Dear Diary... December 2013

Tuesday 31st December - FIxing The Final Day

It was a day of sorts today, and not obviously over by the time I'm writing this. I was going to watch A Bug's Life with the full surround experience of my AV rig last night, only for the AV receiver not to play ball - video was fine but any sound just didn't want to know. I checked everything - all connected correctly. Eventually I realised that the fault that my AV receiver had been having wasn't temporary - it looked like it was something which would need to be repaired. What I did last night then was hook up the DVD, Blu-Ray and the Freeview HD box to my TV via HDMI so at least I can watch stuff that way and tide me over for now.

I had the original box for my receiver, and the guarantee and receipt from Richer Sounds, so I was able to box everything back up and head to the city centre and to the branch on Deansgate, where I purchased it in the first place. The staff were really good there and they were able to see that I'd looked after everything. They went through with me and filled out all the necessary return forms, and then explained that they'd be sending it to the manufacturer for them to fix and that they'd keep me posted as well. It was so nice to see friendly helpful faces as per normal, and they're always good like that.

With that dropped off, I had a quick walk around the city centre. It seemed eerily quiet, I think because people wanted to head into the city centre later and see the fireworks display and so on planned to see the New Year in. I also think because the weather wasn't the best ever, that might have put people off being able to head out and enjoy themselves shopping during the day and save their energy for later, which made perfect sense to me really. I did spot quite a few people taking shelter and having a well earned coffee for their trouble though.

One thing I did notice though is that there's now a large wheel in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester, so it looks very much like everything seems to be up and ready for it reopening there in the near future. I think that'll be good once it opens properly, as I know the other wheel was pretty popular. The only thing is that you might not get as good a view of the city from the top of there as you may have done otherwise, as there's quite a few tall tower blocks close to the wheel where it is now. But we shall see.

In the meantime before I head off and have a relaxing evening in the company of the woman who I love to bits, I'd just like to wish everyone a peaceful and happy new year, and hope that the next year brings you lots of happiness, joy and moments which you will treasure. With that to see the New Year in, it seems quite apt that the final tune of the day for 2013 is a single which I've listened to a lot and is my favourite of the year (my year in review to follow soon) - namely "Where Are We Now"? by David Bowie. It's consistently been played here over the last few months to say the least. Have a great New Year!

Monday 30th December - Lunch Munch

It was rather windy outside this morning, and with some rain it didn't look the best of weather. I was only hoping for it to brighten up somewhat during the day, and thankfully it did a little later. I was meeting one of my friends for lunch and it was good to be able to get out there, despite the cold that I'd been a little stuck with since the weekend. I headed on the bus into the city centre first of all, and then from there, after getting an all day ticket for the tram, a ticket to Sale on the tram.

My friend was there at the station and although the option was there to have something nice to eat in Sale itself, my friend suggested to me that we head to one of the Brewers Fayre places close to Carrington, as there was parking and it's supposed to be nice, so I thought to myself "why not?" and we headed there. This straight away proved to be a nice decision - the weather was still a tad rainy and not only was it nice and warm and cosy inside, but we also had a table with a window seat, so all was good there to admire the view and watch the world go by.

Lots of conversation ensued and I headed to the bar to order lunch - which was amazing value as well. It was a mere 2 meals for £10, and normally the meals were around £9 each, so all good for sure. My friend had the chicken tikka massala and you got rice, naan bread and a poppadum to go with it, so that was rather good. I had the gammon, and you had the choice of pineapple, eggs or one of each (I did that) and that went down rather well to say the least.

Oh, and the desserts too. Two for £2 anyone? Not too bad at all. In fact they'd ran out of the chocolate fudge cake so my friend was a little gutted, but no matter, we both went for the rather nice carmel apple pie complete with custard, and that was more than enough to keep us going for definite. It was good to just sit and relax and be able to catch up as well, so it felt pretty good on the whole to be able to do that. Not least also nice to see were plenty of families out there too, so always a good feeling when you see people out being together I reckoned.

We headed back to my friend's place and we had coffee and more chat there, and it was just good to spend some quality time on the whole. I think when you get on pretty well, and there's time for conversation, it's amazing how much I can talk at times! The time sped by and before I knew it, it had gone 5pm and my friend very kindly gave me a lift back to Sale station (there is a bus from their place to Sale which I've got before and would have got, so the lift was appreciated)

The Love In My Heart had texted me on the way back into Manchester on the tram to say she wasn't 100% well and had to head home from work because of it, so as I knew I had an all day tram ticket, I arranged to head to hers to see how she was and she asked me to get some bits in the Asda near her on the way, which I was only too pleased to help out with. I got the tram into the city centre, changed trams and was off to her place. I was pretty glad that I did an all day ticket now.

I spent some time with The Love before I headed back into the city centre on the tram and took the bus home, and spent a fair bit of the evening watching A Bug's Life on Blu-Ray, which is always good fun, and especially with another class Randy Newman soundtrack (the title song "The Time of Your Life" is tune of the day) and then later than billed on Channel 5, the final qualifier for World's Strongest Man. I think Eddie Hall will rue being a bit too cocky on the atlas stones, and his performance meant that he missed out of being in the final. That and a pretty awful attempt when it came to the keg toss as well which just goes to show you have to be consistent all the time to win that thing.

Sunday 29th December - Sunday Stroll

The Love In My Heart and I both got up and got ourselves showered and ready for a relaxing afternoon. With The Love back at work tomorrow (the first time in years she's had to work between Christmas and New Year) we didn't want to do too much so she could have time to get things ready for the working week and that we'd still be able to spend some quality time together. We made breakfast and then I had a few ideas what could be done for the day.

We came up with the plan to head to Dunham Massey and have a walk around the deer park, or maybe the gardens, and generally take in the fresh air. Both of us appear to be coming down with colds of some description so it was good to be able to get outside and be together. The Love looked rather lovely in her new jacket which I got her for Christmas, and after a little bit of queueing, we were able to get in the car park, and it did look pretty busy.

And so it proved to be! We were heading along the path by the pond and towards the entrance to the gardens, and the paths that were in the deer park seemed especially busy with people out for a stroll. As members of the National Trust we decided to head to the gardens, and that was much more sedate walking around there to be honest. We also spotted some new features too: a rose garden with some nice features that will look lovely when the roses themselves grow, and on top of that there's now some chickens in the gardens as well which was nice to see.

We exited the gardens after a good walk around and had a mooch in the shop, with some nice things up for grabs. We did see some birthday cards which offered tea for two at some National Trust properties as a little thing to go with the card, however the voucher had to be used by 1st January so pretty pointless unless of course you had someone's birthday tomorrow for example. Still, it was nice to see that the scarf I got The Love was on display, so effectively she was modelling it for them (as you do!)

We headed back to the car and it was still massively busy, but we noticed that the house was to re-open on 1st March as its original function as a military hospital, the idea being that as it was 100 years next year that World War I started, that it'd be a historical trip back in time. There's also a new visitors centre and café being built as well with some new paths to walk around, so that'll be good once that gets up and running as well. I must think though that the city centre might have been quieter to walk around instead of that place.

We stopped off on the way back at the Greenfinch for a late Sunday lunch and that was pretty nice overall, we both had the roast beef and that was gorgeous, complete with roast and boiled potatoes, carrots, peas, broccoli, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. Gorgeous. It was also busy in there too so maybe everyone was taking some time out as families to eat out: it seemed that way to me anyway. The Love headed home later but it had been a nice relaxed day, and that felt good. Tune of the day with this in mind is "Sunday Song" by the Icicles, which is rather nice and lovely.

Saturday 28th December - Scraping to Victory

It was a rather relaxed morning, and one I spent putting up a new CD tower that I'd got from IKEA late yesterday. I had taken advantage of an offer where if you come by tram, you get £5 off if you spend £30 or more. The CD tower in the oak effect was dead on £30, so it entitled me to the money off. It wasn't a product that qualified for any IKEA Family Card discount (good job actually as I didn't have my card with me) but the height of the unit's long pieces meant the box was fun to get home on the tram and the bus, but hey ho, I managed it in the end.

It's not that difficult to put up really, and it was just a case of making sure that I had the right screwdriver for the job, and set to work putting all the pieces in place. It actually worked pretty well, and I was soon able to get the main back of the frame on, stand it up and then put all the shelves in so I was able to fit everything in as I needed. In total it'd normally hold around 180 CDs, but because a fair number of them are CD singles, then most likely it's probably got more than that in it. It also means that my storage for CDs allows for some expansion room, with the tower starting off the CD single collection and going from there. Eventually I may sell the singles (well certainly the less rare stuff) but we'll see.

With that done and the house tidied up, it was off with my friend to see Manchester City take on Crystal Palace and a win would send us top of the table for at least 24 hours or so until Arsenal played Newcastle away the day after. Hopes were fairly high after the Boxing Day win over Liverpool and the fact that we were scoring for fun at home, although only scoring two the other day did make me wonder how much we were missing Sergio Agüero up front to partner the Beast that is Álvaro Negredo. With various changes made, there was no Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabaleta, Samir Nasri or Negredo either - and Edin Džeko up front instead.

We had numerous chances in the first half but Palace were keeping things really tight to say the least, and they wanted to be sure that they defended well. City couldn't break the deadlock and it was frustrating as many shots went wide or were well saved by the Palace keeper. The worrying moment was when City goalkeeper Joe Hart and Palace striker Cameron Jerome both went for the same ball, Hart saved bravely and was rewarded with a cut below the eye, and Jerome fell over and did his knee in and had to go off. It did mean five minutes of injury time as well.

The half time break started with Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" - tune of the day - and we were both paranoid about Palace sneaking a goal and hanging on. As it turned out during the second half, the more that Palace were at 0-0, the more confident that they got, and they headed forward with a couple of good chances well saved by Hart. However mid way through the second half, after a spell of some Palace pressure, we got the breakthrough. Jesús Navas headed down the right, saw the ball come to him from Nasri, and his patience was rewarded with a low cross to be finished off by Džeko for 1-0. And, despite some Palace pressure near the end, that's how it stayed.

Regardless of the stats of around 75% possession for City, what was clear was that unless you finish your chances, wins aren't always guaranteed and certainly my bet for 5-0 at 11-1 was somewhat optimistic. I think too that up front if you have a strike partnership which works, and injury breaks that flow up, it's hard to get another sort of flow going to win matches, and on New Years' Day away at Swansea that will be a test to see how well we do from there.

Later on The Love In My Heart and I had some nice chicken and bacon pie in filo pastry together with some honey roasted parsnips and carrots with some Cornish butter mash, and we then settled in to watch the final instalment of Death Comes to Chatsworth (oops, I meant Pemberley) which was pretty good. I've not read the PD James book, so be interesting to see what readers of said novel made of it. I did notice a few abbey scenes which were filmed in Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire as well (we've been there) but in effect the main Pemberley house and gardens were of course Chatsworth. And some of the rooms in Castle Howard were also used too (been there also), so double yaay. And it was good to watch.

Friday 27th December - Windy City

During the night, myself and The Love In My Heart were awoken by the sound of the wind outside, and my was it windy! It definitely felt as if the last remnants of the Winter storm that had been battering most of the UK had indeed tried for one final fling, and certainly even though most of the roads near me aren't that exposed to the weather, you could certainly hear the wind howling around outside, and it wasn't that pretty a sight to be outside. Hence of course a good excuse to snuggle up in bed and relax a fair bit.

I made The Love and I some breakfast later on in the morning, and we just relaxed and chatted together before she headed home for the rest of the day, leaving me to enjoy some of my Christmas presents and to take some time out to catch up on some telly, such as World's Strongest Man which I'd recorded from Channel 5 last night, and that was pretty good. However it was a shame that in attempting too hard to nail the squat lift, Laurence Shahlei injured himself and so put himself out of the competition. He could have stopped after 3 lifts, won the event and carried on.

With the wind still howling I was able to order my next round of groceries online so meant I had everything in for New Year's Eve and for a nice meal for myself and The Love for tomorrow night, and with an 8am delivery, all seemed well with the world as well. I then took some time out to listen to a few of the CDs that I got for Christmas, and so I started off with the Manic Street Preachers' "Rewind The Film" which in particular has a great title track featuring Richard Hawley on vocals, so that's good.

I then spent some time with the Viva! Roxy Music live album. By all accounts from what I'd read, the track "In Every Dream Home a Heartache" was supposed to be the stand out track here and so it proved too - I really liked all of it, but the slower more sinister feel of that one really did well to come across nicely, and notably how all the other instruments come in after the epic line "I blew up your body...but you blew my mind!" so tune of the day has to be a possibilty there really.

