Dear Diary... April 2005

Thursday 28th April - A Bluer Toothed Sky

Well the week has carried on with lots of little jobs to do, and plenty of those which have been part of a mission to actually get stuff working that I wanted to - and they do now. Not least I finally cracked why the bluetooth adapter for a member of staff's laptop just failed to do transfers between a bluetooth enabled phone they had, and indeed their shiny new bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Turns out that Windows XP SP2's Bluetooth support is not worth the lame code that it was written on (bloody Microsoft Bluetooth Enumerator, indeed!) and Belkin thankfully tell you this on their website and show you how to force-install their own bluetooth driver instead with step by step instructions. I knew how to do that anyway, but nice that they actually tell you. Anyway, that done, the Belkin Bluetooth places thing came up, I added the keyboard and mouse, and the Samsung D500 phone, and even managed very easily to send files to and from it. Woohoo. Success. So a word of warning: if you want to use Bluetooth, either don't use XPSP2, get an adapter that uses its own SP2 drivers, or force install the driver you want. Darned annoying though, and not something the average user could always do.

Still, that done, I'm now looking forward to Monday - apart from it being a Bank Holiday, it's also when I've arranged for the Sky man to come and install Sky here at the Towers. So why did I finally succumb when Freeview's served me so well? Partially, I admit, because of the sports channels, and Fanzone on Sky Sports 1's Premiership games which is always great fun to listen to rather than the proper commentary - not least cos you really get to see how biased some of the fans are. Also part of it for me is that there's plenty of other stuff there that I don't mind watching occasionally that takes months to come out everywhere else. Still, I've not added the movie channels though: I've got enough DVDs in the house to watch should I feel the need to knock a film on. Wonder if the box will be black though? I really don't want a silver anomaly in my AV rig - even grey is better!

Monday 25th April - Everybody's Doing The Len Ganley Stance

Well, the weekend was pretty nice really. Went out with a friend Friday night and ended up having a really good chat about all sorts, and to boot the mild that was on tap was completely bang on form, again. It's just a shame that not that many pubs offer a nice pint these days though, you tend to get all that press a button stuff which tastes like dish water and is served appropriately, methinks. Made me treasure a good real ale even more on Saturday night when I headed out for a meal and the pub I went in had Waggledance - on tap! Oh yes, proper cask Waggledance as well, and believe me the honey in this beer really went down a treat. As did the giant filled Yorkshire pudding with roast beef et al, but that's another story. I think I needed a bit of a meal after running around all day doing bits of shopping and also sorting out little bits around the house, as you do.

Went round to my mum's yesterday to see the folks for their wedding anniversary. Rigged up the telly and everything worked fine, the DVDs (even the Region 1 stuff) played fine no problem, the telly reception was spot on and so teletext wasn't a problem either - now they just need to do a Peter Kay and book their holidays on Teletext or something. Seriously, they were both pleased and it just felt nice to be able to make the effort. After all, how many couples can say that they've been married for 34 years in this day and age? Not that many, I can tell you, and I think it means a lot to them both even now. Just goes to show that for all the cynicism in the world these days, nothing can replace what true love is for two people can it? Aww... I'm getting all romantic now so I'd better change tack... the snooker. Wow, what a comeback by Steve Davis over the weekend eh? At 8-2 down I thought he'd had it against Michael Holt, but no. By the end of the session it was 9-7, and during Saturday afternoon Steve really showed what a great player he still is by knocking in six frames out of the seven played to win 13-10, a truly great effort. Holt had really lost it but to be fair that was because of the great pressure by Steve. Looks like he'll have his hands full against Shaun Murphy tomorrow in the quarter finals though, not least as he knocked out John Higgins and really looked up for it today in his 13-8 win. Must admit though a lot of fans would love to see a Davis - O'Sullivan semi, if the draw works out that way, a contrast of styles but I'm sure a real match with top class players from both ends of the snooker spectrum.

And so there's only one song that's really had me going during the snooker coverage - yes, Half Man Half Biscuit's superb "The Len Ganley Stance" written about the best ref in snooker during the 1980s, Len Ganley. A quick look through BBC Online found this page with an interview with the man, and indeed some streaming real audio of the track, so if you don't have their album, you can take a listen. Shine your shoes and head for the Crucible, indeed, especially as it's still going to host the World Championships until they build a purpose built venue in Sheffield for it. I really hope they don't move it from the Crucible, I love the place, and having seen theatre there (not just snooker!) it's a really intimate venue.

