Dear Diary... April 2012

Monday 30th April - Hark Now Hear The City Sing!

Well all talk at work was of one thing and one thing only - the derby! I of course was going with my friend and as you can well imagine for us both that was a special moment, as if we won it could really swing the title charge our way. Three weeks ago against Arsenal we lost 1-0 and we both thought that it was the end of it, until Man U first lost at Wigan and then conceded two goals to draw 4-4 with Everton giving us the chance to pull it back to three points behind with a 2-0 win at Wolves. This meant that City were three points behind United and so a win tonight would put us top because of our superior goal difference.

The traffic was rammed coming home from work as I suspected plenty of people were heading off to the match early to soak up the atmosphere. My friend came over and we were off to the Etihad Stadium, and managed to get there nice and early so we could get to City Square. We found that one of the fish and chip takeaways close to the square did some very nice chips for a mere £2.50, which for football ground prices is pretty cheap, so that was all good. We also saw Warren Clarke in City Square chatting to Natalie Pike and Danny Jackson, and he was really getting behind the lads in a Churchillian sort of way.

Of course plenty of us were waiting around City Square as one of the true legends of Manchester City was being interviewed later - Shaun Goater. The City fans as one chanted "Feed the goat and he will score" numerous times as he was being interviewed by a tearful Natalie (he's her favourite player ever, you see) and it was just great to hear him reminisce about his goals in the 2002-03 derby at Maine Road, which City won 3-1 and Shaun got his 100th City goal, and we all remember the 99th where he robbed the ball from Gary Neville before an excellent finish to put City 2-1 ahead that day.

We got into the ground and everyone was in and soaking the atmosphere up. It was nervous and as the build up grew, with lots of messages on screen, the music cranked up at full pelt, it was great. The teams came out and just before kick off the tannoy blasted out Supra's "Blue Moon" and literally every City fan was singing along - had to be tune of the day simply because of that incredible atmosphere that was there - and believe me folks, it certainly was.

The game kicked off and initially it was a bit nervous for City, with United attacking a bit and showing some intent, although not a shot on goal even with some decent build up play. Gradually City came back into the game a bit more and Sergio Agüero blasted a volley over, and had another half volley go wide, but you could see that the chances were coming City's way. It was just a case of if we could take it, and a couple of corners had headers cleared by the United defence as it was getting to stoppage time.

The board went up for the two minutes at the end of the first half. David Silva took the corner, and it met the head of Vincent Kompany - and YESSSSSSSSS! It was there in the back of the net, and 1-0 to City. I went mental, my friend went mental, Diego Maradona who was in the executive boxes behind us went mental, Liam Gallagher in another exec box further up went mental. It was brilliant, and at half time the City fans were pumped up, more so when Shaun Goater came out at half time to a hero's welcome.

The second half saw a few more chances for City, with Yaya Toure going close with two long range efforts, Gael Clichy blasting a shot towards goal which was well saved by David de Gea, and near the end Samir Nasri just couldn't get the ball from under his feet to get the elusive second goal. The board went up for five minutes of stoppage time and as United pressed for a goal we were all on tenterhooks, hoping and praying that we'd keep it at 1-0, and once Joe Hart had been fouled by the United attack, and we could clear it with a goal kick, it was pretty much game over.

The final whistle went and everyone went mental again. This was a victory like no other this season - it was a victory with massive meaning and a double over United during the season, which will hurt them more than they realise. Just to have that moment to see them upset and leaving the ground with their heads down will live with me. We're now top on goal difference (8 goals better goal difference too) and so winning our last two games should win us the title, but Newcastle away on Sunday will be difficult, and we've got to focus on that now.

But still awesome stuff from City, they wanted it more and you could tell how much it meant to the players, the fans, everyone. I was just so pleased and proud that they'd done the business and that City were for once living up to their billing. Three weeks ago we were eight points back and written off, and now it's all to play for again with us having a very slight advantage. But still, it's days like this when you are very very proud to be a blue, let me tell you.

Sunday 29th April - Christening in the Wind and Rain

It was a rather nice day today, except for the weather. The Love In My Heart and looked outside and saw that the weather was pretty rubbish to say the least, and that it was really an understatement. The wind and rain howled it down and as The Love was wearing her lovely green silk dress that she looks stunning in, we were worried it was going to get wet before we even got to the church. We managed to bag it to stay sort of dry though as we headed to The Love's car, and then off to mine to drop off any overnight stuff and to then head to the church, where my cousin's little boy was being christened.

The church was quite empty when we got there at around 12.50pm with the service scheduled for 1pm. However this was probably that people were waiting due to the weather to get there on time and just go straight in, and soon enough most of the family and friends had arrived, and crucially, cousin with girlfriend and baby in tow. He did look cute in his white outfit and with the little hat. As the normal Sunday service had already been and gone it just meant it was the christening only, which was a nice service all round, not least because it was the usual vicar who's dead nice and friendly to everyone.

As the service closed, it was then time to get into action as I'd been asked by my cousin to take some pictures, so got everyone in shot that we needed to, and certainly for the low light in the church the 50mm did well, and used the 18-55mm as a backup for other wider angle shots, which didn't do too bad when we did some shots at the other end of the church either, so that worked out not too badly. I would have suggested heading outside but the wind and rain really was detrimental for doing that - a shame really.

After we dropped The Love's car back at mine, my brother took me, Mum, my nephew, The Love and I off to the reception which was at South West Cricket Club in Chorlton. I've never been there before but the venue seemed a nice place (they even had Hydes cask ale on although I was being good and so stayed on the soft drinks) and they had a decent DJ who was spinning tunes for the little ones to dance around the dancefloor and enjoy themselves - and he blew up some sausage dog type balloons for them all to play with too, which was good.

The afternoon was leisurely enough and the buffet that had been done by some of the family was pretty good all round, with plenty to choose from and some very nice salmon as well which I had on a ciabatta for my main sandwich for lunch, so that was good. I was getting quite a few shots of people and also some impromptu ones of the children during the afternoon, and not least when plenty of mums as well as little ones danced around to S Club 7's "Reach" which was a really funny but lovely moment, you know how it is!

After all that The Love and I left and headed to The Bar in Chorlton for a quiet leisurely drink on our own. Spending so much time with everyone else and indeed with me taking plenty of pictures meant that it was nice for just the two of us to have a relaxing chat, and with some decent music in the background as well, which is always good, including Paul Weller's "Wild Wood" - so tune of the day for that one, seemed quite nice to end the day on. I relaxed later with the snooker and we both had a pretty early night as it was tiring and long weekend...

Saturday 28th April - Proposals and Potting

It was an early rise for me this morning as yet again I was off to Sheffield and off to the Crucible Theatre for another action packed day of snooker. I'd managed to get tickets for the morning and the afternoon sessions, and that was going to work out pretty well because Ronnie O'Sullivan plays Mark Williams in the afternoon which is the table I got a ticket for. As you can well imagine I was pretty pleased about that as both are excellent players and should make for an intriguing match. I got my tickets, coffee and bacon roll and was soon off on the 0742 departure to Sheffield.

I got there on time and headed to the Crucible, and spotted referee Michaela Tabb, who is refereeing the final. She very kindly on request allowed me to take a pic of her, and I was really pleased with the way it came out - she's happy and smiling and as lovely as per usual. Yaay! I spotted a few other players and celebrities (including former Egghead CJ de Mooi who's a big snooker fan) milling around before entering to take my seat for the Steven Maguire v Joe Perry match I was watching this morning.

And we got a surprise too. MC Rob Walker was asking everyone to come in a few minutes earlier than planned, and we all wondered why - was it a celebrity or something? In fact it wasn't. There's a guy in a Coventry City shirt normally who's in the front row, called Brian, and he came out on to the hallowed stage almost walk-on style thanks to Rob. Rob had a quick chat with him and asked him what his most special moment at the Crucible was, and he said "today" and with that proposed marraige to his girlfriend Lisa, which was a lovely moment. Thankfully she said yes, and they chatted with Rob for a little bit before heading off to tons of applause. For those of you who saw it on telly later, I was there!!

The morning session was pretty good, with Joe Perry winning the first two frames to make it 11-7 and come back, but Steven Maguire won the next two to win 13-7. Both games actually went to the mid-session interval at the same time, so was quite busy getting a coffee really. I then headed back in as I knew the curtain would be lifted and so I'd see the last four frames of Ryan Day v Cao Yupeng on the other table. Cao had fought back from 6-2 down and it was 7-6 after Cao had won the first frame after the interval. Ryan Day kept his nerve and won the next two tight frames, but Cao kept himself in it with a good effort in the last and it was 9-7 to Day after the end of their session.

I went to get some lunch and the excitement was building, as it was for the many fans everywhere trying to catch a glimpse of Ronnie O'Sullivan, after all he tends to play charismatically at the best of times. With Stephen Hendry v John Higgins on the other table, it's the first time in years that four world champions were on the two tables at the same time, so that was a little bit of history right there. I got into my seat in good time and had a perfect view of the right hand middle pocket, almost straight at it, so that was all good.

Out came the players and on the other table it didn't take long for Hendry to get the one frame that he needed to win the match 13-4, Higgins' heaviest ever defeat at the Crucible. O'Sullivan v Williams proved to be a great first session, with it somehow being 2-2 at the interval despite four half century breaks from Ronnie which really set things going. Mark Williams took the next one afterwards to go 3-2 up and then Ronnie just upped a gear and made some classy shots look rather easy and took the session 5-3 at the end. It was great stuff from both players and one that I really enjoyed massively.

It was after a small while of heading around Sheffield, spotting Ali Carter and Neil Robertson in the process, that I headed back to the train station and on the 1911 train back to Manchester, where The Love In My Heart was waiting for me. We went back to her place and she had made a very lovely meal of chicken with vegetables and a flat mushroom with garlic, and it all was gorgeous. Not to mention she'd also made some more of the raspberry frangipane tarts again which were stunning, and that was just nice to eat and relax with after a long day of travel and snooker enjoyment.

Tune of the day seemed rather apt considering the day I had: "Temptation" by Heaven 17. They are from Sheffield of course which was a factor, but also because it was tempting to get a ticket for the evening session as well (but I had to be good!) as well as take a day off work and get more tickets for more of the sessions as well, but I knew realistically that this was going to be my last visit to Sheffield this year, and look back at the times I've had with fond memories..

Friday 27th April - Apollo Vigilantes

It was a lengthy day at work, where I discovered amongst other things that my SCCM package had taken almost four hours to upload to the server and refused to play ball till one of my colleagues had to do a server reboot to get it to talk to things properly. It was a case of then seeing what happened and how it settled down so I could test some distributions as well as image three laptops which I'd had delivered for some staff that are joining us soon (not the team I'm in, but the place I work as a whole) so it was good to get things on the way so to speak.

I got home, made myself some haddock with lemon rice for tea, and started to think about tonight's gig, which I was going to with a friend of mine. It had been a few years since I last saw New Order, and it'd be the first time without Peter Hook, as him and Bernard Sumner don't get on and the split's been somewhat acrimoious as of late. Of course the band did at least have Gillian Gilbert back on keyboard, so it was three quarters there, and with Phil Cunningham on guitar who's been with them for some time, and a new bassist, it was close to being the line-up as you'd expect.

