Dear Diary... August 2009

Monday 31st August - Ooh, You Bakewell Tart!

The Cherries On My Bakewell Tart and myself decided that we were going to head out today for the Bank Holiday Monday and have a lovely time somewhere. We did have a think about heading on the train to Windermere, but the weather wasn't set too good and we thought that if we went somewhere a bit closer, we could gauge the weather and if the weather wasn't great, we always had the option of heading home a bit earlier should we want to and in the dry too - as The Cherries was quite willing to drive a reasonable distance too. So last night we came up with a cunning plan that we'd head to Bakewell but take in Haddon Hall just outside the town, which has been used a fair bit in film and television. And as you'd be inside the house, if it rains, well, it rains!

The Cherries came over and we headed down the A6, which was virtually the route for the whole way. There were temporary traffic lights at High Lane, before Lyme Park, but once that was over with it was then over through Disley, Dove Holes, round the back of Buxton and then on through winding roads and hills and towards Bakewell, where the traffic was pretty heavy getting through the town centre. It eased off as we headed out of town towards Haddon Hall, and the car park for the hall was easy enough to find, so we headed there and then had to cross the main road to get to the entrance to the hall.

We walked through the gatehouse and then along the main path, over the bridge over the river and then to the Hall itself. The garden outside by the restaurant had some unusual shaped trees and they served as a good backdrop as you headed upwards and into the main courtyard. The Hall itself was gorgeous and beautiful, certainly you could tell that it stood the test of time (parts of it date from the 12th Century) and as you explored the chapel and the King John's walls that showed just how heavily fortified the place was, you could understand just why the place was used in various historical dramas to be honest.

As you walked around the house, certainly grandeur was in full flow, not least by the long gallery, for me the best room in the house. It was very long indeed and the many bay windows that let in lots of natural light meant that the view out from them to the gardens below really did show it off to its best. In fact one of the rooms that adjoined the long gallery was showing some of the footage from the BBC version of Jane Eyre, and you could tell it was the Hall that was used. Outside, we walked around the gardens and the Summer House offered some lovely views of the place, and the gardens were immaculately kept, with plenty of colourful plants to really brighten up the place nicely.

What stood out for us both though was that the gardens and the house seemed to work so well together - and that the stone entrances to most of the rooms of the house had stone steps which were worn down in the middle, so you had to be careful to make sure you didn't fall over! It certainly showed what ageing does to a house like that and how the many tapestries that had been preserved added a hidden beauty and charm to the place. It certainly was well worth the admission and the walk around, as you can see from the pictures that I took whilst I was there.

After that, it was heading back towards Bakewell itself. We noticed a road which led to the main car parks for the town and headed to that, only for that road to be pretty busy. We soon worked out why though: one of the main fields just by this road had a car boot sale on, and a lot of people were entering and exiting the car park spaces to go and see that as well as head towards the town centre. We did manage to find a space though and it wasn't that far to walk into the centre at all, so that proved to be a quite nifty thing to do. It also meant that we weren't heading back through the town centre with more traffic to contend with too, so bonus, especially as we noticed lots of people walking around the town itself.

First off - it was time for lunch, and we both knew that there was a branch of Felicini's there, and it was quite close to the river. We spotted it from the other side of the river and so headed over the bridge and soon got to it. It wasn't full so we got a table and had a nice lunch overlooking the river and the ducks - I had the salmon calzone pizza and The Cherries had the crispy duck one. Of course at the moment between 12pm and 7pm all their pizzas are a mere fiver, and in our cases, that's almost half price. So it was a good value and enjoyable lunch as well and certainly the way that the old building looked with its modern features and yet retaining the old stone walls and oak beams certainly made everything look rather pretty indeed.

We had a good walk around the town after that and we both smiled at how several of the cafés declared that theirs was the first recipe for Bakewell Pudding in the area, and it seemed quite a competitive market between the three of them to get your business. In any case, that and the Bakewell Tart are in essence slightly different, the tart is more almondy tasting and indeed of course can come with icing (blame that Mr Kipling, I do). In any case there were plenty of olde worlde type shops as well as those who catered for the walker on their walking holiday and the town was pretty busy with shoppers and visitors alike.

We also spotted a couple of small craft fairs on and a lot of local designers were showing their wares, and very nice they were too. One of them had hand made some chocolate cakes so I did well to look away and not get tempted by them, besides which I was saving myself! We went into one of the cafés and one that claimed to have an original bakewell pudding recipe, and with us both having coffee, I went for the Bakewell Pudding with ice cream whilst The Cherries went for the vanilla slice that she'd seen - both were delicious and you certainly got a fair chunk of Bakewell Pud for your money it has to be said. We also went for a drink later where a pint of Cocker Hoop was mine to savour: it also meant the traffic had died down by this point too.

With The Icicles' lovely tunes in our ears (make "I Wanna Know" from their "A Hundred Patterns" album tune of the day - it just suits the summer feel somehow) we headed back out of the town centre and took a different route back which Google Maps suggested in the first place, which took you along the B6465 via Monsal Dale (stunning views from there) and Wardlow to the A623, then along there via Tideswell and Sparrowpit back to the A6. We noted that the traffic was queueing from Disley onwards, so we headed back via New Mills and Marple to mine and it meant that the journey back was a lot quicker too. All in all a grand day out and with such lovely company - how lucky am I?

Sunday 30th August - Three Out Of Three Ain't Bad

I had some of my relations around this afternoon to kick start what would be a good day of sport for yours truly. The plan was to watch the City game against Portsmouth on Sky Sports HD1 and then watch the F1 later from Belgium that was on at the same time (so I'd record it you see) and see what else was involved on a sporting day all round. I'd arranged with my relations for them to come over when they were here at mine on Thursday watching City do the business against Crystal Palace in the Carling Cup, and with two league wins out of two, hopefully a win against Portsmouth might be a good one.

As I predicted, it wasn't going to be easy. Portsmouth have new owners now and managed to bring in some new players for today, but I did feel we might have too much for them. As the game kicked off I put a couple of pizzas in the oven for our lunch so we could have something to eat during the match (the 1.30pm kick off really did call for that) and with that done and a brew down us, we were all hoping that City would do the business and be able to keep the run going. It was a surprise of sorts to see Robinho on the bench, but I have a feeling that seeing as his away form isn't so hot, and the way that Portsmouth play, he wanted a more battling attack and so put on Craig Bellamy instead - I can see the logic behind that one and it did prove to be the right move.

The first half hour or so had the odd chance end to end but City then took the lead. An excellently flighted corner from Gareth Barry was perfectly met on the head by the imposing figure of Emmanuel Adbeayor, who headed down into the net from six yards with a powerful header. So, 1-0 and it could well have been 2-0 before half time when a Bellamy cross was turned in by Micah Richards. Unfortunately Gareth Barry was offside at this point (Richards wasn't) and so the goal was rightly disallowed, but good tos ee that we were going forward and looking to kill the game off.

Second half we eased off a bit and allowed Portsmouth to get back in the game, although we did look a bit of a threat heading forward and was unlucky with a couple of headers from corners. However Portsmouth came close on a couple of occasions and if it had been any other striker apart from David Nugent, they'd have equalised when he fired a shot straight at Shay Given in the second goal. That said, we should have had two penalties at the end: Shaun Wright-Phillips was tackled from behind inside the box dead on ninety minutes and then Carlos Tevez was hauled back inside the area a couple of minutes later. Thankfully it didn't affect the result in any way and so the score stood at 1-0, meaning three wins out of three for City, which was ace.

After the football, the four of us headed for some gaming on the Wii, and so it was a full nine holes of golf on the Wii Sports game. It was pretty close all round, and I managed a good under par score. Two of us birdied the difficult final hole, so that was good. And then on to the bowling, where my uncle held on to his current title of champion and beat the three of us in a close game (there were just eleven points between first and third) and certainly that made the afternoon even nicer than it already was - all good fun, I reckon!

I then settled down later to watch the Belgian Grand Prix and it was drama from the word go - especially at Les Combes on the first lap where Sebastian Grosjean clipped the back of Jenson Button and Button went off - and trying to avoid that incident Lewis Hamilton slowed down and was hit up the back by Jaime Algusueri, putting them out as well. Kimi Raikkonen won in the end, with his KERS making the difference after the safety car, passing Giancarlo Fisichella in the lead. Fisi finished second and was my driver of the day, especially in a Force India which had been showing excellent pace all weekend too - well done him. And with the V8 Supercars also on later, it was a day full of sporting fun for me! Tune of the day is "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac - just the thing for F1 coverage!

Saturday 29th August - Electric Eyes

I woke up this morning in blues song style and after sorting out the bedding and getting some stuff in the wash for later on, it was time for a bit of a blast of Guitar Hero Greatest Hits again. I did play Guitar Hero Metallica for a little while last night and really nailed Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy" and got five stars on it, which is something that I had never done. One day I'll even get a higher score than I did but I was ever so pleased to do that on vocals so well and really manage to really do the job there.

As I wanted to progress a fair bit on the guitar too, I first had a blast of a few of the songs there on guitar and as part of the career mode I did Judas Priest's "Electric Eye" (make it tune of the day) and so I listened as well for the vocal keys to work out where I'd gone wrong where I first had a go of it on vocals beforehand and worked out from then what I'd managed to do wrong. I also played Rush's "YYZ" as one of the encore songs and it's more difficult than I remembered it - mainly because of trying to follow the song and the fact that it changes so often in terms of rhythm and stuff like that. But I reckon I could try medium guitar on some of them and get to work quite well, we shall see.

However, expert vocals was what it was about also this morning and so in the career mode sung several songs to try and get them out of the way, such as The Donnas' "Take It Off" and also Jane's Addiction's "Stop" which is just a bit insane on vocals and was glad to at least manage it to some degree of success. This did at least mean I could do the encore song of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" and absolutely got it nailed with my best ever score for that song! I think the difference was that I saved my star power for the freeform bits and got those pretty right, and also managed to sing the main parts of the tune correctly. I tend to go an octave lower for "the fire in the sky" phrase and that does work nicely for me allowing me to build up a hefty multiplier.

I also went back and did a couple of tunes on the tier, and got my best score ever on Motley Crue's "Shout at the Devil" meaning I am now world ranked number 3 on that one (I just checked) for the Wii. Excellent stuff. I then had another go at "Electric Eye" on vocals and remembering the way the song is sung with the key meant that I was able to get a good multiplier where required and also managed to almost double my score nicely in one fell swoop, and get five stars on it at the same time. Now that did please me immensely, although I might struggle with "Painkiller" if I decide to get Rock Band 2 when it finally gets a UK release later in the year. Why the hell have we had to wait so long for it, I wonder?

Friday 28th August - Who's That Going To Villa?

Well, another day at the office and I managed to get plenty done. I managed to image all of the fifth floor rooms and have them all ready for the new term and all done, and then I managed to get the second main dropin room imaged with plenty of the new PC image for those. I found a really good idea how to do it and when it worked, it was smart. I basically used the imaging server commands from the server itself and so decided how to bring down the multicast session. It worked too, and proved very useful that I could set them off for the weekend and bring the image down and be all good and working well. In fact what was excellent was that I did it just before heading home, too!

I did a little bit of food shopping but not too much, because The Wind In My Sails had managed to get a really nice deal at Marks and Spencer for stuff for tea and so we'll be having that tomorrow night where you get main course, dessert and wine for a tenner. I have looked at that before but there was never something that I fancied massively, but I'm sure The Wind's judgement is pretty good and so I was able to relax when shopping. I got enough of what I needed and settled in after tea for the evening.

I spent a bit of time updating the 365create pages before ringing back my cousin. She'd rung me last night during the football so I promised I'd give her a call back and she was fine with that - she knows me and City are inseperable! It was good to chat and catch up and indeed had plenty to talk about as well, so that was nice. I also spent a bit of time emailing friends and also having a quick chat with my friend now he is out of hospital too - which I'm sure is a massive relief for him too to be able to be at home and rest up there instead so at least he's in his own space to relax - always good that.

I kept one eye on the European Super Cup between Barcelona and Shaktar Donetsk, and in truth it wasn't that exciting, although at least Barcelona did win 1-0 and it didn't go to penalties or anything like that. I then realised that with all the new Manchester City players, I needed to update the team on FIFA 09 for the Wii and have all the new players in, which is pretty much what I did. And so now the eleven men on the pitch at the start read like: Shay Given, Micah Richards, Kolo Toure, Joleon Lescott, Wayne Bridge, Robinho, Stephen Ireland, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor. That's so not a bad squad in FIFA and as you can expect, they play pretty decently too. Might not be a bad starter for FIFA10 with that squad eh?

