Dear Diary... August 2013

Saturday 31st August - To Hull and Back

It was an early start today for my friend and I as it was off to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City's second home game of the season, this time against Hull City AFC. I thought I'd mention that the AFC is important here - the owner of Hull wants to rebrand them as Hull Tigers internationally and Hull City Tigers in the UK - with the assumption that "City" is too common and that AFC, as it stood for amateur football club, is no longer relevant. Try telling that to any Hull fan - to say that they're rather cheesed off is a master of the understatement to be honest.

It was fun and games getting to our seats though because some of the lifts weren't working, but got there eventually - good job we allowed time for remembering what happened last game with a similar scenario. We got a tea and a coffee and were ready for the kick off. I was hoping we'd bounce back after our defeat at Cardiff City last weekend and that we'd show a positive performance to get us back on track. The three points were the main thing here but my friend did observe that if we were starting badly in the season, would the fans be pointing fingers to the board for sacking Roberto Mancini?

Anyway, the first half was forgettable from a City point of view. Hull City played well though, had a goal disallowed for offside, and Sone Aluko shot wide when 1-1 with Joe Hart, and really he should have hit the target. The closest Manchester City got was a Joleon Lescott header which forced a good save from the hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor. The boos from the City fans at half time told you all you needed to know - it was lacklustre to say the least, and I wondered why we'd purchased Fernandinho - he looked terrible.

Unfortunately he was still on at the start of the second half, but Edin Džeko had been replaced by Alvaro Negredo. Not sure if it was the right move, but the City number 9 did look lively and put himself about a bit. Eventually City started to play better and a gorgeous Pablo Zabaleta cross was waiting to be finished off by anyone, and Negredo did the honours for 1-0. It was still tense till the 90th minute when Yaya Toure (who did sod all all game - why the hell was he captain?) took a free kick and curled it home for 2-0.

Granted, it was 2-0, but lots of things which weren't right at all really. We need desperately a midfielder who can win the ball (or play one who can - Jack Rodwell springs to mind here) and we also need to get shot of Fernandinho. The money we've paid for him is scandalous and it's clear he's not suited to the Premier League - he got booked, was lucky not to be sent off, and was running around a bit like a headless chicken. It also didn't give the midfield any structure and that didn't happen till James Milner came on and showed some fire like he always does.

We headed homewards later, and The Love In My Heart and I headed quickly to the Asda near her to get a couple of bits, and we relaxed back at mine with Pointless Celebrities before getting ourselves showered and changed ready to reunite back with my friend and his wife later and we were off to the Ashlea in Cheadle for a meal together. It's always lovely in there, they have good real ale on, the staff are always very friendly, and the food is always spot on as well, so happy days all round.

I had the stilton and peppercorn mushrooms to start, and just couldn't resist the steak and ale pie for the main - which looked rather good all round and tasted spot on with lovely thick gravy. The Love had the chorizo chicken which looked ace, my friend had the scampi and his wife the lasagne. All good there. Dessert was just my friend and I and as he loves the apple pie, he had to have that - with cream. I had mine with custard and his recommendation was spot on - it was rather lovely.

My friend enjoyed his presents from us (1972 short sleeved Man City away retro shirt, Dark Skies complete series on DVD, and Sanctuary Series 1 on DVD) and it was just a really relaxed evening, lots of chatter, and generally just being us. It was nice we had a big comfy table and comfy chairs in the Ashlea, and that the staff as usual were lovely. I can fully understand why The Love and I are always saying to Mum she should go there instead of the Cheshire Line down the road, which she loves a lot...

The Love had even managed to watch a bit of Grease on Film 4 before we headed out, so she was in her element seeing that as she was getting ready. Of course even if it's not my thing, the film is a bit of a classic so tune of the day is Olivia Newton John's "Hopelessly Devoted To You" which sometimes sums up my feelings about City - even if they don't play well, you'll always be there for them and will always support them no matter what. I guess there's some strange similarities there!

Friday 30th August - Sandbar and Shopping

It was a busy day today, and I spent a fair amount of the day re-imaging all the machines used for our AV kit, so that they had the latest build and were completely up to date in terms of what was happening. It was good also to head around the rooms as a lot of them had been left switched on, and so needed to make sure they were logged off and switched off when I was done, not least with lots of projectors and other pieces of kit. It was good too that I'd booked the rooms in advance so that I could just get on with it.

On the whole, it went pretty well. All the machines imaged first go, and even though I had to go through a renaming process with some of them it worked out pretty well indeed that I was just able to get things done and actually have all the rooms available if required by around 2pm that day, so it did at least mean I had time for failovers and other such stuff. Of course because all the rooms aren't together, it did mean that a fair amount of walking had to be done up and down stairs between each room to do the steps pre- and post- imaging as well.

I headed out of work a little late and so asked The Love In My Heart if she fancied meeting me at Sandbar for a drink. She didn't say no, thankfully, and so I headed off there and got her a glass of wine ready for her coming. It was nice to sit outside and generally relax and enjoy the cooling air, and have a good pint. In fact they had some lovely ale from the Buxton Brewery, the Jacob's Ladder. A mere 2.7% so a good session beer and was very refreshing and drinkable - have to look out for that in the future I think!

The Love looked beautiful as she always does, and it was so nice to see her smiling face after a hard week at work, just the thing really. I do think as well that it's nice if I surprise her occasionally and suggest a little meet up for a drink. Back in the day when she would work in the city centre we'd sometimes meet in Kro after work and that was always lovely if we were able to do that, and so it's good to at least continue a meet up for a chat and drink and make life easier for ourselves.

I headed home later and was due the Tesco shopping delivery between 6pm and 7pm. As you can imagine, when it came at 7.20pm I was a bit non-plussed, I might as well have gone for the 7-8pm delivery slot. I suspect traffic was to blame a little bit, but I wonder if there's actually a refund available for having the groceries delivered at the wrong time? After all, you make the effort to be in at the alotted times and all. Might be worth checking out to be honest.

I later relaxed with some Rock Band 3 on the Wii. I downloaded some downloadable content to have a go with some different songs, and plenty of them were still 100 Wii Points, cheaper than normal. So I snagged "Constant Motion" by Dream Theater, "Hong Kong Garden" by Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the rather good "More Human Than Human" by White Zombie, which as you can imagine is rather heavily censored, so no swear words, and no woman possibly having an orgasm in the opening section, but it's still a classic nontheless.

I had a go on guitar first and then switched to vocals. I did pretty well on Constant Motion and not bad considering a couple of attempts were made - I did 97% on expert vocals. However given a few attempts, I had nailed "Hong Kong Garden" pretty well and so had managed 100% on expert - woohoo! Tune of the day obviously but also when I looked at my score, it was the second highest on the Wii, so felt rather pleased with my progression on that one. Yaay.

Thursday 29th August - These Are The Champions

The working day went by pretty quickly as I was working on a few different things at once and having to carefully juggle between the two - not particularly easy when you have to also ensure that everyone is kept informed of any developments that you might have found out. As you can well imagine, these have been quite a lot recently because of building moves and the like, so the pace has essentially been quite quick in doing a lot of stuff in so little time.

I did however manage to get to the bottom of what was an issue with the ID card printing system we use. It all links to a database which holds the records, and it seemed that when I or a colleague tried to import a picture, either via the web cam or via an image already scanned in, it came up with an error. After some liaison with my colleagues, one in operations and one in database systems, it turned out that it was definitely a database issue, which was thankfully resolved pretty quickly and pretty well.

I managed to get home pretty quickly, and with good reason: it was the Champions League draw, live from the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. As Manchester City are in it again for the third season in a row, being in pot three meant that there were at least two top teams to play and some of the teams in pot four weren't exactly slouches either. I looked at the potential for what we could get, but once Arsenal and Chelsea got groups E and F, I knew we'd be in the first four groups (UEFA split up countries wherever possible so not everyone from the same country plays the same night) and Man U got group A, so that left us with B, C or D. When I saw Barcelona paired with AC Milan in Group H I thought "phew, avoided that then!"

As the draw progressed Group C looked pretty good to go into, but once the third team was drawn, I knew that it was down to two groups. As it was, we got group D, which wasn't as bad as I thought. So then so far it was Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow and us. The fourth pots started to be drawn and all the worrying teams like Napoli and Anderlecht went elsewhere, which eventually meant that we got Viktoria Plzen of the Czech Republic. Not sure of their European pedigree and they may have nothing to lose, but I suspected a lot of us would be happy with that draw. They even are the original makers of pilsner in that town too.

I think to be honest it worked out very well for us, and for most of the evening afterwards I had the Champions League theme in my ears, imagining what it would be like on match day. Despite it being sung in three languages (French, German and English) it makes the hair stand on end when you hear it. I even admittedly know all the words to the chorus bit played on the telly so that's good. Tune of the day it is then. I do wish UEFA would release the three minute full version as a download only single or something - I can imagine it'd actually do pretty well!

The Love In My Heart came over later, and we had a nice chorizo pasta bake for tea, and then settled in to watch some of Celebrity Masterchef, followed by a good documentary series on Channel 5 +1 which went behind the scenes at First Great Western, and how the trains run (or don't) due to vandalism, and their steps to stop people who don't buy a ticket. I have to say that the ticket inspectors at Windsor and Eton Central were taking no prisoners whatsoever, and good for them as well. Having been there, we both recognised the station straight away!

Wednesday 28th August - I Have The Power

It was a mix of issues with power today, but for many different reasons. I was helping a member of staff unpack and then realised that it wasn't really worth doing so due to a lack of mains power in the room. Turned stuff on, not working whatsoever. In the end one of our project people got hold of the electricians to try and get that sorted, but as you can imagine, not ideally what was needed, especially after I spent the best part of over an hour getting a couple of pieces of software installed and configured.

My main focus though has been on the issue we've got with some of our new Samsung laptops. They image fine in SCCM, but obviously we add in the Samsung Easy Display Settings so that all the function keys work as intended. One small problem though: it seems to want to install its own power settings and indeed set that as default (boo) so that any default power setting that we want to set to it is actually overwritten. This is a bad thing really and we obviously needed the hotkey functionality.

At least for the loan image, what we can do is effectively make it so that it will do all the installations first and then apply whatever power management policy we want last - so that it will then pick the one we want. It did do that but for some reason didn't reset the option that from the start menu the power button action is set to shut down. I managed to sort that by basically amending the modification of the default user profile so that it has the registry key set to default, and so then when the user logs in it effectively sets it when it's logged in - and that seemed to work (sort of).

I headed home rather later than planned and after a visit to Tesco it was then time to kick back and whilst doing a shed load of ironing, watch Top of the Pops from 1978 on BBC Four. It was good that to start with it had The Jam's rather classic "David Watts" (so make that tune of the day then) but it did go a bit downhill from there, with possibly the worst cover version you're ever likely to hear, ever. Yes, I'm talking about one of the songs from Grease done by two old codgers who think they were funny with their appallingly bad singing and cheesy backing. All I can so that is - Oi! Mullard! NOOOOOOOO!

Mind you, I did manage to also transfer the pictures from the Monday day out at Oulton Park that we'd had. In fact some of them turned out pretty well and should give you an idea of the motorsport on offer and what worked really well there. I did like the family atmosphere and the fact that everyone had come along to enjoy the whole occasion which was smart. I'm sure there's other meetings in the future I might have to consider, or even go to different UK race circuits and see what they're like!

Tuesday 27th August - Buildings and Bake-Offs

It was the first day back after the Bank Holiday and somewhat eventful really, as it was the first day that a lot of staff have moved from one building to another, and it's one that we'll be spending time looking after and offering lots of early life support. As you can well imagine, with plenty going on, there was also plenty to do. I think though on the most part a big chunk of the work that was able to be done beforehand, such as wiring in any desks, network cables et al meant a lot of hassle was saved.

