This is my diary. How things are. Or something. Please note that the diary is archived month by month, so feel free to click the links for the archives.
Wednesday 22nd May - Difficult
It's been one of those days today. It's hard to explain but on the one hand I've felt pretty motivated to get lots of things done, and in the afternoon I'd finally managed to get a Mac brought to me to get some of the software installed on it that was purchased a while ago, and the member of staff had asked me if I was able to clean the screen in some way because of some dirt on it. I set to work doing that as well as the software installation and it was pretty good that I'd got everything sorted out so it was all clean and sparkling once I'd done with it.
I also spent some time working on a network socket for a member of staff who had moved offices a little while back, and they needed network connectivity for the other PC in their office. I had managed to trace where there was another socket which was behind a shed load of filing cabinets, and so managed to get a long network cable and had that all around the outside of the room, behind all the cabinets and to the other side of the room and the PC in question. It worked pretty well and I was pleased to have got that sorted out.
I had a nice surprise when I arrived home and opened the emails - but more on that in the near future. What I did do though is some research for the forthcoming holiday that I had planned, and this meant checking transport routes and options to get to some places. I had found a National Trust property that we could possibly go to, but it looked like the nearest bus stop was some distance away. Having done a check myself, this is the case - either get off before we get there at the local mill and walk, or get off at the little village afterwards and walk back. Either way, fun and games.
I think though as well that I've been not trying to plan ahead as much and just wing it more on the day. For me this is difficult at times because I do like to have an idea of what I'm doing, where I'm going and so on, but to actually leave that out of the hands and just decide to do whatever whenever can sometimes be a bit uncomfortable. However, I also know and I'll suggest this to The Love In My Heart that if we are going to head to the Camel Valley Vineyard that we do book that so we know we're on the tour at the very least.
Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "The Next Day" - the title track of David Bowie's recent album. It's definitely got the attention of the masses because of the rather controversial video with Gary Oldman and Marion Cotillard, but at the same time it's effectively massively catchy, and really does have a dark edge to it, which I actually really like a lot. Kudos to him for still producing some excellent music after a long absence, just goes to show you never lose it really.
Tuesday 21st May - Money For Nothing (and clothes for free)
Granted, not quite the same as the Dire Straits song, but not far off it. After a day of feeling a fair bit bunged up and under the weather at work, it was time to effectively take it easy (no Cadbury's Caramel for me though) and catch up a bit on the telly at first before The Love In My Heart came over. I had recorded the Monday night Panorama documentary on the Hillsborough tragedy, and the reporter was actually a BBC reporter Peter Marshall who was there on the day and therefore could actually see the real truth unfolding, rather than the lies that the police and authorities fed to the media in its aftermath.
It was a really well researched documentary, speaking to many of the families who are still campaignig for justice and of course at a recent review finally got the truth in that the failures were, as every true football fan always knew, down to the policing and bad organisation of the emergency services in the aftermath, and the fact that it was buried and covered up on continual occasions showed a massive amount of disregard and disrespect. This documentary went further and actually provided some crucial new evidence that proved that a cut off time for 3.15pm for anyone presumed dead was in fact wrong, with an ambulance treating someone still alive but at risk of death at 3.35pm. Again, another lie by the authorities exposed. All of that left me feeling somewhat numb but also even more determined that we as football fans should stand together and get full justice for those that died and the accountability needs to be given accordingly.
The Love arrived and we were off to Crown Point in Denton, where I'd got myself a new shirt on Saturday with my gift card from Marks and Spencer, but had to take it back as it didn't quite fit right - I needed a large instead of a medium. I went into there first and we got that changed, and that was much better when I tried it on back home. It's mainly black with a more discreet grey print on it, and it's a nice shirt for the evenings and going out, which to me made perfect sense to get it.
We then headed next door to Tesco Home Plus and I checked out the clothes section. I had a £5 Clubcard voucher which I could double up to £10 on clothes, and so I decided that the best course of action would be to see what was there first, then double up. I saw a nice pair of jeans which were reduced from £14 to £9 and a plain white t-shirt at £4, so £13 for the lot. If I doubled the £5 to £10 and then used the remaining £3 voucher, clothes for free.
Imagine my surprise then when I got to the till after getting my voucher doubled up, and the jeans rang through the till for a mere £7 instead. So it was only £11 in the end for both, and I saved the £3 voucher for another day and just put the other £1 to myself, much more like it I reckon. That worked out well and so more clothes for the holiday for hardly any money, my sort of shopping really. We headed home, I made us some chicken with garlic mushrooms, some mashed potatoes and vegetables, and all was well with the world.
Later on we watched CSI and it was the New York part of the crossover, with Mac frantically getting more frenzied as he searched for his beloved Christine, with DB Russell doing his best to try and be the calming influence. It was a really good move all round though as it proved to be a great episode, and maybe not the one to introduce The Love to the world of CSI (series 3 or 4 of the Vegas one is probably a good starting point for that) but still all good, and of course "Baba O'Reilly" by The Who as the theme tune, so tune of the day right there.
Monday 20th May - Flick(r)ing
It's been a topsy turvy sort of day today, not really helped by the cold that I seem to have inherited over the weekend and it is gradually getting worse over the course of the day. Despite my best attempts to dose myself up as much as possible, I feel bunged up, chesty and have been coughing quite a bit (all very attractive I am sure that you'll agree) It also probably didn't help that I've felt rather irritable at least because of the events with City in the last week so I thought it best to get on with things as much as I can, keep quiet and just do what I need to do.
I did at least have the first part of a major move to do, as lots of floor space in our new building is being moved around due to the forthcoming shows, and this effectively means that a lot of the equipment needs to be temporarily stored or re-housed. In effect that's meant a few of us with a trolley connecting and disconnecting stuff, getting it set up in new locations and making things happen to make them live and all working correctly. It's pretty manic with plenty of people still around the building. But that's how it rolls.
In the evening I watched the first of the two part crossover between CSI (the orignal Vegas one) and CSI:NY, with the first part being set in Vegas as the main NY man Mac Taylor heads over, apparently as his long term partner is supposed to be at a conference. Events unfolded nicely and it of course would lead to a second part being set in New York with DB Russell from Vegas heading there, hence the crossover. It was pretty well done and knowing as I do now that NY has effectively been cancelled, leaving the original CSI as the only one to carry on (it'll be series 14 next time around) tomorrow would effectively be one of the last NY episodes too.
I did also notice a fair amount of change to Flickr when I logged on tonight. And I mean a massive change. Gone is the white backgrounds with recent activity, arriving is the on black backgrounds with large scale images down one side, with any comments on yours interspersed into there as some form of timeline. Add to that the more visual in your face appeal and I can see it being a change that'll divide people - some would of course feel comfortable with the old format, but at the same time change is also necessary to keep up with other sites that focus more on the image.
It's not all though - it looks like all free accounts will get a massive 1TB of storage space for their images now, and any new Pro accounts where adverts aren't shown will get a price hike. However, existing Pro accounts look like they can renew for the same price, and so it'll be interesting to see if that does stay the same between now and when my account is renewable in July 2014 (so I should have some time to play around). Sometimes though that change is a good thing but maybe it might be a leap too far for some people.. too early to say yet.
Anyway, tune of the day hasn't escaped my head for most of the day - it's "Constant Motion" by Dream Theater. It just has plenty of rocking and a perfect distraction from feeling bunged up, full of flu and all of that malarkey. It also worked well having that on during the commercial breaks of CSI so I was able to then be able to keep the spirits up whilst watching the show. I must admit though it was off to bed not long after that as I did feel a fair bit tired..
Sunday 19th May - Flat
The end of the season game at the Etihad Stadium today where Manchester City played Norwich City felt pretty flat even before it started. With City having guaranteed 2nd place and Norwich ensuring survival the week before, it was really just an extended training session and in the wake of all that had gone on this week, it did make me wonder if we were going to be focussed enough to win. Even in the stadium apart from the many chants and banners supporting the departed Roberto Mancini, it felt lacking somehow.
And so it would prove to be. Norwich sensed that it wasn't all happy faces at the ground and capitalised on some bad defending as Anthony Pilkington scored with a low shot for 1-0. City did respond at least with a good move from Samir Nasri and Edin Džeko passing the ball to Jack Rodwell who thundered a shot in for 1-1, and that's how it ended up at half time. I headed to the loo and for a final half time pie of the season and wondered just what would happen in the second half.