Talking of City, if Richard Dunne does leave and go to Aston Villa, I'll feel pretty sad to be honest. Dunne's been there for a long time now and he really does knuckle down and give his all for the lads. And you don't get player of the year four seasons in a row by being merely average. His form wasn't the best last season but this season he seemed to flourish with Kolo Toure, and it looks like signing Joleon Lescott means that he'll have to leave - which is a shame really as I could see that relationship defensively developing. In tribute, The Automatic's "Monster" is tune of the day as at one time City fans would sing with the chorus: "What's that coming over the hill? Is it a monster? It's Dunnie Monster!" which worked ever so well.

Thursday 27th August - Isolation

Another busy day at work today although mainly solo, as my colleague was in a meeting all morning and mid afternoon and everyone else was off at least part of the day. I really did manage well though to be able to sort out the seventh floor rooms (all 25 PCs sorted out and all ready to rock) and imaged the sixth floor over lunch. Half of them fell out of the imaging session so I reimaged them individually in one go and that seemed to work rather well, actually, so all was good there and by the end of the day that floor was completely nailed too. So even though it was mainly isolation, it meant I could get on with things and see what I could do, so that was actually pretty good.

I stopped by the local Cooltrader on the way home to do part of the weekend's food shopping a day early. You see, I like to buy little lunches I can put in the microwave at work which means I don't spend shedloads at anywhere near work, and it also means that I can try and control the portions that I have (all part of a cunning plan eh?). Well, I happened to know that Cooltrader had some Weight Watchers stuff in and so got five different meals for a mere fiver, along with some snack stuff for later when my relations come over to watch the footy (City are on against Palace on Sky tonight you see).

I also did a restart of my router tonight, as I fitted one of those BT IPlates to my master socket yesterday and so wanted to see if the broadband speed would improve because of it. I did notice it slightly, but the place I ordered from did say it might take 2-3 days to see the full improvement it may offer, so we shall see. Nonetheless it may be getting a review if it works or not as I'm sure other people have been intrigued by it and what it would actually offer in terms of does it work and is it worth the dosh. And certainly that's always paramount on anything I buy - is it actually worth it?

I spent some time too before the football watching some of the classic Belgian Grand Prix from over the years. I really wish that 1998 had the full highlights show but at least what we got did have the Murray and Martin commentary so that was all good. 1995 of course became a titanic scrap between Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill and was really entertaining because of that, although I wouldn't have also minded full highlights from 1985 either - Senna versus Mansell, what more do you want? Still, it's a nice feature and certainly something that's making the most of the licence: just a shame that for the ITV years it's not extended stuff. Tune of the day is therefore "Blackbeat" by Apollo 440, which used to introduce the coverage back then.

Wednesday 26th August - Bake You A Pasta Bake As Fast As I Can

After the rest of the team had spent time imaging the eighth floor PCs yesterday, I came up with the plan to complete the post-imaging stuff up there and let them get all the seventh floor ready, returning the PCs from storage etc to get them all imaged. It worked out pretty well - I had all the PCs on the top floor done by mid morning and even managed to install the software for the scanners, which takes absolutely ages (honestly it does!), and this gave everyone else time to get things done and at least be ready to have the seventh floor at the ready, and we started to image all the rooms by the end of the day, which worked out quite well.

I spent a fair bit of time testing backups and also doing a restore from our server to the cluster file server at one of our other sites, which seemed to work really well and also did the job nicely. The restore was quite quick considering, it was only a little bit slower than doing the backup, which pleased me no end. All looked good for doing the main backup over the weekend, so here's to hoping that all goes well. I might even work out a suitable schedule for doing so and getting things done over the weekend so that we have everything in full - just in case because of a power outage that may be due the weekend after.

I went home via going to the hospital to see my friend - who had been moved to a different ward. He still was in good spirits though and at least now had a private room and bed which had everything he needed in the space provided - so it was quite a nice place all things told. It doesn't look like he'll be out by the weekend but I know that nonetheless it'll be a case of seeing how things go for him and hoping that everything will work out as he needs to. His sunny disposition really hammers home the fact for me that no matter whatever I might be worrying about in life, it could always be worse.

I got back home later and started to make one of my specialities for The Salmon In My Calzone for tea - as she was coming round a bit later on. I decided that my chorizo pasta bake was the weapon of choice and I'm pretty good at doing that. It was a case of making sure I did enough pasta, not overdoing the sauce in the first layer, and evening out the chorizo everywhere, sprinkling the grated cheese on and whacking it in the oven to cook - which I did just a few minutes before The Salmon arrived. We relaxed a bit at her insistence and watched Location Location Location before having tea, and I got the Scrabble out and played that later on. I set the table up so that she could watch Big Brother and play the game which meant I wasn't facing the telly and so could avoid it at all costs. Haha, not daft me you know!

In fact my Scrabble brain ticked over nicely with some good usage of the X and Q near the end scoring pretty well and helping my score along to a respectable total, whilst The Salmon was stuck with the Z at the start of the game and had it at the end and a blank too - but she could have played a word which I pointed out where to her so that she could remember that for future games and so enhance her strategy somewhat. I don't mind - if it makes her a better player and means that she susses out more tactics that's a good thing - especially if one day we decide to be a two player team - how lethal would we be eh I wonder?

One last thing before bed was for me to have a blast on vocals on Guitar Hero Smash Hits, and I did Motley Crue's "Shout at the Devil" on there - and did even better than I normally do. I got a massive 99% on completion, and just very close to FCing the tune. Mind you a good use of the freeforms throughout meant that I did post an excellent score, and looking online, this would mean that I would be ranked number 5 on the Wii! Wow, I was well chuffed with that. Tune of the day, obviously.

Tuesday 25th August - Tuesday Night Out

I had a call and a text from The Salmon In My Calzone last night asking if I fancied heading out for a meal and a drink with her, her friend and partner. It sounded like an opportunity way too good to miss and so of course I was well up for that. I've met her friend and partner before and they're great fun, and as one of them comes all the way from Australia, then it's a good chance to catch up as the plane had landed the week before. The things we all do for love, eh? Well, I suspect if it's worth it, like Meat Loaf said, "I'd do anything for love".. but what ever was the "that" which he kept referring to that he woudln't do, I wonder?

Anyway, today it was time to swap over the backup tape library robot thing. We had an earlier version of the HP MSL 6000 Storageworks library, and that only takes LTO2 tapes. Now of course the new libraries take LTO3, which are double the capacity and also much quicker at backing up via the fast SCSI drive, apparently. As the new one's the same size as the old, it meant we could put it in the same slot of the server rack, well that was the theory anyway. My colleague and I unpacked the new library robot and wheeled it on the trolley to the server room, and soon worked out how to remove the old one and take off all the cabling, and even managed well to be able to remove it from the rails.

The new one went on after a couple of attempts of rail alignment which worked out very well indeed, and so it was a case of cabling it all back up and seeing if the drive would be recognised by both the server and the BackupExec software. Indeed, it was. The drive and robot were recognised and soon I was able to try a couple of test backups, once I'd put all the new tapes in. This is unfortunately where things started to go AWOL - the backups would sort of backup but on verify it always came back with an error relating to the reading of the tape drive. I did the usual stuff: cleaned the drive with the cleaning tape, changed the actual backup tape and even service packed the BackupExec software to a later release, but still no luck.

Inspiration hit me after I emailed a colleague at another site - I do remember other staff installing these and mentioning the SCSI cabling path had to be server to library, library to drive and then terminated. I'd got all the remainder spot on, but alas there was no terminator. One had come with the new library robot though, so I powered the server and drive down again, fitted the terminator, powered it all back up, did some test backups and everything worked first go. I also had to tweak a couple of commands on the server so that it loaded the tape driver with an undocumented switch but that seemed to help enormously too, and all was well with the world.

I got home and then got myself showered and changed before heading back in to the city centre to meet up with The Salmon, as she was finishing work a bit later. Her friend and partner were already there at the meeting point and so the three of us had a chat before she arrived, looking as lovely as usual. The four of us then headed to Ra!n where a well earned pint of Coronation Street was mine, oh yes, and much chatter took place between little sips of the excellent beer. Before we knew it, it was time to head over to Felicini's, which a table had been reserved for the four of us so we couldn't wait to have a really nice tea.

And so we did - Felicini's was as lovely as ever. The atmosphere was lovely (especially with the dimmed lights) and so was the food. We had some garlic bread with cheese to share for the starter and then I had the salmon calzone for main, which was as huge and delicious as it ever was. The Salmon had the spicy sausage penne which was right up her street and so that was enjoyable too. We shared the panna cotta which was full of gorgoeously tart raspberries and there was also a tiramisu being shared for dessert too which admittedly tasted as divine as it usually does in there. The bill was pretty friendly to us all too - using the discount card that I have for some places in Manchester certainly works out well here, and we couldn't argue with that and had a very enjoyable time indeed.

We then headed through the city centre and on to the Northern Quarter, and relocated to Trof for a couple of drinks in there. As nice as the place is, and as much as I appreciate the fact that they do try and get a variety of foreign beers, it would be nice occasionally if they'd actually serve real ale on cask, you know, it might just catch on! Anyway, I did have a nice time in there as we all did, even if you have to go up two steep flights of stairs to find the loo at the very top of the place! Tune of the day incidentally is "Only Happy When It Rains" by Garbage, because it was trying to rain but I didn't care because I was having such a good time, and because it reminded me that Shirley Manson has been motion captured for Guitar Hero 5!

Monday 24th August - Rocking Out If The Wireless Works

Another hard working day for me, and plenty to consider as well. My colleague is off this week, but thankfully he left plenty of notes with regard to imaging and what we needed to do, so it'd be something that I could look at later in the week and be able to sort out. For now though I had a fair few things to sort out in terms of outstanding jobs, so I thought that the sensible method of approach would be to try and get on with those and then later on see what was left to do and try and get those things done. In essence, it worked pretty well which means that I should be able to make a start with the folks on imaging tomorrow, provided the planned install of the new backup drive robot library did what it was supposed to do.

The evening was a case of being able to sort out a few things for myself too: I went to see my friend, he's still in hospital, so took some time out tonight to pop over and see him and try and keep his spirits up somewhat. It's always good to talk to him anyway but I know that when you're not 100% any distractions from looking at hospital walls are greatly appreciated. It does take a bit out of me to be honest, because I have a fear and dislike of hospitals and I've seen some of my relations really be unwell in that place, and so it does spook me out a bit. And naturally when you are worried about your friends as well, it stands to reason that there's always a sense of relief when I leave.

I needed to rock out a bit to try and lift that feeling of slight gloom, and as I still had Rock Band from Tesco DVD Rental on loan for the Wii, I thought that might suit the bill. Frustratingly, you have to do every single song in each tier to progress (even Guitar Hero III allowed you not to do one and progress, much more sensible) - and even more so frustrating is that sometimes the wireless communication between the Rock Band guitar and its receiver plugged in to the Wii doesn't always respond, meaning you miss notes when you shouldn't. If I can use my Guitar Hero guitar on Rock Band 2, that'll be tons better because I know that's rock solid reliable and working.

That said though, still plenty of good tunes for me to get my teeth into and even did a couple of them on medium to try and push myself a bit (ooh, go me!). In any case, it's nice to have a good selection so obviously I really enjoyed Garbage's "I Think I'm Paranoid" and REM's "Orange Crush", as any self-respecting indie music fan would do. But best of all was Pixies' "Wave of Multilation" on there, still one of my favourite non-single tracks of theirs and one I used to go absolutely mental to in indie clubs - so tune of the day definitely for me there. Drive my car into the ocean, haha! :)

Sunday 23rd August - Regaining The Ashes

It was a case of tidying up the house a fair bit this morning, as I had The Kisses On My Lips coming round but also a friend from work and her daughter for lunch and stuff, so that was going to be all lovely. I knew that if I got everywhere in the house cleaned up earlier, I'd be able to watch some of the cricket this morning as it unfolded nicely. And true to form I did have everywhere all sorted by 11am so it gave me some time to settle down and watch some of the cricket, and that turned out to be decent. Not least as two wickets early one, one from Graeme Swann and one from Stuart Broad steadied nerves, although Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey did make it to lunch from then on unscathed. I'd watch the highlights later.

The Kisses On My Lips came round and we had a good chat and catch up and I was divulging some stuff about last night's really good night out and keeping her filled in on everything. The phone rang and it was my friend: they'd found the house early and so that was lovely. I invited everyone in, made sure everyone had a drink as required and plenty of chat flowed as I started to get the lunch on - the meatball pasta bake. Thankfully it was a case of putting it in the oven, then at the right time putting the garlic bread in and that was everything all sorted out very nicely indeed.

