Dear Diary... August 2007

Friday 31st August - Birthdays and Chocolate Puddles

Had a really nice night tonight, as I was out with a few friends for a friend's birthday. Always good to hook up, of course, and even better when there's some nice food involved, I think. We ended up in Harry Ramsden's Restaurant in Old Trafford, and that proved to be a good decision. Not least as this meant that I could have a very nicely lightly battered cod, with some proper chips, and a nice helping of garden peas to go with it, which is always a definite plus. My friend had the scampi, and wow, there was a heck of a lot of that it had to be said, plenty of them too. I think the move not to have any starters proved to be the right one, as this meant just enough for a dessert, and my chocolate puddle pudding was rather delicious, it had to be said.

Even better was the fact that one of the beers that they had in bottles that you could get was none other than the rather nice Black Sheep! Well, I said to myself, I was having a bit of that and so decided to have a bottle with the meal, and that worked out really well as there definitely was a feeling of lots to talk about and plenty to catch up on as well, and so it was quite a leisurely evening. Kicked back at mine later and the four of us watched a recording of an older episode of Mock The Week (amazingly my friend whos birthday we were celebrating had never seen it, but was pretty impressed) just to complete that chilled out feeling. On the whole though, it was just great to be out with a good bunch of friends that I have, and that always makes me feel rather happy inside. Yaay.

I had earlier been to our technical group meeting earlier in the day and I came across a couple of interesting things to note and to report back on the team on, so that was definitely something well worth spotting. It finished earlier than it usually did too, so much so that I was back at the office for 12 noon and able to get on with some more replacement roll-outs. We've still got a lot to do in the next two weeks before the start of term but I'm realistically hoping that we can get the job done and have everything ready for when the students return. Here's hoping.

I continued my foray into short songs when I got home from work and it proved to be a good distraction for when I was getting ready tonight. Staying with the Pixies related theme from last night (well it was Frank Black after all) I elected for some of the Pixies back catalogue as perfect contenders for the short song mode, and well, how the hell could I resist the seminal "Rock Music" from their "Bossanova" album. When I saw them live at G-Mex in 1991 they played this, and everyone who was a fan was screaming the words out along with Black Francis (probably contributed a lot to my throat damage at the time actually) so that's got to be tune of the day. Hmm... might have to see if I could get this idea off the ground!

Thursday 30th August - A Scene I'd Like To See

Another long day in terms of working things out at work, not least with plenty of machines to shift. It's not too bad shifting the bases and stuff like that of course, but it's the 17" CRT monitors that are really the heavy ones, and definitely not one to be taken lightly. We had as many trolleys as we could find, including a couple that we call "tea trolleys" that have two shelves, so we can get two monitors on each shelf, and they manouevre nicely as well, which is always a good thing. Of course the only thing is that the really large monitors aren't just bulky but also take up storage space, and that's something to bear in mind.

Got home from work and ended up watching a classic Rugby League Challenge Cup Final on ESPN Classic - namely the 1996 epic between St Helens and Bradford. For many, it was a great final and not just because of the scoreline, but it was a lot about open play and going for it at all times. It was also intriguing to see a very young Kieron Cunningham, who of course was Saints captain in this year's win as well. Nice though to see that there was enough in the archives for the classic stuff to be shown on telly - with the Rugby Union World Cup due to start on the 7th September, it's vital that league gets some form of TV time and exposure that in my view it so richly deserves.

Kicked back later for Mock The Week, which was as good as it usually is. Intriguingly several of the panel regulars are touring this autumn on their own stand up comedy tours: Andy Parsons is, as is Russell Howard too. In fact I'm half tempted to go and see Andy Parsons at the Lowry and see if he's as funny as he is on the telly, as he always seems very dry but makes a good point when needed. It's been nice that they've had four regulars on this series actually, not least as they're all funny, which works a treat. I just wish that they'd get Gina Yashere back on there as a guest...

Also managed to play a few tracks late on as I was thinking of doing a compilation of short songs, where no song would be longer than two minutes, meaning you'd get around forty tracks on one CD, now that would be entertaining. It'd also be pretty tricky though, because you'd want something with substance that lasts just the right amount of time. One of the contenders for this would have to be Frank Black's "Whatever Happened To Pong?" because it explains exactly what everyone got up to when playing the new thing in the bars and arcades, even with some nice old school sound effects, so that gets tune of the day quite easily.

Wednesday 29th August - And It's Bianchiiiiii!

Had a few relations round my place tonight as City were on Sky Sports 2 in the Carling Cup 2nd round against Bristol City. Now, to be honest, our recent record in this competition has been a bit poor. We lost to Doncaster two years ago and last year were humbled by Chesterfield, and when I saw that there'd been eight changes to tonight's side, I did think that it was little bit of an under-strength team, even with the likes of Mpenza and Bianchi teaming up front. Mind you, I guess it allowed some of the senior players a bit of a rest but this sort of tournament, I kept thinking to myself, is the one that we'd really like to win if we could!

So the four of us were watching the game develop and after an initial first few minutes, City did seem to settle in to their stride nicely. Mpenza and Bianchi were working well together and a neat ball from Bianchi almost let Mpenza in but the shot wasn't that good. However, the move looked promising and within a couple of minutes the same combination worked well and Mpenza blasted home past the Bristol City goalkeeper to make it 1-0, and on the balance of play at the time, well deserved. And we kept going till half time, which as you can imagine, I was pretty happy by all round. It just was nice to see them knocking it about and controlling the game on the whole.

Typical Man City usually means a bit of a lull, or a panic during part of the game. Bristol City made a good tactical substitution and that seemed to up their game a fair bit, and they got their just reward from a free kick with a neat turn and finish from one of their defenders in the six yard box, excellently done as well, credit to them for sticking at it. With around 20 minutes to go it was indeed a little bit panic stations and I was worried that it might all go a bit pear-shaped , not least as it really seemed to be the classic cup tie atmosphere that I've always enjoyed, despite the pressure. There's just something different about it.

With the score at 1-1, and heading for extra time, a nice bit of class for the blues followed. The ball came in from Michael Ball to Bianchi, and he turned, saw the corner of the goal and hit it with the outside of the foot and it went right in the bottom corner, an absolutely class finish and well worthy of taking the lead at 2-1. Naturally there were some happy bunnies here at the Towers, and I must admit I was punching the air in delight at seeing a great finish and hopefully us not going out. Mind you, they almost did equalise at the death, but their goal was correctly ruled out for offside, although Michael McIndoe's backheel was an excellently taken effort, it has to be said. And Bristol City can take a lot of credit in their 2nd half performance.

But my beloved Man City had done the job and it's third round here we come, which pleased me a fair bit, it has to be said. It was nice having a few relations around who are just as passionate as I am about me team, and that always helps the atmosphere as well. I'm sorely tempted to go to Blackburn on Sunday to see us there, but I'll have to see how the financial side of things go to be honest... with me going to Wembley last week I need to be a little careful with the pennies, you know what it's like!

Nonetheless though I felt pretty flushed with myself tonight, and the perfect antidote to a long day at work shifting old kit everywhere ready for collection for a charity donation - but at least it's all done now. It was pretty good to get that done actually. One tune kept being in my head though, and I think it's cos I heard a snippet of it the other day and it's not left my head, namely Department S's "Is Vic There?". If you can't locate it easily, there was a Stiff Records compilation on CD a few years back and it's on there, and it's a darned good tune. Alternatively, watch the below and you'll understand just why it's tune of the day - it's one of the better tunes of the early indie era, that's for sure:

Tuesday 28th August - Fun To Be Had

Another day, another brain frazzled for me at the moment. There's so much going on and so little time to do it really, and at least my colleague and I managed to get all the third floor room imaged and ready to go, and I felt pretty pleased with myself. Even more pleasing was the fact that during the multicast imaging, none of the PCs I was imaging dropped out. None of them. And that was rather good all round, I reckon. Saved endless time and wastage, and everything, including the scanners which do take a fair bit of time to sometimes play ball, was done. And then tomorrow it's shifting tons of rubbish around..

Anyway, got home and started to think about the next few weeks and what they have in store for me. Well I know that I've got a few friends coming over a week on Friday, which will be fab, and then I've got this Friday a bit of a get together for my friend's birthday, which is all going to be rather lovely too. I also thought hard about maybe seeing if I can replace my DVD player and buy that new Denon DVD1940, but I'm definitely going to have to see how the finances go on that score: I want to after all make sure that I can actually live a little and be able to afford it, plus there's always the temptation of buying a HD television at the same time to really make the upgrade worthwhile. I know if I went into hi-fi shop now I'd be sorely tempted, not least as one of the new Samsung ones reviewed looked pretty nice.. and a good review also!

I did however give myself a little treat tonight, as Mute Records' mail order is having a bit of a sale on. Not only did I manage to pick up Renegade Soundwave's 1987-1995 2CD compilation to complete the set of RSW stuff, but also Nick Cave's "Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus" 2CD album set, and a couple of Nitzer Ebb CD singles that I don't have, filling a collection gap all round. Excellent, I said, rubbing my hands and seeing that the checkout cost including postage was still less than HMV charge for a single CD these days. It's nice when you can pick up stuff that you want cheap isn't it? Especially as it was all stuff I actually was after anyway, and being a bit of a Nick Cave fan, I admire what he does and didn't get the album at the time of release cos it was too dear for the limited set...

That got me into the mood for some electronic industrial stuff, so it was time to whack on some Nitzer Ebb and crank up the volume a fair bit, and found my 12" of "Fun To Be Had/Getting Closer". On there is the really nice 12" trance mix of "Getting Closer" that I abslolutely love, it has a killer bass line and it's really driving industrial drum beat just keeps it all really in the mix nicely. It's just a great tune, and if anyone else says otherwise, then they're wrong. It's tune of the day for me.

Monday 27th August - A Mixed Bag Of One Way Walking

Bank Holiday Monday it was today, and so a day off work (hurrah) and so time for me to have a little escape and go for a nice walk. And it turned out to be a very nice walk actually, really relaxed and it certainly was the right weather for it as well, it was dry but not too hot so that you're gasping for air or some liquid refreshment. I think in a way sometimes it's very easy to forget that you can get good exercise as well as admire a nice view at the same time, and that's always a good thing as far as I'm concerned. I think also too that definitely being a single bloke and being able to go off and do your own thing, like I did when I went to Lyme Park the other week, is a bit easier all round at times - no distractions, no control freaks or whatever.

I felt quite flushed with myself as well that I was able to cope with a dog and not feel the fear of having it bite me. You see, I had to look after a relative's dog when they were away over the weekend, basically popping round to their place and then letting them in at night, out in the morning, and making sure that they were fed and watered and happy, as well as play games with a ball and stuff like that. Of course having an obedient dog does help, but because they weren't trying to go for me every five minutes I did actually feel pretty comfortable, and it's slightly lessened my fear factor somewhat. It was nice as well to be asked actually, a sign that I can be relied upon but also for me a sign that family are an important thing and should be rightly cherished while you have them.

Did a bit of pottering about in the house when I got back home later, and decided that it would be in my best interests to actually clear out stuff, and so I'm probably going to start by getting rid of things that I no longer use - and there's a few of them really. I'll just have to see how things work out with that, but some of them I could Freecycle off I suppose, that would work pretty well. Always good to give something to a new home and I certainly could definitely recycle some old kit the same way like I did with the PCs a few months back. Must look into doing that again at some point to see what I can do as the experiment worked out well.

Anyway, also spent time listening to the Levellers tonight, I'd heard about their Beautiful Days festival and how nicely organised it is, and how they open and close the whole thing with two different sets. It reminded me of being at Indie nights and actually remembering myself enjoying the likes of "World Freak Show", "One Way" and "15 Years". But even after all these years I still do enjoy "River Flow", so that's going to be my tune of the day. It has all the nice elements that made them the band that they still are: good use of the fiddle, catchy tune and upbeat sound that makes you want to enjoy the moment. And in the days of musicians being dour, something we can all learn from. There is after all only one way of life, and that, my friends, is your own.

Sunday 26th August - Lazy Sunday

Well after the efforts of last weekend's trip to London and indeed yesterday's Cup Final trip to Wembley, I thought that today would be the perfect day to take it easy (Caramel optional at this point) and veg out for a bit. I could do that once I'd been into town to a bit of shopping, namely to get a couple of birthday cards and also some handwash as well, as the one in the bathroom was close to running out and that simply wouldn't do to be honest. So a quick soujourn into the city centre, got what I needed and made it back home in plenty of time for the F1, so I could relax and enjoy it.

It was a pretty decent F1 race all told, but the drama unfolded when Lewis Hamilton had a tyre failure half way round a lap, and had to limp back to the pits whilst the tyre delaminated all the time, reminded me of Gilles Villeneuve at Zandvoort many years ago. Hamilton got back to the pits and new rubber was on, but there was suspension damage to the car too so it was a case of if he could hold on to fifth place and stave off a charging Heikki Kovalainen. In the end Lewis did finish fifth but with Felippe Massa scoring an excellent win, Kimi Raikkonen second behind him, and Fernando Alonso third, it meant that those three all made up some ground on Lewis Hamilton's championship lead, which makes it all the more exciting for the last five races, not least as we've got Monza and then the legend that is Spa on back to back weekends. How exciting is that going to be??

