Dear Diary... April 2007

Monday 30th April - Rocketing Out Of April

It was a fairly busy day today - as it wasn't just a mad day at work, with me covering for my Help Desk colleague and being on the spot on numerous occasions to sort out student problems, but also because there were two birthdays. One of them happened to be my boss at work, and as I knew he and his wife are going to see The Producers tonight, I thought that a bottle of shiraz would be a good call. I'm good like that sometimes, and I know he appreciated the gesture, which is what counts.

Anyway, discovered something nice that Autodesk released for free and I've tested it today, which is basically a file viewer and converter for Autodesk DWG files (mainly Autocad). It allows you to view and print any Autocad file from version 14 right up to the 2008 releases, but it handily for us has a converter which allows you to convert files from a higher version down to either the 2000 or 2004 releases, meaning that students can work on them at work. Needless to say that I had to use it twice today and the students concerned were very pleased that we were able to help them out - it's part of what makes the job fulfilling to be honest.

Left work and made my way to see my auntie, as it was her birthday today as well. I had got her a nice card and in Lush I had got the Honey Farm gift box. As it turned out this was a darned good move as it was actually her favourite stuff from there, so I felt good that I'd picked well to be honest. It was also good to see my sister and her daughter, and the little one is so cute yet knowledgable now. It's so lovely to see and it does make me go "awwww" in a nice way, which is always nice. In fact, she even let me read a story to her which was good for me to do - felt very mellowed out.

After having food at my Mum's (very good of her) I got back home and watched the snooker. And what a game it proved to be between Ronnie O'Sullivan and Neil Robertson. It was 8-8, then 9-9 and 10-10, but the crucial frame was to come. Robertson needed a pink to virtually clinch the frame but he missed it using the rest, and Ronnie took his chance and almost cleaned up and stopped with just pink and black needed. A couple of shots later and the pink and black are potted, and it's 11-10 to Ronnie. Crucially you could see that Neil Robertson knew how big a frame it was, and the next wasn't vintage but Ronnie did what he had to do - 12-10. And then a masterful break in the next and that was game over, 13-10. But a really excellent second round game and the quarter final against John Higgins is going to be some game without a doubt. It's all hotting up and the Crucible isn't letting us down. And I think because I've been there now, I can appreciate just what it takes to be a world champion a lot more - the atmosphere is intense and electric and nerve-wracking, all at the same time, and you really do have to concentrate to win.

With all that excitement it was nice to really put on something peacefully melodic and so I decided on tune of the day being Aura's "Touched" the stand out track of their Butterflychrysaliscaterpillar" album. It's really trippy ambient stuff that just works and the vocal "I feel like my heart is being touched" is just pitched at the right time to fit in with the tune and not be obtrusive. Also the CD has been long deleted now and it's quite hard to get hold of, but I can assure you that it is well worth the effort.

Sunday 29th April - Lazy Sunday Afternoon

A bit like the 60s pop song, that's what I felt like doing today. I guess that I'd had a week where it was all go, and even though I was able to wind down a bit on Saturday I felt like today would be a good day to really just chill out and do my own thing. So, setting the Sky+ box to record the A1 Grand Prix to watch a bit later on, I headed out into town and fancied seeing a film. In the end, and primarily because I didn't really want to pay the Odeon Printworks' not so cheap prices, I plumped for Next. And how was it? Pretty good, actually. I guess there's plenty of women who'll be swooning over Nicolas Cage in this one, as he did seem quite rugged, but for us blokes there's Julianne Moore (seems somehow really mean looking in an FBI outfit) and Jessica Biel, who definitely looked really good. The plot was pretty simple, basically Cage's character can see 2 minutes ahead, but he's found out if he's around one woman (Biel) he can see more. But it's the way the whole story winds itself together that worked pretty well.

It was rather lovely out in town though weather wise, and it was good just to sit in Castlefield Arena and watch the world go by, and it certainly did that. Plenty of people sat around by the Roman Fort gardens setting up a barbeque (because they could) but also plenty of poeple taking a walk by the canalside and getting ice lollies for their kids to try and keep them cooled down enough. It just felt strangely tranquil at the same time in a way - because of the fact that it felt still and quiet at the same time as it being busy. I guess I just was in the zone as well too, which can't be a bad thing.

Got in, watched the A1 Grand Prix and it was almost a British double, but it was first in the short race and 2nd in the feature, which isn't too bad at all. It just about wasn't enough to snatch second in the championship from New Zealand but a valiant effort nonetheless and it was nose to tail between Britain and Germany in the featue race most of the time, great entertainment and well worth it for the crowds watching. With that in mind, and because I played the DVD-Audio disc when I got home, tune of the day just has to be "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac - notably the end bit that used to be used for BBC2's Formula One coverage. Ah, those were the days of that guitar riff and just the way it just melted into the consciousness while watching Nigel Mansell kick some ass (notably Ayrton Senna).

Saturday 28th April - Up And Down And Up And Down

Well, some day it turned out to be today. I'd got up early as I needed to head into town to get a couple of birthday cards and presents, plus get my hair chopped to pieces, as it needed doing, so I'd be back in time to watch all the football and other sports action during today and see how it went - that and also doing all the domestic chores at the same time. Well, don't you like multitasking if you can get away with it?

Headed into town and it was fairly quiet and even a little windy, although I could tell that it would soon get pretty warm pretty quickly. First stop was Lush to get a present for my relation - it was a simple choice to get something from there but a difficult choice to actually decide what to get, as there's so many nice gift sets to get which would all be very lovely. In any case I was recycling my paper carrier bag that they give you - and if you get it stamped four times you get a nice freebie, plus of course you're doing your bit for the environment too so I didn't mind one bit. Got what I needed, was sorely tempted by the Honey I Washed The Kids soap but decided against that because I've got plenty of other stuff at home, and then on to WH Smith to get the cards sorted out - fairly easy really as I spotted a couple of good ones that would do for the people I was buying for.

Walked down Market Street and suddenly realised that my game pad for the PC was on its last legs (it keeps moving right all by itself which is no good when you're playing Tony Hawk 3 that's for sure) and so I went upstairs in there to see if they had one - and they had the same one, for a mere £4.99. That'll do me I thought, and it also means that I can then just keep going with the saved game I have. I've clocked it something like 20 times but each time you clock it with a different character you unlock new stuff of course. I've managed to unlock expert mode at the last attempt so all I need to do now is unlock it with one more character and I think that's me done. I enjoy playing it anyway as it's good fun and it has a much kick ass soundtrack, always handy that is.

Got home and was back in plenty of time to whack on Sky Sports and I could actually watch the Everton v Man Utd and Chelsea v Bolton games split screen, which is what I did in the end so I could keep an eye on both at once (multitasking again). Five minutes into the second half with Everton taking a 2-0 lead and Chelsea 2-1 up against Bolton, it looked quite good for the title race becoming close. Then it all fell to pieces - the Everton keeper Iain Turner dropped the ball and John O'Shea pounced to make it 2-1. Then as the ball was headed goalwards Phil Neville turned it into his own net. You have to wonder whether of course his brother had had words with him beforehand, but it looked a genuine accident. And at this point Bolton had also scored making it 2-2 between them and Chelsea.

The last ten minutes though meant that today could have in a big way decided the destiny of the Premiership. First Wayne Rooney scored against his former team, and then just to cap it all off, Chris Eagles scored a curling shot in stoppage time. It was 4-2 to Man Utd and Chelsea could only draw 2-2, so it meant a five point lead at the top with three games left for Utd, and as they're playing City next week, and my beloved lot in blue can't score at home to save their lives, it's pretty much game over. So a promising up for the title race led to a down, and the up I felt when City had got a penalty only for Joey Barton to sky it over the bar meaning we hadn't scored again at home meant I was down, and angry with the way our team performed pathetically. Again.

I would be watching the World Cup final as I am writing, but the rain's hit in Barbados and it could well go into the reserve day tomorrow unless it clears up to be honest. And even a reduced overs contest wouldn't be fair on either Australia or Sri Lanka to be perfectly honest, I'm sure we'd all like to see an exciting final where runs are scored, wickets are taken and above all that it's a close game. We shall see. But in any case the snooker's kept me occupied regardless with plenty of second round games going on. I was tempted to go today to see if I could get a ticket on the door, actually but I thought I had a bit too much to do and decided against it. Although it was tempting as I enjoyed myself so much last week.

With all the sport going on it's just a shame that the BBC don't actually have Grandstand anymore. You knew where you were at on a Saturday afternoon with that. And indeed you also knew where you were at with the proper snooker theme as well. Would it be too much to ask to have it played - even if it was just for the final? I guess they want something modern now, bah. My CD of sporting themes I have comes in very handy for stuff like this, as it has all the proper original ones at your disposal. Not least considering what it was last weekend, my tune of the day - Ron Goodwin's "The Trap" which the BBC use for their London Marathon coverage no less. So there you go.

Friday 27th April - That Was The Week That Was

It was a good day today - I felt like I'd achieved loads and got loads done. It all started this morning when a couple of our support staff rang us to say that they kept getting a message about a possible virus. I went over to their office and checked it out, and it turned out that some of the Windows Installer files used by the installer for CourseGenie were being flagged by our antivirus software as some form of malware packed virus. I found that a little odd, but did the necessary cleanup anyway on two PCs and thought that I would best mention it in our technical group meeting later on this morning.

Just before I dashed out to the meeting we'd had a couple of other phone calls with the same issue. To me it seemed a bit too coincidental and I thought that I would email our antivirus vendors later on and see what they came up with. In the meantime, the meeting was fairly good. It was mentioned that Firefox 1.5.x was being phased out as end of life, and I explained that not only I had I got the Firefox configuration up and running, but it was also available for testing if needed. One colleague had been doing testing and it seemed to be fine for them - which was pleasing. I mentioned our antivirus issue and a colleague had said that they'd had a couple of calls this morning too, so it was worth keeping an eye open for.

With the meeting over a bit earlier than planned, it was time to get some lunch and then drop an email to our antivirus vendors so I'd hopefully have a reply back from lunch. And I did. And it was good news - turned out their latest update file had a definition which reported false positives and another update was being issued later in the day to fix the issue but had made it available now for testing. I installed said update, restarted the PC and badabing! No warning coming up now and the files were reported as clean, which is a good answer all round really. I was just pleased that I was able to solve the problem and get on with the rest of the small tasks today which meant that I'd sorted out all I'd aimed to achieve this week. That pleased me no end to be honest.

I also found out today that Henry Rollins is doing his spoken word tour next month. Marvellous I thought, another chance to see the great man do his thing. Except, erm, no. One date and it's in Pontypridd as part of their Full Ponty mini-festival on Friday 25th May. The only snag is that although it's four hours on the train there, which is doable, what's not doable is actually staying over in Pontypridd or a few miles down the road in Cardiff. It's just too much and to be honest something that I can't really envisage. Ah well, I'll have to wait till he plays Manchester again and I can have a really good time again - it'd be something like the fifth time I've seen his spoken word show!

I decided tonight to have a bit of a late night chill out session so it was time to have a nice bottle of Hobgoblin ale (really dark and delicious it is too to be honest) and then whack on some Kristin Hersh. It wasn't a difficult choice therefore for tune of the day - it has to be the rather good "Day Glo" from her "Learn To Sing Like A Star" album, not least because it's also what she would often start her live shows with recently. Woohoo!

Thursday 26th April - Weird Sort Of Day

Well, it was a weird sort of day today. By that I mean just that lots went on but it didn't feel like I actually did that much as such. But one thing I did decide to get done was do the food shopping - not least because the bus that takes me from work to the Tesco I go to came pretty much as I arrived at the bus stop, and as a result I was in Tesco in record time, and getting round getting all the stuff I needed. Even better was the fact that I'd gone round pretty quickly so much so that I was able to get an earlier bus back home from there, and I was settled in with a cup of coffee in pretty much record time, especially considering it's term time and there were lots of students getting off in Fallowfield as well. Why can't every journey be like that, I wonder?