I also then listened to the Japanese import "The Best of Swing Out Sister" CD my brother brought over from Japan for me. It was nice to see some edited versions and 7" single mixes on there just to keep it all fresh, and as this mainly covered their first few years, it won't surprise you to learn that the likes of "Breakout" are on there plus "Notgonnachange", "Am I The Same Girl" and one of my particular favourites "Fooled By a Smile". The CD seems to have been mastered really well (and it's one of those SHM-CDs, where apparently it's made of better material for a better sound) - so all good too.

It's going to take me some time to watch all the Blu-ray and DVD content I've got, but time is on my side really so I might sneak in Cars tonight after watching World's Strongest Man on Channel 5 earlier - see how it all goes on the whole. It's been nice to stay in and stay warm, most importantly, as the weather hasn't exactly been the nicest out there to say the least, and I really think that ordering the shopping online instead of trapising around for it proved to be the right move all round really. Hurrah!

Thursday 26th December - Party On!

The Love In My Heart and I, despite the best attention of her two cats wanting a massive fuss over, snuggled up and had a relatively relaxing morning of it, with The Love making me some bacon, egg, sausage and toast for breakfast, which was very lovely of her. That with a coffee and some films on the telly just made for a nice wake up at our leisure without any problems whatsoever. The only dilemma The Love actually had was which dress to wear for a party we were heading to tonight - in the end she went for her lovely Ted Baker green one.

We got everything we needed to together and then headed back to my place, where we'd spend some time relaxing in front of the telly with a coffee and I also kept an eye on the football scores. Manchester City weren't playing Liverpool till 5.30pm but because of the do I'd already been invited to before the fixture decided to change time, I couldn't head to the Etihad. Gutted of course but at this time of year there's always things to go to - and as my brother was over from Japan with his wife, a perfect opportunity to see them both and have a bit of a do to celebrate their wedding a few months back.

I decided to wear my new Fred Perry shirt with some nice jeans, and once ironed, I looked the part. Both The Love and I got changed and showered and it was over to Mum's in a taxi (and our local taxi firm didn't charge double, so a mere £3 to Mum's from mine, excellent) and to see everyone. Most of the family arrived the same time as us, and so it was nice to see everyone. Mum had put on some excellent food as well, lots of nibbles as well as cakes and desserts, and so I was able to have a real ale (Doom Bar at that) and so be able to relax and chatter.

It was good to talk overall and despite Mum wanting to put on some music at loud volume, my nephew quite rightly said "We don't need that on, Grandma!" and he was right. Everyone was chatting happily to each other, they didn't need any music really, so it was all the better for it. Mum got everyone around just to say a few words and toast the happy couple, and The Love and I happily were chatting all evening, I had some All Creatures ale as well later, as well as some gorgeous tiramisu which went down well after some sandwiches, cooked meats and nibbles, so all good there.

The time went by quickly and after the children had left for home, later on we put on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 on the TV as my brother's wife is quite a fan of said novels as it turns out. That was a few of us glued to the telly and chatting then, and of course there's a part of the film that features no less than Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds's track "O Children" (so that has to be tune of the day) as well. It was a good do overall and I think my brother was pretty pleased that it was chilled out and relaxed on the whole too.

We headed home and watched Match of the Day (recorded) and I saw Manchester City's 2-1 win over Liverpool. To be fair, Liverpool had a goal disallowed for offside that was never offside, and also there was lots of shirt pulling on both sides that could have resulted in penalties. But would I have taken a 2-1 win and keep up our 100% record in the league at home? Absolutely. We're now second in the table and could go top on Saturday against Crystal Palace, so that'll be good if it happens.

Wednesday 25th December - It's Christmas

It was at last Christmas Day, and it wasn't snowing, or even a touch of rain, it was just a little on the cold side with some wind coming in. Of course with the weather not being as kind in other parts of the country at the moment, I did feel rather grateful that at least here everything was okay and that we didn't have any flooding or any damage to the houses. It made me realise more than ever that there's always someone less fortunate than you so be thankful for what you have. And there's relations not here whom I do miss as well, so always good to pause for a moment and remember them as well.

I opened a few presents that I received here, so first off from my friend up in Cumbria - and he didn't have to get me so much! In the end I got Rock of Ages and the complete Wallace and Gromit Adventures of Blu-ray as well as Slayer's "South of Heaven" CD, which was very good of him. One of my neighbours got me this candle holder with some candles in which was nice of them. My auntie also got me some biscuits and some pods for the Tassimo, which is always appreciated.

It was then off to my uncle's place, as he doesn't live too far away, and to see him, his wife and the two sons. It was relatively relaxed on the whole and I had a nice breakfast with them too: bacon, sausage, egg, fried bread and so on, very nice. They had all got me a present, which was very touching, and they appreciated what I got them as well. My uncle and auntie got me both Cars and A Bug's Life on Blu-Ray, filling in gaps in my Pixar Blu-Ray collection, and also the new Arctic Monkeys album AM on CD. My cousins had got me a CD each too: the new Dream Theater self-titled album (2 disc edition with DVD-Audio mix on the second disc, cool!) and Manic Street Preachers' "Rewind the Film" which was ace too.

After breakfast, and a good chat to everyone, I headed home to leave them to sort their Christmas Day out, and then getting all the presents I needed in tow, it was off to Mum's. My brothers and sisters were all going to be there, so a pretty packed dining table for the Christmas dinner later on. I arrived at Mum's and got a nice big hug from my youngest sister, and I handed out my presents to everyone. My brother was chuffed to bits with the wood grain effect Atari 2600 complete with joysticks, paddles and eight games as well, and was determined to have some time to set up and play (and to get himself an old TV for the bedroom to play it on there too).

Everyone was very generous and had got me a present too: it wasn't about the amounts spent, it was the thought: my youngest sister and her son had got me the Hobgoblin beer and glass set, and David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World" CD. My brother had got me the Roxy Music Stranded and Viva! CDs, and my younger brother and his wife had got me from their native Japan a Swing Out Sister "Best of" CD complete with Japanese Obi sleeve and everything, brand new too. Very nice of them both and much appreciated. His wife loved the Body Shop Satsuma set (apparently it's her favourite) and some Maltesers, as she had said to me the other day it was her favourite chocolate (hence me paying attention!)

Mum came in from pausing to cook the Christmas dinner, and had got me the Roy Harper CD "The Unknown Soldier" as well as some socks and Lynx (almost tradition that) but nicest of all a Ben Sherman shirt that I was after, and she had craftily ordered it from Debenhams when it was half price, so a sensible move all round there. It was so nice to have lovely gifts from everyone and as people liked mine to, that made me feel good. My brothers and I watched the 100 Greatest Toys on Channel 4 before my sister arrived with her husband and two children, to complete the eleven of us around the dining table.

Christmas Dinner was spot on and Mum excelled herself as per usual, the meat was nice and tender, and the potatoes well cooked, and best of all some gorgeous stuffing also. My sister had also made a trifle so I had that for dessert and quite a few of us fancied that (and had it as well, which was good) and it was just really nice all round. I felt pretty full after that but it was good that we'd all had something nice together and in the afternoon we sat around and had a chat, and my sister handed out her presents to everyone. She very kindly had got me a nice pack of mugs from IKEA, as well as these green frosted glasses which I was also after as well, which was great too.

Later in the afternoon my brother gave me a lift back, and The Love In My Heart was to come over and pick me up. It was nice that we were able to then head back to hers, with lots of presents in tow (some from my relations to her) and so that was really nice just to catch up and chat. We got back to hers and I relaxed for a bit whilst she sorted the cats and herself out and got changed into a different top so she felt more comfortable, and that meant we could relax with a coffee and open each others' presents, which was rather nice indeed. She had already had her day made by getting a ticket for Robbie Williams next Summer, so that was her rather happy to start with.

Her sisters had got me some gifts too which was very nice of them: one got me a HMV gift card and some real ale, and the other one had got me The Stone Roses: Made of Stone on Blu-Ray as well. Her Mum and Dad also got me the DVD box set of Ashes to Ashes with all three series on, so might need to make some serious time to watch that at some time. My relations had got The Love various nice smellies stuff including some Covent Garden Sanctuary, so that was good, and Mum had already given her the gift of some slippers and a nice cosy warm fluffy dressing gown, so that was lovely.

The Love though had excelled herself and got me some really lovely presents, starting off with a gorgeous Fred Perry checked long sleeve shirt in a micro tartan style, with green and blue being mainly dominant. It looked cool and classy. She also got me the set of Hugo Boss Bottled and Bottled Night eau do toilette as well, so I had two different nice things to put on when going out and so feel good. Added to that was the Frank Sidebottom Fantastic Shed Show DVD which certainly was something I might need to make time to watch (you know I do, I really do). She also got me a book which was all about real ales and a sort of "real ales to try before you die" thing which was good. In fact flicking through I'd had a fair few of them (so my taste in beer must be decent I thought to myself). And on top of that, all the way from Cornwall, a St Ives Brewery beer glass, complete with their Boilers beer logo on it as well. It'll remind me of Cornwall and us being there together, so that was really really lovely of her.

I had got her a number of gifts too, but we both spent around the same (some of mine weren't that expensive you see) - so from me she got Sophie Kinsella's "Wedding Night" book, a Babycham 60th anniversary glass and drink set, a plum star scarf from National Trust, a Biba burgundy handbag which we got when in Birmingham at half price (so she knew she was getting that but I'd rather she get what she wants!), the Robbie Williams live CD from the gig at the Etihad that she went to, the film To The Wonder on DVD, a Covent Garden Sanctuary Mandelular gift set, a jacket from Primark in grey with tartan detail (the difficulty I had getting it in her size, but it was worth it as that was the jacket she really really wanted!) and of course the Jack Vettriano mug that I'd got her when we were in Glasgow. She was a happy bunny to say the least.

I watched the remainder of The Muppets Christmas Carol (a classic Christmas film, especially with Michael Caine as Scrooge doing such a good job) and then we settled in for the evening with some nice little nibbles. We ended up seeing some Emmerdale before the one thing that The Love really wanted to watch - Downton Abbey. A two hour special, and I could see for fans of the show just why they'd be loving it so much, with intrigue, potential scandal and indeed a little misdemeanour ignored for saving their skins. I must admit that it didn't feel like two hours and therefore must have been half decent overall for a non-fan like me.

Tune of the day though comes from one of the CDs I got for Christmas - as I had a bit of time to play a couple before The Love In My Heart came to collect me, and so I put on Arctic Monkeys' AM album. The opener "Do I Wanna Know?" is a contender for single of the year and it's not that difficult to see why really - it's got a foot stomping drum throughout which underpins the whole thing really well as well as the word "summat" making another appearance in a song of theirs, maintaining true to their Yorkshire roots. Excellent.

Tuesday 24th December - Fantastic Film Frenzy

First off today though, the important bits. I headed up pretty early and off out on the bus, as I wanted to head to two cemeteries to pay my respects and visit two of my relations no longer with us. It was all pretty well worked out in terms of buses, and so I headed on my first bus, changed at one stop for another one due to come, and arrived at the first cemetery just after 9am. I went and did my thing there, and stopped for a few minutes just to compose my thoughts and think about the good times we'd had together (as sometimes it's too easy to forget that when that person isn't with you).

It was then on a bus from there, and I got lucky with the changeover. The timetables said I'd miss one bus and so wait 28 minutes for the next one, but as it turned out, it was almost behind the first one I caught, and so was able to change over and be well ahead of schedule. Happy me, no waiting in the cold and all that. So then it was to the second cemetery, do what I needed to do there, and think a bit more about the moments I'd spent. I must admit I got a little upset as some of the happy moments I was thinking of made me think about them not being here and how that person would have loved to have met The Love In My Heart.

After all that it's my usual stop of coffee at Costa, and thought it best to treat myself, so had a gingerbread cream latte along with a raspberry and almond bake, and that went down very nicely indeed, if a little indulgent. In fact, I had enough points on my loyalty card to count for a free one, so it was really good to be able to just sit back, relax, watch the world go by and not have to worry about a thing. I think that was a sensible move to be honest and got me feeling a lot better.

I headed homewards and hadn't done that badly for time after all, so was able to flick channels. I didn't want to see the re-made version of The Railway Children on ITV3, it's just not the same as the original classic film, regardless if Jenny Agutter is now playing the mother, it just isn't right, especially with Gregor Fisher (Rab C Nesbit) as Mr. Perks as well. Not the same as Bernard Cribbins playing it and his distinctive tone of "Oak-worth!" Oooooak-worth" when he announces the station. Hey ho.

