconds of Summer would have been good, and to be fair, they do play their own instruments, so actually if anyone of a certain age or disposition prefers them over One Direction then I see that as a win all round. What was brilliant though was Imelda May's duet with Smokey Robinson - tune of the day as they got together and sang "Get Ready" - a really nice version of it and full of passion and fire. Sometimes these things just work wonderfully well don't they?

Saturday 6th September - Non-League Day and Party Night

First things first this morning - to head to Piccadilly Station and get the train ticket sorted out for the first leg of my London and Cornwall gig jaunt in November. Because I'd been given some compensation via Delay Repay last time around on the way back from Cornwall, it was a rail travel voucher. The only thing is you can't use them online so you have to buy a ticket at the station to use the voucher. Why they can't have a code you can redeem online is anyone's guess, but anyway.

I had a very nice member of staff assist me at the station and got the ticket sorted: on the 1135 to Euston, and for the nice discounted price of £12.50. My rail travel voucher was for £12.70, so all sorted, and I wasn't meithered about getting 20p back, not a biggie to be honest that's for sure. It then meant I could have a nice mooch around the city centre and peruse some of the vinyl and CDs in Vinyl Exchange as well as then head to HMV and Fopp as well, where they now have a working Tron pinball machine, woohoo indeed!

I headed back home and once I'd got everything sorted it was then off to see a non-league game of football for the afternoon. As the internationals are on this weekend and early next week, it meant no top flight football, so Non-League Day encourages fans to go and see a local non-league team for the day, helping them with some much needed income and also meaning that you can see the other life outside of the top flight football. I've done this before with visits to the likes of Stalybridge and Salford City, and looking at the fixture list Stalybridge, Droylsden, Altrincham and Curzon Ashton were all at home, so a few to choose from.

In the end I nominated Curzon Ashton, their ground wasn't that far away (bus to Droylsden then tram to Ashton West, where it was a short walk to the ground) and by all accounts they were having a decent start to their season in the Evostik Premier League (the Northern Premier if you're going old school) - this is one division below the Conference North, so it's effectively the seventh tier of English football. They were up against Rushall Olympic who were a pretty decent side themselves, so I was hoping for some goals, even if the rain was positively driving down as I headed on the tram to Ashton West.

I arrived at the ground, and it's not too bad at all: two covered stands along the touchline, with the main stand having decent seating and also housing the snack bar and beer bar as well, and the far one being a terrace type stand which people were also under. All around the rest of the ground were a few rows of uncovered terracing which no one wanted to stand in with the rain lashing down: can't say I blame them either. So with lots of Kaiser Chiefs playing before kick off (make "Oh My God" tune of the day) it was time to see some action.

It didn't take Rushall Olympic long to get into their stride and they were two goals up inside the first fifteen minutes, both of which were down to some defensive errors from the Curzon backs. However the first goal was a bit controversial as Rushall were given a corner when it clearly wasn't and that led to the goal. I had a feeling it wasn't going to stay at 2-0 down though and a well worked ball from the left resulted in a neat chest down and finish from Curzon striker Matthew Kay and it was 2-1 at half time to Rushall.

The snack bar had been my port of call before the game where a coffee was a mere £1.20 (and decent coffee too, much better than the sachet of Nescafé rubbish that Manchester City serve for vastly overinflated prices these days) - and at half time it was a meat and potato pie for me. £1.80, and a proper Hollands pie at that which you'd probably pay around £1.30 in the local chippy anyway, so not that bad a mark up and very fair. The chips and hot dogs were also very reasonable indeed, and it makes sense: keep the prices down, people will buy, simple. And it tempted me to get both purely because I felt I was getting my money's worth.

We had drama all the way in the second half as the female referee Elizabeth Simms turned awkwardly, and she went down in a heap on the far side. The trainers were called and she managed to hobble off, but clearly was unable to continue. A frantic search for an official to do the linesman ensued and someone came forward (shades of Jimmy Hill from ages ago) and one of the linesmen then took up the refereeing mantle. A few more tastier challenges went in after that which added to the spice of the game and no prisoners were being taken either way.

So with plenty of time added on for the stoppage for the injury, Curzon pressed forward. They should have had a couple of free kicks previously with some rough challenges, but they got one and the free kick just skimmed past the post. But with two minutes left plus stoppages, a breakthrough. A run down the right saw a really bad tackle and no doubt in my eyes, and I had a good view of it, definite penalty. Matthew Kay stepped up and equalised for 2-2 and almost immediately came off for a fresh striker to try and press for the winner.