I had a couple of thoughts about the weekend - one of which was that Saturday's games might go a very long way to deciding the title. I have a feeling Bolton might just nick something at Chelsea, and although Man U's game at Everton is potentially difficult, their record at Goodison is unbelievable - it's 11 wins out of the last 14 visits. That's just mad, that is. After last night's Champions League game Chelsea did look quite tired and I have a feeling that Liverpool aren't out of that two legged semi-final just yet to be perfectly honest.

Tune of the day is Arctic Monkeys' "When The Sun Goes Down". I've been sorely tempted to buy their new one but as I put it on my birthday list I'd best not purchase it in case someone has very kindly got it for me (which will be much appreciated of course). That said, their debut album is still brilliant and well worth a listen as the tunes are great. And this one especially, not least for use of the Northern slang word "summat" (it's slang for something, in case you wondered).

Wednesday 25th April - All The Prices Are Not So Low Anymore

Well, I feel like I achieved a lot today. I spent a fair amount of time going round plenty of the admin staff offices, reconfiguring their PCs so that they could continue printing to the printers that they have (especially now I've IP registered them all as well) and I got through four admin offices in a morning, which was pretty good going. Add to that I had a meeting with one of our postgraduate admin staff who is having to do some research exercise, and wanted to see what we could do about sorting her out with some PC equipment so she could work in there undisturbed. As it happens something came in which might just do the job, so I think I have it all worked out what I'm going to do. On another front, because I was out and about a lot today it gave me a chance to see lots of the administrative staff and see how things are with them - which is pretty good.

Had to nip into Asda on the way home, as I needed some fabric conditioner, and I realised just why I've not been into our local Asda for a bit. It's not that cheap anymore. Seriously, I only got a few things, went through the quick pay kiosk thing (about time they had those really, been using them in Tesco for around three years now when I've got a few items) and the total price of what I'd got seemed a bit expensive, but that's what it scanned up as. At least I was able to get everything that I actually needed, which was something, but even so. It just puts paid to that so-called "best value supermarket" myth. It might be for some, but not for me and the stuff I buy.

Decided to go a bit prog rock today when I got home, and so it was my Jethro Tull CDs that got an airing. I know what you're thinking - you like Fun Lovin' Criminals and Jethro Tull? Well that just shows you my eclectic taste I guess. Anyway, there's a great song on their "Songs From The Wood" album called "The Whistler" and that's my tune of the day - it has some great Ian Anderson flute playing and the acoustic guitars swirl around you really nicely, especially the chorus. I've also heard a famous Commodore 64 musician do the flute parts of this song accurately - and sing it too! It brings back fond memories of being in some rehearsal place in Glossop hearing that actually. Mind you, for pure Tull, nothing beats the Aqualung album - it's just such a classic album - and a conceptual one too to be honest.

Tuesday 24th April - Huey Should Have Been Top (Under)Dog

I was flicking channels last night and keeping an eye on the superb Joe Swail-Mark Williams match at the World Snooker, which Swail snatched 10-9 after being 8-6 and 9-8 down, a great effort and one that I was so pleased to catch the final frame of. It just seemed such a battle but it was really good and it typified just what it means to produce your best at the Crucible. Part of me would have loved to have the time off work to be able to go and just watch one of the sessions again. The 7pm evening sessions are doable if I went to Sheffield straight from work on the train, but it's a case of getting back after the session had finished that might be a bit on the tricky side.

Anyway, I noticed that the final of the BBC 2 series The Underdog Show was on. For those of you not familiar, it started with several celebrities taking on a dog that had been rescued by the Dogs Trust, and a dog previously unloved, and nurture the dog into doing things like the jumping courses that you see on Crufts and that sort of thing. It's down to the final three, and amongst them were Selina Scott and the dog Chump, Julia Swalaha and the dog Cookie, and Huey Morgan from Fun Lovin' Criminals and the dog Casper. Huey for me was my instant favourite of course, because a) he's in a cool band, b) he wrote one of the best indie rock hits of the mid-1990s in "Scooby Snacks" and c) a friend of mine fancies him like mad! But not only that, it seemed that Huey's laid back attitude had rubbed off on the little dog Casper, and they were both just doing their own thing.

During all the final couple of contests (dog assault course type thing and the controversial "doggie dancing") a lot of the judges and presenters were forgetting the purpose of the show: take these rescued dogs, give them some love and affection and give them confidence to be obedient etc, and then eventually someone would want to home them. It seemed like it to me because all the judges were constantly slagging Huey off because of the way they went about things differently. So what if Huey didn't want to do the doggie dancing with Casper? I thought that dancing thing was rather cringe-worthy and why should a dog have to do that? Seemed a bit silly to be honest. Instead of course he goes and plays "I'll Be Seeing You" (track 11 off the FLC's "Mimosa" albm if you have it and therefore my tune of the day) and does it so lovely with a guitar and Casper by his side. I thought that said more about how the two gelled as pals rather than any dancing effort, and you could see that Casper was being just lovely and felt safe around Huey - and the audience, which he wouldn't have done a while back. In the end despite the audience support, Huey was second and Selina won, but the real winners were the dogs themselves because some of the celebrity owners adopted them (Theo Paphitis and Kirsty Gallacher have taken theirs on for themselves) and that hopefully all the dogs will find a loving home.

The Beeb's also taking some stick (quite rightly) because originally the plan was to give the proceeds from the phone calls to the Dogs Trust (which seems the right and ethical thing to do) rather than add more to Children In Need to be honest. Part of my charity donation each month goes to the Cats Protection League cos I love cats and would want to see a cat get looked after and rehoused - the Dogs Trust is the closest equivalent for dogs, and if I was a dog person they'd get my dosh. But honestly folks, it was just one of those things where you thought "are we forgetting the purposr here?"

Monday 23rd April - Paradoxical Panoramic Monday

I was so pleased to see that Panorama had an in-depth report about the quiz phone in rip off. I've already ranted at length about it myself and I was so pleased to see that their expose shows it for what it is - one blatant money grabbing rip off. Not just that, but they took a couple of cases of evidence to an independent barister who quite clearly showed that such antics that were being done for GMTV and Richard and Judy weren't just dodgy, but also wide scale fraud where the police should be involved as well. I have a feeling that the police should get inolved too - imagine having major arrests for the phone production company whom GMTV trusted and then having Penny Smith announce it on the news? That would be a turn up for the books to be quite honest.

Work was rather busy - not least due to the fact that one of the older network protocols are being turned off at the end of this week and so I'm having to do a bit of reconfiguration of most of the admin staff printers, making them IP only and then ensuring that the network card addresses are all correctly registered. That part didn't take too long but what does take time is the fact that I've got to go round every PC and amend the printer configuration. It should keep me pretty busy, and I was also sorting out Paradox 8 for our Slide Library staff so that their old Paradox databases were still compatible, but they could still open them after all the changes had been made. It'll be interesting times ahead that's for sure.

I also had a bit of a nightmare trying to salvage work and documents from a USB pen drive, and in the end nothing could be done. What had happened was that the student had tried to save a document, but it was too big and ended up filling up the pen drive to maximum. Therefore no documents would open correctly and it was a case of if they had a backup - which of course they didn't. I guess to be realistic it would have been of course at the time of a hand-in, but sometimes you feel like being unsympathetic and going "well it's your own fault, keeping a backup should be priority at all times". Mind you the rich text document plus images was 512MB for some reason, that was a bit puzzling.

I spent a bit of time tonight listening to some old tracks by The Fall because Mark E. Smith is genius. And one thing that I remembered which I was sorting out for someone to listen to was the marvellous collaboration he did (and hence tune of the day) - DOSE featuring Mark E. Smith's "Plug Myself In". Imagine Chemical Brothers style big beats along with Mark ranting in his broad Salford drawl, and you're pretty much there. "A line of proposed coloured droplets. Uh." Or something similar.

Sunday 22nd April - I'm Not The Only One To Rant About City Then!

More snooker stuff for me late this evening as I settled in from the howling wind and rain. And with the cold weather drawing in it just seemed the perfect time to get watching. In fact I'd recorded some of the earlier play whilst I was out of the house, and the John Parrott versus Steve Davis game was nothing short of a classic. Davis had been 6-1 down, pulled it back to 6-6, then from 9-6 down to 9-9 before Parrott took a decisive final frame. It was great to see though that two veterans were putting on a rather good performance to say the least and showing the young ones that at the Crucible you have to have mettle, well you do don't you?

I also was working out what to do about the travelling down for my holiday. Of course not all the advance train tickets are on sale as yet, but I'm sorely tempted if it's cheap enough to go first class both ways, primarily so that I can save time and hassle but also because with it being close to an eight hour journey it would make sense for it to be comfortable and less hassle. I'll just have to keep my eyes out and see what's available - and realistically too I only want to change trains a maximum of once - not that fussed where I change as such as long as it's a simple change. Birmingham either way would probably be good, or Plymouth, but I don't really mind. The key thing is to just make sure that it won't cost me a fortune and that any money I save on the standard return fare (not cheap I should add) I can then use to do other fun stuff when I'm away.

I also listened to Joey Barton's rant about Man City, and as much as sometimes I think he's been a right pain in the backside, the interview he gave to BBC GMR was quite forthright and to the point. The club may pull him in about it but at least he was able to be brutally honest and the fact that he said that "he wouldn't pay to watch us this season" said it all. He had the honesty to include himself which was something that I definitely appreciated. But the question that he asked about the players not being good enough in terms of spending money on rubbish players was something that we've asked all season - like why the hell did we spend £6m on Georgios Samaras when we could have had a quality player like Berbatov for more? If the club fire him, then it only proves his criticism to be true - and the truth hurts.

Tune of the day today just has to be the marvellous "Surf Epic" by Frank Black - it suits my mood and also suits my mode of thinking too. Ten minutes of glorious relaxed tune together with neat things like a theremin and gorgeous guitars. And it just reminds me of being at the seaside for some reason...

Saturday 21st April - Shine Those Shoes And Head For The Crucible

Been looking forward to today for absolutely ages. Why? Well, I've fulfilled a lifetime ambition today. I've always wanted to go and watch the World Snooker Championships at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. My boss at work says he always knows when it's close to his birthday as the snooker's on - indeed most of our office are fans of the game. I've even been in Sheffield when the tournament's been on and so wanted to try and get tickets to go, but obviously as you can imagine they're like gold dust, with it being the most prestigious event and all.

Anyway, after I'd booked a ticket online a few weeks back for today's 10am session, which ended up being Peter Ebdon against Nigel Bond, I was looking forward to it so much. I didn't care that much who was playing to be honest, but it was the fact that I was going to be entering the hallowed stage of something I watch on telly every year and marvel at, and as I said, ambition fulfilled today. So, had to make sure I got up early enough so I could head on the 0818 train from Piccadilly to Sheffield.

Got to Sheffield no problem, and soon I was making the walk from the train station past Sheffield Hallam University and The Showroom cinema, and up and along the walkway to the centre of the city. Once I'd seen the Starbucks I knew it was a case of turn right, and there was The Crucible in front of me. It was around 9.20am at this point and the theatre was open, so I headed straight in with my ticket presented, and saw all the merchandise around. I also saw a couple of XBox360 console display cabinets which were showing the new World Snooker 2007 game, so I had a quick blast of that. It'd be fine except trying to aim with the analogue pad was a pain in the backside, you had to be so light handed to make the aiming device go slow.. but once mastered I was soon knocking a few balls in.