However, BBC One was my port of call for most of the rest of the day, and with good reason. Starting off with The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a good call, and that's quite a good family fantasy film, not least to spot some of the voices (Ray Winstone and Dawn French as two of the beavers, and Liam Neeson as the lion too) - then followed straight after by Toy Story 2, which introduces Jessie and Bullseye to proceedings, as well as the Al's Toy Barn and how Buzz and the gang get to rescue Woody. Still a classic after all these years.

And with the surround cranked on as well, because BBC One show any HD film in 5.1 surround (hurrah!) it was then on with Finding Nemo after the news as well. This is probably one of my favourite Pixar films, I loved the storyline and the nice use of Australia as part of the location. Of course there's lots of hilarious moments along the way, with those pesky seagulls going "Mine! Mine!" at every opportunity. It's thoroughly brilliant and so well worth me spending time watching it again (and why not). If I did decide to get a 3D TV, I do have the 2 disc Blu-ray (3D and 2D) so that might just have to be watched I reckon.

It's always a good way to slowly wind down for Christmas and when I think of The Love In My Heart having to work today and have a very busy day of it, I think that I'm even more glad that I managed to take some time off work and so be able to take it a lot easier. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "You've Got A Friend In Me" by Randy Newman, which makes an appearance at the end of Toy Story 2 (it was originally composed for Toy Story, I have the soundtrack CD as well!) and is still a classic. Have a great Christmas, everyone!

Monday 23rd December - Through The Wind and Rain

It was a pretty hellish day weather wise, and to be honest, that just gave me more incentive just to stay in for most of the day and hibernate. In truth, I didn't need to do that much today, and so settled in the morning, and started off the day by doing a re-calibration of the speaker setup of my amplifier. I had to reset all the settings to default last night as it had oddly crashed for some reason (first time in eighteen months though) and then went through the speaker setup, which worked pretty well on the whole.

That done, it was on with Nine Inch Nails' "The Downward Spiral" deluxe edition I got off my friend yesterday. Interestingly, both discs are SACD capable, but only disc 1 (the main album) has 5.1 surround as well as 2.0, the second just has 2.0. Still though, in surround the album sounded very good indeed, especially the likes of "March of the Pigs" and "Closer". Disc 2 has the likes of "Burn" from the Natural Born Killers soundtrack, their cover of "Dead Souls" by Joy Division from the Crow soundtrack, and also the Closer to God remix of closer, which at the end is a perfect way to fool anyone who doesn't know their NIN to assume their system has broken (trust me on this one).

I also spent time with the Morrissey "25Live" Blu-ray as well, recorded at Hollywood High School's auditorium. The place reminded me a little of the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester (where I've seen Morrissey live, so equally as small and intimate a venue) and with most of his live band having played with him for years, the chemistry is there for all to see, but not just that, with the devoted fans too (although you do wonder if some of the American fans go a little OTT sometimes). It was nice though that one of those fans mentioned the Manchester 2004 gig (was at that one!) as one of their top five Morrissey gigs ever.

Anyway, the set list was a surprise for the sheer number of Smiths song as well as early Morrissey solo numbers, so you got the likes of "Meat Is Murder", "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side", "Still Ill" and best of all "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want". Amongst the early solo numbers was "Ouija Board, Ouija Board" and a storming version of possibly my favourite Morrissey song ever "November Spawned a Monster" - for that reason alone it's tune of the day. Also getting the likes of "Everyday Is Like Sunday" (my second favourite Morrissey solo song) made it rather nice to have. Could have done without Russell Brand being there and introducing him, but hey, can't win them all.

The rain relented a little so I headed over to my auntie's and had a cuppa and a chat with her, which was nice. We swapped presents as well (primarily because she and her partner are spending Christmas Day with her grandson and then having a relaxing day, so I won't get to see them on the day) and so it was good to catch up and tell her my news about The Love (which she was pleased about) and also generally look forward to the festive period. Isn't it nice when you can just do those things? I headed home as the rain started to come down again, and stopped off at the local Asda near my place - and in there I spotted the boxes of Matchmaker chocolate my auntie was talking about earlier (as they'd gone back to £2 plus for a box a week or so ago and she'd ran out) - however Asda had reduced them back to £1 so thought a useful text was in order just in case she wanted to get any more.

I spent most of the afternoon cleaning the house and getting it all sorted for Christmas, and with the bathroom almost done I realised I needed to pour some unblocker down the drain hole, so nipped to the local pound shop, got that as well as some fabric conditioner and also some hand wash for the bathroom, and with that done, all the upstairs was then sorted and looking lovely. I also sorted the grill out, and cleaned up downstairs a bit, followed by a mammoth session of ironing whilst listening to PJ Harvey's superb "Let England Shake" album which really did help the ironing go by a lot quicker.

I also stopped to watch the final of Only Connect on BBC Four, which admittedly I love to bits. It was going to be a tough contest between the Bakers and the Board Gamers and with both teams scoring maximum points on the connecting wall, it was all to play for on the missing vowels round. I did pretty decent but both teams were on fire, nailing lots of answers. One slip up with islands around the UK though meant that the rhythm was lost for the Bakers and the Board Gamers went on for a famous series eight win. Well done them, and here's to the next series for me to pit my wits.

Sunday 22nd December - The Presents of Friends

It was nice just to have a bit of a lie in this morning with some coffee and breakfast, and generally relax a lot in the house as well with myself and The Love In My Heart just generally getting ourselves ready and sorted out for the day. We were meeting up with a couple of friends later for a nice meal in the Ashlea in Cheadle, and so we just watched a bit of telly, got ourselves ready and just made sure that we had everything ready for The Love's car, as the emergency chairs I had were coming into play at Mum's on Christmas Day.

It was then off in The Love's car along the A34 and turning off at Parrs Wood on the road towards Cheadle, and we headed to the Ashlea. It was nice and cosy in there and we had a nice table, and our friends soon arrived afterwards. It was good to see everyone, and The Love was able to tell them about her new job and also the fun and games of the last week for various reasons. It was just good to chatter generally and the only dilemma I had was whether to have the three courses from the Christmas festive menu or go for the normal menu (at least you could have both so that was cool) so decision made, eventually.

I went for the festive menu, and so had the mushroom risotto for starter, which was a nice sized portion and just right for a starter really - lots of nice mushrooms and rice, and plenty of parmesan on top too. The Love and one of our friends had the chorizo bubble and squeak which also looked rather good as well. The main was roast all round - three of us went for the turkey with all the trimmings and that was absolutely lovely, and the other went for the topside of beef from the normal menu, and that really did hit the spot wonderfully well to say the least.

The dessert was top notch too: I had the panna cotta which was really nice, and had some nice berries and a coulis as well and my friend had the rather nice apple pie, and another friend had the crumble which looked rather good and I must admit I'd have been tempted to have that knowing how nice it all looked. The festive menu was great value and well worth the money as well, so really pleased that we were able to have it - and even a coffee and mince pie at the end. I felt rather Christmassy with that lot!

We swapped presents too as it would be the last time we'd see each other before Christmas and so made perfect sense to open them a little early. My friends were very kind and generous and got The Love the new Cecilia Ahern book as well as the DKNY delicious body lotion, and the new Robbie Williams Swings Both Ways DVD, very good of them. I got a nice 1970 Manchester City retro away shirt, the Morrissey 25Live Blu-ray, some Kenco Medium Roast pods for the Tassimo, and best of all, the 2 disc SACD reissue of Nine Inch Nails' seminal 1994 album "The Downward Spiral", so I can listen to the likes of "March of the Pigs" (make that tune of the day) and "Closer" in full 5.1 surround sound. Excellent.

After that lovely meal and company, The Love and I headed over to Mum's to drop the emergency chairs off for Christmas Day, and also to say hello to my brother and his wife as well. We'd also got some Christmas cards to drop off too, so it was good to head over, have a coffee and a chat with everyone, and as an unexpected bonus, my sister came over with my niece, so was really nice to see them both and have a good chat as well to them, so felt rather more Christmassy and homely overall, so that was good.

Saturday 21st December - Strictly Celebrating

It was nice to wake up in the relative comfort of a nice comfy bed at the Mercure Kensington, and with me all packed and good to go, it was a simple case of getting myself up showered and ready, and then checked out around 8.45am, so allowing me enough time to get the bus back to Euston. As it turned out the traffic was amazingly calm - I got to the Selfridges near Marble Arch in no time at all, and swapped buses there for the 30 to Euston, and I arrived at Euston before 9.20am. Can't argue with that really.

I had a first class ticket for heading back too, so I went up to the First Class lounge, and so was able to relax with a coffee and a biscuit, which was nice, especially as the concourse was especially rammed full of people heading homewards. It was good to take things easy and with free wi-fi as well, that always was a positive thing as well. I headed out of there around 10am, perfect timing to head down the stairs, see the announcement for Platform 5 and head straight on to the train to head back to Manchester.

It was a nice comfortable journey in First Class, and at weekends you get coffee as well as mineral water, and you also get this snack box, which did the job to keep me going during the day. It had a small bag of pretzels, cheese and crackers, a biscuit, a Toblerone and also some raisins (some of which were coated in yoghurt). Quite nice really, and just the thing as the train headed towards Milton Keynes with the rain bucketing it down somewhat. I arrived in Manchester pretty much on time and was able to head home relatively calmly.

I got home and then picked up a couple of presents, and headed back into the city centre to go and get my hair done by the lovely ladies at The Northern Cutter, who were lovely as ever. I gave them a little present (nice bottle of wine and some Lindor chocs) and they were really pleased with those, so always good to make people happy at Christmas. From there it was into the Arndale as I wanted to be in and out of there as quick as possible to get what I needed.

I usually head to the cemeteries Christmas Eve to visit my relations no longer with me, and I like to get a blank card (no Merry Christmas for obvious reasons, not tasteful) and one with wrapper, so I can write the card, wrap it in the selllophane with the seal, and then if it rains the card doesn't get ruined and other relations can see it too. I also like to get a little soft toy dog as both relations liked dogs, and so a little companion at Christmas is always good. Thankfully WH Smith had some nice Wintry scened cards with no writing on whatsoever, which just was right somehow, and managed to get some little soft toy dogs whilst in the Arndale too, so that was a fairly painless exercise.

I headed home, cleaned up the house a bit and waited for The Love In My Heart to arrive for tea. We were having a nice meal tonight to celebrate her new job that she'd got, and that I know she is looking forward massively to starting, particularly after they invited her to a bit of an afternoon tea yesterday, which was very nice. I think the fact that she'll be back doing a job that she loves and also working in a profession that she is very good at really has made her feel a heck of a lot happier, and I think for me that's been a massive plus. The least I could do was get us a bottle of Lanson Black Label champagne (well it was also a third off!) to celebrate, and it'd remind us of being at the Monaco Grand Prix last year with the hospitality and the magnums of the stuff there.

The Love arrived and looked lovely in her outfit, and we had a coffee and caught up with our respective couple of days that we'd had, before my online food shopping arrived (handy because the evening meal was part of that) and then we'd be watching the start of the final of Strictly Come Dancing. I put the starter in the oven (stuffed mushrooms with garlic and cheese) and we settled in for the finalists. Sophie Ellis-Bextor looked demure in her outfit and lovely with it, as did Abbey Clancy to be fair. Those were my top two to win, I guess I've liked Sophie because she's a little pop princess, and I used to watch her Mum on Blue Peter.

The starter made, I put the main into the oven, which was some lovely chicken in a sauvignon red wine sauce, along with mushrooms, coupled with some dauphinoise potatoes and some petits pois with leek and pancetta. That went down lovely and it was timed so we had it after the second dance from the couples on Strictly, the show dance. I thought that Sophie's dance was under-marked and Susanna Reid's over-marked, and Abbey Clancy and Natalie Gumede did enough to get to the final I thought. We were enjoying the champagne too, very nice indeed!

Later on we switched on the results show and I was gutted that Sophie was out first, leaving the remaining three couples to do their favourite dance of the series. If you went on results alone from the judges Natalie was probably favourite, but I know quite a few people were rooting for Abbey because she had never danced before and had developed massiely over the weeks. I and The Love were pretty pleased whe it was announced that she won, because she really did come across as lovely and even her husband Peter Crouch (who had scored the winner for Stoke City v Aston Villa earlier in the day) had made it down in time for the show, so that was pretty good for her too.

It was then time for Match of the Day, and after Manchester City's 4-2 win against Fulham earlier that was the first game on, and I was annoyed at the way Alan Hansen wasn't keen to give us any credit but instead to slag us off at every opportunity, obviously some form of jealousy in some way. Compare that to the sheer class that is Thierry Henry last week, who could have been biased for his former club Arsenal when they lost 6-3 to City, but instead gave us lots of credit, pointed out Álvaro Negredo as a key player, and said that sometimes if you lose to a better team you take it on the chin and deal with it next game.