It was chucking it down when we got to the Apollo, so straight in and with DJ Arthur Baker playing some good tunes in between bands. In fact later on he played some Renegade Soundwave, which had me smiling massively as I suspected that not everyone might know what the tune was. He also snuck in the likes of A Certain Ratio, Kraftwerk and so on, so was a good mix of all sorts, and even Section 25's "Looking From A Hilltop" which was a welcome surprise.

I'd have rather heard him spin tunes till New Order came on than have the support acts on, although to be fair Hot Vestry weren't that bad, they had some good guitars going and a few tunes that weren't that bad. However, Factory Floor were absolutely awful. It was one continuous long track of thirty minutes or so, and the problem was that for the most it was way too repetitive and dirge-like. I don't mind some noise (I love Cabaret Voltaire for example) but it has to be controlled and something that challenges you to listen. Factory Floor weren't - it was awful and I really wish it had been more tunes from Arthur Baker instead.

So, with all that out of the way, on came New Order, and thankfully they were pretty good all round. They started off with a bit of "Elegia", nice touch, before having the likes of "Crystal" and "Regret" to get the crowd nicely warmed up. However for me it was the album tracks which really made the gig - I do like their albums as they're different from the singles as such, and two album openers, namely "Age of Consent" with its shimmering drums from Stephen Morris still present and correct, and best of all "Love Vigilantes" which even to this day still sounds wonderfully poignant, so tune of the day there for me.

As the show went on some of the more well known singles were played and the crowd were going ballistic. It was full of energy in there and they were singing along happily to several of the songs, notably the likes of "Bizarre Love Triangle" and "The Perfect Kiss" which was pretty lengthy. We also got "586" albeit in a different form than its original album version, as well as "Ceremony" (nice nod to the early stuff) and then "True Faith". I must admit I don't like how it's done these days, would much prefer the more crash-beat like sound of the original, but that's me being fussy.

Of course the big hits were left to come and when you can pull out the likes of "Blue Monday" and "Temptation" with aplomb it certainly comes across excellent, and not least as everyone was doing the "ooooooooo" bits during Temptation, so that really made the atmosphere rather special. The encore was two Joy Division songs, "Transmission" and of course "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and I had to slightly take issue with it - only because I'd seen Peter Hook with his band The Light perform those songs last year and they felt a bit more in touch with the originals than tonight. That said it was still rocking and a good end to the show and had everyone going home in a joyous mood.

Thursday 26th April - Slowing Down

It seemed that everything at work was on the proverbial go slow today, and it felt like it too. I had to put a shed load of machines into a collection in SCCM at the end of the day, because they needed to distribute a little change to some settings to be sure that everything was correct with them (all staff machines). However, as any of you who use SCCM will know, putting a set of machines into a collection can take a considerable amount of time, or the console can crash, and if it crashes, start again. Not what you want last thing of the day!

I'd also spent some time repackaging Adobe Creative Suite 5 Design Standard for 32-bit machines. I'd recently packaged the 64-bit version and included all the relevant updates, so thought it sensible to do the same for the 32-bit one and redo it, and with the Adobe Application Manager, it was pretty easy to do on the whole. It was then when I realised that something seemed AWOL with our SCCM server. When uploading a package to the distribution point, it should normally take around 10-15 minutes for the 2GB or so package that it is - it took almost 2 hours by the time I left work and it still wasn't done. Not good at all.

I headed home, put a very nice piece of gammon in the oven along with cooking some baby potatoes and waited for The Love In My Heart to come over for tea. It was lovely to see her and I'd missed her lots this week, with me not seeing her since Sunday. It was therefore lovely to have plenty of hugs all evening and we chatted lots as I made the tea. It worked out a treat, the gammon was lovely and tender and we really did enjoy that witht the potatoes and vegetables before settling in for the evening relaxing in front of the telly.

We watched the Long Lost Family thing on ITV1, and you had to feel genuinely happy for the man who was looking for his birth mother many years after he'd been adopted as a small child and never got to know who his Mum was because of how things were back in the day. He had become a grandad in his own right but wanted to meet with his Mum and had been trying to track her down with no luck. When he'd heard that they'd found her, he was so happy and seeing them together just showed that sometimes good things can happen in life - it was one of those moments that you really appreciate. Good television with sensitivity in the presenting, especially from Davina actually which was a lovely surprise.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Seasons in the Abyss" by Slayer - because I tried again to have a good go at singing it on Rock Band 3 after downloading it as part of a pack which had other Slayer songs in there. It's not as easy as you think because of the way the verses are sung, but I'm getting there. Certainly I need to have a lower voice at times for this, but it's nonetheless good fun to try and do. I know full well that "Angel of Death" is out of the question appearing on the game though...

Wednesday 25th April - A Long Day

For some reason after the day in Sheffield, today felt a rather long day all round. There was plenty to do at work, and I spent most of the day testing out the new staff laptop image with a Samsung NC110 netbook. The image we had installs the drivers and that seemed to be fine, but on closer inspection I spotted that some of the drivers were missing, there were just generic ones and so got the correct bluetooth, sound and graphics drivers and so when I tried an image again with the driver package correct, it worked flawlessly and actually did the job very nicely indeed.

Now the members of staff concerned had said that they couldn't get outside of their wireless networks at home when they tried to connect, and so I thought I'd test it by replicating what would happen if they took it home, and so close by to me there's a café that has free wireless access, and they publish the network name and password for their customers. So at lunch time, armed with the netbook, I headed over, had a very nice coffee (which was only £1.20, beat that Costa and Starbucks!) and did a test connection, and soon enough I had an IP address and was surfing the net quite happily, so at least I knew I could give it back to them without any issues.

After work I headed out of the city, not home but instead to a colleague of my uncle's who wanted me to check over their iMac and see what could be done to upgrade it in terms of the version of Mac OS and the RAM. As it was the first generation Intel 17" iMac from 2006, getting to the RAM slots was pretty easy and it confirmed that it took DDR2 PC-5300 RAM, and no more than 2GB in total. And the Mac in question would take Snow Leopard, but going to Lion would be pushing it massively.

We also got the new TV hooked up to the wireless network and that even had BBC iPlayer on the Philips Smart TV part of it, which seemed to work nicely. Almost as nicely as the full web browser, apart from the fact that the interface seemed very clunky in terms of searching for a web address. Realistically any smart TV needs to have a keyboard or mouse to be plugged into it to get the most out of it (or cordless dongles to work with it would be nice) but still, all good really.

The rain hammered it down on the way back and I was glad that by the time I arrived back in the centre of Manchester that it stopped, before I walked back to the bus home, but it'd been a good and productive (if somewhat rather busy!) day all told. Tune of the day in case you were wondering is the excellent "Lucretia My Reflection" by The Sisters of Mercy, the sort of song that suits listening to with the rain hammering it down outside. I don't know why it works, maybe it's the constant bass line through the song that drives you on but it's an under-rated goth classic no less.

Thursday 24th April - Rocketing Through

It was a day off work and so off on the train to Sheffield, as it was another day at The Crucible Theatre for the World Snooker Championship, as you do. I was really excited to go again and not least because I had the likes of Judd Trump and Ronnie O'Sullivan lined up for today's matches, which of course was going to make it pretty exciting stuff. It was a packed train from Manchester, added to by the fact that plenty of the National Union of Students delegates were off to the city as well for their annual general meetings, mainly hosted in the City Hall, a wonderful building in itself of course.

I arrived at Sheffield, walked up the hill and was soon walking around the outside of the theatre. I spotted Ding Junhui coming in and he seemed pretty relaxed before his match with Ryan Day, and quite happy to stop and chat to a few fans beforehand. People have accused Ding of being a bit aloof, but nothing further from the truth to be honest, he just wanted to relax and be calm before the match. I saw Judd Trump head in and he didn't look 100% to me - something was definitely awry. I was to find out later he'd had a touch of food poisoning, had been sick earlier in the morning and was debating pulling out.

Just before I went in for the morning session, I spotted the legend that is Steve Davis come and accost Joe Perry, who was practicting before his match in the afternoon. Steve got Joe to autograph the now legendary waistcoat that he's auctioning off for charity, and hopefully all of the 32 players who made it to The Crucible will have signed it by the end of the week. Steve seemed relaxed and pretty chilled out, and was commentating later in the day and so was ready to give his expert analysis. Well, he has won it six times, you know!

Before the morning session started, there was a nice touch from the MC Rob Walker. He picked two kids out of the crowd and got them to do the walk ons pretending they were the players. One was Judd Trump and this Chinese lad was Ding Junhui. When he went to the seat he even sat cross legged with head resting on hand like a lot of the players do, and later on was signing autographs from the chair, as Rob said "way too cool, and he's not even held a cue yet!". It was a great moment and one which warmed up the crowd nicely before play commenced.

You could tell Judd wasn't 100% as Dominic Dale battled with some good safety to win a forty plus minute first frame. He wasn't playing too badly either and did deserve a 3-1 lead at the interval, although it must have been offputting hearing plenty of people yell out "Come on Judd!" every two minutes. A bit annoying actually, and referee Brendan Moore had to tell them to shut up, as it was putting off the other two players on the other table. After the mid-session Judd fought back and after winning a tight eighth frame, let loose with some fancy shots on the colours in the ninth to be ahead 5-4 at the end of the first session, so that was good.

I went and grabbed a sandwich for lunch and relaxed a while, and saw plenty of people out and about around the city centre, always good to see. It was then back in for the Ronnie O'Sullivan v Peter Ebdon match, and Ronnie was 7-2 up after the first session. It might be three frames, it might be more, depends on how the match goes I guess. Ronnie looked up for it when he came out and Ebdon was going to have to battle to win this one, I reckoned. Ronnie played well, and Ebdon matched him frame for frame initially, and at the mid-session the match was 9-4 and Ronnie's to lose.

I must admit though it was annoying that some "fans" (and I use the term loosely) were content with shouting out every time for "Come on Ronnie!" etc, and Jan Verhaas, refereeing Graeme Dott v Joe Perry on the other table had to appear around the partition to tell them to shut up as the other players were being out off. Three blokes in front of me were constantly chattering all the way through the session and I think the stewards wanted to kick them out - certainly I would have done given the chance. It's a shame that there are idiots like that and not more like the rest of the fans, who appreciate the sport and are silent watching the game apart from the deserved applause for good shots.

Ronnie won the match 10-4 with a cracking final break in the last, and the partition lifted so we could see the final four frames of the Dott v Perry session. Graeme was struggling massively, and no surprise that Joe went 8-0 up before Graeme managed to win the last frame (he even waved to the crowd after sinking the final colours to clinch the frame) but to be honest he was all out of sorts, and the harder he tried the worse he got for some reason. Nonetheless it was good to see another few frames of that so I'd get the money's worth.