Decided to venture around to the Green door entrance and locate my seat. And wow, I did really well with the seat. I was three rows from the front, and as you'd look at it on telly, I was on the left hand side of the table. What this meant was I got a good view of the whole table along with both scoreboards for the two tables, along with the commentary boxes as well. Outside you could get these radio ear pieces which meant you could listen to the BBC commentators as you were watching the game - for a one off payment of £5 which you could then use any time you wanted. Not bad if you're going often, I guess, but I thought that I wanted to sample being there just as it was.

10am came, and the announcer did his bit and reminded everyone to switch off their mobile phones, which of course meant the customary reaching for them and pressing the off button - not me of course, did that much earlier. The four players were announced (Graeme Dott was playing Ian McCulloch on the other table), the referrees came out and even the commentators were named so you could tell which people were doing which table, a nice touch. Down came the separator partition that you see on the telly (it's the one between the two tables) and we were ready to go.

I was still taking it all in at this point in just sheer awe of how smart it all now looked. Certainly the new sponsors have gone for all green hoardings and even the press boxes that you don't see on the telly work well too. What's even better is that the one thing you don't see on screen - the two camera operators for each table, who get all those brilliant close up shots of the players taking their shots. To see them at work was a masterclass in how to operate a television camera, they were slick, professional, unobtrusive and you could tell that they were proper snooker fans because they knew almost at all times which shot the players would actually be going for, so that has to be something pretty special, it has to be said. You might even have spotted me on screen behind either Ebdon or Bond as they were taking a shot!

The first half of the session (the first four frames) were a bit scrappy in parts. Indeed, the first frame took almost 40 minutes to complete, but I think that's just natural nerves creeping in. In the third frame, with the frame poised delicately, Bond played the white in off which left Ebdon a simple chance to make a clearance and go 3-0 ahead. And if that wasn't gutting enough, in the next frame Bond had looked good on a break of 62, but overplayed a red and as such has a pink along the bottom cushion, which to be honest was virtually frame ball. The pink rattled the jaws and stayed out, and after a few safety exchanges, Ebdon cleared up at the second attempt and snatched the frame on the final black to be 4-0 ahead at the mid-session interval.

As the other table had finished just a few minutes ahead of us, I knew a visit to the bar wouldn't be the right thing to do because I'd be waiting too long and might miss some action, so I just stretched my legs and headed for the loo to be on the safe side. That done, got back comfortable and waited for the players to come back out for the second part of the session. And to say it was a turnaround was a bit of an understatement. Bond had been unlucky in the third and fourth frame, and after the fifth and sixth frames were won albeit with a bit of scrappy play, he was right back in it and sniffing a chance to be close the gap. Indeed at this point McCulloch was 4-2 down against Dott but was fighting back to make it 4-3 himself by taking the frame on the black - the advantage of seeing both scoreboards meant you could tell why you could hear the clapping on the other table!

Frame seven in my match saw an accomplished 68 break by Bond and he was a bit unlucky not to make it a higher break. After a couple of safety exchanges, and Ebdon came out of one and left Bond virtually on, he had to concede the frame - which was the right thing to do. I noticed the watch said 1.30pm at this point, time was flying but I was worried if there would be all nine frames played. As it happened, the eighth saw some good shots from both players but it was Bond who again triumphed. All of a sudden it was 1.50pm and 4-4 in frames. Both players went off the loo, the referee checked it was okay to play the last frame (indeed McCulloch and Dott had only started their final frame five minutes ago) and so it was to see who'd take advantage at the end of the first session.

And what a final frame, well worth me staying for. Although you could in between frames head out of the theatre if you wanted to, if you left you wouldn't get back in till a suitable interval, and hence when you see the coverage on telly the later frames don't have that many people - well there's your answer! As it was, Bond had started to get into a rhythm and looking like a good break, and his plant to put a red in the bottom right corner pocket was a great shot. He wasn't always in perfect position but kept it going, and the last red to the bottom left corner pocket set him up nicely for the green and all the colours. The frame had been won, and that final red meant that he was in with a real chance of a century break. Yellow, green and brown went in, and the blue slowly trickled in to bring his break to 101. This meant it was the first century at this year's championship, and I was there to see it! I have to admit that made me well pleased to stick it out, and a massive cheer from us all when it was hit. Indeed after pink and black went down for a quality break of 114, the crowd cheered and clapped and really was impressed by Bond's fighting resolve. It was just the atmosphere that the Crucible is famous for, and I felt it in bucket loads. I didn't want to leave.

I did lunch in RSVP in Sheffield (very nice chicken bbq melt thing) and then headed back to the train station to get the train home. And now I'm home, I'm still buzzing. I really am. I can't believe that I've fulfilled an ambition I've had and not only that, seen the first century break at the 2007 World Championships, that was the icing on the cake for me that was. I want to go again if I can, I've got the bug. In fact, I'm tempted to check online now and see if there's any tickets going for next Saturday and repeat the whole trip to be perfectly honest. It's just so amazing.

With all that, I got myself in the mood this morning and played some tunes which were all snooker related. And obviously that meant tune of the day being "Drag Racer" by Doug Wood, that being the proper theme written for the BBC Snooker back in the day. None of this remixed rubbish version, the sooner the BBC realise that people want to hear the original proper theme as it was intended, the better. It just reminds me of the great David Vine doing the introductions (sorry Hazel Irvine, but Vine was the presenter!) but also the fact that it just suits the sport so well for some reason. In fact I'm playing it again now just to get me in the mood for tonight's game with Steve Davis. You know, they don't call him Steve for nothing!

Friday 20th April - Watching The Configuration People

It was one of those days today where I was glad that it was the end of the working week. Time seemed to go by so slow, and I managed to keep myself more than occupied for most of the day. I spent a fair bit of time in the morning sorting out a slight Mac laptop problem in that items wouldn't empty from the trash. A quick check of the information on some of the files later and it was pretty obvious what the problem was - the files were locked. I unlocked them all, and that emptied the trash. Excellent when they're nice simple problems which can be resolved easily.

Then I spent the time that I needed to update the Firefox configuration settings which we use. The reason I needed to update them is that more likely than not the latest release ( at the time of writing) is going on this year's student build. As such this means that I need to make sure that all my tweaks that I've done to the config all work. A couple of tweaks involve amending a couple of .jar files, namely browser.jar and en-GB.jar (it's the British release we use, obviously). The former is so that if a user types about:config to get to the configuration settings they get a blank page instead, and the latter is so you can "brand" the browser as "Mozilla Firefox provided by.." which is quite a neat trick really. That done, I whacked a message to our technical mailing list so that other people can test the configuration thoroughly and make sure it works. Mind you, my configuration for Firefox 1.5.0.x went in last year's build (it was part of the main sysprep images a couple of colleagues worked on, and they just used my settings, which I was chuffed to bits about)

But nonetheless that made the day speed by a fair bit and the weekend was upon me! Now for various reasons this is going to be a nice weekend, and one of them was tonight as I headed out with a friend for a couple of drinks. It's always nice to catch up with your friends and indeed it's really good to be able to have a good chat too. Headed out to Ra!n first and whilst it was nice for me to get a pint of mild, the DJ really does not have a clue about what music to play on a Friday night in there these days. It's too loud, too full of average dance tunes and just not the right atmosphere whatsoever. Maybe the management should look at that and actually look at the reason why people like it - it has a good atmosphere (it's really chiled on Sunday as it should be) and the real ale is top notch, although even that's seemingly getting relagated more these days.

Anyhow, the two of us ended up in Varsity, and although the tunes were on fairly loud you could still hear each other talk, and it was at least a cross section of stuff. Okay I didn't like all of it but at least there was something for everyone so that's not too bad really. What always makes us giggle though is that if you sit by the window, you can people watch - and that on a Friday night can be quite entertaining to say the least really. Not least seeing drunken people trying to cross one of the busy main streets in Manchester, and the sights and sounds of various hen nights walking past, each one looking more and more idiotic and madcap as they wend their way through the pubs and bars of the city. Nonetheless good to get out and rather nice to just escape the mad week at work. And it'll get better still tomorrow when I'm at the home of snooker!

When I got home tonight I needed a tune which would soothe me a little before going to bed, and I soon realised what I'd not played for a while which was gorgeous is tune of the day - Aphex Twin's "Icct Hedral". Not the original album version, oh no. There's a Philip Glass arranged orchestral version on one of the Twin's CD singles, which I have, and the orchestral arrangement is fantastic, it makes the whole thing seem even more sinister and evil and have that real film soundtrack feel to it. It's just rather good really.

Thursday 19th April - No Time Like The Present For A Present

After a fairly in-depth day at work trying to see if I could salvage any data of what seems like a really duff external hard drive (the noises it made alone were enough to drive people away from our office if that gives you any indication) it was a case of then heading out into town to try and sort out a small present for my cousin, as it's her birthday next week. And I think she'll be looking forward to a bit of peace and quiet - her newborn little bundle of joy has got colic, and so is obviously a bit screaming in pain from time to time. One of her husband's relations is having the little one for the night so she can have a quiet night in with some respite on her birthday, which is good.

Anyhow, knew what vouchers I was going to get, so headed to the appopriate store to get them. It would have been a lot quicker had the staff actually understood what customer service meant though. It means not keeping people waiting and also having the right keys to actually get to where the vouchers are. It seemed like they didn't seem too bothered because it was near the end of their shift. How.. well, pathetic really. I can do without that sort of ignorance to be honest. If I did that at work I'd be rightly complained about to be perfectly honest.

That done, got birthday card and went into Fopp to pick up the Nine Inch Nails new album Year Zero. Of course I'd been looking forward to this for quite some time so it was good to get it at a reasonable price and not the rip off £13.95 that HMV were charging. And they wonder just why they're losing money? Simple. Many of their stock is just way overpriced and a bit of shopping around can work wonders if you have the time to do so. Once I'd nipped round Tesco and done the food shopping I headed home it was time to get some NIN cranked up on the hi-fi, as you'd expect, and therefore tune of the day is "Capital G" from said album. In fact I have a feeling this might become the next single, as it's absolutely classic NIN, big time.

Wednesday 18th April - Fountain of Knowledge

A different day today, it has to be said. First off, I managed to get the hard disk sorted out for the PC I was looking at yesterday, but to actually get to the PC to exchange the hard disk was a pain in the backside. Our Media Services people who look after the rest of the kit in the room had locked down the whole thing so you couldn't just get to the PC (fair enough of course) so I had to get one of them to undo everything so I could do the hard disk swap and then they could lock everything up again. That said though it was good of them to come over so quickly, and now I had the image done it was a case of doing all the final steps, and everything was working as intended. That made me pretty chuffed to be honest.

Spent a bit of time tonight explaining things to a friend's colleague whose laptop I was sorting out for them. It was nice to do that actually because I was just being very human about it and explaining things in a logical way. It also was good that my advice was taken on board but also plenty of questions asked too - I like the fact that if people need to know, they shouldn't be shy to ask questions. Always good to get things done, and their laptop's now a happy machine again once I'd taken off that pile of rubbish called Norton AntiVirus. Yes, folks, don't be fooled by the marketing. It really is a rubbish product - but the thing is if you don't know, you don't know, and it's only through experience that I know otherwise. Sometimes it's too easy to be a fountain of knowledge but if you don't share that, then you're not really doing the right thing in my eyes.

I'm just really looking ahead to the weekend too - going out with a friend Friday night for a couple of drinks and then off to the Crucible on Saturday, which I am really looking forward to. Not least because it's something I've always wanted to do and I'll be achieving one my ambitions. I think if you have something that you can achieve then that has to be a good thing, and we should all have little ambitions like that. I've got plenty more of course, and one of them is to do with a planned documentary that I'd love to do for television - but I'm keeping that under wraps incase anyone steals my thunder.