In fact lunch worked out really well: my friend had brought a nice bottle of rioja and so we were able to have some wine with the lunch and that went down spot on: perfect to go with the pasta and all that. I then got out the tiramisu for dessert and that was all sorted out there too, it was lovely and really added to the nice feeling as conversation flowed and we were able to chat about all sorts. It was very leisurely and I kind of felt like a contestant on Come Dine With Me, except I hadn't necessarily done all the hard work that some of those chefs had been up to.

The Wii came out later (it was something I mentioned that we'd do) and so once I'd set them up with their own Mii characters, it was of course time then for a good session of bowling. My friend was a natural and soon got the hang of it, playing really well, and The Kisses On My Lips upped her ante in the second game to really battle and come back well in that one too, and it was close between all four of us as we swapped spares and strikes for fun. That worked out spot on, and it really set the tone nicely.

I dug out Guitar Hero World Tour as my friend's daughter had played it and fancied a blast, and so we soon realised that two player (one guitar, one vocals) were on. My friend and her daughter took on One Way Or Another and managed it well, and she even tried the guitar on beginner during Beat It, with her daughter doing excellently well throughout. Best of all though (and tune of the day because of it) was Paramore's "Misery Business", with me doing the guitar and my friend's daughter doing a superb job on vocals. We are a rock band and so won't take any prisoners. She returned the favour by strumming through "Smoke on the Water" on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits whilst I went through expert vocals, and we rocked!

After a game of the excellent TV Show King and an epic battle in the final round which saw a 5-4 victory on the final duel, and a quick blast of Pop Up Pirate via Wiiware, which of course was more hilarious when we placed one of the Mii characters in there for fun, it was getting on a bit and my guests headed home, but they both had a lovely time and indeed suggested that the two of us stay over at theirs sometime, which was actually really nice. Yaay! I just think it's really nice to be able to spend quality time just doing different things and I am sure now that a Wii might just be up there on the Christmas list!

The Kisses On My Lips and I snuggled and watched Countryfile (is it me by the way or can anyone else not stand Julia Bradbury presenting it - where's John Craven when you need him?) and also showed her some of the images from yesterday's lunchtime Flickr meet, before she headed homewards and yours truly watched the Ashes highlights. And you just knew that Andrew Flintoff would be involved somewhere in his last Test match don't you? And the run out of Ricky Ponting was excellent stuff, and sparked another couple of wickets to make it a bit easier at 230 odd for five. And then it got stagnant as Brad Haddin and Mike Hussey kept going. However it only delayed things as soon Graeme Swann was back in the wickets again and Steve Harmison took three including two in two balls and could have ended things with a hat trick but was unlucky not to and then Swann pitched one up to Hussey, it was caught - and England gained the Ashes back, and that was ace, to be honest. About time we won it again!!

Saturday 22nd August - Listening In The Orange Tree

It was a busy but good day today, for various reasons. First off, I went to the Kingbee Records sale in Chorlton earlier on. The sale had been advertised for a bit and it was a good plan for the shop to clear out stack loads of vinyl and so be able to refresh the stock. The shop has plenty of charm and indeed browsing through the racks of old vinyl made me realise that it was really nice to play and listen to the old stuff, but also that plenty of music fans were in the store and still passionate about the music they loved and what they wanted to play. Who said that downloads were killing music? Not here it seemed.

I spent over an hour or so browsing all the racks and indeed making the decisions about what vinyl I was going to get. I did think about some of the CDs as well but wanted to concentrate my purchasing power on the lovely black slabs. In the end I got four 12" singles and one LP, the singles were Pop Will Eat Itself's "Dance of the Mad" 12" remix single which had their cover of "Rockahulababy" on the B-side, New Order's "True Faith" 12" remix single, Depeche Mode's 12" of "Master and Servant", Cabaret Voltaire's "I Want You" 12" single (as a spare copy, I already have this but I've played it a fair bit) and the LP was Roxy Music's third album (and some critics say their best one) "Stranded", which was the original Island pink rim palm tree label release, and yes I did check before I bought it. The gatefold laminate sleeve was gorgeous!

I then headed from there into the centre of Manchester and to Font Bar, where there was a small Flickr meet going on. Over lunch and drinks it was nice to be able to chat to some familiar faces and indeed some new ones, and it was all good fun and plenty of good conversation. Earlier, the new case for my TZ3 had arrived (the proper Panasonic one) and the camera fitted much more snugly in it and did the job nicely, and certainly trying that out and being able to take shots and put the thing back worked really nicely actually. There were a couple of shots I was pleased with: one was of one of my contacts holding someone's lens camera while leaning over, and it was in a fit of giggles, came across nicely, and the other was seeing someone through an empty beer glass and taking a shot of that, definitely a different experiment!

It was then off from there to the Manchester Royal Infirmary to see my friend and have a good chat about all sorts of stuff. He had his headphones on so we could keep an ear to all the football scores, and every other minute it seemed that Man U were scoring at Wigan (they won 5-0 in the end) and Man City managed to hang on to their 1-0 lead against Wolves and record a pretty good victory to make it two wins out of two for us and keep us nicely in the top half of the table thus far. In fact, not many sides have a 100% record left so that hopefully boded well for us at least.

I got home, got myself showered and changed and then it was off on the train via Stockport to Altrincham to meet one of my friends for a night out. I'd not seen her for a bit for one reason or another and we arranged to meet and chat. With the trams being out of action I suggested heading to Alty, then that way she could get the replacement bus from where she was and saved her the hassle of getting through the city centre. It worked fine and the train got to Altrincham on time, and she was waiting to say hello and so we headed through the centre of town and to the Orange Tree pub, where we stayed for the evening because the atmosphere was nice, the garden in the back had nice chairs and tables as well as some ambient lighting, and the DJ was playing some good tunes too, hurrah to all that.

It was a lovely relaxing time of it all, we had plenty of chat to catch up on and we were able to put the world to right on several things as well as try and plan a few things in the future too, all good. I was spoilt for choice with the beer, and the Copper Dragon's Golden Pippin went down a treat, let me tell you. We also spoke a fair bit about the football, whether Barenaked Ladies would be good enough without Steven Page and what effect that would have on the album and any future tour, and plenty more besides. Tune of the day is Morrissey's "Suedehead" which was played by the DJ during the evening, it was so nice to be able to hear something like that being played in the pub other than anything than some dance chart rubbish!

We headed back later so that my friend could get the replacement bus home to her place and me to get the late train back, and changed at Stockport to get the night bus home which worked fine too. It was a nice late night but also one that was good, and isn't spending time with friends always meant to be good? Well, I think so, and it was great fun. and the weekend's not even over yet, hurrah!

Friday 21st August - Broadsided

It was one of those days at the office today where everything just fell into place. I managed to get both the PCs done that I needed to do, and once I spent a fair bit of time as they'd purchased Adobe CS4 Master Collection which has pretty much everything on there in one package, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, Premiere Pro, Soundbooth, Encore etc etc. I guess with the discount we get at work it made the cost viable, but retail? Well it's a different story, it'd cost around £2,100 for that set! I managed to get the 4 DVDs worth of software installed and all working, but even so it took a fair chunk of time to do so.

When I left the office to put one of the iMacs in a member of staff's office and set up the printer, I glanced at the cricket score. Australia were 70 without loss. Not good. So imagine my surprise when I got back to the office a little while later and all of a sudden it was a mere 111 for 7! What the hell happened? Well, I was to find out later in the highlights programme on Channel 5 - Stuart Broad had got some vital wickets and did the sort of devastating bowling spell that the likes of Sir Ian Botham would have been proud of in his heyday. And before the end of play, England had knocked the Aussies over for 160 and started batting again and 58 for 3 at the close meant a 230 run lead - something to hopefully build on.

I had to head out to the Royal Infirmary later on though, as one of my friends has been admitted to hospital, and although initially precautionary I can see him being there for a few days to come. I think the fact that both myself and The Kisses On My Lips came and cheered him up a bit I'm sure was a positive. He'd been keeping in touch with me to know what ward he was in and so the least we could do was head over there and see what the score was. I think at times like this it's good to be supportive and also to try and do what you can, that's the plan anyway.

The two of us headed back to mine later, I did us some pasta with carbonara sauce for tea and then chilled out in front of the telly for a bit. I even indulged The Kisses with Big Brother, where it was no surprise to her that Bea got voted out. Having done my best to avoid it for so long, it didn't surprise me that most of the people in the house just seemed so much up their own backsides and for me it's not about the reality of it as a game show anymore, it's clearly an attempt to, like Andy Warhol once said, to have their fifteen minutes of fame. Meh.

Anyway, I stuck on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits later and had much fun with it, especially as I nailed some of the vocals pretty well. I vastly improved my score on the difficult as hell "Killer Queen" by Queen (tune of the day nonetheless cos it's ace) and really tried to nail some of the difficult parts. I did have another good go at Motley Crue's "Shout at the Devil" and improved that too - so all was well there. It was also intriguing too that I'd been tagged on Flickr by someone, so I had to think of some unusual facts about me to end the day. It wasn't too hard as I had some ideas in the head!

Thursday 20th August - I'm Getting Creative

I spent some time today catching up on something new I'm trying out this year - doing something arty every single day for a year. I was asked by one of my Flickr contacts to take part and at first I thought "that might be too much", but then when I realised that you can submit poetry, drawings, photographs etc suddenly that became a lot easier. I guess sometimes I can seize the moment when it comes to poetry, I can have a roll of doing several in one go or even being able to just have that inspiration when I least expect it. I had written and taken shots over the last few days so it was just a case of putting them up and going from there.

It's going to be linked from the front page, but if you want to follow the progress, head to my 365create effort as part of the main 365create blog. It'll be exciting along the way I think, because I know that I can just get snap happy with the camera and try to be creative but also if I can do the odd doodle or drawing and push my efforts there (considering that really I can't draw) then that might be a different style of challenge for me to attempt. I think in a way I've been wanting to push some boundaries but at the same time not have to devote lots of time to it (that major project is coming up later on, I reckon) and so it'll be good fun.

I also managed considerable progress in two new PCs I've got to build up and get sorted out. Thankfully I've already got an admin staff image for the PC in question, so I was able to bring an image down and get that working. After that, there's a lot of extras to go on though: each PC has an nVidia Quadro graphics card which is pretty high end, and on top of that there's then Adobe Creative Suite 4. One of them has Design Premium, which still contains a heck of a lot of applications, so not only have I been able to do all the right Zenworks NAL app shortcuts, but also bring down any settings to make the program work properly for any user, as the app is non-core. Seemed to work well.

Had another go at rocking later on but this time on Rock Band. I now of course have the proper Rock Band guitar which seems to work well, although it does feel a bit too lightweight and flimsy and not as solid as the Guitar Hero one. Maybe that's because the Wii remote fits in the latter, but who knows? Anyway I've got to try and play through on the guitar to unlock all the songs, as then I can try some of them on vocals too, that might be well worthwhile. I did however have a blast of some of the early stuff and did quite well on Nirvana's "In Bloom" as well as The Ramones' seminal "Blitzkrieg Bop" so that was fine. However, tune of the day is going to be Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Maps" because I remember it from when Duke Special covered it and did such a good job. It's a nice tune though!

Wednesday 19th August - In 18 Daze I Won't Be Alone

All was very exciting when I arrived home from work tonight, not least when a package arrived. It was one of the Holy Grails that I'd been after on vinyl, especially after I'd discovered that it actually existed. Yes, it was The Cygnet Ring's "18 Daze" 7" single. Someone very kindly had alerted me to an auction on eBay with the said single on it, and the price was reasonably decent. I snapped it up rather quickly and had payment over to them just as fast too. It was then a case of how long it would take, and I have to say I was impressed highly with the seller's speed of delivery - why can't it all be like that on eBay eh?

Needless to say, it's good to own the thing, admire the vinyl with its blue sleeve and overall really rediscover just why I love the band so much, so needless to say "18 Daze" is tune of the day - it still reminds me of seeing the band live and also being able to really get into a band and champion them from an early part of the career, much like I still try to do if I discover someone rather ace that I like. Well why not, doesn't that feel good? Anyway, more information on the single can be found at my The Cygnet Ring site, if you're so interested. It should give you some background info as well as see just how rare the darned thing is, and for me certainly a nice gap in the music collection justifiably filled.