I headed home on the train later and it was a very good day out all told, and it'll be the same on Saturday when I have two second round matches to go to, and one of them might feature Ronnie on one of the tables, so with a bit of luck I might get to see some frames on that one. Tune of the day of course is "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band, the proper snooker theme and one that I wish that they'd play in between sessions at the Crucible to get the crowd warmed up nicely before play.

Monday 23rd April - Blue Monday

Had a pretty busy day in the office today, not helped by one netbook being particularly not well. The main issue was that if it wanted to join a wireless network outside of our domain that had any form of security, it didn't work when the users took it home. In order to check this out, I actually did lunch and coffee at one of the bars close to work who have wireless and allow you to use it - it does have a security key as well so it was a good chance to try it there at the same time. And it failed.

In the end and with the users' agreement, and because it would have to be done some time anyway, I started to re-image it with our Windows 7 laptop image - only for the process to appear to be on go slow for some reason. A few calls later and I found out why this was and so just had to leave it imaging away on slow speed. Hopefully when I get back in on Wednesday it'll be done, I'll test the external wireless access from outside the domain and so be able to hand it back accordingly. Here's hoping!

After work I got myself something to eat, and also did a shed load of ironing and then my friend came over to collect us. We were heading to one of the supporters' meetings for Manchester City and the guests tonight were the presnter from City Square, the very lovely Natalie Pike, and Andy Morrison, the former captain around the time of our 1998-99 season and one who made a difference in getting us up from the third tier of English football - without the likes of him, where we'd be I have no idea.

It was a good question and answer session and I noticed that everyone was asking Andy all the questions and I felt a bit sorry that Natalie was missing out. I thought I'd ask them both to answer what their memories were of Shaun Goater were and their favourite one. Andy said it was his personality which was infectious and that he was just a top man - and I agree - and Natalie referred back to the picture she has of when Shaun got the ball off Gary Neville and then scored past Fabian Barthez - which was an ace moment all round.

It was a great night and both Natalie and Andy were great - they signed my friend's 1954-55 retro City shirt, and were happy to pose for pics and so on, so many thanks to them for that. I just have so many fond memories of when Andy was a City player and his passion for the club shone through - and as Natalie does the City Square thing every home game she really shows her love and knowledge of City as well. Great stuff, and it was the perfect start to the week before heading to Sheffield tomorrow.

Tune of the day has got to be "Blue Moon" as done by Supra - which I think we need to play next Monday on derby day and crank the volume up massively to get the City fans singing along in unison. It'd just make for an awesome atmosphere and one that I would really love to see. Whenever I hear that tune I think of City and how much they mean to me - and believe me they do. Almost as much as The Love In My Heart, but not quite. But almost.

Sunday 22nd April - Lazy(ish) Sunday

It had been a busy weekend and we were both tired for one reason or another (and before you ask, no it wasn't the drink!). We sauntered up during the morning, me first to watch the morning session of the snooker on BBC HD and giving The Love In My Heart a well deserved lie in. I did make her some breakfast and coffee and bring them up to her when she was ready to be up and about, and she looked lovely in her top when she was ready and that for me is always a special feeling - seeing how lovely she looks. Awww. I know!

We decided to head out despite the rain as she needed a couple of bits for the car and also some paint to paint one of the bedrooms in her place. She'd decided on this mojito green which is a Crown paint, and it's quite a nice shade (very close to the Willow Tree I have in the bathroom in fact) - and the B&Q nearest her didn't have it for some reason. So a stop to Halfords first and got all that sorted, and we went in the discount shop next door to there to see what bargains that they had - and it was tempting to buy lots, but I was good and didn't (I could well have done though!)

We then went to B&Q and just avoided the incessant rain before heading in (although it was then sunny again when we left - go figure eh?). It was good to locate the right paint and although not cheap, it was the colour she wanted. The more difficult task was actually locating a tin which wasn't dinted at the side, and we only found one like that. Still, it was good and it meant that it was all sorted, and we then headed home and relaxed for a bit with Great British Railway Journeys, focussing on Buxton and Matlock.

After that I knew it was the final score between Man U and Everton and I had flicked on Teletext when I got home to see it was 4-2 to United. Did I expect it to finish 4-4? No way! That was ace though, and it meant that if City won later the gap would be down to three points and that the derby would be beautifully poised next Monday if we were to win at Wolves - which we did later on 2-0. When I saw the highlights on Match of the Day later it wasn't a convincing performance but it was enough, with Sergio Agüero on the scoresheet again so that was all good.

The Love headed home to do some stuff around the house and I spent the rest of the day doing some washing and ironing myself as well as keeping an eye on the snooker. It was good to see Stephen Hendry finish off Stuart Bingham 10-4 and Neil Robertson beat Ken Doherty by the same scoreline - which did mean that the session finished early. You'd have been a tad gutted to get tickets for that and be all over by around 8.45pm, but that's the way it happens sometimes.

Tune of the day in the meantime is quite apt really in that a few weeks ago it looked like City's title chase was over, and that it was all despair, but now there's hope again. And what better way to think of that than "Pearshaped" by The Floe - a beautiful song that has the title that shows how it can go one way or another. And because it's a gorgeous song with gorgeous piano and gorgeous vocals. Almost as gorgeous as the feeling of hearing the Everton result in fact.

Saturday 21st April - Crucible and Costello's

I was up really early and left The Love In My Heart to get a well earned lie-in, as I was up, showered and ready and heading towards the city centre. As the bus headed past Piccadilly Records, there was already a queue forming as Record Store Day was today and so lots of limited items were coming out. I guess there'd be some people there who would be buying them and flogging them on eBay, which is a sad state of affairs really, but despite the incessant rain plenty of people were queueing up waiting for the shop to open. And this I should say was at 7am!

I got to Piccadilly Station, collected my tickets and it was off to platform 13 for the 0742 departure to Sheffield. East Midlands Trains who were providing the service this morning seems to have improved their trains somewhat since I last went to Sheffield with them - and it was much more comfortable and clean. I'd already got a coffee from Costa for the journey ahead, so was able to see the sky clearing the rain away and it at least n not be chucking it down by the time I got to Sheffield. I had a bit of time spare so walked around the city a bit and also spotted the markets setting up for the day, and then also saw some players making their way to the Crucible.

It was in to the theatre and to the orange door where my seat in row M was. It was a little high up but from there I had a great view of the table and was able to get to the aisle exit for the interval later easily enough. Rob Walker came out and introduced the players as well as Michaela Tabb refereeing the first round game that I was going to - so that was a nice bonus. The match I was watching was John Higgins v Liang Wenbo, and it turned out to be a pretty tense affair, with the first half of the session taking ages to complete frames, Higgins 3-1 up at the interval.

The second half of the session sped up considerably although there was no way that either player was doing a big enough break to get over the line, in truth, and even after a decent break there was still some time for either player to take the frame before one got over the line. At one point Wenbo was 4-3 up and building a nice break but got out of position, and the next shot he put the red in but the white went in-off, and from there Higgins cleaned up and then took the next one to be 5-4 up at the end of the session. It was a pretty close thing though and the session ended late, so didn't get chance to spot any of the afternoon sessions' players around Sheffield.

I headed back to the train station and headed on the train back to Manchester Piccadilly, and from Platform 14 it was the long walk to the station front and then (eventually!!) on the bus home, and it was manic around the Apollo as McFly were playing and lots of teenagers were outside queueing up. I got home, checked the pictures that I'd taken and put some of them up on Flickr as the start of my World Championship set this year. By this time it was time for The Love In My Heart to head over to my place, where we'd then be going out.

Myself and The Love were ready and we took the bus back into the city centre and stopped off at The Waterhouse pub, where we had tea. I had the mixed grill which was very nice indeed, and I even had some of the waffles with ice cream for dessert which was just spot on, and then it was off on the tram to Altrincham, where we'd be heading to Costello's on Goose Green. That bar is the home of lots of lovely Dunham Massey ales, and they're usually spot on. Tonight was no disappointment, let me tell you.

We had a very lovely evening with The Love's friend and her husband (who's a top bloke all round). We had plenty to catch up on and it was good to relax with a few beers and just take it relatively easy. The place was pretty busy all round, much more so than when we were last in there, which shows to me that people look like they appreciate the good ales on offer. I had the Bowdon Parish Ale and the Dunham Dark, which was fab, and that really did set the tone nicely. The time sped by and before we knew it, it was getting close to midnight, so back to Manchester on the tram and the night bus home...

Tune of the day is what the BBC should still be using for the snooker coverage, but haven't been doing. It's "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band, which we all know as the proper snooker theme. It has some great guitars and just to me reminds me of David Vine in the 1980s welcoming us to the Crucible as the next round of matches unfolded in the late night highlights. Ah, those were the days and the tune was just evoking of all of those memories.

Friday 20th April - Friday Night Meal Out

It was pretty busy at work and I spent a fair bit of time working out how I'd be deploying a suitable way of deploying an update for our of the pieces of software we use on some PCs. I did know that we could use SCCM to deploy it, and I also knew that the install executable actually unpacked an MSP patch which we could then deploy. I spent some time getting the MSP and then placed it on one of our deployment servers, and created an application package. From then it was just a case of setting up a program to perform the patch required, which was msiexec /update <name of patch.msp> /qn - making it a quiet and silent install.

This seemed to work spot on with our 32-bit Windows 7 machine in the office, but for some reason failed on the 64-bit test rig I have. A quick check of the vendor's website revealed why - there's actually separate patches for the 32-bit and 64-bit releases! I therefore did the same thing to extact the MSP on the 64-bit machine, and then uploaded that patch to the server, and added the 64-bit patch as a separate program to the package. And badabing! It works, flawlessly too, so that was really really good. It's nice when things work.

After work I headed straight into the city centre and then back out again on the bus to The Love In My Heart's place. She had only just got back herself after a long day at work so we spent some time getting ourselves ready and all sorted, and it was nice just to relax with a bit of telly as well and catch up and chat. Always nice, that. Even nicer was after me doing a lot of running around at work to dive in the shower and get myself all looking good and ready for the evening.

Our friend came to collect us on the dot at 7.30 and we headed back to his place, where he and his partner were looking after us. We'd brought the wine and ale, and ale fans amongst us were happy enough, and I had the Brewers Dark at first which was gorgeous as per usual. I think the other fan also liked the King Goblin, so that was rather nice to see. There was some nice chilled out tunes on, and we soon had the main of a very nice chicken mushroom and leek pie, done slightly differently so that the filling was on the plate with the lid of pastry on top, with a nice touch - each of the lids had the name initials on!

That was gorgeous as was the cheese board with all sorts of nice cheese on - the one with the black pepper was gorgeous and some of that with some crackers just filled the gap nicely at the end of the evening. There were three CDs in the compilation "Keep Calm and Relax" and some of it was better than others, but what was a nice surprise was on "Don't Leave" by Faithless, which I still really like even now - tune of the day without question on that one.