Tune of the day in the meantime is Jesus Jones' "Info Freako" which I've been pretty much humming and singing along to myself most of the day. It felt good walking down Market Street in my head just gently singing (so no one else could hear) "Info freako, there is no answer I wanna know, whooooah yeah yeah!" - takes me back to when the single first came out really. I might just have to get a replacement CD copy for my previously battered (and hence binned a few years back) vinyl of "Liquidizer" I reckon..

Friday 20th December - Sleigh The Shepherds Bush Empire

It was an early start for me this morning, as I was taking the train to London and to see the Sleigh the UK Tour at Shepherds Bush Empire, with no less than Jesus Jones, Pop Will Eat Itself and The Wonder Stuff playing on the bill. As they're three bands I like (especially PWEI) then it simply had to be done, especially after a couple of people who went to Liverpool last year said how good it was and it was well worth going. So up, showered, and ready, and then off on the bus to Piccadilly station, where having bought first class advance tickets meant I could mooch in the first class lounge and watch all the commuters having to go to work.

It was nice to relax with a coffee and a croissant in there whilst relaxing and watching the BBC breakfast news on the TV screen in there, and generally it was very relaxed. With around a quarter of an hour to go before the train left, I headed to the platform and into my seat in Coach J - very comfortable and lovely with a window view, and a nice table laid out with a proper mug for my coffee, and all ready to be served a cooked breakfast. The train sped on its way, I had coffee, orange juice and a full English - two rashers of bacon, really nice sausage, egg, hash brown and black pudding. Delicious, more so with some nice granary brown toast as well. It really did feel like a nice treat travelling in style and made me feel much more refreshed when I got to London Euston.

At Euston I did my normal trick of using a newsagent in the station to top up my Oyster card (why queue at the travel desk like all the other lemmings eh?) and then it was on the 30 bus towards Baker Street, followed by the 74 which would take me to Cromwell Road, close to Gloucester Road and Earls Court, where the hotel was. The bus was stuck near Selfridges for ages because of the massive queue of deliveries of vans to that store, blocking two lanes out of three from the traffic flow. I got to the hotel, and my room wasn't ready yet (I got there at 1pm and check in is at 2pm) so they kindly let me drop the bag off and I headed to one of the shops on Gloucester Road for a nice lunch and coffee, just the right thing to set me off for the afternoon.

I checked in to the Mercure London Kensington, and the room, even as a single, was rather nice: lovely bathroom with fluffy towels, nice comfy bed with four pillows, widescreen TV with Freeview, tea/coffee, iron and ironing board, and even a fluffy bath robe - perfect for drying off after a nice shower. I sorted my stuff out and then headed out to the shops, first of all taking the short ride to Kensington High Street and having a mooch around the shops there before heading to Notting Hill Gate and spending time around the Music and Video Exchange shop - always tempted by the vinyl and CDs in there, notably in their bargain floor. Must re-visit their branch in Camden sometime as well.

I headed back to the hotel and got myself showered and changed, and had my PWEI long sleeved skateboarder grey t-shirt on, one of my original classic t-shirts from the band that I love to wear at their gigs, makes me feel in the moment for some reason. I spotted there was a branch of Byron hamburgers on Gloucester Road, and thought it'd make a nice tea, and it did. The Byron burger (cheese, bacon, a nice sauce and a chunk of beef cooked medium) was spot on with the french fries, and I was sat by the window people watching somewhat too, so that was good. It was then on the 49 bus from Gloucester Road to Westfield White City, getting off at Shepherds Bush station and walking across the green there to the Empire.

First up were Jesus Jones - and I hadn't seen these live since their Doubt tour circa 1991. Straight away they were bringing out some of their classics from their first two albums "Liquidizer" and "Doubt" and that had plenty of people bouncing around and enjoying themselves. Their set included one of my favourites from back in the day, the superb "Info Freako" as well as "Right Here, Right Now", "Never Enough", the often massively overlooked "Zeroes and Ones" too. Iain Baker on keyboards still bashes it to bits and runs around like a loon, but immensely fun and good on him for not ageing at all.

The band were spot on playing too, Mike Edwards' vocals were still excellent, and when listening to the likes of "International Bright Young Thing" and especially the classic opener of "Real Real Real", that took me back when Now 17 was on heavy rotation down the pub meaning that this track got played a lot, it was a classic (and still is). "The Real World" was also very good as well, and "Get a Good Thing" too. They ended with "Who? Where? Why?" which had everyone singing the chorus along as well - which was a really nice feeling. Mental note made: must go and see these live again!

So next up were Pop Will Eat Itself, and after a technical glitch or two, on they came and complete with Mary Byker and Graham Crabb on the vocals. It was in fact Mary's 50th birthday so we got to sing happy birthday to him, and the band kicked proverbial backside. They started off with "PWEI-zation" from the "Very Metal Noise Pollution EP" and I noticed something: a lack of samples! Graham revealed that RCA didn't allow them to use any samples they might have had clearance for whilst the band was with them, which effectively wasn't nice of them. Anyway, we all pogoed like mad to "Get The Girl, Kill The Baddies" and followed that up with "Chaos and Mayhem" as well.

As the introductory synth came on, Graham mentioned how racism is still a problem over here, and when they wrote "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" back in 1994, how it should have been a wake up call. Today it's still as powerful and it's one I go mental to with good reason, the words and the music just channel that anger perfectly. We had "Oldskool Cool" and a nice surprise in the classic "Radio PWEI" (Graham and Mary had to do the "can't live without my radio" lines themselves due to lack of sample clearance), and a lengthy epic "Wake Up! Time To Die" to follow.

That was clearly to slow people down to save their energy for a blistering version of "Their Law" which they nailed, with Tim on guitars showing just why both PWEI and Gary Numan have him playing, he really did give it some. The whole audience belted out the line "F**k them and their law" and it felt a real pleasure to have that moment. "Def Con One" came around, but minus samples it didn't quite sound as good, but they then kicked backside at the end with "Everything's Cool?" and everyone in the audience did the "woo, woo!" bit that's normally a sample. A great if albeit a shortened set.

The Wonder Stuff were headlining, and again, a band I'd not seen for a while (since they supported the Levellers a few years back in fact). and they were up to their usual excellent standard. I took a space by the left side as that was less prone to people moshing like mental, and I wanted to be a bit more chilled. Still, it didn't stop me enjoying them immensely. After two new songs, "Redberry Joytown" was an unexpected early era treat that had everyone with a smile on their face. "Here Comes Everyone" complete with frantic fiddle playing from Erica Nockalls was really good, as was "Friendly Company" from their recent album.

Then came some real classics, "Golden Green" to which everyone had a massive hoe-down to, and then possibly their most well known single "Size of a Cow". I glanced up to the first level seats and in the front balcony a family of three were singing along, especially the littlest kid of around nine. That made me smile - he was enjoying himself, he knew the words, a proper music fan at that age. Yes. "Caught in My Shadow" came next, a song which I relate to because Miles Hunt wrote it about Birmingham (and I've been in the very same spot the band performed the video in!)

We had "Mission Drive" and also "Circlesquare" (when you could release singles without an album to back it up with) and one of my all time favourites "Don't Let Me Down Gently", and added to that next up "A Wish Away". Oh wow! I never thought I'd hear that live again so good, and it was a really lovely atmosphere when that played. Yaay. It was so nice, everyone smiling and happy, and singing along, so tune of the day goes to that one, cos I love it so. "Who Wants To Be The Disco King?" followed, along with "Poison" before the band came off to rapturous applause.

They weren't done yet, and then encore had the great "Can't Shape Up" followed by their early single "Unbearable" which is still bloody brilliant, and they then went to their early stuff too for "Give Give Give Me More More More" followed by an epic lengthy version of "Ten Trenches Deep" complete with Erica going for it on the violin at the end and the band rocking out. It was dead on 11pm when we all left, and so that meant virtually three and a half hours plus of immense value from all three bands - amazing stuff and well worth the dosh let me tell you. I was rather hot and sweaty when I got back, so a shower in the hotel before bed was spot on. What a gig it was!

Thursday 19th December - My Work Here Is Done

It was the final working day of the year for me, and I know that might sound surprisingly early for some of you out there, but do bear in mind that I did book off as leave the 20th, 23rd and 24th, and then from there where I work has a Christmas closedown, we're not in on the 27th, 30th and 31st December as part of that (although if someone wanted to pay me lots of money to be in, I probably wouldn't say no to be honest.) It also means that I get close to two weeks off and so don't feel the need to necessarily rush around and do everything that I need to last minute, so all good there.

I managed to even get caught up on everything that I needed to do today, dish out any calls as they came in and take a fair number of them on myself and get them all sorted out. What of course was good was that a fair few of them involved software distribution and now using SCCM 2007 of course that whole task is a heck of a lot quicker to be honest - thinking smarter instead of harder and all that. In fact it meant that I was able to get a few packages deployed to different staff in quick time, and indeed sort out an issue a member of staff had with a spam email coming from the same domain as well.

As I'd had no reply to my email from last night, I used up a fair bit of my lunch break to be constantly on hold to get through to the supplier I'd purchased the Christmas gift from (a freephone number thankfully!) - and so once I spent 25 minutes getting through, there was a very nice friendly assistant on the other end of the phone (and in a UK call centre, hurrah) who quickly realised what had happened, and not only shipped a replacement order out to me using über-express delivery to get here before Christmas, but also re-shipped out the order which was in the box for someone else to them as well. So hopefully they'll be happy too.

They did ask me to return the parcel with a call reference number to any local branch, so I was able to do that after work as well and offload it kindly to the manager there, who was also lovely. See, customer service when it's done right is something to be really proud of overall and I think that in this example it shows that going the extra mile is something that really is appreciated at the other end, and certainly mine in this case. It turned the whole experience around and made me feel special, something which I do have to remember to do in my job as well so a lesson learned for me there.

It was good though to leave the office today and finally put an end to my working year, making sure I put my out of office email reply on, set my auto greeting for people ringing my telephone extension, and made sure that was on and I was logged out of my phone as well so that it was playing ball. I had also checked with my colleague and we made sure that one of the external facing TV screen displays had all sorts of possible updates to software turned off so it stayed on all Christmas long - just the necessary troubleshooting required really.

I got home later and a shed load of post had arrived: two Christmas presents I'd ordered for my brother, one for one of my friends, and numerous cards, including one from my cousin. On top of all that I also received a package from my friend up in Ulverston with a really good card and some presents which I've put under the tree to open on Christmas Day - I'm good me you know. So that's all nicely set, and I can now look forward to the start of the break with a trip to London.

With that in mind and who I'm going to see, tune of the day is the 2010 remix of "Axe of Men" by Pop Will Eat Itself. Out of all three bands I'm seeing tomorrow night it's them I'm most looking forward to, purely because seeing them live has always been a special thing in my lifetime. I was there for the 2005 reformation tour with the original line up and that was special, but them, Jesus Jones and The Wonder Stuff on the same bill? I am very much there.

Wednesday 18th December - Smuggling in a Mistake

I had had a busy day at work and was heading home to hopefully spend a bit of time relaxing before The Love In My Heart arrived for tea and a nice catch up and chat. I got home and there was a card from Royal Mail through the door, informing me that a package had arrived and it was waiting for me at the sorting office. I had got to the sorting office thankfully before it shut at 5.30pm, and sure enough there was a box waiting for me, and I knew what it was - a Christmas present that I'd ordered and one which I was more than happy to get and wrap up.

I headed to Tesco on the way home after picking up the parcel too - as I was going to buy a bottle of champagne! I know, extravagant it may be, but for a very good reason. I've already got all the things ordered online for the weekend for a nice meal for The Love In My Heart and I, and as she had some very good news on Monday about a new job, I wanted to say well done in my own little way. I had remembered too that we had enjoyed some rather gorgeous Lanson champagne when seeing the Monaco Grand Prix, and so thought "yeah, why not?" - especially as it was one third off at the moment.

I got a few other bits in Tesco, got to the till and as it was rung through I noticed it was being charged at full price. Not having that, I thought, so I politely asked the assistant to check the price - and they did - and found I was indeed correct and to have it for a third off. My eagle eye spots these things and it may well be a promotion of some sort as well. Indeed the bottle I had even had a nice little Santa outfit on the outside (complete with furry feel and zip!) which was cute. The Love was impressed when she saw it and we'll save that for Saturday I reckon.

Anyway, I got home, unpacked the shopping and opened the box with the order in. And.. it was the wrong item. My heart sank in despair. Not only that, but it was an item ordered by someone else, which means they won't have got the item that they wanted either, not good either. I did try to get through to their customer service lines but they were jammed, so I sent an email to see what could be done. If I get no response by lunch time I'll give them a call and see if it can be sorted - not least because I'd like to see the item arrive for Christmas especially!