As was unboxing of a lot of new monitors and kit too, so it meant we could get everything over there as quickly as possible and make sure that when we needed to place items on desks it was doable. What was also useful was that many hands were on deck and so it was able to be all sorted out rather well too. I did have to head to a meeting in the morning but I didn't expect it to last a mere two hours all told. I suppose that's one thing I've learned over time - never under-estimate the times of any meeting.

It was a long day and so when I headed home I was pretty pleased that I had some time on my hands to get a few things sorted around the house. My sister did head over though as she needed a copy of her CV and it also updating, so I spent some time with her getting that sorted, as well as making sure she had a few copies for herself if she needed it. I guess at least one thing with keeping all of those things to hand is that if anyone needs it, it's easier to pull it off for them (especially when the main Internet access device is a mobile instead!)

The Love In My Heart came over later and I set to make the evening meal, chicken and mushroom tikka massala with rice, naan breads and even some poppadums with some dips too. It actually worked out nicely to fry the chicken first, slice the mushrooms, add them in and then once they were nicely fried over, whack the sauce in, let them simmer, and then do the rice. Job pretty much done all round really. It tasted pretty good though so I felt pleased, as did The Love.

Next then was The Great British Bake-Off on BBC2, which of course we both love to bits. I think this week the bread challenges showed that some had these skills much more than last week, and especially Kimberley and Ruby who both shined. Ruby's shock at being Star Baker was a nice moment, I think she's suffered a bit confidence wise and to have that bestowed on her was good. Straight away The Love and I knew though who would be going even from the first challenge - and we were both proved right. Sometimes you can just tell!

I must admit though that being bunged up by a cold isn't being particularly helpful right now. I don't feel 100% on top of things and was finding it hard to maintain complete focus. I'm also overheating a heck of a lot which does concern me, maybe it's a mix of a few things together but I do think that it's needed to shift in some way. It'll be back on the Lemsip before I know it I reckon. Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather brilliant "Boredom" by the Buzzcocks, which of all things is now being used in the latest Sainsbury's advert. Woohoo indeed.

Monday 26th August - Oulton Park Gold Cup Day

We'd planned to head out to Oulton Park today, as the motor racing circuit was hosting the Oulton Park Gold Cup, where many classic racing cars from various eras would race against each other. It looked to be a promising day all round, and as we were able to pay on the day, it made perfect sense that we would be able to just go and turn up, take a picnic with us, and see what the fuss was all about. So it was an earlier than usual Bank Holiday rise and shine, and we were out of the house and well down the M56 before 10am.

It was then down the A49, passing around Weaverham and Cuddington before soon seeing the polo club which meant we knew where we were, a left turn and down the road later, and we had the stewards directing us left and then right to the entrance in use for today, which took us along the back of the home straight and then around to a wide open field, which is where the parking was. It meant we were able to see the cars go along Dentons towards Cascades corner, and also on the other side taking the chicane at Knickerbrook too.

We stood by the side of the track and watched one race early on (there were a dozen in all today) and headed via the crossing to the infield, where there were various stalls selling merchandise, a small display of some classic cars (including a former Lotus driven by Sir Stirling Moss no less!) and also the small rally circuit inside had some old rally cars giving a demonstration. They were pushing hard too - one of them ended up with their exhausts dragging along the ground no less.

We looked around parts of the track from the inside and the run up Clay Hill had seen a collision in one of the races and we could see a mass clean up going on, which delayed some of the later races. It was good to see though that the marshals were spot on, and really did their bit well. It wasn't that long before racing could get underway and we'd see some classic Touring Cars from the 1980s and 1990s do their thing, with no less than John Cleland and Tim Harvey driving their cars impressively - it really was a sight and a half to see, let me tell you.

There was supposed to be a lengthy lunch break with a Spitfire display, but the Spitfire had been airborne showing its stuff off during one of the races due to the crash delay from earlier, but still, all good to go, and so we headed back on the outside of the circuit, grabbed the picnic basket and blanket from the car, and headed to a good spot higher up on the bank of the hill where the parking was, so we could see quite a bit of the circuit. The Love was happy there all afternoon and we enjoyed a lovely lunch with the cars from the next race going past, so that was cool.

The Formula Ford 2000 race proved to be rather good, as it showed off Nelson Rowe romping away from the field, winning by a massive 20 seconds over his rivals, and that did look effortless. I did head up to the first corner Old Hall for the historic touring cars, which featured no less than Sir Chris Hoy driving a Mini Cooper (and yes, it was him!). Even though you were behind meshed fencing for safety reasons, the corner really showed just how some of the cars were on the limit, skidding and sliding everywhere - it was good stuff.

The race red flagged earlier was race one of two for the Derek Bell Trophy for classic Formula 3 cars from the 1970s, and the second race was neck a neck for the first few cars during the first few laps. One of the entries reminded me a lot of James Hunt's Hesketh from the 1975 F1 season, and the noise and smell of petrol was just enticing to watch some brilliant action close up. I really enjoyed that, and that was good fun all round, as was the next race too - the 500cc Formula 3, with lots of old 1940s and 1950s cars giving it full pelt.

We eventually left as the second to last race, the Clubmans, came to a conclusion, but we both felt it was really good - lots of food and drink stalls everywhere (although probably needed to have some on the outside of the circuit where we were - even if you could cross over between the races), decent toilets, family stalls and funfair for the kids, and a really friendly atmosphere that you could enjoy watching and being at. I really appreciated it all and thought it was nice to be at a different race circuit enjoying some action close up.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "Blackbeat" by Apollo 440 which ITV did use in their F1 coverage early on. It worked pretty well as the adaptation had some screaming F1 car noises at the right points so as not to get annoying, but also sounded a fairly high octane fast paced tune, the sort of thing you could see that worked well with an F1 intro. Granted, it's not "The Chain" but it's still the second best F1 theme tune - and by a long way too.

Sunday 25th August - A Walk Into Oblivion

I had a fairly relaxed morning this morning, mainly sorting out all the pictures from the Gromit Unleashed trail and indeed the city of Bristol that I took yesterday. It would have been quicker had my card reader not decided to die on me, so I used the cable to hook up the camera to the PC instead and transferred them that way. Maybe not ideal, but it worked so I wasn't complaining really. I decided to pick one image I took per Gromit, so I'd have a set of 60 in all, which worked pretty well.

The Love In My Heart came over later on and after a chat and a cold drink, we headed out for the afternoon. The first stop was the recycling tip as she had picked up some bits from her father's place that he needed to get rid of, and so we emptied the boot of everything and got shut of all of that lot, and then off to the large Tesco in Gorton where we got some bits for a picnic that we were going to take with us tomorrow (we have the basket, after all, so we may as well use it I reckon).

Once that was all done, we had a quick drop off of the food at mine so we could make sure it was all kept nice and fresh, and then we headed off to Chorlton Water Park, to take a nice walk around there and did a lap of the lake in all. It was quite good to take it rather leisurely and walk and chat at the same time to be honest, and more relaxation was on the cards as we headed to the Greenfinch pub in West Didsbury later where I had a nice cold drink and even some orange juice as well, as the developing cold was getting a touch on the worse side to be honest.

We then later headed back to mine, where I made us some rather nice chicken together with some mash, and also some petits poits with leek and pancetta. All of that was part of the Tesco Finest Meal Deal, as was the rather nice sauvignon blanc which The Love enjoyed as part of that deal. We had watched a bit of the triathlon and I saw the remainder of the Belgian Grand Prix as I made the tea - which worked out pretty well as it was another Sebastian Vettel win, but followed home in the end by Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton to keep their title hopes alive for now.

The Love had brought round the Blu-ray disc of Oblivion that she'd borrowed from one of her family, and so we decided to put that on, with me cranking the surround system on full blast to watch it. That worked out rather well, and it was good to watch that film again. Yes, granted, it is a little on the formulaic side in places, but there are occasions where you actually need that instead of having to get your head around a plot that very few people get to grips with. Nice too that the soundtrack by M83 really compliments the film, not least the title theme tune so that's my tune of the day.

Saturday 24th August - A Grand Day Out, Gromit!

It was an early rise for me this morning, as I had a train to catch at 6am, namely the 0600 from Manchester Piccadilly to Bristol Temple Meads. It was the only train I could get that was reasonably cheap heading down to Bristol, and wanted to make a day of it heading around the city looking for the multiple Gromits on display that formed Gromit Unleashed, a public art exhibition that would raise money for the children's hospital in the city. As Aardman Animations (who make Wallace and Gromit) are based in Bristol, it made perfect sense for the five foot high statues of Gromit, all designed and painted differently, to be around the city.

It was actually quite busy on the train so was glad I'd reserved my seat and indeed had a nice bacon barm and coffee from Breadbox in the station before I set off, and that kept me going nicely for the day. It was good too that the weather seemed to be set pretty fair - I decided not to take a coat and brave it on the account of it being cloudy and possibly humid, so wanted to be as cool as possible as I headed around on what undoubtedly would be quite a fair walk around the city and beyond. I'd set myself a target of 40 Gromits from the 80 available, and as some of them are outside the city centre and even further beyond (Cheddar Gorge, Westonbirt Arbotoreum and London Paddington station) that was a realistic total.

As I arrived on time at Bristol Temple Meads, I exited the station and spotted the first Gromit of the day, Isambark Kingdog Brunel. My map said there was two inside the station and I located the other one right by the ticket barriers, but luckily on the station side so you could at least track it down. A couple who were on the same train was also on the trail so I informed them where that one was, and they could set off too. I headed out of the station and to the bus stop where soon I'd be on the number 1 bus to Cribbs Causeway, an out of town shopping centre, where two or three Gromits were to be located.

Cribbs Causeway was a little bit like the Trafford Centre but smaller scale (it even had John Lewis at one end!) and in there was the Gromit Unleashed shop, and in there was The Green Gromit, designed by Zayn Malik of One Direction (cue lots of British girls going "wooooooo!" at that). Outside was also the Cath Kidston designed one, and a walk over to the Retail Park close by and Harveys furniture store meant I'd spotted another one. So 5 so far, and soon the 54 bus came to take me back to Bristol city centre.

As it turned out it was an inspired move. After heading through Southmead, it headed towards the suburb of Henleaze, and outside the estate agents CJ Hole was another out of town Gromit, so I got off the bus close by, got the shot and then moved back on the 54, getting off at Clifton Down station as I spotted another Gromit from the list close by. It was then back down to the Bristol City Museum, got the two in there, as well as the one opposite the roundabout in the Victoria Rooms, one in an art centre, and one just behind on a street corner with mirrors behind (Vincent Van Gromit, even had the left ear bandaged!)

I then walked towards Clifton, and located the Gromit by the Redgrave Theatre and headed towards the Suspension Bridge and viewed it from the tower opposite, then headed back along Clifton Down to Bristol Zoo, and so another Gromit. I knew two more were on The Downs, but the guide didn't tell you where, and it was after a tip off from a friendly ice cream man on The Downs was that the old water tower as part of Durdham Down was where I'd find one - and sure enough by Café Retreat there it was. I had lunch there too - the ham and cheese toastie on seeded brown bread was gorgeous, thanks for that to the lovely folks in there (and they were genuinely lovely too.)

