Dear Diary... December 2009

Thursday 31st December - End of the Decade

Well, who'd have thought it? It's the end of 2009 and the end of the "noughties" decade, and I suppose when I've been thinking about it, it's been a real changing time for me. If you'd have said to me in the Cardiff Millennium Stadium in 2000 that I'd be where I am today, I'd have honestly laughed at you, let me tell you. I look back and think that in 1999 I'd started the job that I am in still in, albeit having now sidestepped and also gone up in grade and professionalism, and also being a lot more younger and maybe a little indecisive as well as rather simply stressed.

Now it's a much more different me - more mature, thoughtful, contemplative almost, and also a much more settled person inside. The last three years in particular have been ones where I've really felt that I have grown the most, from a situation I wasn't together happy in and not myself, to where I am now where I have lovely family and friends and most of all someone who I am lucky and proud enough to call my girlfriend. It sounds simple, but getting there's another kettle of fish. When I think about the many dates I had and how some of them didn't work out for all sorts of reasons, it almost made me think I was trying too hard if you like. Once I stopped, I then realised that it'll happen for a reason and not because I want to force it to happen.

As you'll have read over the years, the diary used to be a little more sporadic than it is right now. However, I'm now encouraged to keep it all up and since January 1st 2007 I've not missed a single day's worth of writing down my thoughts and what's happened. In some way it's actually helped me a lot when looking back and realising all the great times I've had but also the moments where I know that they've changed my life for some reason or another. I didn't initially mention The Biscuits In My Cheesecake, not because I was being secretive, but I wanted to make sure that things were going to work out before committing to mentioning her. You'll also note I never mention her by name - I consider my private love life to be that, and as such respect her privacy. Those who need to know, know who she is. Besides, I think she quite likes the little arconyms. I must ask her later which is her favourite.

When I think about stuff like that it really does force home what's happened this decade. I've left the family nest and move house and be settled for the last seven and a half years into my own little abode and put my own stamp on it uniquely, and I've been able to do it up in parts and have a wonderful new kitchen too. I've also fulfilled a lifetime ambition of doing a tour from start to finish, and also help out with that particular tour as well, and been able to go more often to Cornwall and realise why my relations love the place so much, as I do too now. It's part of me, and I'll have it written in my will that I want some of my ashes scattered in Cornwall somewhere - maybe Sennen Cove beach or off St Michael's Mount would be nice, at least part of me would be there then.

Death is something I've thought about since I've had relations in the family pass away over the decade. Things like that do affect you a lot but in a different way, but one thing I've realised above all else is that you need to take the opportunties that come at you, and live life to be your own life. No one knows when your life is going to be taken from underneath you, so if you've managed to achieve in your life and do things for you, then you can look back as you grow old and frail with great fondness, and I think both my Mum and The Biscuits have the same joie de vivre attitude, which is lovely.

I just hope that the next decade can be what the last three years have been like for me - and that when I turn 40 during 2012 that it'll be a year to remember and I can do some of the things that I've always wanted to do - maybe even see some of the Olympic football at Old Trafford, or see Manchester City finally lift some silverware for the first time in absolutely ages. Who knows what will happen, but I do know full well that I'll be able to make the most of it all and have a great time during it. Tune of the day is "Decades" by Joy Division, as it somehow sums up all the great thing about that band in a track and asks where the young men have been. In my case, growing up. See you in 2010!

Wednesday 30th December - Basketball Wizard

I spent a bit of time today re-organising the walls of the front room with the pictures on it. I have a Rosina Wachtmeister print on one wall, but it's in a clip frame, and The Biscuits In My Cheescake suggested to me it might be a good idea if I replaced it with a proper frame. As it happened, she told me last night where she got the frame for the Rosina picture that she got me for Christmas, and I knew there the nearest branch was, so it was off on the bus this morning and over to Wilkinsons in Droylsden, where I hoped that in the picture frames section they'd have the same rustic effect one, and they did, and in the right size for the print too, hurrah!

So I headed home afterwards and re-arranged the print in the new frame, and put it up. It looked a lot better and I also took down a couple of small clip-frame pictures, as I might get some nicer frames for them and put them in something different later on. I also re-arranged the picture I have of The Biscuits so it was next to the Rosina picture so on that wall the three pictures are three things I love: Man City, Rosina Wachtmeister art and her. Aww. This meant my concert print for Baskery's gig was next to the Kristin Hersh one and so makes good use of the wall there too, made perfect sense to me that did to be honest.

Later on I spent a bit of time on Wii Sports Resort and got used to the Motion Plus controller. Not least during the basketball 3 point contest, where I can top score with around 23 points, but can't get past that for some reason. I'm doing okay though in the frisbee dog, where my top score is now around 1000 points, so solid stuff all round there, not least as the dog is pretty good at doing mid-air catches with my throw too. I also tried out the wakeboarding again, and that was good but doesn't somehow feel as good as the other events. The 3 on 3 basketball works well too, simplicity but well executed and you can even nail 3 point shots if you're really good, so something to be aware of I reckon.

I got some food shopping in at first Tesco and then Asda, where I was able to get the lunches for next week at work so I didn't have to worry about doing anything else, and then I had a text from my uncle to see if he could borrow Carnival Funfair Games for the Wii. I thought "I'm not doing anything, so why don't I pop round?" and headed over there a bit later. I took my remote with me as I thought two player gaming could well be on, and so it was. My uncle and I had a bash at the table tennis and he beat me 6-4, but I had my revenge with three wins including a 6-0 whitewash, but he was pretty good I have to admit. We tried out the frisbee dog and he improved on his best score by some way getting 780 points.

Later on it was Carnival Funfair Games and we'd got our auntie to join in with us on three player, and she was really pleased when she beat my uncle at it in competition mode, hehe. In fact she was demon on the collection plate event, getting 4 out of 5 coins on the plate, something which I've never been able to do, and on the Test Your Strength she held her own rather admirably, showing deftness of timing. Best of all though was the shooting gallery, where she really did well with 82% just below my 84%, so well done her. We had a few games of that and before I knew it, it was time to head home and get some sleep.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather rocking "World's On Fire" by The Prodigy. It reminds me just why I like them and why their 2009 album "Invaders Must Die" is such a great album too - it's full on and really aggressive, a perfect mix of dance rock and punk all together. Oh and it even features parts of The Breeders' "I Just Wanna Get Along" which is a great song in itself too, so I can't really argue with that one can I?

Tuesday 29th December - Out On The Fylde

It was a pretty long but good day all round today, as The Polar Bear On My Christmas Tree and I were heading off northwards, and for a good reason. Her parents were heading to Blackpool as they usually spend New Year at a really nice hotel and they have everything pretty much laid on for them throughout the three days, and then they head home on New Year's Day. To make it easier, The Polar Bear normally takes them when they are going, and one of her sisters collects them when they're heading home - it also means that indirectly we have a day out as well, so not too bad at all.

We headed to her parents' place to collect them, and her father had me help out connect the new DVD player to the television - they'd got a HDMI lead but wasn't sure what went where, so I sorted it out and connected it all up so everything works. I also recommended that they had a SCART lead from the Sky box straight to the television instead of via the video, so you didn't need the video recorder on when watching Sky - much less hassle that way. It was good that they were able to take on my advice and be able to take note to make life a tad easier for them - which has to be a good thing.

We then left and got on the M60 then the M61, thus avoiding the tons of queues that were heading all the way from there to the Trafford Centre (urgh, not good) and stopped off at junction 8 and headed to the Hartwood Hall for a bit of lunch - it's a nice little pub and they do good deals on for food - plus we'd been there before as had they. Their lunchtime deal was well worth it, two courses plus a drink for a fiver, so myself and The Polar Bear both had the scampi for main, and apple pie and custard or ice cream for dessert, and a soft drink, so not too bad at all, and just the right size to keep us going during the day.

After the lunch stop, it was M61, M6 and then M55 towards Blackpool and before we knew it we were heading to the North Shore and to the hotel that they were staying at. It hadn't changed from last year, even the chronic situation for parking was the same so we dropped them off and located a pay and display close by before heading back to see them. It turned out that they'd been given an orange wristband each at reception, and it meant that they could have certain free drinks from the bar, free tea and coffee and also meant that all the inclusive stuff like their meals (even lunch!) were easily spottable as those who'd paid for it all in. We reckoned it was why the cost jumped up slightly this year to accomodate for that, and with a drink in the bar afterwards, we had a good chat. It was all lovely though and I am sure that they'd have a nice time.

I'd also sent a text to my Mum, as she was heading down southwards with one of her friends as she was also spending New Year away. It was the first time she'd ever done it and I think with her friend with her, good to have someone she knows on it. Mum did text me later on the coach on the way down to say that she'd got some of them on there to have a sing song, so all seemed to be going well there. I just hope it works out rather well and that everything's going to be good for her - a break like that would be well welcome.

Later on, The Polar Bear and I headed to Freeport Shopping Village just out of Fleetwood centre. We'd headed along the coast road and followed it all the way there, found the signs for the docks and were soon able to locate the shopping village and in we went. It was nice to walk around and the Hallmark card shop outlet meant we were both able to get cards for forthcoming birthdays at a good price - she even got some Christmas cards for next year which were all very lovely for much less too, that's my girl - being frugal pays off you know. It was good to walk around the other shops too, and it all seemed nicely laid out with a good selection of all sorts for everyone there.

We did head into Next, as The Polar Bear had some gift cards for there. Within minutes we'd spotted this nice jacket that I thought would look lovely on her, and I was right when she tried it on - she looked stunningly lovely. I insisted that she use some of her gift cards and get it, and it was a jacket she could wear casually but look smart and gorgeous, and later at her sister's, her and her fashionista niece gave The Polar Bear their approval, so that worked out wonderfully well. It was good to have gone there and got something, felt all the more worthwhile going to be honest.

After visiting her sister and having a good chat with all their folks (and twas lovely too) we realised it was mid evening and we hadn't had anything to eat for our tea yet so I decided that we should eat out, and I had a couple of ideas floating around before we headed to The Quay House in Salford Quays. It was even more nicer in there than when I last was in there - plenty of ambience and lovely big tables, booths for large parties and a very relaxed atmosphere. We saw a good deal on where you got two courses for £9.99, and we couldn't argue with that. I had the mushroom soup and she had the garlic and herb breaded mushrooms, and then for main we both had the rump steak, which was cooked to perfection for each of our preferences, which made it all the more lovely. We had a great time.

As ever, it was sad when she headed home later but it was good we had a whole day together and it really shows me more than ever how lucky I am that I have such a wonderfully lovely person to be with. It made me feel really warm inside and happy, which is good isn't it? Tune of the day is the Vonda Shepard version of "This Christmas" from the Ally McBeal Christmas CD, as the powers that be in Freeport were playing it so as we walked around we heard that and the rest of the CD, which kept us in the mood for all things festive. I know, I'm a big softie really.

Monday 28th December - Carlos Tevez Is A Blue, Is A Blue, Is A Blue

I had a bit of a mixed day today. First off, it was good to have a bit of a lie in and just take my time to relax and get up, and then catch up with things like emails and also this here diary too, before deciding to head into the city centre to spend the HMV vouchers that I'd got for Christmas. I couldn't use them online (you can't do that as yet) but I knew that in store there would be a sale on. As you can well imagine, the city centre was rather busy with sale shoppers but that didn't deter me too much from seeing what was in and what I could get for the vouchers I had, plus maybe a little more depending on what was there.

I nipped into the games section and noted that for the Wii there was Guitar Hero III for £6, and Guitar Hero Metallica with guitar for £30, which would be a bargain if I didn't already own it. Also, there was the Guitar Hero drum kit for a mere £30 as well, which wasn't too bad whatsoever. I was tempted by the latter as I didn't own a drum kit as yet, and even the Beatles Rock Band with guitar, microphone, drum kit and game plus USB hub for a mere £50 was also quite a good offer too, even if I didn't like the Beatles as a band - the instruments alone make it somewhat worth it.

But in the end the CDs swayed me and there was a pretty good two for £10 offer on, and as I had £20 worth of vouchers that meant four CDs at least. After surveying all three branches of HMV to make sure I had the right selection (believe it or not the different stores have different offer stock sometimes) I went to the little one on Market Street and got Rammstein's "Sehnsucht" along with the Arctic Monkeys' "Humbug" as the two for £10. I did also notice when in there that the little branch would be closing in January. I found that to be a shame, as I used to love the little HMV when I was younger - it had the upstairs bit for the singles and I used to buy lots of CD singles from there back in the day, and downstairs used to have the cassette tapes in, woo.

Anyway, I went to the large HMV on Market Street and eventually found the CDs I wanted - and in fact I spent another £10 so I could get four in there, which were Bad Lieutenant's "Never Cry Another Tear", Metallica's classic "Master of Puppets", The Prodigy's "Invaders Must Die" and Ian Brown's new one "My Way". It meant I had a fair chunk of 2009 releases and also at a price that's right. Having heard most of the Bad Lieutenant album online streaming, it was the one I wanted the most of them all - it very much sounds like classic guitar-led New Order in all but name, which is a good thing in my eyes. I'll make "Sink or Swim" tune of the day because it's so darned catchy.