I turned over and watched some of the athletics at the end of the day's events and saw Kelly Sotherton get the bronze medal with Jessica Ennis fourth. Intriguingly the athlete that finished second (Lyudmila Blonska) had previously served a two year drugs ban and Sotherton wasn't too happy about that because she wasn't sure that Blonska was clean. Although I do detect a bit of sour grapes here from Sotherton, as she should let the drug testing tell the story and if Blonska is found out to be cheating, punishment shall be dished out accordingly. Must admit because of her whining about it I was glad to see Carolina Kluft win and a deserved winner she was, the second best score in heptahlon history and a very popular figure. She deserves all the accolades that she gets to be honest.

It turned out that UKTVG2 were showing repeats of.. Full Metal Challenge! You know, that show where people have to build vehicles to see them take part in all sorts of games like ten pin, roller coaster, bumper cars and so on. I loved that show when Channel 4 transmitted it, not least as Henry Rollins was the co-host and he absolutely made that show for me. So watched that and thenswitched over to BBC1 to watch the Challenge Cup Final highlights. That was great to see it from more close up, and I remembered all of it from yesterday, such a good experience all round. But can BBC1 please get someone else instead of Harry "Leeds Rhinos" Gration to host it? He's so boring and dull, and his Leeds bias is so obvious especially as he was discussing the Catalans try that was disallowed (I looked at the TV replays when I was there and it was clear he'd dropped the ball and had his left arm underneath - even Jonathan Davies correctly called it no try!) because he was jealous of a Saints win. Idiot.

Had a pretty relaxed evening mainly playing some tunes on the PC whilst typing away and also having a few thoughts about the next few weeks at work and what we're going to need to do. The schedule's going to be very very tight and I think it might be difficult to make it happen on time, but we'll see what happens and go from there. Whilst clattering the keys, I had on some good background noise in terms of Sebastian Bachliñski's remix of "Camel Funk", which was originally composed by Torben Hansen (Metal) on the Commodore 64, oh yes. The remix is so nicely made with proper instruments that it's a must have. And you can download it for free as well. So go and get my tune of the day, I'm sure you want to!

Saturday 25th August - Challenge Cup Final Day At Wembley

Got up nice and early this morning as I wanted to make sure I got the train early enough to get to London Euston in good time and then make sure that I could get to Wembley without that much of a delay. Part of my reasoning was that I needed to collect my ticket from the ticket office in the West Stand before the game, and I didn't want to be waiting in a mass of queues everywhere and miss any of the action, after all that's what I'm going for isn't it? I left home around 7.45am and the bus took me into Piccadilly station, and after using one of those fast pay kiosks to get my ticket, I was able to easily find a seat on the 8.15am departure, which would arrive in Euston just after 11am, perfect really. The journey down was fine, I was right near the onboard shop so I could have a very short stroll for an early morning coffee, which worked out pretty well. The train manager was someone who was new to the job having just been promoted, but she did very well and her supervisor for the day was looking after her too, and in fact the train arrived in Euston some eight minutes early, so we got in dead on 11am. Can't complain about that one little bit!

At Euston, I faced a decision. Bus or tube? If bus, I could take the number 18 bus and get off in Wembley itself, before Wembley Central train station and then walk back towards the stadium along the road and over the Wembley Stadium station. However, the tube station Wembley Park was a fair bit nearer and it had the advantage that you walked straight down Wembley Way to the stadium, so I'd be doing that walk that you always see on the telly. As much as I hate the tube, and as warm as it was, I thought that just this once it'd be a better option, not least as the bus might be stuck in traffic after the game coming out of Wembley, so off I walked down Euston Road to Euston Square underground station to get the Metropolitan Line train via Baker Street and Finchley Road. Good thing was that after Finchley Road tube, the next stop was Wembley Park and so it didn't take long to get there either. Hurrah!

As I came out of the tube station and saw the steps to the walkway to lead me to the stadium ahead, I just had to pause in absolute awe. Seeing the arch and the stadium ahead is the stuff of amazement, but also part of me wished that one day I could go and see Man City there too. I walked up to the stadium and went to the ticket office and got my ticket sorted out, and I knew I was in Block 138, entrance H, so hopefully I'd be able to get a good view from there a bit later. But first, try and locate a pub and watch some of the Liverpool game, might as well whilst I'm here I thought. But in Wembley itself and even walking back towards Wembley Park, all the pubs were choc full and charging a massive expensive £3.50 a pint, and some of the pubs seem to have increased the prices on event days like these. How dare they, robbing so and sos! Eventually walking past Wembley Park and going northwards, I did locate a pub called The Torch, that although pretty full, I did locate a seat in (as most people were sat outside it) and it even had the footy on too. So one pint of Guiness and £3 later (the ale was all press a button, bah!) and watched the first half in there.

Walked back to Wembley Park tube and stopped off at the Mcdonalds close by for lunch, reasoning being that the stadium prices were going to be a ripoff and it'd be a little bit cheaper to do a meal in there, so one chicken sandwich, fries and milk shake later and that was me pretty much sorted for the afternoon, and then walked along the famous Olympic Way to the stadium, with lots of fans in good voice. And, I should add, not just from St Helens and Catalans either. Pretty much all the Super League teams had fans there with their club shirts on, some from the lower leagues too and that was nice to see, making the most of the day out. Although Wigan and Leeds fans seemed to be adopting the Catalans as their team for the day, but there you go - no surprises there really. Some even went to far as to draw on a Poirot-like moustache and have some onions around their neck, and the beret too! What are they like.

After the pre-match entertainment (which included a schools final, Freestone Normanton narrowly winning against Castleford High 12-10) it was time for the business end of things, as first Abide With Me, the traditional Cup Final Hymn (both the FA Cup Final and Challenge Cup Final play it) and then the national anthem belted out. One thing that did annoy me - the tannoy system was pathetic in terms of its sound. It wasn't very clear and it also seemed to be drowned out by everything else. But still, the big screens helped a fair bit to soak up the atmosphere, and the view from my seat was excellent, by the corner flag (top left of the pitch as you look at it on telly) and I could see everything no problem, with the stadium massively imposing over everything else. Honestly, you'd have to go to see what I mean.

The game commenced and for the first half hour it was pretty cagey and edgy stuff, Catalans almost scoring a try but it was correctly disallowed as the ball wasn't grounded and control of the ball had been lost, and I thought it might take something a bit special to break down the deadlock. And it sure was. James Roby burst forward, evaded the persistence of about five players trying to tackle him one by one, and had enough momentum to get over the try line to put St Helens ahead, with Sean Long converting to make it 6-0. To be fair to Catalans, they hit back almost straight away and put together a very neatly worked try, only that their conversion was missed so it was 6-4.

The killer blows though came either side of half time for them and a welcome boost for the St Helens masses. Firstly, Ade Gardner crossed over in the corner near me to extend the lead, although I was a bit worried that the ref was going to flag Matt Gidley's final pass as forward, it looked a possibility that it was. Early in the second half, Catalans made a bit of a mess up. Sean Long had grubber kicked forward on the last tackle and seemed to be obstructed. However, the Catalans defence failed to collect the ball correctly, and the loose ball was pounced upon by the superb Paul Wellens and over he went, and with the Long conversion it was soon 18-4. Breathing space was there to see, and it would now take a fair amount of effort for Catalans to come back. Not least when St Helens scored another try as Paul Clough's overlapping run enabled him to touch down in the corner, and even though the conversion was missed it was 22-4.

But to be fair, come back they did, the Catalans, and they made the most of a St Helens howler as Justin Murphy ran in at the corner, but the conversion was missed. 22-8. Which still meant that they needed three scores to overhaul Saints, and with Sean Long kicking a penalty to make it 24-8, even more so. By this time the crowd were doing a Mexican wave and several of the Wigan fans who'd come as Catalans supporters were ready to leave, not wanting to stay to see St Helens lift the trophy. A fair few more of them left after an excellent Paul Wellens run and pass just before he was taken over the touch line set up Ade Gardner for his second try and to make the final score 30-8. While the score may have looked convincing, both sides were pretty evenly matched for most of the game and the only difference was that St Helens were taking their chances and finishing things off, where Catalans didn't either due to a sloppy pass or knock on, or the St Helens defence holding firm. But they should be proud of themselves for a battling display that I'm sure won over a few new fans whilst they were playing.

I stayed around for the trophy presentation, as it was only the right thing to do, and I have to say Wembley have made a massive booboo here. In the old Wembley, you went up the 99 steps to collect the trophy and everyone could see you climbing to collect. Now, you go up some stairs and then have to go round a back stairwell to come up into the bottom row of the second tier and along the boxes to collect the trophy. Somehow that just doesn't feel so right to me, and I'm sure that someone in the stadium design should have realised that. Still, I could see Kieron Cunningham lift the trophy and then have the pictures taken as they all celebrated and went to the West Stand nearby where the masses of Saints diehards had put themselves, and all was good.

Walked back to the tube station along with scores of others and I was thinking about what train back I could get - 6.15pm was looking possible! With that in mind, I got on to the tube station platform and managed to get the first Metropolitan line tube, but it was only going to Baker Street! Apparently that's what happens at some of the events. Anyway, after getting to Baker Street, I spotted the platform I needed to go to for the Circle Line or the Hammersmith and City Line, and there was a tube train in. I pegged it, got on the train and then headed down two stops to Euston Square. The time was just coming up to 5.40pm. Hm... there was a train at 5.45pm, could I make that? I ran along Euston Road, got to Euston and spotted that platform 7 was the Manchester train and headed to the platform - and got on the train with 90 seconds to spare! I rock!

I rocked even more as the train staff said to me as I got to the platform "You can sit in First Class if you like!". Like I was going to turn that offer down!! Turns out that the train manager announced that the class was derestricted, which meant that you could sit anywhere you wanted within the train. No free First Class perks like the free tea or coffee or anything like that, but it meant that I could sit in the wider and more comfortable seat with more leg room, and that had to be a bonus. Not least as I had a few City fans sat at the same table and although disappointed at our loss to Arsenal (1-0) we'd played well and Kasper Schmeichel had saved a penalty as well, so it could have been worse. But four games, nine points and indeed second in the table (and Man U are currently second from bottom as I write, they could rectify that tomorrow) and I'm sure any City fan would have taken that at this point in the season. I'm sure that Rowetta (used to be a singer with Happy Mondays) was sat opposite us on the train, but I didn't want to ask if it was her incase I got all embarassed. Still, kicked back and relaxed homeward.

A grand day out really, and it was just something that I was glad I decided to do. Next on my list of course is going to have to be another major sporting event, maybe I'll need to save up and go to Silverstone next year for the British Grand Prix, that might be well worth doing if I get the chance, and after all I do love my F1, so it could well be worth considering. In the meantime, I'm listening to Donna Marie's new song "A Night Like This", which she premiered on a guest appearance on ALLFM's "Blood Under The Tracks on Thursday night - and that's got to be my tune of the day as it's relaxing me a lot as I'm typing this. I recorded the whole show and then edited out all the bits I didn't need - so what I've got left it just Donna being interviewed and playing her songs. I rock, again!!

Friday 24th August - The End Of A Long Week

And it seemed like it, especially today as well. I managed to finish off imaging our main dropin suite and all the new build is working very nicely indeed with all the settings for all our applications too, and all the policies we've set for Internet Explorer 7 also kicking in and doing what they should do, so all seems well. This afternoon a colleague and I blitzed some replacement PCs, took a load out of an old room and placed a few new ones in there, but we still need to image them at some point so once the remainder are in they'll get done. It was very hot and humid though and no doubt I felt quite sticky afterwards, highly attractive, not.

Went round Tesco in record time today as I needed to get some basics, really, not that much extra stuff I actually had to get but as I had stayed behind a bit at work, it was a case of taking the bus there, getting all I needed, going through the tills and then arriving at the bus stop for the bus to take me home. From entering Tesco to getting the bus, it was fifteen minutes in all, which on a Friday evening is quite an impressive turn of speed. This also allowed me to get home a little earlier too and spend some time relaxing and ensuring that everything is well and truly sorted for tomorrow. So checked Oyster card balance, got enough on there to take me to Wembley and back via bus or tube, made sure there weren't any cheaper advance train tickets (there weren't, boo!) and also made sure that the digital camera batteries were also fully charged just in case I wanted to take any pictures tomorrow.

With that and the train times checked, it was time for me to have an early night. It's going to be a long day tomorrow and I'm sure that the travelling will take it out of me a little bit, but the adrenaline will keep me going, and of course knowing that City will be playing a few miles away and trying to beat Arsenal (wish I was going but no tickets, otherwise that's where I'd be of course) and doing the business. Apparently the team now travel to London away games by first class on Virgin Trains, so I've been informed, and if it's good enough for them it's the same for me too.

I needed to wind down a fair bit before bed and so it was time to put on some lovely mellow stuff to relax me. What better to do that than a bit of Natalie Merchant, not least as one of the regular posters on the Amy Macdonald forum is also quite a fan of Nat (and rightly so in my view of course), and so I played her live album, which has the rather nice version of Space Oddity on there, but it also has "Beloved Wife" which is just absolutely gorgeous, so that's my tune of the day to set me in the right frame of mind for what could well be a very busy weekend!