Curzon Ashton's weakness though had been defending at corners, and right at the death a Rushall corner came over, it wasn't cleared, and was poked home by Aaron Farrell, sending their bench into delirium. It was almost the last kick of the game as the final whistle sounded not too long after kick off again. It was Curzon Ashton's first defeat of the season though and it was a proper good game of football to boot - both sides went for it and played some decent stuff, and everyone seemed really friendly and were thoroughly into the game (notably two of the Rushall fans who had two flags, one with "Far side Ultras" and another with "the pics" with an Olympic set of rings and the club's initials on - they swapped ends at each half to be behind the goal Rushall were attacking)

So Non-League Day? Really good. Would I do it again? Of course. In fact the next lot of internationals are the same weekend as a very early round of the FA Cup (which is when I got to see Salford City a while back) so I might see a local team in the third qualifying round and see how that pans out. The winner of that tie is just potentially one game away from facing a League One or League Two side in Round One, so plenty to play for. I just hope some local teams can get through the rounds though...

Later on I got myself showered and then changed, and I headed out into the city centre to meet one of my lovely friends from Flickr, who is leaving Manchester and moving down to Oxford to join her husband, who moved there a short while back to have a good job and career. It was really nice to see some friendly faces, but particularly some of her lovely friends, whom I'd not met before but really were nice personable people and lovely to chat to. Even nicer: we were in the Port Street Beer House, so real ale was on, notably the Harbour Brewing Company based in Trekillick Farm close to Bodmin in Cornwall. Yaay!

In fact I had their "Session" ale first, which must have proved popular because the barrel ran out mid evening and was then changed with their "Light" ale, which was also stunningly lovely. In fact their Harbour IPA is available in Sainsburys in bottled form, must try and get that soon! The drinks were flowing as was the chatter and it was great to see a couple of people I know well and the time was going by - very quickly in fact. So much so that we decided to take a walk and reconvene in the Marble Arch pub where they make the rather lovely Marble beer.

So did I have some there? Well it'd have been rude not to. I bought my friend some of the chocolate marble ale, and I had their rather nice "pint" which does what it says on the tin, it's a pint and a proper ale at that. I also had the Summer Marble too and that was lovely. Conversation was still flowing nicely and the time ticking away, so much so that it was soon time to make sure my friend got a taxi safe with two of her friends back to her place, and I walked along with one of the other Flickr folks so that they could get their tram from Shudehill and me on the night bus home. A good day all round!

Friday 5th September - Hatching Plans and Sanako Suites

It was a pretty good day in the office today. We had the engineer arrive who was going to do the software installations and testing with me for two language suites which have been configured with hardware as Sanako labs. The main one runs the Lab 300 software, and all the hardware (USB sound card, specialist headsets and such) were already all connected and tested when I'd reimaged the PCs, and set the teacher's PC in there back to its static IP address as well. All we needed to do now was get the software all talking to each other.

And actually, it went rather swimmingly well! The lab software for the teacher's PC installed first, and we just had to tweak the USB to serial controller in the device manager to use COM1, so that everything was then detectable without issues with the main lab box. It was then a case of installing the clients so that the they would all see the address of the main controller, and then be able to be visible from the controller. The room layout config had been saved, and so we knew which PCs were which number for the controller etc.

Once they were all done, and we could see them all from the controller, we were able to test out all the headsets, do some remote control etc and everything worked, first go, and as intended, so we headed next door to the Lab 100, set up the teacher PC which talked to some small controllers with headsets, and had to do a minor tweak to set the main executable in Win7RTM compatibility mode, which then meant it all launched in Windows 7 64-bit without any issues whatsoever. I was done by lunch time which was rather good!

I then booked some leave off for early November - and with a good reason. I had a bit of a brainwave in that I might be able to see two really nice gigs in two nights - and in different places. For a start, one of the regular MJ Hibbett "Totally Acoustic" nights in London has him and Pete Green on the same bill, and Rob Manuel, who did the animation for MJ's classic "Hey Hey 16K" single. Might even have to wear the t-shirt and all that. That'd be a good day out to London.

But then also I spotted that 3 Daft Monkeys were playing Falmouth University's performance centre the next night, and of course it would mean that I'd also get to fulfil another little ambition of mine: to see the band play in their native Cornwall. Of course it'd then be a case of trying to stay in Truro or Falmouth and head on the bus to the University campus, which is along the way between the two. And in fact there's late buses back either way, so it would actually be reasonably doable. I hope I can pull this off, so it'd effectively then be a final train leg from Truro to Manchester on the Saturday, and all would be well there.

With that in mind I decided to play some 3 Daft Monkeys tonight, and all was well with the world. I really do like their recent album "Of Stones and Bones" because of the folk tales about Cornwall that it has in there are all ones which resonate in some way with me. I adore "The Lovers of Porthgwarra Cove" even more now I've actually visited the place this year and fallen in love with it, so that's tune of the day for me. It really does swing along nicely with a lovely chorus too. Hurrah to that!