I headed across The Downs in the direction of another Gromit and after getting back to Clifton Down on the bus, got the number 8 to Clifton Village. I headed off in one direction and accidentally got to Clifton Hill, but that was fine, a Gromit there. And I then got the three in the village including one on the balcony of the Avon Gorge Hotel, before heading downhill to the River Avon and along the dockyards, where I got to SS Great Britain after a long walk. I'd also been to Aardman's HQ and spotted one there too, as well as took the steam train along the dockyard front to M Shed, got the two there and the one on board the SS Matthew ship too.

By now I was hitting the city centre, so went via Arnolfini, Queen Square and then King Street. At the other end there was supposed to be a Gromit there but it had been removed due to vandalism. This made me feel very cross - I mean, it's a public art exhibition to be enjoyed by the public, and Gromit is a lovely character and national treasure. Why would anyone want to wreck him, I thought. I soon headed towards the waterfront with more spots along the way, then through to Millennium Square via the Tourist Information, Aquarium and At Bristol, before heading up the hill to the central library (Grommalo was in the children's book section, nice touch) and up the hill from College Green.

I went back down the hill, into Colston Hall, and saw the musical one there with some nice Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra playing - one of my favourites of the day. I went via the Hotel du Vin to the hospital itself, but the shop was closed, so no Gromit. Boo! Same happened later at the St Nicholas Market too. Undeterred, I went via The Galleries and Broadmead shopping to Quakers Friars (and into Harvey Nichols where there was one) and then to Cabot Circus, where Gromit Lightyear was waiting for me in the cinema. After visiting the Marriott Bristol City Centre Hotel, it was then back along the Bristol Bridge, down Redcliffe Street, to the church, along towards Temple Quay, and to the square at the back of the station where my final Gromit of the day would be found.

It was then over to the Wetherspoons nearby for some well earned food and a pint, and I had taken a pen with me to write down all the Gromits I'd spotted in the order I spotted them - this was so I could correlate them with the numbered Gromit on the trail map for image uploading at some point. I did a count, and including the missing / damaged one, I managed amazingly to track down 60 Gromits - in one day! I don't know if that's some sort of record but considering I wasn't driving anywhere and only using public transport or walking (and a lot of walking at that, I reckoned some 9-10 miles by the end of the day) I don't think I did that badly really.

I took the 1930 train from Bristol back to Manchester, and as I'd been humming all day long, the Wallace and Gromit theme came into my head and just wouldn't leave, so tune of the day it must be. I just think it's such a really well made animation that has so much charm and Englishness about it, and of course Gromit - who says so much by expression alone (he actually says nothing ever in the animations). To me, that makes him just even more cool but seeing all of them today was a really nice thing to do. You have till 8th September if you want to do the same!

Friday 23rd August - Moving On Up

It was a fairly hectic day today as it was a lot of hands on deck to try and get things finalised for one of the major building moves of the Summer. A lot of staff were going to be moving from a Faculty not that near to us and to a new place which is one of the buildings which have been refurbished that is looked after by ourselves. Of course as you can imagine, with the builders and contractors being the same as a previously delayed building project, you can well imagine that we were all concerned that things were falling behind somewhat.

Indeed when my colleague and I looked at one of the network cabinets this morning, nothing was happening in terms of new switches or anything like that, so that was an immediate concern that nothing was playing ball there, so that had to be sorted. In fact once some of that was done my colleague and I went back early afternoon and cabled in all the network stuff on desks, and with two more colleagues in the afternoon also sorted out a few more desks with longer cables etc, so everything looked as neat and tidy as it could be.

I think that next Tuesday is going to be a day and a half in terms of stuff going on, but I guess it'll be all hands on deck big time. I have the corporate polo shirt at the ready (which we have to wear for early life support tasks) and I guess that having something like that on will probably be the best course of action so that people know who we are and what we'll be doing. I am sincerely hoping that we'll be able to try and get to the bottom of a few things next week too and that we can then see what happens from there.

It was good to get out and get home, and I made myself some haddock and lemon rice for tea, which did the job rather nicely it has to be said. I settled in also and watched a recording from BBC Two HD a while ago, which focussed on the 1976 F1 season between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Call it revision for when the film Rush comes out pretty soon, which I've already said that I'm going to to go the cinema to watch when it comes out. It was indeed a fascinating watch, with the senior team personnel at the time Daniele Audetto (Ferrari) and Alistair Caldwell (McLaren) giving brilliant inside accounts of what went on.

What struck me most is even then just how political the sport was getting, with Hunt winning in Spain, being disqualified and then reinstated on appeal for the race win, and then after winning the British Grand Prix, getting disqualified on a technicality that Ferrari had appealed against, and as both appeals took places months after, it meant that with three races lost all seemed lost for Hunt - well that was of course till he won two races on the bounce, and the documentary used Fleetwood Mac's superb "Go Your Own Way" to great effect here, so tune of the day for that reason.

Tomorrow is an early start for me though as I'm off on the hunt for Gromit (several of them actually!) as part of the Gromit Unleashed art exhibition that's taking place all over Bristol. I have a fair few ideas of what to do and where to go, but it'll be good to actually see the city as I've not been there for ages. I've obviously passed through Temple Meads station on the way to Cornwall of course, but it's not quite the same as you can well imagine. Roll on then!

Thursday 22nd August - Glasgow Goodies

It was a busy day again in the office as lots of testing was going on for me, but also I had to try and sort out a few issues once I was going to roll out Trimble SketchUp Pro. The software itself was a fairly easy installer to effectively roll out, and that worked in next to no time. However, two issues occurred which needed to be looked at and one of which involves a Group Policy Change to our firewall policy so that the executable allows inbound connections (this can thankfully be done as a planned change so it's a relief to say the least that we know it will be take care of).

The other issue had me scratching my brains and then I remembered what I had to do. We've placed the licence file on a server, and there's a server.dat file which we deliver to each machine via Group Policy which tells the machine where the licence file lives. However, when logged in as a student user, SketchUp complained that the licence had expired. Eh? And when I ran it as me, it had no problem. So, I checked the way that our old licence folder was configured, and worked out what it was.

The folder where the licence itself lives needs to have modify rights for everyone, as when you run SketchUp it needs to create a temporary file in that folder, called semaxx.dat (where xx is a random number). This way it can keep track of the licences in use (aha). Anyway, once you give modify rights to the folder, it's a good idea to make sure sketchup.lf (the licence file itself) is actually backed up but also that you make that file read only, so it can't be deleted by accident. Did all that, worked spot on now. Hurrah!

Later on I headed home and did a bit around the house before The Love In My Heart came over. I made us some chicken wrapped in bacon and cheese sauce together with some mash and some peas, and that went down nicely. I also even had a real ale whilst The Love was watching Emmerdale and seeing the somewhat dramatic storylines in there at present. For me, it's more indulgence for her and I guess that pay back is when we do something that's more to my liking.

Which brought us nicely to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year. The ticket window started on Monday but I knew that I didn't have to apply then, as it was a four week period for applications. I therefore logged in tonight and worked out some of the events I'd like to see, and ideally I'd like to head to the athletics with The Love to Hampden Park, especially if the 100m or 200m final is involved (Usain Bolt represents Jamaica, a Commonwealth country, so here's hoping!) but also to see some good competition generally.

I did also put in for a few things on my own that I thought might be quite good, such as the rugby sevens at Celtic Park, the judo, and also the diving at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh (woo!) which might prove to be a decent thing. Of course there's no guarantee of us getting any of the tickets as I suspect some of them might be over-subscribed, but you never know. I did go to the athletics, rugby sevens and the netball when the Games was in Manchester and that was brilliant, so we'll see what happens when the ticket window closes. Of course if I get any it'll be a case of booking hotels and stuff as soon as possible as you can well imagine!

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "Barrowland Ballroom" by Amy Macdonald. I thought it rather apt, because of course the Barrowlands is a rather well known gig venue in Glasgow, but also because it's a fast paced acoustic rocker which shows just how impressive Amy's debut album was. As it transpires, she's getting rather big in Europe these days with for some reason the Germans especially loving her to bits. What's the odds of her singing her stuff at the opening ceremony I wonder?? Might be worth a few quid..

Wednesday 21st August - Testing, Testing, One Two Three

I spent a fair amount of time today testing things. First of all, we've taken delivery of some laptops which effectively are going to be our loan stock. However, as they're a new type of laptop, we need to make sure that all the necessary drivers work correctly with the laptop in question, so I spent some time yesterday downloading all the drivers, and then putting them together into a suitable driver package into SCCM. I also made sure from the machine itself I got the suitable WMI query so that we knew that the driver package would only install if the machine's WMI matched.

However, as it turned out, the laptop had some similarities to the Samsung S5 series we've recently got for the staff machines, and so what that meant was the same Bluetooth and the same hotkey installer, so some tweaks to the WMI query for that and it meant that we were able to then make sure that the drivers were working for that as well. However, it also meant that there was one other thing, the accelerometer, whch also needed a separate installer, so I packaged that up and added the WMI query, and that worked perfectly well as well. Yaay.

Also later in the day I had an email with the electronic licence and install information for Trimble SketchUp Pro 2013. We have thirty concurrent licences, and the licence file is installed on one of our servers which means that we're able to then be able to tell all the clients where to see the licence from. In a way this works really well, because we can install it on many machines and know that there'll be a maximum of thirty using it at any one time without issues.

The installer itself was easy to sort out, there's an MSI enclosed within, and some tweaks to that with Orca meant a quick transform was done (effectively not to have any desktop icons for it). It did also mean that we would be able to sort out all the necessary preferences without any issues to a point. The easy things such as turning off updates and the save locations are all in registry, so they were nice and easy to work on. Getting the extra toolbars to show every time - a bit less so, so it was much easier to leave the default one on, which has a lot of what you need - you can always show the extra ones if needed.

One good thing though - as SketchUp is now owned by Trimble, not Google, there's no annoying prompts during the installer to set Google as a default provider, install Google Chrome, none of that rubbish, so it's much easier for deployment purposes not to have to hack into the installer and faff around, which for me is much more like it to be honest. Good when it works I reckon. So tune of the day is "Here To Go" by Cabaret Voltaire, which effectively is how I felt at the end of the day.

I did head into the city centre to get a birthday present for a friend, and managed to find exactly what I was after, so it made the visit worthwhile. It did feel rather humid and close though so I was glad to be heading home later and getting some well earned fresh air with the window open just letting things cool down enough. I also guess it's when you're used to having air conditioning in the office now and keeping the temperature at a reasonable level so to be able to concentrate on work properly.

Oh, and sod's bloody law: having booked for the Sleigh The UK tour with PWEI, Jesus Jones and The Wonder Stuff on Friday 20th December in London, and having booked the hotel too, it now transpires that the Levellers are at Academy 1 on the same night in Manchester. Noooo! Why does that always happen that gigs always clash when you don't want them to? Still, looking at the next few months, I've got some cracking times to look forward to, but probably most of all, Roy Harper at the Bridgewater Hall. I have a feeling that's going to be epic!

Tuesday 20th August - Bloody Baking

It was lovely as ever to have The Love In My Heart over this evening, and as she settled in to watch Emmerdale, I made ourselves some spaghetti carbonara together with some dough balls that were from Pizza Express that I picked up in Tesco the other day. It worked out pretty well and so was nice just to relax with some food, some sparkling water and plenty of chat. It was good too that we were both in a relaxed mood despite for various reasons not the easiest day at work.

Of course if there was one thing we were looking forward to, it was the return of the Great British Bake Off on BBC Two. I think it's just generally lovely as the everyday normal bakers set off to try all sorts of challenges with the watchful eyes of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, with Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins presented. I was most surprised when one of the historical features had one of the lecturers at my work place on, and that was an unexpected but rather nice moment all round. Yaay indeed.