Thursday 23rd August - Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

I have a few early Christmas wishes. Yes, it's four months to Christmas, and yes I shouldn't be thinking about that, but a few things last night and today made me wonder in general about the state of the nation (cue New Order classic song at this point, mark "State of the Nation" by them as my tune of the day and do it quick) and as some of them tie in pretty nicely with my mood of thought at the moment, here goes with rant mode turned on a little slightly:

One: Can we please sack Steve McLaren now? Last night's performance against let's face it what was a Germany reserve team was substandard and not the occasion at Wembley the fans paid good money to see. It was a total lack of management skill and all about using as many substitutes as possible to not get an idea of how the team formation should be for the qualifiers ahead against Russia and Israel next month. For example, sticking Paul Robinson in net on current form was just a bad move - he's already had a couple of bad games for Tottenham, highlighted in their home defeat to Everton, and the German equaliser was due to very bad positioning. Thing is once they'd scored it, only one team was going to win really and it shellshocked the England team. A better manager would have picked who was in form for their club and as much as it pains me to say it, especially with it being an ex-Man City player, David James is currently the keeper doing the business between the sticks and he should have had the nod.

McLaren's feeble excuse that the keepers were going to be swapped at half time was just cover for his bad management, I'm afraid. Thing was, he also played David Beckham for 90 minutes who was clearly unfit, played Shaun Wright-Phillips on the left (although to be fair to SWP he did at least change things when he was on, even from there!) and then second half chucks Micah Richards back in the centre of defence even though at right back he was really productive down the right - indeed Micah's performance was the only plus of the night as far as I'm concerned, even those non-City fans on BBC's player rater agree. And let's be brutally honest here: a better manager would have picked a side to go out to play to win and keep that up for 90 minutes instead of flattering to deceive in the first 20. Mark my words: if we fail to beat Israel and Russia and are pretty much out of the qualification process, the FA need to act, and act switfly, or forever regret their actions. If we win, then he stays but I wouldn't be giving him the job long term. Frankly McLaren hasn't got a clue. He was made to look good at Man U by Sir Alex Ferguson and made to look good at England by Sven Göran Eriksson (and let's face it, Sven wasn't that good for England either). End of.

Two: Can those people who choose it fit to ignore one way systems please remember that they're risking death and possible compensation claims from the people they affect by their ignorant actions? I was on my way out to lunch and walking down a road near where I work, which is one way from one direction. Now normally I can cross this road knowing which way the traffic's coming, and that's fine. But then I saw one car drive the other way whilst crossing the road and narrowly avoided being hit by it. Of course I was most unhappy about their actions and really wanted to tell them so in a polite but firm matter, like "Excuse me, but can you actually read the sign that says "one way?" - it would help."

Three: Can Youtube actually do something to be proactive against those who deem it fit to spam every single video with a comment about some dating or web cam chat with hot girls site? Of course, URLs aren't allowed in the comment but it still doesn't stop people getting round this with a bit of clever spam techniques and indeed signing up for an account to do so. Even a confirmation email with secure link to sign up would at least help to be a deterrent. I've had to a few times in the last month clean out spam comments from my videos on my channel - which clearly isn't the point of putting archival stuff up there - and I've now changed all my videos so that I have to approve the comment before it goes up on there. A necessary evil I'm afraid, but something I had to do, not least when I got three emails at around 4am this morning with the same user posting comments on three different videos in the channel. Suspicious? Oh yes I was, and no surprise to learn it was spam comment post, so off they went into the Blendtec blender, hehe.

Four: Has the world lost its ability to be polite now and then? I was thinking about this in London when in one well known restaurant establishment as I was going to get myself a strawberry milkshake to keep myself cool and to have something to tide me over as I walked along from Victoria to Westminster, and some woman pushes in front of me, gets served next and then sneers "I was here first before him". To be honest I couldn't be meithered arguing not least as the bloke behind the counter could see what an ignorant woman she was, and had to request her order three times because she had chewing gum in her mouth and all the words came out unintelligble. But even so some people down South were just really rude and inconsiderate in general, pushing in bus queues when I was allowing the elderly or woman with kids on first so that they could get a seat before the bus sped off, and it just made me wonder that because manners cost nothing, does it make it such a worthless or as it should be, a priceless commodity? Thankfully my faith was restored when I got back to Manchester on the bus back and a bloke let a woman with bags of shopping sit down, now that's a bit more like the politeness I know.

Phew, rant mode off, I think. I didn't want to make any of these into a Thought as such but as I was thinking about stuff at work whilst yet again another multicast Zen imaging session failed spectacularly (I really need to speak to our central networking team tomrorow and see what's up, it's really rather rubbish) and I had to start lots of workstations yet again to image.. Ah well. I hope it doesn't become too regular an occurrence as there's a mere three weeks to go before enrolment and there is literally loads to get done, really. But at the end of the day, I can switch off from work pretty easily and so I guess I've been elucidating a bit. Roll on Saturday and roll on the Challenge Cup Final!

Wednesday 22nd August - Que Sera Sera, I'm Going To Wembley!

A few weeks ago I had an idea that it would be nice for me to go the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley on the 25th of August, not least as I'd been to the semi between St Helens and Bradford at Huddersfield's ground, and had a wonderful time whilst I was there. The tickets for the final had sold pretty quickly and I was gutted that I didn't purchase one, plus the trains were looking like the full normal fare to London at back (around £60) which originally did also put me off a bit. However at the same time with the City away game at Arsenal being a sell out, it made me think that it might actually be quite nice to go to Wembley and see the rugger (proper rugby league of course folks) as well as have a bit of a day out to myself. And upon hearing some stories that Catalans Dragons weren't bringing that many over, plus many Wigan fans returning their tickets after over-confidently buying them before the semi where they'd lost to the Dragons, I thought "well you never know.."

So I got home from work and had a look online. And online booking was available for that game, and it hadn't been for a little while so that was hopeful. It was then a case of browsing through the various stands and blocks to see what seats would be available. And I pretty much hit gold - I located some spare seats in Block 138, and in Row 40 so I wasn't too low down for the action. Cost - £31. Not that cheap, but much cheaper than a lot of tickets, especially those along the touchline, and I'd be able to have a good view of proceedings as well as by all accounts be with the Saints lot. And why not? So ticket located, and two minutes later it was all booked with online and email confirmation and everything. Yaay.

You see, even as a City fan, I'd never ever been to Wembley for any cup final. I was only nine when City got to the FA Cup final in 1981, and my Mum wouldn't let me go, and had to make do with watching it on the telly. I can tell you, tears where shed when Ricky Villa scored Spurs' winner in the replay, but even so I wished that I was there, not least as my uncle and grandad had actually gone and by all accounts had a great time despite the result. In any case, I couldn't get a ticket for the dramatic 1999 play off final either, which was City's last time there, so I missed out really. But with the new Wembley looming large (it's very visible on the train as you head towards London Euston, incidentally) I thought that life was too short and another one of my ambitions to see a game at Wembley would be fulfilled. Naturally, if City get to a final there I will be trying my bloody utmost to get a ticket and see the team do the business, but I can't see that happening for a few years yet, even with our current run of good luck and form.

Feeling rather flushed with myself that I'd got my ticket, I headed out to the Academy box office and also got some future gig tickets sorted out, not least as a friend and I are off to see Henry Rollins do his spoken word thing on 30th January next year (that's going to be so amazing as it always is) and I picked up a ticket for myself for I'm From Barcelona as well next month. They were bonkers in January and I still will wonder if they're going to get all 29 of the band on the Academy 3 stage or not.. but should be good fun nonetheless and something I'll look forward to. Was also going to attempt to get the tickets for Terrorvision as well as the date was announced, but not on sale as yet. I'll have to pop back next week though for that one cos that will be a total blast, not least if Tony Wright's on his usual top form: "I don't know it, it's not metal." Hehe.

And talking of Terrorvision, for the pure hell of it and also because it's such a good feeling tune, I'm going to give tune of the day to "Oblivion", because I can. The days of indie clubs and rock clubs alike playing it at full blast and everyone trying to do the air guitar bits as well as sing along to the admittedly very sing along chorus, and you've got a great tune right there waiting to be had. In fact, Tony is stll doing the business in the band Laika Dog (myspace) and ooh, they're playing Manchester soon! Might have to check that out... but now for the England game, and cue diatribe tomorrow depending on the result..

Tuesday 21st August - The Possibilities Are Endless

Another fun packed day at the office, really, and also worked out just how manic it's going to be for the next four weeks or so before the students come back. We've got the images for the machines to finish and then roll them all out before the start of term, which is going to be a right task and a half, I can tell you. Not least especially as when you're trying to image a laptop, it kept refusing. I eventually found out why, it could well be down to a faulty network point but I need to do some tests tomorrow to check it out for sure. But what is going to be valuable is if I can save some time by imaging a bank of PCs all at the same time, just have to see how reliable that actually can be.

I also spent a fair bit of time when I got home working on a couple of ideas that I had in my head for future things to add to the site as well. What I'd really like to do is interviews, not necessarily with world famous people, but with people who are doing interested things and are personalities for different reasons - such as for example if you're a film maker who is getting known on Youtube, or if you're a musician and you'd like some exposure in a good way. Call it an idea that I think could be interesting and doable, so if you want to be interviewed, then contact me and I'll see what can be done. I also had an idea that it might be nice to do audio versions of some of my writing - sort of me reading my poetry out so you can download them and listen to them. Maybe when I get a decent microphone, but it could be worth a go - you never know...

Back to reality, and one of my friends mailed me with the subject finally!! - together with a link to a video. And not just any video. This one below: Renegade Soundwave's seminally brilliant "Renegade Soundwave". Watch, enjoy, be enlightened:

That band were so under-rated and made some absolutely killer dance tunes that weren't just good to dance to either, but they had great use of electronics and the occasional real instrument too. Plus in this case, samples from Serge Gainsbourg. And becuase I love RSW, it's got to be without any shadow of a doubt, my tune of the day. Get the CD single if you can because the Leftfield Mix is absolutely bass stompingly good. Ironically, that tune and MC Solaar's "Nouveau Western" sample the same Gainsbourg track. No, honestly! Watch and compare:

Nice touch is that the Solaar video has English subtitles, not least as he does his thing entrirely in French. Doesn't stop me enjoying his stuff, mind. Saw him live at the Academy 2 years ago and he was superb! So thre you go, two for the price of one.

Was very nice to have a couple of friends over tonight as well for a good natter and a catch up. It's always nice and relaxed, and I had to nip to the shop on the way home from work to get some biccies to go with the cup of tea. And there's only one biscuit of choice really - Hob Nobs! As Peter Kay once said, they are the marines of the biscuit world, they really are. Definitely plenty of good conversation ensued tonight, and it's always much nicer in an informal relaxed setting I reckon. Plus we all were watching that Undercover Mum thing when certain chains of food places were put to the test to see if their steak and beef really was 100% British. To much a parent's shock, it wasn't, and a lot of it was cross-bred with the zebu (yes, zebu, not zebra) which has really cheap and poor meat quality. And does anyone else think that Undercover Mum Nina Hobson looks a bit like Susannah Constantine from Trinny and Susannah? We did!

Monday 20th August - Homeward Bound, To The Sun

You know how people are always saying it rains in Manchester? Not true, whatsoever. In fact for most of the weekend in London it had rained on and off, and by all accounts the weather was a bit nicer up North. And as I got home today it was rather lovely outside with the sun out and the weather dry, and not much signs of any rain that fell either. Somewhat ironic, that.

This morning it was time to head out for some breakfast, and there's a branch of Benjy's near to the Travelodge, which means their deal of breakfast muffin plus large hot drink for £2 was the weapon of choice, and had to queue up with lots of City types getting their morning snacks, but went for a sausage and cheese muffin along with a large latte, and just sat in the window watching the business world types go by. It was intriguing to see how many of them were on a schedule and just bounding around everywhere like headless chickens really, I couldn't cope with that sort of life style whatsoever, I'd much rather just be more relaxed and actually enjoy the job that I do.

Breakfast consumed and everything packed up ready to go, it was sad to leave really, as I'd had an excellent long weekend and it was just the right sort of break to keep me going for the next few weeks of manic fun at work before everyone (well, students that is) comes back. I headed on the 205 back to Euston, grabbed a Meal Deal at Boots and got the 1135 back to Manchester, which was relaxing, and with tunes in the player in the background I was just able to rest easy and just take my time the way I should do. The train actually only took 2 hours and 6 minutes and was so five ahead of schedule. My, those Virgin Trains types are good with the timekeeping these days, well worth the £25 return fare I'd managed to get.

Got home and of course as inevitably happens you have to start washing things up, but nonetheless got cracking and wanted to see how some of the pictures I took came out, not least because of the fact that some of them were in very cloudy darkness - might have to gamma them a bit! But while I'm sorting that out, you might wish to look at the ..Because Midway Still Aren't Coming Back blog that a friend notified me about, because it archives old indie vinyl hard to find stuff to mp3. Check it out like I did, and enjoy the A House flexidisc "Slang" which is my tune of the day because it reminds me just how good the band were back in the day. Hurrah!

Sunday 19th August - One In The Eye And One Nil To City

Had a bit of a lie in this morning. Well, okay, some people can't call 9am on Sunday morning a lie in maybe, but for me it's actually a lie in. I'm just so used to actually getting up at the normal time I do every day that any day I wake up late seems like a lie in. Mind you, I was heading out to Bromley this morning, so I needed to get the bus over to Victoria and then the train from there to Bromley South and on to my friend's place, so first stop: breakfast. In the end had to settle for the McDonalds big breakfast as not everywhere was open at that time of morning, but it did the job and the coffee was actually nicer than usual, an unexpected bonus.