After I got home and watched my recording of the Welsh Grand National as well as keeping my eye on the football scores, I sent a text to my uncle to see if he fancied a blast of Tiger Woods 09 online. It worked really well as an online game as first we played a round at Pebble Beach and then a round at Wentworth, and he got better during the second round because of working out the strength to hit the ball as well as the angles and all that - but the putting might be something we'll work on so that he can get better at it that way. He was knocking in good birdies though and it was really only the two eagles I got on the par fives at the end of Wentworth that made a difference.

Later on I had a full house at mine as City were up against Wolves away, and it was on Sky Sports 1 HD, so there were seven of us in my front room all keeping an eye on proceedings. At first the home side dominated and I wasn't so sure about how we'd do, but once we started to break forward and wirh the impressive Craig Bellamy and Carlos Tevez breaking things down, we'd soon get a goal I thought, and so it proved. Bellamy pegged it down the left and outran the Wolves defender before pulling the ball back for Tevez, whose shot deflected in. Okay, a bit flukey, but they all do count don't they?

Second half Wolves started out stronger, but one controversial moment changed it a bit. City played the ball forward and Craig Bellamy looked outside. The Wolves player headed it clear, and City then broke forward and Gareth Barry was fouled. A free kick was the result and a curled shot well taken from Javier Garrido made it 2-0. The Wolves players and manager weren't amused, and I did have a little sympathy for them for the initial incident - although their defence should have been alive and alert with the free kick. But 2-0 was good and one flowing move almost resulted in Tevez scoring what would have been a classic goal.

But Tevez wasn't to be denied and very late on, a pass from Robinho found Tevez on the edge of the 18 yard box, he turned the Wolves defender and then slotted the ball home in the bottom corner. The scoreline did flatter City a bit but no one was complaining whatsoever to be honest - it was a good finish and one that set us up nicely - in 6th, one goal difference away from fifth and crucially now up in the hunt for the top four with three wins from the last three, and since Roberto Mancini took over, two clean sheets, which can't be argued with. It's too soon to tell what difference he may have made, but I have a feeling that if Mark Hughes was still there we wouldn't have won tonight's game. Time will tell.

Sunday 27th December - Wii Have It Connected

Myself and The Polar Bear on My Christmas Tree spent some time today relaxing before deciding what to do with the day. We headed over to my place first and dropped off all the presents that I'd been given, so they were all nicely piled up in the front room of mine now. Of course that included plenty of Wii games and we did have a quick try out of Wii Sports Resort to see how that worked. The wake boarding looked fun but it took me a couple of goes to get used to the idea of how it all worked, and indeed the bowling seemed a little trickier than on standard Wii Sports, possibly because of the motion plus stuff.

Later on we headed over to Mum's, where she made us all some sandwiches for lunch, and we were able to chat about the Christmas festivities and also what we'd all got each other. The Polar Bear was able to thank Mum and my brother for her lovely presents, and I know she was made up with what she got from them. It was good to chat too about all sorts and about Mum's forthcoming holiday for New Year, and although she was excited, she was glad that she's going straight to the main pick up point for the coach and not via her friend's place, makes life a tad easier to be honest. My Mum made a good lunch too so with a cuppa it was lovely to chat.

Later on we headed from there to my uncle's place, as he was having problems getting his Wii connected to the wireless router. He didn't realise till he opened the presents later on Christmas Day that he'd actually got one, bless, and so the least we could do was head over and I could get it all sorted. Once I accessed the router settings and was able to authorise the Wii as an authorised device to the router (to stop anyone else using it, hehe) it was all good, and the Wii connected and did its software update which was good. I then showed him how to get the Internet Channel for free, and also how to get the extra Wii points for me being his connection ambassador (which meant 500 points each, wahey!)

In fact I then sorted out Tiger Woods 09 for him that he'd got and so we played online against someone elsewhere, and that worked out rather well. Myself, my uncle, brother in law and nephew all took turns to play holes and with some excellent shots we won by around twenty shots over the 18 holes of Wolf Creek. My auntie and The Polar Bear were chatting loads over all sorts whilst they left the lads to it (aww) and before we knew it it was getting dark and time for us to head back to my place.

Back at mine, we tried out Scrabble for the Wii, which was fine apart from one thing - you could only put in names of five letters for each of your characters to play, so if you had more than that in your name, no good. Not great, that, but the game played well and even had the proper dictionary so we were able to keep track of the scores and all that without problems. It does mean I can play computer opponents and have a good go and practice till I play The Polar Bear at the real thing.

We also tried out Wii Sports Resort again and we both loved the basketball (we got the hang of it and were knocking in baskets for fun) and then the frisbee dog, which was lovely to do. The cycling left us both knackered after going for it, and the table tennis was much more for me than her too. I did like the archery too, as we both did, that felt really playable and a lot of fun to try out especially when I even hit a couple of tens as well. The skill required really did mean that you had to be calm and accurate, and well worth a good go of.

Later we watched "The Holiday" which I'd never seen before but The Polar Bear had. It was passable, definitely chick flick territory but for me at least had the added bonus of Kate Winslet looking rather lovely, and Jack Black being some film composer and being an all round nice guy. The Polar Bear was swooning over Jude Law, and that certainly was noticed by me, but I didn't mind - as every time Kate was on I was like "awwww" because she looked so lovely. Well, we're alllowed to fantasise aren't we? Tune of the day is Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" as it's played in one scene which is just immensely funny. It did work out as a good film but one I suspect more for the ladies, and I contemplated that as we snuggled later.

Saturday 26th December - Mancini And His Scarf

Well, it was nice to have a lie in this morning, I must admit. All the Christmas Day stuff did take it out of me a little so was nice to just take it easy (Cadbury's Caramel optional, hehe) and therefore just relax and chill out somewhat. We both spent time in front of the telly before we had to nip out somewhere, and by this time it was lunchtime and some of the snow had already melted away from the drive, so that was rather good all round. It was nice just to be there knowing City would be awaiting me later, as my friends were coming over to The Polar Bear On My Christmas Tree's place and so we could have some nice chatter after the football as well.

My friends (namely one of my best friends and wife) arrived at around 1.30, so we had chance to have a cuppa before we would head over to the City of Manchester Stadium to see City do their thing, hopefully. It was good to see them both and that they'd made it through some of the icy roads, which weren't at their best even with some incessant rain attempting to clear all the snow off. But nonetheless what was good was that they'd driven carefully and taken the time to get there safely, and so we left a bit earlier for the ground so we could get across without any mishaps.

On came City and Stoke, and our new man Roberto Mancini came on to be introduced to the fans in a good outfit and even a City scarf around his neck, which really suited him. It was soon time for kick off, and we were all surprised that Robinho started in front of Craig Bellamy, and that proved to be a wrong decision. We were playing with ten men most of the game to be truthful and what made it all the more unbelievable was the attitude of Robinho - it stank of the sprouts on Christmas Day. It was lazy, haphazard, not what any of us want to see in a City shirt. To be honest, if we can get shut of the time wasting get in January, both my friend and I would be happy to see him go. When Bellamy warmed up the crowd cheered, and when he came on later a massive cheer went up for Bellamy himself, and rightly so in my view. He acknowledged the fans and was straight away getting stuck in - good lad.

As for the game, well it was decent enough. We had an early scare but Shay Given saved well and could have been injured, but battled on. A nice flowing move involving Stephen Ireland and the never say die Carlos Tevez meant the ball went across to Martin Petrov who slammed it in - and a good decision from Mancini to recall Petrov too, may I say. For the second goal, Pablo Zabaleta put a cross in, Gareth Barry headed it across the box and Tevez stuck a leg out kung fu style and that was the second bang on half time. It was a well deserved win and the first clean sheet in the league for ages, mainly thanks to the excellent work of Vincent Kompany, who was tirelessly working hard in the defence for us, he was man of the match for me by a mile.

We made it back over to The Polar Bear's place, and it was a nice meal awaiting us later, as she had very kindly made us all (well apart from my friend as he had pizza instead) a chicken curry with lots of nice massala sauce, rice and naan bread. That went down a treat and certainly warmed me up after the football. The girls had some wine and we had some soft drinks and relaxed for a while before it was time for a bit of a tradition of mine - the Boxing Day Quiz! I had worked hard on it and did some killer rounds, which weren't going to be easy for everyone to guess everything - that was the plan anyway. It ended up my friend won with a top score of 56 out of 100, so you can guess that they weren't the easiest questions going, but made it definitely worthwhile.

We spent some time watching the celebrity impersonations thing on ITV1, and I must admit most of them weren't great apart from Les Dennis doing Prince Charles and Tim Healy and Paul Daniels doing a very older Ant and Dec in the year 2020, which made me giggle anyway. Match of the Day was on later and that was good to see City on first doing the business, and it was also good to see the pundits slag off Robinho too, just goes to show that they can see what we can see too.

Tune of the day is one of the tunes I put into my Christmas quiz, namely "True Faith" by New Order. One of the City banners in the ground above where we sit says "MCFC True Faith" so I guess they based it on that song - mainly because the band's former manager Rob Gretton was a big blue (despite the fact that Barney Sumner is a huge red, meh) but also it's classic New Order and one that always reminded me of getting their Substance compilation on CD and playing all the singles in their extended form, which was always great.

Friday 25th December - It's Chriiiiiiiiiiiiistmas!

At last, it's Christmas Day, and certainly a day that I usually spend lots of time with everyone and have a good time - and it proved to be the case today. As is my usual way of doing the day, it was first stop to my uncle's place at around 8am, and it was a bit tricky traversing over the ice on the pavements - so much so that I actually walked on the road at one point as it had been defrosted and so made a bit less hassle to be able to walk without skating and falling over. Some of the ice had started to melt but of course it was taking time, and with some snow everywhere it was indeed a White Christmas. Hurrah!

Got to my uncle's place, and we swapped presents, and they liked what I got them all. I had noticed that they hadn't opened any presents under the tree, as they were having Christmas dinner together later and so were waiting for their presents afterwards, which I thought was a nice touch. We had a cup of tea and a chat and it was good to see them all - and they had even bought The Polar Bear On My Christmas Tree something, which was rather lovely. We dropped off stuff at my place on the way to my auntie's, where it was a pretty full house with her, her son and lovely girlfriend, and my sister, brother in law and niece all there for breakfast. To be fair though, with good reason - she makes an excellent brekkie with bacon, sausage, egg, mushrooms, fried bread and all that, it's most excellent.

It was great to see my niece so excitable about Christmas and especially as she had been bought a pink Nintendo DS (woo) and so was happily going to be playing plenty of those games later - especially the one with the pricess Tinkerbell on. Aww. It was also nice that conversation flowed and a nice cup of tea with the breakfast certainly made for a very good warm up for Christmas dinner later. I didn't eat too much though because I wanted to save myself knowing full well that my Mum would feed us lots later. We all went over to my sister's so my niece could also open more presents, and my Mum and two brothers headed over to see her as well and with plenty more presents in the offering, including a rather nice big Tardis too (she's a Doctor Who fan, believe it or not!)

After a while we headed back to my Mum's, and my sister and nephew were there all happy and all feeling warm and Christmassy. In fact my nephew was a happy little one when he opened the Ben 10 game for the DS that I'd got him, and with his DS customised with all Ben 10 stuff, perfect for him to have a go of. The two of us spent some time on Lego Indiana Jones too, as he could do most of the stuff but would ask me occasionally to give him a hand with a couple of the tricky bits, which I didn't mind whatsoever. It was good to bond like that and I'm sure it was something that made me feel good inside.

Mum did the Christmas dinner and it was spot on: tons of turkey, stuffing, roast and normal potatoes, pigs in blankets, carrots, bread sauce, Yorkshire puds and gravy, and all really filling too. I really felt hearty inside after all that but in a good way, it definitely felt very nice as I ate it. The crackers, as other crackers were this year, all seemed not to bang when they were pulled, maybe a naff batch everywhere this year I don't know? But it was good in the afternoon just to mellow out a bit, watch Christmas Top of the Pops with my sister, and spend a bit of time on Pain on the PS3 with my brothers and my nephew, who loved it (not sure it's the sort of game he should be enjoying, but you know, if it makes you giggle...)

It was just a really nice day to that point and I had been getting nice messages off friends and family thanking me for the presents I'd got for them which made it all the more special for me. It's better to give than to receive and I know that I felt very appreciated, and what's more almost all of my relatives had bought The Polar Bear a little present too, they didn't have to do that but I know it's something that touched her a lot and meant a lot to us both that she's been so well accepted by all the family. Awww.

I arrived home later on with bags full of presents, everyone had been very kind to me. I had opened a couple of presents in the morning from friends and family that had come in the post and they were all lovely too, but the best was yet to come, as The Polar Bear was coming to get me around 6pm and we'd be able to spend the night at hers and be relaxed, feeling all Christmassy. When she came I was so happy - she looked so gorgeous and beautiful and the fact she'd got through the snow and ice just made me feel so appreciated that she wanted to come and see me. We got all the bags we needed (and plenty of presents for her) and we headed back to her place, when over a warm cuppa, we exchanged presents, and I felt rather humble indeed.