With the snooker in mind, only one tune sprang to mind today, hence tune of the day is Half Man Half Biscuit's "The Len Ganley Stance". For those in the know, Len Ganley used to be the top referee in snooker (the football equivalent would be Pierluigi Collina, although Ganley isn't bald!) and he's retired now, but he was top man. The song mentions him being like a teddy bear and how he'd have to "shine your shoes and head for The Crucible" which is what I'll be doing at the weekend. It's well worth checking the whole of the album that track's on "Back in the DHSS" because of stuff like "The Trumpton Riots" as well. Where can I get that Dukla Prague away kit, I wonder?

Tuesday 17th April - Shambolic Shameful And Something Else Beginning With S

I can't contain my frustration and anger at how badly England played at the Cricket World Cup against South Africa today. In fact I really want to write a separate rant about the whole sorry affair and what needs to be done. It's just that I'd got home from work, settled in to see what the score was and I saw the whole thing just collapse from underneath really. And before I knew it the game was all over and I could have (if I wanted to) watched the whole of the Man U - Sheffield United game. That gives you an indication of how early everything finished!

I could go on, but if I did that, I'd just end up doing a three hour Henry Rollins spoken word type rant, which although would sound good for a podcast, just wouldn't necessarily be the right thing to do. In the end I decided to take myself out for a walk and just cool off that way. The evening air was pretty still and quite chilly so in a way it was good to cool off and just walk around for a while. It also showed me that there is so much activity in the area that I live: people are very much out, enjoying themselves and being alive in a lot of ways. I guess the fact that some of the pubs have the dodgy Norwegian channel that shows some Premiership games at 3pm on Saturday (and indeed showed the City defeat at Arsenal tonight) says a lot, I suppose. It gives you an incentive to get to the nearest bar and watch.

What was also shambolic today was the fact that I'd arranged to try and get one of the PCs fixed that does the presentations and stuff in one of our lecture rooms. I say shambolic because it was reported to us as crashing. It wasn't just crashing, it kept blue screening with registry errors which seemed pretty bad. So I thought "I know, I'll re-image the machine with the new image that it needs" and set it up to boot to the network and contact the imaging server etc. Did all that, but when I tried to type in certain commands it just came up with some generic "segmentation fault" error, so a bit of a no go. What I'm going to have to do is get another hard disk with the image on and swap the hard disks over, oh joy, shambolic stuff really as the network card should have played.

With all of the sport in mind, tune of the day is "What A Waste" by Ian Dury and the Blockheads. It just seems so apt considering the cricket team's failures cos of the title, the brilliant words by Dury and the music to match. Sometimes you know a piece of music suits the mood and this is one of them.

Monday 16th April - I'm Back, And It's Not A Repeat

Back to work this morning, and suffice to say that with it being the first day back for me, plus the first day of term, it was rather busy to say the least. Not only were there plenty of course deadlines that all of course required work to be handed in first thing this morning, but there was also the fact that several of the printers needed changing with paper, ink and print heads. Once we'd got all that done, it was still mental and at one point our server almost toppled over with the amount of print jobs being sent through to the networked printers, but we managed to avoid potential disaster.

I ended up doing a stocktake of all our printer stock and having to write a fairly decent sized order for lots of supplies that we actually need for them. It wasn't pretty writing the two orders out, especially due to the amount of stuff that we need, but it is stuff that we have to get and my mode of thinking is that we plan it in advance so that everything's up and running for the very very busy times next month (and I know from experience that it's absolutely mental, so best to get things done now methinks.)

It was nice to see most of the team I work with though and catch up on how things were for them over the Easter break. I didn't want to go into "what I did on my holidays" mode like plenty of school children will be for the start of the Summer term but it was tempting! Mind you, I could certainly notice the fun and games getting to and from work with the increased traffic all round though - some contrast compared to last week when I was off and getting to places was so quiet and serene. It was just a shame that the cold bug had hit me because I would have much rather used the time a bit more constructively, but c'est la vie, and I did keep myself occupied with other stuff.

Tune of the day is "Survivalism" by Nine Inch Nails. The new album Year Zero's out this week, which I just might have to go and purchase somehow, but the single is rather good and especially the remix of it that's on there on the CD. Can't believe it only charted at someting like 29 though, do the public in this country have no taste and all and would rather listen to rubbish like Timbaland, who's a ripoff merchant?

Sunday 15th April - The Skill Of The Irish

As I was still recuperating a bit from the cold, I decided that today was going to be a day of me relaxed and watching plenty of sport (not that I mind that of course) and try and dose myself up as much as possible for the forthcoming week at work, which I know is going to be pretty busy. So with tea, coffee and other hot drinks at my disposal plus plenty of pastilles and lozenges, I started off with a lazy morning just doing stuff around the house, and then got myself ready for the first big event of the day - the Bahrain Grand Prix. Turned out to be a good race in the end and I think Lewis Hamilton was a bit unlucky not to win. Mind you, he's now in a three way tie for the lead in the World Championship - fully justifying McLaren's faith in him without a shadow of doubt. Why couldn't Jenson Button be this good?

Then it was over to watch the cricket between Ireland and Bangladesh, a fixture which might have seemed unlikely a month ago. For the Irish, a chance to rebuild a bit after being thrashed by Australia (no disgrace there mind you) and the other incentive was that if they won, they'd gain full ICC One Day International status for the next two years because they'd beaten two ranked teams. For Bangladesh, a chance to ensure they wouldn't be bottom of the pile. Watched the Irish innings and they did really well - made sure they didn't lose early wickets and then when the time was needed the likes of Kevin O'Brien and captain Trent Johnston boosted the score with some timely blows. Indeed, at the end I thought on that pitch their score of 243 was a competitive total and that Bangladesh would need to make sure they did the same approach.

As it turned out, the innings break was perfect for me to watch the extra time of the Blackburn-Chelsea FA Cup semi. Chelsea were lucky in the second half to keep it 1-1, and Petr Cech certainly kept them in it. The longer the game went on though the more likely it was Chelsea were going to score, and it was no surprise when Michael Ballack scored the winner from close range. I felt a bit sorry for Blackburn because they'd tried hard and had at least forced the extra half hour, plus they wanted it more by the look of it. I also am really angry with the FA for pricing the tickets way out of range, hence the empty seats at both semi finals. When will they learn that games of football should be priced for people and not for profit?

Anyhow, back I went to the cricket, and once Ireland hit some early wickets, Bangladesh wasn't sure how to do the run chase properly. The key wicket was the one of Ashraful, as he was knocking it about pretty well at almost a run a ball but the trap was laid perfectly for him to hole out to Johnston in the deep, cue chicken dance celebration that he's been well known for (and indeed some of the crowd were joining in with that one). The Irish bowling was kept tight and they gradually got wickets, put the ball in the right areas and played like it meant something to win it. When Dave Langford-Smith finished his ten overs off, he'd conceded 27 runs and got 2 wickets. I think most one day bowlers would have been rather other the moon with those figures, and it set it up for the finish, with Johnston himself taking his opposite captain Bashar clean bowled.

The happiness was there for all to see, it meant that Ireland have proper one-day International status rather than just be an associate, and will keep it for at least two years. Crucially if any team are touring England, they could tour Ireland and play some one-day series against them, keeping the players on the toes as well as them gaining more experience. I've been impressed with the attitude and spirit of the Irish,and they've played better as the tournament's gone on. For all those media idiots like Jonathan Agnew (can the BBC please sack him for his outdated and pathetic opinions as he slagged off the Irish and Bangladeshi players alike just because they had the nerve and the class to beat Pakistan and India respectively?) it was also a sign to say "we have our right to be here and entertain with our cricket, and pit ourselves against the best". Ireland have only been thrashed against the Australians, the other teams have had to work hard to beat them, and that for me says a lot, and they've also gained the respect of other nations' players and fans. Good on them, I say.

Tune of the day isn't a difficult choice really, as it was something that I decided to put on in between the cricket and the F1 - and because it's been used in a recent advert for T-Mobile, namely "Collection of Stamps" from I'm From Barcelona. It's just so cute and has that opening "ba, ba, bada, ba, da da da.." line that just hooks you in. Something you can sing along too without trying too hard is always a good thing for little me, I can tell you. Now to see what work holds for me tomorrow.

Saturday 14th April - No National Glory For Me

Well, it was Grand National day today, and a bit later in April than it usually is, but still a fine spectacle. Indeed, the weather over in Aintree looked just as nice as it has been here today, bright sunshine and very very warm for April. Indeed, the temperature was supposed to be 22 degrees celsius, which is ridiculous considering it was only around 7 or 8 a couple of weeks back. Still, it meant that my wise move to get the food shopping done early in the morning was a wise move, I got round while still not that warm and it meant that I wasn't carrying the shopping and sweating like a pig (or something).

Once that was done, round the corner (literally) to the nearest bookmakers and to put on my bets for the big race. Since about Thursday I had an idea to back Liberthine, as Sam Waley-Cohen's been a great amateur around Aintree and has won over the big fences before, and he has the knowhow, and at 33-1, a good outside chance, I thought. Billyvoddan and L'Ami caught the eye so I went for them too. Knowing how favourites don't often win the National, I avoided Point Barrow and Joe's Edge. Would this be such a wise move? Only time would tell.

As luck would have it ESPN Classic were showing some classic old Nationals during the afternoon so I settled back and watched the 1973, 1974 and 1977 races. Now of course all those races have something in common: yes, Red Rum. As these days you only get to see the finishes, it was great to see the whole race unfold. Indeed in 1977, there was one horse leading by miles till he refused at the 17th, then Andy Pandy started to lead by a fair bit before coming down at Becher's second time around, then it was Red Rum up front, a position he knew well, and as he got nearer to the line the cheers of the crowd were incredible - they knew it was a history-making moment. Put it this way, since Red Rum's third win in 1977, no horse has even won the National twice - never mind three times!

After all that, time for the big race itself. And what a race it was! I have to say that I wasn't surprised that many of the favourites didn't do so well, Point Barrow fell at the first, Joe's Edge never looked comfortable, the big gamble with the bookies, Monkerhostin, refused at the Foinavon fence, and as the leaders were jumping Canal Turn second time round, Liberthine was in front, and by the final turn still in contention. I had a feeling that the horse had gone to the front too early, but still hung on in there to finish fifth in the end, a terrific effort. However, once Silver Birch jumped the last, it was the stamina test of the run in and Silver Birch held off all comers to win, and at 33-1, not bad odds if you got the winner. Even each way you might not have done badly, especially if you had a punt on Philson Run at 100-1 who finished fourth, nice odds there. In fact, some bookmakers were even doing each way up to fifth, so if I'd have gone there and put Liberthine each way, I'd have won something, but I tend to ignore that and go for win or bust, it's just me. Looking at what all the tipsters chose, the guy from the Observer did rather well. Three of his four picks to be in the top four did just that, and while he didn't select the winner if you'd have backed his four choices each way you wouldn't have done half bad, I tell you.

At least too my cold seems to be slowly going, I don't feel as bunged up now, maybe a little throaty but nothing that bad, just want to be right for work on Monday really. I have been trying to take it easy though and so an afternoon watching the National wasn't that bad an idea. I've also got some thai chicken steam meal that I got this morning that might be just the thing for me to munch on later, keeps me going and the thai stuff's quite strong so that should clear the head nicely. Well that's the plan, after all isn't having a hot curry rumoured to do you good cos it sweats the cold out of you?