The Love came over later and we had a good chat and catch up whilst I made the tea - a rather nice chicken in cheese and leek sauce, complete with dauphinoise potatoes and some petits pois with leek and pancetta - rather wholesome and delicious it has to be said all round. I was pretty pleased to be able to have that and enjoy it, and even had some real ale (St Austell Proper Job no less) to celebrate, which was rather good. I think too that I needed to have something to keep me going after the fun and games of earlier.

We watched something I recorded from Channel 4 the other night which was presented by Sir Tony Robinson as he walked around the South Cornwall coast on the trail of all the small coves which were used by smugglers and the like. Of course seeing the likes of Looe, Polperro, Fowey and Mevagissey were particularly good for us both as we've been to those places and really liked them a lot, so all good there of course. Tune of the day in fact is "World On Its Head" by 3 Daft Monkeys, keeping up the Cornish theme I think!

Tuesday 17th December - Meet and Greet

It was off to Mum's after work today, and for a very good reason. My brother was flying in from Japan with his wife, and they were staying at Mum's over Christmas. Of course it was going to be good to see them anyway, but Mum came up with the idea that all the brothers and sisters and Mum should meet them when they fly in. I must admit initially I wasn't overly keen: primarily because my brother, like me, doesn't like being made too much of a fuss of, and we don't want to scare his wife off either to be honest. However, I thought best to go along with it but just be relaxed and chilled out.

So once everyone had got to Mum's, we headed there in two cars: me, both my sisters and brother in law in one, and Mum and my brother in the other. Once we'd got to the airport and remembered to avoid the long stay car park due to its expensive prices, it was then to Terminal 1, where it wasn't exactly cheap to park there either. We got there a good half hour or so before the plane was due to land, and on top of that of course it's a case of claim the baggage, get through customs etc so not as quick as the time scheduled, which I suspected was the case anyway.

Luckily where Terminal 1 arrivals are there's a place to have a sit down with a relatively nice cup of coffee, so Mum and my brother went and sorted that out, and I had craftily done two things: installed the Manchester Airport app temporarily on my phone to check the arrival times, and the bar also had free wi-fi as well for a maximum of an hour, so I got all that sorted and was able to keep an eye on things. The coffee was good and as my sister and I saw those who'd arrived on a flight from Zurich come out into departures (around half an hour after the flight had landed) I knew that it'd be a bit of a wait.

Eventually the flight from Copenhagen had unloaded everyone and when my brother and his wife headed through the doors, Mum went to greet them and give my brother a huge hug, with the rest of us ambling along to say hello, more at our own pace though. We walked them back to the cars and I had a quick chat with them both: they seemed fairly tired (Tokyo to Copenhagen, Copenhagen to Manchester heading back in time zones) but pretty pleased to get the journey done and land in our city, even with lots of wind around (and believe me it was very windy indeed)

We had to put some of the cases in my brother in law's car, so we headed back to Mum's to drop everything off, and then left them to it, as no doubt with them being tired a good sleep might have been needed. My brother seems to have slimmed down a little as well but certainly seems like he's glad to be home for a little bit at least. No doubt I'll see them over Christmas and be able to get to know his wife better too, so that will be nice. Isn't it good when people come over for Christmas eh?

Back at home, I tuned in to the Capital One Cup quarter final with Manchester City turning over Leicester City 3-1 in the end. At half time the winner of the X Factor came on (she's a Leicester City fan apparently) and did her thing to massive cheers from the home fans, but to be honest even without a full strength team it was City who was getting the X Factor with their impressive play all evening. It was a fairly easy experience and to the semis, where we'd find out tomorrow night who we would get. Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather fab "Civilised Debauchery" by 3 Daft Monkeys, all good fun and I was humming that to myself all day to keep me motivated.

Monday 16th December - Final Push

For one reason or another, it's a real final push this week to get lots of things done in not that much time. In fact I spent a fair amount of time today testing out and documenting the main features of the OneNote 2010 web application for Office 365, so there's an overview of it when the students get to use it (which will be soonish). Of course too I needed to ensure that everything was in play and ready to go for the planned migration to the new look and feel that Microsoft are bringing in, and by the sound of it everyone is pulling together and getting things done.

I also spent some time today getting to the bottom of an issue which had been puzzling a colleague a little bit, and that was a bit of time well spent. Not only did I manage to work out why the coin acceptor in one of the kiosks refused to work, but also configured the software for the kiosk at the same time so that it would recognise the acceptor as well and be able to work as intended. It was a good bit of troubleshooting and it brought back memories of setting one of these babies up some time ago.

I headed home after work and off to my local post office. Part of the reason was that I needed some more first class large letter stamps in order to be able to send off a final couple of cards and little packages that were under 100g, but were too thick for normal letter size. There was a sizeable queue but I imagine that was due to everyone sending mail off everywhere for Christmas (although someone behind me was sending stuff to some Asian countries and I didn't have the heart to say it might not arrive on time.)

Once I sorted out the final batch of stuff to post and got all that sorted, I had some very good news from The Love In My Heart - she got the job that she had an interview for! I was massively made up and really proud of her for what she managed to do. The application was massive and really testing but she passed that with flying colours, and by the sound of what seemed to have happened, she's even been head hunted a little. Once the interview was done I just had a good feeling about it, and my good feelings were right as well. I am just ever so pleased.

I'm hoping too that it will inspire me to seek and get something elsewhere. I've been in the same job and work place almost fifteen years now and although I do enjoy what I do, I have a feeling that I may need to start thinking about what I want to do and where to possibly end up to further the career somewhat. Ideally now of course I'd like to stay in Manchester, as The Love's job is pretty close to home and that matters to me that we're close to each other.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Beautiful Tomorrow" by Beth Rowley, for a number of reasons, namely 1) The Love and I both love Beth's album which this is from, 2) Despite being somewhat bluesy, it really does make us feel happy listening to it, 3) "There will be no dark clouds" is a great line and sums up the cloud lifting for The Love, 4) The tomorrow for her is so much sweeter than today (ie: her new job better than her current one) and 5) the harmonica solo in the middle!

Sunday 15th December - To Market, To Christmas Market

I had had a really relaxing night last night with The Love In My Heart as we relaxed with some nice food, some trashy telly and then of course me seeing Manchester City's win on Match of the Day, with Thierry Henry no less being one of the pundits, and to be fair, giving City a lot of credit for their win. Alan Shearer was even heaping long overdue praise on Pablo Zabaleta as well (thoroughly deserved as well as he had Jack Wilshere in his pocket all day) so all was well there.

I made us both some breakfast and we relaxed with a coffee before we did our own thing today: The Love was off to Cheshire Oaks to do some Christmas shopping, in her words: get there, get what you wanted and then get out of there, and I was heading into Manchester city centre to meet up with some of the Flickr folk to have a gentle wander around the Christmas markets, along with possibly indulging in some food and drink delights from the stalls and all.

We had arranged to meet in the Brazennose Street area as the sit down place to have mulled wine etc always seemed less busy than everywhere else, and sure enough we were soon heading into there and having a good catch up and a drink of mulled wine to keep warm from the elements, as you do of course. It was good anyway to people watch and see the alarming trend of people wearing Christmas jumpers. I mean, why? Not my thing really but each to their own and all that.

We headed first to Spinningfields and via The Avenue and the market stalls there, heading for the ice rink. It was good to see so many people out on the ice, although I thought it best not to have a go and make a complete loon of myself and all that. It was good though that it was bringing people around there. Walking back past the Oast House and to The Avenue North later, we were quite surprised to see these wire mesh figures, sort of Antony Gormley styled but suspended in mid-air above the walkway, pretty cool that.

We then headed to King Street and to the market stalls there, where a couple of us stopped for the German sausages, which looked pretty good. We cut through to St Ann's Square and there was another stall selling really nice ham, on a roll with some mustard, and that did the job rather well for me it has to be said. It was then a case of heading around M&S and down Cross Street, stopping off to see one of the security guards whom a couple of us knew, before then cutting through the food and drink stalls by Exchange Square and down to the Witch House little bar close to Zara and M&S, where a nice warming coffee was to be had for me.

A few of us decided to head back to Albert Square to take on the main market, but that really was manically busy to be honest. I did get some nice shots of Zippy (aka Santa) in the rain, and plenty of people walking around as well, but it did seem like everyone was under the assumption that it was the only market there, despite the others dotted around the city centre. Still with the rain teeming down we decided to call it a day and head home, and I settled in for the evening with Sports Personality of the Year on BBC One.

It was a really good show, and one poignant moment was the Helen Rollason award to one of the campaigners for justice for the Hillsborough families, who passed away earlier this year. Former Brookside actress Sue Johnston gave a superb reading which really summed up the way that the families fought for the right justice to come foward, and Alan Hansen presented the award to the family, and not a dry eye was in the house. It was done with the maximum amount of respect and with a lot of care and attention, kudos to them for that really.

I suspected that due to the Wimbledon win which gripped the whole nation, Andy Murray would, rightly, win the award. The fact he outvoted every other of the nine contenders was something else. Bit miffed that Chris Froome didn't come second though: surely a Tour de France win in the Tour's 100th race actually would have mean something that a British rider won it? It did leave a bit of a puzzle thinking why the public voted for some of the others. My top three would have been Murray, Froome and Mo Farah (again massively overlooked - what does this man have to do?) and possibly Hannah Cockroft in fourth too.

Still, that's me nit picking. What was present was a good show with lots of moments (Marion Bartoli almost falling down the stairs before presenting team of the year award with Mark Webber) and a real sense of occasion at the First Direct Arena in Leeds. Tune of the day is in fact the theme tune from Sports Personality of the Year - it evokes all the right emotions at this time of year and really does set you in the mood to watch some quality sport and memories from the year.

Saturday 14th December - Six in the City

It was an earlyish start for me this morning, as I needed to head off to the local Post Office to send off plenty of Christmas cards and little packets full of surprises to people, plus two parcels (one to my friend and one to my cousin) as well. I got to the Post Office around 9.10am and it still wasn't open, but thankfully when it did there weren't many people already waiting so I got served pretty quickly and was able to send off all the letters and cards etc that I needed to. It felt good to be able to send everything off and know it was going to arrive in time for Christmas safe and sound.

Once I got the house sorted, it was time for my friend and I to head to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City against Arsenal in a real top of the table clash. City's home form was superb of course and Arsenal, apart from being top of the table, were imperious away too, so something had to give somewhere. We got to the ground early so we could have a brew and a chat before the game, and my friend had his usual bet on City winning 4-2, and at 40-1 they're not bad odds really, so well worth a shot I thought.

The game kicked off and it was end to end stuff with both sides attacking and showing intent. City earned a corner and from it Samir Nasri's cross was headed across the face of goal by Martin Demichelis, and Sergio Agüero was there at the far post to open the scoring for 1-0. Arsenal though weren't taking that lying down and after a spell of some pressure, Yaya Toure was disposessed on the half way line, and the cross from Mesut Özil was across the 18 yard box to Theo Walcott, who slotted it home for the equaliser.

The game was flowing at an endlessly fast pace, and each time the sides went forward something was going to happen. And happen it did before half time for City as Toure found Pablo Zabaleta down the right hand side - his first touch stopped the ball beautifully before sending over an inviting low cross across the six yard box to be met by The Beast, Álvaro Negredo, who slotted it home to send City into half time 2-1 ahead. And well deserved based on the balance of play as well.

I thought the next goal after half time would be crucial and after some pressure on the Arsenal back four, the ball was hit forward but was intercepted by Fernandinho, and the Brazilian midfielder curved a gorgeous shot past Wojciech Szcezsny in the Arsenal goal for 3-1. Arsenal pushed like mad for the next goal and their efforts were eventually rewarded after a string of missed chances for Olivier Giroud, when the ball was passed to Walcott on the edge of the area and he curved a beauty into the top corner past Costel Pantillimon in the City goal for 3-2.

City again went back forward and some good work on the right from Jesus Navas was rewarded when his low cross was smashed home with an expert strike from David Silva, so 4-2 City. At this point of course and with twenty-odd minutes to go my friend was hoping for no more goals, but that wasn't going to happen (sadly for him). After some dispossession in midfield, City surged forward and Nasri unselfishly passed to Fernandinho who dinked it past the Arsenal keeper and off the post for 5-2, and cue some cursing from my friend because of it.