It was still lacking in atmosphere somewhat, and Norwich sensed they would score, with a good passing move including a superb diagonal ball meaning that Grant Holt had an easy finish for 2-1, only for City to break away following a Norwich attack and with Yaya Toure releasing Jack Rodwell, he powered down the left and shot home for 2-2. However, Johnny Howson had the last laugh with a run from almost the half way line, making our defence look bobbins, and shot home accurately for 3-2, and that's how it stayed.
We stayed till the end as the players did a lap of the ground to say thank you, but it really did feel limp and lifeless, a direct contrast of course to last season. It also made me wonder if some of the players had been affected by the week in general, Vincent Kompany in particular not looking very happy, and one of the banners in the North Stand said it all - "Together?" with a reference to the motto that had carried City to the title last season but with question marks hanging over the club and the ability to want to do things in their "holistic" way as reported by the board on Monday.
It'll be an interesting Summer and next few months ahead I'm sure, but I have a feeling that it may be a watershed moment just like the end of last season was. What lies ahead will either be excitement or excrement and there's a very fine line to tow between the two. Tune of the day though has to be "Pounding" by the Doves, which at least gets people in the right mood before a game and is also a corking tune by the band as well, and one I'm sure which needs more airplay on radio occasionally, just because.
Saturday 18th May - Shopping And Steak and Ale Pie
I had an enjoyable morning and afternoon doing some shopping, mainly for clothes for my forthcoming holiday. As I had a fair number of gift cards for places this effectively meant lots of free shopping in effect, so that was always good to keep the cost down, and on top of that of course, I had actually seen items that I liked too, so it was an epic win situation both ways really. I had some ideas in my head as I headed to the city centre and hoped that I'd be able to pull them off.
As the bus was arriving into Piccadilly I had a phone call from Wilkinsons, where I'd ordered online the 14x11" picture frame for the Audrey Hepburn picture that I'd purchased last week. The frame had arrived which meant that I was able to collect it whilst in the city. First stop though was Debenhams and to my surprise it turned out that two of the Rocha John Rocha shirts in my shortlist (and they were both what The Love In My Heart liked) had been reduced so that they were now 40% off (£21 instead of £35) and they were both in my size. I tried them on to be sure they were fine, and one purchase later I was all sorted. Hurrah.
I then headed into Wilkinsons, picked up the picture frame and later on at home I had a bit of a re-arrange of the room. The print I got last week and now framed is on the front room main wall above the fireplace, and the other Audrey Hepburn picture there is now on the other wall, with one of the Rosina Wachtmeister cat pictures now moved to the dining room. I'm pretty pleased with how it all changed and on the whole it looks pretty good to have a change over.
It was then back out and off to Denton where the Crown Point Retail Park has an M&S Outlet store, which means more for less. I actually saw a really nice Autograph long sleeved shirt which I thought would be nice for the evening, and it was reduced from £32 to £16, and as I had a gift card for £15, that made a lot of sense to be able to get that and purchase it. It turned out that the medium was a smallish medium though, and so I'll need to swap it for a large when I am next there. Boo. Still, it looked very nice and The Love In My Heart approved of it, so I felt pretty good.
The Love came over later on and we both got ourselves showered and ready for heading out later, and we were off to the Ashlea in Cheadle with a couple of friends for the evening. As usual the food in the Ashlea was spot on, and I had the garlic and stilton mushrooms to start with a gorgeous steak and ale pie for the main, which was a proper pie with lots of meaty chunks, some gorgeous mash and vegetables and gravy to go with it, and added to the pint of Tribute which I had really made for a lovely meal overall, so that was excellent.
My friends also handed me some great birthday presents too, so I received The Incredibles on Blu-ray (another Pixar film in that format now, doing pretty well there), the new Frank Turner album "Tape Deck Heart", Clint Mansell's film soundtrack to "Last Night" and lastly the limited edition of Dream Theater's "Systematic Chaos" album which has the DVD as well as the CD, with the album recorded in 5.1 surround on the DVD. Very nice indeed, and very good of them both to get me some lovely presents too. "Constant Motion" from that album is tune of the day as it's massively epic.
We headed home later on and The Love and I watched mainly The Cube and then the Jonathan Ross show and I was attempting to avoid Eurovision as much as possible. I knew of course that the UK would do rubbish, and it was the case again tonight. To be fair, the song was rubbish and Bonnie Tyler actually was out of tune in parts, a complete no-no if you wanted to win it. I suspect one of these years the UK will just pull out and not bother, which would be the sensible thing to do - and avoid the embarassment of it being on telly each year too.
Friday 17th May - Running Up Those Steps
I have lost count of the number of flights of stairs I must have run or walked up today. I had to go to the third floor of one building to look at a printer first thing, and then go back up to the same printer once I'd raised a call for the engineer to come and visit us. It was then up to the third floor of another building to change the paper on one of the large format printers, and in addition to that it was then heading up to the first floor of another building for a meeting that I had late morning.
It was literally on the go all day, and I must have walked a fair distance, especially considering that the meeting was in a building right at the other side of our main campus, and I had to head back to there in the afternoon to see if we'd had any deliveries of any consumables to one central location as well, so that was pretty intense to say the least. I must admit that it's good to be on the go and the day does go fast, but there's times when you just need things to slow down a little bit just so you can catch up (especially with emails I reckon!)
Anway, I amazingly got out on time and headed on the early bus home, and then I picked up my recyclable bags and the like and headed off to one of the larger Tesco branches to do the weekly food shopping. I was able to get some different things for the week ahead including some venison burgers which I had for tea tonight, and also some nice wine for The Love In My Heart too. It was pretty busy but managed to get in and out and back on the bus home in pretty good time.
I got home, had the tea and then had to head back out to Asda as the Tesco I went to didn't have any washing powder left, and I'd ran out, and needed to do some washing. It never rains but it pours, eh? Still I got back in record time from Asda and this meant I could spend some time relaxing with some music whilst ironing a shed load of clothes, so on went Roy Harper's superb "HQ" album, still one of my favourites of his because of the songs that are contained on it as well as the brilliant guitar work by Harper with the likes of David Gilmour and John Paul Jones guesting on the record (look them up)
Anyway, there's plenty of excellent tracks on there including the best song ever written about cricket (that'll be "When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease" then) but also a song which pretty much sums up my feeling about religion - "The Spirit Lives" which really does go to town on the whole subject and mocks it willingly. Tune of the day for me, especially when there's such a great guitar riff at the end which really does give it some passion and power all at the same time.
Thursday 16th May - We're Going Down The Pub
It was a real mixed bag of a day today, and I spent a fair bit of time sorting out a lot of stuff with regards to printers, which was a fair bit of time getting calls out to our engineers, and also seeing if I can rectify any errors ourselves to get things sorted out. In a way it's good that we're all pulling together a lot more to get things sorted out and indeed that we can at least make sure that everything is up and running. I also knew that I'd spent a fair bit of time chasing things and being the "go to" person for issues that arise.
I also had a fair bit of time with one of my colleagues today which was lovely - we work on different sites but work very well together and in a way she's learning a lot from me with regards to application packaging, and so that works out pretty well too. We spent some time with one piece of software that actually needs four different installers in one - the main software, the service pack, the plugins and the sample and example files that it needs. All but the first one are Wise Installers, which can be installed silently with the /S switch, and the first one is an MSI, so easy peasy silent install there.
What worked out well though was the fact that when we tweaked the MSI with Orca, thus creating a transform, we were able to remove all but one of the desktop icons that the installer creates (the other is a chained install as part of the MSI and so you have to remove the icon manually) and it's much better when it all works. The added advantage this way is that the task sequence will also work on 32 and 64 bit Windows, plus as an added bonus if a new service pack were to come out, we'd add that in and hey presto, all working.
I felt pretty good with the day's work and later on had an enjoyable evening with The Love In My Heart. I made us some fish and chips for tea and tried to tie it in so that it was being eaten in between episodes of Emmerdale that I know she's been keen on keeping up with at the moment. She was very relaxed although I couldn't help thinking that her mind was elsewhere for some reason. Anyway, after Emmerdale I suggested we head out for a drink and that was a good idea all round - take our mind off things and wind down a bit too.