I settled down then to watch the World Athletics Championships with Britain with a chance of another medal. After Phillips Idowu's excellent triple jump gold last night, he had the medal presented to him by world record holder and BBC commentator Jonathan Edwards, which was a nice touch. I think the IAAF have been doing that a lot - getting former champions at the events to hand medals out. Later on the 1500 metres medals were done by Hicham El-Gerrouj, the Moroccan legend at that distance. You get the idea. But nothing could prepare you for what was to happen a bit later - and no I don't mean the disappointing men's 1500 final.

It was the final of the women's 800 metres, and all the controversy even before the race had been about the eventual winner, the South African Caster Semenya. She's been told to take a gender test, as there's doubt that she's actually female. It's a shame that the notification of such tests had to be done before the final, and indeed the way that she did her thing and won was professional. I believe in innocent till proven guilty, but it did look like she didn't really enjoy celebrating the win - and yet if you've won the world title, you'd think you'd be going mental! I was very very pleased for Jenny Meadows though - she paced her race spot on and so kept up her pace when everyone else wasn't doing so welll, and her surge for bronze was excellently done. It reminded me of the way Dame Kelly Holmes won the women's 800 metres at the Athens Olympics - everyone except her went too fast and her even pace clawed them back well. Jenny showed maturity and race craft and was only 0.03 off silver too, so well done her I say!

Tuesday 18th August - Hey Ho, Let's Go!

Another hard slog at the office today, although I did make considerable progress in my current mission of building up a new revised image for one of the PCs that we have. I need to roll it out to a member of staff pretty soon but also it'll serve as a good template for when we eventually do the rollout for staff later on (assuming of course that this will go ahead, but we shall see). The good thing is that the investment in time now will undoubtedly save me the hassle later on when time might not be able to be spent in such a manner. As I'd already updated one academic image it was a case of following pretty much the same stuff as before and just making some revised notes as and when necessary to ensure everything behaves itself and plays ball - which it seems to do nicely.

It was nice not to have to cook after work as I was heading to see The Buttons On My Phone afterwards as she was making me tea, but first it was off to HMV. I'd got a HMV gift card and wasn't afraid to use it, and remembered my HMV reward card thingy to rack up the points there too - just in case, like. I did spot something I really did want, namely Moby's new album "Wait For Me", which he's bravely released on his own label no less. I liked the fact that the inner sleeve has all Moby's "little idiot" style drawings which makes it so much more his own package as well. I'll have to give that a spin soon and see what I think.

I arrived at The Buttons' place, and she was in the midst of making something very nice, namely a chicken with cheese and bacon and also a really nice centre as well - it looked massive and certainly that and the potatoes was more than enough for me to finish off, with some side portions of garlic bread on the side. I really did enjoy that a heck of a lot and it was nice to be catered for so well. We headed out later to do a couple of little chores that we needed to sort out, and this also meant we could have a good natter in the car about stuff and see what we had planned. I was also working out what gigs to go to and which ones she might fancy going to with me. In the end she fancied the idea of Seth Lakeman, but 3 Daft Monkeys and Juliette Lewis it's just me on my toddles - not a problem however, I'm pretty used to gigs on my ownsome anyway!

We headed back to mine later and Rock Band had arrived from Tesco DVD Rental on the Wii. Now I have the proper Wii Rock Band guitar I can at least play it using the real thing, so it should be quite entertaining to see how all that pans out. For tonight though I fancied a bit of a blast on vocals, and so had a go of Nirvana's "In Bloom" and got booed off on expert level around half way through. It does seem a bit more critical about being in pitch and enunciation to match - which for me is a bit daft - you're meant to rock and if you sing in key, so be it. I managed it on medium easily enough though - and then took on tune of the day - the Ramones' excellent "Blitzkrieg Bop" - a classic of its time. I managed it on expert too but of course love blasting out the "hey ho, let's go" bits at the start and end, cos I can!

Monday 17th August - Activation Day

Well today is the day that my O2 broadband gets activated as it's migrated over from Sky. In a good way, I'm glad that everything seems to be running smooth from the O2 point of view: they've sent me text messages as well as emails to keep me up to date on progress, and also I've been able to follow it all via the O2 web site as well as (if I wanted to) check my O2 email address over the web should I require to do so. It's those little touches which makes me realise that customer service is an important factor in this day and age, especially in times of recession where people are really having to spend their money carefully and wisely.

I had a pretty busy day at work today: I was first able to get sorted out a niggly problem for a member of staff who couldn't run a piece of software, and I was then also on a software installation mission as Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Premium went on our marketing officer's PC. I had a good chat with her whilst everything was installing, especially about music - I think she was pleasantly surprised when I mentioned I was going to see Skunk Anansie in November. Nonetheless she wants to go see Tori Amos so I did mention tickets were left so I think her and her housemate might be planning a good night out there. See, one thing I do like to do is network with people as part of the job - if they are more comfortable with you, then it makes your support job a heck of a lot easier to manage as well.

In the afternoon I'd got back a PC from a member of staff who'd left us - it was in their old office. I knew that we had a member of staff who was next in line to have the piece of kit, so it gave me a perfect opportunity to be able to update the current image on that PC with the new one. So I brought the existing image down and have started work on updating it to what's current specifications. This will also save me some time and effort in the long run too as we need to update plenty of PCs with that new image as well, so it'll be good to have a head start in being able to manage effectively the paths for upgrading. And as of next week, a new member of staff to show the ropes and be able to sort out what we do, so it will be all go for me I think.

I headed home and still no text message from O2 about activation as yet, so I had a look at their setup CD and took a peek at it all. Interestingly, when it checked my PC for network connectivity as part of its setup wizard, it didn't detect my onboard nVidia network card. Now, for some people, if this wizard said "there was a problem and you need to check your hardware" I can well imagine that it would lead to some frustration. In any case, I had a feeling I'd know how to sort that out anyway (because I can go to the router's IP address and configure it without the wizard screens) but intriguing to see that it didn't detect the card properly. I might report that to O2 anyway. It's possibly because the nVidia nForce controller has it as two pieces of hardware - the nVidia network bus enumerator, and then the nForce networking controller, which seems to be attached via the enumerator, so probably confusing it.

Still, I knew it wouldn't be long so I took everything out of the box and placed it on the position it'll be in ready to go. Their O2 Wireless box made by Thomson is a nice piece of kit, certainly with its lights at the front clearly showing what was working and not, the four Ethernet ports and its ADSL port having a nice click when you connect them up, the power cable looking sturdy too as was the wireless aerial. So once it's all activated, it should be pretty good really. I just hope that they don't do what Sky did and cap the line without my knowledge, one of the many reasons I decided to dump them in the first place.

Tune of the day has to be "War Ensemble" by Slayer. It's actually quite fast thrash metal, but it's very controlled and is tuneful all the way through, plus it really does paint war in a negative light, which is pretty much what it is. It also has an epic dark middle verse that really sounds like the whole thing is desparate throughout, and added to that is Tom Araya's angry vocals, which really give it some meat. And I can rock on expert vocals on Guitar Hero Metallica on this too, so well worth it!

Sunday 16th August - 9.58 Seconds Later..

Myself and The Pine Cones On My Tree decided that as the weather was holding well that we would head out to Formby, and also to see if we were able to spot some red squirrels as well as have a nice walk on the beach as well. Part of the reasoning for this was that I'd never been there, and I thought it was about time I went to see what all the fuss was about. Plus of course with the car park being National Trust, we'd get in for free there so it meant a not too expensive day out either - always good when you've been out the night before of course!

After having some breakfast and relaxing at home first, it was then time to head out in The Pine Cones' Car. I had checked the directions beforehand, so it was down the M62 to the M57 and then down there to Switch Island, then head on the A5207 through to Thornton, join the A565 towards Formby and then head off to the town centre before following the National Trust signs via Freshfields station and towards the end of the very posh Victoria Road, where you suddenly meet the NT car park and after showing our membership, it was in and we managed to get a spot close to the beach.

It was enjoyable walking down the beach and indeed as the tide was fairly out and with the sand dunes to our left as we headed along, the wind blew the sand along the ground and it was fairly warm but windy and we enjoyed a walk of around a mile and a half before we headed inland to a car park further down at the far end of what's called Lifeboat Road, and amongst other things we spotted a burger van and a portable loo, so I headed there first as I needed the toilet, then it was lunch time as it was around that time anyway. Two very nice burgers later (one each) and we were ready to go again, and so we walked back up the beach towards the starting point in the car park. We did head back via some of the sand dunes though, and the soft sand did make walking up through the dunes quite difficult going up hill, but we managed it alright.

Once we'd headed along the beach and back towards the car it was then a walk back towards where we'd entered the car park, as all around there was what's called the squirrel walk. Normally there's plenty of red squirrels around munching on pine cones that had fallen from the many trees in a small forest there. However, there were signs also telling you about the decline in the red squirrel population due to squirrel pox, and how it would be some time before the population there grew back to some sort of normality. We did have a good walk around the squirrel paths and although we didn't find any squirrels of note sadly, we did find a hand made little den made from tree branches and stumps which seemed quite a little cosy place, and also a rabbit ran across our path bobbing its little tail in front of us, so we did get to see some wildlife. It was good walk down that path and certainly I could imagine it being quite a place to go if you wanted to see squirrels out in the wild - I'm sure it'll be worth doing when the population comes back to size.

We headed back down towards Switch Island but instead of taking the M57, we diverted along the A59 towards Liverpool and saw the outside of Aintree Racecourse, that holds the Grand National. It looks different from what you'd see on the telly from the outside, and with the local train station very close by, perfect almost to commute to if you were going racing. We even found Melling Road, so went down there. And all of a sudden, you see two fences either side of the road which has the Grand National circuit. It's slightly surreal when you look left and see all the stands and enclosures, and when you look right you then see the first few fences. Although it should be said that there's no spruce in there, just the bases, so it does look odd. In fact as you get towards the other end of the road you do see the circuit again, and then over the humpback bridge that carries the canal (hence of course why the course has Canal Turn a bit further up).

It was then back along the M57 and then onwards towards mine, where I made us some tea and settled in for the evening's World Athletics Championships. I was pleased to see that Jessica Ennis won gold for Britain in the heptathlon, she worked really hard and deserved all she got, not least in the 800m final event where she went out a little too fast but fought to keep her lead, win the final event and of course win gold - by over two hundred points, which is a pretty big margin in heptathlon terms. I was so pleased that she did well - after missing out on a medal at the last Worlds and then being out of the Olympics last year, it showed a lot of guts to come back and really pull it all together.

I don't think anyone was quite prepared for what was coming next though, and I don't think most others were either. It was the 100 metres final and yes, having seen him run in Manchester, I knew Usain Bolt was superb, but could anyone have predicted what would have happened? He didn't just beat his rival Tyson Gay, oh no. He obliterated the whole field and smashed his own world record by some margin - in fact, the largest reduction of the 100 metres world record for a considerable length of time, clocking an incredible 9.58 seconds. Yes, nine point five eight. I can type a sentence on a good day in that length of time but to see someone do that amount of distance - completely awesome stuff. Tune of the day simply has to be "Catch Us If You Can" by The Dave Clark Five, because simply that's what Usain Bolt is probably asking everyone else to do with his massive frame and long legs - you need to catch them to beat him. Awesome.

Saturday 15th August - Retro Past And Cinema Present

Had a fairly busy day today, but an excellent one all round. I woke up after a good night's sleep and had a couple of croissants for breakfast, before getting myself ready and heading out into the city centre. I wanted to have a look at the Videogame Nation exhibition in the Urbis centre, which is a celebration of old school and new school gaming. I was a little bit apprehensive about the whole thing because I didn't want it just to focus on one particular genre or home computer set, but also excited because it was good to see that the North West was once the focus of major computer game development too, so who knows?

The fact that I spent close on three hours in there should tell you all you need to know - it was fascinating stuff. I'll write more in a fuller review soon but to sum up in parts: lots of related memorabilia with regard to Ocean, the most well known Manchester software house, conversions of arcade games and original arcade cabinets to compare side by side, and nods to how genres developed over the years as well as plenty of different games on different formats to try out. And included in that was a screen where you could watch some documentaries about games. One of which was BBC2's "Commercial Breaks" which featured the development of a potential Christmas number one. What wasn't planned was the collapse of Imagine before the cameras' own very eyes!

You should get the idea with that one. To see that full screen in excellent quality was a bold move but really gave you an idea about how the industry worked back then and how precarious the whole thing was - certainly not the multi-million pound setup that it all is now. You've got to also like Imagine's real publicity and hype for Bandersnatch though - it was a novel idea but it was way too early in the era to really be worthwhile. Nice vision, wrong timing. Imagine them going on Dragons' Den now and asking for some of Theo Paphitis' grandchildren's inheritance to develop it.