It was then a case of heading on the 11 from Liverpool Street station (could have got the 8, but that goes through Oxford Street and that was probably going to be a lot slower) and after passing through Aldwych and along The Strand (along with big publicity for the Joseph show at one of the theatres there as you might have imagined) it was through Trafalgar Square, along Whitehall to Westminster, and then along the road to Victoria station. I did notice though that there were some train engineering works so some of the times that I'd checked on the Friday night were out of synch. And although I did have to wait a little while for the train, the one that was to depart at 1041 was a faster one, with Bromley South being its only stop. Excellent, I thought, and so flushed with success, I headed on that and arrived in Bromley around twenty minutes later, and walked to my friend's place from there.

It was a great morning and most of the afternoon, and really great to catch up with my friend, his wife and two kids. We all went to Ask in Beckenham for lunch, which was rather laid back and relaxing all round really, and not least because the two little ones were being little stars, interacting in their own way but also being warm and friendly too. And despite being twins, they're defintiely their own characters, that's for sure. It was good just having a lot of chat and conversation and feeling completely at ease with myself, and how as I have a nephew and niece I always end up being the perennial uncle (not that it bothers me though) and so I've had to adapt to situations and keep them amused. Time went by very quickly and seeing one of them's prowess on Mario 64 on the Wii was amazing in terms of co-ordination, it really was. Before I knew it, it was time to say my goodbyes and head on the train back to Victoria, but it was a lovely day spent. Even more so when I found out the derby score..

.. I then got a phone call from my uncle who was obviously full of happiness because of what had happened. My brother was looking after my place for me, and so the two of them and a couple of other relations had watched the game at mine. Needless to say they were going mental, and no wonder, it was 1-0 to City and apparently even though we didn't attack that much, the defence, notably Micah Richards, was outstanding. As I wasn't guaranteed to watch Match of the Day 2 later on tonight I had Sky plussed the game for recording so I could watch the full shenanigans on my return on the Monday. Of course, as you can imagine, my relations were going doolally (or as we prefer, dool) and so I was glad that I was able to let them watch it and have the happiness like I was.

I got the train to Victoria and walked along the main road past Westminster Cathedral and then the Abbey along to the bridge, went over the bridge and to the London Eye. It was around 5.30pm by this time and the scheduled "flight" for me wasn't till 7.30pm, but I thought I'd get the ticket now and see if I could go on it now. So swiped the card in the machine, ticket came out, went to the queue (which was really short), the ticket barcode was scanned, and on I went. Result all round, as the weather as it had been most of the weekend was on/off rain, and I really wanted to head up there with it still light.

It was a good decision too as I went up and around the Eye, and even with the cloudy darkness everywhere the views were still pretty spectacular. I could see all along the Thames westwards to Battersea Power Station, eastwards over the Tower Bridge and beyond, and some rather good views with plenty to see. The height didn't bother me one bit cos I knew I was safe enough in the capsule that you go in, if it was open to the elements it might be different as it would have been pretty windy to say the least. Of course booking on line also meant the ride was £13 instead of £15, so that was well worth it. I'll possibly have to try it again on a sunnier day, but nonetheless to be able to see how London looks from above as well as peer Southwards towards the yonder was just a rather nice experience all round, and I can highly recommend it.

That done, I decided to take a nice walk along the South Bank, passing quite a few landmarks along the way. First, it was the Royal Festival Hall, looking resplendent with its new makeover, and shops and piazzas below doing a very good trade. Next to it, the Queen Elizabeth Hall looks awful, and the bottom of the building is full of graffiti and skateboarders, everywhere. Doesn't look that pleasant to be honest, but after walking under Waterloo Bridge and past the National Theatre, and heading towards the Oxo Tower Wharf, it was under Blackfriars Bridge and onward. The views were nicer as was the scenery too, and the Tate Modern oversaw the river like the huge behemoth that it is. I'd have gone in, but it was shutting for the day and to be honest some of the art in there isn't that good. I was also thinking that just in case any tickets had been returned to the Shakespeare Globe due to the rain, I might even get in and see Othello.

Got to the Globe, and any standby tickets had gone, but interestingly there were no standing tickets anyway (they're the ones that go for a fiver) so I might have had to pay full notch. Still, it was nice to see how well preserved the building was and it stands out as being something to behold, for sure. Just by the Tate Gallery there was the Millennium Bridge, and this was the one that had to close back in 2000 becuase of its wobbles. No such problems now though and I walked over the bridge back to the North Side of the Thames with St Paul's Cathedral in the distance. Not that I needed to go there, but it also meant I wasn't actually that far away from the Travelodge if I wanted to head back now and have an early night.

But food was needed, as was a good walk, so I headed on the 23 bus which took me through Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street and Oxford Street and to Marble Arch, as I thought a nice evening stroll through Hyde Park would be nice - it was still light enough and it would also keep me nice and fit, I'd already walked around three miles from Victoria to St Paul's! So it was through Hyde Park from Speakers Corner to the café by one end of the Serpentine, and walked westwards along the banks of that, over the bridge and then along the south side of the Serpentine eastwards, walking eventually along Rotten Row to Hyde Park Corner. That was probably another mile and a half or so, and felt hungrier for it. Headed on the 19 bus back to Charing Cross Road, and got off the bus right outside a pub - The Montagu Pyke!

It was another Wetherspoons as luck would have it so it was beer and burger meal time, and a pint of Pedigree was most welcomed, I can tell you. Mind you, there were a lot of people with pink rabbit ears on their heads, and this was down to the gay carnival day in Soho that had been happening for most of the day, which all made sense. Mind you, good job I was munching food and not looking up, there was a rush of security guards coming through the place and it was because someone decided to streak along through Soho and was going through that pub as well whilst at it. The people on the table next to me were shocked as it pretty much was that everything was visible, they said. Hmm... that would have put me off my food, I can tell you! Still, each to their own I suppose.

I walked down Charing Cross Road, stopped off by an Internet Cafe to do a few bits of mail checking (there's a place which charges £1 for an hour - very reasonable) and then back to Trafalgar Square to get the 23 back to Liverpool Street, arriving in my room in Travelodge just in time for the footy! And as you can imagine, that cheered me up no end as City were on first, and Alan Hansen of all people was (and I quote) saying that if he was reincarnated as a defender he'd want to come back as Micah Richards, and said it was the best defensive perfomance he'd seen in a long time. I was litterally jaw in mouth time by that! Mind you Hansen then spoilt it by saying that we were lucky, we weren't going to be in the top six by the end of the season and that Sven luckily inherited Richards and Dunne. The point being? Damn, MOTD2 needed Lee Dixon on there, he'd have had a massive grin on his face you know! Nonetheless, tune of the day is going to be Supra's "Blue Moon" again, simply because it gets me pumped up every time I hear it and ready for the Blue shirted heroes..

Saturday 18th August - I Could Go To London.. And See Avenue Q

It was the start of the weekend for me, and an extended weekend at that as I was off to London for a long weekend, coming back on the Monday. Originally ages ago the plan was to see an MJ Hibbett gig in Lewisham, but that was postponed, so I hatched Plan B and got myself a ticket for Avenue Q, and also booked a ticket for Sunday evening for myself on the London Eye. I also then arranged for a trip down to Bromley on Sunday to meet a friend as well, so the weekend was coming together nicely and it just goes to show that you can always make the most out of any situation when you put your mind to it.

Left the house for Piccadilly station and headed into Boots while I was there for a Meal Deal to ensure I had something nice to eat on the train on the way down. I know there's a shop on board, but the prices aren't that cheap really and so if you can save yourself a bit of money then it's well worth you doing so if you can. That done, headed outwards on the 11.15 train which was due to arrive in Euston at 13.41, so I could then hop over to Liverpool Street where the Travelodge I'd booked was waiting for me - and at the bargain price of £15 per night again, just like the one in Slough was over Easter when I went to Windsor and so on. Of course with me getting the accomodation a fair bit cheaper I could also treat myself to other things whilst I was there, so it works out well really.

Kicked back on the train and just had the portable player picking some tunes at random, which always makes me feel relaxed - it's nice not knowing what's next and you don't feel as inclined to press the skip button to the next one either. As the train went towards Lichfield Trent Valley, a very apt song (and thereby tune of the day) was being played for me - no less than Duke Special's "Salvation Tambourine". Okay, so why you may ask? Well, the opening lines and part of the end chorus is simply the line "I could go to London". Somewhat ironic of course, because I was actually going to London, but there you go. It set me up nicely though, and the train even arrived in Euston eight minutes early as well, which was a nice unexpected surprise.

I had some credit left on my Oyster card so I simply got to the bus station outside Euston and headed on the 205 bus to Liverpool Street station. I nipped into the station and then charged up the Oyster with enough credit to last me through the weekend on the buses, which makes a lot of sense. It really does, because the one day cost of buses is always less than the one day ticket, and the single fare is £1 instead of £2, so money saved and convenient too. Before I knew it, and after a quick walk, there I was at the Travelodge and once checked in, iron borrowed, stuff ironed and a quick shower and change later, it was time to hit London and indeed to be at the 5pm performance of Avenue Q.

But first, I wanted to investigate something that I didn't get time to do last time I was down there. Back in 2002 when I was at the Back in Time Live event, a few of us stumbled upon a shop by Russell Square which had the Commodore logo above the shop. With that in mind, I got off the 242 bus just by Holborn station and walked to Russell Square from there. Well, a shop was there but it now was an electronics place selling HD televisions and other drool-worthy AV gear, but.. no logo anymore. Ah well, at least I know now. From there it was a trip on the 91 bus to Trafalgar Square, and then a short walk up towards the Noël Coward Theatre to see Avenue Q for the second time.

And I'm very happy to report that despite the cast changes, it's still as good as my review said it is back in April. Jennifer Tanarez is rather excellent as Christmas Eve, and Mary Doherty doing Mrs Thistle**** and the other arms of Trekkie Monster, Rod etc was very good too - not least her infectious smile as well which just got me in the happy mood as well. There were a couple and their female friend sat behind me and they'd bought some of the badges - notably the woman with partner had the "yes, they're real!" badge on her top, which did make sense. Her boyfriend did tell me that he'd recommend it to anyone as well so they were obviously pretty impressed. I was ready with some loose change this time for the appropriate part late in the show, but I'm not going to spoil that for you.

Afterwards, I headed out by the side of the theatre and spotted Delroy Atkinson, who plays Gary Coleman. Knowing he was probably rushing off to get something to eat before the 8.30pm performance, I gave him a quick handshake and just thanked him for another excellent show. He was a little surprised by that, but pleased too, which was good. I then noticed that Simon Lipkin (Nicky/Trekkie Monster) was outside the stage door so I went and had a quick chat with him. He did tell me that he had been really surprised by the show's success and that he didn't envisage just how positive everything was about it. He seemed a really level headed and mellow person, and kudos to him for sparing a couple of minutes to chat with yours truly.

That done, time to head for something to eat. Of course by seeing an earlier performance you're not competing with everyone else for that pre-theatre meal, and a quick walk towards Whitehall later (where I was tempted to see a show with John Simm in it, but not at £43!) and I spotted a pub called The Lord Moon of the Mall, which looked nice enough. Turned out it was a Wetherspoons type pub, but that was no bad thing, cos that meant one: food at a reasonable price and two: real ale! Well, I was away so why the hell not? I tried out one of the guest beers, the Hampshire Rose, which was rather nice, and had a mixed grill to go with that, which hit the spot. Intrestingly now you get that with a jacket potato and no option of chips, but that wasn't a problem for me and I enjoyed it.

I walked along Whitehall until I got to Westminster Square, and headed over Westminster Bridge towards County Hall and the London Eye. Even though I wasn't going on it till tomorrow I wanted to see how easy it was to use the ticket collection machines and observed that it was a doddle. Went in the Namco Station at County Hall and did a couple of games of the old Kentucky Derby, but to be honest there were seasoned pros playing and so I had not a cat in hell's chance of winning. And too many kids showing off on the Dancing Stage series of games, which put me off stomping around to Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping" as I'd normally do if playing that game. Still, took a walk along the South Bank, over the Golden Jubilee footbridge back over the Thames, and down Northumberland Avenue back to Trafalgar Square to catch the 23 bus back to Liverpool Street station and to the Travelodge, and to crash out in bed after watching Match of the Day.

Friday 17th August - Chinese and Cornell

The end of the week, and one I actually felt mentally drained by at the end of. Take today - I was trying to image the laptops with a bit of multicasting, which in theory should work, but the first time round 6 of the 14 I was imaging failed with faults. Then, out of the 6 left, I did another run and 3 of them failed. Now I'm imaging the remaining three individually to see what happens. Had there not been failures, I'd have finished off the laptop trolley by the end of today which is what I really set out to do (not least as I'm off Monday) and so that's something I'l aim to get out of the way.

I'm also glad that we took some time out today and did lunch - so it was off to Buffet City for Chinese and Thai buffet! Excellent stuff. I've cut down a bit on how much I actually eat there these days in order not to overdose on weight and MSGs, so generally now it's a soup, then some light nibbles like Prawn Crackers, crab sticks, sesame toast etc, then usually some form of chicken with rice or some prawns, and then ice cream and cake, and that's your lot. I don't do the sweet and sour stuff anymore, gone right off that for some reason, but there's still plenty to enjoy. Part of me would love them to have the Mr Whippy ice cream thing operational during the day as well as the evening, but you can't have everything I suppose.