The Polar Bear insisted that I opened my presents first, and so after opening the presents from her relations (which was very very nice of them indeed) I then opened the presents she had got me. I wanted to cry, they were all so lovely. She had put thought into them all and also knew that all of them were very me too. I had a lovely and beautiful Rosina Wachtmeister cat picture along with a gorgeous frame that it was in, and I know that she'd have had to have ordered the picture from the official shop in Germany, a really lovely striped shirt from Next that made me feel all lovely when I tried it on, and looked very classy and elegant, Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games for the Wii, and also Wii Sports Resort with the Motion Plus controller for the Wii as well. It was a case of quality presents and all lovely, and I must admit as much as I love them all, the Rosina picture was the one that I felt the most emotional about. It showed a lot of thought and consideration and I really felt special. Thank you so much my darling.

So what else did I receive then? Well apart from my friends' presents the other night, let's see: an additional Wii Motion Plus controller (so two player Wii Sports Resort is a reality, yaay), some Badger beer, plenty of Wii games (Scrabble, Big Brain Academy, Sonic and the Black Knight), quite a few CDs ("Zeitgeist" by Levellers, "Animals" by Pink Floyd, "World Painted Blood" by Slayer (ROCK!!), "The Resistance" by Muse, "Wilderness" by Brett Anderson, "Fleet Foxes" by Fleet Foxes, "The Pleasure Principle" by Gary Numan), tons of socks (a year's supply almost), two nice jumpers, one black and one chenile grey style, a nice striped shirt, some wine and chocolates, some biscuits and Belgian beer, a nice candle to burn for those romantic evenings, and so on. It made for a rather wonderful Christmas.

The two of us had a cosy evening in, and we ended up watching the Royle Family Christmas Special, which was hilarious, not least all the rowing over the golden egg cup. If you've not watched it as yet, I would suggest that you do via BBC iPlayer and enjoy yourself, it was really really hilarious, and we both giggled a lot when seeing it. What made us both smile was that it had plenty of warmth and humour and when we saw the caravan park that they were going to it reminded us both of the same sort of places I used to go when I was younger - Costa del Towyn and all that sort of thing. It certainly made for a good end to the day and we both felt so happy together, it made me feel all warm inside.

Tune of the day though has to be "Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl - it was on one of the music channels later in the day and it's just one of my favourite Christmas songs of all time. It has a nice warm glow to it and the contrast in voices between MacColl and Shane Macgowan makes it all work, especially when they're trading insults - which of course get censored on telly most of the time. Meh. And I must admit it was kind of anarchic to see TOTP have to play Rage Against The Machine as well, haha, that told them!

Thursday 24th December - But... I'm Too Excited!

I'm now fully in the mood for Christmas Day and can't wait for it. Sounds like I am being a big kid and all that, but to be honest it's a really nice feeling when you can feel all Christmassy and you know that you're going to see plenty of family tomorrow. In fact, I saw some of them today - unexpectedly, which was a nice surprise, and I know that tomorrow will be lovely. In fact, I do have some presents under the tree from friends and relatives that part of me wants to open, but I am going to wait - be nice to have something to open in the morning I reckon!

I got up this morning and after a couple of bacon barmcakes for breakfast, it was time to head out to the two cemeteries in the south of where I am that I needed to head to - both have relations of mine who have passed away and I always like to head there and pay my respects. Christmas Day is usually very busy at both places and I'd rather have a nice moment to myself to be able to say what I need to say. Sounds daft, but I tend to be more at ease when I'm on my own to do it too, and even though The Scarf On My Snowman offered, I politely declined because I wanted to do it alone. It was a very nice offer though, it has to be said.

So I headed on the bus to the first cemetery, and the snow had completely covered up the plots in the garden of rememberance that they have there, so I wasn't able to easily find my relative. I knew that the little plot marker with the names on a plaque were hidden, and a couple of minutes later my uncle and auntie arrived, and they were soon able to give me a hand to locate it. I left my card and gift (a Man City teddy with full kit on, which The Scarf kindly picked up for me last week, isn't she good?) and it was nice to see them but also to wish my relatives well where they were. In fact, they offered me a lift to the other cemetery on their way home, which they didn't have to do. It was very very nice of them.

I arrived at the other cemetery and again, the stones of the plots were covered, but I knew exactly where to find it, and brushed off all the snow, just in case anyone else from the family was visiting later on. It was nice to leave a little soft toy dog there and the card and be able to say a few words in private, and it meant a lot to me to do that. Not least because I wanted the relative to know how happy I am and how wonderful it feels to be in love with The Scarf. And I know that she'll be really making my Christmas complete tomorrow - the best present a middle aged man like me could wish for!

Got back, and did plenty of cleaning of the house to get it all ship shape and also made sure that along the way that everything was organised and wrapped ready for the big day tomorrow. I had Rage Against The Machine n whilst doing that, so make "Wake Up" tune of the day as that's what I'll need to do tomorrow. Now if I can sleep tonight that might be helpful, but I feel like the kids in that Disneyland Paris advert that was on a few years ago, what am I like eh?

Wednesday 23rd December - The Littlest Knitted Santa Hat

More snow was forecast today and as I am typing this missive for you dear readers, that's what we have - a small flurry of the stuff that's added an extra layer on top of what's already there. It's not going to go below freezing though so there's a chance it won't be as icy tomorrow, and with drizzle forecast some of it might even melt away before Christmas Day. I would love a White Christmas as much as the next person, but it's also a case of if that prevents me from seeing The Scarf On My Snowman, then that might not be a good thing, so it's a case of damned if I do and damned if I don't really.

Anyway, today was about doing the food shopping - because I didn't want to leave it till tomorrow. My cunning plan was to head to Iceland first, get all the freezer stuff and then load the freezer with it all when I got home, and then recharge and head back to Tesco to do the rest, the idea being that I might need more carrier bags than I could safely carry, especially if it's icy, so doing two trips instead of one seemed a common-sense solution, and it worked. The freezer is now full of stuff I can make when at home and should easily last me till New Year and beyond, and Tesco pretty much the same. In fact, knowing my friend and her partner were coming over tonight so we could swap pressies and chatter away, I thought some lemon cake would be handy - and in the end got lemon cupcakes and a lemon madeira, so that they could choose. I'll eat either anyway, so it's not as if it's going to waste!

I headed to my Mum's mid afternoon for a cuppa and a chat - thought it'd be good to see her before Christmas Day and just triple check arrangements and all that. She had been tidying up in preparation for Christmas but was nice to stop and have a chat with her too. My nephew was there, glued to the Nintendo DS as he'd got Lego Indiana Jones 2 and with a bit of help from me managed to do pretty well - even working out how to assemble the bits of Lego together to make ladders, bridges and all sorts. It looked pretty good on the DS and I'm sure that the Wii version would be pretty smart too (I hired the first one and that was ace.)

On the way home I realised I wanted a little draught excluder thing for the bottom of my back door. When I had the kitchen done last year, the new tiling meant that a little had to be taken off the bottom of the door - but it left a little gap which sometimes lets cold air in. So, I found a perfect candidate in the pound shop of all places, along with a little hacksaw that I'd need to get it down to the right size. So, I measured it up, hacked it to the right size, used the mirror strip on board to stick it to the bottom of the door and then nailed in the strip to the door as well for extra protection. I got it pretty much perfect on the door and opened it to test, and as it shut, the rubber at the bottom fitted perfectly, thus sealing the gap. DIY job done, two quid spent, less colder kitchen - result!

By the time that all happened my friend had texted me to say she and her partner were on their way and had the kettle on ready for when they arrived. It was lovely to see them both and have a good chat about all sorts, and she was able to open her birthday presents from me (twas her birthday last Friday) - I got her this neat little owl purse from Shared Earth and the Shiny Happy People gift box from Lush (make the REM song of the same name tune of the day) , all citrus smelling, and she enjoyed them both so that was good. Conversation flowed about all sorts including what possible games to get for the Wii if they got one, and the plans for Christmas and New Year.

Best of all though, she had brought a little decoration for the tree that she made herself - and it was rather lovely! It was a little Santa hat with even a little hook for putting on your tree, and it looked rather fab. I was so pleased that I actually sat the hat on top of the tree just above where my polar bear sits, and it looked wonderful. My friend is a dab hand at knitting, crochet and the like and she's very creative and even has a blog - well worth a read if you're into crafts and tea, head there if you get the chance. It felt rather good to catch up a bit too and we'll have to try and do Sunday lunch and bring The Scarf with me definitely - needs to be done I think. Isn't it great when your friends are lovely, and it makes me realise how lucky I am. And the Santa hat looks ace, just thought I'd say it again.

Tuesday 22nd December - That's What Friends Are For

Had a really nice relaxed sort of day today really. I spent a fair bit of time during the morning sorting out the house and indeed getting plenty of washing done, and as the snow decided to come down some more I thought I'd better venture into the city centre for a little stroll around and just to escape the house for a bit. It was nice to be able to relax and also just walk around with the snow looking rather pretty as a picture - all the trees were very white indeed and although most of the pavements had been turned to sludge by the sheer numbers of people walking, it still felt very warm and Christmassy indeed.

I spent some time in the afternoon writing out the two Christmas cards to my friends and their partners that we'd be heading out with later, and also did a bit more stuff on Band Hero, as I was going to send it back to Tesco DVD Rental in the morning. I actually did pretty well on KT Tunstall's "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" and as I like the song anyway, it's going to be tune of the day, and also gave some of the bass tunes a good go on hard, and even the odd one on expert, such as The Go Gos' "Our Lips Are Sealed" which I managed, and I felt very pleased that I had done it too. I even got into the top 50 worldwide for that one after nailing it, so it was good to see that I could at least do it. Okay, so some of the songs aren't as hard as on Guitar Hero 5, but it still requires some level of skill.

Later on, The Scarf On My Snowman arrived and with her already showered, it was a case of her getting changed and ready for our meal out later in the evening. I waited till she got her before I dived into the shower and got myself ready - deciding on my nice black white and silver stripey number with some warm jeans and nice shoes, I looked the part. With a large bag bursting to the brim with presents for everyone, we headed into the city centre and to Don Giovanni's Italian restaurant, where we were to meet everyone and have a lovely meal. We got there pretty early so we had a drink at the bar and a good chat before all our friends arrived dead on time - they'd all left a little earlier cos of the weather so it was lovely to see them all.

Conversation and wine flowed (the girls deciding to share a bottle between them, which they did again later) and plenty of chatter about subjects such as Mark Hughes' sacking, Rage Against The Machine being Christmas Number one and how there'll be a million copycat campaigns next year (although we all liked the idea of Wham getting Christmas number one with "Last Christmas" which would be deserved and ace, cos it's a proper Christmas song that one), and also about things we've done. What's especially nice is that my friend's partner is also a really good bloke: he's very down to earth and has a good sense of humour, and has seemed to settle in well with us all, which is rather lovely. Yaay!

I had the soup to start, followed by the spaghetti carbonara for main (even had a poached egg on top, hurrah for that!) followed by the tiramisu for dessert, all cooked rather well. In fact, the chicken and pepper farfalle that The Scarf had looked awesome too - I tried a bit but was a little too peppery for my taste. It was a lovely atmosphere and it felt so nice to be around my friends - and that was definitely showing when we all swapped presents. As we weren't going to be seeing each other before Christmas, we decided to open them there and then, and I was most pleased with what everyone had got me too.

What did I get, I hear you ask? Well, let's see: Lego Batman and Boom Blox for the Wii (the latter I really enjoyed when I rented it and it's a definite on my must play list), Roxy Music's "Country Life" CD (you know, the one with the half-naked women on the front cover!), a gift card for HMV, Shaun Goater's "Feed The Goat" book, The Reader on DVD, Andy Parsons' "Britain's Got Idiots" on DVD and a little "Man City fan lives here" plaque too, which were all rather excellent to say the least. I felt rather humbled that everyone got me lovely stuff and I know they appreciated the presents I got them too (one was particularly chuffed at the House of the Dead plus Wii gun for the Wii!) and so that made everyone feel warm and fuzzy.

It really was a lovely evening and so as myself and The Scarf wanderd back to mine, it gave us chance to reflect on what lovely friends and company I have. I remember last year that they were all so lovely and accomodating to her, and this time around one of my female friends would probably feel nice that we're returning the compliment and being accommodating to her partner too - and why the hell not? That's what friends are for - to be there for you and to compliment your life and enhance it. I know I am lucky that I have such lovely friends and it's something that always makes me feel rather humble.

Monday 21st December - Raining On The Meal Parade

It was a nice chance this morning to get things done and not of course head to work, as I at least had the luxury of the time off. I therefore decided in the morning to head to Tesco and see what clothes I could get with the amount of Clubcard vouchers that I had - a fair few points' worth to say the least. I went to one of the larger local ones which I knew had clothes in, and it was a case of heading around and deciding what to get. I thought a new jumper might be quite nice for the winter months, and I saw that there was an offer on where you got two for a nice £16, and as I had £14.50 worth of clubcard vouchers, this of course meant that they'd only cost £1.50 for the two - neat eh?