It was a worthwhile time spent, and as I headed home under a mixture of rain and sun, I contemplated just how much I really enjoyed playing the old games back in the day and how much I still do - I mean World Games multi player on the Commodore 64 is such great fun, and many games like Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games owe a lot to the Games series simply because it made multi player games accessible to the masses and also a focus to have competitive fun and entertainment - something which in itself the Wii has taken note of, even.

After sorting out all the pictures I took (they're here if you want to look) it was then a case of getting ready for The Pine Cones On My Tree coming over to see me. We planned a night out tonight, and we thought that it would be good to not only have a meal but also go to the cinema, which we hadn't done for ages. As part of the incentives at work, you get this card called Manchester Plus, which entitles you to discounts at various places and is usually quite a good deal. It means for example that you get a percentage off the food at Felicini's (which we both love as a restaurant anyway so it increases the value deal) and also a discounted rate at AMC Cinemas too, so rock and roll there as well.

We headed into the city centre and first went to Cornerhouse to have a coffee and a chat, and it was good to see that it was a lively place of activity and socialising, as it usually is. It's a shame though that they haven't yet mastered the fact that some of us wouldn't mind some cask ale now and then, you know, proper stuff. I'd have been tempted to have some otherwise but no worries, I knew we might have a drink later anyway. And then off to Felicini's for a lovely meal. I had the chicken and mushroom penne, which was in a lovely creamy sauce with huge pieces of chicken breast, wild mushrooms and spinach and certainly was very filling. The Pine Cones had this pizza with pepperoni and jalapenos on, and that did look a tad on the spicy side but I was reassured that it was tasting good. Dessert was shared (the desserts are pretty massive) and the baked cheesecake was absolutely spot on and delicious, really finished the meal nicely and on a high note.

We had some time before the cinema showing we were going to see, so we headed to Ra!n Bar for a drink - The Pine Cones had white wine, I had the Coronation Street ale - yes, there really is a beer named after the local TV soap opera. Actually it tastes pretty nice, much better than what the actual Street is on telly these days - tasteless. It's quite a palatable ale and certainly fits in nicely with the other JW Lees ales available (including one of my all time favourites, Brewers Dark) and gives me some nice choice. It was good to watch the world go by a bit in Ra!n anyway and certainly was good to go back there - hadn't been in for a while.

We then were off to AMC Cinemas to see The Time Traveler's Wife (excuse the American spelling, but that's what it is called) - which is based on the book by Audrey Niffenegger. As several book to film conversions previous haven't always worked, it was intriguing for us both (as we've both read it a while back) see how the plot transpired. On the whole, it did work out pretty well, thanks in part due to some good casting for the main part - Henry (Eric Bana) was very much an emotional soul and really tried hard to deal with the unique condition that he has, whilst his love Clare (Rachel Macadams) really showed all the maturity and poise and yet the beauty and emotion to really carry her devotion off with suitable aplomb. I'm also going to give a nod to Ron Livingston as Gomez, as when he first sees Henry do his thing he's quite shocked and it feels real the way he carries that off so well - and of course different for me seeing him in something other than the classic Office Space.

It was a good effort all round, and certainly one that had us both really wanting to read the book again. There are several scenes I do remember well and it was captured with thought out scenery and locations and also the right amount of warmth and lighting to make it feel believable. Perhaps for me one of the best scenes is right at the end (not going to spoil it for you) because it really hammers home the whole premise of the story in a nutshell and also gives you that "awww" moment. In terms of it being true to its book, it's fairly faithful and for that alone I was pleased, we both really enjoyed it. The whole evening was lovely, shows how much fun you can have just doing normal everyday things, especially when you have someone suitably wonderful to share those moments with.

Tune of the day incidentally happens to be Joy Division's original classic "Love Will Tear Us Apart". The reason is that during The Time Traveler's wife, one scene has some really not so good cover of the song playing, and although I appreciate the idea to do the song in that style, it didn't quite work. It just doesn't carry the same feeling as the classic original, so I had to give it some justice. It is after all my favourite song of all time, so...

Friday 14th August - Pay Day Is The Best Day

It was nice to think as I woke up this morning that it would be pay day today so that if I wanted to indulge myself a little this weekend then I might be able to. I know that Kingbee Records over in Chorlton has a sale on Monday onwards, and I quite like that place for finding plenty of vinyl and CDs and the like, and it's also got friendly staff and all, which makes a difference. So that might be nice to really treat myself nicely if I get chance to head there during next week or so, see what happens there I reckon. But anyway, it was pay day and so we made a last minute decision this morning to head out for lunch.

Off we headed to Buffet City, which is an all you can eat Chinese place in the city centre. We'd not been there for a while and so it was good to see that the food was still at the same price, and pretty much the same quality. The drinks had gone up a fair bit, but it was still a case of munching plus drink for less than a tenner, so that was good. I tried to be pretty self-disciplined and so got myself some soup to start along with some prawn crackers and mushrooms and spring rolls, then had a main of some Yeung Chow fried rice, chicken with mushrooms, chicken in soy sauce and sweet and sour pork, with some ice cream to finish. It all went down pretty well and I did feel quite full afterwards, but walked back to the office to carry on with the afternoon's work.

I had managed to get quite a bit done today as well, finished off one laptop and then sorted out another one for another member of staff, checked some network connectivity as well as do some student account moves at the same time, so it was a case of getting all the little jobs done before getting on with some more of the larger scale projects next week. In fact my colleague goes on holiday so I'm going to try and take the mantle from him and see if we can get some of the rooms imaged whilst he is off, thus making sure that we're then able to get things back on track nicely. We shall see what happens.

I went home later and did some food shopping, well at least I attempted to. One of the things that frustrated me a little was that when I got to Tesco, all the small trolleys that are out there to wheel around all weren't playing ball because they'd been taken outside the line and made immobile, meaning I had to head to the other side of the store to be able to locate a working trolley. I just wish that they put a bit more effort in being able to have more trolleys working when you get there, but I know you can't always win that one. Anyway, got all I needed and even thought of some meal ideas for Sunday evening as well, but the main thing was that I'd managed nicely to do what I needed to do.

Back to Guitar Hero Greatest Hits tonight and seeing how I could progress on the career mode in vocals on expert (I'm much better on vocals to be honest!) - and I managed to get five stars on Foo Fighters' "Monkey Wrench" and Kiss' "Rock and Roll All Nite" which I did struggle at when playing it on Quick play mode, but must have managed to get it a lot better in practice, which is good. I had to do that as the encore song, having done all the others in that tier, so at least I'm getting there with completing them all. I had a good go at Queens of the Stone Age's "No One Knows" as well, and did nicely - so tune of the day it is.

Thursday 13th August - Indulging Someone Special

I had had a busy day in the office (which does seem to be the norm these days) but I knew that I had something to look forward to later - a visit from The Fruit In My Yoghurt, so that was pleasing. Knowing that she was coming for tea, and because I also had to get off close by because of the current bus diversions happening not too far from me, I decided to head to Asda and think of something I could make us for tea - and get dessert and all that sort of thing. I wanted to indulge her a little bit, because that's my way, and it's nice to make the effort for someone special isn't it?

So, first off, I spotted the dessert I was going to dish out - raspberry panna cotta. Yum yum. I then headed to the fresh pasta section and noticed some nice pasta with proscuitto in it, and put that together with some carbonara sauce, just for a change. One garlic ciabatta later and that was the main meal sorted, and seeing as the Lindemann's Bin 65 chardonnay was also down to a reasonable price, then with a couple of other things I needed from there, it was all sorted. I just wish they'd fix their quick pay tills though. It often claims you've not bagged the item when you clearly have, and as for using your own bags, well that's a right nightmare waiting to happen let me tell you. But that's worthy of another rant to be honest.

Anyway, time to relax a bit, which is what I did. I soon warmed up nicely by taming the other set of songs that are in the Guitar Hero Greatest Hits "The Beast" online challenge that I've been up to at the moment. I have now at least managed to post a score on all 20 songs, although some I did fare better than others when I've done them first go. I never ever did "YYZ" by Rush before so I felt quite pleased to get 98% on that one - there's some tricky efforts to really nail. Okay, I know, it's on easy, but you've still got to play pretty well to get that kind of score - lots of sequences that aren't regular beats and all that. Oh, and managed to get the full 100% on Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out", a song which I love anyway, so tune of the day for that one.

I'd finished off nicely and started to put the tea on when The Fruit came over, and I indulged her by giving her an hour of soaps, namely Emmerdale with a dramatic half hour on top of a hospital roof, and then all went pear shaped for Maria in Coronation Street afterwards. I'd made the tea by then and we had that together with the wine and really enjoyed that. It's nice that I feel that I can experiment a bit by trying out different meals for everyone and be able to really give it all a blast and see how that turns out. For me, I've certainly felt that I have been able to improve in the cooking stakes over the last couple of years or so, and that's partly due to confidence but also experimentation.

It was then time for Mock The Week and a really good moment happened in the Scenes We'd Like To See round, where it was "Unlikely things to hear on a TV talent show". Andy Parsons came on and said "Hello, I'm Susan Boyle, and I would like to say hello to my brother Frankie!" - referring of course to his MTW colleague Frankie Boyle. Everyone was in stitches with that one as you can well imagine, Andy's deadpan delivery works ever so well for that one. I don't understand why people don't get his humour, but I suppose they haven't seen him live stand up, where he is very funny indeed, let me tell you.

It was nice just to relax for a bit afterwards and take it easy and just spend the rest of the evening indulging The Fruit some more and settling down the for the evening with her getting all giddy and excited about Big Boredom (oops, sorry, meant Big Brother haha). I just gave her lots of hugs and let her see all the action from the house. As I said, it was time to indulge her a little and I thought sometimes you've just got to do that sort of thing. I did also book everything for Saturday evening so we're going to have a great time then as well - so all is well with the world and especially mine. I'm all excitable now let me tell you!

Wednesday 12th August - Dutch Courage

I had my uncle and nephew over for the evening tonight as England were in the Netherlands taking them on an International friendly. The timing of this game, so close to the start of the season, could be questioned, but I guess it gets the team in good shape for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers. The Dutch had already qualified and won all their group games, and England had also won all their group games too, which meant that it was two top teams going at it hammer and tongs against each other. It was also good to see my uncle too, as he'd been away for a few days with his family and I was able to find out how it had all gone - sounded excellent to me.

As for the football, well game of two halves wouldn't even come close to summing it up. England weren't that good in the first half and two defensive howlers, one from Rio Ferdinand and one from Gareth Barry meant that it let the Dutch in for two very soft and easy goals. Although there was some tenacity and drive from the England team, it wasn't looking good really and it was a case of being able to try and get to half time without conceding more goals than we already had. I guess it was always going to be tricky especially with the passionate fans in that arena, but could England possibly find a way back?

At half time, I chucked on the Wii and did a bit of browsing for my uncle, as he's thinking of possibly changing Internet service provider and both him and his wife are looking at other ways of being able to save some dosh each month. I've made a couple of suggestions which may be hopefully of use, and certainly that seemed to put his mind at rest - not least about migrating to another provider. It looks highly doable so it's just a case of seeing how things will go from there.

We switched back in perfect timing for the second half and with a cuppa to suitably refresh us all, we didn't have to wait long for a comeback to start. The ref played an excellent advantage and Frank Lampard found Jermain Defoe, who ran on and beautifully curled a shot past the Dutch keeper, so 2-1 and all to play for. Nothing else of note happened for a while until James Milner came on and made his full England debut. His runs on the left certainly gave the team an added dimension and it was he who really made the second goal happen. He took on a pass with his head rather bravely, and headed forward, chased the ball, put in an excellent low cross and Defoe was there (and if he'd missed it, Shaun Wright-Phillips was waiting) to make it 2-2, and all round that was good.

The game fizzled out a tad with many substitutions, but to come back from 2-0 down in Amsterdam was certainly much better and it also showed that the players who'd come on were willing to battle for the cause and actually want to try and get a starting place. That's healthy to see to be honest, and competition for places always should keep you on your toes, well that's the theory anyway. It also reassured me that none of the City players involved (four of them in fact) were injured during the game and so that was a relief too. Hurrah!