It was a weird feeling doing my food shopping tonight, not because I needed to get that much, because of my weekend, but because of the fact that the stuff I did need (new razor blades, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, all that sort of thing that I was running out of anyway) made the cost just as much as I'd normally pay each week. Kind of a balancing act I suppose but there you go. What was nice though was that I actually whizzed around in next to no time and was able to get the earlier bus home, and so I was able to settle in for the evening and get everything sorted.

Kicked back and watched a couple more episodes of Series 1 of The Henry Rollins Show on DVD (they're about 25 minutes each) and it's just really great to see incisive interviews, general intelligent conversation and musical performances that are about the music, not about what chart friendly crap the producers want you to play instead. In fact whilst browsing the IFC website, they have an additional exclusive musical performance from the artists on there. And.. whoa! Chris Cornell solo doing his former band Soundgarden's classic "Black Hole Sun" and done with some much intensity, even with the band backing him. The guitars still sound so dirty and his voice actually sounds better for being less shouty. No contest - tune of the day for me, that is. You can even watch it if you like.

Thursday 16th August - Pressure And Excitement

I had to look at the league table this morning when I woke up and pinch myself to see yes, it really was Man City up there in second. I did watch some of Match of the Day this morning as I'd recorded it last night, and I knew from the crowd last night that Cristiano Ronaldo of Man U had been sent off for foul conduct. What I hadn't seen till this morning was the incident concerned, and when I saw it I just thought "he's been a bit daft there". I know that because of his skill, he is targeted by opposition teams and is occasionally clattered from behind and so on, but what you can't do is react to such provocation the way he did. His raised headbutt clearly wasn't the right thing to do, and he's now put himself out of Sunday's derby, much to the joy of us City fans of course. Mind you, he did get sent off in the Manchester derby a couple of seasons back for a pretty bad tackle, so I don't actually know if it's a blessing or not.

I think in truth it's also a sign of the pressure put under certain players these days and sooner or later they'll snap and do something they regret. Unless of course it's Wayne Rooney, who seems to snap if things don't go his way. To be honest, he's become a bit of a liablity for England these days in the national team, and after Euro 2004 his scoring record for England doesn't make very good reading. Three goals in three seasons, to be brutally honest. Yet so many England fans think he's our saviour or something up front. Now don't get me wrong, we do badly need a decent English striker, but we have to be careful who we choose, I suppose. The jump between League and International football is something else.

Had a good day today, managed to start imaging the remaining laptops as well as possibly look at installing the 64 bit version of Windows XP Professional (x64 edition) to a PC that has the capabilities. Be interesting to see what happens and also how fast it would be, not least on one of those posh Mac G5s with the possibility of dual booting MacOS and Windows via BootCamp. Oooh yes. Not to mention the fact that it was pay day yesterday as well so it means I'll have enough in the bank for over the weekend, so if I get tempted by anything whilst seeing Avenue Q I can go and just buy if I fancy.

Got the email through from Ticketline which said it had details of Henry Rollins touring. Excitedly, I read through the email but no info on the man. So I went to the web site and sure enough, he's playing the Academy 1 doing his spoken word thing and the tickets go on sale tomorrow. Well, that's me heading over to the box office then, thankfully it's not that far from work so I can go there and get it all sorted out. I definitely must try and get to that, I've seen him in Manchester five times and three of them were there, one at the Lowry, one at the Opera House too. He's just such a great teller of stories and makes you laugh insanely with his humour. I'm just hoping I can get it all sorted tomorrow.

With that in mind, I had to listen to Rollins Band's excellent album "Weight" - still a classic after all those years. From that the opening track "Disconnect" is also still a classic, and it's lost none of its power even after this time. And it also happens to be my friend Dan's favourite Rollins Band track too - and with good reason. He kicks ass big time. It just has to be tune of the day, and here's why:

Wednesday 15th August - We Love You City, We Do!

And I definitely do. After a pretty intense day at work where I spent a fair bit of time answering emails and also getting the laptop image finalised for the trolley laptop, I knew I had something well worth looking forward to and that was seeing my beloved Manchester City against Derby County. Not least because it was the first home game of the season, but also because with us winning on the Saturday another win could well put us top. In fact, a win by two clear goals would put us top above Everton, who looked impressive in their 3-1 win against Tottenham last night to be honest. So it was with plenty of hope that I left home and headed into the centre of Manchester.

Now often I'd get the 216 bus from Piccadilly to the ground, but I thought it would be nice to actually walk it following the signposted walking signs from Piccadilly train station, and that's what I did. Walked along Store Street past quite a few homeless people (there's a free soup van that tends to park underneath the bridge at night so it makes sense to hang out there) and then up to Great Ancoats Street, turning left into Merrill Street and then at the Holt Town junction, following the walkway along by the river Medlock and the Ashton Canal up to the stadium itself. Part of that reasoning was that I was at the North Stand end of the ground and it was easier to do that and get to that end much quicker.

Excitement was abound as I arrived, the club store was absolutely rammed with poeple buying replica shirts (at £30 each possibly the cheapest in the Premier League) and the ticket office was selling remaining tickets off at a rate of knots. Indeed they'd still be doing so well into the first half by all accounts. But I was savvy enough to book online and have my Accesscard ready for action as I entered the North Stand in entrance B. I soon made my way to block 139 and my seat was actually in row A, right at the front! As the goal was to my right I wasn't directly in front of it so I could see all the pitch well, and indeed there was good cameraderie with the people around me.

Anyway, what was nice was that before kick off it was a bit of a Factory-fest music wise with the full version of Blue Monday being played as well as Step on by Happy Mondays as well. I have a feeling Sunday's derby might have some tribute for him (he was a Red, but as New Order's manager Rob Gretton was a Blue, that might work). Out came the teams and the City fans were well up for it, with a nice cacophony of noise around to greet the blue shirted heroes. And before kick off, an old school swing version of the anthem "Blue Moon". As much as it's City all over, I wish they'd play Supra's version instead, it's much more full of rocking guitars and gets you much more pumped up for action. That, my friends, is going to be tune of the day. A few fans near us were going "I said Blue Moon! You saw me standing alone!" etc to get everyone well up for it.

First half was end to end stuff actually, albeit with Derby playing the hoof tactics a little but once they got their game going, they tried to play it the right way, and almost got in twice had it not been for some excellent work by Kasper Schmeichel in the City goal, not least the star jump antics with the one on one, very reminiscent of his Dad (who was there in the crowd cheering him on, great to see). And City pressed forward with the likes of Elano and Martin Petrov being really determined. The end finish wasn't just quite there but it looked promising. After all we hadn't scored at home since New Year's Day and that was on my mind a bit.

But then just before half time, an impressive move and a deserved goal. Michael Johnson (no, we haven't signed the ex-Olympic athlete!) pressed forward and beat a couple of tackles, one lovely little one two with Elano later and he headed towards goal. I had a great view from the other end of the ground and was right behind his shot, the way he bent it with the outside of the right foot was impressive and as soon as he hit it I knew it was only going into one place - back of the net! Get in! 1-0! Needless to say I went pretty mental and absolutely loved it, it was just class.

Second half was pretty decent too, both teams went for it in terms of chances and Derby even threw on Robert Earnshaw to try and get an equaliser. However, it didn't come and indeed Schmeichel looked classy the longer he went on, and the experience I'm sure is doing him good as well, and why shouldn't it? Maybe Eriksson doesn't have to buy a keeper now, the way Kasper was playing he looked good. Even Match of the Day later picked up on it. But also it helps when you have Richard Dunne and Micah Richards in the centre of defence, two absolute colousses it has to be said. Dunnie Monster as we affectionately call him tells it like it is and is no nonsense.

But what impressed me was the drive and commitment. Dietmar Hamann was for me a deserved man of the match last night, he worked his socks off, chased down everything and was there to mop up the Derby midfield and then release the ball for the flair players. It worked really well and I'm pretty sure that he is a man reborn this season, we'll have to see of course but he really got stuck in. Martin Petrov is fast becoming a favourite of mine, his attitude and passion speaks volumes as well as charging down the left and really scaring defenders. More of the same would be good, I reckon. Jury's still out on Rolando Bianchi but he didn't do too bad considering he was on his own at times. Nonetheless though, I think Derby can take heart from their performance too, if they play like that I can see them staying up, they work hard and even if the ref ignored a few of their fouls, they were committed, I'll give them that.

It was happy smiling me as I walked out of the ground and 1-0 it stayed. I was just so pumped up, I really just was in my element as well. I hummed to myself a few chants as I got on the 219 bus back into Manchester, and as I walked to the bus stop from Piccadilly, I was whistling one of the chants, and a couple of fellow fans walked past with a grin on their faces - they knew exactly what I was thinking. I'm not getting carried away as it's a long hard season, but who'd have thought it? 2nd in the table (Everton are top on goals scored!) and with Man U languishing in 12th after their 1-1 draw at Portsmouth, and all bodes very well. Indeed. In fact I'd Sky plussed Match of the Day but got home in time and the look on Lee Dixon's face was classic, I tell you.

Tuesday 14th August - Teeing Off

Well if only I could escape to the golf course for a few hours, that would be neat. However, something else nice did happen this morning. I had had a note through the door to say that there was a package waiting for me and I needed to go to the sorting office to collect it, as you do. Luckily for me it's not that far, and when I got there, it was what I'd ordered, two Henry Rollins DVDs direct from his store in the USA, both Region 1 only so thank heavens that my DVD player is multi-region, eh? It's great stuff though not least as one of them is the Henry Rollins Show, which is now in its second series over the pond. The DVD is all of series 1, so plenty of good interviews and rants from Henry, as well as great guest musicians. In fact, I watched Frank Black's excellent acoustic performance of his "I Burn Today" track from episode 3 (I skipped to it cos I adore Frank's stuff) and it was fab, so that's my tune of the day - even before I leave for work. What am I like eh?

And when I got home from work there was something nice waiting for me, my ticket for Avenue Q on Saturday. Yaay! I was surprised that one of my work colleagues who works in one of the admin offices had actually heard of it when I mentioned it yesterday, so that was good. I loved it back in April and really wanted to go back and see it again, and now I am doing. Of course there's the odd cast change since last time (for example the one who was in Torchwood doesn't play Christmas Eve, it's now played by Jennifer Tanarez, and the very lovely Clare Foster's not in either - her assisting around and big grins was great) but most of the main cast are still the same, so that's a massive plus. Part of me wants to get there early and see if I can get any piccies taken with the cast, that would be rather nice, but I suspect it won't happen. Ah well.

Still, no complaints really today despite the weather, it's been productive at work and I've even got my new rig on my desk now. It's one of the new bits of kit we got as replacements, and some replacement. We're talking Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, DVD-writer, and 19" flat panel. Excellent all round, methinks, not least as administration should be a whole lot easier to work with. Makes a sharp contrast from my 15" LCD on the previous PC I had, and I guess the transition of screens will take a bit of getting used to. But nonetheless it's great to have it up and running, and things felt super smooth when I was using it too, so that's excellent. It also means I have all the software that's needed at my disposal, so even better.

In case you wondered about today's diary entry title, Teeing Off is the opening segment of The Henry Rollins Show where he gets to have an opening salvo of rant and articulate conversation about anything and everything. and really tells it like it is. Sort of a bit like this one:

Monday 13th August - Off My Trolley

No, I am not going mental. Well, not just yet anyway. I made a start on one of the trolley PC laptops that needed updating and knowing it hadn't been touched for some time, I took a look at one to see what needed doing. And the answer? A fair bit. In fact after a quick discussion with my manager, we decided it was easier to use one of the newer images (the sysprep version) and then add on what was needed afterwards. In effect, this was going to be much better anyway because it meant that students would get the up to date software (hurrah) as well as being able to go wireless if they needed to via the guest network (which does need Windows XP service pack 2 to work, that gives you an indication of how old the build on them is.. late 2004 I think. And as they're not online cos they're in a classroom trolley, no updates

Anyway, that plan hatched I started to roll out the new kit for us in our team and all seemed to be going well too. I think it was just a case of knuckling down and getting things done that needed doing really, not least as I wanted to ensure that I could then spend time getting the revised student build out there and ready for the start of the year to do what we needed to do in as little time. I'm definitely going to recommend that four of us in the team blitz the whole thing and just get them all up and ready in as little time as possible, so that's going to be something to work on for sure.

Got home and decided to watch some more CSI on DVD, and I'm finally getting to the end of series 5, which means I can order series 6 soon once the price goes down a bit - £30 for each half seems a bit much but I guess I could buy the whole lot in one box set from for £48, still a bit dear though. Mind you, the first part of series 7 gets a DVD release in September so it may be then that the previous series comes down in price so I might have to look in to that and see where it takes me. Mind you, I love the "Weeping Willows" episode not least as Marg Helgenberger (Catherine Willows) and her real life husband Alan Rosenberg (who plays a lawyer Adam Novak) are both on there, and it must have been pretty intense doing some of those scenes on set, not least when he says "ask the redhead" and gives that knowing look. Mind you I also got some of the domestic chores done too so I felt quite productive by the time I was getting tired later on.

Dug out my Palatine 4 CD box set as well and played some of the more obscure Factory stuff of that, if nothing else as a nice tribute to Tony Wilson. It only seemed right somehow and some of the more obscure offerings that are on disc 2 are a joy to behold really. Yes there's some New Order, but there's also the delightful "Skip Scada" by A Certain Ratio ("Mickey Way the Candy Bar" would have been better here), Cabaret Voltaire's sublime "Yashar" and Marcel King's soulfunk "Reach For Love". But the one that sounds beautifully melodically haunting as well as full of synths is the epic "Looking From A Hilltop" by Section 25, and that's my tune of the day. It just seems to have all the right moments within - pulsing synth and drums, gorgeous vocals and sounding on the right side of dark to be haunting. In the meantime, this article by Paul Morley is a very nice summing up of the man that was Anthony H Wilson.