So off to the Elizabethan in Heaton Chapel we went, I had the very nice new guest ale Drayman's Promise, which was rather lovely. We sat outside and relaxed and had a good chat about all sorts, and even worked out the potential cost next season of Manchester City's season ticket for me, with the free wi-fi helping massively there. It was good to be outside together and just having a relaxed chat. When she's happy and relaxed she looks so beautiful it makes me feel happy too. Tune of the day is Sham 69's classic "Hurry Up Harry" for the immortal all time line of "We're going down the pub". As you do.
Finally back at mine later we had a go of The Cube game for the Wii. I'd played it last night and chickened out at the £250k game but instead chose to take home the £100k (if only that was the case for real). Anyway, The Love played the first few games and had a high number of lives left, and she went for the final game with four lives left, and counted the flashing squares on the floor. And she got it right. Woooo! So that makes her just as good as Mo Farah and she beat The Cube. Wow, well done her!!
Wednesday 15th May - Come Rain or Shine
Been a bit of a mixed bag on the weather front today, that is for sure. In the morning it was hammering it down with rain and it was not very nice to say the least, with plenty of clouds hovering above wherever I seemed to be heading and in addition, the heavens opening massively. I even got caught in it a little bit as I headed out to one of the other buildings that we look after, sorting out an issue where the projector wasn't playing ball for some reason, and so we had a temporary one ready to go just in case.
I also documented a few processes including packaging of one application and how we would be able to distribute it correctly with a task sequence that did the job, but also I spent plenty of time being able to make sure we had adequate screen shots of all the necessary processes as well. It's important at times to make sure you actually remember what you did, rather than just do it and have to rack your brains for next time around. Here's hoping anyway.
I headed into the city centre after work as I needed to pick up a birthday card for my auntie as it's her birthday today and I'd be heading to see her and her uncle later. I also had got a gift card for Next that she was after so she could treat herself to stuff either for herself or for the house, so epic win there. This also gave me the opportunity to head into Wilkinson as well to see if they had any picture frames to fit my Audrey Hepburn picture that I'd got when I was in London. They only had one frame of the right size and I didn't like it, so thought I might have to look on their website online and then reserve it that way.
I headed over later to my auntie and uncle's place, and with most of the family there, it was good to say hello and chat to many of them. I had a chat to my sister later on as she was after a tablet, and I narrowed down the choices a bit for her based on budget and what she wanted to do with it, and also spoke to a lot of the City fans in the family about the whole Roberto Mancini issue and what would happen from here on in. It looks like a complete changeover at the club though as David Platt and all the other coaches under Mancini have now left as well, and with Vincent Kompany not playing last night, you do have to wonder...
I'd also been into Fopp on the way into the city centre as well and picked up the new Suicidal Tendencies album "13" which I'd been after since the album was released. As I'd got some birthday money it made more sense to actually head out and treat myself to that album. And what a good decision, it's back to classic ST of old, especially in the excellent "Cyco Style" which reminds me of their late 1980s/early 1990s peak. And there's even Mike Clark on rhythm guitar as well (it just needed Rob Trujillo on bass and that'd have been even more classic). Even so, it's a massive tune. Tune of the day easily.
Tuesday 14th May - Entering The Cube
I had a pretty productive day all round today, mainly having to try and do my utmost to resist the temptation of taking lots of extra work on myself, but instead delegating it where possible and making sure that everyone does more than their fair share of stuff to do. I did though have a bit of reconnisance mission in the afternoon. One of our courses is moving some of their studios to another part of a building, and as yet I didn't think that we had wireless in there. As such it was then a case of heading around the rooms and seeing if there were any network points to be re-used.
As it was, one of the little side rooms adjacent had one point, so my cunning plan was to effectively re-use that but to have the access point on the other wall opposite and therefore where the access point would be it'd be more visible and in the middle of three large rooms, so therefore the signal should travel reasonably well in terms of distance, that was the cunning plan at any rate. It felt good to be positive and actually take part in something which requires a bit of advance planning.
Later on The Love In My Heart came over for tea, and she was a happy and much relieved bunny. She had had to take the car to the garage close to her place this morning as the car was struggling a bit to get going, particularly on Sunday, and she was worried that it was going to get worse. Anyway, it was a bad clutch that was causing the problem and that's now been replaced, and it feels much more like what it should do for her, so that was good. Not being a car owner myself, I do have to empathise with the expense of it all though.
My sister came round with my nephew and we had a chat with them both as she brought round my birthday cards, which was very nice of her. It was always good to see them both too and it was plenty of chat and conversation, and The Love is as always lovely to them. It was nice that my nephew had written the card out himself and put a big smiley face on the envelope. Awww. My sister was also looking forward to a break in the Summer, and we mentioned that I hoped the weather was going to get better for our break away too.
I made The Love and I some chicken tikka massala, along with some garlic and coriander naan bread, poppadums and some basmati rice, which worked pretty well on the whole. I even tried the organic heather honey ale that was part of a set of real ales I'd got recently, and that was rather delicious indeed. The Love watched the omnibus edition of Emmerdale, and all was well with the world. I even missed CSI so I could watch it later on my own (which was brilliant as it always is)
It was on with The Cube for the Wii, which was something I'd got for my birthday and wanted to play and see how it went. Well, put it this way, it's just as difficult as attempting to win it on the TV show. Although some of the games from the TV aren't here, such as balancing on a beam etc, a lot of the visual brain and memory games as well as the reaction and throwing games are all there, and indeed really work out superbly on the Wii as a whole. We both really had a good go at a fair few and found it compulsively rather good. Tune of the day is the theme tune to said show, composed by Ken Bolam and Nick Foster.
Monday 13th May - Unlucky For Some
From the moment that my watch strap on one of my Bench watches decided to break on me this morning, I suspected that it wasn't going to be a good day. Normally I do get quite trideskiaphobic anyway, but starting off the day like that just made me feel even more conscious of what would happen during the day. I even had to head back home before I got on the bus to work as I'd forgotten my work ID card meaning that I wouldn't be able to get into some of the buildings and all that.
Anyway, the day was going okay but then a network outage hit at around 1.45pm and lasted a couple of hours, which knocked out a few services all in one go. It wasn't pretty really and it meant a fair bit of firefighting during the afternoon. I don't like it when that happens because inevitably you'll always have someone with a complaint to make who will just blame you personally for it. Sometimes, there is downtime and things do happen, and I was just relieved to a degree that things went back up as quickly as possible.
I headed into Piccadilly, thus avoiding the Manchester United parade in Albert Square and on Deansgate, and so headed to Timpsons, where the staff there sorted out my watch strap replacement, and it looks the part now with a hefty black one doing the business for me. It's good that they do a professional job and that it's stuff that lasts too - always well worth it instead of going cheap and then paying for it afterwards when it breaks within six months. It was then on the bus home and I thought about one thing..
This time last year. I can remember of course where I was, seeing Manchester City against Queens Park Rangers and all the drama that unfolded with it, seeing Edin Džeko get a vital equaliser before Sergio Agüero score that goal and having all of us there going mental and crying tears of joy in equal measure. For me, what was good too was that the Sunderland fans were celebrating as much as we were because they were playing United at their place, and so when the final score came through really did rub it in on our behalf a little bit. Nice.
But of course talking of unlucky, I've just found out that Roberto Mancini has been sacked as Manchester City manager. Words absolutely fail me, they really do. It makes me wonder what the powers that be at the club are actually thinking and how much they want things too quickly. For me, Mancini was the man and he was not to be messed with - he laid down the law and rightly so. Granted this season wasn't as good as last, but would we ever have had the same drama as that title win? No. We qualified for the Champions League, lost the FA Cup Final probably due to the City press office not quashing the rumour mongering and allowing the team to play, and will probably be 2nd in the league, not that bad.
I could think of worse places to be in terms of the league table and so on, and it'll make me wonder if a few players who obviously developed under Mancini (Pablo Zabaleta notably) will decide enough is enough and also leave. Also, you have to wonder what the director of football Txiki Begiristain has had in all this - since his arrival it's seemed to be constant rumours about Mancini's job rather than let him get on with the task in hand. Angry doesn't even come close right now.