We'd had a lovely evening, with great company, some nice wine and real ale and some good tunes, and plenty of conversation as well - lots of it, ranging from holidays in the future, to recent trips away including what sounded like a horror hotel in London, and even a little present for The Love which was this gorgeously cute espresso mug and saucer with the Chinese year of the horse on, so that was rather nice all round. And a great way to start the weekend too, so thanks to them both for being so accommodating but also having a nice atmosphere and great food. That's ace!

Thursday 19th April - Busy Bunny

Had a pretty busy day at work today - I was covering most of the support calls that came in, and with the weather being a bit icky, it was a case of timing the walks out to other buildngs so that I wouldn't get too drenched from the wet weather. However, we found out mid-afternoon that for some reason the power in one of the rooms with network switches in went off, and a couple of colleagues were trying to get all of that sorted out, and whilst that was happening, I had plenty of people saying that they couldn't log in and that would have made sense as one of the switches in that room has one of the main LDAP servers as well.

Anyway, with the power back on, I checked all the servers with a colleague, made sure that they were all up and doing what they were supposed to do, and that was a relief. The problem of course is though that the power was back, it would have been nice to know just why it went off and what would happen in future if it did the same again. At least it meant that we were able to be responsive and showed that we were still very much on the ball. I had a meeting to go to as well during the afternoon so it was definitely very busy and very non-stop, so was pretty manic all round.

It was then later on a case of washing, ironing and getting some clothes ready for my overnight bag as well, as The Love In My Heart and I were heading out tomorrow night. When The Love arrived at mine it was time to head to Tesco, as I wanted to get the food shopping sorted out as well as get some ale and wine for when we go out. We got the four ales for £5.50 which included King Goblin as well as Tribute, so that was pretty good, and also managed to get some lovely wine thrown in as well, so no complaints there.

Once we headed home, I made us some tagliatelle carbonara for tea, which was rather nice all round, and we watched the retro stuff on BBC Four on Top of the Pops. A lot of the songs dated back from 1977 and you could tell in a lot of cases as some of the songs were pretty cheesy to say the least. However, one song that I do remember and one that'll be tune of the day is "Pearl's a Singer" by Elkie Brooks. It just seemed to have some feel about it back then, starting off slow and then building up dramatically, which at least was tons better than say the Dead End Kids or Showaddywaddy..

Wednesday 18th April - Snooker Loopy!

I managed to book off next Tuesday off work, having finally had my leave card back with the initial leave that I'd booked on there, and so with the Tuesday off had organised a visit to Sheffield to see some of the World Snooker Championship there - namely Judd Trump v Dominic Dale in the morning, and then Ronnie O'Sullivan v Peter Ebdon in the afternoon. I felt pretty pleased with that because it's not often you get to see two pretty quick players (and crowd pleasers too I should add) in consecutive sessions on the same day - not least because tickets for those usually sell out pretty quickly.

I also craftily remembered that booking advance tickets on East Midlands Trains means that you save £1 on their advance fares each way, and had done that last week, so when I got home from work I was looking at seeing if I could get any tickets for the afternoon session of the Saturday 28th April (I already had a morning session ticket you see). And lo and behold, I got one, woo! It was for the winner of the O'Sullivan/Ebdon match above against either Mark Williams or Liu Chuang, and it'd be the second session of their round two game. So all good, then, that's a week on Saturday sorted.

As such I then booked the trains with East Midlands Trains and the train there to Sheffield from Manchester was a mere £3 single, bargain! Okay, so it leaves Manchester a bit earlier at 0742 and gets in to Sheffield at 0834, but that does give me time for breakfast before the 1000 session starts and also means I can relax a bit with the train most likely less busy as well. All good to be honest, and it's cheaper to travel. And you can also get cash back via the Top Cashback website, so that's even handier too. Always good when you can save money if you ask me.

So that's me all excited then, it works out I've got five sessions of snooker to look forward to thus far: one this Saturday and then two each on the Tuesday and the Saturday after. I feel I need to listen to Chas and Dave's "Snooker Loopy", but instead I've picked something even better: The Doug Wood Band's "Drag Racer" which as everyone will know is the proper snooker theme and one I really wish that the BBC would bring back in its original form for the TV coverage, not their remixed horrible version in comparison. Tune of the day therefore was an easy decision!

Tuesday 17th April - Raining Blood in the Abyss

I finally managed today to work out what the issue was with the member of staff who couldn't get that piece of software to run yesterday. It turned out that although he had a static IP, the DNS addresses weren't right, they were pointing not to the correct DNS servers but instead an LDAP server, so I'm guessing that resolution wasn't quite happening. And as the SQL system DSN entry referred to the server by its name and not its IP, then there was the answer. Sure enough, I did that and everything connected straight away without issues. Must admit I felt pretty good about that one!

I got home later on and noticed that the recent set of downloads for Rock Band 3 for the Wii included a three pack of songs by the mighty Slayer. Oh yes, especially when it was "Raining Blood", "South of Heaven" and "Seasons in the Abyss", the latter two haven't appeared in any music game before and the former is always a challenge, especially on guitar and drums. As I've previously clocked Raining Blood on Guitar Hero Smash Hits on expert vocals, I thought it'd be worth a go to see how it was.

And I have to say - what the hell, EA and Harmonix? There's three things which detract from the Slayer classic when played on Rock Band 3. First of all, the cowbell. Yes, to make the vocal bits a bit more difficult you have to hit the mic in time as you do on other songs, but this results in a cowbell sound and your character playing the cowbell on screen. This is Slayer - they don't do cowbell. They do kicking backside for crying out loud. Second, the overdrive phrases are in my view badly organised and you can't activate straight away on the first time thus wasting some power when it's at the end of the first block of vocals.

Last of all, and this is unforgivable, the lyrics are wrong! Death will be their acquisition, not acquiesence, a big difference the word makes in the context of the song it has to be said. I still managed 100% on expert of course, but it was kind of annoying. Thankfully, none of that in "Seasons in the Abyss" which played pretty well on vocals, no cowbell, the right lyrics, the sort of thing you appreciate a lot more, so tune of the day for that one. That wound things down nicely before The Love In My Heart came over.

We had some nice steak with peppercorn sauce for tea, and then we relaxed by watching the Great British Railway Journeys on BBC iPlayer (it had been on BBC Four earlier in the evening whilst I was cooking). It was good to see many parts of Cornwall and we discussed between us how we'd both like to head back down there at some point in time. I want to check the seal sanctuary at Gweek and The Love wants to check out the Camel Valley Vineyard, so I guess they're both doable at some point in time, so we shall see what happens.

Monday 16th April - Manic Monday

It was the start of the new student term at work today, and didn't we just know it? Everyone was back and plenty of people were asking all sorts of questions in terms of support, and I had a pretty important couple of days scheduled in. One of our departments uses a piece of database software that runs off its own dedicated server, and for the software to work correctly on Windows 7 in the future, it needed to have an update run. One of the staff in the department who looks after the server side of it was happy to do the server update and then I'd do the client update installs on the machines afterwards.

In essence, it worked pretty well too - I went round during the afternoon and most of the client installs went well, apart from one, and it was the member of staff who had done the server side. Apparently by all accounts he was never able to run the software on his machine, and I noticed a couple of things which looked different on his compared to other machines that were running fine, and so I had a few things to check to see. I had a feeling it was either that there were remnants of an old SQL DSN record to do with an old database and it was trying to connect to that, or something else which might have been obvious to look at.

I pondered on that as I headed home, having had a late finish at work because of the time and delays that the job had taken. It was good though to then get straight on the Wii Fit and do some good exercises on that, and overall it worked pretty well today as I had managed to almost beat my best on the extended step as well as finally get a good enough score to earn four stars on the parallel stretch. I really do need to get the Wii Fit Plus game at some point to further stretch myself and get more exercises along the way, but for now I'm not doing too bad really. I can feel like I've lost some weight too, so it's all for a good cause really.

I also spent some time tonight doing some research for the forthcoming holiday next month and what we could get up to when we're over there. One of the things close to Nice that we didn't explore last time was Mont Boron, which is a mount that overlooks Nice on one side and Villefranche-sur-mer on the other, and the views are supposed to be rather nice up there. If they're anything as lovely as the views from Éze, then it'll be well worth the trip up. I guess too that with a few days there it'll be good to have a relaxing time but to see some of the sights when we can.

Tune of the day is nothing short of excellent, it's "Nosebleeder Turbo TV" by Pop Will Eat Itself. Just the thing to wind down to on a Monday when it's been busy and you just want to expend some energy to let go of any frustrations during the day. It's full on with fast guitars, pounding drums and a real sense of pace and urgency throughout the whole thing. And having pogoed to this when seeing them live, it was just the stuff of awesomeness, let me tell you.

Sunday 15th April - Sunday Shopping Stroll

It was up early for me this morning as the Chinese Grand Prix was on BBC1 HD with a race start of 8am, and I must admit it was good to see the race live on proper telly. Whilst still very disappointed at which the BBC gave up their exclusive rights and sold some of their souls to Sky (along with the likes of Martin Brundle, Ted Kravitz and David Croft heading over there too) I have to say their coverage today was pretty good. Ben Edwards is an excellent motorsport commentator anyway and I think being given the F1 job was the right thing to do - him and David Coulthard work well together in the box, and there was plenty going on to keep you occupied.

I have to say well done to Nico Rosberg on his first ever win and Mercedes' first ever as a factory Mercedes team since 1955, and Rosberg dominated the race massively. I think if Jenson Button's last pit stop wasn't ballsed up, it might have been a more closer thing as it was clear that Jenson was being held up, especially by the fading tyres of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, but getting past for second place was the best he could do and he did that, with Lewis Hamilton in third. It also means that Hamilton leads Button by two points in the drivers' championship, so good to see the British boys at the top.

After having a bit more rest, we got up and headed out into the city centre. The Love had some gift cards for Debenhams and wanted to have a look at a few dresses that she'd seen. It was good just to relax and shop with her because she doesn't take forever anywhere but just generally gets some ideas and looks for something to go with it, and that usually results in something lovely. In fact she picked out three dresses, all of which she looked gorgeous in when trying them on and the difficult decision was which one to pick. She picked a gorgeous blue paisley patterned one in the end which she looked stunning in!

We headed into TK Maxx as well and I had a look at the men's stuff in there, although I did find a couple of nice pairs of jeans and trousers in there, typical fashion was that they weren't my size. Officially that was meh, but we went around the Arndale for a while anyway and was good to see people taking their opportunity to go on the Manchester Wheel for the last time before it's taken down for the Summer (and possibly beyond!) and with the weather being nice and clear, the perfect chance to do so really.

We then headed to the Virgin Lounge for a well earned coffee, and it was good to relax in there and take it easy. The really posh Yamaha piano on there was on auto play (has to be seen to be believed, it's well smart) and that provided a perfect ambience whilst we were relaxing in there. We had a quick blast of the web on the iMacs, saw how busy it was in Jamie's Italian, and all was well with the world. I headed back to Debenhams to look at the blokes' stuff, but there was hardly anything on sale worth considering, so we decided it was time to head home and I made us a lovely tagliatelle with meatballs for tea.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Gone Away" by AloneMe, from their album "Sketch". In case you wondered, AloneMe eventually became The Floe, and you know how much I like them. Anyway, there's plenty of lovely tracks on the album, but somehow the acoustic and vocal feel of "Gone Away" really does set the scene wonderfully well and the incisive lyrics and beautiful voice of Sarah really does pierce the atmosphere with a serene beauty. Worth hunting down if you get chance.