Thursday 21st April - I've Been Dreaming Of A Time When The English Are Sick To Death of Labour And Tories..

Well every night's news is just full of the election coverage, and doesn't anyone actually realise that there's a lot of people out there who don't actually care? The irony with Saint George's Day around the corner is that there just isn't a feeling of being English any more and that any celebration of the national saint of England isn't deemed politically correct anymore and might offend some people. Hang on a minute: let's be rational here - there are plenty of occasions celebrated here of other countries and faiths, so surely to be equal and fair all should be celebrated in the same and equal way? Well, you'd think so wouldn't you, but no. I'll have to see how many people this weekend are actually going to celebrate the day or not.

And of course with media saturation being about the election and nothing else, party political broadcasts every night, and an issue of who do you trust the most, there's a great fear that amongst all this is that the issues that matter to the ordinary people might just be forgotten as mud will no doubt be slung about the war in Iraq, the general mistrust people have of Tony Blair and the fact that Michael Howard seems to be just wanting to score points than have any real policies that don't just look to be an opportunist move. Some people also say Charles Kennedy the Lib Dem leader doesn't seem to appear bold or strong enough, yet to be fair to him he was the only main leader who not only opposed the war in Iraq, but put the money where the mouth is and actually spoke in the rally in Hyde Park opposing it. There'll be quite a few people who will note that and vote for him for at least following his beliefs and doing as he means to do.

Never a truer word has been spoken than in Morrissey's "Irish Blood, English Heart" though on both counts: "to be standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial" tells its own story - everyone who resides here, no matter who they are, what colour of their skin, what religion etc should be proud to be English and not feel ashamed of it. And as the title of this entry says the lyrics from the second verse, where not only Moz I feel but many of us are indeed sick to death of Labour and Tories and just wish that rather than try to spin everything so it looks like they're telling the truth when they're not, people just want the truth, and nothing but. Might be something to think about when you go to the polling station in a couple of weeks time?

Rant over (for now) - also been pretty busy working on snagging some stuff for my dad for this weekend as it's my Mum and Dad's 34th wedding anniversary - including a trip to the local Argos to pick up a 14" portable television for their bedroom so they can hook up the new cute DVD player they've got to it, so they can both watch films and telly in bed if they like - and indeed to serve as an escape if either me dad is watching the football or my Mum's incessant Monkees obsession means she's playing the whole Series 1 box set of DVDs yet again. Managed to locate this nice Beko one for a mere £49-99, does Fastext and even NTSC playback through the SCART socket, so multi-region DVDs are a reality too. Not bad at all. I did some tests here and it all seems well, just hope it all works out well when I see them on Sunday..

Monday 18th April - Snooker Loopy Red Button Is Me

Well it's that time of year again when the snooker is on the telly, and the interactive coverage really does bring it all into the living room at all times of the day (if you really want). Also the beeb pulled off a masterstroke as there's streaming broadband coverage over the web as well, so you can catch up on highlights or even watch it live - on both tables. Must admit it came in handy last night as I was changing over in between breaks of the Channel 4 100 Greatest Albums thing (more on that in a sec) as I was keeping an eye on Steve Davis' epic struggle against Gerard Greene. When Davis was potting the final balls of the final frame to win it 10-9, the crowd were going completely mental and cheering him on with every shot - the sort of stuff that's normally reserved for Jimmy White (and isn't he playing superbly today?). It's been really good to watch the whole thing, and being able to watch both tables is really useful when a game finishes early - just switch to the other one and in a couple of seconds the job is done. Methinks that red button's going to see plenty of action over the next couple of weeks somehow.

Talking of snooker loopy and all that, you'll recall how TMF voted the video to the song one of the worst ever (more about that list here on the site.) Well, if that wasn't cheesy enough, one of the price-drop tv presenters decided on occasion to sing each of the verses of the song! Oh please! It was bad enough when the players did it but you could understand that their talents lied elsewhere of course - but to have a presenter of a low budget auction channel have to do it and ruin it even more? Ouch! Painful viewing, and you could hear the people in the studio cackling with laughter - was the item to sell that day so boring, or what?