As a mark of respect, tune of the day has to be "Volare" and notably the version that Manchester City fans sang about Roberto Mancini - "Mancini, woooooah, Mancini, woooooah, He comes from Italy, to manage Man City" (repeat ad infinitum). I can see it being pretty interesting stuff at home to Norwich on Sunday with talk already of some fans boycotting the game and even protesting. I for one am just lost for words, I really am. What next?
Sunday 12th May - Sunday Lunch in the Rain
It was a relaxing morning after a long day out yesterday, and I spent a fair bit of time sorting out the pictures that I'd taken yesterday. It was a good mix of the fans around the ground, the build up to the game and the match itself, so it worked out pretty well. I also knew that it was a case of seeing what would be an accurate representation of the game and so had a fair few of shots of Wigan on the attack as well as us, and even some of them celebrating after the final whistle. It was good to use my DSLR in there and thankfully for the likes of the Cup Final, they're okay about it as long as you don't use über-long lenses (maybe a lesson learned from the Olympics?)
Anyway, with that all done, I headed out with The Love In My Heart and to somewhere close to her family's heart as there was a service today at a charity that they support. It was good to be there and be supportive, and what was nice was that one of the new paths that lead to the gardens had various people sponsoring a plaque, including Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany and his wife Carla, as well as the whole Bolton Wanderers team having a large plaque as a team effort. It was hammering it down with rain and was pretty cold, so glad that the outside marquee was waterproof and windproof.
After that and a cup of coffee it was then time for Sunday lunch at a pub not too far away from there, with us all having a hearty meal together. I get on really well with The Love's family, so was nice to talk to her two nieces and nephew and her two sisters, as well as her Mum and Dad. I had the New York chicken, which was fine but there wasn't enough barbecue sauce on it, which did leave the chicken a little on the dry side. The apple and blackberry crumble pie for dessert was rather lovely though it has to be said.
It was good to talk to everyone and before long we headed back into the rain and to The Love's car as we headed back down the motorway to the centre of Manchester and then through towards mine, where I nipped into Tesco Express to get some shopping and then headed homewards. It had been a good afternoon out together and nice to support The Love's family somewhat as well. They'd all got me some lovely birthday presents too, most of which I opened on Friday morning, so all was well there.
Later on in the evening my uncle and auntie came round, and we had a chat and coffee and they gave me some lovely birthday presents, repeated a little later on as my brother and his girlfriend also came over. It's nice when people make the effort to come and see you isn't it? My uncle and I were digesting yesterday's game and what it would mean in the future for City, and I also got to see the F1 race from Spain that I'd recorded from the afternoon whilst I was out.
So, what did I get for my birthday in all then? Well I've got a present to come from my friend, but in short, quite a few CDs including Ministry of Sound: Electronic 80s 2, The Strokes' "Comedown Machine", Seth Lakeman live with the BBC Concert Orchestra, How To Destroy Angels' "Welcome Oblivion", Paul Weller's deluxe edition version of "Sonik Kicks" and Hurts' "Exile". Add that to gift cards for Debenhams, Tesco, Marks and Spencer, some lovely real ales including Pendle Witches Brew, a gorgeous Fred Perry shirt, and you get the idea that it worked out very well indeed!
Tune of the day is in fact from the Paul Weller album "Sonik Kicks". The deluxe edition even has two extra bonus tracks on the CD, one of which is rather storming and surprised me that it didn't appear on the regular release. "Starlite" really is catchy and infectious but also fits in perfectly well with the feel of the album too, has a cracking bassline which underpins the whole thing and reminds me of late nights for some reason. Isn't it great when album bonus tracks are as good as the album itself?
Saturday 11th May - Wembley Woes
It was an early-ish start for me and my friend today as we were heading to the Etihad Stadium to get on one of the many coaches which were taking Manchester City fans off to Wembley for the FA Cup final where we'd play Wigan Athletic. It would be a massive game in terms of City could win their second FA Cup in three seasons, whilst it would be Wigan's first major trophy if they won it. Although my friend and some City fans were thinking that we'd win easily, I remembered how hard the league game was at the Etihad and how we scraped home 1-0 despite Wigan being the better side, plus it always tends to be the end of the season when Wigan hit some form to attempt to stay up in the Premier League.
The coach was spot on and the drivers were really good - making sure we made good time, and before long we were at Corley services at the far end of the M6, having taken the M6 Toll road and avoiding Birmingham (a good move all round) and grabbing a snack on the way, and then it was down the M1. As we approached the end of the M1 there were traffic warnings of congestion, and sure enough at the infamous roundabout at the end, it looked bad. Our coach driver knew a cunning ruse to get around some of it and we were soon on the North Circular and heading towards the stadium, which took ages because of crawling traffic.
We got off the coach and headed to our entrance in the stadium with both sets of fans in good voice. We even saw City legend Shaun Goater going in with the regular City fans, and the fans of course were belting out the chant "Feed the Goat and he will score" in recognition of his efforts over the years. Mind you, back in 2011, plenty of City fans saw Uwe Rösler drinking with them in one of the pubs close to the ground, so it shows how much some of the legends appreciate the fans.
In the ground we went, and block 125 was around level with the 18 yard box, so hopefully we'd have a good view of the left hand goal where City normally would attack in the second half (as you look at it on the telly). As the players warmed up the atmosphere built nicely, with the traditional anthem of "Abide With Me" performed by a classical vocal quartet who also got everyone singing the national anthem at the right time too. Before all that we'd had some cheerleaders with mock violins performing Fatboy Slim's "Right Here Right Now" (make that tune of the day) and the tension mounted before kick off.
It was a tough game to watch to be honest, purely because City didn't get going. However, a lot of that has to go down to Wigan, who really wanted it much more. They played with fire and passion, they were breaking down the wings and generally doing their best to attack when they could. City had a good free kick from Carlos Tévez saved as well as a shot from him over the bar, as well as a Samir Nasri long range effort. However Wigan maybe should have scored early on when Callum McManaman fired wide, Paul Scharner headed over and they were more than matching us. The closest we got was Carlos Tévez's close range shot which the Wigan keeper Joel Robles saved with his feet.
Plenty of worried faces at half time in the City end, let me tell you, and deservedly so to be honest. A lot of fans thought the same as I did that James Milner should have started, and we needed him off the bench. That change happened early in the second half but City lost the shape a bit, both Pablo Zabaleta and Matija Nastasic were booked, and Wigan sensed that they could do it the more the game went on. Sergio Agüero had a shot blocked by Emmerson Boyce, and that was about as good as it got for City. Zabaleta was put under pressure after a poor pass from Gareth Barry, and had to take one for the team as a second yellow and red card came his way.
Down to ten men then and it was a case of hanging on, but Wigan got a corner just as the three minutes of stoppage time was announced. The cross came over, and substitute Ben Watson headed in and the Wigan fans went deservedly mental. They held out for the remainder of injury time and that was that, Wigan had won. And to be honest, rightly so. With all the talk about Roberto Mancini being replaced even before the game had begun, it was clearly affecting what was going on and the likes of Yaya Toure in particular let the side down pretty badly as well. And quite aptly, it was chucking it down with rain as we left Wembley.
Back on the coach, we headed off out of the coach park, and saw quite a number of Wigan fans leaving after they'd seen their team lift the trophy. Sportingly a fair number of us applauded their fans and they were pretty surprised but in a good way, giving us the thumbs up and applauding us for being so sporting. I've always thought that if you're sporting in defeat as well as victory, it's a much more classy way to behave and I know afterwards plenty of Wigan fans were saying the same about City. It's only right really - sometimes you just have to take it the right way and knowing how long it took us before winning a trophy after a 35 year drought, they've not won a major trophy in their 81 year history, so for them it was even more massive!
The coach headed home speedily but as we hit junction 2 of the M6 we could see a massive tailback (all the way from junction 7 in fact). The driver came off, skirted along some B roads and then joined the A5 at the junction with the M69, headed up the A5 all the way to junction 11 of the M6, and that helped immensely - lots of fans of both teams were stuck in that jam and didn't get home till 4am. We had a quick stop and driver change at Stafford services, and got back at the Etihad at 12.45am, which wasn't too bad considering. I was home and asleep just after 1am, and although the result wasn't what I wanted, it had been a good day out for the two of us.