Sunday 12th August - Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Well I have to say it was a nice lazy laid back sort of day today. I got up and got myself ready, made sure all my washing and domestic chores were done, and then it was off to Mum's. Initially I'd thought that she was only inviting myself over for a quiet bit of Sunday lunch with roast beef and all the nice trimmings to go with it. But what I didn't realise was that in fact pretty much all my immediate relations and aunts, uncles, nephews etc were also around, so there were a mere sixteen of us having Sunday lunch. Thank heavens my Mum's a legend at this sort of thing and everything went smoothly. Let's just say that the bottle of shiraz I took with me was also a wise move:perfect with red meat it thus proved to be.

Most of the afternoon was spent in the back garden at me Mum's just relaxed and catching up with everyone: a fair few of them are planning to go camping in tents at the end of the month as well, so they were organising that between them all - I'd already got something planned for that weekend but unusually Mum was fine about it - she may have wanted me to come along and all, but these days I tend to have a fair few things on the go in advance, so there it was. The scones and clotted cream and jam I'd brought along went down perfectly with a cup of tea later on though, that's for sure. And the weather had just about held together nicely, although now I'm back home and writing this it's absolutely chucking it down, so it looks like the good spell of weather we've had here lately has come to a close.

As for today's musical selection, well time for a bit of laid back ness methinks, to fit in with the mood. Got home, whacked on MC Solaar's excellent "Prose Combat" album and just put it on random, and on came the eight minute vibes of "I'm Doin' Fine" which is going to be my tune of the day. It's so laid back and chilled and the jazzy styles right near the end of the track just blissfully go on and on without you realising. And it proves that not all hip hop is about shooting people, too.

Saturday 11th August - A Walk In The Lyme Park

I needed to get out and clear my head of a few things today. I guessed as my mind had been full of information and work, and indeed because of the bad news last night, and other stuff going on in my head, I needed to completely escape somewhere for the day and just be able to put things into context, and with no music in the background (that can wait till I get home and start writing stuff and need some background noise.) I thought of a cunning plan. If Netto had those bicycles in like their offers thing said, I'd get one and cycle somewhere, but if not, I'll take a walk somewhere nice and had Lyme Park in mind purely becuase of the vast expanses of space that exist out there.

So, made myself some breakfast and then headed to the local Netto. As I expected, no bicycles at all. I had actually seen one in Tesco last night but it looked a bit too cheap and nasty, and didn't have the full suspension, which for riding on roads and tarmac paths you really sort of need to be honest. So I headed off to the local train station and got myself a return to Disley, and all was well. In fact once I changed trains at Stockport, it was amazing to see just how many people were either going to Lyme Park (Disley station is the nearest stop in case you wondered) or on to Buxton! The train was pretty busy and with the weather set fair for being a very nice day, may as well take advantage.

Got off at Disley station and crossed over the bridge to the other platform, for behind there is the start of the Gritstone Trail. The whole trail is actually some 35 miles and if I followed it all, I'd end up in Kidsgrove near Stoke-on-Trent. Of course that was too far, but the start of the trail does take you through Lyme Park, and this is what I was aiming for. I started on up the trail but instead of turning left for Higher Disley, I turned right and followed the road cum footpath around until I headed round the side of a small reservoir, and indeed near the park entrance itself. I then walked uphill for a fair amount of time as I was going to first have a look at the now empty house at the top of Cage Hill, and the views from there over Manchester and beyond were spectacular to say the least.

After that I walked thankfully downhill all the way to Lyme Hall. Now this place still looks spectacular and at the entrance to the hall as you enter the courtyard, a stone tells you that it used to be a family residence for over 600 years until the late 1940s, well I wouldn't have minded living in such grandeur, I can tell you. The good thing is though is that it's National Trust preserved, and so if you want to go round the hall and gardens, you can for a small cost. I decided against that, only because I've been there a few times in my life, but nonetheless it was good to see the old building looking resplendent, that's for sure.

Carried on with a loop around the Fallow Deer trail, which takes you past the back of the Lyme Hall gardens and also you're recommended to keep to the paths. And no wonder, just as I was about to go over a bridge over a small stream (which runs through towards the Hall itself) I spotted several fallow deer grazing in the shade, they looked peaceful and at ease but I really didn't want to get too close in case one of them got frightened and decided to charge in self defence. But to be that up close and personal with nature was something really lovely, and I think it's often what's forgotten. I then walked back the way round and then on to the small lake that has a coffee shop on one side - and it seemed to be quite popular for a picnic too! I stopped by to grab some water and then it was off on the trail again, this time to the far end of the park.

After walking though the trees at the end of the park and right to the end of the trail, where the West Parkgate was, I walked down a small path and realised that I had located some of the dwellings that made up the whole area of Pott Shrigley. I basically winged it a bit and walked downhill, past the entrances to a few farms and even underneath a tunnel. And it wasn't a tunnel with a railway overheard, but the Macclesfield Canal. I carried on and after a sharp right turn just past Woodend Farm (I think it was that) I then saw the sign to say I was approaching Poynton and there was the Middlewood Way to the left of me. That path goes from Marple to Macclesfield and recycled an old disused railway line, so it's got to be reasonably good, I thought.

On I headed along the Middlewood Way towards Middlewood, and as I did so I noticed that part of the way actually goes along an old platform. Indeed, this would have been Higher Poynton train station back in the day. It's fascinating just how the closure of old train lines has meant an upsurge in cycle paths and them being reused for people, a real green initiative. Indeed at the Higher Poynton station there's a plaque commemorating when David Bellamy (of all people) opened the Middlewood Way back in 1985.

I also noticed a sign for a pub and as lunch was needed it was time to check it out, and well worth it it was, too! The Boar's Head was a proper pub, none of this fancy stuff everywhere, just good honest beer and friendly staff, just how a pub should be. I got a bit excited when I saw one of the blackboards mention Tribute as one of the guest ales, now that would have been something! They'd actually run out (a good sign though) so a cracking pint of Black Sheep it was, along with a very hearty steak and kidney pie, served with chips, broccoli, carrots and peas and plenty of gravy too. It looked and smelt like it was home made too - honest home cooked stuff which was just spot on. If you're walking that Way, and need to stop off, stop there. It's as simple as that.

I carried on walking after lunch and got to Middlewood train station (Cue Max and Paddy: "Middle... Wood? We're in the middle of a wood!") and then took the path right of the station which sort of followed the train line for a bit, diverted myself across the Macclesfield Canal, and then headed along the path, had to cross the railway at an unmarked crossing (good job my hearing detected a train coming and I waited sensibly) and then it was on along the path around a few farms before ending up on the main A6 and walking downhill back into Disley itself. I really did feel the warm weather but had kept myself hydrated throughout and stopped off in Disley for some more water to be on the safe side. After this, I worked out there was around ten minutes to wait for the next train, result! And I got home just in time for the final football scores.

Which, just so happened to be good! Why, you may ask? Well, I got in and flicked to BBC1's Final Score and it was that City were winning 1-0 at West Ham. Then I saw that in fact they had a goal to report on and it went to Upton Park. I was hoping it wasn't 1-1, it wasn't. It was 2-0. Yaay indeed. Even better was that two of our new singings had scored a goal each, but as for the youngsters, Micah Richards was outstanding according to Garth Crooks, as was Kasper Schmeichel in net, and Nedum Onouha helped set up the second goal for Geovanni (hmmm.. Ned'd be worth having in your Fantasy League team this week that's for sure - five points for clean sheet and assist..) All good stuff, I think. Match of the Day just might have to be watched later on..

Started to type a fair bit as well as upload today's pics I took to my Flickr images pool, so I'd check the link from the main page, or if you just want to see today's lot, well you can do. Anyway, whilst doing all that I put on some Factory stuff in tribute to Anthony H Wilson (read my Thought). And what better than some classic stuff from The Durutti Column? In the 24 Hour Party People film, it was only Anthony Wilson that actually understood what Vini Reilly was trying to do, whilst other critics called it "provocatively poor". Anyway, "Bordeaux Sequence" is going to be my tune of the day simply because it's just everything that's good about The Durutti Column summed up, gorgeous melody, plenty of instruments used, and a fusion of acoustic and classical styles along with synths like no other. You'd have to hear it to believe it.

Friday 10th August - Don't Walk Away In Silence

I'm on a roll at work, that's for sure. Felt like I'd managed lots today. Not only did I pretty much get cracking on the PC trolley laptops and probably come up with a great idea for a revised image, which should pretty much nail everything spot on as and when needed, but I also finished off the build for our team's new PCs, which was most excellent. I was waiting for one final piece of software which arrived today, and that certainly was well timed. Chucked that on, got it all up and running and managed to leave for home with the PC imaging to the server with its brand new image, so I can then image the rest of what I need on Monday. The other upshot is that whilst installing some of the new software, I've actually been able to test that it works, too. Yaay.

Did my usual bit of food shopping after work, and as well as treat myself to some clotted cream and some scones to have later, I actually got two lots plus some jam. Why, you may ask? Well, Mum's invited me over for Sunday lunch, and her roast beef or roast chicken (she's not decided yet) plus all the trimmings is absolutely gorgeous, and I didn't fancy missing out on that. So I'd said I'd bring some dessert and I thought as we'd both been to Cornwall having all the ingredients for the Cornish Cream tea would be perfect, really. Did that as well as get all the usual stuff, and made my may homeward to relax with a couple of episodes of CSI thrown in to the mix.

I was online checking a few things out about 9, and also booked my ticket for Avenue Q next Saturday (I'm front row, excellent, and not expensive either) I soon read in the news that the great Anthony Wilson, the man who gave Manchester music the kick up the backside it needed and also the man who formed Factory and brought Joy Division, New Order and countless others to the masses, had passed away tonight. Words can't describe the numbness I felt when I heard the news. It was a real shock to the system - although he'd been ill with cancer, apparently he'd had a heart attack which wasn't related. I had to really compose myself for a little while because I genuinely felt a tinge of sadness inside.

I'm probably going to write a proper thought in the Thoughts section once I get my head together, but suffice to say for now that Joy Division will have even more meaning to me now than it already did. There could only be one tune of the day today, and that's "Atmosphere" by Joy Division. People used to call them depressing, yet this song was such a song of hope and defiance that it really reversed what people thought and made them realised just how important that the band were. When the late great John Peel called it one of his all time favourites, you know it's good. Indeed, one that Anthony H himself should be bloody rightly proud of.

Thursday 9th August - What A Difference A Day Makes!

Or so the song went, anyway.. but seriously, all the frustrations that were attempting to stop me at work to get my jobs done were all brushed aside very nicely during today, and I actually felt really productive. First off, that missing laptop driver was actually the Intel Management Engine Interface, but it needed to be the mobile laptop version. The laptop manufacturer didn't even have it but a quick check of rival manufacturer Lenovo's web site had the driver by Intel there, and that worked perfectly as intended. It's amazing what a bit of sleep does to refresh the brain, and so that pretty much got me on the start of things to come.

As well as that, I was also working on a solution for someone where they needed not to show some of the icons for new when you right click the explorer window, so that a user couldn't create a new type of document just like that. In the end I found the answer, it's a simple case of using TweakUI for Windows XP and in the My Computer / Templates section, you can simply delete the types of document you don't want to right click and create a new one from the contextual menu. Very useful, that! And saved a fair bit of hassle as well really.

I also spent some time out on the way home as I needed to get the hair chopped to bits, and felt much better for it. When it gets really warm the last thing you want is a massive clump of hair that just keeps all the heat and temperature in, and to be honest I don't feel necessarily as if I can control what it does after a fair bit of growth, so off it went. Much kudos as per usual to the lovely folks in the Northern Cutter in Affleck's for their usual excellent job at a price that's very reasonable indeed. I was chatting to a female colleague earlier and some, getting their hair cut is not only more expensive but a fair bit more stressful at times - so I'm glad it's not something I have to think about but get it done.

Kept my eye on the cricket and it was pretty depressing stuff. Not least as India were batting well and clearly were making sure they got as many runs on the board as possible to make it difficult for England to possibly chase down any sort of win to tie the series. 316 for 4 is pretty commanding, to be honest, and I'm sure that it's going to be a difficult next few days to get anything out of the wicket and indeed any form of result. But I kind of expected that really - not being able to finish them off in the First Test is going to prove really costly to be honest and it just shows how narrow a margin defeat and victory can be at times.

In the meantime, if you're sick of spam like I am (thank heavens my spam filtering is most excellent) you could always deal with it the Blendtec way.. will it blend? That is the question.

Wednesday 8th August - Summer in the Sandbar

It feels like Summer at last, and first thing this morning when I woke up after a lovely night's sleep I just felt in the mood for a bright and breezy pop song, so on went Donna Marie and on went "The Other Half" - so that's going to be my tune of the day. It sounded good last night but it also sounds good even over the web on her myspace thingy as I was checking the email. As I said in yesterday's diary, there was something about last night that just really put me in a good mood, and despite a hassle at work with a laptop that refused to image, I wasn't going to let any inanimate object stop my complete mood of optimism at the moment.

