Dear Diary... February 2015

Saturday 28th February - Rock Out and Battle

It was a leisurely morning of sorts, but I did spend a fair bit of time looking at a few ideas for either prospective holidays, or alternatively, some future gigs that might need to be attended. I suppose that I quite do like a good live gig and I thought to myself this year that it might be good to go to some more, even if that means going alone. I can't expect either my friends or The Love In My Heart to have the same music taste as me, so it's important that I take that in mind and if it means I need to go alone (often the case with the likes of 3 Daft Monkeys for example) then it doesn't stop me.

I did spent a fair bit of time cleaning the house as well and getting a shed load of stuff ironed primarily to make sure that the house looked all nice and clean, and that I felt up and about after having a very good night's sleep overall. I did though need to head into the city centre as it was about time that I got my hair cut, and so the lovely people in The Northern Cutter did the business as usual, making me look all neat and tidy, and out of the way of numerous Sunderland fans who had ventured into Manchester to see their team at Old Trafford later in the day.

I then headed through the city centre close to the Art Gallery and took the bus up to Burnage, where a visit to Sifters was long overdue and to peruse their vinyl and CDs. I must admit I didn't get anything this time, not because they weren't good value (they're always good in there) but simply because anything that was there and I could have wanted, I already had. Of course as second hand stock is always coming in and changing it's handy to visit there every so often just to peruse - might have to do Kingbee at some point in time too for the same reason.

I headed home later and spent the afternoon sorting out some more stuff around the house - and good job too as The Love In My Heart let me know that she was coming earlier than planned. I decided that it might be nice to go for a drink when she got here, so we headed to The Gateway pub and I had a very nice pint of the Acorn Brewery's "Darkness" ale which was a very red coloured one, and stunningly nice it has to be said. It was good to catch up and chat and avoid the incessant rain outside.

Later on back at mine I had The Voice on for The Love, and we'd already had the starter of some lovely mushroom soup and some petits pains. I then went on to the gorgeous chicken forestiere complete with some hasselback potatoes along with some petits poits and carrots, which really did do the business nicely. Interestingly it looked like one of the battles on The Voice was them singing Stevie Nicks' classic "Edge of Seventeen" which made me hanker for the original - as it's a classic and deservedly in my view tune of the day - the original of course.

Later on we noted that we hadn't won the lottery, saw Jonathan Ross with the guests (not so good) but I did put on the repeat of Friday's Graham Norton show on iPlayer. It was good for The Love because Hugh Jackman and a certain David Beckham were both on, so that was her sorted. It was funny at the end when Noel Gallagher did his new single and convinced David Beckham that he needs to make a guest appearance in one of his next videos (irony not lost of course - Beckham played for Man U for years and Noel is a massive City fan!)

Friday 27th February - The Last Leg of the Week

It was a long day today, primarily because of plenty of hand-ins that were coming in, and so we made sure where possible we doubled up some of the rover support, whilst the team meeting was also going on. It was notable because we had several guests attending including one of our senior managers, and so it went for longer than planned. I did make a good distinction when one of the attendees was saying about the increased use of tablets in that for many, there's a tendency to use tablets more for consuming content (Twitter, the Web, Facebook, BBC iPlayer, maybe the odd apps for shopping and games etc) but for actually doing, there's still the need to have a laptop or PC for it.

It was quite a good analogy in a way and even one of the other managers there seemed to be quite impressed with a simple but effective way to distinguish the two. It's definitely true: whilst you can browse the web and such like happily on a tablet, there's certain things which just work better on a PC or Mac for that sort of thing (primarily because of the bigger screen to look at) and of course there's no battery to worry about either (some of the tablets' battery life when consuming video isn't great).

I'd also reckon that a lot of people do own multiple devices to consume content on now: not necessarily a PC or Mac desktop/laptop either - most smartphones, and indeed then a tablet on top. I think because of the increase of reliability in usage of movile devices, most people have more than one web capable piece of electronics they own (even Smart TVs with web browsing for example) so there's more opportunity to consume to a degree. I think that's the one way it has changed over the last few years: more ability to consume not just do.

Anyway, the afternoon thankfully went by quickly as I had plenty to get sorted out, and I was pleased to not just finish on time but arrive home relatively early, so I could work on a few things around the house, and then wait in for my Ocado shopping delivery, which as usual was handled wonderfully well and arrived with lots of nice food for the next few days. I was most pleased that I'd got all the ingredients for a nice cooked breakfast for the Sunday morning, which I plan to do for me and The Love In My Heart when she stays over.