Friday 10th May - Forty One
Well today marks my 41st birthday no less, and to be honest I didn't feel any different in terms of how I was when I was a mere 40. Maybe as I'm getting older and time seems to be going quicker it's just a passage of time. However, it was really nice that I'd had some lovely cards and presents thus far, and opened the card and present from The Love In My Heart's sister. It was the Kevin Cummins book about Manchester and its music, which I'll have to peruse in more detail at some point - some iconic photography and images of course, but also some lengthy writing about the music scene in the city which will be enjoyable I suspect.
It was then off to Piccadilly station to meet with The Love In My Heart, as we were off to London for the day. We'd booked the train tickets ages ago and as a little treat to ourselves were going First Class on the way down. This meant amongst other things we could go in the First Class lounge at the station, and so have a coffee and some biscuits, but also relax in some comfortable seating and just get ourselves set for the day, which was a pretty good idea all round.
It was then on to the train itself, and nice large comfortable seats, with a table all to ourselves as it turned out, and really warm and friendly staff, who looked after us as Virgin staff always do (thank heavens it's still them operating this line at the moment). We had some coffee, then orange juice and I also had some Special K with red berries cereal. The order was taken for the breakfast and both The Love and I went for the full English, which was lovely - bacon, egg, sausage, hash brown and even for me some black pudding. You got a fair bit too, and even with proper cutlery. It just felt rather nice and posh all round and the train sped to Euston in its usual efficient way.
Whilst on the train, The Love had a very nice bag with some gorgeous presents and cards from her and her family. The Love got me a gorgeous Fred Perry short sleeved shirt I was after, and also the Paul Weller "Sonik Kicks" limited edition album with extra DVD, and that was good of her - they were both what I really wanted and the shirt felt lovely - and I know it'll be great on too. The Love's Mum and Dad had got me The Cube game for the Wii, and The Love's sister, having already given The Love some real ale for me last night, also got me a gift card for M&S, and The Love's relations had also got me the Seth Lakeman live EP too. Happy bunny I most certainly was.
Once we arrived in London it was then off to Warren Street Station (a short walk away) and to get the number 14 bus which takes us via Piccadilly Circus and Hyde Park Corner before arriving at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where we were going to see the David Bowie Is exhibition there, something I'd seen advertised a few months back and thought "I need to go to that!" and so planned the day around going there. The staff were being a bit über in terms of that you couldn't queue to get in till your alloted time, so we mooched around the shop and was tempted by lots of items.
The exhibition itself was, suffice to say, stunning. If you're a David Bowie fan, then a lot of the items in there such as the stage costumes, the hand written lyrics, the rare vinyl and the othe rmemorabilia make it a fascinating insight into the man - even a section on his acting career. If you're not a fan, then you'd still be interested in the story side of things and also how the attention to detail and attempting to pioneer from the front actually made him an iconic figure in the world of music. The headsets you got to take with you interacted with the exhibition too so you got to hear either spoken word segments or some of the songs, and that worked wonderfully well.
I might do a write up review in further detail soonish, but siffuce to say that I really enjoyed the almost two hours that we spent in the exhibition, and even The Love who isn't really a Bowie fan as such appreciated the fashions, the style and also the fact that there were some real rarities and unseen footage amongst the items and that for some it would be impressive to see just that. It was really packed too, so just note you may need to head around there slower than normal. Tune of the day simply has to be a Bowie song - namely "Space Oddity" - the whole exhibit with regards to that song would have made it worth the admission alone!
We spent some time in the shop afterwards and I could have spent lots - in the end The Love said "I'll get you a little something" and got me the poster which advertises the exhibition - not bad for £4 really, and I was tempted to buy CDs, vinyl and books but resisted. We also went to the café for lunch and we both had a ham and emmenthal cheese baguette, which was laden with some super spicy mustard - which we both thought was a little too over the top (and The Love normally loves spicy food, says it all). We did have some Victoria sponge cake for afters though and that was amazing!
We then headed on the bus back towards Covent Garden and spent some time in the shops there, and my, there was even a shop dedicated to the Tove Jansson created characters, namely the Moomins! I'm sure anyone who remembered the series on telly would adore the shop, you name it, they have it, and it was well laid out so you could see everything. We also walked around some more shops and admired the street performers all around the main piazza before heading towards Trafalgar Square.
It was into the National Portrait Gallery for us, and that proved to be well worth it. They had a nice portrait of Paul McCartney in the 1960s section, and in the recent photography and portrait images, there was an excellent photograph of several well known actors recreating "The Last Supper" including Julie Walters, Robert Powell and Sir Michael Gambon, but The Love especially liked the painted portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge which stood proudly in one room despite one ignorant woman taking pictures of it and completely ignoring the "no photography" signage.
We headed back towards Covent Garden and it was time for something to eat for our evening meal and so headed to Bella Italia. I had a voucher to celebrate my birthday in that we'd get a free bottle of sparkling pinot grigio with our meal provided we spent £25 on food (starter plus main is always over that amount anyway). The waiter we had was really friendly, and asked whose birthday it was, as well as made sure we got the wine straight away so we could enjoy it together, and we did - The Love loves pinot grigio anyway but it wasn't overly sparkling so was just right.
We both had the minestrone soup to start which was fab, I had the carbonara for main which was cooked to perfection with a nice creamy sauce, lots of pancetta and a light spaghetti, and The Love's tagliatelle with lamb was stunning - in fact I've made a mental note to have that myself next time we go there. I even had one of their mini desserts with coffee, and the little lemon tart I had looked cute but was perfect for what I needed - so that was enjoyable too. The atmosphere was relaxed, we could sit by the window and people watch (which we did!) and chat together and be chilled out. Yaay indeed.
Finally it was the bus from Aldwych back to Euston and to the Euston Tap to have a final drink before heading home. I had this very lovely ale Nor Hop which was a proper cask beer, and really was light and do wasn't bloating at all. The Love had some nice wine and outside we even spotted Tim Anderson, who won MasterChef in 2011, sat in the beer garden outside with his partner (he used to be the bar manager at the Euston Tap till his win, so quite fitting he was there really.) We had a good drink and then headed back to Manchester on the train, and it was a lovely day.
And when I got home it wasn't over quite yet! A fair few of the family had posted cards through, some of which also had gift cards. So my sister and her husband had put in a gift card for Tesco (that'll be me getting some Florence and Fred clothes then!) and also my auntie and my nephew had both put in gift cards for Debenhams in their cards too, which was a lovely surprise, and much appreciated. I had some cards from friends too in the post, so that all made it nice to come home to. All in all, a cracking day!
Thursday 9th May - Lamb and Loveliness
It was a fairly hectic day at work and to be honest I was trying where possible to get everything sorted out so that I knew I could be off tomorrow and not think about work. I also had to investigate the possibility of wireless in the basement area of one of the buildings we look after, and from what I seem to remember, I knew there wasn't many, if any, network sockets in that end of the building. The basement's actually in two halves and one half has now got wireless coverage.
Anyway, I could only see one network socket, and that was behind a shed load of storage in a store room so was also impossible to get to. The person who looked after that room also told me that he thought that the area used currently was being moved upstairs, so I emailed the staff concerned to see if that was the case, and if it was, then it was a simple enough job to be able to then plan ahead for getting wireless sorted for that area. It felt positive to at least get things on their way and do some testing too, and I did spend a fair bit of time testing some applications as well.
I had brought in some cakes, chocolate etc for today as I was off tomorrow and wanted to be nice to the whole team and treat them to some goodies. To be fair, I got a nice birthday card from them as well which was really good, so it all worked out nicely. I managed to solve a lot of issues along the way today too and by the time it was time to head off, I just had one last printer problem to get sorted and that was it - it just meant I could head homewards and not worry. Hurrah!
Later on The Love In My Heart came over and we went over to my Mum's, who was making the three of us plus my brother some tea - a rather lovely Sunday roast dish on a Thursday, with lamb, potatoes, vegetables and lashings of gravy plus some Yorkshire puddings. Delicious! And on top of that too some apple pie and custard for me which was also lovely. She'd made a pear cheesecake and it hadn't quite worked out right, the piece The Love had was fine except it was way too almondy. Even as an almond cake person I thought it might have been over the top and that's saying something.