I went back to Guitar Hero Greatest Hits later on, and that was a good thing. I managed to nail the vocals on "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar but did even better of Danzig's "Mother". Ah, all that watching of the video on Beavis and Butthead did do me some good then! Tune of the day that one, without a problem whatsoever. I did a fair few songs on the guitar for The Beast tournament too and did Slayer first go. It's so much easier than doing it on Guitar Hero III on guitar, that is for sure...

Tuesday 11th August - Barbecue Chicken Choking Vocals

It was a much better day in the office, and I felt like I was getting somewhere. I managed to finish off an image for some of the older PCs so that they would have all the latest software and indeed updates and stuff like that - and this meant that the four PCs I was planning to roll out with that I could do so, once everything was sorted out in the rooms that they were going to. In fact I bumped into the course leader who wanted the PCs going in, so we were able to check a couple of rooms and found out that there were live network points in them that were still working, which was a massive boost - it meant that I was able to, once the PCs were imaged, roll them out pretty quickly if I wanted to. I also had a couple of laptops to sort out, and they went swimmingly as well, which was all good. Hurrah, what a turnaround!

Later on I had the lovely company of The Buttons On My Phone with me, and after we'd done a couple of family related things, it was time to head back to mine and relax for a bit. It was getting on a bit for time so it was time to do the chicken in barbecue sauce I'd got from Tesco at the weekend. The Buttons brought along a lovely dessert from Marks and Spencer with mascarpone and raspberry in it, which looked divine. I ended up doing the chicken with some potatoes and carrots, and that went down pretty well all round. It was good to make something lovely but also to really enjoy sharing that with someone too.

Whilst I was making tea, it was time for me to have a quick blast on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits on vocals, and in fact nailed a couple of good performances. I bettered my score on Raining Blood, which now makes me higher than 6th on the Wii in expert vocals that I was previously - in fact, 2nd! Woo. That excited me, but I also had a good go at Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' rock classic "I Love Rock And Roll", which I managed to do with some drawl as well, which really came across nicely. For a first attempt on expert, I did pretty well - I got 95,000 or so and it was around 90% spot on, which isn't too bad. I know where I mucked up a little, so I've just got to practice a bit and then hopefully get that sorted. Nonetheless though, classic tune, so tune of the day no sweat I reckoned to myself.

Monday 10th August - Raining Blood On Stress

Must admit it was a pretty stressful day at the office today. I think to be honest things were getting on top of me a bit and I do seem to have been lumbered with some tasks, but I lost my way a bit with them. I think I need to refocus tomorrow to be honest. I know that at the moment we're all having to muck in a fair bit, but I think that at the same time it would be nice to occasionally take a small breather. Mind you, I did at least get handy with a job and a half in the morning as I was helping set up the new desks for the knit room with their new PCs, that I'd also taken over with a colleague. What was nice was that it was good to work with them and influence the room layout based on both Health and Safety requirements and also what would work well for them. Seemed to go well at least.

I got home and had a stop and think, and realised where I'd gone wrong during the day and knew that I could face the day tomorrow and have a fresh approach. Sometimes, it's good to do that. I still felt a bit narked at myself so it was on with Guitar Hero Greatest Hits and to start off some of the vocal duties to see how I'd do there. I managed to improve my scores on both "Killing in the Name" by Rage Against The Machine and also Slayer's "Raining Blood", so that was good. In fact, I've pretty much got the Slayer one nailed now and know exactly how to get a good score on that - but I just want to push myself that bit further.

Then it was to do the guitar parts. I decided to have a blast at a competition on the Guitar Hero web site, called The Beast, where you have to do well on 20 songs over the next three weeks or so on whatever difficulty level that you choose. In order for me to be able to completely have a go and nail it, I decided to opt for the easy level, because I haven't quite mastered them all on medium as yet and I want to be sure that I can attempt some of the songs I've not even played in career mode yet. This is where having every track accessible in quick play really helps, and that's what I've done - played it that way so I can just do the songs. I decided that alphabetical order was the way to go so I could tick off the songs that I've done each time and also then know which ones I've already had at least one go at.

This of course meant doing the likes of "Bark At The Moon" by Ozzy Osbourne and the excellent "Barracuda" by Heart (make that tune of the day). I guess that on vocals would be pretty hard going, but the guitar seems to have a good lick and it's not that bad to follow, either. I just know that I can possibly complete this song without missing a note on the level I've chosen. In the end I got 99% and missed (I think) two notes throughout, which wasn't so bad. I know where I fell off with those so I can try that again at some point in an attempt to completely nail it - well that's the plan.

Sunday 9th August - Tennis, Deer?

Having managed to pick up a racket the other day, The Strings On My Racket and myself headed out to Fletcher Moss in Didsbury, as we knew they had some tennis courts there and hopefully we would be able to have a few games of tennis and at the same time have a good workout. Well, that was the plan anyway. We got there no problem, and as we walked towards the café where you paid for your tennis time, we hoped that the grass courts that they had could be used, as it'd be nice to play the game the way it should be - ie: on a proper surface and all that.

Having got to the café, the attendant on duty gave us a ticket but told us that the grass courts had no bounce in them and that we'd be best off with the shale courts. (It turned out later he was absolutely right, we walked past the grass courts so I opened the gate and tried a quick couple of bounces with the ball, it went nowhere fast.) All the courts were free to use but we picked the fourth one of the five, as the net seemed to be spot on as did the markings of the lines as well. And so we played. And played some more. And by the end of the hour, we were both feeling the heat that was coming through the sunshine and the sweat was pouring off me as I was running for shots to try and win or carry on the rallies that we'd had. We managed to play two sets, and despite me winning, to be fair I have to say that The Strings can play really well - her serve is lethal and when she connects with a volley, then only the best in the world could return what she throws at you. It was immense fun most of all though, certainly we both had big smiles on our faces if one of us really mucked up a shot badly, or if any of us pulled off a lovely winner down the line.

By the end of the hour we were both feeling the heat and so headed back to the café to pick up a cold drink and relax a bit, and it was nice being sat outside there close to overlooking the rockery below and indeed to just rest and relax under shade. In fact, we spotted one fo the actors from Coronation Street reading his script over a coffee on one of the tables and just taking it very easy indeed. What was nice was that no one bothered him whatsoever and just left him to be able to get on with whatever he was doing, so that was good to see to be honest. We walked back round the other side of the park and then headed back to the Towers to freshen up and get changed.

Then it was out for the afternoon too. We decided that it'd be nice to head round the house and gardens in Dunham Massey and indeed make the most of the National Trust membership. Before that though, we knew that lunch was required and so headed to The Four In Hand in West Didsbury on the way. They do a good Sunday roast offer where you get the roast of your choice with all the trimmings, plus dessert for a mere £7.25 each. Can't argue with that, and the roast beef lunch I had was spot on, lots of vegetables, potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, lots of gravy and a good chunk of meat. The dessert was the lemon panna cotta for me, spot on too, and The Strings had the profiteroles, which looked gorgeous (she told me they were absolutely delicious).

After that it was heading towards Altrincham and then on to Dunham Massey itself, and because it was a nice warm day outside, the queue to get in the car park was a little longer than usual, but having got a space it was then time to walk towards the house. On the way though, we noticed that quite a few of the deer were running around the park close to the house with not a care in the world, and were grazing in one section happily too, which made things all well. We got the tickets for the house and garden admission and started to head round the house.

And my, what a house! It's more impressive than you think it's going to be, actually, with many of the large and imposing rooms showing what it would have been like to live there, especially the saloon room with its impressive tables and later on the entertaining rooms, one of which had a massive piano which you could play if you wanted to, and another which had a full sized billiards table - I guess you could also use it for snooker but the table was set up with the three billiard balls required to start playing. It was impressive to see the detail everywhere but best of all shown in the massive collection of silver that's in one room - plenty of it is Hugenot silver and amongst the finest you could get. Certainly it showed that it was something that the previous owners were proud of collecting and showing off their fine wares, and thankfully it's lovingly preserved, which is good.

Later on it was time to walk around the gardens, and it was quite large really - larger than you'd think. This is partly because you've got to go round this moat and stream and then around a path to the back of the house itself, which looks North along an avenue over the pond and then over further towards an Obelisk at the far end. In fact, you could head over the water as the pond ends to the right of this view, and you can then cross a small bridge at one side to head over. The views were lovely, and indeed walking across the bridge was quite an experience, as we headed to the far end of the gardens. We then headed back to the orangery and the wellhouse and had a look in there before heading back out of the gardens again.

I got in the queue for the ice cream whilst The Strings went and got some water. By the time she'd joined me in the ice cream queue, the deer had decided to come along and join the queue and were happily walking along and towards the other end of the deer park, but not before licking their lips at the smell of the ice cream. Not that I blame them - the strawberry one that I had was delicious and well worth the effort of the queueing, but it seemed quite cute that they were ready to join the queue and see what the fuss was all about. I love the fact that the deer roam free there - it makes it feel a much more natural and wholesome place.

We were going to pop to my Mum's and see her at her place, but she was out with her friend - as it happened not far from where we were at the time! So we headed to the pub that they were at and joined them for a quick chat and a catch up, which was also lovely to do. It was the first time that Mum's friend had met The Strings, but I'm sure that Mum will have talked about her anyway (as Mums do!) so it all went rather nicely and we chatted for a bit before we headed back to mine and left them to enjoy themselves a bit more - I'm sure they were having a great time to be honest! The Strings headed home later, but we both agreed that the day was rather lovely and it's good for me too that we go out and do things - makes the weekends seem that bit nicer.

Tune of the day is the rather excellent "This Is The One" by The Stone Roses. It seems quite apt since it's almost twenty years since their legendary debut album was released and it's how I feel about The Strings right now - this is the one that I've been waiting for, and as things happen right now, it's just the happiest I've ever felt. Ever. I know that even if things aren't so good at work or whatever, I know full well that I am able to think of her and everything's fine. As for The Stone Roses, cynical record company types are about to reissue the album yet again as a 20th anniversary box set, with various versions including one which has 3 CDs, a DVD, vinyl versions across 3 LPs and a USB stick. I don't need them - I have the original release!

Saturday 8th August - In The Frame

I needed to get a few things done during the day, and after the way that the England cricket team completely capitulated yesterday, watching that wasn't necessarily an option, so I used the time today a bit more constructively. I first headed into the city centre and to the usual hairdresser's to get my hair chopped. It needed doing and was getting a bit long but also clumpy and that wasn't going to do anyone any good. I felt much better after having it done, and the staff even made me a cup of coffee whilst I was in there. How nice is that? Very nice actually, and I spent a few minutes after the cut reading a paper and finishing the coffee off before heading back to the bus stop.

I then headed from the centre out to Droylsden, as it was the nearest branch of Wilkinsons that would be close to me. For those of you who don't live in the UK, they used to mainly be a DIY shop but now have all other things in as well at discount prices - all sorts of hardware, lots of toiletries, basically whatever it can get at a good price and pass that on to the consumer. Now, I checked their web site and they claimed to have A4 picture frames. Didn't they just? It was a tough decision to pick the one I wanted the most to be honest, it could have been any one of many, but I liked an oak look one which was a mere £2.50 each, so two of those along with some other bits and bobs I picked up whilst I was in there, and that was me well and truly sorted as I took the buses home later on.

After cleaning the bathroom, putting all the towels and bath mats in to wash, ironing the clothes that had ben dried, putting more stuff in the wash and indeed cleaning the whole house, I managed to get that done as well as update my site for The Cygnet Ring, which I needed to do. Especially in this case because there had been some new single information I'd found out about as well as finally adding a videos section so that all the related stuff could be watched on one page - it made a lot more sense that way.

The Strings On My Racket came over later, and first off it was a quick walk to one of the local shops so that she could put the lottery on. I did mine last night along with the Euromillions draw, and I had managed to win a mere £5.80 by getting 2 balls and one lucky star, so I'd cashed it in this morning before leaving for the city centre, which virtually paid for the hair cut. Yaay. Later on, The Strings was to get the first two numbers out in the lottery draw, but no others, so the chances of her winning anything went from possibly a fair bit to zero in the space of less than a minute, ah well.

The two of us settled in for the evening and I demonstrated my vocal prowess on Guitar Hero Smash Hits by nailing The Reverend Horton Heat's "Psychobilly Freakout" nicely, in fact I got 100% on the second attempt. It also meant I unlocked the next vocal career section which happened to mean Slayer's "Raining Blood" again and got my second best ever score on that one, which was pretty good for me as well. After that bit of hard rocking and indeed making something nice for us for tea, it was time to settle down the pace a bit with some Scrabble playing and some more mellow tunes.