Saturday 14th April - The Joy of Six

Had a pretty busy but good day today, especially as I didn't have to cook all day and ate out not once but twice, good eh? After getting up, sorting out some Wii Fit training, vacuuming the house, doing a shed load more washing and on top of that watching the F1 qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix (and on proper telly too, hurrah!) - then it was time to head into the city centre, the first stop being the lovely people in The Northern Cutter to get my hair chopped and nicely sorted out. It was good that it wasn't busy and both the staff in there and me were discussing the Grand National and whom we'd backed.

After that it was off to the Waterhouse pub for a spot of lunch and to meet my friend from South Shields, who was down in Manchester for the weekend with his nearest and dearest. It was lovely to meet them both and we had a well earned drink or two and indeed some very nice food as well. What we didn't realise was that with the grill meals (such as the gammon I had) you got a free drink of your choice, so obviously I went for a nice real ale, be rude not to. That was nice seeing them both and we had plenty to chatter about as well, so was all good. They had some plans for the evening which I think involved more nice pubs, so I am sure they'll have had a good time!

I headed back home after that and got home in good time to see the Grand National unfold before my eyes, and to see if the horses I backed would win me any money. It was amazing to see that plenty of the bookmakers in the city centre were packed with people, not just placing their bets but craftily keeping their eyes on the football scores. I had found out that Manchester City had done the business big style against Norwich City, winning 6-1 away from home, so I suspected Match of the Day just might have to be watched later on to say the least!

Anyway, back to the National. After a delay when the horse Synchronised parted company with AP McCoy and went for a wander to the 12th fence on his own, everyone lined up and we got underway. It seemed a fair pace and a few blunders around the first circuit, including one of the horses I backed Organisedconfusion going down at the Canal Turn. I still had two left at the end of the first lap, but by the open ditch the 19th that was realistically down to one as Deep Purple was being pulled up. As the horses got over the final ditch four from home I noticed my other choice and last year's winner Ballabriggs pulling up ground and catching the leaders.

As the horses got over the last I knew I wasn't going to win, but knew my horse would finish, and it was 6th in the end. However it was a titanic scrap between Neptune Collonges and Sunnyhill Boy after they both overtook Seabass in the run in (kudos to jockey Katie Walsh though for being the highest placed female jockey ever) and it was almost a dead heat, although on the photo finish it was clear that Neptune Collonges had just nicked it by the smallest of possible margins. And it was tiny!

Later on The Love In My Heart came over, looking very nice in her new top that she'd got, and we both headed out to Cheadle and to the Ashlea pub, where we were meeting a couple of friends to celebrate our friend's birthday which was today. We usually always have a good meal in there, and tonight was no exception. Aided by some lovely background music including The Smiths' "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" - tune of the day right there, it was a lovely setting and the food was spot on. I had the mushrooms with stilton to start and they were cooked just right on some nice crispy bread, and that filled me up well, and then the steak and ale pie for main which was heavenly.

This was then followed very nicely indeed by the really lovely creme brulee for dessert, and I even had a coffee after that which made the evening much more relaxed. The Love's belly pork main looked rather heavenly it has to be said, as well as the pate starter. It was the first time our friends had seen The Love since her birthday, so it was nice of them to bring her presents along too - some lovely stacking mugs with cupcakes on the outside of them, the Next Just Pink perfume and the Realness of Concealness cosmetic thingy from Benefit too - they're so lovely, my friends are. Our friend liked their presents for their birthday too - Mrs Brown's Bloomers and Kung Fu Season 1 on DVD, and a little sewing kit which goes well with her main present she got - a sewing machine!

Once The Love and I had got back to ours later it was on with Match of the Day and to see Man City's performance against Norwich. And wow, what a game! Norwich to be fair played pretty well but we were just lethal in front of goal, notably both goals from Sergio Agüero were superbly taken, and three for Carlos Tévez as well. It at least brought the gap to Man U down to two points, well till tomorrow as I can't see them losing against Aston Villa at home to be honest, but still, it just goes to show that you just have to win your games and see what happens! Awesome stuff from City today.

Friday 13th April - Almost Unlucky

I'm not one for superstitions as such, but I do sometimes think I have some kind of trikadeskiaphobia (it's spelt something like that) which is a fear of the number thirteen. I used to believe that anything during the week including the 13th might not always work out, but have kind of relaxed a bit since then and instead thought of things happening as fate: ie: if they do happen, they will happen and there's nothing I can do about it. Sort of like this morning really. I had all sorts of fun and games trying to get a piece of software to work for a user, and eventually I worked out why it didn't play ball and took some steps to fix it, so that was productive.

I spent some time this afternoon looking at getting a reliable way of deploying Quick Time Player to some PCs without adding all the unnecessary gubbins such as Apple Software Updates, as you obviously want to control the versions on machines to be reliable. Eventually I worked it out pretty well. The QuickTime installer file actually has three MSI files and an admin executable which basically chains the lot together. However, you only need the Apple Application Support and Quick Time MSIs to install, in that order, and you're good to go. Silent installations of those - easy.

However, I tweaked the Quick Time MSI with Orca and generated a transform, because, stupidly, if updating from 7.7 to 7.71, Apple thinks that you're updating a newer version with an old one. Eh? So I got the transform to remove a line, effectively bypassing the check, and then ensured a couple of other setup switches were set so that it wouldn't attempt to install the software updater, nor would it necessarily need to even look for it. And added on top of that was a nice piece of transform work which also ensured that no desktop icons showed for it either, so all was very well there.

I headed to Tesco to do the food shopping after work and really managed to get everything I needed for not that much dosh. I was pretty crafty and spotted a few decent offers, and also got plenty of fish as well to go with some rice and other things that I have - it's my continued attempts to eat more healthily and I think that sometimes it's easier to get something that I like and also doesn't take forever to make - as you're more likely to cook it then. I got home, did a bit on the Wii Fit and also made myself some haddock for tea, before settling in to do some cleaning, washing and ironing around the house as I knew I had a busy day ahead tomorrow.

Tune of the day in the meantime is Skunk Anansie's "Selling Jesus". I've been listening a lot again to the band's first album "Paranoid and Sunburnt" which after all these years is still a classic and indeed one of the best debut albums out there. The opener sets the scene brilliantly and is full on rock, with plenty of crunching riffs, powerful drums that hold it together along with that vocal from Skin that just pierces the air with clarity and power in equal measure. One day the band will feature in Rock Band 3, one day...

Thursday 12th April - Snooker Loopy!

Another long day today and with good reason. After we'd spent some time getting the Mac image ready and indeed a couple of external hard disks which had Mac OS X on plus the image that we needed, and so were ready to get everything all sorted. In fact the site we were setting them up on actually had located us a work room where we could go and set things up, so we had all the Macs in the location there, we unboxed them, connected a USB keyboard and mouse along with our external hard drives, and then just booted to the external drive, ran disk utility from that and restored our disk image to the iMac. And do it again. And again.

By lunch time we'd managed to get all the ten iMacs imaged, so in the afternoon we headed back and placed them where they needed to be, and tried also to lock them down to the desk as much as we could too. It was good in the end that we got it done because we felt like we'd managed a difficult task well with good team work and co-ordination as you needed, so that was most excellent. I also then spent some time looking at how you could possibly add a file to an MSI by creating the MST with the necessary entries you want, and adding the files in there. But for what I want it to do, it looks like it's not going to play ball. Which is, of course, officially meh. I might have another go at it tomorrow.

I'm pretty pleased though with things outside of work because I managed to sort a few things out for the near and far future. First of all, I was up bright and early this morning because I knew that the Travelodge sale was on, and wanted to get the one in York cheap for when myself and The Love in My Heart sees Jools Holland at the Barbican Centre in November. Managed to get two nights at the same one we stayed in last time for a mere £19.50 per night, so happy days all around there.

And, weeks after thinking that I wasn't getting a ticket, I managed to get myself a ticket for the opening day of the World Snooker Championship! I've got the first session of the first day, which is what I try and get to go to as it sets the scene perfectly for the championship methinks. It's even the defending champion John Higgins as well so that's good. It looked like a block of tickets were put back on sale after probably being not needed for some reason, so I managed to very quickly snaggle one for myself, and then booked the trains. I found that East Midlands Trains' own website gave you £1 off their advance fares each way, and so meant I could go to Sheffield for £3 and back for £5, so £8 in all, bargain really. It does mean an earlier train in the morning, but that's fine - I can get some breakfast then before the session.

Tune of the day is "Seasons in the Abyss" the title track to Slayer's album of the same name. In case you're wondering why this is, it's because I found out that three Slayer tracks have made it to downloadable content for Rock Band 3, and this is one of them. One of the others is the classic "Raining Blood" which I've played on Guitar Hero 3 and Guitar Hero Smash Hits, but even so, that's still some epic metal. I dread to think how hard all three tracks (the other being "South of Heaven") are going to be on drums though, I wouldn't contemplate that unless you have legs like bloody pistons!

Wednesday 11th April - Back In The Groove

After another lengthy day at work, where most of the day was spent trying to get an application package uploaded for the 64-bit version of Adobe Design Standard CS5.5, it was good to get eventually out of the office and on my way home, and that was good to do. I made myself some smoked haddock and some lemon rice for tea, and that went down nicely before my friend came over to pick us up, and it was off to Fortress Etihad to see if Manchester City could get back some pride and start winning again at home after the blip against Sunderland the other week.

It was a fairly quiet walk over to the Etihad, but as we got close to the ground the atmosphere grew, and you could sense the moment that we might need to just see if we could win all our six remaining games and at least get some pride back at the end of the season, after being disappointing of late. Of course Manchester United were at Wigan the same night, and with the difference being eight points in their favour, it was too much of a mountain to climb for the title, surely. That said though a win for City is always good so we were both hoping for at least that.

We didn't have to wait long for a goal though as six minutes in Sergio Agüero surged forward and blasted a shot from twenty yards out which went low and hard into the bottom corner of the net, a gorgeous finish and that was 1-0 to us. That put us on a good start and there were other close chances, David Silva forcing a good save from the West Brom keeper Ben Foster, and Micah Richards also going close. For me it showed that we were playing good stuff even if they were putting ten men behind the ball. Another goal had to come, surely.

And it did, thankfully. Another neat move saw some nice interplay which resulted in Samir Nasri's gorgeous little through ball to Agüero who didn't miss from there and slotted it low for 2-0. Just as we scored that goal, news was filtering through and pockets of fans were cheering around the ground. We soon discovered that Wigan had taken the lead against United and indeed they'd had a goal disallowed already, so that lifted everyone. So did the next goal too, as Nasri and Agüero combined again, and Sergio had the calmness to pass the ball back to the six yard area where Carlos Tévez was waiting to pounce for 3-0.