As for Channel 4, it was another 100 Greatest thingy on Sunday night - namely the viewers voted 100 Greatest Albums. Always a bit dubious about their polls though, as 125 albums were pre-selected and you mainly picked from that list - how many people could actually be bothered actually writing in their own choices, I wonder? You can have a look at the results here - and I have to say, the number one wouldn't have been voted for by me, or many other people for that matter. Must admit I was pretty pleased though that stuff like the Pixies were at least in the list, as indeed was older stuff - wasn't just relying on the recent releases like most polls do. I actually own nineteen off that list, which surprised me considering my different music tastes - if you're really curious, they're numbers 5, 11, 16, 20, 24, 31, 34, 44, 47, 48, 51, 52, 57, 62, 63, 64, 71, 72 and 94. So, that's 5 of the top 25, 10 of the top 50, and 18 of the top 75. Actually as well my own top ten albums list had two of my top five feature in Channel 4's Top 100, so I guess that wasn't too bad. Like everything else though, it's always a subjective list and one that'll cause a fair few debates up and down the country. Mind you, I was pleased no one gave Robbie Williams too many votes meself..

Friday 15th April - Everything Happens All At Once For Some Strange Reason..

It really does. First week of term at work and it's the usual mad rush deadline chaos with everyone being in headless chicken mode as there were two deadlines to be met today for two courses. You can always tell who really hasn't been bothered to do any work during the year, as these are the ones who've either forgotten their password or completely forgotten the whole logon procedure. I was actually covering for my colleague on the help desk today, and that was quite an interesting day - not least as one of the ex-students, who's now a lecturer came in to see me, and said that I hadn't aged at all in the last three years! Well, you can appreciate what that managed to do for my ego of course, hehe.

Strangely though on the Thursday night everything seemed to happen at once for some strange reason so that it was a really hard choice to decide what to watch - the Newcastle game was on Channel 5, Footballers Wives (yes I know it's tacky, but it's just so unbelivable Jackie Collins stylee that you have to watch it - so bad it's good etc) on ITV1, and also the documentary about the McLibel case on BBC4. Made a nice change to be spoilt for choice but I stayed with Channel 5 and watched the Newcastle game - they got hammered, and it all fell to bits to them when Kieron Dyer went off. How they'll miss him on Sunday through suspension as they face Man U in the FA Cup semis, I think. Mind you, the game was pretty decent anyway as Sporting showed just what a decent team they are. And added to that there was the nicely timed repeat of Peter Kay live at the Comedy Store on Channel 5 straight afterwards. Garlic Bread? I've seen it, and it's the future etc..

Went out tonight with one of my friends as it was their birthday - yaay. What wasn't so good was the fact that the Dutch Pancake House was a bit of a letdown this time around. Took us almost an hour to get served our food once we'd ordered, and they got the order completely wrong in my friend's case: so much so that it was a case of having it knocked off the bill for mucking it up, and indeed another pancake also got knocked off the bill as the chef had burned the first one! Somehow I managed to get one which was decent enough, but that wasn't the point: also it seemed everyone else got served rather than us, and it was almost like the staff were bored, the chef didn't seem bothered and overall not a very nice experience - especially for a birthday I should add. Won't be going there again for a long while if I can help it somehow. A complete contrast to how nice I normally get looked after really nicely in Frankie and Benny's when I eat there - that's how it should be done.

Monday 11th April - Downers and Uppers

Well, Friday and Saturday were right contrasts on the whole but they each had their own downers and uppers to say the least. Friday was a case in point: I had to wait in as I was due an engineer from Transco coming to the house to replace the old gas meter with a new one. They came nice and early, did the job in hand and were done by around 10am, which is rather good. The engineer said it actually made a change to have someone in on the date that was arranged (partially cos I rang them up and asked for it to be changed when I was off work, hehe). Still, everything worked fine afterwards with no fuss whatsoever, so that was good. All I had to do then was wait for a delivery of some blank DVDs which were due from City Link couriers. Well, I waited and waited and nothing happened, which was a bit annoying as I was going to go on another sofa hunt and spend other time during the day as quality time. Anyhow, I rang them up in the end and they claimed they'd attempted to make a delivery but no one was in. Hmm. Now with any other courier, they actually put a card through the door to let you know they came by, and either you pick it up from their depot, or you ask them to rearrange a delivery time. In the end they rearranged it for Saturday morning, and package arrived at 8-30am, a bit more like it!