And I think that mood eventually got me to sort the problem out - what it was that as well as updating the imaging server components, the laptop needed an Intel Serial ATA driver that's so new it's not on any sysprep build, and so eventually I had to do an in-place XP repair but also use the Intel driver from floppy pressing F6 at the right time during Windows XP setup. Oh, fun and games all around there, I can tell you. There's just one driver I'm missing which is some form of Intel IMEI thing that just refuses to play ball, but I think it's because it's for mobile rather than desktop, so I might have to try and locate it somehow - the laptop manufacturer's web site wasn't that much help. Bah.

Also had a bit of a nice rest and chill out at lunch as a couple of colleagues decided to head to Sandbar for a coffee. Now, one of the lovely women behind the bar makes possibly the finest mocha this side of that side, and as luck would have it, she was in today, and so a mocha it was. They've just added a sort of beer garden outside, which is probably more for those that need a smoke, but there's some decking and some nice benches and it actually looks a whole lot more classy for it to be honest. It was good just to mellow out with the mocha and just have a good natter with my colleagues to get through the lunch break, and that kind of motivated me as well which was a good thing.

Had a relaxing evening and my two brothers came over - one of them is flying to the US later in the year and needed me to print their flight itinerary as it was an e-ticket and they didn't have a printer. Was good to catch up with them both as well, and I gave my other brother the brochure I had for the St Austell Hotels and inns that I picked up whilst I was away, with a view to possibly heading back to Cornwall for a long weekend later in the year, possibly November so I can do a little bit of Christmas shopping at the same time depending on how things go. But I thought that my brother and his partner might like a mini break for themselves too, and I can imagine them enjoying themselves lots down there. I guess it's also good to have a good natter too. Sometimes you don't realise just how long it is that you don't see people till you see them, if you know what I mean.

Tuesday 7th August - Sinking Deep At The Roadhouse

Well, tonight was going to be a good night, I just felt it. It was the Amy Macdonald gig, sure, but of course yours truly was just as excited because Donna Marie was going to be the support act for her, and I knew full well that with the Roadhouse probably going to sell out its 250 capacity (not least as Amy's album is number 2 in the album chart) it was a great opportunity for her to be able to play her music in front of a packed audience, and with a bit of luck, sell some CDs and spread the word. I think too that when you get these sort of slots it's a good time to really nail it.

Got outside the Roadhouse around 7.15pm, bit early I know cos it was an 8pm start, but interestingly there was a queue. Then I discovered why - apparently there were only 10 tickets left and I guess people who were turning up on the night were chancing their arm to get the last few, which made sense. What I also did notice is the fan base for Amy. A couple of blokes I spoke to (probably early twenties or so) definitely fancied her, as well as liked her tunes, but I did also notice that quite a few people were also here for Donna Marie as well. Now that was something that cheered me up, let me tell you!

I spotted Donna a little later on and she was feeling pretty nervous about the whole thing, but to be honest I saw that as a good thing: if you're nervous it means you want to do well, and if you're not, then you're not that bothered, so I was thinking positive for her. She dashed in the car to pick up some flyers from a friend who was printing them off for her so she could be back at the gig later on, and from the entrance I earlier managed to hear her soundcheck, which sounded pretty good to me. The flyers looked pretty good too and were promoting nicely with details of the EP on it as well.

Got in to the Roadhouse, and to be honest, nothing has changed since the last time I was in there for a gig. Still the same small stage, the tables around the side, and the very small but cramped red brick wall surroundings. I couldn't see all of I'm From Barcelona fitting on here somehow (they could try, but then try getting them in the miniscule dressing room!). I do remember seeing Bennet here with my friend Chris back in 1995 and there were around 60 people there, and that was even on the back of "Mum's Gone To Iceland" hitting the top 40 that very night! (true). In a way that also reassured me: if it ain't that broke, no need to fix it really. The crowd was filling up nicely and flyers for Donna Marie were being distributed nicely, so on went the show.

First up was a band called Ryna (myspace) In keeping with the more intimate gig setting, they'd adapted some of their more rocking songs and went all acoustic with them instead. In truth, they weren't that bad and certainly could carry a tune, although I think the brave decision to go acoustic meant a little unfamiliar territory for them. Nonetheless though they were solid enough and a good start to the evening, which meant three bands for the price of a fiver. Did someone say "bargain" at the back there? They'd probably be right.

Things were warming up nicely for Donna Marie (myspace) (official site) to come on and do her thing. And you know what? She was excellent. Blending together a good mix of her old and new stuff, it was thoroughly enjoyable. Even though she wasn't using her own mic, her voice sounded crystallite and clear, and the guitars did their thing and came across in the right way. It's often hard if you're just one woman and a guitar to get the audience's attention, but she definitely got theirs - certainly as I looked around from my vantage point there was a good level of applause for her all the way along the floor. I felt so chuffed for her. Because I had the foresight to add the setlist as it went along to a note on the phone, it went a little something like this:

Paint The Sky
Never Really Meant It Anyway
Make You Mine
The Other Half
Sinking Deep
Holiday From Myself
Like A Hollywood Film
Goodtime Girl

It made sense to put on all four from her "Paint The Sky" EP so that people could hear it live and then if they liked it, buy it on the night. And because "Sinking Deep" sounded a little more emotional and with verve than I've heard it before, that simply has to be my tune of the day. So there. What I did also notice was that quite a few photographers (not all of them professional) were snapping away too - I hope a fair few good pics came out on there! Certainly the vibe felt good, all the flyers had pretty much gone (yaay) and it was just great stuff.

One thing I've noticed Donna do a little lately, and I must ask her about this sometime, is that during "Make You Mine" on the EP, the line goes "For a little bit longer, cos you know that I'm shy.." and recently when she's played it live it's been "For a little bit longer, problem is that I'm shy.." - a small difference I know, but I'm just wondering if it sounded more comfortable to sing it that way in a live setting. Didn't detract one bit of course, just something that I noted in a nice way. Oh, and isn't "Goodtime Girl" such a good set closer? It's just full of uplifting feeling and got everyone in the right mood, and wisely Donna mentioned Amy and that everyone should enjoy Amy's set later on. It really was spot on and I was understandably chuffed.

After a short while it was Amy Macdonald's turn to wow the crowds. I stood a bit more at the back for this one and allowed those who were clearly here for her to get a bit closer. What I did notice was that all the Radio 2 airplay Amy's been getting showed in the audience too - there were a lot of people of my age and older, and plenty of couples at that, who were coming along to enjoy Amy's show. In a way that's good, but in a way I'm quite sure that a lot of them hadn't been in such a small venue before and weren't clearly used to the more, how can I put it, spit and polish sort of venue, if you know what I mean.

The vibe was good though and Amy did a good show, mainly playing stuff off the album as you'd expect. The bass player was a star, he really was giving it some and you could tell he was really into what Amy was doing. I particularly enjoyed "Footballer's Wife" which was sung with real passion, and the title track "This Is The Life" sounded very good as well. It all went by very quickly actually, and before you knew it, that was that. In a way it going quick is an indication that she was good, and she was, don't get me wrong. But when I actually saw that she was only on stage for around 40 minutes, well clearly that's too short a set list by half.

Mind you, it was the first live show she'd done since the album hit the charts, and I think too that the success of it all has really thrown her a little in a way, a bit of a surprise really that it's all come so quickly in terms of radio play, album sales etc, and I think the attention on her must have been a little intense. She did play really well though and I'm sure there'll be enough people out there who'll keep her level headed and away from the stress and pressure of being a 19 year old with a chart hit album. All in all though, she was a solid performer and I can see when she next plays Manchester at the Academy 3 that it pretty much selling out there with a good show too. The best of luck to her as well!

What was really nice for Donna Marie though is that quite a few people purchased her EP, and that was good to see that people were able to take notice of what she did and put their money in their pockets. After all, when you're trying to get noticed, word of mouth is definitely a big factor, sometimes even more so than any website could ever really do. It was a top night all round, and Donna had had people come down from Scotland and up from London to see her, which made it really special. I'd like to also say a nice "hello" to Joanne and Brian, who were there to cheer on Donna and were great to talk to as well. It really did feel good last night and if every gig was like this, the world would be a better place. Oh, and I've got something nice to listen to as well...

One last thing: it is Kristin Hersh's birthday today, so as it's her 21st again (well you have to be polite and not ask a woman's age, don't you?) I'd like to wish her a happy birthday and hope that everything is lovely on this day. You've earned it, K!

Monday 6th August - Mr. Rock And Roll (Well, Sort Of)

Back to the grind today and as well as mostly working on the build for the team, with all the administrative stuff that we need, I fixed a couple of laptops too. But the one thing I was most pleased to discover was HP's new version of WebJetAdmin, used for controlling HP network printers with JetDirect cards. Version 10 is absolutely brilliant, no web browser based rubbish, no Java slowness, oh no. Completely re-written in some nice SQL code, it's so much more user friendly. And it allows better control of the printer devices. My colleague who uses that tool as much as I do was very impressed with the new version and thanked me for checking it out, which was rather nice!

Got home and realised that I'd run out of bin liners, bah! And so it was off to Netto. Whilst there I noted that on Thursday they were getting in some Raleigh make of mountain bike, with all the Shimano gears and all that sort of stuff, for a mere £65. Hmm.. shame our local Netto never seems to get those offers in their newsletter otherwise I'd seriously consider getting one for the occasional ride and being able to just go when I wanted to if need be. And that price isn't costing the earth either, so it may well be worth a check just in case.

I must admit I'm looking forward to tomorrow night's Amy Macdonald gig, and I played her album again tonight to at least know how it all will sound when I go. I really still like the title track of her album, but also there's another track on there which is "Poison Prince" which I quite enjoy too. But of course it's two for the price of one tomorrow night, as the very lovely Donna Marie is supporting. If you're going, get there early and watch her, because she will be excellent, I promise you. Her EP's still getting regular rotation here at the Towers, and deservedly so in my view.

However, when seeing Never Mind The Buzzcocks the other night it reminded me of the rather surreal geeky sort of song that would only be Americas 1990s indie, namely the art-rock number "Detachable Penis" by King Missile. The band is basically the idea of the poet John S. Hall, and this was their most well known song, and you can pretty much guess what it's about. Of course, the video has a censored and uncensored version but you get the idea that it's pretty bonkers and surreal, but it is so arty at the same time. Problem is that you don't want to be walking down the road singing "Detachable Penis" or else you'd be getting some right looks. Still, it's my tune of the day simply because it's just soo... rock and roll really.

Sunday 5th August - Hungary For Success

After all the mad rushing around of the last few weeks I'd decided that today was the day where I was going to do a bit of cleaning and washing, but also to be able to take a nice relaxing seat on the sofa and just watch some sport to pass the time, not least the Hungarian Grand Prix. After all, the race is usually a good one and British drivers tend to do well there, Damon Hill won a couple of times and almost a third in an Arrows of all cars, Jenson Button recorded his first ever win here last year, Nigel Mansell's epic Ferrari win in 1989, you get the idea. And as I was out last night I missed all the drama unfold about Alonso being demoted on the grid and Lewis Hamilton being pole, set up nice here I thought.

And nice it was too: Lewis did the job brilliantly, staying in front of a hard charging Kimi Raikkonen all race, and that was a real mental as well as driving test to know that one mistake could cost you the race, and he didn't put a foot wrong anywhere. It was accomplished to say the least and I think it showed maturity as well. What's more, Damon Hill did a pretty decent job as guest co-commentator in the ITV1 box, showing that he still knew what it takes to drive, and explained a lot of things from the driver's point of view, like Martin Brundle does. And showing James Allen up for the rubbish commentator that he is. If proof was needed, Murray Walker doing the German race a couple of weeks back was proof enough, believe me.

After that I was switching between the Community Shield game between Chelski and Man Utd, and the Women's Open Golf. However, the golf was getting painfully slow, not least the woman who was the rival with Ochoa the winner, she kept asking her caddie for advice all the time and not having faith in her own ability, and on the 14th she hit the tee shot out of bounds. D'oh! Ochoa, on the other hand, was just up to the ball, size up the shot, hit it. As it should be. Her quickness of mind is something to behold and she's world number one now, and a four shot win yesterday proved that really.

But to the football, and I have a question for Chelski fans. Just who is going to take the penalties next season if you get any? The penalties at the end of the Community Shield were a bit pants to be honest, and even though one of them was an easy save, the thing is that you should be expected to score from twelve yards. Full credit to Edwin van der Sar though, he really did make himself large and an impassable barrier. Also I think Chelski's injuries could really bite into them, not least to John Terry. Mind you, at £140K per week (so they say) I think a four week injury on full pay must be really hard (ahem... not)

I did spend a bit of time tonight watching some more episodes of the second box set of CSI Series 5 (I want to finish them so I can order Series 6 and watch that, hehe) and during one of the episodes I noticed a quite familiar tune in the background. I had to do a bit of research into what it was as I couldn't remember, but it's during the episode "Nesting Dolls" where Sara Sidle is alone in her apartment and Grissom comes to visit her. But whatever it is, it's a good tune. However, afterwards I remembered I had the "All Over Me" film soundtrack CD and just listened to that to mellow out late at night. And on there was the rather lovely "Superglider" by Drugstore, which is going to be my tune of the day. It just suits the film and it also just feels really late night if you know what I mean.

Saturday 4th August - You'll Never Take The South Stand!