Tune of the day is something I've not listened to for a bit, but when I put it on this morning it all made perfect sense - Placebo's "Nancy Boy". I think because I'd watched the rest of my second VHS tape of indie videos, their Top of the Pops appearance was on there and the band were rocking it big time. Reminded me of seeing them at the Academy 1, the Apollo and best of all their gig at Liverpool Royal Court which was just awesome, so glad to see them in smaller venues before they inevitably hit the arenas..

I've also uploaded some new stuff from the second tape to the Zaw Towers Youtube Channel, so look out for the new stuff, namely Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds' "Three Lions" from TFI Friday, with guest appearance by David Seaman, Garbage performing "Stupid Girl" on Top of the Pops" and quite rare now, Lush's last ever UK television appearance, doing "500 (Shake Baby Shake)" on The Big Breakfast on Channel 4. Unfortunately the drummer Chris Acland passed away not long after that - indeed a week or so before I'd seen their gig at Phoenix Festival and little did I know I'd see possibly their last UK gig. Enjoy, cos I'll be digging out some more stuff from the archives if I can.

Friday 13th April - Now That's What I Call Indie, Volumes 1 and 2

Last week before I went away I was checking through a very old VHS tape that I made between 1989 and 1995 (ish), which has various recordings from the likes of The Chart Show and Top of the Pops of indie bands at the time. A couple of which I added to my Zaw Towers Youtube Channel - namely Blur's "Bang" and The Wedding Present's "Flying Saucer". Of course the quality isn't brilliant because of the old recorder used etc, but it's nonetheless well worth a view for archival purposes. If anyone can explain Damon Albarn's mad antics with a cardboard chicken cutout, I'm all ears.

Anyway, as I was watching the tape again this morning, I decided to at last catalogue the stuff that was actually on it, just in case there was anything that I might want to consider checking out what's been captured or uploaded anywhere, plus I've also got a second tape to go through which I might do later on today. The track listing is pretty interesting actually, there's a whole stuff from a BBC Late Show special including Screaming Trees, Dinasour Jr, and a marvellous performance of Jane's Addiction's "Been Caught Stealing", long an indie club fave of mine cos it gets everyone going mental to it.

There's also Suede's infamous performance of "Animal Nitrate" on the Brit Awards, and a couple of Morrissey tracks from some US chat show, around the time of the Your Arsenal album. There's also PWEI on some Saturday morning show "The 8.15 from Manchester" as well doing the re-release of "92 Degrees" and the Inspirals' rather superb "I Want You" with the godlike genius of Mark E Smith on vocal duties. Let's breakdance-uh. If anyone wants to know the full track listing of the video tape and/or wants me to capture and upload anything, contact me and let me know.

Just going through the second tape I have now, which carries on from the first tape. I think by this time I'd acquired a Nicam VHS video recorder so the quality should be a little better, hopefully. Looks like I've got Elastica doing "Connection", possibly from Glastonbury, which I'm sure was laden with controversy because of some naked bloke getting on stage. Oh, and tune of the day - "Enemy Maker" by Dub War. You know, that band were so bloody underrated. Benji rocked and was great vocally, and the band knew when to do the classic rock quiet bit / loud bit to perfection. A real shame that they never got the recognition they deserved.

Mind you, the second tape shows that I was into Skunk Anansie into a big way back then (which, admittedly, I was) as there's plenty of their songs on there. I did see them live something like four times in four different venues within a fourteen month period: January 1996: Manchester University MDH (now Academy 2), July 1996: Phoenix Festival, October 1996: Manchester Academy 1, March 1997: Manchester Apollo. In fact my friend and I met Ace in between bands and I've still got my ticket signed by him somewhere. Ah, the days when I could get away with being a fan boy, not now...

Anyway, it's been a fascinating discovery of the old and the new stuff on there and what stuff I listened to (and in some cases I still like). Thing is now with the likes of MTV2 etc it's a bit easier for bands to get exposure and because of the web, of course. Back then you had no luxuries and if you had a spot on the likes of The Chart Show you considered it a bloody great achievement, or if (heaven forbid) Chris Evans booked you on TFI Friday and you got to perform on there as well. It seemed a lot simpler back then to be honest. I've now got Dog Eat Dog's "No Fronts" in my head and I have this big temptation to bound around the room like the band do... hehe.

Thursday 12th April - Four Weeks Till I Get Older

I realised today that it's only four weeks or so till I become a year older. Eeek. That's gone pretty quickly, actually, and I didn't expect the whole year to be absolutely flying by. I'm not complaining as such because so far it's been really good, and the last weekend was just a wonderful example of what I can do when I put my mind to it, and there's more yet to come I'm completely convinced of that.

It was the first day of the Aintree festival today, and so because I always have to watch the Grand National (well who doesn't?) I watched all the races on BBC2 to get an idea of the course conditions and so on. The Fox Hunters Chase, the one over the National fences, seemed to go pretty quickly and it was a great battle at the end with Scots Grey hanging on gamely to win. There were a lot of finishers too, so I have a feeling that getting round on Saturday just isn't going to be enough. What is interesting though is that the amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen didn't have a ride in the Foxhunters, but is getting a ride in the big race, plus the horse he's on has won around the big fences. Might have to see what odds I can get for that.

I also spent a bit of time looking at another laptop which seemed a bit slow to play ball. Mind you, it was soon apparent why - Zone Alarm was just set in such a way that it kept asking questions "are you sure" every five minutes or so any time you wanted to do anything, and it was just an annoyance. Their uninstaller isn't that clean and so I used the official method of getting rid of everything cleanly and the laptop seemed a lot faster, even more so once I cleared the massive and unneccesary Temporary Internet Files cache. It doesn't seem to bad now and I'm sure with a few little tweaks here and there it'll be a lot better anyway for working on stuff.

Also wrote a letter of complaint to Virgin Trains about the fact that the train journeys to and from Reading weren't exactly the best ones ever. I felt better as I wrote a fair and constructive letter and just told it like it was. I guess my writing skills (well, sort of!) are always put to good use. I had to do the same a couple of years ago with Arriva Trains Wales and did get some form of compensation, but I wouldn't write unless I felt I had good reason to do so. Still, in a day when customer service is so vitally important, it's nice to know that there are ones out there who do realise that it's best to act on constructive stuff and make things better.

Tune of the day, for the sheer hell of it, is The Smiths' "Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before". Part of the reasoning for it, apart from of course loving the song being the Smiths/Morrissey diehard that I am, is that I'd much rather listen to the original than that absolutely crass horrid version that Mark Ronson's just brought out with some Daniel Merriweather singing. They've turned it into a soul/R&B piece and just ruined the original feeling of the song, and as for tacking on a version of "You Keep Me Hanging On" that for me was the final straw - it's just so bad! And how this Daniel Merriweather bloke can compare vocally to Morrissey is completely beyond me.

At least when Placebo did Bigmouth Strikes Again many years ago Brian Molko sung it with passion, and with love and respect for the original. All they did was crank the guitars up a fair bit but keep the feel of the original very much intact and tweak the lyrics very slightly so that "hearing aid" became "Discman" or "Megadrive" but not ruining it whatsoever. In fact I've gone mental to Placebo's version in an indie club and loved doing so because they looked after the original in the right and respectful way. Hence it's my number 2 favourite cover.

Wednesday 11th April - Back To Normality

Well not quite normality as such, as I'm off work the rest of this week, but in hindsight being off is actually a good thing. The cold I've got has really taken to me and I'm either sneezing and blowing my nose like mad, or I'm coughing madly. Hopefully the extra strength Meltus I've got should help ease that off a bit, but it's just a really congested feeling that I've got and I just want it to go away. Particularly as I need to be in tip top condition when I go back to work, but also because there's the small matter of a trip to the Crucible a week on Saturday, I can't wait for that!

Spent a bit of time today fixing a laptop and a broadband router problem for a friend of my uncle's. The router had all the lights on that it should, except the one for being online. A couple of questions later and I'd worked out what was wrong - they'd changed their password to access the broadband service as they weren't sure if someone else knew what it was. Of course what this means is that you have to reconfigure the router and put in the new password for their ISP. Thankfully the wireless network name hadn't been changed so as I was looking at their brand new Acer laptop fully laden with Windows Vista Home Premium, I got that to talk to the wireless network, put in the network key (it needed doing anyway) and then accessed the router and did the changes.

Needless to say a few minutes later after the router restart all the lights were on and online access was working again. I of course added all the necessary stuff that he wanted. In a good and surprising move he said to me "Have you got Firefox? I love using that on the desktop PC in the office" (that PC was one I built for him, incidentally) and so naturally I put that on along with all the updated web browser plugins etc. Interestingly, viewing stuff on the BBC website with Real Player 10 requires Vista to do a colour scheme change as RP10 isn't compliant with Vista's Aero Glass stuff. Just thought I'd mention it. The laptop was quite impressive though, I have to say, especially for the money!

Tune of the day is Barenaked Ladies' live version of "Get In Line". The original version of that song was on the soundtrack to the TV series "King Of The Hill" and today I had delivered a CD I'd ordered from Amazon marketplace, namely "Extended Versions" a 10-track US import CD of BNL live tracks from their 2005 US and Canada tour. It sounds very good, and I'd ordered my BNL-mad friend a copy at the same time too so I've posted one copy on to them - they should be pretty pleased really. Anyway, the live version sounds brilliant and it just brings back memories of seeing the band at the Apollo last week. Rock on!

Tuesday 10th April - Bunged Up, Delayed And Frustrated

Talk about crashing down to Earth then! This morning I left the Travelodge and walked to Slough train station to head on the train to Reading, in order to get the 1011 back to Manchester. Getting to Reading was a doddle, and I got there a bit too early, so I went into Reading centre, located a HMV and got myself the new NIN CD single whilst I was there, and then headed back to the train station, by which time the train was at Platform 3 and I got on and got me stuff sorted.

Straight away I knew something was up - I was bunged up a bit with the cold anyway, and had the emergency supplies with me to try and keep me going without being too annoying with coughing and spluttering - but at the carriage I was on, the air conditioning wasn't working properly and all I kept feeling was warm air everywhere. As you can imagine it was unfeasibly hot and as the train was pretty full I didn't necessarily want to rock the boat and move to another seat as I'd reserved it. But a couple of requests went unabated, basically if it was broken, it was broken. In other carriages and the toilets it seemed to be working though, so a nip to the loo to blow my nose now and then helped a bit, but I'm sure it's not helped my cold any.

Anyway, that believe it or not wasn't the main problem. As we left Birmingham and headed to Stafford (no Wolverhampton stop this time) as we headed just east of Wolverhampton the train ground to a halt, and soon enough an announcement. Turned out that some idiots had played with the overhead cables and as such had damaged them, so we were stuck there whilst they were being checked out. In the end the delay was some 50 minutes by which time I'd listened to the whole of Kristin Hersh's "Learn To Sing Like A Star" and had started out on the Rise Above compilation (basically Rollins Band plus Rollins and other guest vocalists doing brilliant versions of Black Flag classics) before the train set off again. Eventually reached Manchester an hour late, and thankfully there were no such delays getting the bus back home. It was so nice to get home after the journey, even more so as Pinky (next door's cat) came up to me wanting a fuss. Awwww.

Got home and - gadzooks! Broadband was down. I thought I'd best give Sky a ring, and rang them up about it. Their customer service people kept asking me for some password that I don't recall setting, which I explained to them. They wouldn't budge though cos of Data Protection Act rules (even though that's actually been superseded by the Freedom of Information Act in parts, but still..) so in the end I had to go through to Customer Services and ask them to reset it - I knew my security question, thankfully! But what annoyed me was that all I wanted to know was the broadband service status. Most other ISPs tell you on the phone if certain exchanges are down or have work being done on them, so at least you know what's happening. But Sky insist on you authenticating your account before that. Wouldn't a simple number to ring for service status be rather useful? I might have to suggest that to them actually. After all, if you can't get online, you can't check service status, so it's a viable alternative. Plus of course I know which is my exchange so I have a good idea what's going on. Thankfully it's all back up now, but still..