Stoppage time came and with that Pantillimon did well to deny Walcott a hat trick before a cross from the right was met by Per Mertesacker for 5-3. City looked like scoring with every attack and James Milner was cropped by Szcezsny and so a penalty was awarded. I must admit it'd have been nice to give it to Fernandinho for the hat trick and all, but Yaya Toure made no mistake from the spot and City won 6-3, an incredible result and one my friend and I took a bit of time to realise and sink in, let me tell you. Impressive stuff as "The Boys In Blue" played loud and proud over the tannoy, they really did never give in and made me massively proud, so tune of the day right there.

Friday 13th December - Tree! T-r-ee!

I had managed to resolve the issue with DesignaKnit 8 from yesterday, and worked out exactly what had been going on. It transpires that even though you're running a network install version, which sits on your shared network drive, it requires two files to be installed on your machine. One of which is one of the custom TrueType fonts, but another is an ActiveX control which is registered. If the file isn't installed or registered, then what effectively happens is that when you run the software, it throws up a SysClass type error, indicating a missing object class registration, which did make sense.

It turned out too that the software vendor had managed to release that as an installable and add it to their new installer instructions, which I only found after some deep searching of their documentation. Still, it was the breakthrough that I needed and meant I was able to get it all tested and working, so felt rather positive for the rest of the day as I looked forward to the weekend and indeed to be able to get a few things well and truly sorted tonight.

The Love In My Heart was picking me up from work, as we were heading off to one of the local shops near me that always do a decent and roaring trade in Christmas trees at this time of year. We've both purchased them from there over the last few years and they're always really good, they don't drop, they last for ages and they really do have a real sense of it all being Christmassy, which is what we want. We picked the trees we needed and then paid for them which they happily took along to The Love's car, which was so good of them. Yaay.

Once we headed back to mine it was a case of getting the tree placed in my stand that I have (The Love has the same sort of stand too) and then screwing it all in tightly so it didn't move. I then spent a bit of time in the evening getting all the lights and baubles out and on to it, and that did work really well on the whole it has to be said. I for one am already feeling a sense of excitement now, especially more so after I chatted online with my brother and so was able to order the final Christmas present I needed to. Hurrah!

All the talk of a tree reminded me of course of the classic Harry Enfield sketch he did in the early 1990s, English for Aliens. The aliens would learn words and then repeat them when they saw something similar, so they learned the word "tree" and every time they saw one, it was "Tree! Tree! Tuh-ruh-eeee!" etc - even if it was a lamp post they'd shout out "tree!". They also learned the words like shop (in and out of the same shop every time haha) and yet they'd always respond when hearing about Jesus with "Baby Jesus.. awwww" which was a classic of its time.

Tune of the day is the superb "Agnes the Giant Killer" from 3 Daft Monkeys, a song I've listened to a lot over the last two months - and with very good reason. It's a catchy song, it reminds me of being in Cornwall (it does after all focus on St Agnes in the song) and just has the right amount of mood to be a classic that I love listening to. And of course bounding around to this when seeing the band live just has to be done - shame I can't get down to Redruth next Saturday...

Thursday 12th December - Parisienne Delights

I had a busy day at work, spending a fair amount of time during the day testing out and investigating just why DesignaKnit 8, one of our specialist pieces of knit software that we have, doesn't work for some reason. I had followed all the instructions, and checked them again to be sure they worked. Strangely, it only ever seemed to work on the machine I ran the network install from, which I thought was a bit strange to be honest. I even tried running it on that machine as a limited logged in user, running the network based install, and that failed.

I have some theories and one breakthrough I made late in the day is that there's supposed to be a file stored on the shared network drive, which then copies to the user's profile on launch, which contains the licencing information so that the user isn't asked for one. After I licenced it, the file didn't copy to the network drive that it should have done, so I copied the file manually, and this actually worked for all users on the original machine I installed it on, but still something wasn't quite right elsewhere. I'll look at this with open eyes tomorrow.

I got home relatively early and was waiting in for a delivery from a Collect+ / Yodel courier. They had left a card through the door and by the sound of it, I'd missed them by an hour or so yesterday, so rang them and arranged a time. They came as expected which was nice with a big box which basically housed one of my Christmas presents. I checked everything in the box was working and made sure it was all wrapped up, and that felt pretty good to have that done and sorted.

The Love In My Heart came over later and I made us one of my signature dishes - a chorizo pasta bake - for tea, which went down really well. I tried to time it so it was actually served in between the episode of Emmerdale and the final of Masterchef The Professionals which we both wanted to watch - we really like it when the pros do their stuff as they produce some gorgeous food, and with added Monica Galetti this year it's been a joy to watch overall.

I said at the start that Stephen would win, and The Love was going with Scott. The three courses that each of them made were really good, and you could tell a lot of love was going on to those plates, with some seriously good stuff. I just wanted to have all that beautiful fish in the main courses, and the other contestant Adam did some good food too, but you could tell that Michel Roux Jr wasn't quite happy somehow. We saw the anticipation before Stephen was announced as the winner - which means I got it right. Yaay me - sort of.

I then put on a recording from BBC Four HD from last night which I thought The Love would be interested in - Patisserie, with Michel Roux Jr. It was great seeing him looking all cool and chic as he headed around Paris and sampled many a culinary delight, with some gorgeous desserts and lots of gorgeous macarons left right and centre. His French just gave him that certain something for The Love as well, and I think on the whole it left us both wanting lots and lots of cake, let me tell you. It was highly enjoyable though and we both were getting very tempted to want to go to Paris as well.

Tune of the day is from earlier in the day. I was watching Pointless where they gave you the singer's name from a band and you had to guess the band, with the more obscure doing well. Now you'd think people would know James Hetfield is in Metallica, right? Wrong! Two out of the one hundred surveyed knew that. Dear me, we have either some thick people or a lack of rockers who were asked. So "Enter Sandman" had to be played at full blast to rectify that situation...

Wednesday 11th December - Wrap It All Up

I had a nice surprise after work today - a drink in Sandbar with The Love In My Heart! She had some time spare after a busy afternoon and so wasn't that far from where I work, so I suggested that it'd be nice to head there and I'd treat her to a drink. And why not? In fact, it was a good move all round, not only was the extended section open with its nice comfy seating, but the Phoenix Arizona ale was on mightily good form. Now if only I could convince them to actually stock some Black Cat again...

In fact the day had been fairly busy, punctuated by a couple of hours' worth of meeting and training, where I was able to see what material had been produced to give people a heads up on SCCM 2012. I think in essence having the ribbon and its command will make a big difference, and makes the console feel a little more "busy" than previous. Of course the other issue is that there'll be a need for careful use as well, as it's a little too easy to see the ribbon collection actions and clear the PXE boot on the collection completely, which has to be something to warn of.

Once I'd arrived home in the evening I was going to spend a bit of time tonight not just ironing and doing some of the washing, but also making sure that all the presents I'd got thus far were wrapped up and ready to go. Admittedly I've been doing a lot of this as I go along which makes life a fair bit easier, but as you can imagine it's just as good to blitz everything and make sure that it's all good. I even try to bag it in bags for relations where they live, so if I'm dropping stuff off, I know which bag goes where and it's easy enough to do as well.

I did write a spate of Christmas cards, mainly for work colleagues, during the evening, and wanted to get all of those done (thank heavens for the nice little packs of cards this year in Asda, they really did the job nicely.) I took some time during that to watch the story behind sixty years of BBC Sports Personality, which had plenty of Gary Lineker, Sue Barker and Clare Balding talking about the shows past and present, but what was brilliant was that the great Des Lynam was there talking about his era, and done with masses of affection.

I must admit it'll be hard to pick a winner on Sunday from the shortlisted (although part of me really wants Andy Murray to win to be honest) and the theme from said programme is tune of the day as it is rather evocative and gets you in the mood for seeing the run down of who gets what. It's always good too that all sports get recognised and there's no repeat of the 2011 farce where no woman was nominated, learn the hard way and all that. Should be good on Sunday night I reckon...

Tuesday 10th December - Bordeaux to Bilbao to Beating Bayern

Another busy day at work but this time much more organised, and I had a really enjoyable afternoon helping out a couple of colleagues and a couple of intern representatives from Microsoft with their "Go To" event, which went down pretty well. I was able to even demonstrate some of the Office 365 features people will soon be getting with their new look email and web applications, which seemed to please some people. I had a lengthy conversation with one student and even passed on some little shortcut keys he didn't realise, so that was rather nice to be able to teach something new to people.

It's always good to meet people face to face to be honest and it's also good that you're able to actually offer some assistance, as I did do to a couple of staff who had their Samsung Galaxy S4s and were struggling to configure them to connect to their email, but I soon was able to sort one person out (who was lovely) and she must have told one of her colleagues as they came down to see me as well. I think sometimes it's better to be positive like that and do what I can to be of use and really show that not only can I pass on knowledge, but do so in an informed, polite and kind way too.

The Love In My Heart came over later for tea, and I indulged her with Emmerdale whilst I was sorting the tea out, which was a chicken cordon bleu with some dauphinoise potatoes and carrots, and that went down nicely. At 8pm we watched Masterchef The Professionals and it was intruiguing to see that restaurant that they went to in Italy, especially the head chef who really seemed down to earth and was passionate about his food and the people he worked with, which was nice to see.

I then put on a recording from a week or so ago: the last of the series of Great Continental Railway Journeys, with Michael Portillo going from Bordeaux to Bilbao. To be fair, this was probably the best of this series, as Bordeaux looked a rather lovely place, and those cakes especially looked rather grand and gorgeous, and the squares with trams reminsicent of current Nice too. I also really liked the fact that Biarritz got a mention with its coastline and lovely hotels, and the beaches down that end of France looked sandy and golden.

Spain of course was a different kettle of fish, and although the border crossing station of Irún looked a little like a desolate landscape, San Sebastian was pretty impressive. I wouldn't mind taking a ride on that roller coaster crossed with a railway that offered gorgeous views over the bays and the city, but would probably need to hang on for dear life though. And Bilbao with its transporter bridge also looked like a rather good place to go, notably with the Guggenheim Museum. Darn, I want to get travelling there sort of now really.

What I didn't expect though, and having seen the highlights I can't believe it, was Manchester City coming back from being 2-0 down inside twelve minutes to beat Bayern Munich 3-2 on their own patch. It was an impressive performance, probably started when Micah Richards went off and Pablo Zabaleta came on. James Milner was everywhere, being a provider for David Silva's goal, getting fouled for the penalty which Aleksandar Kolarov buried, and then curling home a sweet shot for what proved to be the winner. Had we scored one more we would have actually topped the group, impressive stuff indeed, and hence the theme from the Champions League is tune of the day.

Monday 9th December - I Am (Not) Tiger Woods

It was to be honest a rather manic and somewhat stressful day at work, primarily because a lot went on which didn't go according to plan and I felt rather as if I hadn't managed to achieve what I was able to do in the space of a day. It was hard to put a finger on it but it really did feel like lots of things just didn't fall into place the way that they were meant to be intended. So I must admit it was a bit of a relief to be able to head home and just forget about the day somewhat.

I decided that the best form of therapy tonight was first off to get a shed load of ironing done and have all the washing up to date, so I wasn't short of any clothes to wear during the week. I had 3 Daft Monkeys' album "Of Stones and Bones" on which is always a good thing to listen to, and the tracks on there evoke many memories of Cornwall in a good way. I do quite like "World On Its Head" though so that's got to be tune of the day really - it's one of those you can spend effortless time bounding around to.

I then switched on the Wii and it was time for some golf therapy with Tiger Woods 12 on the Wii. I've decided to set up my golfer and set on the long hard career road where you have to undertake various seasons before you hit touring and playing in The Masters, but in turn this effectively builds up the attributes of your golfer to be sure you can do what you need to. I had to compete in the final three rounds (having done the first one the other day) of an amateur tournament at the TPC Scottsdale course, a course I remember well from the '09 version.

It seems to work pretty well on the whole too, the swing (even in standard mode without all the Motion Plus stuff) means that you have to swing straight and true for the ball to go straight, and taking slopes into account when hitting shots is a useful trick, plus the fact you can effectively draw and fade with the targeter as well for each of the shots. It's a well tried and tested system on the whole, and does work nicely. The putting still occasionally asks a few questions, but I can't have done that bad to have done okay in that tournament, winning by two shots and with some really hard pin placements on the final day.

I also spent some time compiling something which I normally do each year for friends and family, and that took a bit of time working out what to do. It's nice to send a little something along with the Christmas cards just to make it more of a package that people will like and enjoy, and that for me as well it gives me a chance to reflect on the year on a whole, which didn't work out that badly. I mean, I went to proper Wimbledon this year and saw Andy Murray on his way to winning the thing, and did go to Wembley again only to see City lose in the FA Cup Final. Still, pretty good really.