Right from the end of the first challenge The Love and I had narrowed down who was going home to two or three, with some early contenders for the series win showing plenty of promise and potential. One of them in the technical challenge failed rather spectacularly, putting salt instead of sugar in the recipe and cooking their sponge raw, and on top of that not doing any better in the final showstopper challenge, with some exquisite chocolate cake creations (the one in the shape of a pretty hat women would wear at weddings was rather lovely it has to be said) - and the theme tune just works so well, it's twee, but works. so tune of the day is that.

So then back to Reading went the posh boy, very Tim Nice But Dim for some reason, and then on it was to the next programme and St Mary's Hospital Manchester featuring heavily, as it focussed on midwives and their job of delivering the babies in the hospital. It was nice to see a positive about what they do, and when you spoke to some of them you could tell the love of their job was shining through, how you cope with the good times and the bad when a baby doesn't make it, and the special moments for the parents that they share.

For me, it was a bit queasy to watch when delivering by C-section (a little too graphic) but seeing the parents have those moments made it a fascinating watch. One parent called Helen had lost a daugthter stillborn three years back, and although they knew it was a girl this time, worry and panic was starting to set in as she got nearer the birth. Her partner was brilliant, being massively reassuring and loving, and the midwives all did their bit to make her feel special, and the joy she felt at the birth was just ever so lovely. It's nice when nice things happen to people who so deserve it.

Monday 19th August - City Are Back!

It was the first game of the new season, and I have to admit, I've been counting down the days for this one to come along. It's been good this summer seeing England tonk the Australians at cricket, Mo Farah and Christine Ohuruogu lead the way for the British athletes at the World Athletics Championships, seeing Andy Murray live at Wimbledon on his way to winning the thing, and of course even some gigs in between all that. However, these were all only warm up events to the start of the season I think.

My friend and I headed towards the Etihad, and straight away we noticed that the ground had had a little bit of a makeover. Gone it seemed were any possible images and reference to Roberto Mancini on the outside, and indeed for my friend gone were the lifts - not working. We eventually managed to get in another entrance so he could head up to the ground and then to our seats, but that delayed us a bit and we only just about managed to get in just in time for the kick off.

Before the game, lots of former City players were around including Paul Dickov, Paulo Wanchope, Uwe Rösler and the Goat himself, Shaun Goater, as well as former Arsenal goalkeeper and Match of the Day presenter Bob Wilson. Bob was there like many of us paying tribute to Bert Trautmann, whom Bob became good friends with over the years as a fellow goalkeeper. Uwe of course was articulate as ever, and it was great to see the legend that is the Goat enthuse so much about City as per usual. It was a good way to give Bert a fitting memorial and send-off if City were to do the business tonight.

And my, were they ever. Five and a half minutes on the clock when Edin Džeko put in an impressive cross from the left, the ball was cleared but only to the head of David Silva who headed home for 1-0. We had a couple more chances and Newcastle had a goal disallowed for offside before Džeko released Sergio Agüero through the middle, and Sergio did the rest and snuck it right in the bottom corner past Tim Krul for 2-0. City had more chances and I have to say that Jesus Navas down the right certainly was making a difference, giving the defenders all sorts of problems.

Just before half time Steven Taylor was sent off for raising an arm, and it definitely felt more of a pre-emptive strike at Agüero when it was done, and so at half time I headed off to try the new look catering. I went to the posh end Jamie Oliver catering, and so went for the steak and ale pie. This came with a good sized portion of mash and was a mere £5.50. Ouch! For that it had better be good. Actually, it was. The pie had nice big chunks of steak in it, the mash was a good consistency with some gravy on top, and it felt rather hearty and wholesome too. Must admit though £3.80 for a pie alone is getting a bit much though...

Second half started where it left off, with City in total control against the ten men of Newcastle. A free kick was expertly put in by Yaya Toure, who really showed what he was capable of from that range. Samir Nasri came on for Agüero who had put a good shift in, and a ball from Pablo Zabaleta later found Nasri who slotted it past Krul for 4-0. And that's how it stayed, with the Newcastle goalkeeper single handedly keeping the score down with a string of saves.

So all good for the first game of the season I have to admit, and it felt rather positive that City did so well and that we were going for the kill. One notable thing: when we won the league in 2011-12, we played the opening game at the Etihad on a Monday night and also won 4-0. Fate? I hope so. In the meantime tune of the day is Supra's excellent version of "Blue Moon" which always gets me in the mood for football when I listen to it. It's just the thing to get me really pumped up!

Sunday 18th August - Around Ancoats

The Love In My Heart and I got up, and I made us some bacon toasties for breakfast along with some lovely coffee (some Kenco Millicano for her and a Tassimo Café Crema for me - as you do). It was good to be able to have some lovely breakfast to keep me going, and The Love then headed homewards as she was going out with a few friends later on for a meal. In the meantime I got the camera all packed in the camera bag and headed to the city centre to meet up with some of the lovely Flickr folks for the day.

We headed to Kosmonaut first where I had a well earned coffee and the place seemed rather comfortable and cosy with lots of nice tables, and decent ale (although the ale was very pricey, even on cask) so all felt relaxed in the atmosphere. The plan today was to head around Ancoats and parts of the Northern Quarter and see where that would take us, so it was good to be able to get out and about earlyish, not least because the sun was coming out.

We headed up Tarriff Street and up to the Rochdale Canal, and followed this up and over Great Ancoats Street and onwards towards the basin close to New Islington, where you could see that plenty of work was going on to make the canal basin a good base for boats to moor alongside the canal. It was good to walk around there and see some of the work going on to make it more of a greener place to be, and we ended up heading back over the other side of the basin and towards the canal again, even seeing a boat head through one of the swing bridges.

It was then through the back streets of Ancoats by the old (and sadly closed) Cross Keys pub, and then to the St Peter's Church which is now used by the Hallé Orchestra as their rehearsal space, and very pretty it looked too it has to be said. It was then back along and through Cotton Street, stopping off to admire the old signage on Loom Street and indeed the done up terraced houses which are just around the back of the former Daily Express building, and then onwards to the Crown and Kettle pub.

I'd not been in that pub for ages, but a good pint of Red River was to be had in there, and at £2.95 a pint too which was decent going for the city centre it has to be said. Some of us even tried out their pork pies which were sizeable and a mere £2 a throw too, so they were good on that score. It was good to chat to several people along the way and, once suitably refreshed, it was back down Oldham Street, through the Northern Quarter for a bit and then off to the Waldorf near the 192 bus stop in Piccadilly for a well earned drink there too.

It was a grand day indeed, and so good that the weather held and so good to see some good people again, which was good. The Love spoke to me later and she'd had a good time for a meal too, and during her meal had texted me asking for the title and artist of a song from the 1980s I think she was trying to remember, so I was glad to assist. In fact when I got home I had a bit of a 80s session myself inspired by some of the stuff I was listening to last night, so put on the Ministry of Sound Electronic 80s Volume 3 compilation - and not least "Chant No 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)" by Spandau Ballet - a tune that's really lasted the test of time so tune of the day there...

Saturday 17th August - Soccer Saturday and Scrabble

I had a fairly relaxed Saturday, venturing out in the morning to get some washing powder and washing up liquid whilst it was thankfully still dry. Unfortunately the rain decided to pelt down for most of the day so I was pleased I'd managed to head out early. However, there was a very good reason to stay in as Sky Sports were doing a free sampler day on Pick TV on Freeview (channel 11) which meant that for around ten hours, you'd get what you'd get on Sky Sports, so first of all Soccer AM, then the Leeds v Sheffield Wednesday game live, followed by Gilette Soccer Saturday and finally Swansea v Man U. Not bad at all, I have to say.

I had a text from Mum whilst I was watching the Leeds v Sheffield Wednesday game and she came over for a coffee and a chat. She had had an enjoyable week when her friend was over to see her and she was chatting to me about that and what they'd got up to. I must admit it was good to see Mum so happy, and we were working out her plan of action later in the year when she's meeting up with some friends in Manchester before heading down South to see some other friends, and that should work out nicely for her too. I feel massively positive for her and just seeing how much she was buzzing from the whole week meant a lot to me to be honest.

So it was settling in for the afternoon with Gilette Soccer Saturday although of course it was switching between that and the athletics to see how the Brits were doing. And the truth was - not that bad either. Tiffany Porter got a bronze in the 100m hurdles and then in one of the last races of the day, the women's 4 x 400 metre team with Christine Ohuruogu on the anchor leg got a well earned bronze medal too, so that upped the medal table nicely. I think too that although Adam Gemili only finished fifth in the 200m final behind Usain Bolt, he acquited himself pretty well and now needs to work on some consistency.

The Love In My Heart then came over and we had a good chat with the Swansea - Man U game on in the background. Unfortunately for me as a City fan I have to say that United were all over Swansea like a rash and the 4-1 scoreline didn't reflect the dominance of their play nor indeed how important it'll be to them that Robin van Persie stays fit - he really was up for it and took two goals really well, with Danny Welbeck scoring the other two. A certain Mr. Rooney came off the bench but he was bobbins to be honest.

I made the two of us the evening meal - which was chicken with a bacon, leek and white wine sauce, together with some garlic mash, and some petits pois with more leek and pancetta. The whole thing went down really well and felt a good wholesome meal for us all to share. What was lovely was that with the beer (Proper Job for me) or the white wine that The Love had, it all felt rather good and gorgeous and went down a treat - as did the strawberry and prosecco trifle afterwards it has to be said.

Later on it was time for some Scrabble as there was nothing on the telly, and so we put on Swing Out Sister's first two albums on back to back during play. It was good to listen to "It's Better To Travel" again and so really enjoyed "Fooled By A Smile" so tune of the day right there. In fact the first of our two games tonight was a pretty tight knit affair because of the way that the letters came out, the board was quite cramped in places and so it was just a case of trying to cleverly spread the board a fair bit with some lower scoring moves, just to keep things flowing.

Second game round and this time moving to "Kaleidoscope World" including the likes of "Forever Blue" and "You On My Mind" definitely upped the tempo and mood a bit, and I pulled of a really neat move with QUEEN (double letter on Q, triple word) which also made FINALE as well and scored 80 points (the A had been used as a blank for FINAL in the previous move) so that was pretty good. The Love did make SAX in the bottom right corner and another word ending in S at the same time for a pretty decent 38 points though, so she wasn't to be outdone really.

Friday 16th August - Beer and Byron

I had another busy day but somewhat productive, and we're now down to two PCs which just kept failing at adding the extra software for some reason, so what I've done is effectviely imaged them again and set them off running the extra software overnight, so hopefully on Monday they'll all be done and this then means I have them finalised and all good to go for when the time happens. I did also check the installer I was looking at yesterday and it seems that effectively you can tell the installer when compiling it what sort of installation you allow - and a silent install wasn't. In short: boo.

I headed home after work, having booked off some leave for near Christmas and indeed then I booked my planned visit for London in December - I'm going to see the Sleigh The UK tour at Shepherds' Bush Empire on Friday 20th December, which is no less than Jesus Jones, Pop Will Eat Itself and The Wonder Stuff. That's done, and the hotel is also booked (got a good deal on the Mercure Kensington no less!) and so once I get the train sorted, that's me all good. Must admit I do feel pretty pleased to have got that sorted.

The World Athletics Championships were on when I got home, and two excellent performances by the British athletes tonight - Adam Gemili qualifying for the 200m final and becoming only the second Briton ever to hit under twenty seconds for the event, and really showed some class to get there. I don't think he may win a medal, but he's in the hunt at least and smashing some off your own personal best is all you can do really. If he does get a medal in tomorrow's final I'd treat that as a big positive to be honest.