While listening to tunes on the way back I came across a classic tune which I still love, so tune of the day is the rather nice "Oversleeping" from I'm From Barcelona. It's just a nice starter to their excellent album, and vocally it shows why they're so wonderful compared to the rather bad (in my view bloody awful although some of my friends disagreee) Mika. And yet who gets the hype and the publicity and the album sales? It shows that even in this modern music age, hype still sells over substance.

Monday 9th April - An Englishman's Home Is His Castle, Some Home Then!

Today it was the plan to do Windsor Castle, and indeed maybe take in a boat trip. I'd noticed on the way back on the bus yesterday that a cruise down the Thames seemed quite popular, and I thought that as long as it wasn't that expensive it was well worth doing. And indeed that as it was my last full day before returning home tomorrow, I should make the most of it, and why shouldn't I?

I had breakfast in Tesco Extra, cos it was open and because I could pick what I wanted, plus it was on my way to the train station, and ended up getting the 0950 train from Slough to Windsor Central. It seemed quite a few people had the same idea, although a fair number had got off from a service from Paddington, and it's only a few minutes journey from Slough. And so by 10am I'd left the platform at Windsor and made my way through a little shopping centre that adjoins the station (indeed the station used to have three platforms, now it's just one with the others redeveloped as a neat shopping centre) and then the castle was there right in front of me from the outside.

The common sense approach was to get into the castle early so I could do as I wanted, and in the end this proved a wise move. I didn't have to queue for that long to get my ticket, and once I'd cleared security (very professional here by the way!) it was time to go exploring. I soon realised that it was the changing of the castle guard at 11am and so the wise thing to do was to go round the chapel on the way down, and then watch the changing over. Thankfully people were respectful of the chapel's "no photography" signs, even the Americans (for a change, about time!) - and it seemed so well preserved. Indeed in the main pews the decorations at the top were symbols of Prime Ministers past and present. One woman went "it's down to Government it's all gone wrong" and to which I accurately replied "To be honest, it's been like that since 1979." An astute comment or what eh?

Anyway, the changing of the guard service was about to get underway and I had an excellent view of the whole pomp and ceremony. It wasn't that bad either, even the band played a medley of certain numbers including Colonel Bogey et al, which people seemed quite happy with. It's a long and drawn out process, but everything's done with military precision and you can't help but be impressed with it all to be honest. I must admit to getting a bit trigger happy with the digital camera as I wanted to capture the moment, as you do.

Once that was all over with, I headed to the Queen Mary's Dolls House which then led to the main State Apartments. The stuff in the Doll's House was impressive, plenty of old dolls that had been given as gifts, and dolls' houses painstakingly preserved. Of course, the cameras were forbidden in here, and indeed in the exhibit which showed photos and prints of the royals, notably the Queen herself. But what amazed me the most was the State Apartments. Each room was painstakingly preserved with plenty of shows of armoury and swords on the walls, and one really impressive room which had a coat of arms of many a person back in the day. Spent a fair few minutes in there matching stuff up to the relevant person who it belonged to.

Walked around more of the State Apartments, and although it was so tempting to touch the stuff I knew that I couldn't (my kinaesthetic side came in there) and instead I stood in awe at the rooms, and one thing I noticed - all the old clocks were all set to the right time. A small thing, but something that stands out. Indeed, everything was really lovely and you couldn't help but be impressed by the grandeur, the history, and all that sort of thing. It took time to go round there and the courtyards too, and it was 1pm by the time I left there - cleverly getting a wristband just in case I fancied visiting there later on in the day.

Grabbed some lunch and then headed down the hill to the river bank to see what the deal was with the river cruise. I went for the 40 minute version for £4.80 which wasn't that bad price wise, I suppose. I was also thinking that two hours in the blazing heat might have proved a bit much, and so off went the boat upstream at first, through the Brunel railway bridge and then the road bridge, before it wound its way round some of the sharpest bends in the Thames before passing the race course on the left, and to the lock where the boat turned round and made its way back. It was really nice and relaxing, and I certainly felt that afterwards.

Wandered at the far end of the town to see The Long Walk and indeed the park which continues the Long Walk, it's straight and far, the bit near the castle is blocked off though, reserved probably for royalty, but nonetheless plenty of people with cameras there too. After that I walked back through the town and over the bridge into Eton. It's a strange place really, one main street lined with olde worlde shops and at the very end of this street is Eton College - a place of poshness and austerity if ever there was one. I was going to look around but it was almost time for it to close and I didn't want to rush round, plus there looked like there was a wedding on in one of the halls (wow, how loaded must you be to do that!) so I headed back into Windsor, went round the castle for a while to make sure I didn't miss anything, then walked around the park by the river. Almost had a game of crazy golf there too, but the queue was massive, so instead I headed back into the centre and grabbed some food.

By the end of the day (it was 7pm) I'd been there virtually the whole day and the flu bug I'd got had really caught a hold and I wasn't feeling 100% so I got the train and got back to the hotel around 7.30pm, chilled out for most of the evening with the telly on and some tunes. Tune of the day just had to be Nine Inch Nails' "Survivalism" as it was the single released today (saw it in Windsor HMV as I went round the shops) and I've been listening to it on the player for a bit too as the track got "leaked" a small while back. It's very NIN, but also more individual as well. I just hope it charts on Sunday.

I've really had a lovely time though and something happened today that will stay with me as a nice memory above all else - but that's a private thing. I think too that the whole break has done me the world of good, the weather's been fine and that it's also shown that I can really do things for myself and get away, and just enjoy being myself a lot more. For me it also has shown how much the last six months or so I've really changed for the better as a person and I'm really proud of myself for doing so.

Sunday 8th April - There's A Fine Fine Line In Legoland

So, Easter Sunday and nice not to be at home for a change. As I knew most of the shops would be shut today with it being one of the few days when most retail outlets actually respect the closures over here and close (that and Christmas Day seem to be the only two left now) it was a more sensible idea to head to Legoland today and then over to Windsor Castle tomorrow. This decision was also made easier by the fact that the Queen was having a private Easter Sunday service in the castle grounds and as such the castle wasn't open till the afternoon anyway, so with that decision made, it was off to the bus station to catch a bus to Windsor and then take the Legoland shuttle bus from there to Legoland.

As I headed to the bus station, I noticed a very familiar sight - yes, Brunel Bus station is the building used in the opening titles of The Office, and that plus the accompanying roundabout look as ugly as it does on the telly, believe me, it just looks horrible! Plus it's one of those places that time forgot - complete with dodgy looking subway going through it. Wasn't walking through it, did what the locals did and peg it across the road at the lights by Tesco. Seemed easier and safer to be honest.

Got on the 41 bus to Windsor, and specifically asked the driver if the day saver ticket for the Windsor/Slough area covers Legoland or not, he said yes and so I paid the £3.70 day ticket fare, which didn't seem that bad really. Only the driver didn't know what he was doing, and when I got to Windsor and headed on the Legoland shuttle, the driver told me that in fact I'd been sold the wrong ticket, but as I was polite and calm and explained to him what I did, he understood that as I'd asked the question specifically, I was in the right and so he validated my ticket to make it valid for the rest of the day including the bus coming back from Legoland. Good initiative there, I thought, not his fault the other driver was such a nonce! (cue Gene Hunt from Life on Mars saying that word, hehe)

Got to Legoland around 10.20am, and already there was a small queue to get in, I dread to think what it would be like for later though, and so it was time to queue for a day ticket, for a mere - get this - £32! Ouch. Imagine if you had a couple of kids and had to pay for them? It'd work out a dear do. What lessened the blow a bit was that the ticket was valid for a return visit in May or June should I wish to do so, and that the annual pass worked out less than twice the normal admission, so I guess if you lived down there, that'd be worth considering. Got in through the queue, and started to explore the place.

Now, call me a big kid, but one of the things I used to love doing as a child was building stuff with Lego bricks, and so I thought I'd head along first to the Miniland part of the place where they have lots of famous places reconstructed in Lego. This was impressive to say the least - I couldn't get enough of the handywork gone in to make faithful reproductions of things like Big Ben, Canary Wharf, Edinburgh Castle, Amsterdam, Brighton Pier, and numerous others to name. What I also liked were the constructions that were just part of the landscape by the walkways, such as the rock statues that reminded me from those off the Arkanoid arcade game, and Mount Rushmore also faithfully reproduced. That for me just added to the charm and appeal.

I have to say too that there was plenty for little ones to do - one such thing was where you could make your own Lego car with the bricks provided, and race it down a slope to see how fast it was. Lots of kids and parents were playing there for a while with that one and it seemed just the perfect way to relax before taking the rides on. As I walked around, I soon noticed that the rides were starting to have queues though and so it was time to get in the queue for what looked like a rollercoaster - the Jungle Coaster. The queue was some 45 minutes long (about the norm for the day!) and at the end of it I hopped into a coaster car with a couple of others, and off it went. In truth it wasn't that scary, but the two kids sat in front (with their dad lapping it up behind) loved it, and it was just good to experience a bit of speed.

After that, I thought, do as many rides as I could as time and queueing allowed, and so it was off to the next one I could see, the Orient Expedition. Okay so it was a train going round a bit so you could see the Lego safari life size built figures a bit closer up, but of course what happened was that some of them sprayed water, and so you got wet! As it was a warm day I didn't mind that one little bit and quite enjoyed getting a small soaking, not sure the mum and daughter sat behind would agree as they kept ducking. After that, I thought "let's get really wet" and headed for the Pirate Falls, basically the log flume in disguise. A 45 minute queue later and I was getting on the thing, sat at the back. Clever me thought that I wouldn't get as wet. Wrong! In fact the back got you the wettest of all, and it was a thorough drenching. Not that I minded, it was good fun and you did go down the end chute at quite an impressive speed too.

By the time I'd queued up for The Dragon coaster, I'd dried off, and the queue was again lengthy although it did move a lot quicker. Got on and as the train headed through a couple of tunnels, nothing to worry about. Then it did two drops which were thoroughly fun, with a few people having a good scream along the way - not me of course, I'm made of sterner stuff you know. But still, did a few other rides as well to get my money's worth. One of the rides was quite a workout physically too - the fire engine one, where you had to pump these hydrants and indeed the pumps on the engine itself to make it go. I teamed up with a father and son, so the two adults could get the speed bit and the kid could do all the fun stuff, and we headed back to the start and won very easily. What am I like eh?

After a pit stop for some ice cream and a waffle (didn't want to eat too much during the day, the prices inside Legoland for food weren't that cheap and as for the soft drinks, don't even get me started!) it was time to head off to the movie theatre thing that they have and watch Spellbreaker 4D. Now, I love animation stuff as a rule (the Pixar DVDs I have in my collection say it all) and so it was interesting to see if the so-called 4D effects worked with the glasses. And you know what? They actually did! It was pretty good fun too because the characters' expressions just were the right side of cute for the little ones, reminded me of the likes of Lego Racers 1 and 2 for the PC in that respect. And as for that little dragon, you could hear the "awwwwww" factor everywhere.

Anyway, did all the rides I could reasonably want to do, chilled out by the mini land to take a breather, and generally enjoyed myself. I do feel though that the admission price needs to be looked at, especially as it proves not so cheap for families (and this despite it winning an award recently for being very family friendly, which it is, can't fault it there) and they should really expand the Miniland section - all those recreations are just really good and there needs to be more of them. I'll stop now before I don the independent travel writer hat!