It was good to chat to Mum and my brother and they both gave me their birthday presents - my brother got me the Ministry of Sound Electronic 80s Volume 2 compilation as well as the new Strokes CD, and Mum got me a gift card for Debenhams so that was all rather lovely. The Love had also brought with her a present from her sister (very nice of her to do that) and so I'd open that in the morning before setting off for the day we'd planned. It was just a really nice time at Mum's and she'd even saved me a bottle of the Wychcraft real ale too to have with my tea. Hurrah!
Later on I put on the Electronic 80s Volume 2 compilation and there's some classic tracks on there. I was pleased that it was the full 5 minutes 55 seconds version of New Order's classic "True Faith" on CD3, and indeed straight after it Electronic's classic "Getting Away With It", a song which I used to sing on the way home from many an indie club night in fact - so for that reason alone it's got to have tune of the day written all over it. If you've never heard it, you really should - it's just a brilliantly flowing record and even has the Pet Shop Boys on parts of it too.
Wednesday 8th May - Packaging Performance
I had a very lovely morning with one of my colleagues from another site, who I was working together with on packaging a few applications that needed to be done. One of them that we were tackling today wasn't that bad, in fact the silent install switch worked first go, which was a good thing, and then we just had to make sure that we were able to copy the appropriate text files down to the machine. In essence what they will do is that they point the software to the licence server to use a licence from there - which is set up and ready to go.
We did this, and badabing! All was good - well almost. It looked like the application didn't like the firewall rules and so wanted to create a new one. When I looked into the Group Policy settings for the firewall, the application is mentioned but both refer to the short name, which is actually also incorrect, so I've provided the correct short (ie: Progra~2 etc) and long name and put them forward for a modification to that policy - I am hoping that it's not a major change but we shall see what happens.
I also spent a bit of time this afternoon with a printer in a room where the printer had been moved without prior knowledge, so had to do a bit of re-patching to make things happen. As it turned out the sockets in the destination room had been mis-labelled, and it was mainly down to a bit of detective work by me in order to ensure that I knew what sockets should actually be labelled as. Once I did that I could see the network lights come on for the switch, so it was looking good there, and heading back to the printer that fired up without issues. Isn't it good when things happen?
Later on in the evening a short trip to Tesco ensued and it was pretty busy considering it was around 9pm - I had ran out of lots of items at the same time so it was worth a quick trip just to refill stocks with what was needed and it also meant that I could sort everything out with minimal fuss and bother too. It also allowed me to take my shot for the day as well - I'm currently doing a challenge on Flickr called Mono Mayhem, where effectively you shoot one shot in black and white every day for the whole of May (hence the nifty name and all that). I came across some inspiration and that worked out well for the day.
The last big news of the day for me was that it looks like Roy Harper is going to be playing the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester in October. Looking at my gig schedule this actually doesn't clash with anything else I've got planned gig-wise, and so for me it's a must go, especially if there's going to be strings involved. I have a vision of him doing the epic "Me and My Woman" that way and it'll be bloody ace - in fact make that tune of the day really. I just want to go and see him perform one more time (he is in his 70s after all so you never know) and bring back memories of seeing him at the Dancehouse Theatre many years ago, as well as UMIST Underground from way back.
Tuesday 7th May - Beating the Baggies
It was a very busy day at work today, and I wasn't surprised considering that the week was effectively shortened by the Bank Holiday, and so everyone came back with renewed zest and vigour. However, I ended up having to attend four meetings in the space of the day - first of all the team meeting which would have been on the Monday but was put back because of the holiday, and then a meeting about the software packaging and development for the proposed site move, with lots of focus on me as packaging lead getting things working and up and running correctly.
Then in the afternoon I had a meeting with a member of staff about a projector that they wanted to test out, which was pretty productive and gave them some ideas as to what to do and where to go next. It was then over to the new building for a course committee meeting where I was able to feed back on some recent upgrades and was able to put those to the staff, as well as mention the security issues with the buildings currently that I've spotted. It was good though that they were happy to listen and be able to see my point of view too - always good when that happens.
Later on it was off to the Etihad Stadium with my friend to see Manchester City take on West Bromwich Albion in the second to last home game of the season. A win would also definitely guarantee a third place finish and therefore Champions League football next season, and so there was an incentive there. In fact that would also confirm Wigan's place in the Europa League, as the FA Cup winners qualify for that, but if we win on Saturday, we'll have already qualified for the Champions League and so Wigan would go in the Europa as finalists anyway.
It was a bit tough going during the first part of the game with on loan striker Romelu Lukaku tormenting the City defence and getting through on a couple of occasions but not being able to finish. At the other end we gradually took shape with a Carlos Tévez fizzer rattling the bar and a low cross from James Milner causing confusion in the West Brom box. Jack Rodwell also went close with a powerful shot and so after all that pressure a great pass from Rodwell found Tévez on the right and he looked up and crossed to Edin Džeko who volleyed home powerfully for 1-0. We had chances to score a second before half time but it was not to be.
In fact West Brom came out fighting during the second half and looked very lively as they tried to get an equaliser but the defence of Kolo Toure, Aleksandar Kolarov, Joleon Lescott and tonight's captain Micah Richards did enough to see them off. At the other end Rodwell went close with a shot bounding off the West Brom keeper, and substitute Maicon blazed a cross high and wide when the low ball to the striker was easier. Edin Džeko also went close a couple of times but there were to be no more goals and we'd hang on for a 1-0 win that was pretty hard earned.
That was good for us and a win before Saturday's FA Cup Final at Wembley, however for the teams near the bottom of the table they were more happy with Swansea's comeback from 2-1 down to win 3-2 at Wigan. It was also a blow for them as well before Saturday and means that they've got to realistically win their last two league games to have any hope of survival whatsoever. It's still possible that they could get away with winning one if other results go their way, so we shall see. Tune of the day is Supra's "Blue Moon" which gets me fired up as ever before the game gets underway.
Monday 6th May - Bank Holiday in Biddulph
The Love In My Heart and I had a relaxing morning, just taking things easy minus the Cadbury's Caramel but with added nice breakfast and coffee to boot. I got up and watched back some of the Top of the Pops - 1978 Big Hits that I recorded after we'd headed to sleep last night, and that had some corking tunes on, such as Sham 69's "Angels with Dirty Faces", Elvis Costello not wanting to go to Chelsea, the Boomtown Rats and their classic "Rat Trap" as well as of course the beautiful Kate Bush performing "Wuthering Heights". But best of all, Ian Dury and the Blockheads with "What A Waste" with the immortal line "I could be the ticket man at Fulham Broadway Station" thrown in there - tune of the day without question.
I had mulled over where to go that we'd not been before but also somewhere that wasn't too far or going to cost the earth, and as National Trust members I had a brainwave - and so we headed off down the A34 skirting around Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Congleton before heading on the A527 and to Biddulph Grange Garden, which was close to a country park but also had a really nice historic house contained within (sadly not open to the public.)
The garden itself was basically all built in the Victorian era by one James Bateman and the idea was that it would house his collection of plants from around the world, and so each part of the garden represents that bit of the world. It worked out well as we initially walked around the small lake, right round through a tunnel and a circular path that led you to the Cheshire Cottage, and walking through there then to a secret entrance which looked more like a pyramid as we saw the Egyptian Garden with some sculptures contained within.
It was then a walk along the Woodland Walk at the far end of the garden and this took you gradually uphill to the top of what was Wellingtonia Avenue, which had some seats at the top. The view looking down was rather lovely with large trees lining your route back down, which was great, as was the Dahlia Walk too. It was then back via the tea room to grab a drink and a walk via the Lime Avenue to the lake where we sat by and rested before seeking out the finest feature of all in the garden.
It was over a little path, with some steps, through a long dark tunnel, and at the end it was just a jaw dropping "wow" factor as we arrived at the China part of the garden, complete with temple by the water, a beautiful little bridge which took you on a path to the Joss House, which commanded some lovely views at the top and some seating to rest yourselves. We headed back via the stumpery and to the cherry orchard before then walking to the parterres and to the house again. The China section was stunningly lovely and not even mere words can describe how nice it was. We both loved it there and can highly recommend it to anyone.