Anyway, I had a look at what was available and plumped for two very nice ones - one in various dark shades of brown and black, and the other in black and grey stripes. Both of them have a mock t-shirt layer underneath but look very smart, and for the price I wasn't arguing. I even spotted another bargain when I was in there - 10 blank DVD-R discs and a decent make too for a mere 50p, meaning 5p per disc. You can't beat that whatsoever I soon stocked up there and got some to tide me over Christmas if I needed it to be done - all sorted in that respect then.

I got home and had a bit of a Guitar Hero Greatest Hits session, as I decided that playing through the game on medium bass was a new challenge for me to see if I could do it or not. I did the first tier, including encore, and that went pretty well, and so I thought "hmm.. wonder if I can do any of these bass tracks on expert?" and so tried out The Police's "Message In A Bottle". I didn't five star it, but I didn't fail either, and got a very respectable four stars and 97% on expert! I was so pleased with myself and that set me off in the right frame of mind for the rest of the day.

I headed into the city centre to meet my colleagues in Ra!n Bar as we were having our Christmas lunch there. When I got there, there was no one around, and so I had a Brewers' Dark whilst I was waiting. It was nice to relax with a drink and my colleague rung me to tell them they'd be delayed. Everyone seemed to think it was 2pm when in fact it was 1pm, and we had the whole of the upstairs section to ourselves, which was good. I had the butternut squash soup for starters, the turkey and all the trimmings for main and a lemon cheesecake for dessert. All were lovely and it really did taste good.

In the background, there was even some Arctic Monkeys on via the jukebox, so it was a pleasure to hear "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" belted out, which a couple of us even had a little mini singalong to (well, we're allowed) so make that tune of the day I reckon. We all swapped the Secret Santa presents that were all in one large sack, and it all worked out rather well. I got this little mini desktop dartboard which I'm sure could keep me occupied in the occasional break but might have to use that at home I reckon. It was a nice afternoon all round really and good to see everyone.

Sunday 20th December - Let It Snow On X Factor, Ha Ha Ha!

Myself and The Crunch In The Snow had stayed up a little late after I came back from the Public Image Ltd gig, mainly to chat but also catch up and see what I could find out about the sacking of Mark Hughes from earlier in the evening. It looked a little ugly the way it was handled, and after we had a good natter and a long sleep, we woke up this morning to the sight of the whole of my road being covered in a massive dusting of the white stuff that is snow. And not just a light dusting either - plenty of snow everywhere and it was very crunchy as I stepped outside to see just how wintry it was.

The main road near me wasn't even clear and looked like it hadn't had been gritted properly and so was looking a little hairy as the cars drove down, from what I could see. We decided that staying in would be the best move possible and so that meant we could put on one of the music channels with their Christmas songs and play Scrabble in the meantime. The channel did indeed have plenty of proper Christmas classics on, so the usual suspects in Slade, Wizzard, Band Aid, Wham et al got their exposure as is the norm every year. Not that I mind though, they're all bona fide proper classics, which made me wonder why the hell Cascada's appalling version of "Last Christmas" got in there.

Later on we headed outside mainly to get the snow off The Crunch's car, as she'd need it later to head home, but also we fancied building a snowman. And we managed it, not necessarily the biggest one, but we did one nonetheless. She donated a scarf and I used my hat and we took some pictures of the snowman as well. In fact the snow was at least around an inch deep which wasn't too bad at all, and it seems by looking at Flickr later that everyone has indeed been out there taking pictures of the snow and all that, no surprise really! It did look picturesque later as we headed out to Tesco to get some shopping and so that she could top up her phone.

We had another game of Scrabble as the countdown on one music channel came to an end and revealed the public's favourite Christmas single as Mariah Carey. Oh please! For crying out loud! We did have some good games of Scrabble though, notably as I managed to use all seven letters with the word toilers, also making another word fawns at the same time and thus scoring a massive 80 points, which helped a fair bit towards the score total too. I even put Band Hero on a bit later and showed her the little Mii Freestyle tune I'd made with her on drums as I rock out. In fact, I did Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On" and nailed it 100% on medium guitar with nothing missed. Woo, go me eh?

After she left to head home, understandable because of the bad weather and also, unlike me, she has to head to work tomorrow, it was time to listen to the chart rundown on Radio 1 to see who would be Christmas Number One. As you will know, I've backed Rage Against The Machine all week just to make a difference and stop the rubbish tat known as the X Factor from being number one, for obvious music related reasons. The tension was nigh on unbearable but as the number two was announced as Joe McElderry, a massive smile came to my face and I had to play "Killing in the Name" to celebrate (tune of the day, obviously). It felt right and Scott Mills managed to get hold of Zack de la Rocha from the band who was pretty ecstatic, and indeed they're going to play a UK gig in 2010. Methinks I might have to be there...

It feels like a victory for real music, and a victory for those of us who are sick to death of the X Factor and all it stands for. For me, to be able to hear a proper tune with proper musicians be number one gives me an enormous sense of well-being in that enough of us out there stood up to be counted, made our voices heard and put the money where our mouth is. I'm so happy about it. If it means that people might actually go and listen to other rock musicians and buy their records, then I'm all for it. The people have spoken, and they've shown that just because some useless talent show has 20 million sad viewers and endless TV and media exposure, it doesn't mean that rock is dead. Thank heavens there's not just me who did their bit eh?

Saturday 19th December - The Public Image Of A Sacking

Well, today was a day and a half, let me tell you. It started off innocently enough, as I headed to get my food shopping done, and packaged up my cousin and family's Christmas presents and got them to the post office to be sent recorded delivery in good time for the festive period. The reason I sent it today was that one of the presents only arrived yesterday, and so it meant that I was then able to wrap it up and send it off all with the rest of them, which made perfect sense. I also made sure that all the house was tidy for later, as The Crunch In The Snow was coming to stay over later and I'd much rather have a nice clean place.

My friend picked us up later on as we were heading off to see Man City against Sunderland, the last scheduled game before Christmas (we're at home on Boxing Day too, incidentally) and hopefully one where City might win after an abysmal performance against Tottenham in midweek. Rumours were flying around Eastlands that Mark Hughes was going to get the sack, regardless of result, and the hot topic on Radio 5 Live as we headed to the ground was pretty much about that, and why the board didn't confirm or deny any of the rumours that were going around. Curious, eh?

Anyway, the game itself, once we'd got through the snow to get to the ground, which was thankfully all gritted and all clear of anything slippy, was a right game and a half. City went two nil up inside ten minutes with a well taken goal involving Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy before Roque Santa Cruz couldn't miss, and after Bellamy was fouled inside the box, Tevez did the business from the spot. However, City's defensive frailties soon meant that it became 2-2, with a well taken header from a cross and then a powerful shot after a goalmouth scramble meaning that it was, as ever, typical City to do it. At least though the team pulled together a bit and soon enough after Wright-Phillips broke down the right, his low cross went across the box to Bellamy who curled in a beauty to make it 3-2 at half time. Absolute madness!

The second half started and we pushed for a fourth but couldn't get it, and yet again slack defending meant that it was a case of Sunderland pulling back to 3-3, and deservedly so. By this time everyone was getting impatient and the knives were very much out for Hughes anyway, as another lead looked like it was being thrown away. However, a cross went to Gareth Barry and he placed it across the six yard box for Santa Cruz to give himself a Christmas present and score what would be the eventual winner to make it 4-3. A hard earned win but one that at least moved us up to sixth in the table, even if Aston Villa and Tottenham won. And with Man U losing 3-0 against Fulham, it should have been a happy day for City fans.

As we headed to see The Crunch later, she had BBC1 on and was telling us that all the talk was at if or when Hughes was going to be given the chop, and most of Final Score was taken up by the possible thoughts of any press conference being made. The club said a statement would be released at 7pm, then 7.30pm, and whilst we had a nice pizza for tea, we were eager to find out what happened before heading to the Academy 1 later on. At around 6.30pm, Sky Sports News had hold of the official statement posted on the club's website (which of course went down under severe load as you'd expect) which stated that Hughes' contract had been terminated and that Roberto Mancini was the new manager.

I was a little surprised by the timing of the decision to be honest. I would have thought it'd have been made at the end of the season to see how things went and if we managed the league position that would be gained as part of the board's long term plans. I know that I've criticised Hughes tactically on numerous occasions, but at the same time unless someone better was available, it was a case of seeing what would happen. And at the time of writing, we were sixth and in a Carling Cup semi final, the first one that we had for a mere twenty eight years, and shouldn't that alone have been enough? Apparently not. I think the key thing was that all those draws which eventually meant two wins in the last eleven games just wasn't good enough, despite one of those wins being against Chelski.

However, if you look at it coldly and collectively, the key mistake that Hughes made was getting rid of Richard Dunne in the way that he and the board did. Dunne was the cornerstone of the club and indeed you don't get Player of the Year for four seasons without being half decent. I think he'd have formed a good defensive partnership and what was also key was that he knew what it meant to play for City and bled the blood. The fact that he's now at Villa and they're doing so well speaks volumes for the man and also vindicates how bad a decision it was, notably when a) the defence can't keep a clean sheet whatsoever and b) Joleon Lescott and Kolo Toure have been incedibly poor for the money spent. In fact, the best signings for me have been the ones who have been prepared to work and not just come for the dosh, ie: Craig Bellamy, Carlos Tevez, Shay Given and the players already here. In January we need to get shut of both Robinho and Emmanuel Adebayor and keep those who are prepared to die for the shirt instead, and that's the first thing Mancini needs to do.

Anyway, with all that still settling snowy dust on Eastlands, my friend and I headed very carefully from The Crunch's place over to Manchester Academy 1, as we were off to see our final gig of 2009. We parked up at the Academy car park and I noted how very slushy the car park was and indeed that it was pretty slippy underfoot. As the temperatures would be colder later, it'd only be worse rather than better I reckoned, and it proved that later as we slowly made it back to the car in very very testing conditions. The snow and ice does not for getting around easy make, let me tell you. The Crunch headed to mine where wine and chocolates was waiting for her as she would have a girlie night in with the telly.

So, on first as the support band were rather good - they were This Devastated Fan (myspace) and they were very good too. They didn't muck about and played their set really tight, not giving an inch. The four piece really got the crowd going and with good numbers such as "Elementary Girl" and the brooding powerful "Masks and Mirrors", they had plenty of bottle about them. What I liked was the last song even stuck in a bit of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" in the equation as well, wich was a neat touch. The crowd appreciated them and as did we, it set things up nicely.

At 8.40pm, on came Public Image Ltd (official site) (myspace) and for two hours and twenty minutes they entertained the crowd with a proper rock show. No fancy screens or all that, just a four piece band with a minimal backdrop and no mucking about. Starting off with the anthemic "Public Image" got the crowd in the right frame of mind, and at the end of the song some twonk decided to throw a beer bottle right at John Lydon. Lydon being the punk rebel that he is, soon put him to shame and basically told this idiot to go away and leave the venue, and stop spoiling it for everyone else who were all his friends by paying to come and see him and the band do their thing. It got massive cheers from the audience and from us because it's so nice to see someoen not taking crap like that and doing something about it, and that just meant much more rock.

Off they all went, with notably Scott Firth on the bass really giving the tunes plenty of dimension: granted he's not Jah Wobble maybe, but he did a cracking job and even wandered around the stage in his kilt as he was playing too. What was good too was that all the band were really tight and even if Lydon occasionally wasn't perfect vocally (even in his own inimitable style) the tightness couldn't be argued with. He seemed to be swallowing throat medicine and spitting it out on a regular basis to keep himself going, and do that he did. Highlights of the main set included a haunting "Death Disco", a full on powerful version of "Warrior" and a really lengthy workout of "Religion" as well, which got an appreciative crowd enjoying every moment.

My friend and I were wondering about a couple of the songs we thought the band would do, and after they excused themselves for a cigarette before coming back on to do the encore, we got our answer, as an absolutely anthemic version of "Rise" came to the fore. Written about the apartheid situation in South Africa at the time, it was a call to arms and even now we all rose with the band and sung along, in a really powerful anti-racist statement. Who says post-punks don't care, eh? Tune of the day easily, it was the highlight for me and had us both humming the song on the way back. And to end? A rather neat lengthy bass heavy version of "Open Up", which John Lydon did with Leftfield a fair while back. And it sounded excellent, let me tell you.

In terms of pure value, the ticket price of £36 may have seemed a bit high, but as these were the first shows that the band have done in seventeen years, and indeed that you got a two plus hour main show with good support, and the fact that it was John Lydon and gang showing the pretenders just how to do a proper gig, then you actually got your money's worth, especially when I compared it to the £26 for a disappointing Marilyn Manson gig on the Monday. I'll have to keep an eye out if there's any new material but in the meantime, I suspect a bit of back catalogue purchasing might have to be done...

Friday 18th December - Let's Start A Band

I have only one word to describe how I felt after work today: relief. It was manic, stressful and above all not the best day that I've ever had. I was just relieved not only to get all the work done that I needed to do, but also to really be able to wind down a little by the end of the day and have everything in place for next year. You see, normally I'd finish work on Christmas Eve, and then return early in January (4th would be this case) but by taking a few days off it means that I have a nice extended two week break, which should hopefully do me good. Well, that's the plan.