But then there was the 5000 metres, and all eyes were on Mo Farah as he took on the might of the Africans. It was a slowish race at the start and that to be honest played into Mo's hands, and as he gradually wound it up over the final lap, even though the Kenyans and Ethiopians were doing their best to try and ovetake him, no one was going to do so and Mo won brilliantly. I can't speak highly enough of how good it was, and becoming only the second athlete ever to hold World and Olympic 5000m and 10000m titles at the same time (Kenninesa Bekele is the only other one ever, so esteemed company indeed). If Mo could break a world record that'd really put him up there - maybe the 1500m after his UK record might be worth an attempt on? Tune of the day incidentally is "World Series" by Keith Mansfield - the proper athletics theme. Can we please have it back BBC?

I got changed and headed out to meet up with The Love In My Heart and two friends as we were going to have a nice meal in Byron tonight - they do hamburgers but do it properly, proper meat and a really classy place (I've seen lots of them in London over the years). First off though it was meeting up in Kro where I had a really nice pint of Lodestar and the evening got off to a good start with us catching up and chatting away about the times we've spent out and about, and what was happening in the world (notably Egypt as there was a small gathering and protest in Piccadilly Gardens too).

Once a nice drink was down us we headed towards Deansgate and into Byron, and I liked the look and the feel of the place. Maybe the ceiling might not have been so bare concrete though, especially as one section had a nicer false wooden roof, but hey, that's merely aesthetics. I picked the Brew Dog Dead Pony Club beer, and was a bit disappointed it came in a can instead of a bottle, as did The Love's Byron Lager (brewed by the Camden Town Brewery no less). It did taste nice, but would have been better bottled or indeed a real cask beer available too.

That said, the burgers were gorgeous. They do tell you that the default is medium, so if you want it, say well done, just let them know and they'll sort it. The Love always has her meat well done, but medium is good for me, and I went for the Byron, which has cheese and bacon on as well as the meat and a nice sauce. And do you know what? It was bang on, best burger I've had in ages. The meat was cooked spot on, the fillings crispy and fresh, and the bun soft but not collapsing under the insides. I had the skin on chips to go with that which worked well, and The Love had the fries and coleslaw. All good there, and definitely well worth it.

Oh, and dessert? I had to try the honeycomb caramel sundae, and wow, was it nice? It was indeed. That and a coffee to finish was just ideal, and we chattered away during the meal and had a great time, which is what it's all about. I definitely think I'll be making a return there at some point in the future to have a rather nice burger again, that is for sure. We ended up later on in the Albert Square Chop House, with a gorgeous pint of Everards Tiger, and admired the gorgeous art in there all of our fair city, which has to be good.

We walked back to the tram stop and our friends headed homewards whilst The Love In My Heart and I headed back to Kro for a final drink together, and I bumped into one of our lovely postgraduate students, and so good to chat to her as well. The Love though did look stunningly lovely in her gold dress and the nice hearts on her shoes too (I'm glad she wears those more often now, she just looks lovely) and that for me really did make my night and made me realise just how lucky I am really.

Thursday 15th August - Passport to Packaging

Well, it was a pretty busy day all round in terms of getting the PCs all sorted. We imaged all the PCs yesterday and had set off the extra software running last thing. To our surprise, thirty six out of the forty of them completed the task first go, no mean feat when you consider the sheer amount of extra software that needed to be added - some 25-30GB worth per machine which includes a plethora of Autodesk and Adobe stuff, so that was good that everything worked on those.

I set off the remaining six again with the hope that they'd all complete on time today so we could box them all off, and three of them did finish everything well on their second attempt. Three did fail though and did so again when we set them off later in the day - not good really. I had a feeling why this might have been and so decided to take some action with those - starting them off again late in the day but set slightly differently in the BIOS et al and see if that decided to play ball with them.

I was also looking at an application for a colleague which seemed to use InstallShield's InstallAnywhere as a java-based installer. In theory it was a good idea to be packaged that way, but even recording the installation steps with -r and then attempting to do a silent install by using those recording steps failed. I had a feeling that it was the way that the installer was packaged somehow and so to try and get to the bottom of it I attempted to look at InstallAnywhere, and there's a 21 day trial of the thing. Be interesting to see what happens there.

Later on I headed home, watched some more of the World Athletics and was generally disappointed with the British athletes again. After London 2012 not all of them have really stepped up their game and it pains me to see them not doing so well. Christine Ohuruogu has led by example as team captain by winning her event in dramatic circumstances, and Mo Farah winning the 10000m was brilliant, as was a battling fifth from Katarina Johnson-Thompson in the heptahlon, but... apart from that, out of those so far, that's pretty much it.

The Love In My Heart headed over and I'd made us a gorgeous chorizo pasta bake for tea, and she settled in and watched Emmerdale and Corrie (as is her wont) but we then later on chilled out with a game of Scrabble whilst I played what had arrived in the post today - Beth Rowley's new EP, "Wretched Body". Although it had been made available as a download, she released it as a limited edition of 50 copies, all signed, on CD. And she'd signed it "with love, Beth". Awww. The title track of the EP is absolutely fab and is worth the purchase just for that, so tune of the day there.

And even better news - my new passport arrived today. It was a renewal of my current one, which was due to run out in December this year, and so now I've got the freedom to travel until December 2023, so all good. I do fancy heading back to Nice at some point as well as maybe exploring more of Europe over the next few years (and I definitely want to head to Berlin, that's top of the list right now) and having that to hand means one less thing to have to think about. Hurrah!

Wednesday 14th August - Auld Enemy, Old Friends

It was a chance to relax in front of the telly tonight after a hard day in the office. Myself and two of my colleagues were setting up the remaining forty new PCs to be imaged and have all the extra software added to it so that they were ready for the start of the new term. The locations of where they are going in the floors of one building aren't known as yet, and so realistically I wanted to make sure that at least they were then ready to go when the need arose for them to be out and about.

Later on then I made sure everywhere was tidy in the house and just after 6.30pm my friend arrived, and he seemed in pretty good spirits all round. He'd had some of the family over at his place and they'd been out to Blackpool for the day on Monday and by the sound of it, they'd all had a good time and made the most of the decent weather conditions. I think too it was good that he was up and ready and looking forward, like I am, to the start of the football season, which isn't that far away to be honest!

He'd also brought over his wife's new phone, a Huawei Ascend Android phone, which actually looked pretty good for the price to be honest - it runs Android 4.1, seems pretty quick and overall ran well. He was trying to get the email set up for her but he'd forgotten one thing as it turns out - his service provider's email needs to have SSL authentication on sending emails as well as receiving emails. Once that was done, it was all good to go and worked perfectly well in terms of doing all it needed to do.

With that done, pizza cooked in the oven and all good to go, it was time to settle back on ITV1 HD for the friendly between England and Scotland. Okay, scrub the "friendly" part of that sentence, as it's football's oldest international rivalry and even a non-championship game means something massive to the fans, as it demonstrated when both nations roundly booed each other's anthems, which did rankle with me a bit but didn't surprise me to be honest.

The game kicked off and Scotland looked rather lively - but that said, I'd have expected Joe Hart to save the shot from James Morrison and he clearly wasn't concentrating. I hope he doesn't do anything like that for City at the start of the season, or else there'll be calls for him to be dropped. That's how bad an error it was. Thankfully though much better play was going on up front, and a really neat pass from Tom Cleverley released Theo Walcott down the right, and he coolly finished a great run to equalise for 1-1 and that's how it was at half time.

The England defence fell asleep at the start of the second half and Kenny Miller shimmied one way, fooled Phil Jagielka and then had the audacity to put a stunning shot in the bottom corner for 2-1. He really celebrated that one and deservedly go - it was a great goal. England though roared back and a few minutes later a free kick from captain Steven Gerrard was headed home well by Danny Welbeck, and so 2-2. Everyone seemed to really be into the game apart from Wayne Rooney, who really might as well not have been on the pitch - clearly his mind is elsewhere.

It wasn't a surprise when the impressive Rickie Lambert of Southampton came on for Rooney, and based on the fact Lambert was the top scoring Englishman in the Premier League, it made a lot of sense. It didn't take him long to show Rooney how to play for England either - heading home a brilliant Leighton Baines corner and powering it home for 3-2, and he hit the post late on and looked rather lively. It just goes to show that if you've got the hunger and desire there it counts for a lot, and the way he played showed all that. I was pleased for Lambert as was my friend - it's not all about what club you play for, it's if you're good enough to pull on the shirt, and he was.

Finally the two of us watched The Last Leg, which was on top form, not least with Alex Brooker attempting to breathe fire at the end and actually doing well, with the in-joke of how Alex used to egg people backfiring on him as guest Alan Carr, along with Josh Widdicombe and Adam Hills pelting him after the fire breathing. Classic! The theme tune to this is still brilliant, so "Harder Than You Think" by Public Enemy is understandably tune of the day for obvious reasons.

Tuesday 13th August - Back, Forward And Scrabbling

I had another busy time of it at work, checking on the last few PCs which were getting all the specialist software and which meant we would be able to eventually get all of the new building back up and running with the latest Windows 7 image and the specialist stuff. In a way, it's been good that we've spent time now getting it all sorted out, and that it's gone relatively smoothly (ish). We did have six out of the twenty odd PCs which proved tempremental, but I've set those off to do the installs last thing in the day and hopefully they'll all be done by the morning (well that's the plan anyway)

I headed off homewards, and the bus had to take a different route back, and with good reason. Not because of the road closures near Manchester Royal Infirmary which forced a diversion this morning, but because there was an accident near a set of traffic lights which the bus would go down, so sensibly it took a left to another main road, and then down the main road to re-join the route later. It didn't delay me that much and so meant I could head to Tesco to get some bits of shopping whilst I had the time to do so.

The Love In My Heart arrived later on, and as I was finishing making the tea I had a phone call from Mum asking if we were okay to come over for a little while. I needed to print her off some information anyway that she was after, and so we headed to Mum's and found no one was in, so we went back to mine. A few minutes later Mum rang The Love and explained they'd just been to the local Sainsbury's (which ironically was my hunch where she might have been!) and so we then headed back to Mum's for a little while.

It was nice to meet Mum's friend who was up for the week - she's very down to earth and normal, and I quite liked that - no airs and graces, no attempt to be overly posh, and I think in a way that made her easier to get on with. I could see she and Mum were having a whale of a time during the week already, and it's doing Mum a lot of good to have some nice friends around who she can really just have some good times with. I can only imagine how it'll be like tomorrow with four of them round at Mum's!!

Anyway, we headed back to mine later and The Love proceeded to play an absolute demon game of Scrabble whilst we were listening to Ministry of Sound - Anthems: Electronic 80s 3. There were some excellent moves in there, not least craftily using a double word and playing PIXIE and then right at the end playing SQUADS (blank used as S in the bottom corner, double letter on U, also making ES which is a handy two letter word to note) and scoring a massive 50 points into the bargain as well. When you're down to no tiles and can play that, respect really. Yaay her!

It was good to listen to some of the 80s singles on that compilation, not least because many of them were anthems we both grew up with. Some of the lesser well known songs proved to be my favourites though, not least the rather good "Don't Tell Me" by Blancmange and the classic "Big In Japan" by Alphaville. That track is definitely tune of the day as I can vividly remember for my sins singing along to that one back in the day. Oh, the joys of innocent teenage youth (sort of!)

Monday 12th August - And The Time Is Now

It was a fairly busy day in the office, with me keeping an eye on a few PCs which were imaging, and I also had a meeting in the afternoon with regards to one of the projects that I was being involved in. In a way it was pretty good that I was able to put some input into proceedings and also work on a few potential issues further down the line that might prove to be a bit tricky to get past. In many ways though this does need some careful consideration and it was good to spot that now instead of later.