So Friday night normally means good telly, and on with The Million Pound Drop first of all. Seeing the two elderly siblings get through the questions and then almost misread the final question before correctly answering that Colin Firth when he won an Oscar for the King's Speech was older than when said king that the film is based on was crowned. It was then left to Alan Davies and Jo Brand to take up the celebrity mantle for the next game and hopelessly mess up a question based on crisps!

Gogglebox was on next, and I'm sure many of us like them went "ewww" when they showed the documentary about parents who keep the placenta attached to the baby when the baby is born. Even more so when some of the said parents were seasoning it as if they were going to cook it and eat it. The best reaction was from the three students from Reading who you could tell just wanted to almost throw up at the sight of it. It was also good seeing their reactions to Match of the Day (a general dislike of Gary Lineker's facial hair as well as laughing at Jose Mourinho's comments in his interview..)

I must admit though I did feel sad that tonight's The Last Leg was the final one of the series - it's been cracking, and the Nick Clegg interview was a great watershed moment for them. They had on Sarah Millican for the most part and she was a good giggle with them, and notably too RJ Mitte who was in Breaking Bad (his character in that show mimics his real life in that they both have cerebal palsy). He was hilarious and really came across as a very likeable bloke and quite open about how it's sometimes difficult for him to get acting roles - but I'm sure there's plenty who would see him as a good role model and proving that you can succeed too, a huge positive in my view.

And that's the thing that really stands out about The Last Leg: the fact that there are people with disabilities preventing it, who are hilarious, and they try to be positive not just about disability but show that there's also lots of intelligence out there if you look at the person instead. I'm sure too that because they are more politically charged these days as well that it takes a more serious message and drives it home (such as the version of No Limits and changed to "No Bull****" for the politicians in the General Election in the next few months) and because it's delivered so eloquently, it really does make you smile and laugh as well as take it serious. So politicians, don't be a dick!

As for tune of the day I did spend some time tonight listening primarily to some Pop Will Eat Itself - I'm debating whether to head to Leicester to see them in May or wait till a larger tour later in the year. Either way kicking ass with their music is the way forward for definite. I put on the 12" single of "Dance of the Mad" primarily for the excellent "Feet On Heat" mix and blasted that out from the turntable. Not quite the ultrasonic technicolour climax maybe, but still darn good after all these years!

Thursday 26th February - Testing Times

I spent most of the morning doing a full suite of testing where we'd migrated an account from our current Exchange server to an Office 365 domain, primarily to see if the likes of shared mailboxes, calendars etc were going to be impacted if some accounts stayed where they were and some moved. The answer, unsurprisingly, was a massively qualified yes. I had the laptop with me so I could type up the testing report whilst doing testing on a PC next to me. It made good sense really and the room I was in was nice and quiet, so I could concentrate fully on getting the job done (in fact my colleague later praised me for the quality of information provided - all good)

Most of the afternoon was spent in one of the buildings doing as much preparation work as possible for a print deadline tomorrow - so knowing that we didn't have maximum cover all night, my colleague and I did what we could to pre-load as much paper and ink as possible to ensure where we could that the wide format printers would chug on overnight. It's what you need to do at busy times, and I'd also checked over one of them and raised a support call for an intermittent fault we've spotted, so to get that resolved when we can. Always good to keep on top of stuff I suppose.

I did have to stay back late so I could take one of our IT Rover students who hadn't been to the building before to give them an idea of where everything is and how it all works, and they were really receptive, which was good. I just felt better knowing that I'd done what I could, it did mean I got home later than planned so it was a case of get the online food shopping done via Ocado, and then get to the shower and get myself ready for The Love In My Heart coming over later on.

I made the tea whilst she watched a double episode of Emmerdale (oh joy, not!) - I'd made some chicken in tarragon sauce with some hasselback potatoes and some carrots - thanks to Ocado for that (the Waitrose chicken especially was gorgeous, nom nom!) I even had a nice pint of the Wychwood Bah Humbug ale to go with that, which worked surprisingly well actually. We enjoyed that and then settled in as there was my weekly swoon over Claudia Winkleman and admiration for everyone else in The Great British Sewing Bee.