Sunday 8th December - Everything Stops for Afternoon Tea

The Love In My Heart and I had a relatively relaxed lie in, and it was good to get a well earned sleep after a pretty hectic week as well. I think that sometimes it's just good to be able to take things relatively easier and be able to just potter around the house and not really do that much. I did make The Love and I some sausages on toast for breakfast along with a coffee, and that was good to get us up and in a fairly relaxed mood for the day, with not that much planned.

I did see some of the European Cross Country Championships and was amazed to see the British women doing really well in all age ranges, and then with the men's main race, we had one of the British team battle in the last kilometre or so to snatch third place on the line, which helped also to ensure another bronze medal in the team race, impressive stuff. I think it's good to see the athletics taken more seriously and I'm sure Paula Radcliffe could make a new career of being a TV pundit on it (she was world champion at it and all.)

Later on was the start of the UK Snooker Championship final and although the first few frames were a little bit on the edgy side, Mark Selby did make a century break in the first and that got things off to a good start. Also Nel Robertson fought back impressively from 5-1 down towards the end of the session, adding a century of his own and ending the session 5-3 down. I had a feeling that those two frames clawed back might prove crucial later on in terms of getting a result.

We headed over to Mum's, as she invited us for a little afternoon tea, which was very nice of her to do. There were sandwiches, sausage rolls, some nice cheese and she'd used one of the little cake stands to put all little cakes and finger slices on, some of which she had baked herself. That with some tea or coffee went down very well indeed and it was rather lovely for us to just relax and enjoy that. We saw my brother and his girlfriend too and it was good to chat to them too, so was a really nice way to spend a later afternoon.

Later on The Love headed home and I stayed in to watch the final session of the UK Snooker final. I quite like Mark Selby's walk on music ("Fast Fuse" by Kasabian in case you wondered - tune of the day) and the atmosphere was being ramped up by both Rob Walker and the crowd in equal measures. Selby took the first frame to make it 6-3, only for Robertson to start playing superbly and he claimed five on the bounce to go 8-6 up, and some centuries in there too which was impressive. I think Selby will rue a missed red which could have enabled a clearance to go 7-3 up as well.

Selby pulled it back to 8-7 and was on his way to snatching the 16th frame, and he got to the final black needing it to win the frame. He inexplicably asked for the cue and black balls to be cleaned, which the legend that is Stephen Hendry on commentary said "Why? Just get down and knock it in while you're in the flow". He wasn't wrong either. Selby's shot hit the jaws of the pocket and stayed out for Robertson to go 9-7 up, and he'd win the next one and get over the line to win 10-7, remain World Number 1 (the winner of this tournament would be number 1, so something massively to play for) and claim a nice £150k prize money. Selby at least has the consolation of the 147 from yesterday for a cool £59k and the runner up prize of £75k though.

Saturday 7th December - Maximum Magic

I headed up fairly early and out to the city centre as I wanted to get some more Christmas presents sorted, and it didn't take me long to head into a couple of shops and get all of those done. In fact in one shop I had to wait for one of the assistant managers to help out, because the item I wanted wasn't in stock and therefore needed to wait for them to dig it out of their stock room for me, which they did and that was rather pleasing to say the least. Always nice when you feel assisted.

I spent some time in the afternoon heading around a few shopping centres out of Manchester in the hope to try and find a particular present, and it was quite a good journey all told, first to Stockport, with no luck there, then on the bus to Hyde, and again no luck, but some pretty good shops to mooch around, and then to Ashton-under-Lyne, and again no luck either. However I did notice a new shop facing the market called Bargain Buys and it really did seem to be a massive discount shop. The queues to buy stuff were massive though so I decided against getting anything and so headed instead on the bus homeward.

I got back and the UK Snooker Championship semi final was on with Mark Selby up against Ricky Walden. Selby had gone 4-2 up and then the coverage switched over to BBC2, and at the time of leaving BBC1, Selby had potted three reds and blacks with the balls in decent position. I kept on BBC2 and as they rejoined it was seven reds and blacks, and so watched. He got the awkward red near the top of the table, kept it going and as it got down to the colours the brown being near to the blue was going to be tricky, but Selby pulled off an amazing shot with the white all round the table to get back for the blue.

The blue went in and then the pink was the difficult one, as the ball was far down the table, and with an extended cue Selby was stretching for it, but then made it count. The white though was close to the baulk line and it meant a black to the left middle. He hit it, Dennis Taylor in commentary yelled "Get in!" and the ball dropped off the top jaw and sank in for a quite brilliant 147 - the 100th in competitive snooker and with it a massive £59,000 as well. Selby went mental and Walden did a high five with him in recognition of a a great moment in snooker.

After my shopping arrived, I headed to the Manchester Apollo Box Office to get tickets for next year's Human League gig there. The Box Office only opens after 5pm on gig nights, but meant I could head there, pay cash, and therefore no booking fee. I did want the side of the front circle but those seats were taken but I did get Row B in the front circle and the view was still decent from there. Even better the tickets were £32.50 and not £39.50, so cheaper too. The booking fee by the way would have been £5.50 per ticket, so money saved all round there too.Tune of the day though is therefore "Don't You Want Me" by the Human League - a classic.

The Love In My Heart and I had a relaxing evening, we watched Strictly Come Dancing and I have to say Claudia Winkleman looked lovely in her outfit, and the dancers were all decent so it was a real show. Interestingly they had a swingathon at the end in the style of the American swingathons of the 1950s and 1960s, and was good fun. I must admit though I did like Sophie Ellis-Bextor though - she and Brendan Cole seem to work well together.

Friday 6th December - Shepherding in Holmfirth

After a busy day in work it was the start to a weekend and a good one at that, as I was heading off to Holmfirth to see Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds live, for a third time. I'd previously seen them at the Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama in the University of Manchester and at Band on the Wall, so seeing them out of Manchester was a bit of a change. And the Holmfirth Picturedrome is an ace little venue, the right size, a cracking atmosphere and a great night out.

I also had the pleasure of accompanying one of the staff at work, who's one of our technicians that I get on well with, so I had asked if it was okay to head there with her and she was more than happy to do so. So from Manchester Piccadilly we headed on the train via Stalybridge to Mossley, and from there we headed in her car past Greenfield and over the tops before heading downhill and towards Holmfirth before a slight uphill rise to the house she currently rents. Even better was that a very nice handmade burger was cooking nicely and some nice chips too, I felt rather spoilt!

My colleague left me in the company of her partner, who was a really nice friendly bloke, down to earth and dead easy to chat to as well, whilst she got changed for her dinner dance night out. She looked the part in a very nice dress and he already looked smart and cool, so I'm sure they were going to have a great night themselves. They also very kindly dropped me into Holmfirth down the hill from their place on the way out (they had to head that way anyway) and I really appreciated it - as she said "You've always been really nice and helpful to us at work, so it's the least I could do". Isn't it nice when people are just lovely?

The doors hadn't opened to the Picturedrome so I headed to the Old Bridge Hotel next door, where The Love In My Heart and I had eaten before and had a massive filled Yorkshire. I didn't need feeding of course but as the Black Sheep Best looked on good form it was a no brainer to get that done, and so I relaxed with a pint of that whilst taking in the relaxed atmosphere of the pub. It was good too that it felt warm and homely and that generally people were heading out (or to the pub's posh restaurant for their Christmas do) to have a good time themselves.

Into the Picturedrome I went, and the place is still as fab as ever. I headed up to the balcony area and managed to get a seat so I could relax seeing the support act, Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou. They were really nice and played some soft lilting acoustic songs, and they played with a real togetherness (even more so when you realise they are husband and wife of course). It was beautiful and some of the tracks from their recent album "La Ferme de Fontenaille" were gorgeous, notably the closer "The Day The Rebel In Me Dies". I might have to check their albums out.

During the interval I headed to the Box Office Bar (around the back of the venue) to get a drink, and their bar had real cask ale and everything! Not only that but the Timothy Taylor Golden Best looked on form so I had that for a mere cost of £2.80. Yes the folks at the now rip off Manchester Academy, less than three quid for a pint of real proper ale, not £4.50 for a 500ml bottle which was being kept in the fridge instead of being at room temperature. Take note - all gig venues should be as good as the Picturedrome is.

On came The Bad Shepherds - and for the next hour and a half we were treated to an excellent show of punk and 80s songs turned into rousing folk numbers, and played with suitable passion and aplomb. Most of the set was from their new album "Mud Blood and Beer" including the title track - which was actually one of their own compositions and played with suitable gusto as well. It was written to remind them of the many festivals that they have played over the years.

Starting off then with "Anarchy in the UK" complete with lengthy Uillean pipe intro, the band got into their stride early on, and were soon into "Going Underground" which a lot of people sang along to. There was also an epic "Friday Night, Saturday Morning" with its lengthy outro before the short sharp shock of "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" as well. I didn't expect a gorgeous soft version of Robert Wyatt's "Shipbuilding" either but that's what we got so that was brilliant.

"Making Plans For Nigel" was always good fun, especially as Ade, Troy and Andy take turns to yell out "Happy!" during the chorus, a right laugh that. Their fast paced "God Save The Queen" followed with the audience joining in the "No Future" part obviously. I must admit I do love their Ramones Medley and sang every single word to all three songs in the medley, and it just works ridiculously well. Somehow singing "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" seems so wrong but so right if you know what I mean.

Understandably, "Rise" got a massive reception, especially when you consider the subject matter. A lot of the crowd showed their passion by really belting out the "Anger is an energy" line - John Lydon himself would have been mightily proud I suspect. We got to the encore, and what was this? A Smiths song! They did "Girlfriend in a Coma" and it was soft, acoustic and bloody ace (therefore tune of the day) , before finishing with a rocking version of "White Riot" to end proceedings perfectly.

In fact I took a note of the set list, so if you're heading to see them on the remainder of the tour, expect this little lot and enjoy - and especially if you hear Ade's anecdote about Status Quo selling out to rework one of their big hits for an Australian supermarket advert:

Anarchy in the UK
No More Heroes
Going Underground
What A Waste
Our House
Gary Gilmore's Eyes
Road To Nowhere
Making Plans For Nigel
Friday Night, Saturday Morning
God Save The Queen
Ramones Medley
London Calling
Mud Blood and Beer
Once In a Lifetime

Girlfriend in a Coma
White Riot

I headed back from Holmfirth to Huddersfield on the bus and then got the stopping train from Huddersfield to Manchester Victoria, and then walked through the city centre to get the bus home. It had been an excellent day all round and the band were on top form, they really were. I must admit I really do like the Picturedrome as a venue and I might have to try and go there again for another gig, maybe the likes of Toyah next year. Exciting times ahead..

Thursday 5th December - A Sad Death

It was a fairly hectic day of sorts as well today - nothing that was taking up lots of time per se, but the fact that it was just a constant stream of work meant that the day went by pretty smoothly on the whole. I had also managed as well to ensure that the number of outstanding jobs that I had left to do were reduced considerably, so that did feel a bit better as well. I just somehow felt that I needed to try and prioritise a few things and I like to think I did that.

When I got home the snooker had already finished for the afternoon but interestingly Stuart Bingham had beaten Ronnie O'Sullivan 6-4 which was a bit of a surprise, but knowing the way Bingham has been playing at the moment, it was a deserved win as well. Neil Robertson had beaten Stephen Maguire 6-2 on the other table and so it set it all up for a good semi final tomorrow between those two. I also caught a little bit of the evening session tonight and Mark Allen v Ricky Walden was to prove to be quite a game on the whole.

The Love In My Heart came over later for tea, and I made us some chicken with chorizo and manchego cheese crumble and some nice parmentier potatoes to go with it, which seemed to go down pretty well. For some reason Emmerdale was a double episode tonight so it was easier for her to watch it back to back - although I have to say some of it was pretty violent for a 7pm evening showing - involving a severe beating of one of the regular cast members and all. Not exactly great teatime viewing I suspect!

Although the snooker had focussed on Mark Selby's game earlier, it switched to Walden v Allen and that was a good game all told. I guess with only one stream available on the red button, it might be a good time to get one of those smart connected Smart TVs that has a BBC Sport app, so you could if you wished watch both tables, especially when it comes to the likes of the World Championship in April - which of course I might just have to spend some time going to.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the Special AKA's 80s classic "Free Nelson Mandela" and with very good reason. As I was flicking over channels BBC1 left Mrs Brown's Boys straight to a news conference in South Africa where the South African president Jacob Zuma announced, solmenly, to the world, that Nelson Mandela had passed away earlier in the day. He carried out that speech with great dignity, which the great man himself would have admired and appreciated.