We stopped off at a cash machine before heading to The Gateway pub in East Didsbury on the way back where The Love had some gorgeous fish and chips and I had the chicken burger, which was a full chicken breast in a bun and as such tasted gorgeous, and just the thing after our walk around. The sun was out so we sat outside and The Love said that if the days we'll have in Cornwall will be as nice weather wise as today, then all will be good and I have to agree completely.
Lastly, I settled in the evening to see the final session of the World Snooker Championship. Barry Hawkins had it all to do from being 15-10 down but pulled back two frames with two superb breaks (especially the 66 break in the second frame where the balls were in terrible positions) before Ronnie O'Sullivan took charge and punished any mistakes with the next three frames won and an 18-12 win to make him World Champion. It annoyed me that the BBC commentators were basically all about Ronnie and didn't give Barry the deserved credit (even Ronnie credited Barry a lot for pushing him so hard and playing fantastic during his post match interview) as both players had contributed to an excellent final.
Sunday 5th May - Homeward Bound
It was a relaxed morning at my friend's place in Doncaster, with the three of us having some croissants and coffee just to get us up and about, and we watched back the highlights of the Football League Show and Match of the Day to see what the football had been doing during the day. It was all good and my friend from South Shields headed homewards, and we had all agreed it was another brilliant weekend together even if it was only three quarters of us there. Needless to say though I felt sad that the time had gone so quickly.
My friend and I had one final coffee and chat before he very kindly dropped me off at Doncaster station. It did feel sad here too but I knew that it wouldn't hopefully be too long before we'd all get together again and have a great time. What wasn't great however was that Transpennine Express had gone and cancelled my 1142 train back to Manchester, so I had to wait an hour for the 1242 one. Good job I got on from its starting point in Doncaster as at Sheffield the train got pretty rammed full and was pleased at least we got to Manchester at the time supposed to (just after 2pm)
This did mean though I missed the opening couple of frames of the World Snooker Championship final. Not that either Ronnie O'Sullivan or Barry Hawkins were slacking off any, they were putting together some quality snooker all round and I caught it just as Hawkins was winning the third frame to go 2-1 up and gradually pulled it back to 3-2 up before Ronnie took the last three to surge ahead 5-3 but nonetheless it had been some quality play all round really.
The Love In My Heart came over and we had a nice little walk around Fletcher Moss Gardens, with the rockery looking very nice in the Spring sunshine as did the cherry blossom trees that were out everywhere - they really did seem to make a difference overall and felt rather good. We stopped off at The Didsbury pub for a drink and a catch up chat, and it was lovely to see that the weather was holding and that it looked pretty nice overall as we were outside soaking up the nice dry weather.
We headed home and I made us some tea - first of all we had some mushroom soup to start followed by some gammon, new potatoes, vegetables and even a couple of eggs to go with the gammon for the main, which worked out okay in the end. That was timed ever so well so I could settle in and see the start of the second session of the final of the snooker, with Barry Hawkins determined to fight back and make a game of it and had pulled it back to 7-6 before we switched over to BBC1 for the final episode of The Village.
That series has been excellent and I am not surprised one bit that BBC1 are attempting to make another series of it set in a different era, as both John Simm and Maxine Peake have been brilliant in it, really conveying the hard up times of being a farmer and an outcast back then. Interestingly one of the waterfalls in New Mills was seen in the episode as well as the Sett Valley Trail between New Mills and Hayfield which we've walked along - so we were both like "I've been there!" when watching it. I'll have to head back to Hayfield sometime I reckon.
We switched back to the snooker and it was a tense final frame with O'Sullivan nicking it on the final black to go 10-7 up. I remarked it was a massive frame in the context of the match and had it been 9-8 going into tomrorow anything could happen and might as well do. We then watched Top of the Pops Big Hits 1977 which had some excellent archive TOTP footage showing some of the big songs from that year. It was great for me to see so many alternative songs feature there as well as some classic numbers, and tune of the day comes from that show - no less than "In The City" by The Jam - classic early Paul Weller of course!
Saturday 4th May - Doncaster Weekender, Day Two
It was a reasonably early rise for the three of us this morning as we headed up, had some well earned coffee along with a sausage barm for breakfast (delicious that) and then once we'd seen a little bit of telly and online video and also checked out the bus times, it was time to head into town and out again, as we'd booked to do some bowling at the Doncaster Superbowl. This meant a bus from my friend's place into the Doncaster Interchange bus station (right next to the train station in fact) and then a bus out from there to where the Doncaster Dome is, followed by a short walk to the Superbowl itself.
We had arrived relatively early so whilst waiting for our lane, it was time for a couple of games of pool on a table which to be honest didn't exactly run very true whatsoever, it seemed to curve towards one corner which made play pretty difficult all round. We managed it though and it was soon time to head over to the counter and check in with our paid games. Bizarrely, you don't have to hand your shoes in, you get the pair you need to bowl with and take them with you - so they must trust you with returning them back!
Anyway, we had three very enjoyable games of bowling, with each of us winning a game each, so that was pretty good stuff. The first game was close though and I did win by a mere two points, doing just enough in the final frame to clinch it. However, our friend from South Shields after having had a not great second game was getting strikes for fun, and in fact over the whole game it was a massive seven strikes (four of which were on the bounce) and two spares, resulting in a massive score of 216 - easily by far the best anyone has ever done on a weekender.
After that it was a quick ride on the bus back into the town centre and off for the first stop, the Salutation pub. Their Black Sheep Best was on top form and I happily had that as the three of us had a chat whilst keeping in touch with the deciding fixtures in the Championship which looked like they were going to go all the way to the wire to see who got promoted, who was in the playoffs and who was relegated. It was such a close and wide open season that anyone could have beaten anyone!
We then headed into the city centre and towards The Red Lion, which was where we had lunch. The fish and chips was on top form which I had, and it was a nicely relaxed vibe in there and next to the markets area as well. Once that was done, it was over to one of the best real ale places I've been to - Cask Corner. No less than twelve cask ales were on at any one time, and you could also get up to one hundred different bottles beers from around the world if that is what took your fancy. I had the Moonlight ale first which was lovely and as the sun was out we sat up on the roof terrace too.
It was then back the way we came to the Hall Cross pub as my friend knew that they had a pool table which wasn't expensive, and so it proved too - two games for £1 (effectively 50p each). We played some great games of pool in there and even the jukebox was decent, so I put in some Mike Oldfield for my friend but also Kraftwerk's excellent "Computer Love" which of course has the riff which Coldplay later was to use in one of their songs - tune of the day for that then as it did really inspire us when playing the game. I won quite a few games on the bounce and so was pretty pleased with myself overall.
We were going to head into another couple of pubs but they had loud music blaring away and it looked like the clientele wasn't our type, so we headed across to The White Swan (which now seems to have been taken over and named Francie's Irish Bar) - they had some local real ale on for just £1.79 - a bargain in my book, and perfectly drinkable too. There was some gaelic football with no one there on the telly, and plenty of people we got chatting to as well - nice friendly atmosphere.
It was finally back to Cask Corner and even though a live band was on, you could get your drinks and head upstairs, where it was much quieter and still a good atmosphere, so we chatted for ages whilst having some lovely real ale, including one called The Darker Side of the Moon which was a lovely dark mild and really did taste gorgeous. It was a perfect place to relax, drink and chat and I really liked the place a lot - well worth searching out for if you're round those parts.
We then headed to a takeaway to grab some takeout to take home with us, and on one street with plenty of night clubs it was getting pretty lively with lots of people pretty much drunk. We headed to Burger Jim, got ourselves the food we were after and one quick walk to a taxi rank later and it was in a taxi back to my friend's place all for the low price of around £4.60! We had the food, relaxed with a bit of telly before deciding after a long day it was time to crash out and sleep - but we'd all had a great day all round. Aren't things great when they happen for a reason?
Friday 3rd May - Doncaster Weekender, Day One
It was good to have the day off work and indeed make it an extended Bank Holiday weekend, as it meant that I could hopefully enjoy the lovely weather and also spend some quality time with friends as well. We had arranged for a few of us to meet in Doncaster, where one of my friends lives, and have a weekend of gaming, pool, bowling and of course beer too. Even if one of the four of us had to pull out as they were starting a new job which involved weekend work, the remaining three of us decided that it would be a shame to pull out now and so make the most of the weekend anyway. I was quite glad really.