In fact, The Strings was pretty impressed with Elbow's "The Seldom Seen Kid" album, which I had my doubts that she would like, which surprised me. And once "One Day Like This" came on, that certainly was one that we both loved to bits. It of course got used during the 2008 Olympics coverage on the BBC, and indeed was the one tune that had everyone at their now infamous Bridgwater Hall gig with the Halle Orchestra really defining it as the moment of the Manchester International Festival (except to be pedantic, for me it was the cyclists during "Tour de France" with Kraftwerk at the Velodrome). Still, can't fault Elbow though. Bloody excellent album and track, so tune of the day easily there.

Friday 7th August - Muggy Me

It's rather muggy as I'm typing this and that means that it's rather uncomfortable for me to head to sleep later, I reckon. It was another productive day in the office as I was able to virtually do all the updates of software, hardware and so on for the PC I was updating the image for and I just need to do some final bits of tweaking on Monday and then I'll be able to get that one boxed off as well. We also had a discussion about the real printing costs of the possible new über-printer that we're going to have and see how that goes down - we did some spreadsheet calculations and averaged a best and worst case scenario, averaged it out and then did the calculations, and it worked out pretty nicely all round, it has to be said.

It was then trying to survive the intense sticky feeling of the weather and head to the local Tesco later to get the food shopping in. Admittedly, being in the refrigerated section with it all nicely conditioned to a cooler temperature was rather nice and staying in there didn't turn out to be such a bad move to be honest. I got all I needed, including some shower cream, and it was four for three pounds, so that'll keep me going for a bit, and of course save some money at the same time while I'm at it. I also thought about what to cook tomorrow night as The Strings On My Racket is staying over, so got all that sorted out too whilst I was at it.

It was then time to of course rock out a bit more on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits. I had another go at Raining Blood on vocals but couldn't beat my high score of yesterday, but did manage to improve the score on Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy" from Guitar Hero Metallica later on, so that pleased me quite a bit to be honest, it was good to give that a blast. The vocals are rock hard so me getting four stars on expert was rather good I reckoned to my little self. Getting five would be majorly excellent! But still, I've entered an online tournament where I have to tackle 20 songs on Greatest Hits in the difficulty chosen between Monday 10th and Monday 31st August and see what I can come up with in terms of scores. We shall see how it goes.

I also signed up with O2 Broadband tonight after getting the MAC code from Sky through the post. It was a close call between O2 and Plusnet, but O2 have won plenty of awards for their service and it seemed reliable and also not that expensive, and so I signed up, submitted the code, and the order's now in progress. I'll have to keep an eye open for the package arriving with their router and so on and making sure that's effective when the date comes to see if it can be pretty seamless in terms of continuing Internet access here. The good thing from my point of view is that it gives me more what I want, I'll just have to see how the speed is like, and go from there. I'm just hoping that the experience will be good, and go from there and see what happens. I might even at the same time put a wireless card in the PC, but we'll see...

As for tune of the day, well I think considering I gave it a good go on vocals earlier, Judas Priest's "Hell Bent For Leather" has to win - it's one of their classics and I was glad that they got a nod in Guitar Hero Metallica at least. Of course, Electric Eye is in Greatest Hits too, and I really really one day want to play "Breaking The Law" on either that or Rock Band. That would be ace, cos I could do Beavis and Butthead-style choruses for the main "Breaking the Law" chorus bit. Hehe. That would be cool. Huh huh.

Thursday 6th August - Number Six In The World

Once my friend had left for home last night, I had a bit of time left to do some vocal efforts on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits and see how I did. I tried out Killing In The Name on vocals and got five stars as well as 100% (on expert I should add) which pleased me no end. Then it was on to Slayer's "Raining Blood" and I did pretty okay and got 100% on that as well, but the score was nowhere near what the top score was. I thought to myself overnight how I could improve things and see what the state of play would be with the scoring.

At work it was a case of doing another Mac and having that ready to collect as well as sort out a PC laptop tablet which had been dropped off for us to do some maintenance on. In fact it was a good time to fully service pack Windows XP and Office 2007 as well as check all the software licences were renewed (some had run out on the 31st July, ouch) so with all that done as well as multitasking the Mac at the same time it was making hay whilst the sun shone so to speak and I was therefore able to get both of them nailed, as well as drop off a completed PC laptop to set up with their printer and then take the old PC we'd lent back, and then get that ready for imaging so we could update the image. Busy me, you know.

On the way home I went to one of the bigger Tescos to see if I could get a picture frame as well as get the tennis racket that I wanted. I did fail on both counts to be honest, the tennis rackets had given way to the back to school stuff everywhere, and the picture frames had every single size apart from A4. Mind you, I did console myself slightly. I'd sent back Guitar Hero Greatest Hits to Tesco DVD Rental, but the game was in their Wii chart in store, and with the VAT knocked off as part of a current promotion which meant it was virtually the same price as Amazon but I could take it home and play it now. I didn't need a second thought: the game was mine!

I got home and thought "I'll give it another go on vocals, see how I do" and promptly did Slayer's "Raining Blood" and got the end bit spot on in vocals, and on expert mode, and getting 100%, and the score looked rather impressive. I therefore linked that game account to my online presence in Guitar Hero's community and sorted out a few things in the house later. Once I did check the online scoreboards, I was in for a mighty surprise. My vocal performance meant that I came a mighty 6th. Yes, 6th! In the world. I know. I was in shock but in a good way. Granted, it's for Wii version players only (Xbox 360 and PS3 have separate score boards) but nonetheless I felt pretty chuffed to bits. I can't guarantee I'll do every song like that as vocally I'm not that good, but felt pleased nonetheless. Of course the Slayer tune has to be tune of the day for that reason.

The Strings On My Racket arrived and we decided that we'd head out to the large Tesco and maybe on to their HomePlus outlet further down the road and see what I could get. Whilst I didn't get the frames (got an alternative plan for that) I did manage to get the tennis racket sorted, and some balls too, and it wasn't expensive. In fact when we got back the racket and balls seemed pretty responsive and you could hit them with some power, so it'll be interesting if we manage to get a court sorted out on Sunday and have a go at playing - I hope we do, it'll be nice to be able to have some fun with that!

I made us some chicken and couscous for tea and indulged The Strings as a thank you for taking me to Tesco by allowing her to watch Coronation Street, then we turned over and had scones with clotted cream whilst watching Mock The Week, excellent as ever of course, and then it was more indulgence for her as I ignored the telly and gave her hugs whilst she was watching Big Brother. It only proved to me how much I hate the show and how much it's all now posed and fake and everything else. The only good thing was seeing them having to eat stuff like pigs' eyeballs for one of the challenges, it was almost like the classic game show Endurance hadn't gone away after all.

What we did see online later though was the trailer for the film The Time Traveller's Wife (I won't use the pesky American spelling of traveller, meh) which is based on the best selling book. In fact The Strings has read the book and loved it, and I must admit I don't mind it either. It does take some reading to get used to the ideas behind the story, but once you do, you're hooked. We only hope that the film does try to stay true to it where possible, there's a lot to cram in but the trailer at least looked promising. Just hope it's not another disastrous book to movie conversion (Confessions of a Shopaholic, anyone?) so we shall see.

Wednesday 5th August - I Wanna Rock And Roll All Night

I had a really good day today - at work I really managed to see light at the end of the tunnel of the backlog of work that we have. I managed to finally sort out the Mac that I was waiting for some software to install, and once I'd sussed out how to do a site-based install disk image for EndNote X2 for Mac, that was all sorted. It also meant that I was able to fully document notes on how to do the setup from scratch so it had all the necessary software required plus the connection information to see the wired and wireless networks, locations added and so on so it was truly a portable machine for those that was using it. Of course, that meant it'd be easier for everyone else to follow later on.

After work, my friend from work and I headed back to mine via Tesco. He's vegetarian, so I had an idea - get those Cauldron veggie sausages (delicious) and then do them in a barm, say two each, and then do some chips with it and that was tea sorted, so that done, a short walk back to mine. Whilst I got the tea on, I set him up with a Mii character on my Wii, and then it was a blast of the Wii Sports bowling, which we both did pretty good on. In fact I really want to try and beat my high of 243 but not today, the good thing was though that at least I was able to get a few strikes into the bargain, so that worked out nicely.

A pause for tea later and those delicious Caludron lincolnshire sausages (even for a non-veggie like me, they're gorgeous to be honest) and it was time to be ready to rock out big time. I still had Guitar Hero Smash Hits on loan from Tesco, so we had a blast of that first, and it rocked pretty well. We were able to do stuff like Killer Queen (my friend's a massive Queen fan, so obvious choice), Rage Against The Machine's "Killing In The Name" (make that tune of the day), "More Than A Feeling" by Boston, Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box" and so on, before having a blast on the vocals as well. My friend did a bloody excellent job of Motley Crüe's "Shout At The Devil" and really nailed that and "Killer Queen" very well indeed, I'm sure that he should do vocals more often. As for "Free Bird", the end solo bit for my friend, playing hard, was just too hard...

It was then on to Guitar Hero Metallica as well, and plenty of fun with that. He was impressed with the Metallifacts feature which reminded us both of the old "Pop Up Video" television show which showed you videos with some text information about the song, band etc. On Metallica, it was plenty of the classics that we did, so the likes of Enter Sandman, No Leaf Clover, The Unforgiven (he did well on vocals alone too), and other bands' stuff such as Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy" (we both did that on vocals too, bloody hard that!), as well, which all worked out rather nicely.

I had a surprise for my friend too: we put on Guitar Hero World Tour, and I had downloaded Queen's classic "We Are The Champions" so he did vocal, me lead guitar, and it was rocking out time. In fact I even did the guitar part on medium and managed to complete it (and did other songs on medium bass during the evening) which was good for me to sort out nicely. We also did REM's "The One I Love" with me on vocal doing a pretty decent job of it, as well as Oasis' "Some Might Say" where I did struggle initially but got the hang of medium guitar and felt pretty pleased with myself. Having the mic did give us instrument choices, but with him on lead, and me on bass, pretty formidable most of the time, oh yes. Shame I don't have the drum kit, then I could have a four player band in the house on the go - now that would be cool!!

Tuesday 4th August - Goodbye To Broadband, Sky

Well, after some thought and pondering, I decided that today was going to be the day that I was going to migrate from Sky Broadband to another Internet Service Provider. A couple of things that happened recently have made my mind up to basically leave their service. First, and without warning, my speed was capped, which basically meant I was paying more than I needed to for the connection, and they didn't inform me of that. Now that was bad enough, but there's also been a lot of furore recently over changes to their packages and how the download allowance was going to be cut severely for most users. In fact they sneakily did this by putting some information into the Sky magazine (which let's face it, no one reads) to try and claim that the users have been notified.

Now, forgive me here, but surely amending things like download allowance and terms and conditions should be notifed a little bit better? Maybe to save the planet a bit, an email would have been nice to warn you of the forthcoming account changes, or indeed under separate cover, that would have been nice. Still, that was my mind made up and I therefore navigated Sky's web site and got to the customer comments section to fill out all the necessary forms. I basically told it like it was and didn't hold back but was constructive and fair at the same time, which is all you can do really.

Later that evening I got a reply from Sky and they basically told me that they were processing my request for the MAC (Migration Authorisation Code) and that it would be sent under separate cover, all good. I then had a look at what service providers were out there and narrowed it down to just two - Plusnet, who my friend is with, and O2. Both offer a good value for money package, although O2 has a slight advantage of unlimited downloads for the price and a discount if you're an O2 customer, so it's not that far off what you'd be paying with Plusnet, and the first two months free. Both do chuck in a free router as well, which is rather handy as well. I mean, I could use my own if I wanted, but I'm sure it'd do the job.

I had an enjoyable evening then with The Chords On My Guitar, as we relaxed in front of the telly for a while and just took time out together, I made us both a chorizo sausage pasta bake and it was just good to be able to take things relatively easy for a bit. I think sometimes it's nice just to be able to really not do anything as such but be together and do not much else. I am also trying to get some A4 sized picture frames for the two little prints that I bought in Cornwall, and she did try to get me a tennis racket from Asda but they'd sold out. Part of the reason for that is that we'd been out to Fletcher Moss the other day and saw some grass courts that we could play on, and although she has a racket, I don't have one. Aargh.

Tune of the day is the rather loud fast and thrashy "War Ensemble" by Slayer. I've been giving this a go on Guitar Hero Metallica on vocals and last night tried expert to see how I'd do, and actually fared pretty well. The good thing is that even though a fair bit of the vocals are spoken or shouty, you've really got to nail the words well and also give it plenty of power to demonstrate how good you may think you are. I also tonight linked the game to my Guitar Hero online account, so that I am able to see if any of my scores stand up against what's up there at the top, who knows what'll happen there?