It's hard to fully appreciate the impact that Mandela had, but the efforts in campaigning during the 1980s to free him from prison and try to bring an end to the apartheid regime was something that sticks in the memory as a growing up teenager, and an education to realise for a generation that racism was just plain wrong. That song was a call to people to wake up and realise just what was going on and what was wrong over there. His release in 1990 was a result of tireless years of campaigning, and his eventual rise to the South African presidency with fully democratic elections was a watershed moment, as was his presenting of the 1995 Rugby World Cup to the South African national team - fronted by François Piennar.

It's also hard to put into words just what a passing like this will eventually mean, but it may also act as a moment of even further reconciliation for South Africa, where the whole country will be stronger and unite together to mourn the passing of the great man and allow for an even closer bond and stronger future between the communities in the country. The determination and the passion of Mandela and the eloquency in which he delivered was that which should act as an inspiration for all people.

Wednesday 4th December - Iron(ing) Man

I spent a fair amount of time tonight doing two things: watching the snooker on BBC Red Button and also doing a shed load of ironing. First things first though was the UK Snooker Championship on the red button, and with both Ronnie O'Sullivan and Neil Robertson in action (as it was yesterday in fact) it was good to see how they'd fare tonight. As the red button on Freeview has only one stream to show at once, it concentrated on Ronnie's match against Robert Milkins.

In hindsight, they made the correct decision as well. Milkins got into one frame and made a decent break, only for Ronnie to clear up and punish him. In fact every little mistake made was capitalised on and O'Sullivan made no bones about it either - the first four frames were complete in under an hour, and when they came back on it didn't take too long before it became a rather embarrassing and one sided 6-0 win for the Rocket. He knocked in a 50+ break in every singe frame as well, no centuries but some impressive play nonetheless.

It went over to the other table (and with good timing as it was the mid session interval there) which was Neil Robertson against his practice partner Joe Perry. It was 3-1 at the interval and Neil had already had two 70+ breaks out of the three frames that he had won. The first frame after the mid-session was also a century as well, a nifty 111, and from there there was no looking back for the Thunder from Down Under, as he rattled off the next two frames also pretty quickly to land an impressive 6-1 win. Had I known it'd be finishing that quickly I could have possibly gone there tonight, ah well.

This left the inevitable which had to be done: ironing, and lots of it. I had finally caught up doing a shed load of washing following the weekend not being here, and it was good to be able to crack on and get everything all done to have a full wardrobe of clothes to choose from for the weekend and beyond. It was also good that it meant I could blitz it all in one go and listen to some music at the same time, notably the second Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds album, so their "Ramones Medley" is tune of the day - it's just so much fun when they play it!

Tuesday 3rd December - Barbican Bonanza

I headed up early this morning, in fact earlier than usual as I had a train to catch - the 0727 from Piccadilly to Newcastle, which stopped at York where I'd be heading off to see the UK Snooker Championship at the Barbican. The train was on time and was packed with commuters between Huddersfield and Leeds - no wonder it's a double train for Transpennine Express. Once I arrived in York, I followed the city walls and headed to the Barbican, a venue I've seen a few gigs at in my time so I knew the layout of the place. You had to head upstairs to the balcony entrances, and then head through and down the stairs to the lower seating. However, if you wanted to sit in the upper balcony you were more than welcome to if you wanted to (and I've sat in here for gigs, it's good up there.)

I decided to head a few rows from the front in between tables one and two (the TV tables) which meant I had a decent view of the morning and afternoon games. Half the difficulty is with four tables is that inevitably you're trying to keep an eye what's going on with all four of them, and so you may not necessarily see a good shot if your eyes have gone to another table. This may in some part explain the atmosphere a little bit - and also because the layout of four tables only just fitting inside the venue means that there's no side seating till tomorrow (when two tables maximum are in play.) I know some people have complained about the atmosphere (or lack of) thus far

I concentrated mainly on Mark Allen v Michael Holt on Table One as well as Mark Williams v Ricky Walden on Table Two. Allen v Holt was pretty see-saw most of the way through, although in the second frame there was a free ball called, Allen questioned it as even though he was the recipient of it, he wanted it checked. Both players and the referee checked as well, and Holty said "definitely one". Nice moment of sportsmanship that, and certainly both of them got on pretty well anyway so it was good to see that the cameraderie was there during that match.

In fact for the first four frames we had a new feature on trial - ref cam! A small webcam sized camera protruded from the chest of referee Paul Collier, and occasionally the TV screen above the table showed the ref cam view, sometimes when he was placing a colour back on its spot or even racking up at the start of a frame, but sometimes usefully when the player was taking a shot and the balls were close to him so you could see what the ref was looking at. Those four frames in the Allen-Holt match were the only ones with TV cameras until around 1pm incidentally.

On the outside of the four tables, Robert Milkins had made a century in the first frame and went on to win well against Matthew Stevens, whilst on the other, it was a bit unfortunate for Mitchell Travis that he was on the losing end of some long drawn out frames and David Morris' 6-1 win was a bit flattering, although a deserved win. Walden v Williams went to a decider, and I have to say that his total clearance of 137 was one of the best breaks I've seen under pressure, he just went for the jugular and played a controlled break. In fact he was on for a 147 early on until he had to play for a lower value colour to keep the break going, nonetheless great stuff.

Allen v Holt also went to a decider, and I was keeping an eye on that and on the first frame of Robertson v Hang (roll on / roll off was in operation for the day session in case you wonderered.) Allen's 68 break was enough in the end, but a superb 141 from Robertson set his match with Hang off to a good start. Eventually, around two frames behind everyone else, Ronnie O'Sullivan came out against Marcus Campbell, and I'd been keeping an eye on the other matches before then. Mark Selby was in cruise control against Stuart Carrington on Table 3 and his 6-0 win wasn't a surprise really, Carrington just made the odd mistake here and there which was enough to punish him.

On Table 4, Ding Junhui had started dead on the 1pm time against Fergal O'Brien, and although one or two frames got a bit scrappy, the break building of Ding was showing some sheer class, and plenty of fans behind him as well. His 6-1 win was richly merited and he looked on still very good form. Back on Table 1, and the second frame was one of the strangest ends to a frame I've seen for a while. It went down to the final black with Marcus Campbell up 56-51. It got crafty with the safety down the bottom of the table, but as Ronnie tried a delicate bounce off the cushion, it missed the black, he fouled, and therefore frame over. First time I've ever seen that happen.

Ronnie cleaned up with a useful 58 to go into the mid session 2-2, and then two century breaks on the bounce were excellent to make it 4-2. He was on his way to another one in the eighth frame but broke down on 68. However Marcus couldn't clean up from there and eventually conceded for a 6-2 win for Ronnie - however it wasn't as convincing as the scoreline might have suggested. Neil Robertson as finding Li Hang a bit of a handful, and the sixth frame where Robertson compiled an excellent break of 68 was the key moment. Hang did pull it back to 4-3 but Robertson then did more than enough in the next two, and due to Ronnie's five minute final frame, the Robertson game was the last table to finish around 5pm.

I then spent a bit of time heading around some of the shops in York city centre, and I would have done more had most of them not already shut by 5pm - so I could only go in places that were open till 6pm or even in some rare cases 6.30pm. I consoled myself in Costa Coffee with a gingerbread and cream latte and just watched the world go by as well as chat to The Love In My Heart as well, it was all good really. I must admit the latte was pretty nice and I'd seriously consider having one of those again.

I headed then to Harkers, a really nice pub close to one of the main squares and not far from Betty's Tea Rooms either. The Nicholsons Pale Ale (brewed by the folks in the St Austell Brewery) was on top form, and so was the food - the starter of the crispy calamari was spot on as it always is, and the main of the glazed chicken with barbecue sauce and cheese was really good too. It was nice to relax in there with some quality tunes, such as Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" (make that tune of the day) and generally just have time to reflect on a really good day - topped off by a frangipane mince pie from Betty's to have on the way home!

Monday 2nd December - I Do And Don't Like Mondays

Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. This was a day when it seemed to go well during the day but then things just mounted up to happen during the afternoon. I had at least had a productive co-ordinators meeting during the morning and was able to get some fact finding on why there wasn't able to be something done with regards to some of the printer card reader and firmware issues that were going on. Some information and fact finding is always good and it's useful to have feedback from elsewhere rather than your own domain so to speak.

I then had a bit of a busy time in the afternoon, sorting out an iPad, eliminating some spyware and a possible trojan on a member of staff's desktop PC, and then spending time with one of our former senior academics (now a professor) and advising her on some issues with her laptop and what she could do about the possibliity of checking out her BT line for faults at home which may be affecting her home broadband. It was good anyway to chat and see her.

I headed to Mum's straight after work as she had promised me some nice potato rash for tea and that used to be one of my favourite meals she used to make, so good to see her, have a brew, and have some food as well, which was hearty and warming, perfect for keeping out of the cold really. It was good to chat as well and see how things were with Mum and I was able to tell her all about The Love In My Heart and I's trip to Birmingham and how it fared overall.

After tea, Mum wanted me to sort out a couple of things with regards to her laptop. For some reason if she wanted to copy a CD of pictures the CD burning software didn't like burning the disc at all, so was a bit frustrating. I looked into it a little and it turned out that the DVD writer drive on her laptop needed a firmware update (a TSST Corp TS-L633B no less), so I was able to locate the appropriate model of drive, and sure enough the firmware was there. I downloaded it, installed the firmware and restarted when asked, and well what do you know? Burning CDs worked without issues anymore. Isn't it great when stuff just works?

I had a good chat with my brother, who really is after something retro, preferably a wood grain effect type Atari 2600 console. Of course this sort of thing is now back in, so locating one isn't as cheap as it might have been otherwise. I must admit of course playing on an emulator is okay but somehow just setting up the real thing and having a blast with the likes of Pac Man, Missile Command, Defender, Combat and especially Keystone Kapers shows just how good gaming was back then. I used to love the Activision Decathlon, and the title theme is a version of the classic "Bugler's Dream" by Leo Arnaud, so that's tune of the day - a classic right there. Right, off to bed, snooker tomorrow..

Sunday 1st December - Three and Easy

After some lovely breakfast provided by The Love In My Heart, we both relaxed in the morning with a coffee before I headed on the tram into the city centre. There were a couple of presents I didn't manage to get yesterday because the prices charged were too expensive, so wanted to check if the ones in the city centre were cheaper. And you know what, they were! In fact I managed to do a good deal in HMV and get two presents for one low price, plus manage to locate a really good deal on another present in there which was half the price of the branch in Birmingham. Yeah, go figure that one.

I did also nip into Wilkinsons to get a couple of things for The Love, and also be able to then head out to another couple of shops and get some gift cards that people also wanted as presents too, so I felt much more happier as I was able to leave for home on the tram without too much delay, and also be able to head back before the football traffic started getting busy as well. It was nice just to do that and to spend some time blitzing stuff too and The Love could rest easy and give the two cats lots of attention as well.

Later on whilst waiting for my friend, I was able to put on some of the Hull City v Liverpool game. I must admit that I'm fully behind the fans' campaign to keep their name as Hull City AFC, as they've always been known. Granted the nickname of the Tigers is fairly new(ish) but the owners' way of handling the fans' groups has been scandalous to be honest, saying that they can die whenever they like (in response to their City till we die chant). So the fans responded with the song "We'll die when we want, we'll die when we want, we're Hull City, we'll die when we want" and at 19:04 on the clock (the year the club was formed) the fans belted out "City till we die", and in that minute or so they scored the opening goal on their way to a 3-1 win.

My friend arrived and we headed over to the Etihad Stadium to hopefully see Manchester City on scoring form against Swansea City, well that was the plan anyway. City have been superb at home this season and every game bar the Bayern Munich loss has been a joy to watch. This was no exception: Sergio Agüero almost scored within the first thirty seconds, and after being fouled seven minutes or so in, Álvaro Negredo dusted himself off, took the free kick with his left foot and belted it into the bottom corner - a beauty from The Beast.

Swansea to be fair played really well in the first half to be honest, and they had a golden chance just before half time to level things but Jonathan de Guzman shot over when he should have scored. It proved costly for them and little reward for their efforts and trying to play football the right way. It proved that way in the second half as City attacked with Yaya Toure, his pass found Samir Nasri who waltzed past one defender before slotting it home for 2-0.

James Milner came on for Tbe Beast, and later in the half he and Pablo Zabaleta did a lovely flowing move down the right, with Zabaleta putting a gorgeous low cross in for Nasri to just pass it into the net with some aplomb, and make it 3-0. It was cruise control from then but it showed that we were turning it on when we needed to, and to be fair to Swansea, they were still trying to knock it around and play good stuff to be honest. The teams left the field and "The Boys In Blue" was played and that cheered me up hearing that too - tune of the day for me, always a classic that.