So after sorting out a few things around the house it was off to Piccadilly station and on to the 1120 train to Doncaster via Sheffield. I had a nice journey overall, with two women sat on the table on the other side of the carriage looking forward to seeing Lucy Spraggan of all people (in fact they were going to see her two nights on the bounce at two different venues) and at Stockport a couple of Welsh ladies joined us who were going to see the Big Reunion gig at Sheffield Arena - and they'd travelled up from the other side of Cardiff in the morning!
The train did empty a fair bit at Sheffield and so once past Meadowhall it was skirting around Rotherham's ground before passing Mexborough and Conisborough and into Doncaster, where my friend was waiting for me at the station and was picking me up - very good of him to do that. We headed to his place and spent most of the afternoon with plenty of chat and coffee and catching up about all sorts, which was just the relaxed sort of way to do things really. We knew that our friend from South Shields was heading over, and he arrived ahead of schedule which was good.
This of course meant time to crack a few beers open, have a chat and catch up together and then see a little bit of the snooker on BBC2 with the third session of Ronnie O'Sullivan v Judd Trump before some pizza went into the oven to tide us over and it was on with the Playstation 3 - he had a PS Move and two of the controllers, and so this meant that we could try out Sports Champions - which had several events which you could use the Move with.
I have to say we all found that thoroughly enjoyable but most of all was the disc golf, similar to frisbee golf on Wii Sports Resort but the targets were little metal chains that you threw the disc into, and you had to steer the frisbee around various landscapes to get to where you wanted to be. I think on the whole it proved to be massively fun, and even though I wasn't that good at it (although double bogey was my worst on a hole) it was pretty realistic all round and really did feel like you needed to throw accurately do do any good.
We also played bocce, similar in a way to both boules, petanque and boccia, where you had to throw a ball closest to the jack, but with the added difficulty of all sorts being in your way, either on a boat with upturned wood and missing planks, a park picnic area with benches and stone paths with stones missing etc, so proved also to be pretty challenging. Not long after that we decided to head to the local Chinese takeaway for some food, and that proved to be an inspired move all round - the crispy shredded chicken with lemon sauce with egg fried rice was rather gorgeous.
Back at base, we spent the remainder of the evening after having the Chinese takeout listening to some retro game music remixes, and even indulging ourselves with some classic Angry Video Game Nerd moments, including his infamous review of Superman on the Nintendo 64, which is a classic. In fact, the theme tune by Kyle Justin to the show is my tune of the day - it just really sums everything about that up with some choice language but ever so well done.
Thursday 2nd May - Angels of Death
I had a very very busy day today and I was quite pleased that I have tomorrow off for an extended Bank Holiday weekend to be honest. I did have a productive morning with my colleague from another site as we looked at application packaging of a couple of tricky applications. What we did find out pretty quickly is that one of them refused point blank to run correctly on Windows 7 64bit which wasn't too good to be honest. I suspect looking at the system requirements that it's probably at best a 16bit application as it looks like it runs in Windows 98 as well (what the?) so might be fun and games there.
I also spent a lot of time in the afternoon fixing plenty of printers which all seemed to have paper missing from them. I am not sure if the paper is being taken from the trays or that we just have a short supply but either way it's not very good to be honest, so getting those up and running was at least a good thing to do. I also had to go back to the new building and chat with our AV external suppliers with regards to some settings for the projectors so that it would show full screen on VGA, and we seemed to have the issue hopefully nailed!
I headed home a little later than normal and then to Tesco to get the food shopping in. What I didn't want to do over the weekend was have to do shopping unless I had to so it made plenty of sense for me to head there, get what I needed to get, and then head home, and I had just about finished doing the ironing and settling in for the World Championship snooker semi finals when The Love In My Heart came over. It was lovely to see her and after chatting for a while it was time for me to make a lovely spaghetti carbonara with some rather rustic garlic bread too.
After tea The Love watched Emmerdale on ITV1+1 (because I love her so much!) and then we switched over to the remainder of the snooker on BBC2 with Barry Hawkins seemingly struggling a bit against Ricky Walden, with Walden eventually finishing 6-2 up in the first session. We switched over to the final episode of MasterChef where it showed you the background of the final three contestants, and after seeing the episodes this week (I missed last night's but The Love filled me in) we both wanted Natalie to win, as she seemed the most down to earth everyday girl and it'd make her life so much more different if she was able to win.
To be honest all three contestants could have won and I would not have complained about having any of the three course meals presented - they all pushed themselves to make some gorgeous food but I think we both knew once the reactions had come in that John and Gregg were most pleased with Natalie and so an easy decision all round for them to make - and for us the right one. And she's a part time DJ as well which I'm sure she loves doing rather than credit control, yaay indeed.
Later on after The Love had left I heard the sad news that Jeff Hanneman of Slayer had passed away with his liver eventually giving up the ghost. Slayer has always been a band that I've respected, they may not be everyone's cup of tea but they set out to rock at immense pace and fury, and when they're on form, that they do. In the form of "Reign In Blood" they wrote one of the greatest albums of metal ever, for its sheer intensity and anger, and they've consistently done the goods throughout. Jeff had hardly played live with the band as of late because of his condition, but his driving rhythms and song composition will always be remembered. Tune of the day as my own little tribute is "Chemical Warfare" by Slayer - and indeed, the Angel of Death has taken another one away..
Wednesday 1st May - An Extra Crucible Visit
Having managed to get a ticket for the final session of the quarter finals of the World Snooker Championship only on Monday night, I acted pretty fast yesterday, with me working out I was able to get the 1639 train from Oxford Road to Sheffield and the 2211 back and still pay less by booking in advance. Not bad at all considering it was the day before I was due to travel. It also shows that sometimes if you're willing to just spend a minute checking, you can save money. It worked out £6.30 less for me, not to be sniffed at whatsoever!
I had a busy day at work and mainly spent some time compiling an Excel spreadsheet of buildings and room numbers of the buildings that we support. I had obtained the floor plans in PDF format and so it meant going through each one and ensuring that because of my local knowledge of the rooms and buildings I knew which were actual rooms and which were just things such as toilets etc, which of course won't ever need IT support as far as I know. The idea is then we can populate this into our Helpdesk system and make it better for us - or at least that's the plan.
After work I headed straight to Sheffield on the train and the Judd Trump v Shaun Murphy match was in the final frame - and by the sound of it thus far had been pretty dramatic. I knew that there was a screen outside, so went to the box office, collected my ticket and I then watched that epic final frame on the big screen outside with a crowd including referee Brendan Moore at one point. Epic frame and well played both players. Later on, Shaun also spent time outside with the fans and was bring really classy in defeat and making time for everyone. Well done him.
The crowd entered the theatre and Rob Walker did his bit introducing the players with Ronnie O'Sullivan getting a massive cheer as he came out - but I wondered if he was just almost in autopilot. As expected Ronnie did the job very quickly but was still good to watch. The first frame of Ricky Walden v Michael White went to the black and was a massive frame to win which Walden did. White had chances in both the next two frames but didn't take his chances. Walden won 13-6 and was a worthy winner. At least I had got to see the end of that match though which was at least a bit more value for money.
Rob Walker then announced that there would be an exhibition with Steve Davis at around 8.30pm and plenty did stay around - me included. Steve is one of the true legends of the game and he is one of the reasons I got hooked on snooker in the first place. The crowd were up for it, and Steve was hilarious and did some trick shots as well as chat about players past and present. He got a Belgian fan out of the front row who did the shot and knocked some superb pots in with the crowd cheering him on. Pictures were allowed too so that was also good - about the only time you'd ever be allowed pictures during play as a spectator, I expect!
I headed outside after that had finished and had a night time walk around Sheffield centre, thinking up some nice arty pictures to capture including a 30 second long exposure of the fountain in the Peace Gardens, which came out really well, especially in monochrome. I was very pleased with that and it really did make me feel like I can occaisonally pull of some good stuff with the camera too. And all the time I kept humming Richard Hawley's brilliant track "Open Up Your Door" even when I walked down to the train station to head home - so tune of the day was an easy choice really.