So all good, and a few minutes later Agüero robbed one of the West Brom defenders of the ball, and he surged forward again, with Silva to his left. One neat pass later and Silva had chipped Foster for 4-0, and it was all too easy. Roberto Mancini took off Agüero and Tévez with a view to saving them for the away trip to Norwich on Saturday, and it was then a case of seeing what was happening at Wigan. Not long after we'd finished our game with a resounding 4-0 win, the scoreboard came up with the final score, which was a 1-0 win for Wigan. Oooh! Now that makes it slightly more interesting!

For those not in the know about the Premier League season, there's five games to go for both teams and City are now five points behind. However, one of those games is City playing United at the Etihad. If City won that, the gap would effectively be two points. And say if United drew one game and City won the rest, then as it stands because City's goal difference is superior, it would then be a title win for the Blues. Of course it could work the other way and a United win at the Etihad could effectively seal the title for them there too with two games to go, but you never know. It's going to be a roller coaster I think.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather brilliant "I Can Dream" by Skunk Anansie. When I used to see the band live in the mid to late 1990s first time around, they had a raw power of rocking with a tight foursome, and Skin was just a brilliant front woman who mesmerised the stage perfectly. This was one of my all time favourite songs of theirs and still is a great song - and with the above all happening, maybe I can dream of something? Oh, and if you don't have it in your collection, then "Paranoid and Sunburnt" is an album you must have. End of.

Tuesday 10th April - Back In The Flow

It was back to work today, and my was it busy! There were only two of us in our office and we'd been landed with a large task which has to be done by the end of the week - getting several new large iMacs ready for a student room on another site. We had one of them in our office as we were going to do some testing, but that had to go out of the window as we needed to formulate a plan, and pretty quickly. In the end we had it all worked out pretty well - we just needed to use a current student image we had, add on any additional software that we needed to and then see what happened.

In the end that was the sensible move, as installing Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Design Standard took a fair bit of time (around an hour in all) off the DVD, which needed to be there, and there were also plenty of software updates since the last image we used, so it made sense to get all that done first. In fact it will have saved us a considerable amount of time, and as my colleague was working on most of that, I helped out by imaging four new PCs that we had with our current Windows 7 image. It all made perfect sense to me to be honest and just goes to show sometimes that it's team work that gets you where you want to go.

I then headed home and did my almost customary daily work out on the Wii Fit, and managed to even surpass my own pretty decent record on the advanced step and scored over 650 points, which is very good indeed. It's all about timing and rhythm but also following the steps correctly too, and I'd hovered around the 640 point mark for ages, so to finally top that barrier was pretty good. I think the maximum you could actually get is 672 which should give you an idea of how decent I am!

It was lovely too to see The Love In My Heart, and I made us some very nice rump steak with chips and peas for tea, which went down a treat. It always feels good to do the cooking and the very nice bottle of rioja proved to be an inspired move as that tasted good to go with the steak, always a good thing methinks when you've got something to enjoy like that. And I'd had a nice surprise when someone that I used to work with many years ago got in touch with me, and it was nice to hear from them - so I was telling her about that.

We got out the Scrabble and it was on with the original vinyl version of Queen's "A Night At The Opera". I was tempted to put on the DVD-Audio version in nice full surround goodness, but I mentioned I had the vinyl and The Love said "well why not put that on and play it old school?" so I did. And it worked out pretty well, despite there being a few scratches on the record it still had that really lovely warm analogue sound, and with the guitars cranked up on certain tracks it worked gorgeously, not least on "I'm In Love With My Car", so that's a well deserved tune of the day.

Monday 9th April - Rainy Bank Holiday

The Love In My Heart and I looked outside and the weather was rubbish - tons of rain, and not much else. At this time I realised that I was glad that I'd spent some time last week getting the roof sorted because all that rain wouldn't have helped if the roof wasn't completely watertight, so felt much better and more secure knowing it had been done now. We had some bacon on toast for breakfast and had pottered around the house in very relaxed mode.

I was glad of the lie in too as I'd spent the last part of last night watching the Masters golf. Because of the time difference it's normally five or six hours behind what we are, and so this meant that it usually finishes around midnight our time. It was to and fro for the top five or six all round, with Phil Mickelson's disaster at the 4th and Louis Ouisthuizen's miracle albatross at the 2nd changing things. As it went near the end of the final round any one of six could have won the Masters, and unashamedly I was cheering Lee Westwood on, whom had got to one shot of the lead at one point.

As the final round drew to a close it was Ouisthuizen and Bubba Watson who were tied at -10, with Westwood, Mickelson, overnight leader Peter Hanson and Matt Kuchar (was it me or was everyone getting fed up of all the Americans yelling "Kuuuuuuuuuuuch!" every five minutes?) all on -8, so they all shared third place. The sudden death playoff proved to be exciting, especially down at the 10th hole, where Bubba hit an awesome shot from the pine straw to within metres of the flag, and he made sure of the title from there, and he was a tad emotional to say the least!

Back to today then and it felt sad as The Love headed home as she had some bits to do before heading back to work tomorrow, so I had recorded both parts of the Queen documentary on BBC Four and was then able to watch them without flicking back to Channel 4 as I had done the other night. It was intriguing and a real insight into the band and how the dynamics worked, and how during "A Day At The Races" they'd finally felt free of their existing tied down contracts and not having any money. From that album, "Somebody to Love" is tune of the day - it really does show just how meticulous the band were.

Sunday 8th April - The Easter Good Weather Hunt

It was Easter Sunday today, and because of my decision three years ago to give up chocolate, this meant no eggs, but to be honest, I've not missed having any whatsoever. In a way it's stopped me scoffing lots and becoming a greedy so and so, and it's also allowed me to focus the energies elsewhere, which again is something I should be doing more of. The Love made us both a very lovely breakfast with sausage, bacon, mushrooms and eggs with some toast, and we headed back to mine to drop some things off before heading off to Lyme Park.

Despite the inclement weather, the park was still pretty busy, more so around the hall and gardens because of an Easter Egg related hunt going on. You weren't going to locate eggs, but Easter chicks which were hidden around the hall. We spotted some as we made our way around, and it was intriguing to see where they'd been placed, such as the butler's pantry which is gradually being opened out to the public, and you can see the restoration work going on now, so that's good. In fact at least the hall was nice and warm because the wind and rain outside wasn't too pleasant.

After a nice walk around the Hall, we headed for the gardens, and the rain had thankfully stopped for a little while, so we headed around the gardens and at the back of the pond seeing the majestic view of the Hall from there, before heading towards the far end of the gardens along the path to the little arched bridge and waterfall, before walking past the orangery and to the Hall again, where a well earned carrot cake and coffee was waiting for me. Plenty of the children were having a good time with the hunt for the chicks and had earned their Easter eggs, so that was good - and it was all wholesome fun for them.

We then left the park, and it had been a nice walk around, but the weather was getting a bit more horrid and as we left the heavens did start to open a bit, so maybe it was a good move after all. We then decided it'd be daft to end the day there and so from High Lane we took the road to Marple and then on to Marple Bridge and headed in the Midland for a lovely drink together. I had the really nice Early Bird ale, and I noticed behind the bar that they were soon getting the Skinners of Truro's ale "Cornish Trawler", which might mean a visit there in the next month or two to give that a try, methinks.

It was nice and relaxed in the pub and so we spent some time relaxing leisurely, and I noticed that the pub was playing some cool chilled out vibes, including Nouvelle Vague's rather cutesy version of "Blue Monday". It's actually a really nice cover, and so tune of the day it is, it just somehow made the right vibe whilst we were ever so relaxed and all, and that was good. The weather had brightened up a bit, so I directed The Love to the way I'd walked the other day, but in the reverse direction so she could see the scenery. She did notice a place that her friend at work had mentioned to her about, so we at least now know where it is - we'll have to go there sometime methinks.

We got back home later and I made us a lovely meal - had some butternut squash soup to start along with some crusty granary bread which worked well, followed by some gammon with a honey glaze, with mini new potatoes and vegetables to go with it, which really did taste lovely. We'd even brought a couple of the raspberry frangipane tarts back with us, so I had that with a coffee before we relaxed and watched the first part of this week's Silent Witness, which looked really good to be honest. I hadn't seen it for ages since Amanda Burton left, so was good to give it another go I reckon. All in all then another good day despite the weather.

Saturday 7th April - A Walk and Some Cake

Had a relaxing morning today as I spent some time washing and ironing stuff for the weekend, and knew that it made more sense to do that now whilst I still had the time to do it. I also wanted to be sure that I'd got everything I needed for making a lovely meal tomorrow night when The Love In My Heart stays over, so was good to get all that done too. The time sped by though and before I knew it, it was around 11.30am and time to head on the bus to Fletcher Moss in Didsbury, where I'd be meeting a couple of friends off Flickr that I'd bumped into yesterday during the duck race.

I had made it on time, and soon enough the three of us were there, and were soon joined at the rockery by a couple of others whom I'd not met before but seemed nice enough people. They were often working as a pair - one carrying the tripods and what have you, and the other composing the shots. We spent a fair bit of time in the rockery getting some nice nature shots and generally enjoing the landscape. In fact plenty of families were doing the same, and they had their dogs on leads and were responsible, sensible dog owners, which has to be a good thing.

We then headed back up and to the Alpine Tea Rooms, and with it being weekend this meant that lots of lovely home made cakes were in the offing. Of course, that and a coffee would be a good way to relax, which is what we did. In fact, I couldn't resist and had the carrot cake - and I'm very pleased to report that it's still the best carrot cake around, it's lovely and moist enough, with a nice topping, and plenty of filling inside that just oozes quality ingredients. That and a coffee = me sorted. One of us had the Victoria Sponge and that looked beautifully lovely, and there was also a Guinness and chocolate cake, which had to be tried by another one of us too, so that was good.

We then walked downhill from the café, past the grass tennis courts that didn't have a net up or needed the grass cutting (hopefully soon though as playing tennis there would be good) and we soon walked to Stenner Lane, and stopped at the gate for the poplar trees. The tree lined avenue looked lovely as ever, and we said goodbye to the pair that joined us, which left the three of us heading along the poplar trees, up to the River Mersey where plenty of ducks were about on the water, and then following the Mersey Health Walk around for a while till we got to the wetland woods.

There we followed the path made with wooden stilts so you were above all the wetland and could see what was below, and this took you to the far end of Millgate Lane where we walked amongst some lovely blossom trees before heading back up past the café and to a well earned drink at The Didsbury pub - and the Deuchars IPA was on fine form there let me tell you. It was good for us all to earn it with a lovely walk and it felt good to be able to relax afterwards. It was a lovely day all told and so nice to spend it with some lovely people too. We then headed on the bus towards the city, and my two friends got off as they needed to, leaving me to head to the city and then on another bus straight to The Love's place.