I was occasionally keeping an eye to the cricket score but just as I was leaving the office the first Australian wicket fell - albeit that they'd reached over 100 without loss initially. They needed 299 to win on a seemingly okay pitch in Durham, and I knew that the Ashes could be won tonight if we were able to get a few wickets and put the Australians under any form of pressure - as sometimes their batting has collapsed a tad if you get one or two out on the bounce.

I put that to one side for now and watched the World Athletics Championship from Moscow. It was a titanic scrap in the 400 metre final between Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain and Amantle Montsho of Botswana. I knew it was going to be, but I don't think anyone expected the finish that we got. Montsho was ahead but with every stride Christine was closing, closing, closing, and at the line it was really close to call. However Christine dipped sensibly to get the best out of her surge at the end, which proved the difference - with her winning by a mere four thousandths of a second.

It was brilliant stuff, and well deserved from an athlete who as team captain has shown the rest of the team what it takes to be a champion - hard work, dedication and a massive amount of never say die attitude thrown in. When you have the likes of athletics legends such as Michael Johnson singing her praises on the BBC, it can't be bad (Michael of course was no mean 400 metre runner himself, and he's still the men's world record holder even now!) that said it all for me.

And so to Channel 5 and the cricket highlights. It got to 130-odd for 1 and I kept thinkiing "wonder what's going to happen next?" and although England did get a wicket at 146 to make it 146 for 2, still well in the balance for Australia. But then it was an amazing turnaround, from 168 for 2 Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan tore through the attack, getting rid of David Warner and Michael Clarke first of all (Broad's ball to Clarke was epic) and then the rest of the team didn't have an answer. Before long it was 181 for 7, meaning still 118 to win. It was then 199 for 8, 211 for 9 and the extra half hour was taken.

It looked like though with the weather and light looking dodgy, only spin bowling was available so Graeme Swann and Joe Root plugged away, we almost had a run out, and I kept thinking "finish it off, please" - and the light relented enough for James Anderson and Stuart Broad to have a bowl. Broad tempted Peter Siddle to hit one, Anderson caught it, and joyous scenes followed. It was 3-0 to England, the Ashes were now won, not just retained, and that felt good. Their theme tune "The Time Is Now" by Russell Ballard is tune of the day - just seemed appropriate for both the cricket and the athletics finish!

Sunday 11th August - Tatton Mere, There and Everywhere

After a relaxing lie-in due to a lengthy tiring week, The Love In My Heart and myself headed up and decided that a nice walk in Tatton Park would be a good idea. The weather was going to be a little cloudy but hopefully still dry, and we thought that the best course of action would be to head to Knutsford, where the car parking is free on a Sunday, and then head from there down the main drive alongside the Mere and have a good walk around. It was sunnyish as we left and headed down the M56, but the clouds admittedly did look a little ominous.

We parked up in Knutsford and were soon walking through the park gates and arch and along the driveway, before heading on a path that took you over a bit of a hill and then down towards the shore of Tatton Mere, a large lake that takes up a fair chunk of space in the park itself. The path has been well worn alongside, and quite a few fishermen were out there in their tents, although some of them seemed to be getting a telling off from the park ranger - maybe they weren't allowed to fish in parts of the mere. Either way, we avoided any arguments, noticed a lot of people walking their dogs and we headed to the far end of the mere, close to Crow Wood.

There was a viking weekend of sorts going on but that looked like it was right at the other end of the park, and so we instead decided to see what would happen if we walked right around the Mere on the other side. You'd like to think we'd eventually be back in Knutsford or by the park entrance, and it proved to be an interesting journey, passing Tatton Mere Covert on one side and then heading towards the entance to Dog Wood, which is a site of scientific and nature interest due to its boggy grasses close to the Mere.

When we headed out of the wood, the path took one of two directions - either over the railway bridge and close to the road near Teal Avenue, or you could head downhill and follow a path that looked a bit less worn. We followed that which took us downhill, under some trees and around the back of some houses and the railway line, and close to the far end of the Mere, and headed to a junction that had the small park called The Moor, and walking alongside the path there, the ducks were all being fed close to the very far end of the Mere. This did at least take us back to Knutsford centre, so we walked back to The Love's car from there.

After a quick rest for a few minutes, we then headed around some of the shops in the centre of Knutsford, who were doing quite well for a Sunday. We sadly did note that the rather nice sandwich shop we've been in a few times had closed, as had one of the nice gift shops too (The Lemon Tree in fact). On a positive note, a Victorian tea room has opened and looked like it was doing rather nicely for itself, so hopefully that's a sign to come (not least as the lovely Mallard tea room in the town was especially lovely).

It was then over to The Angel pub for something to eat, and this was beautifully relaxed for a Sunday, with some relaxed tunes playing (even Michael Bublé much to The Love's delight) and their food was two for £12 for main dishes, so The Love had the haddock and chips and I had the steak and mushroom pie, soaked in ale, and that came with some nice mash and vegetables. It also meant I could have the Two Hoots ale which was also spot on, and with it being such a chilled out time together we really did enjoy it - we had a nice view of King Street and the town centre, the staff were lovely, the food was lovely and I had lovely company too. Hurrah!

We headed home, and The Love then headed off home for the evening and I saw the remainder of the athletics, with a superb 10,000 metres for women resulting in Tiranesh Dibaba showing just why she's so good and winning with a great last lap, and then the 100m final. Was it in any doubt that Usain Bolt would win? No. He just stormed it in the rainy conditions and 9.77 seconds in that was impressive to say the least. I also saw England's day of cricket and we just about have the edge in the fourth Test after a superb Ian Bell century, he really did show that if you took your chances and batted carefully you could score runs. Well done him.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the wonderful "The Man With The Child In His Eyes" by Kate Bush. I had played her album this morning before we headed out, and then thought of this track a fair bit as we were wandering around Tatton Mere later on. There's just a beautiful simplicity to it, with Kate's voice sounding so sweet and innocent for some reason (bear in mind she did write the song when she was thirteen and recorded it at sixteen, three years before the album itself) and that appeals massively. Yaay Kate!

Saturday 10th August - Vinyl Bargain Hunting

I got up relatively earlyish today, and spent a fair bit of time this morning sorting the house out before I headed out for most of the day. It was a quick visit to Mum's first for a coffee and a chat and a catch up, and all seemed well with her. She was looking forward to having a friend visit for a few days and stay over, and that meant that she was making sure everything was just right (which to be honest we all do if we're having friends come over, so no different to anyone else in that regard). It was good to relax, and then I headed into the city centre on the bus.

The first stop was The Northern Cutter to get the hair cut. It needed doing, and it had grown a bit long, so was good to see that all the rubbish dry hair had come off and was left feeling much better afterwards. I went into Vinyl Exchange afterwards and discovered plenty of CDs, but nothing that jumped out at me. I was sorely tempted by some of the vinyl downstairs but I was good - I wanted to get a couple of bargains really and only wanted to get something if I didn't have it and felt the need to get it. I also knew that Kingbee Records in Chorlton were having a sale on.

And that's exactly where I went next - off to there to see what bargains there were. The shop was pretty busy but it did mean I could check all the racks and see what they had. Their half price sale is once a year in the Summer and usually you can pick up some excellent bargains - and by the looks of it quite a chunk of the stock had been purchased during the week as well. Anyway, not to be deterred I checked through all the racks and on the whole was still impressed with how much they had and how much I was tempted to get stuff.

In the end, I spent the grand total of £3.50, but it would have been more had I not already got chunks of vinyl that I spotted at a decent price. I got two albums: Kate Bush's first album "The Kick Inside" and Brian May and Friends' "Star Fleet Project" which basically was a set of three lengthy songs, one of which of course was a cover of the Paul Bliss theme to the 1980s kids sci fi TV series Star Fleet (the English translated version of the Japanese animation series X-Bomber, incidentally) and that pretty much rocked, so tune of the day there I think . And I got a couple of Swing Out Sister vinyl bits to complete the purchase, the 7" of "Surrender" and the 12" of "Breakout", cos I could!

Flushed with decent success, I headed home, and later on just after I saw Mo Farah win a superb 10,000m world championship gold medal, The Love In My Heart came over, and we headed out for a nice walk around Fletcher Moss in Didsbury for a while, stopped off at Aldi in Didsbury to get some nice real ale at a very reasonable price, and then headed back home so I could start the tea - Wiltshire ham gratin which had big chunks of lovely ham, green beans, cheese sauce, topped with potatoes and breadcrumbs. I did some peas to go with it too and all was well there.

We also watched the second episode of Life on Mars, and I think that The Love has sort of got into it really. It spooked her out a little the first time that the test card girl (complete with scary clown doll) came to life, and of course there were bits of Manchester that we spotted which was good to see. In fact the location for the police headquarters is close to Stockport Town Hall, and I've actually walked down the same stairs as the officers do in the series (true and amazing fact eh?) so all good there. It was fab.

Friday 9th August - Fortune Friday

It was another busy day at work and for some reason something just seemed a little awry today. I had to re-image a workstation that had failed overnight, and then ensure that SCCM distributed all the specialist software to the machine. Normally that task sequence takes around two hours fifteen minutes to do, but today it was almost close on four hours, which did make me wonder if something else was going on somewhere to cause a massive amount of slowdown.

I did receive an email from the organisers of the Buy Art Fair, inviting me along to the private viewing in late September in the Spinningfields area of Manchester. I did go to this last year and it was an excellent event, and The Love In My Heart went too. She also had received an invite, so we both registered and that was all sorted out - something to look forward to and a free event too, so can't be bad there. Added to the £10 lottery win from Wednesday night's draw, maybe things were looking up a bit.

In fact I headed over to Sandbar after work where I'd meet up with The Love In My Heart for a drink or two. She had to drop off a relation into the city centre after she had finished work and it made more sense for her to meet me and we could have a chat and catch up. The ale was on top form (especially the Clwyd Gold, rather gorgeous all round) and it meant we could sit outside, see little bits of the sun making an effort, and generally chat, be together and just be happy people. I just felt happy to be with her and when the smiles, it's a beautiful moment it really is.

I got home and there was a delivery which made me happy - the new debit card had arrived! I have to say that was excellent and responsive service from my bank, and the card now has a new number so if anyone was attempting any form of activity if indeed it had been cloned, not a chance of getting anywhere with it. I registered it (the joy of being able to do that with online banking) and all was good to go on that score. My grocery delivery arrived with some lovely food for the next week and all did feel rather a lot better after a tough week for various reasons.

I settled in and watched Great British Railway Journeys as Michael Portillo headed to Bournemouth, and indeed with the funicular railway, it really did evoke happy seaside memories as well as thinking just how lovely that part of the world really is. I think too that in a good way it does entice you more to see parts of this country and realise that it's not all actually that bad, despite what various naysayers might want to tell you. Kind of wish I was there on the beach now, actually.

I'm also tempted to head to London in December for the Sleigh the UK tour, which features no less than Jesus Jones, Pop Will Eat Itself and The Wonder Stuff. Sorely tempted, not least because it's close to Christmas, but also because it'll be a good time to maybe start the festive period off with some top tunes, stay in London, go mental at the gig, and try to do it all on a budget of sorts. I even decided to whack on some classic Pop Will Eat Itself, so the likes of "Wise Up! Sucker" just had to be played and sang along to at full blast - tune of the day it simply has to be.