Monday 3rd August - Sometimes Newer Isn't Better

Well it was a day when I got a few jobs sorted out in the office and was able to get a fair few things done, making some form of inroads into the backlog of work that we have to do. First off, it was to test a PC that had had the new motherboard put in and to see if it worked, which it did, and it was all network registered, so I was able to take it back to the office I'd picked it up from. The good thing though was that no one was around, so I got the keys I needed and was able to do it without distractions and disturbances. I also needed to move a couple of PCs around in one office. They had two rooms, and one PC had a scanner and printer attached which they wanted to have in the other room because other staff were moving in. As both the tables with the PCs etc were on wheels, it was easier to swap the whole thing. The PCs are the same spec and the users log in to them and store stuff on the network, so that was a simple job to do really in the end.

In the afternoon it was then getting back on with sorting out the Mac and trying to document all the steps required to do a successful Mac build from scratch. What had been puzzling me was how to authenticate to our secure wireless network correctly using OS X 10.5. In 10.4 you used Internet Connect and set up an 802.1x connection and that worked every time. In 10.5, the settings are there, but it just doesn't work. After checking via email with my former colleague, it seemed that the way 10.5 is, the settings don't work so well. So this is where you cheat. And the easy way? Simply copy Internet from your 10.4 installation and bung it in the Applications / Utilities folder in 10.5, set it up like you'd do in 10.4, and guess what? Yes, you guessed it. It connected first go!

It proves the old adage that sometimes newer isn't better and upgrading for the sake of it just doesn't always pay the right way. I know several people who went out to buy Windows Vista and plenty of them who went back to Windows XP because they hated Vista with a barge pole. The same thing to a lesser degree may happen with Windows 7, but at least there's plenty of stuff fixed this time - everything that in truth Vista should have been. XP has been given a new lease of life especially due to the netbooks, so it goes to show that sometimes sticking with what you have is the best way forward - everyone knows that to some degree I reckon.

It was then a session with Guitar Hero Greatest Hits later and even though it's one of the easier songs to do on the guitar, I couldn't resist playing the tune because of the riffs within it - and so tune of the day is no less than Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water". It's got plenty of killer riffs that you know that you want to try and do on real guitar to start your proper rocking. I did try the vocals too although of course some of the vocals are pretty high so it can be a tad on the difficult side!

Sunday 2nd August - Homeward Bound For A Walk

It was quite early when I woke up in my room in the Rainbow Tavern this morning. It was for two reasons: I knew breakfast was between 8.30am and 9.30am and seeing as we'd paid for it, it seemed daft that we would miss out on that for whatever reason. Also, the church clock in the centre of Kendal chimes every fifteen minutes for each quarter of the hour with full on bongs on the hour itself, and if you were a light sleeper (thankfully I'm not) that would have kept you awake. That said, the bongs at 8am did the job of waking me up nicely, so it was time to shower, get changed and meet everyone to head up to have some breakfast. The breakfast was okay actually, full English with also a choice of fruit juices, cereals and some coffee and tea too, which was sound. I just wished they'd asked if I wanted baked beans or not before serving me them - but I guess it's easier to have standard portions for everyone.

We packed up everything, left the keys on the bar to check out (I know, cool eh?) and then headed back in my friend's car back to his place in Ulverston, which wasn't that far. On the way back, he had various C64 remix MP3s going including Reyn Ouwehand doing "Deflektor", originally a Ben Daglish tune. His version is brilliant plus it reminds the four of us of a certain time in the Back in Time Lite London event we went to back in June 2007 (see the corresponding diary entry) and so that's tune of the day. I resisted the urge to do what I've sometimes done to this tune, but we all grinned with happiness as the morning sun came out over the Lakeland mountains heading down the A590.

We had a coffee at my friend's place and kept an eye on Sky Sports News for a bit and reflected on what was an excellent weekend. My friend's hospitality was excellent and he really pulled out all the stops - and no way did he have to drive us everywhere yesterday and indeed put us all up on the Friday night, but it worked out really well and I am sure that it's because we all get on so well that makes the weekend fly by. We all said our goodbyes and headed homewards around noon. The journey home for me and my friend as he headed to Doncaster via Manchester was a bit quicker as we sped down the A590 to the A6 then the M6, and avoiding Manchester centre due to the Skyride bicycle event, it was down the M60 towards Stockport and then from there to my place, which worked out really well and was home before 2pm.

Had a good afternoon watching the cricket and seeing Andrew Flintoff whack the Aussies around the ground in double quick time for his 74, before it was really nice to see The Strings On My Tennis Racket for a while. It was lovely to see her, and I know she'd missed me this weekend, but was eager to hear what we'd been up to over the weekend and indeed to see the pics that I took. I had also taken home a leaflet about the Watermill Inn, so I showed her that and how nice the pub was and suggested that at some point in the future we head up to Windermere and have a good walk around the lake and stuff, which she seemed more than happy to do.

We had a nice walk out late afternoon and headed around Fletcher Moss Park in Didsbury. We didn't venture out too far such as along the river, but admired the gardens and noticed that they had grass tennis courts, so I'll have to try and get a racket myself and see if we can have a game or two on there, that'd be rather nice especially if we can have a good workout on there one morning. We also then went to The Didsbury to have a drink and chat out there, which seemed all lovely to do to be honest, really felt enjoyable as the weather seemed to be turning out pretty nicely as well.

I made us some pasta and sauce for tea later on and we both relaxed a fair bit, even seeing some of Top Gear where Jeremy and James tried to do a Volkswagen advert and failed miserably to come up with anything half decent - ah well, good fun nonetheless, especially as you can well imagine them arguing a lot over what direction to take the advert in and all that. It was like The Apprentice, and they failed miserably, and I'm sure they'd have both been fired to say the least. Time went by far too quickly during the evening, but it was nice to be able to spend some more quality time with The Strings and make the weekend even nicer than it already was. Yaay.

Saturday 1st August - Lakes Weekender, Day Two

We woke up at my friend's place in Ulverston, and all was well with the world even if the weather didn't look so good. It was good to get up and be out and about, and before long everyone was up and pretty much ready to face the day. My friend put on some absolutely gorgeous sausages and did them in barmcakes so it was sausage barms for breakfast all round, excellent stuff that. There was coffee and juice and also yoghurt as well, and certainly I felt very looked after as well - so well done him! Little things like that really do make the weekend go even more well than they normally do, and so full credit where credit is due.

After catching up on Sky Sports News for a bit, it was then time to head out for the day. Our weekends normally involve football and this one was to be no exception of course, but more on that a little later in the day. First off, it was out for a fair drive from Ulverston. My friend did the driving and the four of us headed in his car as we left along the A590, and then took the junction at the A592 up to Bowness-on-Windermere and then through up to the fearsome Kirkstone Pass and up hill we went. And up. And up. And then right at the top, up to the Kirkstone Pass Inn. It's a really lovely place, full of old school charm and lots of lovely real ale if you so fancied. The views outside of course make it even more lovely, and with the low cloud it felt scenic and dramatic as well. It was a fair bit windy as well, so I can imagine that in Winter it's pretty cold up there. We even managed to get a group shot of the four of us up there on the hill, so that was good too.

Then it was down the hill, but not the way we came up. Instead it was down "The Struggle" which is a minor road which takes you down directly into Ambleside itself. The road though is a fairly steep one in places and it's a 1 in 4 gradient, so you really have to have your wits about you as you hurtle down the hill. Plenty of people driving were attempting to get up as well, and as you can imagine on a single track road with passing places, that wasn't exactly so easy either. Nonetheless, the scenic view as you went down was something else to behold, and I am sure that it's something which a lot of people do just to admire how gorgeous the Lake District can look on a day like that.

We then headed along Lake Windermere to Bowness-on-Windermere, and after eventually finding a place to park, stopped off in one of the pubs opposite the Beatrix Potter exhibit for a good natter and stuff like that before heading out of Bowness, up the hill to Windermere itself, along to the A591 out of there, noticing the traffic coming in the other way, round the outskirts of Kendal, and on to the A590 to the M6, down the M6 towards Lancaster, cursing the town's rubbish one way system (it really is appalling) before getting to the road out of there and towards Morecambe, and noticing the ground coming up pretty quickly, and getting a spot close to the ground in good time just before kick off - and I mean, just before kick off.

My friend is a Barrow fan, and their pre-season friendly was at Morecambe, so the four of us thought it'd be good to go, support Barrow and watch the game. I have to say though that Morecambe's ground is not the best in the league. The standing terraces behind each end are reasonably good, but for the away end, the loos are a portakabin at one end. Also one of the "stands" is uncovered and only has a few rows of terrace rake, rendering it pretty useless to be honest. The main stand only takes up about two thirds of the length of the pitch and is pretty small. Despite all that, it did have its charm and I know full well that the Barrow fans were making a good atmosphere of the game with their chants and singing along to everything - certainly they did their bit. And Morecambe are in the process of building a new stadium, which looks pretty neat.

The game was fairly even for most of the first half, although Barrow looked more likely to score. And they did, with a glorious long range effort that had the Morecambe keeper unsighted. Chances came and went at either end and at half time it was 1-0 to Barrow. So, off for some half time food. They only had one burger or hot dog van by the away terrace, and that eventually ran out of burgers before we got served, so it was the choice of hot dog, hot dog or hot dog. Even when we did get it, it reminded me of something you'd get at one of those temporary funfairs, you know, the bread roll from Asda, the sausage like the jumbo ones down the local chippy but not as nice etc. I'm sure this is another good reason for them to have the new stadium, I think.

The second half saw chances end to end but also saw some excellent goalkeeping from the Barrow goalkeeper, keeping out journeyman striker Phil Jevons (yes, him!) and a host of other chances, which meant that the Barrow strikers could go on the break, and despite a few chances, the scoreline remained the same. It was a good performance from Barrow though, proving that they could hold their own against league opposition and have the fans to match it - with their passion, it was clear that they weren't lacking in terms of the fan base, good to see, that, to be honest.

With the final score at 1-0 and Barrow deservedly gaining applause from their fans, it was time to head out of Christie Park and on to my friend's car, and we headed out of Morecambe and the one way system round Lancaster centre seemed tons better going the other way, and it was then back on the M6 and along the A591 and A6 through to Kendal. We were going to try and stay at the Watermill Inn in Ings (as we'd be going there for drinks later anyway) but it was full, so we managed to book The Rainbow Tavern in Kendal and work out that we could get a bus to the Watermill and back. We got to the Rainbow, it even had its own car park at the back, and checked in. The rooms were clean and comfortable with Freeview telly, en-suite shower which worked fine, and a wardrobe with plenty of hangars in, and good wood furniture with drawers etc in it, it was pretty good for the dosh really.

After a swift drink in the Rainbow, it was off on the 556 bus to Windermere and after going through Staveley, we got off at Ings village and walked the short distance to the Watermill Inn. And that proved to be an excellent decision in terms of pubs to visit, full stop. Not only does it have plenty of cask ales on tap at all times, but it also has its own micro brewery, allowing it to make its own beers as well. As you can well imagine, plenty of theirs were also available on proper wooden casks, and the charm of the old building really made you feel warmly welcomed. Lots of people came in with their dogs, and locals too, and it really seemed like the sort of place that you'd want to stay the evening in having beer and conversation, which is exactly what we did.

We decided too to have the food and that was a wise move. I had the steak and ale pie, and it was spot on. It had a proper shortcust pastry top with meat underneath in abundance. It wasn't shortcrust round the outsides, in fact no outsides at all, but was still very tasty. I now rank it number 3 in best pub pie behind the Punch Bowl in York and of course the White Hart in St Austell. One of my friends had the sirloin steak and that was spot on, as was the chicken curry the others had. And as for the ale, well I loved the Watermill's own brews so much that I stuck to them, having the Collie Wobbles, Dog'th Vader and Ruff Justice, all of which had their own taste and were all well worthy to be savoured at length.

It was soon time to leave and get the 11.30pm bus back to Kendal, with one small problem: no lights, anywhere! We had to just keep an eye on the passing traffic and make our way across the road quickly, where only the bus shelter had any form of lighting (well, sort of). I had to frantically flag down the bus when it came and we were eventually in Kendal just before midnight, noticing how busy the place was with people revelling in the pubs and clubs as well, before heading back to base at the Rainbow, a day well spent. As for tune of the day well I think I could have nominated a number of them, but I think somehow that "Black Night" by Deep Purple would be appropriate - especially trying to cross the road to the bus stop!!