It was a more technical week this week, first of all having to make a boned corset. Is it difficult? Corset is! (etc.) The second challenge was the fun one for us both to see, with an 80s power dressing suit being transformed into something else. A lot of them were spot on, and Neil again took first, and his work all episode was ace (Garment of the Week wasn't hard to award really). The final challenge of the kilt was quite difficult, some handled it better than others and it was a case of not taking forever over the pleats especially.

Two were to go this week, and straight away we both knew Amanda was the first of those, she struggled all weekend. I suspected either Paul or Ryan to also go as well, but it was difficult to determine between the two. Ryan had lost a lot of form this week and I suspect that the pressure had got to him a bit (notably as he'd said he'd made a corset before but then fluffed that challenge somewhat). I think Claudia was more gutted though as I reckon she'd taken a soft spot for him and his very likeable character!

Tune of the day in the meantime is another Pop Will Eat Itself classic, more notably perhaps because of their announcement of an Autumn tour and the album should be out around then (yes indeed). So, revisiting some of their back catalogue is always enjoyable because there's some great classic tracks there. One of my current favourites is the title track of their "Watch The Bitch Blow" EP from last year - plenty of anger, plenty of message, and rocking pretty hard - showing what the Mk2 PWEI are more than capable of. More of the same for the album please!

Wednesday 25th February - Reclaim The Game - Funk FIFA

It had been a reasonably productive day at work, and I was able to plan out the course of action for some testing that I needed to do for tomorrow morning (made sure I assigned the time out) and then be able to get a number of jobs done during the day in order to be sure that the time freed up would be some quality time too. I suppose too that for me it's being able to try and make the effective use of what I have, including attending two programme committees, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and in both cases with staff I know well (which helps considerably.)

I was also noting in the morning's news though that FIFA had recommended that the World Cup 2022 in Qatar be played in November and December, with a prospective date for the final being December 23rd. Okay, so what does that do for the fans? Not much. That potentially means a flight home on Christmas Eve (or a stay for Christmas in the Middle East after it had finished) but also at the same time major disruption to a considerable number of leagues in Europe, and also the Champions League, Europa League and the FA Cup earlier rounds also having significant knock on effects. Not good really.

More notable especially as there was no mention of such dates in the original bid, and added to that of course the fact that there were supposedly going to have air conditioned indoor arenas built, and that clearly wasn't happening either. Whilst I wouldn't want to be playing in 40-50 degree heat either, you'd think that this would have been researched at the bidding time and suitable solutions found. Apparently not. This for me at least only shows the arrogance at FIFA to do whatever they want as long as it suits them, and the suspicions of many of their somewhat corrupt nature to heighten.

With that in mind, only one choice for the tune of the day really - and quite timely in many ways - Pop Will Eat Itself's 2014 single "Reclaim The Game (Funk FIFA)". Listen to it and the words especially and you'll realise just how spot on the whole thing is. Notably the second verse about Sepp Blatter's idle chatter battering the beautiful game, and in the extended version how he decided to start spewing forth during a minute's silent for Nelson Mandela. You get the idea. Buy the single. And the t-shirt (got one, they're ace)

Later on when I got home from work I had my Mum come over with her laptop - she kept getting weird little adverts when she visited certain websites for Russian stuff and also some random chat windows. Not good. She and my brother were off to B&Q and so I did a full malware scan, found some not so good stuff, and cleaned it out. I tested said websites she was browsing at mine and all was good, only for the issue to oddly resurface when she got home later.

My brother came back round and I did some more digging, and it looked like some of the stuff had headed to the browser's offline storage cache when the site was (I think) infected in some way. The fact my brother's laptop showed similar behaviour at mine as well therefore ruled out the router being compromised (although that was also an idea) but once we got to that and cleared all the offline storage and cache out, said sites were functioning normally and without issue, so we settled in for some repeat bits of Gogglebox and had a good giggle whilst sorting stuff out. Always good.

Tuesday 24th February - Barcelona Blues

So after a good positive day at work and then having some gorgeous chicken and mushroom black bean stir fry for tea, I was all good to go and head off with my friend to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City up against Barcelona in the Champions League. Naturally of course it was a game that had sold out very quickly indeed: any extra tickets released by the club when Barcelona returned some of their application were rather quickly gone - and that I knew that as the first leg being at home and all that, we needed to really try where possible to get a first leg advantage.