As I headed home and dodged the ice, I made a quick trip into Asda to get a couple of things and found that they had some oven trays that would survive a high heat for a pretty good bargain price, and so I picked a couple up. I'll plan to use them once Christmas comes so I can replace my rather old set that I have, and that's all that sorted. It was a pleasure to get home and get warmed up too, because let's face it, the weather is rather cold and even though some of the snow has melted away, it's still a fair bit cold out there. Oooh.

I therefore spent a bit of time wrapping the final Christmas present that arrived today, and I can package that and send it off to its recipient tomorrow in good time for the Christmas post, so that's good. I then turned my attention to Band Hero, seeing as I'd rented it from Tesco DVD Rental. I played through some of the tracks in career mode so I could unlock the songs and work through the career, even attempting some of the bonus challenges along the way. One of them was to pick any song and get a 4x mulitiplier for a set amount of time, and over 180 seconds meant three stars on top of the maximum six for the song. I picked one of the licenced transfers from Guitar Hero World Tour (which worked after I'd initially licenced it for Guitar Hero 5 ages ago, good eh?) and so went to Wings' "Band on the Run". Imagine my joy as I nailed it on medium guitar 100% completely FC, without missing a single note whatsoever. Excellent or what, eh? Tune of the day it has to be.

I tried a few others too and some of the later ones weren't that easy - such as KT Tunstall's "The Black Horse and The Cherry Tree", and the likes of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones do their stuff later on. What I did find pretty hard though was getting the timing right on the latter - it seemed a little irregular in terms of the note and chord sequences, but I'm sure I'd master it after a few goes. I did even see if I could try to get the third star on bass for the Jackson 5's "ABC" as 100% FC on medium didn't cut it. So, for the first time ever, I tried a tune on hard. And I got through it, not perfect, only four stars, but I did it. Sadly as I needed a 480+ consecutive note streak and I managed about 90 at best, I didn't get the challenge at all. Still, me doing a tune on hard - oh yeah. And with the open notes to boot, too. Rock!

Thursday 17th December - Meal And Snow

It was a pretty tough day at work and I was glad to be heading home later, but I knew that it would take some time. Around 3.30pm we all looked out of the office window and saw that there were some snowflakes in the air, and by the time it was time to head home, the outside was covered in a layer of white. It meant that of course it was a treacherous walk to the bus stop and that inevitably the transport would be delayed getting home. The roads did at least look clear though so it meant that although delayed, it wasn't any longer to get back, which was a relief.

I then got myself showered and changed and all ready to head out to the city centre to meet up with The Angel On The Tree and have a nice evening meal out. We were meeting with her friend and partner, and as we've been out with them before we normally have a great time, and so it proved tonight. We met up in Velvet, and had a drink in the bar above before heading downstairs to the restuarant. Conversation flowed and inevitably the conversation turned to music, especially as there was a selection of tunes playing in the background which added to the ambience. We mentioned about the Paul Weller gig and how good it was, and they'd been to see ABC at the Bridgewater Hall and said it was completely amazing, hurrah!

We had a very nice meal - I had the gammon steak and followed that up with a lemon tart, all delicious and well presented too. It was also a very warm atmosphere as we put the world to rights on several things, and we looked outside as the snow was falling again. We then headed out and were going to go to Kro for a beer, but it looked rather busy. We did notice all the snow slide in Piccadilly Gardens and as one of us had their über-Canon 5D camera with them and with fisheye lens, we had plenty of fun doing shots where it looked like our hands were picking up the star in the snow slide decor - a clever bit of fun there.

Anyway, it was getting rather full of snow and so we headed to the relative warmth of The Northern bar in the Northern Quarter, where although they had no cask ale, they did at least have some Abbot Ale in bottles, so plumped for that. It was plenty of chatter here too and presents swapped - it was very nice of The Angel's friends to get us both a little something and we'd got them something ace too. Of course we're not going to open it till Christmas but it'll be nice to open the present and see what surprises lay in store.

We headed towards the bus stops and said our relative goodbyes, it felt sad doing so actually. The night went really quickly and her friend and partner are both lovely people indeed - makes you feel all so warm inside. We headed back to her place and it was a bit of fun as we almost skidded homeward from getting off the bus - the snow had turned to ice in places and it was getting a little on the slippery side to say the least. It did at least mean though that we were able to get in the warm pretty quickly and snuggle up. As for tune of the day well as we were discussing Florence and the Machine, their cover version of a song as a single came up, and I remembered what it was - so the original version of "You've Got The Love" by Candi Staton gets it, cos it has much more feeling.

Wednesday 16th December - Almost There

I knew that this week at work would be rather manic to say the least, and so it's proved today. It's just been all hell breaking loose everywhere and to be honest it's also been a case of seeing what happens too, as we're really at the front line all week long. I don't particularly like that sometimes but we know that it's got to be done and that it's a pretty tough week for everyone that's got stuff to do. One thing that we were pretty relieved about was that our new über printer crashed today, and with plenty of jobs in its hard disk, we were worried it wouldn't keep them safe - but it did, and carried on when we restarted. How fab is that eh?

It was a pretty chilly evening when I left the office and headed home via Tesco to get a couple of bits for when we're all watching the football a bit later on. What was good was that a lot of people in there were getting little bits, so it enabled me to stroll through the aisles and find what I was after. It was also a case of me picking up a little something for one of the neighbours as well, as the two houses next to mine are as usually as charitable as mine and get presents for each other, and I had some ideas and got them sorted too.

In the meantime, my own tree is doing rather well - it's not dropping that much and indeed having it watered regularly is making a difference to say the least, so that's rather good isn't it? I think that it's nice to have a real tree and I was glad that The Angel On The Tree encouraged me to get one. The good news is that the local council here regularly recycle them in the New Year as well, so you can then recycle it and it can be used as paper and so on, so at least I can sleep better knowing that it's going to be re-used, always a plus point that.

Tune of the day is "World Painted Blood" by Slayer, the title track of their new album. It's just really hard and rocking and yet melodic all at the same time, and at an epic six minutes really does rock big time. What's really good about it is that it's arranged in such a way that there's various parts to the tune and definite changes in mood throughout. It also shows that you don't necessarily have to scream and shout your way through a track but show passion and control - so well done them!

Tuesday 15th December - Feeling All Christmas Shoppingy

After work I headed into the city centre and had a quick stroll around the Christmas market in Albert Square to pass some time away. As it was, some of the stalls were busy advertising the fact that for some of them it was their last day on the market and it was attempting to be an incentive to get stuff. As I had a Secret Santa present at work to buy for, I had a stroll around and got some ideas together in my head, before heading towards Boots and getting some expectorant for my coughing and spluttering. It feels quite tight and catarrhy, so was nice to have someone really lovely point out a good one for me that'd do the job - and later on it seemed to be good.

I then went to meet The Angel On The Tree after she finished work. She was on her late shift today, which meant that as it was pay day (for us both!) she had time to head to the garden centre near to her and pick up a real tree. She was a bit worried it might have fallen over by the time that she got home, but that turned out to be okay when we headed to hers a bit later on. Anyway, we had a good look around all the Christmas markets in Albert Square, Brazennose Street, St Anne's Square and all the way up to where Marks and Spencer is, and between that we headed in Heal's as well (trying to be posh but sort of failing, hehe) and then through the Arndale as well.

Thankfully we did accomplish our respective missions: she got presents for friends that we'll be heading out with on Thursday night, and I got the secret santa sorted. I also managed to get a couple of blank Christmas cards for when I do my rounds and visit the cemeteries on Christmas Eve, so I can pay my respects to those of us not here anymore. Almost every single card had "Merry Christmas" on it, which is just not what I wanted - a blank one with a nice Winter or Christmas scene with me then being able to write my own verse sounded much better to be honest. And I found exactly what I wanted too, so that was good.

Later on we headed to Table Table for some well earned tea, and I had a rather nice gammon steak whilst she had an excellent lamb burger, so that filled us all up rather nicely it has to be said. It was nice to sit and relax and chatter after wading through the streets of the city, and headed back to hers later to decorate her tree and put all the lights on it. It did look rather lovely I have to admit, and much bigger than my tree too. But I know that she likes to really go to town on the tree, and full of lovely silver baubles, decorations and a little angel on the top which actually looks quite classy in the way it's made. And who am I to begrudge that eh?

Tune of the day is, without question, Rage Against The Machine's "Killing In The Name". Come on people, you know it makes sense to make this Christmas Number One, it would be a right kick up Simon Cowell's arrogant backside and giving the charts back to us - the people that matter, the people who actually like music. Having been forcefed endless newspaper banter and gossip on the X-Factor for months and literally everything being about it, isn't it great that plenty of us are all up for a bit of anarchy at the same time? I'm sure John Lydon would approve as the original anarchist!

Monday 14th December - The (Not So) Beautiful People

I had a rather manic day at work, as I knew it would be. The last week of the first term is always pretty mental and with many deadlines looming large, it was a case of being able to keep the head and be able to be nice to everyone and assist them out. When there's plenty of people vying for your attention, it can be difficult I reckon to try and please everyone, but I do what I can in the time and space allowed. I also realised that time goes by so quick when you're busy so I made myself some space in my late lunch break and just took myself to the nearest café to relax for a few minutes, just to put things into perspective.

After having some tea, it was time to rock out on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits in preparation for tonight's gig at Academy 1. I thought some of the classics needed a good go, so of course that game has Rage Against The Machine's "Killing in the Name" (of course I did it) as well as Extreme's "Play With Me", "Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" and Slayer's "Raining Blood" which is tune of the day purely because it was chucking it down tonight and I felt like it was somehow appropriate with the storm effects at the end of that one. And because I can nail it 100% on expert on vocals, although on guitar, a completely different matter.

My friend picked me up and it was off to Academy 1 to see Marilyn Manson. The rain was lashing down so we stayed in his car till it stopped a bit and then headed in, and still in good time for the support act, Esteorica (official site) (myspace) who weren't too bad, but not great either. Their best track was "Tomorrow I Don't Remember" which is basically about being drunk and not necessarily knowing what went on the night before, and their anthem about how the music industry does nothing to help them, "Don't Rely on Anyone". They rocked pretty hard and sometimes it was a case of the lead singer trying a little too hard to show off, but it was more than passable.

On came Marilyn Manson (official site) (myspace) and I have to say, I was very underwhelmed but also disappointed by proceedings, allow me to explain why. It wasn't the choice of songs - they were fine, a rollocking version of "Rock Is Dead", a nice and nifty version of "Sweet Dreams" and a full on sing along with the fans on "The Beautiful People" at the end with stuff off the new album all in between, and in terms of band performance they were all there giving it some, fine. What it lacked though was a coherent sound - mainly due to the fault of the sound engineer, it has to be said. Cranking it up to 12 does not a good mix make, to be honest.

I did feel as well that it was a case of all the on stage theatrics slightly detracting from the performance itself - when the band were rocking, it was fine, but at times Manson himself seemed a little self-indulgent, throwing away microphones and mic stands like a child having a strop, and at one point mimicking drug taking, so it seemed, just before The Dope Show. That I must admit really got my goat. If you're going to parody yourself and your past, a better subject might have been better to do. Had I been on my own I'd have been tempted to walk out at that point to be quite honest.

Like I said, more concentration on the performance, less on the self-indulgence, and I'd have enjoyed it a lot more than I did do. It's a shame because the basics are there - a crowd that'll sing to your every word and who'll mosh like mental to the tunes, and they are well-written musically. I just felt a huge sense of disappointment and I must admit I'm tempted to flog the albums I have of his on eBay. It's not often I come back from a gig and don't feel like I got my money's worth, but £26 a ticket was a bit steep to be honest for what we got - not least a 1 hour 20 minute or so set, which was about 10-15 minutes too short. Ah well, just know not to go next time, eh?

Sunday 13th December - Lazy Sunday Afternoon With The Cheshire Set

I felt very very tired this morning, and indeed last night when I arrived back from Mum's. So much so that I slept and slept, and when I did wake up, I wanted to stay in bed and just snuggle up under the covers for ages. I did make us breakfast earlier on, but then I just stayed there relaxed, and I think to be honest I needed the sleep to recharge the batteries somewhat. It felt good therefore to eventually get up, get showered and think about what we could do for the afternoon. I could have stayed in but that might have been not too great, so with the weather being half decent we decided to head out.

At first we thought that going to Dunham Massey would be nice, but as we headed down the M56, I suggested to The Milk In My Latte that we could head for Knutsford and have a little look around in a leisurely Sunday afternoon. She agreed, and we soon headed via the A556 towards Mere, then the A5034/A50 to Knutsford itself. It looked relatively quiet and with parking free in the town centre on a Sunday, we were going to head to the Mallard Tea Rooms place to get a nice cuppa and a slice of cake. Well, I should say, we were - but the place was closed and we found out later on it was one of a few businesses to close in the last few months. A real shame as we loved it in there when we went in May after the Knutsford May Day parade.