Thursday 4th September - Brisket Brilliance

It was a pretty busy day at work and I was glad to have been productive and managed to get plenty done during the day, and it also meant that I was ready and prepared for an external engineer tomorrow so I could spend the whole day sorting out the software on one lab. I've tried where possible to plan ahead and make sure I can make the most use of the time alotted, but as ever, there's always something to crop up and occasionally trip people up where possible.

I got home later on and realised that what I planned to make for the evening meal wasn't going to happen: the steak I was going too cook had gone considerably (a few days) past the use by date, and didn't want to risk cooking it to be on the safe side. I came up with the idea that when The Love In My Heart came over later tonight, we could head over for a nice meal together and make the most of the nice weather that seems to have come over the last few days. I got myself showered and changed and looking lovely, and ready for The Love to arrive.

It was really nice to catch up and chat, and we headed to The Elizabethan in Heaton Moor. The pub had a new guest ale on, called 100, to mark the centenary of World War I. It was quite a nice ale actually, a lovely amber colour and had a nice malty taste to it. I'll definitely have to have that one again at some point I reckon, so will need to keep an eye out at any of the local pubs we go to. Part of the reasoning of going to the Elizabethan is that apart from being a very nice pub with nice staff is that they do rather gorgeous food.

The Love had the fish and chips which looked rather gorgeous, even coming with bread and butter old school style, and I had something which The Love has raved about in the past - the barbecue pulled brisket, which comes in a lovely flatbread and some skinny fries with sour cream on the side. I can now see why she adores it so much, the pulled brisket just melts in the mouth with the nice garlic flatbread, and the barbecue sauce isn't overpowering either. The fries with the sour cream are just great to dip in the side, and I think I might have to have this again at some point very soon!

We had more chatter and a nice drink together and then headed back to mine, and after indulging her with Emmerdale on ITV +1 we then watched the Paul Grady For The Love of Dogs programme, where he's back at Battersea Dogs' Home with plenty of pooches needing a re-home or getting themselves better after being ill. The rather fat dog Gromit was one that needed a diet, and soon enough he was back to full fitness with the Wallace and Gromit theme playing in the background (tune of the day obviously) which was good.

The nicest story of them all though was one of the rotweiler dogs, who got very nervous around new people and it took the dog time to get used to the likes of the volunteers for example. A young family spotted his picture on the website and realised it might be their lost dog Roxy, who had mysteriously vanished after a dog sitter had looked after him whilst they were away. Of course if the dog knew the family he'd be comfortable with them straight away, and yes, he was, he even gave the little daughter a big nuzzle and she openly cuddled him, so I thought "definitely theirs then!" - and seeing them have their pet back was rather good.

Wednesday 3rd September - Boredom vs Excitement

It was a tough call tonight. Do I watch the England friendly against Norway in the faint hope that it would be a new beginning for the national football team and a slow road to recovery after the World Cup disaster, or do I stay loyal to the Great British Bake Off and see what wonderful (or not) pies that the contestants were going to concoct this week? Of course I suppose I could always record Bake Off and watch it later, but I'd then have to avoid the whole world just in case someone would tell me who got kicked off (only down side with something so popular I suppose).

In the end the football head got the better of me, but only for around five to ten minutes. It looked dull, lifeless and boring at Wembley, with not many people in the ground and a flat atmosphere that felt like it was the funeral after the death of English football. It wasn't pretty to watch either so I gave up on it and instead turned my attention to the Bake off tent, where it was all going rather well with the first challenge, with lots of ideas to make something stand out from the masses.

I must admit though that the showstopper of a tower of pies did appeal, and kudos especially to Nancy for hand raising the pies, a much more difficult skill than actually placing it in a tin and baking it that way, something which both Paul and Mary both acknowledged to be a rather good skill to have all round. Most of the towers looked pretty good, and the flavours looked right to me, but I must admit that some of the combinations were a bit left field. I do think that Norman was the right choice to leave: maybe he played it a little too safe and within himself rather than pushing the proverbial boat out.

So with Bake Off done, it was back to the football. And to be honest, it still wasn't that exciting. In fact Joe Hart had to pull off a couple of very good saves to keep the score at 0-0, which actually was a turning point of sorts. England had a little bit of life and went forward with Raheem Sterling being the chief tormentor of the Norwegian defence. No surprise then that his run was the one which led to the England penalty as he was cropped in the box. Up stepped Wayne Rooney to smash it home for 1-0, notably about the only good thing that the England captain did all game.

More substitutions came on and on the whole it was looking towards a newer, younger generation of players who hopefully still have some hunger and desire left in them. It did look like some of them wanted to score a second goal and at least give a bit more oomph to it, but lots of fans had left well before the final whistle, and two shots on goal at home in a friendly is a massive disappointment to say the least. I was not pleased at all and I fear this is the sort of football we might now have to watch for the national side, quite apt then that tune of the day is "The Great Destroyer" by Nine Inch Nails - somehow sums up what Sky and the Premier League have done to our national side..