The Love made an excellent evening meal and I felt spoilt, let me tell you. It was a chicken with parma ham stuffed with some mushrooms and cheese, and together with some potatoes and vegetables felt rather nice and delicious. The piece de resistance though was what she had been baking during the day - these raspberry frangipane tarts. I had one and they were stunning, lovely pastry with a melt in the mouth frangpiane and some gorgeous raspberry jam. With or without some cream, they were just truly scrumptious and I really wanted some more but had to stop myself, they were that good. Thank you so much xx

We then watched the lottery show before heading to Channel 4 for the Million Pound Drop. I honestly thought that the two from Manchester were going to do well, especially as they got to the end of question three with their million intact. And then on the next question, all their money went on what was a tricky question - which of the four answers were born the same year as MTV started in the USA? The correct answer was Britney Spears, but they left it clear. Still, thinking of MTV reminded me that it had to have started before 1985 because of Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing" song (tune of the day for me) - that of course had Sting going "I want my MTV" all the way through the intro...

Friday 6th April - The Not So Great Duck Race

After a relaxing morning and doing some exercises on the Wii Fit, I got myself up and ready and just after 1pm headed for the city centre. There'd been advertised the Manchester Duck Race, which was to be on the River Irwell close to Spinningfields. The idea was that there'd be the larger ducks first which were all corporate sponsored and made, and once that was over, all the little ducks that members of the public would buy would have their own race after that. I liked the idea even if the weather was conspiring not to make it the best day outside.

I got the bus into Piccadilly and then walked down Mosley Street before heading down Princess Street towards Albert Square. I spotted one of my lovely Flickr friends, who was waiting for another, and so it was easier to chat with them both, and the three of us headed down to Spinningfields together. It was completely unexpected, but a very nice surprise. We then headed along to the Left Bank area by the river, and it was pretty busy to say the least, and finding a decent vantage spot was pretty difficult. Got there in the end though.

Just after the 2pm start time there were two boats with a load of large rubber ducks, all customised rather nicely. However we spotted a most avoidable problem. The start line was on Bridge Street, and the finish line Quay Street, which effectively meant that your ducks would be going upstream. Surely the course would have been reversed so that there was more chance of downstream working, right? But no, they pressed on, released all the ducks and within around a minute it was obvious that no duck was going to do the full distance whatsoever, and they really went to try to salvage things - but the damage was done.

Everyone who was there thought "was that it?" and it was noticeable that plenty of people left not long after that as they'd realised what I had - that it wasn't going to work. Quickly a change of plan was hatched so that the smaller ducks purchased by the public would then go downstream from the pedestrian bridge to Bridge Street, and although that did take some time, it did at least have a finisher and a result, and the prizes that your little duck could win was pretty decent, so that worked out tons better.

After seeing the larger ducks being taken away in a crate and sneaking some shots of some of the disguised ducks (such as a pirate one which looked fab) it was time to head to the pub for a well earned drink, and so off to The Waterhouse we went. They even had King Goblin - on cask! Oh yes, I had to have some of that, and we had a good chatter as well which was very lovely. Of course, having nice ale always helps but I think too that when you've got three very different people but with some of the same passions (ie: photography) then it works well. We followed that up with a quick stroll around Chinatown before heading homewards.

In the evening I took it relatively easy and saw Million Pound Drop, but also watched the Queen documentary on BBC Four as well. I must admit I preferred the opening part with the 1970s era Queen, because for me most of their better songs are in that era. Knowing what a crucial point the whole "A Night At The Opera" album was on their career, when you read into the lyrics of "Death On Two Legs" it really was symoblic of their struggles, and so that's tune of the day - an apt piece of songwriting from Freddie a perfect start to that album in question.

Thursday 5th April - From Mottram in Longendale to Marple Bridge

I had a brainwave of sorts this morning. I thought that a nice long walk would do me good, and so decided that it would be good to take on a walk which would take me from Mottram in Longendale through Broadbottom, Charlesworth and Chisworth and down to Marple Bridge. This effectively meant that I could get the bus to the start point and from the end point, but also take in some of the gorgeous countryside views at the same time. So with camera in hand just in case, it was off into the city and then out again on the 201 bus all the way to its terminus on John Kennedy Road in Hattersley.

When I was very young, we had a flat in Hattersley and it's amazing to see that the place has changed a fair bit since then. One notable recent change seems to be a massive Tesco Extra popping up near the M67 roundabout, but also the community centre that seems to be going hand in hand with that - maybe it was part of the deal to have it built. The place seems a lot neater and tidier now, although near the railway station it could do with some work to look a little bit safer to the public. Once I'd got off the bus, it was a short walk to the main road and along to the lights to Mottram.

It was a nice walk through Mottram in Longendale first, spotting a very nice local chippy in an old stone cottage, and also the central square, Market Place, which had some stocks for some reason, as well as an old sign which gave you the distance in miles, and felt in character with many of the stone cottages of the village, very pleasing to the eye really. The cricket club was also worth noting because of its MCC sign on the weather vane, of course not quite the real MCC, but it was still very well kept as a ground and you could see a Summer day going very quickly here.

As I walked down the road and headed downhill, the village of Broadbottom approached. At the small park at Hillend which also hosts the Broadbottom cricket club, you could see the snow on the hills and how much of it was still there. It had all gone in the village and so I carried on walking down, past the railway station and how one of the older stone buildings now hosts a bowling alley and other facilities, and then under the railway bridge, and down to Lymefield, which hosts a small visitors centre, children's play area and also a walk past a heritage site of the old mills there which lead you to the Etherow Country Park too.

It was intriguing to see too then at the bottom of the hill the small bridge that takes you over the river Etherow, with the train line's viaduct high above you and the narrowness of the bridge. As I crossed the pedestrian side, a large lorry was trying to head over the bridge, not going to happen methinks. I think the sat navs are often to blame here and it showed that really you're best to stick to the main roads, even if he was delivering to the garden centre close to Lymefield.

A walk along the former quarry which is now a bridle path, and then following the way back to the road, it was then uphill (and then some) up to Charlesworth, which is a small and pretty village. It has a proper greengrocer, Peaches and Green, which served lots of fresh fruit and vegetables from the ground floor of another lovely stone cottage, and also further along is the village green, with a poem written to ensure people keep the place tidy. What was nice was that the whole village seemed very clean. I popped into the Dyson's village shop, and it was a gorgeous village place - it had lots of real ales (even King Goblin!) for a reasonable price, and they made fresh sandwiches and hot pies on the premises too - so I had a ham sandwich which was gorgeous, with lovely ham to boot. Hurrah for local stores I say.

On the other side of the road you could see a path and beyond that the hills with more snow, and it was rather scenic to say the least. I spent a few minutes there with my sandwich having a relaxing restful moment before carrying on slightly downhill to the next village of Chisworth, which was pretty small but had some horses in the fields, and also one of the most scenic places you'll ever see a red telephone box with some views over the hills and valleys beyond. It felt all very beautiful and more so when you walked past some farmer's fields with sheep and little lambs everywhere. Awww.

It was then along the main road, crossing the Derbyshire border back into Cheshire and then from there zig zagging past the Etherow Country Park and winding its way downhill (and pretty steep too) before turning left and heading towards Marple Bridge, which was some seven or so miles after I'd started. It didn't feel as long as I thought it would be, and it was a really enjoyable walk. I was sorely tempted to have some beer in the Midland at Marple Bridge, but thought better of it so instead headed home, and then back out to get the food shopping done.

The Love In My Heart came over later that evening and we had some lovely spaghetti carbonara together which I made, before I indulged her with the soaps and then we caught up with The Apprentice, and it was interesting to see the approaches taken to make a new condiment. I won't say who left except it was the right decision in my view - the person who left couldn't sell too well and really didn't sound so enthusiastic. After that we watched the documentary on iPlayer about sexism in football, and that was interesting stuff, and good to see Man City's ground hosting an event which was focussing more on how to combat it. Hurrah!

Tune of the day meanwhile is another track from The Floe's excellent Simple Pleasures EP, and this time it's "Lady Bravery" that gets the vote. As an opener it really does set the tone for the whole EP very nicely indeed, with some gorgeous piano from Liz and some sparkling vocals from Sarah. I kind of like the more stripped back feel that the whole thing has too, sometimes the basics are the best because it lets everything flow very nicely indeed. Shame that only 100 of us will own the thing, but that makes me more proud to have it too.

Wednesday 4th April - Simple Pleasures

It was nice to stay over with The Love In My Heart, and it was good that we'd had a good night. It was just sad that after we got up and had some breakfast that she had to head to work, and so I headed home. I was happy though at least that we'd had a great time last night, and I do think we'll be considering going there again sometime, definitely. I might even have to head there with a couple of our friends, maybe, but we'll see what happens. All I do know is that I want to go back and have that mini meatball carbonara again!

I spent some time at home working out on the Wii Fit during the morning, and then a nice package arrived in the post, namely The Floe's new "Simple Pleasures" EP. They'd released a limited run of 100 copies on Friday, and so I purchased one as I like their stuff. Mine was number 34, and all the copies had sold out within a day or so, so that was good. I gave it a good listen and found it really lovely stuff, not least because with it just being Sarah and Liz at the moment, it's a more bare yet raw sound but somehow just works, especially with piano and voice in lovely harmony. "Sun, Moon and Stars" is a beautiful piece of music and that one's going to be on repeat play a fair few times over the next month or so, and a lot longer, so tune of the day it very well is.

In fact, I also spent some time being a bit retro and checking out some old Commodore 64 games that hadn't as yet had the music extracted from them. As this was something I used to be good at I gave myself a mental challenge to see if I still had it. And I did, and with some really old games as well. One of which was called Lollipops which seemed to be more of an educational game really, but found out that all the music played in real time, and so you had to call certain routines for each tune, so that was a challenge but I passed it with flying (sort of!) colours.

It was another visit to Wythenshawe Hospital today, but thankfully the last one as my friend is due out tomorrow, and so it was good to head over there in the afternoon and keep him company for a bit. He seemed in pretty good spirits overall though and I think in a way it's better to be fully sorted out before you leave instead of leaving too early and having to come back in. We were talking about the football and other things and it was just good to be able to take the mind off things for a bit and relax as the afternoon carried on.

I must admit it was bloody cold outside though, and I was glad I'd put a big coat on. It was snowing on the higher ground around Manchester a lot, and people were stuck for five hours plus on the M62 between Rochdale and Huddersfield. That is not good whatsoever, and I wouldn't have wanted to be stuck in that. As it is, Manchester seemed to have got away with just some heavy rain and not much in the snow department which isn't too bad, and so be interesting to see over the next few days how the snow moves away, but still - snow for April. Bit bizarre isn't it?

Tuesday 3rd April - Dining At Jamie's

It was good to have had this week off work, especially considering that it turned out I needed the roof seeing too. Thankfully, I spent most of today at home relaxing whilst the company I'd called yesterday and had a good quote from went and did their work. It did feel a bit unnerving at first hearing banging above where you were sat, but obviously they were going about what they do best, in not the best weather either. Still, it was a professional job very well done, and they were very open and honest about what needed doing yesterday, and I appreciate honesty as anyone will know.