As we approached the stadium the traffic was pretty busy but we made it in good time to the car park, and soon we were heading up to the ground and you could tell by the massed numbers of people that the excitement was growing rather quickly. I suspected that the curiousity factor of seeing the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and the wise old head of Andres Iniesta was mouth watering enough before you even mention the former biter of Anfield that is Luis Suárez - maybe with a point or two to prove or demonstrate to the massed ranks that he was now a reformed character.

So, we got a brew, my friend had put his bet on, and the Champions League theme tune belted out - make that tune of the day - although becuase of UEFA's sanctions on City (such as the Fair Play rulings only allowing us a 21 man squad and some dodgy refereeing decisions in the group stage, one of which was being still felt with Yaya Touré suspended) boos rang out in protest to UEFA. Ironic considering what might be breaking about the FIFA World Cup later with the potential of the final being 23rd December 2022, way too close to Christmas - making FIFA even more corrupt than thought possible.

The game kicked off and initially City were getting forward with an early James Milner free kick the first chance of note. Barcelona were gettng into their stride though and following a throw in, Suárez challenged for the ball with Vincent Kompany, the ball came off Kompany's back and bounced very kindly for Suárez to hammer home a volley past Joe Hart for 1-0. Not good, and I could see pockets of Barca fans in the very posh seats close to us (some which had been reserved by UEFA for their "Champions Club" hospitality.. meh) which didn't go down too well with some of the diehards we have sat with me and my friend.

City seemed to be a rabbit in the headlights for the rest of the half, too scared, paying Barcelona too much respect and allowing them to play their own game at their own pace. Messi picked out a pass to Jordi Alba on the left and despite the massed defenders, the ball still found Suárez for 2-0. Very not good. In fact we were quite lucky only to be 2-0 behind, Dani Alves hit the bar, Joe Hart saved well with a one on one with Suárez and had also saved at the feet of Messi as well. It was a footballing masterclass which whilst you admired watching you also thought "damn!" at the same time.

Surprisingly there were no changes at the start of the second half (there should have been, Fernando was awful in my view) - apart from maybe pushing James Milner further forward. Samir Nasri came off for Fernandinho which also allowed more freedom, and Milner going forward and putting in some good crosses from both flanks was helping the team build momentum. Wilfried Bony came on for the hard working Edin Džeko (who had our best chance early in the second half when he headed from a corner straight to the keeper) and it would be a case of seeing if we could get a goal back.

That we did! The ball was passed forward by Gaël Clichy after an interception, David Silva held it up wonderfully well and Sergio Agüero did what he does best, skipping past a defender before slamming it past the goalkeeper, not too dissimilar to his epic QPR goal back in 2012. A great finish and one we all enjoyed, and at 2-1 and with the odd chance the belief built around the stadium that even with us more open and possibly at danger to their counter attacks, we were giving it a good go, and fair play to us for coming back into it.

The last minute of stoppage time. Messi runs through from a quality pass, he brings the tackle from Pablo Zabaleta who fouls Messi, and it's a penalty. It's almost as if UEFA themselves had scripted it in order to try and allow Barcelona an advantage so that one of their "chosen sides" would face a less difficult task. What they hadn't scripted though was a superb Joe Hart penalty save and for Messi to inexplicably head the follow up wide when he could have headed straight into an empty net. Still, that gives City hope, only 2-1 behind isn't the end of the world and it's not as embarassing a defeat as could have been. You never know, could be a turning point and all that..

Monday 23rd February - Busy Chicken

It was a rather busy day at work, mainly because of two deadlines that both involved quite a considerable use of the wide format printers that we have. It was literally on the go for most of the day, and thankfully we did have the opportunity for a couple of our IT Rovers to double up in that building and help alleviate several issues (and also be on hand quicker which was also good). It was good to make a tactical decision in that regard and be able to utilise the resources we did have a lot better.

It also did mean that I could spend some time checking the back end stuff - such as what had been printed when, how much ink and paper the printers were using, and be able to make a suitable judgement call on if we did need further supplies. It's always reasonably good to do that, but more so as due to illnesses, staff holidays and the fact two of our team were also interviewing, it was a fairly low number of staff who were on the ground - and it's been like that for some time. Knuckle down and get on with it I guess.