I headed back to the main entrance, perused the shedloads of Lego stuff in the Big Shop (and there were loads of it, although I didn't see the Lego Racers Ferrari figures of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello from a few years back that was out, boo!) and headed on the Legoland shuttle back to Windsor, and before long the 41 turned up and it was back to Slough for me. I then had a brainwave. On the way out, I'd spotted a pub called The Moon and Spoon which looked a bit Wetherspoons-ish, and thought "ooh, wonder if they do Sunday roast?". Anyway, I checked, and they did, and so it was the full roast beef meal for me - rather lovely and well worth saving the tummy for to be honest. And downed with a pint of Pedigree as well, bit of a result. Back at base, time to watch the final round of the US Masters unfold and it was a topsy turvy affair but in the end Zach Johnson's coolness under pressure earned him a richly deserved win.

Tune of the day was something from the MP3 player when I got back tonight - namely as I'd loaded stuff on from a few albums to listen to when the need arose. Tonight I was just in a happy mood so it was "We're From Barcelona" by I'm From Barcelona that won, it just sums up my mood and I am feeling rather pleased with myself - even though the cold's coming back to haunt me, it's not going to stop me having a great time, I'm determined to make sure.

Saturday 7th April - We Live On Avenue Q

The first day of my break today, and I was up early and ready and left the house by 8.30am to get the 0923 train from Piccadilly to Reading. Once I got to Reading, just needed to change there and get a local train to Slough, and the job was done. In theory, easy. In practice, not so. I had no problem in locating my reserved seat, which was near to the luggage racks, and stacked up my case in the rack, and as the train left, I felt nice and comfortable, was reading Mark Radcliffe's "Showbusiness" book while the MP3 player was chucking out some Nine Inch Nails and Kristin Hersh. However, by Stoke-on-Trent it was apparent that there were not enough carriages on the train, and at Wolverhampton it was almost meltdown as lots of people piled on. In the end the train manager had to state that anyone going to Birmingham needed to go on the next train and that was less packed as it had more carraiges. Even after Birmingham there were people standing and it only really eased off once I got off at Reading. Something tells me that Virgin Trains made a boo-boo here, I have a feeling the train should have been an eight carraige one but for whatever reason the train was only a four, hence the madly packed jam.

Anyway, got off at Reading, got my ticket to Slough and headed on the next train which was thankfully an express one with Slough being the first stop - so it made life a bit easier to say the least. Got off in Slough, and thanks to the handy map I printed out, I was able to go across the footbridge by a massive Tesco Extra to go over the main A4 road, and then head through a shopping centre to the main high street. Stopped off in Boots to get myself a Meal Deal lunch (cos they're cheap, cheerful and delicious) and had that watching the world go by. From what I saw so far, Slough itself didn't seem that exciting a place and all the things that the TV series The Office mention about it certainly seemed true. Anyway, soon got to Travelodge and checked in - and the room was the usual functional fare - shower, big bed etc, and all nice and clean. Still can't believe I got it for £15 per night though, absolute bargain.

After borrowing an iron and ironing board just to give my shirts a quick press over (and it was quick, my clothes folding skills are coming on these days!) it was time to head back to the train station and get the train into London Paddington and then on to the West End to see Avenue Q. In theory, easy. In practice, easy-ish. Getting the train to Paddington was a doddle, there were loads from Slough and that wasn't a hassle. Indeed, getting either the 15 or 23 to Trafalgar Square shouldn't have been a problem. Except for the traffic. Of course at the weekend congestion charging doesn't apply, but even so you'd expect a smooth ride down Oxford Street, apparently not so. It took forty minutes to get from Paddington to Trafalgar Square, and it was almost as quick to walk. Anyway, that done, I took the short walk up Charing Cross Road and then St Martin's Place, and located the Noel Coward theatre, which wasn't that hard, because of all the Avenue Q signs everywhere.

Suffice to say, I thoroughly enjoyed Avenue Q. It was absolutely fabulous. In fact, feel free to read my review and see for yourself. What impressed me the most was that despite the theatre appearing small from the outside, it was a nice size inside and just the right sort of setting to see something like Avenue Q in. What also impressed me was that the crowd were a mixed bunch and they all seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. I had to resist the temptation every couple of songs to sing along, as that would be pretty sad and embarrassing, especially during the numbers "The Internet Is For Porn" (wich is going to be my tune of the day for the sheer hell of it) and "It Sucks To Be Me" which I completely adore. Honestly, words fail me how much me and everyone else enjoyed themselves, and I want to go and see it again!

After that thoroughly enjoyable experience, I headed back to Trafalgar Square, still choc full with tourists and after spotting The Mall and Birdcage Walk, I headed on the 23 back to Paddington - the plan being that I'd find somewhere to eat there rather than brave the theatre crowds. This cunning plan worked out really well as I managed to find a traditional pub with restaurant bit upstairs, serving traditional fayre. I had to wait a bit because they were fairly busy, but I was glad I did. I got a nice table by the window so I could watch the world go by, and with a nice pint of London Pride to hand (real ale, bonus) it was time to devour this absolutely gorgeous steak and ale pie, with potatoes, peas and gravy. It filled the hole very nicely and was cooked to perfection. So much so that there was an Australian family sat opposite me and I recommended the pie to them - they seemed a nice bunch too.

The trains were having engineering works Saturday night after about 9.45pm, hence my plan to be close to Paddington to get the train back, and got on the 9.22pm train back to Slough. Even though it was only stopping there, Reading and Oxford it was fairly full to be honest and I was glad to get off and wend my way back to the Travelodge. That said, I was trying not to sing "The Internet Is For Porn" which had been in my head since I left the Noel Coward theatre as I'm sure people might have got the wrong idea. Settled back in base, watched Match of the Day and went to bed. Roll on Easter Sunday, without the chocolate.

Friday 6th April - Busy Busy Busy!

Well, it was a rather busy day today, and good job I'd already packed my things for the forthcoming weekend away. I had to finish the job I started yesterday, and as I'd spent most of the time the day before reinstalling everything on the PC, it was working rather well. Went back to their place, whacked in the Tesco broaband CD and just did a standard install. Five minutes later and web pages were being viewed. Now that's what I call a result, it has to be said. I was just relieved that at last it meant that they could browse the web and have happy surfing times - or something similar. I rock!

Next up, a friend came over for a chat and a cuppa. Always nice to have a friend pop round, plus we had a bit to catch up on. Before I knew it time had passed and it was 4pm, shows just how much I can talk when I want to. Mind you my friend can normally match me but not being 100% fully well always gets in the way, no matter what. And to be honest I wasn't feeling 100% either, I really hoped that the cold that I was battling all week wasn't coming back to haunt me for the weekend, otherwise that was a bit rubbish to be honest.

Anyway, invited my uncle and brother over to watch the Man City game on Prem Plus, as I decided to pay for the game and as me uncle had helped me out with getting the new washer the other week I thought it only fair to say a little thank you. By full time though, we wish we hadn't bothered. To put it bluntly as possible, the game was a bit rubbish and both teams were struggling. For all City's possession in the first half we couldn't break them down and it was mightily frustrating to say the least - and as it went on things just weren't happening. It had nil nil written all over it and that's exactly how it ended up.

To end the day, time to head off out with a few friends as it was the birthday of one of my friends - well actually it's their birthday a week on Saturday but not all of us are here then and it was the nearest time we had to all get together. Had a lovely meal to be honest, I had the sea salt and black pepper scampi, which was great, but it would also be nice if they just did the scampi without the seasoning on to satisfy more people - that would also make it more popular with one of my friends at least. My friend appreciated all the presents, not least as I'd been to Lush and got the Honey Farm gift box as well as get Spooks series 4 and Casino Royale on DVD. I like to give, always tons better to receive you know. Just can't wait till tomorrow now.

Tune of the day is Flowered Up's uber-classic "Weekender". If any song typified the early 1990s in indie dance terms this song is it, of course even more so if like me you have the full 12 minute 53 second version that they released as a single. Of course the whole thing never got played in indie clubs (shame) but it was an epic track and just summed up how things were back then and how things could easily have gone wrong!!

Thursday 5th April - The Blue Screen Leads To Avenue Q

Odd title eh? I'd best explain myself. After I watched the cricket last night, I was going to head to bed, but had a brainwave. You see, I knew that where I was staying in my mini-break wasn't that far from London, and as such I realised that I was able to get into London fairly easily. Then I thought "well, I've always wanted to see Avenue Q - The Musical, and realistically I can't afford to go to New York and see it on Broadway, so maybe see if there's tickets for London on Saturday?" So with thought in mind, checked out the official Avenue Q web site, checked the box office, and there's a 5pm Saturday performance. Even better, there's a ticket in the second row of the stalls with no one sat in front of me (having checked the seating plan) for a mere £21.50! Now it's not that cheap I grant you, but considering that some of the tickets are almost £50, I thought it wasn't that bad, and about the cheapest for the performance. One booking later and it's me sorted, just have to pick up the ticket from the box office. All I need to do now is to get the train to London and then bus it to the venue, and that should be that. I can't wait. I'm actually really excited and it's just going to be fab!

Got up this morning and knew I had a job on to try and sort out a PC for someone. Turns out that the Windows 98 machine that they're using to try and get working with this Speedtouch modem just wasn't having it, and it came up with the message "Dial up networking is not properly installed". After a bit of checking out, it seems to me like the hard disk is on its way out, because when it tries to read certain sectors written, it doesn't have it. Even a repair install of 98 didn't play ball either - it kept coming up with errors. However, turns out they had another PC which was a slightly better spec, checked that out and it was probably good enough to run Windows XP.

So I've been installing that, getting the updates done etc, and have it all pretty much tested and ready here. Then tomorrow morning I've just got to go back and hook everything back up, reinstall the broadband modem and see what happens. Fingers crossed it will all work and that we'll have a happy similing bunny at the end of it, which is always good. Plus I hate leaving things half done - it's just not my way of doing anything like that. I'm such a determined soul when I want to be and it's just part of me that I like to see things through. Still, when it all works that gives me immense satisfaction as well so that has to be a good thing in my eyes.

Did the food shopping tonight and it was amazing to see how many people are buying so much stuff - you'd think that nowhere was open tomorrow, when in fact the Tesco I go to is 24 hour opening. I suppose if you've got to rely on public transport it's a bit of a worry because with it being a bank holiday, some services are limited. However, there were people there clearly who were driving and had big trolleys full of stuff, and I mean completely choc full. It's not like the world's going to run out of food, you know. I must however thank the very nice woman on the checkout who also helped me with packing tonight, she seemed really friendly and bubbly and if everyone was like her, the world would be a better place, that's for sure. Think her name was Chrissie - she deserves the Tesco equivalent of a gold star in my book anyway.

Tune of the day is an easy choice - and it's from the Avenue Q soundtrack, namely "It Sucks To Be Me". Well it does suck if you're full of a cold, trying to concentrate on avoiding getting worse and at the same time making sure that the work you do is up to a good standard, oh yes, and at the same time making sure you don't overcook the pasta that you're cooking for an evening meal!

Wednesday 4th April - So Near And Yet So Far

Bit of a busy day today, as the rest of the week is going to be. First off, I needed to get a couple of new pairs of jeans for the trip away (little treat to myself) but didn't want to spend a fortune. More importantly, they needed to be black, as I'd much rather wear that colour and often the blue ones are boot cut, which just isn't my thing. Anyway, much traipsing round Stockport later and of all places I find a pair that I really like in Debenhams. It gets better when I consider it's either £15 each of two for £20. Needless to say after finding a couple of pairs in my right size it was a very easy decision to make.