So with nice latte in Costa instead along with raspberry and almond cake, we recharged and then headed along the shopping streets. Most of the shops were normally shut on a Sunday but some had decided to open for the Christmas period, and all nice little gift shops too. We did notice one shop which had a branch in Ramsbottom and had opened here, so good to see business doing well in there and a lot of the other gift-type shops too. What we also noticed was how many estate agents there were but also lots of art shops. One of them had plenty of Jack Vettriano prints (The Milk is a bit of a fan you see) and lots of the shops had quirky things too like spotted teapots, stuff like that.

It was a nice afternoon out and we headed home and whilst I was making us a nice chorizo sausage pasta bake along with some stonebaked garlic bread for tea, we had a nice game of Scrabble whilst listening to the Ally McBeal Christmas album. Actually, to get me in the mood for the festivities, it felt quite cosy with the two of us there by the warm fire and with the tree on - yaay. Tune of the day is going to be Macy Gray's version of "Winter Wonderland" that's on there - Marks and Spencer used it last year on their Christmas adverts and it quite fits somehow.

She left later to go home and watch X Factor (more fool her, ha!) whilst I settled to watch BBC Sports Personality of the Year. I was not very happy with what the public decided though - I mean Ryan Giggs the winner? Don't get me wrong, he's a good footballer and I know that him getting PFA Footballer of the Year was well deserved, but Man U didn't win the Champions League, and for that reason I wouldn't have given him the winner's award. Maybe everyone thought that Jenson Button was such an overwhelming favourite that they didn't have to vote for him? In any case, an absolute travesty, and with that and the Strictly voting according to my friend being biased and much more of a personality not a dancing contest, it makes you wonder whether in fact trusting the public with a phone vote is a good thing or not!

Saturday 12th December - Come Rehearse Dine With Me

Myself and The Milk In My Latte had been invited over by my Mum this evening for dinner, along with my brother and his girlfriend. I wasn't going to say no to that because my Mum always makes lovely food, and it'd also be nice to see everyone and have a bit of a catch up as well. It also meant that I didn't have to cook for the evening, not that I mind cooking if it's a nice meal for the two of us, but it's just a bit easier on the effort and on the wallet having to buy stuff in myself, so it's a win win situation really, not least as I also got a nice bottle of wine for the evening for not that much expense either, bonus!

Before all that I needed to head into the city centre for a couple of things - first to the lovely people in the Northern Cutter to get my hair well and truly sorted out - it was far too thick and annoying and now it looks much better, neater and straighter. I had got the staff in there a little pressie for Christmas too - as they do such a lovely job and it's something I appreciate lots. After that it was off to get a birthday present and also some Christmas cards for some of my friends and Mum - and it was difficult to get a really nice one and wade through many of the tat cards but also the queues of people, even at 11am. Of course I was out of there by noon as I just can't hack it when the centre's too busy - way too much hassle for me personally.

I got home and spent a leisurely afternoon sorting out the house, doing plenty of washing and ironing, and then tuning in to the horse racing and Gilette Soccer Saturday as I kept an eye on Man City. Good job I did as you couldn't stop for a minute without something happening. Must admit I was rather disappointed with a 3-3 draw at Bolton, especially as we'd come back from a goal down three times and even with ten men after Craig Bellamy was wrongly sent off for supposed diving which was nothing of the kind - it changed the game and we might have won if not for that appalling decision. Meh.

Anyway, The Milk came over and we spent a bit of time checking out a previous episode of Eggheads via BBC iPlayer on the Wii, as it was sporting legends against them. They did reasonably okay but in the end the Eggheads were too clever - nice team though when you have Matthew Pinsent, Ade Ayepitan, Sharron Davies, Roger Black and Mark Foster all on there who are all pretty clever people in their own right. It was good to see them all having a crack at it and showing that it's not just about sporting excellence out there, and that made the time go well before we got changed and headed to Mum's.

It was a lovely evening all told - we had the vegetable soup for starters, a main of chicken wrapped in bacon with potatoes and vegetables in a creamy sauce, with either a roulade or cheesecake for dessert. I had the cheesecake and it was utterly fab. The wine we brought went down well and had plenty of chatter in the front room before heading homewards pretty late on. What was nice that it was good to see my brother and girlfriend and spend a bit of time chatting with them about all sorts, and certainly The Milk is always lovely company. She looked gorgeous in these satiny trousers and a really nice turquoise top, and that made me feel rather proud indeed that she looked so lovely. How lucky am I? Very, very lucky.

As for tune of the day no contest - it has to be Rage Against The Machine's "Killing in the Name". With all the hype surrounding the X Factor final, it was nice to be able to play the possible competition for the number one at Christmas full blast, and even played it on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits so I could sing along to the vocals and nail it 100% on expert - must remember to try that again and upload it, could well be perfect timing for next week I reckon. Must remember too to keep the swearing in...

Friday 11th December - Two Weeks To Go

It's two weeks till Christmas, and I do feel pretty ready now for all the festivities that'll be taking place. I sorted out the last of my packages to be sent in the post (and as it's to my friend in Ulverston, it also contains his present as well which I hope that he'll like a lot - along with some other nice goodies i there. I'll just take it to the post office tomorrow morning and get it sent via recorded delivery so he'll be able to enjoy the contents in the next week or so. It's a nice feeling getting all the presents and everything posted off to people far flung away - makes a lot of sense for me to do so now and then write all the cards for everyone that lives locally.

Spent the evening in having a quiet one - first of all watching the video (yes, video!) I have of the 1982 F1 season. It's quite a dramatic season all told that one, especially as there were strikes, boycotts of races, exciting racing in between and sadly driver deaths and severe injuries - Didier Pironi was lucky to get away with his life at Hockenheim, but Riccardo Paletti died on the grid in Canada (he shunted Pironi's stationary Ferrari at 100mph and the car set on fire) and of course Gilles Villeneuve was killed in practice at Zolder in Belgium, where he went one way to avoid a slower car during practice but both went the same way, and the crash that happened wasn't pretty to say the least. Clive James does an excellent job with the narration, knowing when to be dry and witty and when to be serious.

I then spent some time on a fair few Guitar Hero games, and not just 5. I did have a quick blast of that earlier in the evening but then turned my attention to Guitar Hero Metallica as I tried out some of the songs on medium - I did Enter Sandman and For Whom The Bell Tolls by them, and also Hell Bent For Leather by Judas Priest and The Black River by The Sword, which I was pretty pleased to nail five stars on that one - so tune of the day that's got to be. Guitar Hero 3 I remembered wasn't that easy a game anyway, and I managed to get through quite a few of the earlier tracks with five stars, notably Sunshine of Your Love by Cream, and then in quickplay I tried Raining Blood by Slayer. Much trickier than you'd think, let me tell you, and a lot of people say it's the hardest song in the game.

It was then a case of catching up on some emails and also having a good look at some of the video clips that the BBC have put up in preparation for their 2010 Vancouver Olympics coverage. It does look like it's going to be a good one, but some of the classic moments are well worth a watch. The snowboard cross final from 2006 was classic, and to see Colin Jackson give his take on it to say "I remember how mental the commentator was going" says it all - imagine: you're leading easily and most of the others have crashed out, you're a mere 100 metres from the finish and go for a big air almost showing off, then you fall... oops! Serves her right, I'm afraid!

Thursday 10th December - A Home Is An Island

It was a pretty busy day at work today and I was glad to be heading homewards later on. I stopped by one of the Post Offices on the way home to make sure I got plenty of large letter and normal first class stamps so I could post some Christmas cards but also post some parcels and packages off to the masses as well. I had most of them already done so once I got home it was just a case of printing off some address labels and then making sure it was all shipshape before getting to the post box just before 5.30pm to make sure all was well.

I then made something for tea (namely some chicken and some chips, basic but essential) and sat back and relaxed for a bit, even taking in some Guitar Hero 5 along the way. I'm starting to get the hang of medium, although some of the songs are still pretty difficult in parts to do for me. I am in awe of those who can just 100% every song on expert as if it was just done so casually - for me to get 100% on medium is some achievement to manage on any song, let me tell you. I did though feel quite pleased with myself that I managed to get a pretty impressive five stars on Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire" (make it tune of the day) so that was good.

It was nice to see The Lights On My Tree later on and have a good chatter about all sorts. It's always good to chat and to be able to spend some quality time together, and indeed we were able to even take a break and watch the BBC Three documentary I recorded from the night before about Alesha Dixon and her research on how those children without a dad sometimes want to find their fathers and what it's like not to have one. One thing that touched me was that one woman who had been wanting to find her dad for eight years got some assistance, and a specialist found lots of family members, and even located where her dad was - and that he'd been looking for her for the last two years. It was a really touching moment because you could tell how much it meant and how lucky she was - it's not all like that, methinks.

Later on we also saw a thing that had been on ITV before where Martin Clunes went around the islands of Britain. It was good to see him go around Guernsey (looks lovely, want to go) as well as Sark, up till recently the last feudal state in Europe along with its own laws and a spectacular link between the two parts of the island, amazing stuff, and then him heading over to St Michael's Mount and having lunch with the people who live there, seeing parts of the house that you don't normally see when you head over there, before ending up on Bishops Rock lighthouse to the very south west of the country, even past all the lovely Channel Islands. Rather nice all round, and just makes me want to head back to Cornwall rather soon...

Wednesday 9th December - Assertive Me

I was quite assertive this morning when I arrived at work. I had arrived fairly early and knew that I had some time to be able to relax before a tough day at the office, and so headed to get a nice bacon sandwich and some coffee for breakfast. One place I tried didn't open till 9am (how useless is that eh?) but the other next door was open and so I headed in there and got myself a nice bacon and egg barm, freshly made too, along a nice cup of coffee just how I like it, so that worked out rather well in the end to be honest. It set me up for also being assertive about a couple of things I didn't agree with in the office.

During the day we also had a visit from a few people over in Leeds, who wanted to have a look at our large scale printer and how the printer room worked along with the new massive printer which we were able to demonstrate to them as well. They were a nice bunch to get along with and understood the complexities of such a setup along with how it all worked in terms of what resolution could be sent - so much mutual respect to them for taking the time out to come over. As they're changing print charging systems, we may have to head over and see what their remit is for it and how it all works.

Got home and decided, seeing as it arrived yesterday from Tesco DVD Rental, that playing Rock Band 2 would be a good idea seeing as it finally got a UK release a few weeks ago. Anyway, upon playing, there wasn't that many songs open to be able to be played, and the only way that it seems that you can get to the hard ones is to play career mode and go through the songs and also take on the "setlists" in which case can be completely random. I'm not sure if I like that idea to be honest - playing the song to gain stars, fans and money should be enough to have to do once without going over the top and having to do a 7 song list - with no pause mode I should add - without failing once. It seems not so well tiered.

But at least the Guitar Hero Les Paul white Wii guitar works on Rock Band 2 as well, so that was good - and playing through straight into medium mode did bring its rewards - I was able to 100% Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" as well as nail pretty well Squeeze's "Cool For Cats" too (make that one tune of the day as it's a classic of its genre). It's a pretty hit and miss set list thus far but the really hard and heavy stuff such as Judas Priest's "Painkiller" is near the end of the game, which means I'm really going to have to knuckle down and try my hardest to get through it as best I can.

Tuesday 8th December - Trans Tuesday Express

After a hard day at work the last thing I really wanted to do was to face the cold weather, but I had a quandry. I purchased the Christmas card for The Sweetener in My Coffee last night, and I'd found a really nice one for her which did the business. However, when I got home inside all the sellophane wrap was the lovely card, but no envelope. Duh me, eh? Anyway, a quick visit to one of the local shops and I was able to find just the right size envelope that I wanted, and so with that purchased I could write out the card and then be able to seal the envelope in good time, so that as a relief, let me tell you.

I had The Sweetener come over later and we caught up on our respective days and how all that was going, and I started to put our evening meal on. I did us some pasta with chicken and mushrooms in it, along with a nice pasta sauce and a garlic ciabatta to share alongside it, which did what I wanted it to do - be tasty and all nice. I went a bit enthusiastic to try and do the creme brulee well done for The Sweetener, and did blacken the sugar a bit on top but managed to keep the rest of it relatively intact, which worked well, and by all accounts it did taste nice so that was pleasurable.

It was also nice to play Scrabble with some Kraftwerk on in the background and it certainly reminded me of when we went to see them in July at Manchester Velodrome and how awesome that gig was (it was for me, definitely!). What we both enjoyed was being able to remind ourselves and listen to the likes of "Showroom Dummies" and the title track to "Trans Europe Express" (make that tune of the day) as well, and concentrate on playing some good moves too along the way. I had three moves that scored 45, 43 and 42 respectively, so I was pretty pleased with that as it helped me along to a good score. What also was good was that we both pulled off some useful five and six letter words in there, yaay us.

We ended the evening catching up with the predictions on the Wii Everybody Votes Channel before having a quick blast of Wii Play, as she wanted to try and do her best on the Find Mii thing. She didn't beat that but set her own personal best in the charge! game and also almost equalled the score she set in the pool game as well, 1-9 in the least number of shots. I think my record is six shots for all nine (obviously hitting in multiples occasionally) which worked out pretty well.