Later on when I got home I decided that the working day deserved a little treat for tea - and I had just to choose which one! As part of my Ocado shop last week, I took advantage of an offer where you got two of the Pieminister pies to bake at home for a mere £6. I've eaten at their Northern Quarter branch in Manchester and the pies are rather nice admittedly. So to be able to have one at home with some chips on the side, sorted (I would have maybe done mash too, but it's often hard to get fresh mash portions for one - supermarkets take note!)

In fact the chicken of aragon one I had was stunningly lovely. Lots of nice chicken together with some bacon and a nice creamy sauce inside, which meant in actual fact I didn't really need to make any chicken gravy (even though I had actually done so). It was just really nice, and set me up nicely for an evening of mainly catch up telly but also try to catch up on some of the outstanding housework - after all it won't all do it by itself I guess will it?

I did also spend some time listening to some of the CDs I had purchased over the weekend and notably perhaps the rather good "Fires" album by Nerina Pallot. I know someone who used to work with us who's now in another department has raved about her for some time, and of the stuff I had listened to previously, it's always been wholly listenable. So it's perhaps telling that when you have an album with a killer opening track it draws you in, so "Everybody's Gone To War" does just that - tune of the day it certainly is. Yaay for good music (he says in anticipation of Wednesday's Brit awards being dull..)

Sunday 22nd February - The Rain Falls Mainly in Manchester

It had been raining steadily overnight, and one of The Love In My Heart's two cats had decided to try and clamber up the curtains in The Love's bedroom as well, and got almost all the way to the curtain pole. It was clear he wanted attention, but maybe not at around 4am in the morning mind you. Still, it was good to head back to sleep and actually have a long sleep. I did feel somewhat tired at the back end of last night and that does worry me as of late that I tend to almost nod off if I'm sat down comfortable (I've had it happen to me at home too) so maybe that's something I need to get checked out.

The Love excelled herself with some lovely brunch this late morning too - some gorgeous bacon and scrambled egg with a couple of toasted muffins to match. It was gorgeous. She said it wouldn't be up to the breakfast we had at the hotel last weekend to which I replied "It'd be a lot better than what I'd do!" which did reassure her nicely. It was just nice to relax in the morning together anyway as the rain outside got heavier, at one point turning to light snow, and just wasn't particularly pleasurable to do anything in to be honest.

The Love put on some old episodes of Don't Tell The Bride, and I remembered the couple from Liverpool, one of Ghanian descent and a Northern Irish lass who were getting wed. It was nice to see that the groom really wanted the local church to be wedded in for them both and it was tense till he got it, and having the reception where they did with a mix of both cultures was a really good move all round. A lot better than the bloke who decided that a wedding in Magaluf was going to be the venue of choice. Oh dear oh deary me..

I headed home later on with the rain still pelting it down, and The Love and I just had a really nice hug before that. Sometimes it's those little moments when you have lovely hugs that makes you realise how lovely things are, and it's easy to forget. The rain was still hammering it when I got home, and indeed throughout most of the afternoon as I settled in to watch the Welsh Open snooker, with John Higgins taking a 5-3 lead over Ben Woollaston going into the evening session.

I also saw last night's episode of CSI, which I'd recorded (got it on series link on my Humax Freeview HD recorder for obvious reasons) - and it was a great episode. It was notable that initially the three main ladies of the cast were on a conference together, and then it all turned to be a bit of a mess because of the mass homicides. Thankfully though the team worked together to spot two separate shooters, one of which who was going to try and get Sara for being a team of independent forensic experts who had disproved a former CSI at another lab.

So looking outside, still raining, and kind of wishing that it would actually rain more during the week at work and then stay dry and reasonably sunny for the weekend to come so I can make more of it, but I guess that's how it sometimes works. Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "Get Free" by The Vines, which I've played many a time on the likes of Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and Rock Band 3, and although vocals are occasionally hard, I've nailed the bass guitar quite a bit on a more difficult level..

Saturday 21st February - Bargain Hunting

I got myself up and got the house sorted, so all the bedding changed, vacuumed everywhere, and then got myself up and ready to head out of the house later in the morning. I was tempted to get a couple of things in the city centre but was half tempted to get a couple of CDs as well to fill some gaps in the collection. It was also interesting to see that the traffic was quieter than usual heading to the city centre: whether that was because City were home later and people were going off to that in a bit, I wasn't sure. Still, it was good to get there and find the shops relatively quiet.