Went into town in the afternoon to get all the toiletry bits sorted out so I can just pack them into the bag and take them with me, really easy to do that to be honest. One trip to Bodycare in the Arndale later and that was me all done and dusted. Had to brave the crowds at Primark to get a couple of things in there - something that I really didn't want to do because I knew how busy it would be - but timed it okay enough so that the queue wasn't that bad. I've got a theory that when TK Maxx move out of the ground floor and into the old Littlewoods, Primark will make the ground floor the mens section, meaning hopefully less hassle for us blokes if we go in there and have to dodge lots of women everywhere buying bargains. My brother's girlfriend told me today that when she takes the train home, it's often the Liverpool train and there's lots of women taking their Primark bags back home to show off their wares, so when they get their own branch open, it'll be somewhat interesting to say the least.

That done, I settled down and decided to watch the cricket. At first it looked pretty good as England restricted Sri Lanka to a reasonable total, then we lost two early wickets in reply and that wasn't good. Pietersen and Bell made a good partnership before one of the most unlucky runouts I've seen - Bell had grounded the bat but it bounced back up and the ball hit the stumps at that point, hence no grounding and out had to be given. That sparked a bit of a collapse in the middle order and soon it was 133-6 and seemingly no chance. However, try telling Paul Nixon and Ravi Bopara that, they kept it going till right near the end when Nixon holed out, and Bopara held his nerve and in the end it was down to the last ball. England needed three to win, two to tie. Up comes the Sri Lankan bowler Fernando, and to be fair to him, bowls a perfect ball and gets Bopara out for the Sri Lankans to win by two runs. An incredible game where cricket was the winner, and even though England lost, it'll go down as one of the best World Cup games ever. Now there's the small matter of Australia on Sunday. Glad I won't be around to watch that carnage!

Tune of the day is Booker T and the MGs "Soul Limbo". In case you're wondering why, it was always the tune that the BBC used to use when introducing the cricket on the television, and they've brought it back in vogue for the World Cup highlights, which is rather good. Of course I've been watching the games on Sky, but nice to see the clasic theme tune back it has to be said. I even remember this being played at an indie night one Saturday (think a Test was on at Old Trafford that weekend) and everyone got down to it - well it is a funky number you know!

Tuesday 3rd April - Let's Do Lunch!

Had a nice relaxed day today which was made all the more nicer by my Mum coming over. I said to her that I was off and if she wanted to come over that would be good. I usually end up at her place but I thought for a change it'd be good for me to look after her for a bit and generally have a good chat. I'd already cleaned up the house anyway yesterday before I went out, and once the wheelie bins had been emptied I put them all back where they should be - I'm such a neatness freak but it makes a lot of sense and stops people fly tipping stuff everywhere, which is just a bad thing generally. Dosed myself up a bit so I wasn't going to feel too snuffly, and before you know it, it was 11.30am and there was a knock on the door from Mum.

Decided to treat Mum and me a bit and so I took out the Costa cafitiere coffee that I had in a container in the freezer (it's best stored that way) and did us a nice coffee, thought it was the right thing to do. Mum hadn't seen my new dining table and chairs yet and commented on that it was really nice and that I'd done a good job varnishing them - and that the whole revamp of the dining room with the rug and everything made it lovely. Had a coffee and a chat, and it just felt really relaxed as Mum was telling me about the holiday she's booked for her and a friend in October, which will be really lovely.

Anyway, as it turned out I was giving Mum the Easter eggs for my two sisters' children, and she giggled. "I got you a Creme Egg one too" she said, "so you keep that one here as if it's from me, and I'll then just give the kids the one I have and it's from you". Saved her carrying one extra back as well, which was a bonus. Whilst I was cooking lunch (these rather nice chicken breasts wrapped in bacon and cheese along with some veg) I sorted out a nice cheap quote and policy for Mum's travel insurance for her October trip - amazing what you can get when you shop around, and the travel agents Mum uses were quoting her way too much, as she herself thought.

After lunch, which was lovely, and I gave Mum a glass of lemon and elderflower sparkling water to try out, which she loved to bits, so much so she's going to get some for herself, we went on the PC and so I could show her the latest happenings with the Monkees and notably her favourite band member Davy Jones (Mum's been a fan since the 1960s, that's loyalty for you!) - and discovered that he'd been in some US magazine showing them round his house. Thankfully the article was online so I printed it off for Mum to have a read of - the very least that I could do for her!

Tune of the day is something that I'm reviewing at the moment, namely MJ Hibbett and the Validators' "The Lesson of the Smiths". Apart from being the best track off their "We Validate" album it just has an infectiously catchy tune and chorus, which of course had to be cleverly chopped to have a radio edit available incase anyone takes offence to the world pillocks. Ah, the days of political incorrectness. Oh and by the way, the review is a world exclusive - I think. Woohoo. Check it out.

Monday 2nd April - The Angry People Dance

Was glad to be off work as from today to be honest, as I was really suffering a bit with the throat earlier on today. I woke up and felt really dry, so made sure I chucked some lozenges down me and had a nice bowl of porridge for breakfast. After pottering around the house for a while and also sending off a couple of packages to people (one of which happened to be a birthday present for a friend, so best get that sorted and sent off) I headed into town. I needed my hair chopping to bits as it's far too long and thick now, and a quick visit to the Northern Cutter later in Affleck's Palace, and that's me sorted. Sounded like lots of us in town were with that same bunged up feeling I had though, sneezing everywhere or throaty coughs were the order of the day.

But I was determined nothing was going to stop me seeing Barenaked Ladies tonight at the Apollo. Not least as a good friend of mine was going as well, who's a massive fan of the band, and it was going to be excellent all round. By the time we'd walked from Piccadilly to the Apollo, the queue that I'd spotted earlier on had died down and it was a case of going straight in, having a quick peruse at what merchandise was available, and then heading into the stalls to try and find somewhere with a reasonably good view. Got a drink and then stood waiting for the action to happen.

That it did, with the support act, Boothby Graffoe. This guy's done comedy with The Comedy Store Players and his wit and humour was very evident, not just in the songs he performed, but with the stand up humour generally that just got everyone in the right mood. What was even better was that first off Kevin and Jim from Barenaked Ladies joined him on keyboards and bass, and then as an even nicer surprise near the end Ed (who normally does the guitars and vocals for the band) got on the drums and did a rather good job playing the drums as well. The warm relaxed atmosphere was just really nice, and everyone appreciated the songs and humour.

A quick break, and then on came Barenaked Ladies to perform a rather stonkingly good set. First off, a couple of classics: One Week, delivered with blistering guitars rather than the stripped down acoustic version I've seen them do before, and then on to stuff from the Are Me and Are Men albums - all good for me because their new stuff is rather good. After doing a rockier Too Little Too Late, it was then time for them to take it a bit slower and go acoustic with the band congregating in the centre of the stage, and nice to have old stuff like Enid and Jane in there, two under-rated tracks of theirs.

Highlight for me though, and therefore tune of the day is "Angry People". The song itself is just great fun, but what made it even more enjoyable was the rather daft dance that they do at the end of the song. It's just bonkers, but there's smiles on their faces as they do it and just seem to be really into it. It also just lightened the tone perfectly. Not least as Pinch Me was straight after, and at the right line, cue a few pairs of knickers on stage, one of them Steven Page put on the end of his guitar for a while.

A couple of bona fide classics to close the set too, including It's All Been Done, and the perennial Brian Wilson - time had whizzed by and yet it was pretty much time for them to do an encore. I guess that if you really enjoy yourself and the band play a good gig, the time just goes, and it did. Back on they came one by one during Easy, and then another classic, If I Had $1000000. At the lyric line of "We wouldn't have to eat Kraft dinner" I saw someone throw a pack of Philadelphia soft cheese, and the other thing was some Kraft cheese slices - which Steven picked up and commented on. Steven also did his cover of Memories at the end of the song, which was rather good too. And after another encore, it was done. And it was up to their usual enjoyable standards to say the least.

My friend picked up a t-shirt outside the gig with "Barenaked Athletics" on it, like a training athletics t-shirt style which looked good - should be worth taking on holiday methinks, and the queue for the merchandising inside was mad, with security trying to kick everyone out as soon as possible. I guess quite a few people wanted the concert on a USB pen drive that the band mentioned, so that you could pick it up and take it away, that said it'll also be available online eventually to buy too which will be a nice memento. Shame it wasn't like the Instant Live setup which meant I got the Pop Will Eat Itself live CD of the Birmingham gig 15 minutes after it ended, but there you go. Still, thoroughly enjoyable all round.

It also made me think about just how much the UK based music press give Barenaked Ladies a hard time and never give them the credit they deserve - they just see the band as some novelty comedy act which to be honest is far from the truth. If they can virtually sell out the Apollo on the back of releasing albums on their own label, and virtually no advertising or promotion over here, that says a lot about the fan base and that they're dedicated - kind of reminds me how us Kristin Hersh fans are actually. And in a way, not having major commercial success keeps the live occasions more special because you feel more of a fan - although I wouldn't begrudge sales for any of them.

Sunday 1st April - Cheese And City

After typing up yesterday's entry, I was keeping an eye on the football scores on Sky Sports while having Juliette and the Licks on at full blast, which sounded rather good to me to be honest. But even better was to happen as Emile Mpenza ensured a 1-0 win for Man City at Newcastle, just the perfect tonic and back to back wins away from home as well, something we don't normally do. In fact, there's only one team better than us away from home in the league based on the last six results, if that tells you anything. We've gained 13 points from a possible 18! Now only if our home form was anything as half decent as that it would be rather good.

Invited a friend over last night and we were rubbishing some really awfully bad cheesy videos on VH1's Top 40 Bad Videos (and believe me some of them were appalling!) You can't believe just how bad that they were. Some of them were on the TMF worst 10, which I giggled about one on of my site articles, but there were plenty of other bad contenders. Such as The Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men". It's an appallingly cheap and nasty video, done on the lowest budget possible. And as for their choice of number one, well it was TMF's number two, and I have to say that my friend and I were just giggling like mad thinking "what the hell was he doing with his bleached blonde hair back in the day?" You want further proof? A quick Youtube search should sort you out - it truly is an appalling video.

Whilst having the volume turned down for some of them because the music within the video was appalling (Joe Dolce, Cliff Richard etc) I whacked on some dance vinyl and made the whole thing feel a bit more Saturday night at a rave sort of thing - cos I could! Hence it was the likes of A Guy Called Gerald's "Voodoo Ray" (classic), Chemical Brothers' "Block Rockin Beats", Front 242's "Relgion" remixed by The Prodigy, SPK's "Metal Dance" (under-rated 80s Industrial dance classic if you ask me) and best of all my tune of the day (as I've played it a couple of times today as well) Liaisons Dangereuses' "Los Niños del Parque" - although the original was very 1980s Industrial synth, produced by Conny Plank, the Renegade Soundwave remix just makes it an absolutely fantastic piece of dance music as well. And the 12" I have has long been deleted, must keep an eye on its condition especially as I've also got the CD single too :)

Ah, the days of dance vinyl, and the age when everyone had a turntable and wanted to be a DJ with a pair of Technics SL1210 Mk IIs, or something similar. In fact when I was in Fopp yesterday there was one club night advertised which insisted on only playing vinyl singles, a night called Plastic Surgery or something. If I didn't feel really old and past the era of going indie clubs, I'd probably check it out cos at least I'd actually get to hear some of the music I like. And it's a club night that doesn't insist that you dance either, you can chat at the bar and listen to cool stuff, sort of like a party at home where you can dance if you want to and not be accused of being boring if you don't, so to speak. If you feel young enough, you might want to check that out for yourself.

And as it's April Fools Day, see if any of your friends get taken in by this!