Thursday 8th August - City Live

After a lengthy day at work, it was off home to have a very quick change to a retro Manchester City shirt, and my friend had arrived at mine to pick us up. We were off to City Live, held at Manchester Central, which was the first event of its type that the club had done, a pre-season party and get together, where we'd see the manager Manuel Pellegrini, the new signings, and indeed have the whole squad there along with a bit of fun and music along the way. That was the idea anyway and lots more besides, so thought "we may as well give this a go."

We managed to locate a parking space not that far from Manchester Central, and were soon heading to the Table Table close to St Peter's Square to grab something to eat for tea. The staff were really friendly as per usual, and we were soon comfortable and having a good chat and catch up. I went for the pre-theatre menu of two courses for £11, and so had the very nice beer battered haddock for the main followed by a nice strawberry cheesecake with ice cream for dessert. My friend had the scampi and that was all good - it was nice just to get there early and be able to relax a bit.

It was well timed too as the place had filled up later on and by the time we left just after 7pm it was packed, and we were just then heading across the road and up the ramp, waiting in a sizeable queue, into Manchester Central itself. The merchandise wasn't cheap, and neither was some of the beer and food on offer inside, but we made our way to where we were sat and all was well, with a pretty decent view of the stage, where the VIPs were sat close by (in fact Mike Summerbee wasn't too far from us no less) and so that was good.

It started a little behind schedule but there were plenty of video clips of City memories from times gone by to the recent season, and on came former BBC F1 presenter and now BT Sport's main man, Jake Humphrey. He handled the front man role pretty well and we were soon getting down to the nitty gritty of the awards being hosted on the night, including the inaugural Bert Trautmann award, which in future will be for those doing outstanding work for their community. In view of the late Bert's Anglo-German relationship building, this went to his posthumously, and his son collected the award on his behalf.

We also had the goal of the season (Sergio Agüero against Liverpool) and although out with an interpreter, Sergio shocked Jake by responding in English. Nice touch from the striker there actually and the crowd cheered and chanted his name. Yaya Toure got the EA Sports player performance index award, based on consistent stats, and Pablo Zabaleta a well deserved player of the season with the City fans belting out "Doo do dooooo, Pablo Zabaleta" in full voice. Marcos Lopes got the Academy player of the year and Matija Nastasić the Young Player of the Year too.

The Manchester City ladies team came out and it was good to hear that they were going to be in the Women's Super League next season, but I have mixed feelings - it's at the expense of Doncaster Belles, who on playing form at least should in that top division as well. We noticed the comedian and big City fan Jason Manford out left, pretenting to be the team's masseuse, and he'd do a little bit of stand up later and getting the crowd in a good mood before the chance of a break to go and get a drink - well needed too as it was rather warm in the venue!

The second half got underway and once the crowd had settled in, City Square presenters Natalie Pike and Danny Jackson located four people who had entered a competition to get on stage for the City Quiz, with Jake asking the questions. Thing was - if I'd have entered, I knew all the answers and so would have won the prize, not to be sniffed at either - an all expenses trip to Melbourne to see a gig of your choice at the Etihad Stadium. Wowzers! I knew for example there were 31 years between City's first and second top division title wins, that Shaun Goater was signed from Bristol City, Jack Rodwell wears the number 17 shirt currently and that out first clean sheet was against Sunderland last season.

After all that the manager Manuel Pellegrini came out and had a chat with Jake, followed by the players, so goalkeepers, defence, midfield and strikers, and then a chance to chat with the new signings, Stevan Jovetić, Fernandinho, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, who all seemed to be up for the challenge. Vincent Kompany the captain was last to be interviewed before a load of streamers went off and a guitarist sang Blue Moon in the style of Supra's classic rendition (tune of the day just for that alone to be honest). And all in all, a rather good night and one that got the appetite well and truly whetted for the season to come.

Wednesday 7th August - Aaaargh

It was one of those days today, but first, the good news. I checked the stats for my Flickr account for yesterday and found that my straw Dalek picture from Snugburys had broken some records for my pictures on Flickr - it had the most views in one day (a mere 3,004), the most number of favourites of one image in one day (74) and the total number of image views in one day (a massive 6,939) so that really amazed me. It seems that even more so since the new Flickr layout getting in Explore is a rather nice thing!

I headed to work and spent a lot of time this morning with one of our staff from another site talking them through the basics of Macs and what is where, how to use the functionality, and how to help troubleshoot issues that arise as well. It was good to explain the differences in terms of keys and what the likes of command and option actually do, as well as taking them through the steps such as connecting an external projector or monitor to the Mac, what all the system preferences can do, and shed loads more. It was good to cover everything as much as I could.

In the afternoon I had to head back to the PCs that I worked on yesterday and make sure that they were all up and running, and then added Adobe CS6 Design and Web Premium to them all in an install run. As it turned out when doing some testing logged in as a student, a couple of the preference files that we bring down in Group Policy for Illustrator and Photoshop are slightly different in the 64-bit native versions, so we changed them around and that was all sorted (phew). It was a bit of an "aaaaargh" moment at first though because I had a feeling that it wasn't going to work out...

But it did. However more aaaargh was to happen on the way home. I headed into Tesco and thought I needed to pick up some shopping, so off I went. However when I got to the till my debit card wasn't being authorised, and had to use another card to pay (thank heavens I had it with me or it would have been embarassing). Anyway, I headed home and there was a phone call, asking me to call my bank. Now this did seem a tad weird, so I called, and eventually got through to the staff.

They explained that there'd been attempted cloning of some debit cards and mine might have been one of them for some reason - and so to ensure that I wasn't affected in any way, they'd disabled the card from being authorised and so were going to send me out a new one. They also gave me some time to get some money out for the next few days (they had a way of temporarily sorting this for me) and then was able to completely cancel the card and get the new one out as soon as they could. To be fair, if they've stopped a dodgy card being used, all well and good.

It did make me wonder though just where and how it might have happened. I always check cash machines before I use them to ensure no device is in there, and really do guard things like chip and pin really seriously these days. I suspect somewhere a debit card machine had been taken or an online shopping website hack had occurred which may have taken some details from somwhere - but better to be safe than sorry and have the new card issued out I think. Tune of the day for that reason is "Crackdown" by Cabaret Voltaire - as that's what the bank did, so hurrah to them!

Tuesday 6th August - Explore-Minated

My colleague and I spent a fair bit of time this morning sorting out twelve PCs that were destined for one of the spaces in our new building. We knew where they were going, so it was a case of unpacking all the boxes, getting the PCs and parts on the desk, adding the monitor on top and checking that they all work, along with recording the serial numbers and the MAC addresses so we could start to image them later in the day. In one aspect it was pretty good because it meant the two of us could just crack on.

In fact we found out that the new HP monitors we had for the PC had the DisplayPort cable supplied with them, and as the PC and monitor had the suitable ports, it meant we could just use those to connect them instead, keeping the spare VGA cable inside for other situations where we might need them. Also because DisplayPort is digital it made much more sense to be able to get it all connected up with less clutter generally. And they all started to image when we imported them into SCCM for a change, so all happy there.

In fact by the end of the day we were ahead of schedule (woo!) so we were able to ensure that we set off the rather large task sequence for all the extra software, of which there is lots of. Put it this way, we're talking installs that take around two hours over the network in total, there's I think a good nine or ten that do take up to ten minutes each minimum, simply because they are so large. In fact when I was sorting this out I had a text from my Mum in a bit of a panic, so I headed to hers after work.

It looked like on her laptop that some piece of software had been downloaded, which tried to change the search engine and default toolbar behaviour in all of the web browsers, adding on crap and installing itself a a service thrown in to match. Armed with the usual removal tools for this sort of thing, I soon enough found out that a fair bit of it was down to a particular web toolbar which then decided to try and install other pieces of rubbish. I ran a full scan, got rid of the rubbish, restarted, checked again and soon enough everything was back up and running. Hurrah!

The Love In My Heart picked me up from my Mum's and we headed back to mine where I spent a fair bit of time cooking the spaghetti carbonara. In fact the pancetta was a little bit too burned for my liking, but I can't be accused of it not being cooked enough I suppose. It was lovely, and we relaxed with a drink and I indulged The Love with a bit of Emmerdale on ITV+1 before it was time to dig out the Scrabble and have a game whilst listening to some Seth Lakeman - "Band of Gold" being particularly lovely, so tune of the day there.

One happy moment too to report on for the day - last night I uploaded one of the pictures of the straw dalek at Snugburys that I took, and captioned it as "You must ob-hay the Daleks or you will be exterminated". Anyway, when I checked during the day the number of views were rocketing up massively and I thought "I wonder if it's hit the Explore pages on Flickr?" And indeed, it had. Even so, I didn't expect so many favourites for the image and indeed as the night went on the number of views going through the roof. Wowzers indeed!

For those of you not technically versed with Flickr, Explore is basically where the most interesting (according to some weird algorithm) 500 pictures of the day grace the Explore page, and usually those who click on the Explore link from the home page get to see those interesting pictures. Lots of people just like to browse that to see what's been of interest, and the image was there. As it turns out too, because the straw Dalek had been on Northwest Tonight on BBC1 last night, I guess people were also doing a search for it for themselves...

Monday 5th August - Thinking of the South of France

I had a pretty busy day all told today, basically working on a few plans as to how we were going to deploy some of the new kit out there for the student machines. We also had to go and check the delivery of stock and make sure that we had a record of all the machines out there, which was a bit of a mission to do, but we got there in the end. It meant though because the asset tags were on the PC itself, we had to unbox the carboard box, get to the asset tag, then we could mark on the outside of the box which PC was which, so when deploying them we know which order to do them all in.

That proved to take up a fair bit of time, but I was also conscious of the fact that a couple of major upgrades and migrations had happened over the weekend and it was important that some of the work done today was to try and get things back up and running, mainly for a couple of printers that didn't have the configuration set correctly (they were asleep for some reason). Once that was done it was then a case of making sure that everything needed to be set was set, and all was well again with the world.

I headed homewards and spent a fair bit of time during the evening checking out the costs and the possibility of a trip to Nice next year. It's always a fine balance between the costs of travelling by air plus the costs of staying at somewhere lovely, and I know that there's a fair few lovely places to stay. Of course if you really do want a sea view and be right on the Promenade des Anglais, there's a fair premium attached, so it's also well worth working out if you wanted to really pay all that extra for the view, or if you were better off a little more inland but with still a lovely place to be.

I must admit that I do love it in that corner of the French Riviera. The Love In My Heart and myself have really taken to the place - Nice is a beautiful city with a good mix of the old and the new - the old town being particularly wonderful, especially around the Cours Saleya. The seafront is just lovely and even the port fits in rather well with the city too. All the little towns around it such as Villefranche-sur-Mer and Éze are also rather beautiful, and you've got the added bonus of Cannes and Monaco not being too far away either.

We do also want to head to Antibes at some time to explore some of the art there and admire the sea view, and having seen what it's like courtesy of Michael Portillo's Great Continental Railway Journeys, it just made me feel more inspired to head there at some point. Part of me also wants to head to Menton and maybe even to Ventimiglia which is over the border in Italy as well (or even swap there and head on a long day out to Genoa) so there's plenty of options. I've not even ruled out a trip to Marseille taking the uber-fast TGV train too!

Either way, it just makes me smile when I think of the happy times that we've had there, and want to head back. With that in mind, I spent some time listening to plenty of French music tonight including the likes of MC Solaar, Air, and so on. Tune of the day though comes from another French artist - Mélanie Pain, the occasional singer in Nouvelle Vague. Her title track of "Bye Bye Manchester" just has a wonderful feel and really does set the scene for a wistful rememberance of the city that she called her own during the rememberance of said album. Yaay indeed.