So it was the first time I'd seen City this season (well okay it's technically a pre-season friendly but as the Community Shield game is tomorrow football's officially pretty much back) and I was actually pretty excited. I think because of all the developments going on in the summer with a new chairman and players (I'll reserve judgement on Sven as the manager, but nonetheless the name does seem to be bringing players in so that's something I guess) there's a buzz of some optimism, and I suppose it's that optimism which seems to be a buzz around the city. And of course the day was an extended one, after the game of course there's the free bash in Albert Square too.

Had a leisurely morning really, mainly taking a walk and visiting one of my local bicycle shops. In truth they charge a fair amount of cash for a bike, but the guy in the shop was at least honest enough to say that it's a case of usually the price increase is for better parts, and on some of them you could at least tell. I suppose realistically that I might just get a cheap second hand one for now to see how it goes and if I'd actually ride it enough to warrant me getting a top of the range one. This way also I'd realistically at least be able to start using the local cycle paths now and see how it all goes from there - with the dry weather at least it would be doable to go out for a ride if I felt like it, so there's an incentive for me I suppose.

Anyway, I spent some time listening to the new Amy Macdonald CD, "This is The Life". As I'm going to see her on Tuesday (although realistically I'm also going to see the fantastic Donna Marie, as you might have expected!) the least I could do was check it out, and indeed I absolutely adore the single "Mr. Rock and Roll". That's the opening track on the album, but it's actually solid enough with a good variety of songs to draw you in. Interestingly the hidden track at the end is a song called "Caledonian", some form of unofficial Scottish anthem, apparently. But out of the songs on there, the title track from the album just sounds the right side of sad in dealing with its subject matter, so that's tune of the day. If you have the CD in the PC and access her official website, you can also listen to an acoustic version of the same song, which is rather good too.

That done and lunch had, it was time to head into the centre of Manchester on the bus, and as the bus got to Piccadilly, I spotted across the road the express 216 bus to take me to the City of Manchester Stadium. Quite well timed really considering the bus almost broke down on the way into Manchester - well it was one of those Magic Buses, or Tragic Buses as I call them. Still, got to the ground and swiped my card for entry, all worked well and I was soon in the second row in the second level of the South Stand, with a very good view of the goal nearby and the whole ground, looking rather resplendent as it usually does. I didn't know how many people were expected, but I reckoned 25,000 would be a good attendance.

The teams came out to a good reception and once the fans had spotted the new chairman, Dr Thaksin Shinawatra (no wonder the City fans have nicknamed him Frank Sinatra, much easier to pronounce I reckon!) he got a cheer as well. But as the game kicked off and one famous fan, the world champion boxer Ricky Hatton, took a seat in the lower tier of the Colin Bell Stand, joining the masses instead of being in the executive box, the City fans responded with chants for him, and then, in humour "You fat b*****d" - between fights he has been known to put on a bit of weight you see. Hatton then stood up and flexed his muscles, sort of beckoning "come on then!" in humour back. The City fans in the South Stand, the real diehards, couldn't resist, and after an initial chant of "You'll never take the South Stand!" they then went for it with a smile on their face singing "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough". The fans could see Ricky with a big grin on his face and it just lit up everyone around the ground in a good way.

Well, it did until Valencia decided to score after a mistake from Gelson Fernandes let in the Valencia attack and even though Kasper Schmiechel saved the shot, the rebound went in and it was 1-0 to them. And despite the best efforts of City, that's how it stayed all game. We did hit the bar a couple of times, a thunderbolt of a shot from Michael Johnson, who looks better every single game, and he's one of our youngsters, and also when the cross came in from Elano, Rolando Bianchi was unlucky to hit the bar with the glancing header. That said, it was about the only really good thing I saw Bianchi do, and I'm not that sure if as yet he's worth the mere £8.8m we paid for him. Time well tell on that one.

Second half was frustrating and a bit dull really, it just didn't seem to spark the fans so much and there wasn't that many chances to score, but we did match Valencia, who let's face it are a class side, and so I can't really complain too much. The positives I took from today were that our best players were all those that've come up through the ranks. Stephen Ireland was excellent in midfield, Micah Richards bossed the defence, and Nedum Onouha was solid and steady as always. One thing that I didn't get though was why Richards was playing in the centre of defence with Richard Dunne (aka Dunnie Monster) and Onouha at right back. Surely it'd be better to have Richards in the right back slot where he can trouble defences with his pace and help the right midfield (when Geovanni came on second half we looked a lot more balanced, it had to be said).

Ended up taking a leisurely walk back into the city centre and on to Albert Square for the post-game party that the chairman had laid on. It was very busy in the square indeed and the queues for the free food were immensely long so I didn't bother with any of that, nor the queues for the bar which also seemed very long as well. I did have the sense to nip in and get a mineral water on the way to the square though so that kept me hydrated and going fine. The entertainment was a Thai dance act, where they did some funky moves, then Thaksin popped his head out of the town hall and everyone went mental, and then some Thai crooner who did his stuff including an original number. He'd missed a trick here, surely a bit of Frank Sinatra would have worked here?

Thankfully after another Thai singer who did her stuff, we had one of the local radio presenters on and he introduced Cole Page, a crooner who's from around these parts. He actually did a very nice rendition of Come Fly With Me, and then started off Blue Moon and then just let the City fans sing to it, and he beckoned the crowd to get louder and prouder with it. Now you see, Cole had it sussed. He did another number that Frank Sinatra sang, Fly Me To The Moon, and ended his short little set with My Way. Oh, a quick hello to the woman in the green dress who waved at me from the first floor in Albert Square during that song, whoever you are! In any case after My Way, out came the players and Thaksin, and Sven too, and the presenter interviewed Thaksin and Sven to huge cheers, then Ricky Hatton came on for a little while too before the evening resumed with more Thai entertainment.

I'd decided to go home at this point as I was feeling a little tired, and as I went through the road next to the town hall and got to Princess Street, I saw Ricky's car go past (and so did many others, and cheering ensued) along with the team coach and the players being whisked back to the ground, and as it had stopped at the lights plenty of us City fans gave them an immense cheer on their way, to leave them in no doubt that we're a real diehard lot and that we really do want them to do well. It was a good day all round really despite the result, and I can only hope by the start of the season we can be ready for action!

Friday 3rd August - Where's The Baton Gone?

Another day, another plentiful day of stuff to do. This morning for example I started work on the image build that I'm going to do for our team with the new kit that's arrived. It's quite a comprehensive list of stuff we have to put on it, not only all the student applications that are used out there (and there's a heck of a lot out there!) but also there's the extra stuff that we use to administrate and also to sort out any issues with file format conversion and file recovery, including a very nifty little utility which can recover images from digital camera cards even if they're deleted. Always well worth keeping those sort of things to hand, I think.

Had a good day's food shopping and got some more Cornish scones so I could have a cream tea for dessert tonight after my main meal, and why the hell not? Interestingly, the woman who served me on the till was talking with the customer in front of me that she was showing her age as she'd watched Fraggle Rock on one of the kids' channels (assumedly one of her kids asked her about it). Anyway, becuase I'm such a Jim Henson Company / Muppet Show / Sesame Street / Fraggle Rock sort of fan, naturally I had to smile and when it was my turn to be served mentioned that it's not about being old, but growing old disgracefully and being as young as you feel inside. Funny thing was her checkout supervisor came to the till and she got asked about Fraggle Rock, to which the reply was "I remember that" - we both grinned and went "you're as bad as us then!". A little light humour as I was packing the shopping always goes a long way actually and it pleased me no end to have a nice Friday feeling as I went home.

After the meal and scones (yummy!) I then watched the London Grand Prix athletics. All looked reasonably okay even if a British victory in any of the events was very hard to come by, indeed only Chris Tomlinson in the long jump really justified any form of selection and managed a win by a mere 2 centimetres! But what really disappointed me was the 4x100 metre relay at the end. Jason Gardener, in his last outdoor meet as he'd announced his retirement, ran his usual storming opening bend and passed to Craig Pickering. But when Pickering tried to pass to Marlon Devonish, it all went horribly wrong, the baton missed, and that was the team out of it. In truth, getting the baton round has always plauged the British 4x100 relay team, yet when they get it together they do well (witness the Olympic gold in 2004, we got it spot on that day!) It just goes to show that you have to work at your events to get them right, and worrying that we were so poor at it.

Anyway, I've had a sort of day where I've wanted to listen to either really mellow stuff or rocking out stuff, and the rocking out won, especially tonight as I've just wanted to use some energy. On went Rammstein's "Mutter" CD and from that, "Ich Will" is my tune of the day. Certainly when travelling back from Cornwall with the portable player on random, certain tracks on there kept me pumped up and going on the long journey home. Must remember to take it with me on my next trip out...

Thursday 2nd August - The Boys In Blue Never Give In

I realised today that I needed to get a ticket sorted out for Saturday's pre-season game - The Thomas Cook Trophy match with my beloved Man City against Valencia. With all the press concentrating on how Thaksin Shinawatra's human rights record could be called into question and why did he pass the fit and proper test etc, it was good to see that the activity on the pitch in terms of transfer was being done at a pretty fast rate, as we signed three new players today. The only downside is that none of them are English, and I am a little worried that we don't want to become a team of players without that determination and passion that we need in the Premiership. Granted, the prices aren't exactly cheap for them, but you pay your money, you make the choice, I suppose.

That said, it's still pretty exciting to see we signed another Brazliian, a Croatian defender and a Bulgarian forward along the way, and because of the Sven effect it looks like players want to come here. Well, I hope they all realise what they're letting themselves in for: City are the sort of team that you have to be mad or have an amazing amount of devotion to follow, take it from me. There's always something happening. But nonetheless it'll now be a case of hoping that the youngsters who've made it through the ranks, the likes of Micah Richards, Nedum Onouha, Stephen Ireland etc all get their chances as they should do.

Went to the ticket office after work - as I couldn't buy the ticket online. The reason? I needed to renew my Accesscard swipe card thingy so I could get into the stadium. So I just went in person to the box office, did the renewal (really easy as they have the card based printers there and so can issue you the new one there and then) and also purchased myself a ticket for the game in Level 2 of the South stand. Should be a good one, and apparently there's some sort of event in Albert Square on Saturday evening with Sven, some of the squad, and indeed Ricky Hatton attending as well. Sounds interesting, and free, and also free Thai food (as you'd expect of course) - might be well worth going along to I think! I could even have a bit of a cultured day and see the Kylie exhibition at the Art Gallery too, which I might just yet do.

Mind you I had a quick peruse around the City shop and the home kit's there, but the away and third kits haven't had their official launches as yet. But nonetheless the home kit's selling well. One day I will get myself the retro black and red away shirt that was synonymous for me with watching City as a kid - it was the standard for years and it reminded me of AC Milan (I think part of the reason the club picked it in the first place in the late 1960s) and got to be better than purple, maroon or the other bizarre colours we've had as an away kit over the last few years. I might just have to do that at some point as the classic retro shirts never seem to go out of fashion!

As for tune of the day the nice weather deserves something with some beats that you can get down to and just enjoy lots, and what better than Rune Svendsen (aka Travolta) and his "Condom Corruption" tune? It was composed on the Amiga back in the day and featured in a very famous Amiga demo "State of the Art". Not sure why the name came about mind you, but it's just full of variation, fast parts, slow parts, plenty of Industrial clanging along the way, and really pumps up the pace when it needs to. Absolute genius, that is! Darn, I need an Amiga to add to my retro computing collection...

Wednesday 1st August - I Can't Transitionalise Somehow!

It's the start of a new month and also the start of me working in a "new" department. Well, okay, not new as such, I'm still working with the same people for now, but as part of an internal restructure and reorganisation, we're now all part of a department called ICTS - I'll leave you to think of a welcome acronym for it if you so desire. In any case, whilst on the second day of the course I was on, there was an email from our senior manager welcoming us all to the new department. I just kept thinking of the movie Office Space and having a bit of a grin on my face, big time.

Anyway, the course was okay on the second day as we got to grips with some more of the advanced features including such wonderful concepts as chat and message boards (no, never used one of those before, hehe) - but it seemed pretty useful and at least now I've been given an overall insight into how the whole thing worked. Interestingly, me and a couple of other colleagues did actually query about which version of Java we need to have on our new builds, primarily because we're under a bit of pressure to ensure it all works properly. Turns out that the recommended version is 1.50.07 - thankfully that's what's on there now, but it was intriguging to see how we'd been told various different answers in the months before, most of them incorrect. Hmm.. communication.. that's what we need!

Went to see a couple of friends of mine tonight, it was really good to catch up, have a good natter and also discuss the latest movements Man City seemed to be making in the transfer market. Even though he's a Man U fan I don't hold that against him - each to their own, and it was just good to have a general technology/football sort of chat about all sorts as well. Mind you I was racking a nice score on that Flip Words game at the same time (multitasking, hehe) but definitely really good to spend some quality time - because of one reason and another (the holiday being one) we've not had much time to catch up and chat, so it was really good to do so.

Got home pretty late due to the 109 bus being slightly delayed at the stop near my friend's house, and got back into Manchester and then homeward as quick as I could. I then decided before I went off to bed that I needed to put something soothing and relaxing on (I'm thinking of possibly having to do myself a late night compilation disc for these moments, suggestions welcomed) and so what better than some nice acoustic stuff, not least the rather lovely cover version of "Just Like Heaven" as done by Katie Melua? That's my tune of the day because it keeps all the feel of the Cure classic but just makes it sound even softer.. awww.