Monday 7th December - In Thought

I decided today that I was going to evaluate some of the music that I'd purchased over the last year and start to think about what would be contenders for singles and albums of the year for my forthcoming review of the year (which will of course be available pretty soon to view). What was difficult was deciding not just what I'd bought this year that was actually released this year, but also what gigs I'd been to and what I really enjoyed live. I mean for example last Wednesday's Paul Weller gig was very good and I know for The Sweetener In My Coffee it was probably her favourite gig of the year (excellent view, atmosphere and music) but would it be the same for me?

I spent a fair chunk of time re-evaluating albums, so started off with MJ Hibbett and the Validators' "Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez". I really like this album still and the album opener "Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid" has a great line in there of course of "Hey there, emo boy, give us all a smile" which I'm sure we could all agree with in terms of its sentiments. I also played Moby's "Wait For Me" which actually does grow on each and every listen. The only down side I can see is that he's getting a little too formulaic for my liking in terms of song structure and what he does with them to a point - even though there are some good songs on there.

I also played plenty of single tracks that I'd either paid for to download (yes, paid for!) or were made freely available by the artist. This included the likes of Rammstein's rather rude single "Pussy" (and the video is even more rude) and Slayer's title track to their "World Painted Blood" album which might be a definite buy if I haven't got it by Christmas I reckon - all I've heard of it either online or in reviews have been favourable. Just a shame that their gig was cancelled and rescheduled for March but I'm sure I will be doing some serious backside kicking when I go then or just enjoy the whole thing anyway.

However tune of the day is one of the Kristin Hersh tracks that she's distributed via her CASH Music project, and it's the rather intense "Flooding". Hearing it live when she was on tour was a very nice thing to do and it sounded rather haunting then, but when recorded in the studio with a piano, and add to the whole emotion of her miscarriaging a week before the recording, and you can positively feel the tears coming out as she performs it. It's very moving and very emotional all at once.

Sunday 6th December - Oh, Christmas Tree

I stayed over at The Lights On My Tree's place last night, and after spending the rest of the evening with my friends, seeing Match of the Day before they headed home and we headed to sleep, it was a case of getting up when we felt like it this morning, as we both felt rather tired after a long week. The sleep did me good especially as I'd been feeling a little headachey and all that, and I wanted to really have a nice time today and be leisurely(ish). We thought that as we did last year, a visit to the Christmas Markets in Ramsbottom would be a good idea and maybe even pick up a tree later.

First stop was Matalan near The Lights' place though. I decided that if I wanted to get a real tree this year, then I needed some new baubles and decorations, and with three for two I got some silver baubles, silver snowflakes and also some silver tinsel which worked out pretty good for the price. This at least meant I could refresh the tree nicely and also meant that it would look clean and classy too (well that was the plan). Then it was along the motorway and down the M66, then via the A56 to Ramsbottom, where the Christmas Market was in full flow along with the Santa Special train along the East Lancashire Railway.

We had a look around the market stalls and saw that they were really nice, full of local produce and people selling their individual wares. I thought it really had the traditions of a village market and all in a nice compact section of one of the main streets, cordoned off specially. It was soon time for the walk about nativity outside one of the churches, which they did last year. This year whilst keeping with the traditional story, they added some nice contemporary touches which certainly had us all smiling, and even had a real life donkey from the local Donkey Sanctuary as well, which all the kids fussed over later too.

That was all lovely, and I spotted fellow Flickrite Len_Scapov (you can work out the pun there) being official photographer. Last year he was playing guitar and his wife (also on Flickr as Wannasonic) was in the choir. This year she was still singing in the choir and certainly that choir had some good voices too, made it feel all nice and Christmassy, even doing "When a Child Is Born" and "Mary's Boy Child" for good measure (see what I mean about contemporary now). After we'd munched some chips from a local takeaway, it was good to chat to them both and see what their plans for Christmas were, along with catching up a bit. It was lovely to see them as well.

Later on we headed out of Ramsbottom and to Summerseat Garden Centre, where we'd got The Lights' tree last year. After having a wander round, we worked out that if we got a tree at a certain height and width, we could stand it in the tree stand (which I'd need to get) and then place that on my small IKEA Lack side table, it'd work out pretty much perfect. I had to find the right tree and The Lights pointed out a nice one, so that was all sorted and I paid for the stand as well, then you have to ring a bell to collect the tree, which had all been netted up so easier to transport.

We headed back to mine, and we got the tree in its stand and on the side table, and already I could see it was looking the part. I got out the tree lights with the stars in that I'd had for years, and - they failed. Nothing was working. I remembered that the pound shop near me was still open and they had the traditional tree lights and for not that much dosh either, so one pack of them and they looked pretty good on the tree. We then spent some time putting on the baubles, the snowflakes and some tinsel on the bottom and to cover the base a bit, and switched the lights on. It looked the part, a real tree and everything! Go me eh?

Later on I made us tea whilst The Lights and I also watched the BBC 4 drama about Margot Fonteyn, which we had recorded the other day. I recorded it from BBC HD, so was nice to have on the full surround experience and really be engrossed. Turns out that The Lights was a bit of a ballet fan back in her youth, so nice for her to see the drama and indeed for us both to appreciate the history and also the trauma that she had in her life. The season of those dramas has been impressive and well worth the time and effort. Tune of the day for me has to be "We Are The Champions" by Queen. After rocking out on it on Guitar Hero 5 this evening, it also was that feeling that I had when we got the tree up - feeling on top of the world and getting much more into the Christmas spirit. Hurrah!

Saturday 5th December - Who Are Ya, Chelski?

I must admit that I wasn't looking forward to going to see Manchester City today. After seven draws on the bounce the last team that you wanted to see play against are Chelsea, especially as they are running away with the challenge for the Premier League title - five points ahead of Man U at the start of the day's fixtures. Of course if Man U won they could claw it back to do (which they did, 4-0 at West Ham) but what of City? Could they indeed stop drawing and if so, how would it all pan out? Those were questions for later in the day that I could ponder.

After having a relaxing morning and indeed one of my Christmas presents arriving in the post, I headed first to Iceland to do some food shopping and then after some lunch off into the city centre, to get the last of the Christmas presents. In the end I spotted a good deal and got three things from one place, because it was simple to do, and I also got money off for doing so, and on top of all that meant I only needed to visit there and HMV before I headed right out of the city centre and back home. Honestly, all city centres at Christmas time on a Saturday are just mental places, there's way too many people, the queues are ghastly and everyone's trying to get the same things (or so it seems). Some shops are struggling and having to offer 20-25% off right now just to get punters through the doors - it's a surreal sight.

My friend picked me up later in the afternoon and it was soon off to the City of Manchester Stadium, stopping at The Lights On My Tree's place on the way for a well earned cuppa. My friend's wife spent some time with The Lights whilst us blokes headed off to the football, and all the talk between us before the game was "what can we do to win?" and "will we lose by x amount of goals?". I really had a feeling that it was going to be a tough evening especially as the game was being shown live on ESPN, and I always worry about City when they're on the telly in that they always seem to let the side down somewhat.

The game was almost at kick off time when the lights in the stadium dimmed, the scoreboard displayed a Blue Moon with the words to said song on the advertising banners, and the City fans belted it out in true fashion. It certainly felt like it cranked the atmosphere up a notch as the teams were ready to come out, and the lights came on and we were all ready. Well, almost. City were asleep in the first ten minutes or so, and when a shot was driven in after an initial first cracking save by Shay Given, it was another save which then rebounded off Emmanuel Adebayor on the line off his back and into the net to make it 1-0 to them with only nine minutes gone.

I was worried that'd be the start of a collapse, but Nigel de Jong started winning some real crunching tackles in midfield and that started to give the team some belief, and soon enough the likes of Kolo Toure at the back along with the impressive Wayne Bridge as left back. Once de Jong got stuck in, winning all tackles cleanly and nullifying the midfield threat, everyone started to believe, we got better and after a couple of close calls got the equaliser we so well deserved. The corner came over, was headed out, Wright-Phillips blasted a shot in which bounced off Micah Richards and headed towards Adebayor, and he doesn't miss those, excellent low finish for 1-1. The Chelski players were whinging that Micah had handled it, but he was trying to get hands out of the way of the ball anyway, and it was ball to arm, not the other way around.

So half time and 1-1, belief around us we could do it, and in the second half we kept the work rate going and worked our socks off. de Jong was an easy decision for Man of the Match for me, he was everywhere and ran himself to death with tackle after tackle. Adebayor even got stuck in a bit, and Carlos Tevez was ever the terrier, and it was Ricardo Carvalho's follow through after a clearance, where replays showed he clearly intentionally ran his boot into Tevez's back (I was a bit doubtful at first) and the chance was ours, with Tevez scoring low and hard with an excellent free kick. It was awesome stuff.

We clung on a bit near the end and with five minutes left sub Nedum Onouha fouled Didier Drogba and although at first I thought he got the ball, looking at it later proved it was to be fair a penalty. I was hoping Shay Given could keep out Frank Lampard's penalty, and he guessed right and saved it - and the crowd went mental, me included. We kept at it and Tevez could have spotted Wright-Phillips to make it 3-1, but no matter. It was an epic win for City and even if it meant that Man U were now two points behind them, the win meant a heck of a lot to us as City fans. I went mental, and tune of the day is Supra's version of "Blue Moon" and deservedly so, in my view. Oh City, we love you!

Friday 4th December - Hang On, Is That Norris From Corrie?

After a day at work where I made progress, sorted out a problem with the multifunction printer with one of our technical staff and finally got it working, made amendments to one of the PCs in one of the rooms and then spent the afternoon sorting out an Excel spreadsheet and also debating some of the stuff from the previous management meeting (where we found out that one of our senior members of staff is now leaving) it was then time to head out for the evening along with The Lights On My Tree, who very kindly picked me up from work to save me the time and hassle in getting to her place.

We soon headed out of Manchester and through the ways that she knows to avoid the peak time traffic, it was along the M66 past Bury and towards Rawtenstall, and then over the tops on the B6232 towards Blackburn, where a service was being held at Blackburn Cathedral for the "Lights of Love" service that they were having. The Lights' sister asked us to come along, and it's for a very good cause - something their family really cares about and I for one see that as a duty of a partner to be there and join the family if needed for moments like this. Our plan was to head there early, have something for tea and then go to the service. In fact, she did really well with the traffic and we were in Blackburn and parked up before 6pm, so we headed to Pizza Hut and had two courses each. I had these really nice large stuffed mushrooms to start and an individual meat feast for main, which filled the hole nicely.

We then met up with The Lights' sister and her children, and we headed under Blackburn railway station and past the bus station to the cathedral itself. It looked very modern inside with the art paintings and indeed with a couple of the sculptures in there but also retained very much the traditions of a church as well. I'm not a religious person at all, but I could see that for those who come regular, it must be a nice place to go and do the Sunday morning worship. We found a space for us all to sit and be able to be together whilst listening to the readings, some of the carol singing and of course sing if required.

It was a lovely service, really, plenty of Christmas carols, and some of the soloists from the singers (who were actually from a church not too far from me!) really was tough to be able to contemplate singing, never mind they did it. It reminded me of when I was in a choir many many years ago and had to sing the likes of "In The Bleak Mid-Winter" and of course "Silent Night" too. They had guest readers, one from BBC Radio Lancashire and also a mother and daughter who were related to the cause, and the poem they read was rather lovely and full of humour.

Later on, I spotted in the programme that a certain Malcolm Hebden was also present to do a reading - and he did "Twas the Night Before Christmas". For those of you who don't know, he plays Norris in Coronation Street so for the cause to be able to have him give up some of his own time to do his bit was rather nice. I kept thinking "I wonder if he's telling Rita all this in the Kabin?" but admiring his delivery of the reading, just read it naturally himself and was very clear and concise with it all - that made for an evening of warmth with everyone a glow with it all.

As we headed back to mine later I reflected on the evening and it made me feel all rather humble to be honest. There's plenty of people much worse off than me and I think when you see first hand just how many people were there and who cared as much as The Lights and her family, it means a heck of a lot. In fact, I'll give "Silent Night" tune of the day as it all felt rather poignant and beautiful as the stillness of the evening inside and the candles being lit all felt rather moving.

Thursday 3rd December - Rock Mode

It was a rainy day as I left to head to work this morning and really wished I'd have had the rest of the week off, but that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. I had plenty to do at work and the first thing I did was to set off imaging a new laptop and so I could get all that ready and extract the data off the other one, once I'd sussed out how to remove the hard drive for easy replacement mode. It wasn't bad at all and I set to work on that, but what I didn't realise was that one job this afternoon would take so much time, namely a problem with a multifunction printer that wouldn't seem to scan for some reason and claimed that the scanning software was completely missing, when it wasn't. I'm going to give it another go tomorrow but I'll see what I can find out.