So Saturday comes, I go down to the bookmakers for my annual visit to put money on the National. As it's chucking it down I go for a horse with a decent chance in softer ground, Colonel Rayburn, and a bit of an outsider, Foly Pleasant. Going for Clan Royal was way too predictable cos of the wedding going on that day (bah!) and the fact Tony McCoy's never won it (as Champion Jockey in the past Peter Scudamore never did either) only put me against it. I wasn't to know two loose horses wrecked his chances, but still.. My choices both didn't finish either mind you, but there you have it. I have it as a bit of fun and if I win, I win. And of course a bit later on in the day a rather nice 90th minute goal from Kiki Musampa gives us a deserved win against Liverpool. Saw the goal later on and I have to say the volley was smashed in pretty nicely. He's been saying recently how much he wants to play for us, and as far as I'm concerned if he wants to commit to the cause we should sign him up. And Man U lost. Oh yes.

Even better was that I finally decided on a sofa that fitted the bill, two two seater black leather ones with enough height and width to be just nice for the house, and indeed lots of curves and a bit of character. They were on offer as well from the place I got them from, so it wasn't as expensive as I'd first thought (although still not cheap, to be fair). And the people in store were for a change very nice, and honest, and fair. If it was going to take you ages to get a sofa, they would tell you. Still, can't wait for it to arrive!

Thursday 7th April - Sofa, So Good

Well, another odd week in that I've had to use up the remaining leave for the work holiday year, so I've been off today - but not one to rest on my laurels (or backside) I've been looking at sofas, it's about time at some point I got a new replacement. There are however two main problems in that all of them are just too big for the space I need to fit them in, and also too wide, the doorways in the house don't exactly lend themselves to big wide couches really. I've seen a couple I do like though, so if need be I can either get a 3 and a 2, or two 2-seaters and there's the path to instant sofa happiness. It's such a minefield out there and what really puts me off is over-aggressive sales people. They do my head in, big time, come towards you and try so hard to make you feel welcome but some of them come across so smarmy you just want to leave. At least the guy in ScS was pretty friendly (even offered a coffee as well) and told it like it was with everything. And the one in really liked is in there, but can I get it through the door between the hallway and the living room though? That's going to be the main problem.

Anyway, been also thinking about also some future writing: what I probably need is an outlet to try and get some short stories done where I can basically do a couple of pages or so - there's plenty of candidates for that sort of thing but unfortunately a lot of them either tend to be very highbrow, or indeed all those weekly woman's magazines with all those supposed true stories on the front (yeah, right, whatever..) but nonetheless I guess it'll be nice to try somewhere for a short story and see how it goes. While I've been using the leave I must admit the old creative juices have been flowing a bit: so much so I managed to compose a couple of tunes on the Commodore 64 for old times' sake, and indeed also think of some ideas for these short stories. One of them remains closely guarded, but the other was based on a dream I had - sort of someone's wishes coming true and how they expected things to be nice, but were nicer still. Sort of a feel good feeling considering the weather's gone back to its rainy self at the moment. Boo!

Sunday 3rd April - Mooch Central = IKEA Warrington

Ah well, back to the grind of work tomorrow after taking a few well earned days' rest. But I did manage to get out and about a bit during the week. Braved the massed ranks in appalling weather and popped into Warrington, then on to IKEA. Unfortunately during school holidays it seems every parent and their screaming brattish children were all piled down the M62 and off to IKEA as well. The queue for the in-store dining area had to be seen to be believed, had to dodge my way past them whilst checking out the kitchen stuff. I did at least get what I went for though: a couple of nice shelves in frosted glass, which looked very classy, all the brackets needed to go with them, and a new set of cutlery, the bubblor one with the blue bubbles in the handle. I just fancied a change and I thought that was as good as the rest (as you do, of course). Mind you, I think sometimes IKEA is a victim of its own success in that everyone wants to be classy by buying their stuff. I just think practical - if it does the job, then it's mine. Simple, really. I can't be one of these annoying as hell moochers being there all day and coming out with nothing...

Headed out to Buxton on Friday and made a day of it there too. The weather wasn't too warm, but at least it was dry, and I managed to find the restored bath that is there in one of the shopping centres and discovered more about what was the original bits and what was ones they just added later on. Actually, walking through the pavillion and its gardens was such a contrast compared to the summer: it was nice and quiet. And I could enjoy a coffee in relative relaxation watching the world go by, the little minature railway on the pavillion being tested out before the summer run, and the fresh clean water being swam in by the ducks and birds. Absolutely nice, in a get away from it all sort of way. Even got my lottery tickets in the town, and one of them came up a £10 winner yesterday. Bit of a distance to travel to get the luck every week though, but still, did the job didn't it?