Sunday 4th August - Ice Cream? Snugburys Have It Dalicked!

It was time for our annual (at least) jaunt to the small village of Hurleston, on the way towards Nantwich in Cheshire, where the rather lovely Snugburys Ice Cream is based. Not only is their ice cream rather gorgeous all round, but each year around the start of August they put up a straw sculpture in one of the fields of their farm, which can be seen from the main A51 road as well as close up when you head to their farm too. We've had Big Ben, a meerkat, a polar bear and an Olympic cyclist last year, and knowing what this year's was going to be, a trip there simply had to be done.

So once we had The Love In My Heart's car fuelled up for the day (especially handy when I had a voucher for 10p off each litre of fuel at Sainsbury's petrol stations) it was off down the M56 to junction 10, and then following the A49 for a fair bit, bypassing a few villages and then heading straight on which became the A51, seeing the signs for the staircase locks at Bunbury, skirting alongside the canals at various points and also passing the outskirts of Oulton Park motor racing circuit, and we were soon seeing the sign for the turn off for Snugburys.

At this time the weather decided to do its best to basically thow it down, but that wasn't detracting me one little bit. It was a case of braving it, The Love having a massive brolley, and heading along the field to this year's straw sculpture - Dalick, based on the daleks from Doctor Who (as it was the 50th anniversary of the show this year it made perfect sense). And unlike previous sculptures, this one had moving parts (the sucker arm and the gun in front moved) and also some speech, timed with the arm movements to yell its classic phrase of "Exterminate! Exterminate!" at any passers by.

We seriously took a good look at it and were amazed by the mixture of straw and steel to create the sculpture, it really did feel like something that took time to create but also look as realistic as families. Plenty of families with children were going along to see it, and of course a fair few Doctor Who fans too (more so today of course as the new Doctor was being announced later on BBC1) - so that made for lots of happy people despite the rather rubbish weather.

Of course no visit to Snugburys is complete without ice cream, so I treated myself to two different scoops of the stuff in a sugar cone. There was quite a queue to be served, but it was so worth it. The ice cream tasted gorgeous and I enjoyed my cone whilst looking on at their batch of kunekune pigs in one of the fields. Looked like all the little ones weren't there today which was a great shame, but nonetheless the adult ones were doing their best to be inquisitive and think "oooh, ice cream for me please!" - which of course they weren't getting off me.

We headed to Nantwich and although nowhere was open, it was good to see what the town was like to see if it might be worth a future visit one Saturday - it looked very market town like, and indeed with some nice Tudor and Edwardian places too. We then went back up the A51, past Snugburys and on to the turn off for Bunbury, where we headed to the Staircase Locks. It was pretty much what it said on the tin, two locks almost in a staircase fashion and the amount of water you headed down or up past the locks was rather impressive to say the least. We even saw two boats narrowly passing each other in the middle of the two locks (and it was rather close!)

It was then back up the A51 and A49 and towards the Riverside, a rather nice pub that runs alongside the River Weaver close to Acton Bridge. We've been there before so we know the food's good and you can get a decent pint too - and a Hobgoblin was waiting for me there. I ended up having the carvery, and the roast beef, all the vegetables and gravy was rather gorgeous. The Love had the Somerset chicken which also looked rather lovely, and it was good to sit down and chatter whilst having our food.

We headed back along the A49, heading to Stockton Heath and following the A56 through Lymm and then back on the M56 homewards whilst having some Beth Rowley on, and indeed her track "A Sunday Kind of Love" really did feel the right moment, as we headed through the countryside with her sweet voice serenading us. Oh, to be happy and be in love! That's me all right, so tune of the day really. I think when you have lovely days like this everything just feels that much better.

Saturday 3rd August - Come Rain Or Shine

The weather couldn't make its mind up earlier in the day, and changed its setting around three times along the bus journey into the city centre, as I headed inwards. I had a few things to do today and wanted to get everything sorted - not least when my existing towel rail decided to snap off its two holder pieces at either end and prove impossible to put back, so not a good start to the day once I'd got out of the shower, but there you go. So it was sun, rain, sun and then rain as I headed towards Piccadilly Gardens.

In fact plenty of people were heading to Old Trafford on the tram for the Test Match cricket between England and Australia, but I was heading down Market Street and then to Spring Gardens for the post office there, as I wanted to use their check and send service to hand over my passport renewal form. The good thing is that you know the form is right before it's sent, it gets sent special delivery and has priority when it gets there, so it's well worth it. When you enter that post office you now have to touch a screen answering which service you'd like, then you get issued a ticket - the idea being certain people on the counters can always do certain tasks.

As it turned out the lovely woman on the Check and Send counter was just that - lovely. Very friendly, knowledgeable of the form and what needed to be filled in, and also checked if I was going away soon just to forewarn me if the form was going to take a while or not. As it turns out I am not heading anywhere as yet, but of course if the need arises I've then got it ready in the knowledge the next one will last me till 2023, so should give me plenty of chances to see more of the world (and admittedly, I do want to go back to Nice sometime!)

I then headed around the record shops, having a good mooch around in Fopp in particular, and also checking out some of the stalls in the craft fair in St Ann's Square before I then headed back through the Arndale Centre and into Wilkinsons, where I thought I would get a towel rail. And I did - and as an added bonus it's the same design as the rest of my bathroom accesories (toilet roll holder, hand towel holder, shelf etc) which worked perfectly in terms of looks and the price was also decent. No problem there - simply had to be purchased and taken home with me.

After lunch I headed to the bathroom and spent a bit of time sorting out and putting up the new towel rail. I had to drill some new holes in as the rail was longer than the old one, so although I could use some existing holes and simply screw in the parts needed, there had to be some new holes for the right bracket. It actually worked quite well really and once it was up it felt much more sturdy and robust, and hanging a towel on it gave me an immense feeling of satisafaction. I am rubbish at DIY, so being able to do small things like this did give me a nice sense of achievement.

The Love In My Heart came over later and as the weather was still good we decided to dine alfresco, so after a good catch up and chat, I started on the minestrone soup with crusty granary baton, followed by a nice main of chicken with a garlic and lemon filling, garlic mash and petits pois with leek and pancetta. That worked wonders and really did taste lovely, and I had a Quantum Saison beer to go with it - that worked lovely too. We noticed that the weather wasn't looking great and so we brought the chairs in and settled in for the lottery show.

Later on once we'd had the gorgeous strawberry and prosecco trifle, I decided to put on the first episode of Life on Mars, as a sort of reintroduction for The Love. One of her former colleagues used to idolise Philip Glenister as Gene Hunt (aka The Gene Genie of course) and I felt it best to give her an understanding what the fuss was about. In fact it was better than I remembered to be honest, and of course the David Bowie title track was just perfect - tune of the day really. Granted I know that when she watches Mad Dogs here eyes are more on Marc Warren and (especially!) Max Beesley, but good to see in my view still one of the best TV series ever made!

Friday 2nd August - Fixing Friday

It's Friday and it's been the end of a very long and tough week for one reason or another to be honest. I knew though that today was going to be all hands on deck, and so it proved. We had a changeover and upgrade of the main print system happening from last night through to this morning, and so it was a case of doing some cleaning up to ensure that everything worked as intended. On the whole it wasn't as bad as it could be, but at the same time, it was also a case of checking devices and seeing that they had the new configuration.

In fact two or three of them didn't, but as the device was still talking to the network correctly, I was then able to connect to the printer via its network address, get all the information I needed, and then just add the relevant parts required to be able to do what was needed. In many ways it worked pretty well and although not perfect (nothing ever is) at least we were able to get things sorted and have everything up and running reasonably well. I'm sure as time passes we might find a few minor issues crawling from the woodwork but at least for now we know everything works correctly.

I headed home later on and the weather was just a little on the sticky side with the low cloud, and once I'd got a few things in the house sorted out the online grocery delivery from Tesco arrived spot on time and as usual in spot on condition too. The good thing was that I'd ordered all the components of their Finest Meal Deal for two and they were all present, so that'll mean a lovely meal for the two of us tomorrow night really, and that's the plan after all.

I did even treat myself and I'd ordered the Tesco Finest Steak and Ale Pies, and had one of those with some mash. And the pie was actually rather lovely it has to be said - the steak pieces were plentiful enough, you got a nice smattering of ale soaked gravy and some lovely pastry to keep it all in. Let's just say that for a pie from a supermarket, it was rather lovely and I'd happily have it again if the need arises that's for sure. It also meant I could settle in and watch England's not so good cricket performance at the same time.

I spent part of the evening listening to Metallica's rather good S&M concert two disc set - based on two nights that they did with Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. You might not have thought that metal and classical would work so well together, but it actually did superbly well here, no more so than in the album exclusive track and single "No Leaf Clover" which really does allow both styles to breathe freely and flow together and make for a brilliant piece of epic rock music - worth getting the album for that alone to be honest - tune of the day was an easy decision.

Thursday 1st August - Munich Misery

So then, tonight was the launch evening of BT Sport. The latest challenger to Sky. The channel that had decided to try and get as many sporting presenters that people would recognise off the telly as possible, with Clare Balding, Jake Humphrey, Lawrence Dallaglio to name but a few. The channel with all the fancy adverts and the promise of it all being free (only of course if you just so happen to have a BT broadband package with suitable equipment). And free at least for the first night of transmission on Freeview and Sky so we could see what the fuss was about.

Of course with Manchester City happening to be playing Bayern Munich in the Audi Cup Final at 7.30pm tonight it made it a tad more interesting to see what would happen. Once I did a retune of my Freeview HD recorder (turned out a retune was needed today!) it was all good to go, and at 6pm on the dot Jake Humphrey was in the middle of the Olympic Stadium broadcasting live, with a video montage of all the pundits and presenters (plus a few guests) having their say on proceedings before it was over to the TV studio.

And it looked all whizzy and futuristic, with a large glass panelled floor that could light up to be various different courts and arenas, so a football pitch, tennis court, basketball court etc were all possible. Quite fancy and indeed good to hear from the presenters but the whole first hour just felt like a walking advert for the channel and shameless pluggery. It almost reminded me of that Mitchell and Webb sketch about football (and if you've not seen it, you should!) and that rankled a little bit.

So on to the football. It was good to see a packed Allianz Arena and despite a 2-1 loss for City, we did hold our own against a very good Bayern Munich side, even taking the lead when Alvaro Negredo scored with a good finish. Bayern got a penalty due to a Pablo Zabaleta handball, and then surged forward and got a deserved winner. The way they play certainly is something to look at, be inspired from, and try to see how well you can match that, but it was good to see some part of City's team gel together reasonably nicely.

The Love In My Heart had come over too, so I made us some spaghetti with meatballs and even had it alfresco outside in the back due to the rather hot weather that was still around - in fact it felt more like a heat wave today - a mere 32 degrees centigrade said one thermometer on the way home from work, which was pretty hot. No wonder it was so tough going for the England cricket team against Australia today. That wasn't pretty to watch either - a mere 300 plus for only three wickets down.

Later on after the football The Love and I watched the remainder of the Hotel Inspector revisited with Alex Polizzi. I have to say that the hotel featured was a very much love it or hate it style of place, with different decor to say the least. I guess it was better than when it started and if it's won AA awards for being a touch on the quirky side, they've hit the right notes somewhere, but I suspect there were plenty of gritted teeth in there somewhere for some reason!

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "2112" by Rush - the title track of said album. Somehow when you've been on an epic mission at work during the day listening to that put its all into perspective - the relevant parts all coming together and drawing you in as you listen. Out of the parts, the second "Temples of Syrinx" section just underpins everything so well. One day I'll have to see this performed live in its entirety which would be bloody epic. One day...