So what was it that needed doing in the end? Well, some slates were broken and the self-tappers were also missing for those, and so needed replacing on both the front and the rear. There were also some very loose slates which needed to be secured, and also some cement work on the chimey itself to ensure that was nice and watertight (it was apparently a little leaky so any water would have gone down the chimney breast - not good). Overall, a job very well done and it's good to know that with some bad weather and rain coming that the house would be nice and waterproofed properly again.

Whilst all that was going on I played Rock Band 3 on the Wii and did the Really Frequent Flyers tour challenge, with seven different gigs in cities and with 2-3 songs in each one to do. I did pretty well in the end and managed to get all the numbers needed to complete it, with some good guitar playing. Importing the 70 songs from Rock Band 2 was a good move because I could select some of them in various parts of the game instead, and that was helpful as I know a fair few of the songs there. What I didn't expect was after completing System of a Down's excellent "Chop Suey" that I'd see a lengthy end credits sequence with virtually everyone and their mums credited for the game, which took around 20-25 minutes including full song credits. Like, be nice if I could have pressed a button to skip!

I got showered and changed later on and headed off to the city centre to meet The Love In My Heart after work so we could have a nice evening for her birthday. She was already in Ra!n Bar looking gorgeous in her spotted dress, and we both noticed that the bar had had the wooden floors varnished and polished to a very high standard, no wonder they were closed yesterday whilst the work was being done. A well earned pint of The Governor was had by me, and The Love opened her card and presents from me. She was pleasantly surprised that my card was one from the Heartbreak Gallery, the official Jack Vettriano place to get them from, and loved her presents, so that was good.

We soon headed off to the top of King Street where I'd reserved a table for us at Jamie's Italian, the smallish chain of Italian restaurants run by Jamie Oliver. The building used to be the former Midland/HSBC bank back in the day, and because it's a listed building, some careful planning and restoration had to be done to get it workable. I think it works - a lot of the dining areas are in the old upstairs parts of the bank, with sections manned by waiters and waitresses so that it's never too far to go anywhere, which is good. We got a nice table close to one of the large windows and it really did feel light and airy in there.

The Love went to the loo and told me that they were downstairs, close to the old former bank vault. I needed the loo myself and went, and found that they were all very art deco styled, with the seemingly original loos in there but with modern hand dryers and a nice sink added to make it look more classy. The old vault can be hired for private functions and I bet it'd be intriguing to have a meal in there at some point in time - definitely. We also noticed that it was really busy even for a Tuesday night which for me showed that booking the place was the right decision overall.

A few nice surprises were on the menu: first of all, they had local real ales in. So I had the Joseph Holt's bitter from the drinks menu and the price wasn't too expensive either. A nice touch, that. Okay so it wasn't cask, it was the smooth flow version, but even so. Also the waiter very kindly gave us a carafe of tap water as well which was good - I normally have to order the sparkling water if I eat in a restaurant and pay shed loads for it. Also, the food options looked very good and the only difficult decision was actually what to have.

For starters, I plumped for the cripsy squid with a garlic mayonnaise, and The Love went for the mushroom fritti with the same mayonnaise. The Love's mushrooms looked very well cooked and crispy, and were really full of flavour and spot on (she gave me a piece to try). The squid was also very well cooked for me, although I could have done with the outside coating being a bit more well done and crispy. That said, it's still the second best squid I've had when eating out (Harkers in York currently wins that one - their crispy calamari was legendary!)

The main courses though were stunning, and for those alone I'd go in there again and again. The Love had the turkey milanese, which looked very well cooked with some cheese and an egg on top, and she got the funky chips to go with it which were choc full of garlic in the dish, but very well seasoned and cooked nonetheless. I had the mini meatball carbonara which was stunning, with fat tubes of pasta, a gorgeous creamy sauce and the mini meatballs really had lots of flavours in. I gave The Love one of the meatballs to try and she was full of praise for it, saying that it was gorgeously lovely. And it was.

Whilst we were having the main meal, we noticed that the music in the background was all very 1980s styled, which for the likes of us was fine, but we wondered if it fitted in with the style of the restaurant really, with the likes of Visage, Sade, Go West etc all being played. The Love straight away recognised Luther Vandross and it was "Never Too Much" to hear that classic, so for her, it's tune of the day. Well it's her birthday so I get to pick a song that she likes, and why not. I pondered over the dessert before having the tiramisu, and wow, was that fab! It wasn't oversoaked in alcohol and the orange and mascarpone creme fraiche on top just added something else to it. Yummy!

It didn't work out that expensive either really for the two of us, and it was well worth the money for what we had. I can happily say that I can recommend it highly and it's well worth booking and having a dining experience there if you can. Judging by the crowded place tonight, I have to agree, and even the celebrities seem to think so. As we were heading back downstairs to the bar and exit, I spotted the snooker player Shaun Murphy at the bar with some friends of his. I thought "he's hanging out with his friends, so let's leave him to relax" and The Love and I headed to Kro Piccadilly for a final drink before heading back to her place, having had a wonderful evening together.

I am so happy I can't begin to tell you. The Love looked beautiful and gorgeous in her outfit, and I was glad I had a nice pair of trousers and shirt on so I could look the part for her. I'm really glad she loves her presents and having such a good time tonight just shows me that being in love withn a beautiful woman is a wonderful thing, and how lucky I am to have that. I'm hoping that my efforts meant that she had a really good birthday and that it'll be one she will remember. Happy bunny, me!

Monday 2nd April - Up On The Metallic Roof

I had a good long look at the roof of the house this morning, as I'd been a bit perturbed by something that had happened a week last Friday. I got home from work and there was a slate tile in the front yard of the house, and wondered where it had come from. A look up to the roof showed me all that I needed to know - it looked like a tile was missing out of the centre of the roof and although not terminal in terms of it not being there, it certainly stuck out a fair bit like a sore thumb. There looked like it could be other damage from weather over the last few years and felt that I needed to get it checked out.

Whilst I checked back through the list of companies I'd got quotes from last time when the roof tiles close to the edge went AWOL due to the very very high winds, I had a nice package arrive from Amazon - I used a gift voucher that I had saved up for with my O2 top up rewards, and so bought myself three CDs. Okay so I had to put a little towards it, but that wasn't too much. So inside was Jamie Hartman's new album "III". Jamie is effectively the lead person and singer songwriter from what was Ben's Brother, but now he's releasing albums under his own name. I had a listen to that and his trademark songwriting seems very much intact, although I was a bit surprised at a Bob Dylan cover in there!

Also in the same package was the Yellow Magic Orchestra eponymous debut album which comes on 2CDs, the original Japanese release and the American version, which was good to have on the same set. I quite like some of the tracks on there such as "Firecracker" and "La Femme Chinoise" which are early synth pop classics, I'll have to get the follow up album "Solid State Survivor" as that's got "Rydeen" on which I also really like as well (see, know my synth pop me!)

The final CD of the set was the four track EP (or mini album if you like) which was Metallica's "Beyond Magnetic". As the title implies it's actually tracks that were recorded during the sessions for the album "Death Magnetic". However these four tracks are pretty good quality all round and I'm sure would have made the cut had they not been running out of room on the disc for the album as was. Out of the four I really like "Just A Bullet Away" - it seems to have that crunching guitar sound present on most of the Death Magnetic album, so tune of the day right there.

I called up the roofing people and they were in the area, so arranged to come over in the afternoon and give me an estimate of the work that needed doing. In fact it was not much worse than I feared, but I knew that some of the lead flashings around the chimney might also need replacing, as well as three tiles near the top of the roof which weren't covering the tiles underneath as they should do. It was a case of a general overhaul being required and probably best to get it all done now and have it sorted to make sure it's all weathered properly.

I spent some time in the evening sorting out some washing and ironing as I'm heading out tomorrow and want to look as nice as I can if possible for when I take The Love In My Heart out on her birthday. She rang me tonight and by the sound of it she'd had not the best day at work at the moment, and I'm really worried that what's going on is really getting her down and not making her feel the best about what she does. It's a shame really because I know that when I've seen her at work, she's always professional and a good person and someone who's earnt respect over the years. Still, we shall see what happens in the future.

Sunday 1st April - Down In The Park

Myself and The Love In My Heart fancied a nice leisurely day today, and so after a relaxing morning with some croissants and coffee involved, we had a think about where to go. One idea I had was to head to Abney Hall Park, which is in Cheadle and somewhere we've passed on the way to the Ashlea pub nearby, but never gone in. So we thought that it'd be a good time to correct that and head in and see what's there, and off we headed in The Love's car. The weather was dry at least so that was a relief, as rain had been forecast for today or tomorrow and we wanted to at least make the most of it.

We arrived there, found the car park and placed the car nicely, and then headed off, first walking towards the hall before heading along one of the paths that take you through an area of trees, and then towards a place with marsh lands where you could even walk to a bird watching hut. Thankfully there were also little platforms to place your camera if you fancied seeing wildlife from long zooms too, which was a nice touch. We then followed a path which virtually straddled the edge of the park and alongside the M60 slip road to Cheadle Heath roundabout, before realising we'd then reached the far end of the park.

From here, there's a nice walk along a straight path, with blossom trees a plenty showing their blossoms off nicely with some Spring fresh air accompanying us, so that was pretty good. We walked down the straight path and this led us to the main pond, which had plenty of ducks around who were floating happily on the water before all flying off en masse, unexpectedly. It looked a relaxing place to be as several people were there fishing away, so that was good.

We then went on a path that took us around the back of the Hall itself, and the garden and terrace showed what a state of disrepair the Hall is actually in. I'm sure if the terrace was tidied up a fair bit it'd make a really nice place to relax and indeed have a picnic at, along with the terrace usable for weddings and such like as well. The place could look idyllic if only some investment was made with it, and it's such a shame to be honest to see this sort of thing. But at least the park is nice to walk around, so that's good.

After all that walking it was time to get some lunch, so we headed to Poynton and the Vernon Arms sizzling pub, as we've always had a decent meal in there for not much dosh. And so was the case today, in fact, it was an excellent meal all round. I finally got to try the Timothy Taylor Steak and Ale Pie, which has Landlord ale in there. Oh yes, and it was gorgeous. No complaints from me as it was a proper pie too - hurrah to that. It meant that I could enjoy myself and relax, and The Love's chicken dish also was spot on. See, eating out doesn't have to be expensive to be nice.

We called at Mum's on the way back to mine and everything seemed well with her, and she was buzzing after going to see the musical Monkee Business the other night. She was telling us about it and how good it was, and it was so nice to see her with a big smile on her face. We had a coffee and she very kindly had got The Love a couple of presents for her birthday in a couple of days - which was very nice of her. The flowers in particular were really nice and I'm sure they'll look good in The Love's place.

We then had a good game of Scrabble when we got back to mine, and we came up with some rather nice long words during play. The Love made HEROINE which was pretty cool, and later on she did OXIDE and followed that with DIOXIDE afterwards, hehe. Mind you, I played DANGLES and used all my letters which was very pleasing as you can imagine. We had on the Ministy of Sound Electronic 80s compilation set, and that was cool - notably the full 12" version of Soft Cell's version of "Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go?" and so that's tune of the day. Easy really.