Tuesday 2nd September - Hurry Up Harry

It was a productive day of sorts at work today: I managed to get quite a chunk of work done and also was able to set off one lab for imaging overnight tonight, and made sure that they were all started without issues. It was also good because it gave me time to get a bit of a breather and concentrate on the job in hand where possible. I'd finished off four PCs that were in individual suites in one of our learning zones, and then turned the attention to getting several things up and running where possible as well which was good.

I think my head down get on with it attitude at the moment is something which needs to pay dividends: I can just plough through a shed load of stuff when I need to, and my inkling is that I need to be able to get on with things where I can and just be there for people's assistance when I need to be. For me the most important thing now is that I absolutely get through the next few weeks and take it from there - I suspect that it might just be the best thing and it'll allow me some ample time to then have a further think about what I'd like to do in the future. Sometimes it's easier to focus when you're busy, ironically.

I headed home later and after a chunk of ironing, settled in to make the tea for myself and The Love In My Heart who was on her way over. I'd made us some Mediterranean pork with a nice sauce and did some mash along with petits pois and carrots to go with it, so that worked out pretty nicely in the end I think. It also was something to distract The Love from a double helping of Emmerdale (because of the England game tomorrow apparently) and so be able to chatter a lot after tea.

After seeing a programme dedicated to Prince Harry and his forthcoming 30th birthday, with a surprise being that the singer Joss Stone is one of his good friends (and I do like her music, "Right To Be Wrong" is awesome so that's my tune of the day) and that she's done a bit of work for the charity that he supports in Lesotho. It was also noticeable to see the work for the servicemen and women in the army, and how he wanted to be on the front line and be another solider, and how the press were careful not to reveal that he was out in Afghanistan for fear of attack.

Later on was Don't Tell The Bride, and I have to say a very different wedding indeed. Having the ceremony in a time slot in the middle of a tattoo convention in Alexandra Palace definitely wouldn't be my own personal cup of tea, but each to their own as they say. In the end he did at least get a nice bridal dress, and made the event certainly one to remember. Not sure if a five hour plus minibus ride from Torquay to North London was everyone's cup of tea though!

 

Monday 1st September - New Beginnings

Certainly today marked a new beginning and a different era of work, and it felt rather surreal initially to be honest. I think when you've been to used to things being as they are and then things changing to be different, it does take some getting used to. On the positive side though, I know there's plenty to be getting on with and it's a case of doing whatever I can to try to achieve, whilst still being around and doing the things I need to do to keep things going. I managed quite a bit today and did at least feel positive as I headed home.

Most of the evening though would be taken up by keeping an eye on the closing of the transfer window in football and seeing what would happen with my beloved Manchester City - would we be letting players go, or would we be getting anyone in? From early in the day it looked like Radamael Falcao was going to Manchester United, and indeed that players would be shown the exit door at Old Trafford. For City though, it was a reasonably quiet affair with a couple of deals I suspect were going to happen.

As the clock drew closer to 11pm, I did some of the normal things I'd do anyway, such as watch Only Connect. I did have to remind myself that it was now on BBC Two instead of BBC Four, but thankfully it still remained pretty high brow. It looked like there are going to be a massive 27 episodes though, so maybe a revamp of the tournament, or two lots of double elimination tournaments (as per series 8 and 9) but with the winners of each half of the draw then playing each other in the final, or something like that?

After that it was back to the BBC Red Button (no annoying Sky Sports News presenters for me, a) because I don't have Sky anyway and b) because they just are over the top) and to tune in to the happenings around the grounds. It was all about who was leaving and coming into Man U for the most part, but other clubs were doing good business. I'd say that Hull City did really well, signing a few players including Hatem Ben Arfa on a season long loan from Newcastle - a player I do rate as well.

So with the 11pm deadline looming I knew that two deals had definitely been done: the young midfielder Emyr Huws had made his loan deal to Wigan a permanent one, and Micah Richards had headed to Italy to sign a season long deal with Fiorentina. At least he'll have his mate Nigel de Jong at AC Milan to keep him company over there, so that'd be good. One deal that I thought might have been struck was for us but wasn't announced till later was Álvaro Negredo heading to Valencia on a loan deal which might then prove to be permanent. I thought we wouldn't have been getting rid of a striker to be honest, but with Sergio Agüero and Edin Džeko signing long term deals recently, maybe the writing was on the wall?

I did spend some time tonight also whilst waiting for the transfer window to close to listen to some vinyl, and again decided to head through the 12" singles and play some of those. This time tonight it was the turn of some KMFDM, and of course the likes of "UAIOE" and "Sucks" were given some play. But my favourite tracks is on their "Angst" album which I have on CD, namely "A Drug Against War" which is a really powerful assualt on the senses both aurally (and visually if you've seen the video) and rather ace - so tune of the day.