I got home later and it was time to rock, as I'd not rocked out on Guitar Hero 5 for a while and decided that now was a good time to do so to be honest. I have started to play the guitar on medium for some of the songs, as I think I can master it now and have learnt how to use the pinky finger more to get that note right and play it on the blue one, so I'd see how I could go. It wasn't too bad and the other night I'd managed to 100% a song for the first time (namely Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People") and did pretty well tonight with a few numbers, and even managed the star power refill challenge with three stars on one song, wahey!

But what was best of all though was that I really felt that I could achieve, even getting through Extreme's "Play With Me", okay only three stars but I did it, and that was the main thing to be honest. I did do a ton better on Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and surprisingly most of all I really managed to nail "Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits too. But the achievement I was most proud of happened during the excellent "Sex On Fire" by Kings of Leon (make that tune of the day) as I got five stars on it, and that made my day. Hurrah for rock!

Wednesday 2nd December - The Changing Fog, Man!

It was a happy but tired me that woke up in the EasyHotel this morning as I headed out for some breakfast and felt rather upbeat. I was heading back to Manchester later that morning and then would be off out with The Music On My iPod later on which is always nice. In fact I had some time to kill, so got the 74 bus to Marble Arch and then had a look around some of the shops in Oxford Street and tempted myself with a few items but resisted. I also had a go of DJ Hero in HMV as well. I'm still not convinced about that game to be honest, even with thirty quid off. Guitar Hero I totally get because you can rock out and be in a band, but with DJ Hero scratching and spinning doesn't always seem to really want to cut it the same. Hmmm.

As the train left Euston to head back to Manchester, I wasn't feeling 100% and going backwards on the train wasn't too good. Maybe it was something that I ate, or a beer in the pub where I had tea not exactly being something I'd normally have and maybe something in there not agreeing with me? In any case it was being able to try and stay in control and even a cold drink wasn't doing anything to help. Between Stoke-on-Trent and Macclesfield I needed the loo, and not for the normal reasons. Thankfully I made it and didn't make any mess whatsoever, and flushed the loo afterwards so that it was all clean and tidy. I was a bit worried that the lack of fresh air wasn't doing me good, and was relieved to get off the train and head homewards.

I had a cold drink of water and just gave myself some time to relax a bit and open plenty of post that had arrived including a couple of Christmas presents too. I spent some time wrapping all those up and then getting some time with Countdown on the Wii that had arrived from Tesco DVD Rental. It was okay, I guess, and plenty of fun to play in the view that you had to play the word using the Wii Remote in thirty seconds or less. I wondered if it worked with a USB keyboard making entering of the words somewhat easier, especially if you wanted to think of different words in quick time. I did get plenty of seven letter words along the way and solved the numbers game nicely enough, so was all good fun to be honest but I could also see it being a cheapo game in a few months' time.

It was then time to head out into the city centre, and I did feel better with some paracetemol down me and my head clearing nicely (I had had a pounding headache this afternoon too, meh!) and from there on to the Man City shop to pick up a couple of items before heading then to The Music On My iPod's place, as she had been on her early shift and so finished work early. This meant we could have a little time at hers before heading out and towards Halifax, as we were seeing Paul Weller at the Victoria Theatre that evening. It was a fairly easy drive really for her, just to go down the A627(M) and then on to the M62 and get off at junction 24, taking the A629 towards Halifax from Ainley Top roundabout. In fact, we spotted the venue and a multistorey long stay car park, and when we checked it was 40p per hour but only up to 6pm after which it was free - so as we'd got there at 5.30pm, we paid the 40p and that was it - nicely done us!

We had a little wander around the town centre which was mostly shut for the day anyway, and then found a nice pub close to the venue where we could have something to munch on for tea. I had something relatively light and indeed had some mineral water to go with it, making sure I was flushing out the system nicely to be on the safe side, and did feel better for all that to be honest. I was so much more in the mood for rocking now and really hoped that for her sake Paul Weller was wonderful - sounds daft but when you build it up for someone you're almost heading for a fall and that wasn't what I wanted to see. And soon enough it was then time to head to the theatre, get our balcony seats (which were right in the middle looking straight at the stage, fab) and let rocking commence.

Well let's be brutally honest. The support band Twisted Wheel (official site) (myspace) were one of the worst bands I'd ever seen. Ever. Imagine if you will Oasis on a bad day being really bad. Then take three people who just want to have the same attitude and swagger but with only a modicum of talent, and a guitarist who thinks he can sing but ends up shouting everything out. Maybe it was the sound engineer who got their mixing wrong, but for whatever reason, they just didn't cut it for me, or for The Music, who was particularly scathing. Their web site is full of glowing reviews for the band - and they're from Manchester, but when Shaun Ryder says you're good, then you start worrying.

However, if you wanted to see a musician and band perform their craft with guile, skill and utmost affection, then Paul Weller (official site) (myspace) and the folks came on and showed those young upstarts how to put a cracking show on. In an almost two hour set, there was stuff from his forthcoming 2010 album, which all rocked nicely, a chunk of stuff from his most recent album "22 Dreams" including the title track, a much faster better of "Echoes Round The Sun" (tune of the day that one, really rocked nicely), "Black River" with lovely slide guitars from Steve Cradock (you know him, he used to be in Ocean Colour Scene), and a really good rocking version of "Push It Along" which reminded me of the BBC4 sessions we watched the other night, really got the crowd going.

He wasn't forgetting the old stuff either though, and a really nice warm version of "You Do Something To Me" ensued, along with near the end in the second encore a really warm acoustic mellow "Wild Wood" and cranking up the volume half way through for "Start" - yes, the Jam classic! He wasn't content at that either and ended it full blast with "The Changing Man", even a version of The Style Council's "Shout to the Top" as well thrown in, a nice rendition of "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You" along the way. In short, it was full on and full paced with everyone enjoying it lots, not least Paul himself as he, Steve, Andy Lewis on bass and Steve Pilgrim on drums, who really did get into it big style - the same live line up who'd been on the BBC4 sessions thing a while back. It went so fast, and seeing The Music's face light up so much showed me how much she loved it, and I didn't mind either. To be honest, it was a great example to all bands how you do a live show - no fancy stage effects or lights, just good old plain rocking. And I'll sort of excuse the sound man not mixing it properly - you need someone who doesn't just crank it up to 11 and thinks "that'll do" sort of attitude.

The journey back was a tad perilous though, as soon as we left Halifax it was foggy and as soon as we started to climb along the A629 and to the M62, it got worse, and by the time she started to head down the motorway visibility was a tad lacking, so we took it slowly and steadily as we headed along past the infamous farm and then once we got past the Summit junction 22, and down towards Rochdale, everything cleared. It was clear though that the weather had caused an accident or two, as we were diverted out of Halifax by a different route due to a police cordon. She did ever so well to keep her cool and be safe though, and by the time we arrived back at hers City had won 3-0 against Arsenal in the Carling Cup and now face Man U in the two legged semi. Ouch!! But a cracking night all round methinks.

Tuesday 1st December - Totally Acoustic Advent

Well I had a couple of days off work booked, and for a very good reason - I had two gigs in the space of two nights and in two different places, and lots of travelling involved. It's the way it works out sometimes but I know that these things tend to happen all together, or not at all, and in a good way it also means it keeps me out and about and in touch with "da kids" about music in general, well sort of. Today it was wake up, wait for the postman to deliver, wrap up any Christmas presents that had arrived (and a good job too because two of them were for The Music On My iPod) and then pack my overnight bag at the ready, and head off for Piccadilly train station, where I'd be heading on the 1115 to Euston.

The train journey was fine, apart from the fact I had two people with laptops sat on the table alongside me trying to arrange some stuff for a supposedly secret Kasabian gig that night (well it wasn't that secret judging by their phone calls). One thing I couldn't help overhear one of them say though was the price of the drinks at the bar and whether to have a free VIP bar or not - and at around a mere £5 for a bottle of beer (I know, scandalous isn't it?) I'd have baulked at that myself to be quite honest. Still, that's the way it goes and I certainly think that I'd have not wanted to go to any gig venue charing rip off prices for beer, London or no London.

I soon got to Euston though, in fact five minutes early, so I had a plan. I couldn't check into the EasyHotel at Earls Court until 3pm and looking at my handy Central London bus map portion I'd printed out the night before, I could get the 390 to Notting Hill Gate and then the 328 to Earls Court and to the EasyHotel, so that's what I did. This meant that I could have a leisurely look around Music and Video Exchange in Notting Hill, it's sort of the London version of Vinyl Exchange with plenty of stuff in its three floors of vinyl and CDs. Plenty of temptation did stare me in the face, but I was good and was able to resist, even if some deleted Smiths singles looked at me longingly.

It was then a case of getting to Earls Court, arriving at the EasyHotel and checking in, and I had possibly the smallest room ever. It was just big enough for a double bed and a small room with built in shower, sink and toilet, and a small hallway for my coathanger in the room. Compact it was, bijou it wasn't, but for £25 for a night, I wasn't expecting miracles anyway and it was somewhere I'd just crash out at. I dropped my stuff off and then had a wander around Earls Court and by the tube station shops before heading again on the 328 to Chelsea, World's End. From there I could walk along the Kings Road and go in some of the nice posh shops and get some present ideas and all that (as you do) and then head along to get the 19 bus to Holborn.

Once at Holborn, I thought a coffee would be nice to warm up, as it was bloody freezing. I headed to a Costa Coffee along there, and of course this meant nice coffee, a newspaper to read so I could look all business-like (yeah, as if!) and then listen to the mellow tunes playing, which included Beth Rowley's rather lovely "So Sublime". Listening to that made me miss The Music even more than I normally do. I know she's always supportive of me doing my own thing and that I'd have done that before I met her, but it was a shame she couldn't get the time off work to be with me as I'm sure she'd love it all to be honest. I miss her. Awww.

After enjoying coffee and heading into a pub further down the road for some tea (a steak deal with ale was on and far be it from me to resist of course, I rather enjoyed the mixed grill that I had) it was then off along Lamb's Conduit Street and towards The Lamb pub in good time for the evening's Totally Acoustic gig there. As I approached The Lamb, none other than MJ Hibbett himself was outside so it was nice to have a chat before we both headed up to the upstairs room where the action is. He got us a drink too (awww, I of course returned the favour later) and all was well as everyone was geared up for tonight's action. And I mean everyone, it felt like a nice little family of indie fans. A couple of MJ Hibbett fans who're usually at the gigs were there (always good to see them) as well as Marianthi from Atomic Beat Records and Trev from Lostmusic, who'd put out Pete Green's first and second EP respectively.

And also there was the lovely Jenny Lockyer and her musical and real life partner Tim Eveleigh, who'd made it up too. Jenny had in fact been to see Lambeth Council's presentation on better council help for disabled people, and she made the fact that the proposals had been written by someone with a total lack of grammar, and over a drink we dissected it to pieces. It was good to chat to her about all sorts anyway, it was a rather fun Totally Acoustic when she played some time ago and I enjoyed her songs, and just made the atmosphere feel that little bit nicer as the running order commenced.

MJ Hibbett (official site) (myspace) was on first, and thought he'd do his thing first and let the other two people headline a bit later, which was very nice of him. It was a fun set, even though for some reason he decided that doing "Never Going Back To Aldi's" sounded like another song he'd recently written, so he went for that one instead. He did though do a lovely version of "It Only Works Because You're Here" and everyone was singing along the chorus so nicely, it was beautiful - tune of the day that one. As it was approaching Christmas he did do "The Advent Calendar of Fact" and no less than Charlie from The Fighting Cocks got everyone to say the numbers at the right time as well, which made us all chuckle ever so nicely. Oh, and a nice little nod for his new single "I Got You What You Want For Christmas" which is simple but quirky and that's what it's all about.

Up next was Simon Fox (official site) (myspace) and he was a fair bit more downbeat in his songs. He was still good though and had plenty of lilting in his numbers. He even stole Pete Green's thunder a bit by announcing that one of his songs was about how much he hated Facebook. We all looked at Pete and thought "well you could do your Myspace song now and completely usurp him later!" with a wry grin. He also did a very nice cover version of The Smiths' "Jeane" too which got some of us Smiths fans singing along nicely, and it was a beautifully slow melodic rendition too. Hurrah for acoustic stuff!

And last but definitely not least whatsoever was Pete Green (official site) who, on his own and without juggernaut, did what he does best, lovely songs with just him and guitar. And lots of songs too - "One Monday Morning" which he debuted on the 2007 tour (ah, memories of that), "Hey Doctor Beeching" which is the best song about trains, and "Best British Band Supported By Shockwaves" which still had people smiling, not least when Pete asked which bands we'd place in the lyrics instead - Florence and the Machine seemed to fit the bill well there, hehe! He also did the rather nice "Everything's Dead Pretty When It Snows" which worked out nicely for Christmas too of course, It was fab.

We had a nice drink downstairs in the bar afterwards and it was great to chat to people and generally be passionate about music but also revel in the fact that Christmas has now officially started (well okay Advent, but hey they're almost the same thing these days!) and that we all got on as well. It felt sad to leave as the night had gone so quickly but three quality acts, good beer and good company make a good time in my view. It was then off on the 19 bus to Hyde Park Corner and then on the 74 back to Earls Court and to the EasyHotel to crash out to sleep, one tired but contented bunny.