I had seen some jeans online at one retailer but wanted to check out what they looked like in the shop to see if I liked them: and the verdict was that for the price they were fine, but not the sort of pair to go out in, more of an everyday pair. I did also spot some jumpers in the same place for not that much dosh too, so noted that for future. I also ventured into Poundland, but it looks to me as if they have stopped selling film for film cameras: the last couple of times I've been in, they've had none. It took me longer than usual to peruse as they decided to change the layout.. oh joy.

Still undeterred I had a nice walk around Fopp before then heading back along Market Street and into That's Entertainment. In the CD section upstairs they had six CDs for a mere £5 or 99p each, and lots of racks of shrinkwrapped CDs at that in this offer. It was a case of seeing which CDs I didn't own (or had on vinyl, so perfect to get on CD in this case) and after a considerable amount of time, I located three CDs by Ocean Colour Scene (more notable because of the gig I went to on Monday), "Fires" by Nerina Pallot, "Jennie Bomb" by Sahara Hotnights and finally "Highly Evolved" by The Vines. Not bad that little lot for a fiver, so felt most flushed with my CD purchases and headed home.

I did stop off along the way to the bus stop to the large Pound World opposite though, and that was on the site of what was the former HMV store there. It of course was a case of pile high and sell cheap, and that was fair enough. I did get a new card reader for my digital camera cards whilst I was in there though, as the old one was showing signs of not playing ball, and for the money you can't really argue. It was surprisingly busy though and so it was a case of get what I needed and get out of there double quick style..

Later on it was off to the Etihad with my friend to see Manchester City against Newcastle United. With the mercurial Yaya Touré back and also after the impressive 4-1 win at Stoke City last time out, I was cautiously optimistic, and even more so after we hung back in our friend's car in the car park to hear that Burnley got a late equaliser at Chelsea and therefore forced a 1-1 draw. We've been the only other side in the league to take any points off Chelsea at their place, which does show something. It did mean though that a win would close the gap at the top to five points.

City were on fire from the word go. Sergio Agüero closed down the Newcastle defenders, one made a mistake and the ball went to Edin Džeko who was fouled for the penalty. Sergio made no mistake with that and it was 1-0. A good bit of interplay between Yaya Touré and David Silva saw the ball be crossed in from Džeko down the left side, and the ball went to Samir Nasri who feigned to shoot, and then hit a delightful close range effort right into the top corner. 2-0. All looking much more positive then.

And more son by half time too. Silva had a delightful ball picked up in the air and on the chest by the Bosnian Diamond Džeko, and on the half volley rifled it past the Newcastle keeper Tim Krul. 3-0 it proved to be then, and twenty five minutes gone. The hunger from the City players was present, with lots of the midfield and attack coming back to help win the ball when it was lost, and the desire was massively there. I think a lot of that is down to the attitude when they go ahead, that real desire to win shown even more, and we were both glad to see it back.

The second half started and City didn't take too long to get into gear. The ball was cleared from Touré to Agüero and his solo run had the defenders all at sea, he saw Nasri, passed to him and Nasri centred to Silva who struck a low shot into the bottom corner. 4-0. Too easy. And two minutes later Agüero on the left fed the ball to Silva who rifled one in low and hard for 5-0. I must admit I felt rather chuffed as both me and one of the fans I sit next to both have Silva in our fantasy teams - let's see, two goals and an assist, can't be bad can it?

City changed players to give Wilfried Bony a debut and only the legs of Tim Krul stopped him scoring a debut goal. In fact it was a good move to rest the likes of Nasri, Agüero and Silva with Tuesday's game against Barcelona coming up, and overall a really good win. Newcastle were poor though (as Alan Shearer correctly stated later on in Match of the Day) and we could have scored more if we wanted to. Still, 5-0, goal difference now only three in Chelsea's favour, and crucially three points well and truly won. We're back in this.. and tune of the day is "Better Day" by Ocean Colour Scene for that very reason - a much better day at the Etihad.

I headed over to see The Love In My Heart later on, and she had very kindly made some lovely food for tea - some mushrooms filled with cheese to start, and a home made Shepherd's pie for main, which was both warming and rather meaty gorgeous. It was just the thing to warm me up after the cold weather at the football, and even better was the fact that the cats were all warm and snuggly, and wanted a fuss too. We watched the lottery show and despaired at some of the poor answers from the contestants before seeing part of Gogglebox from last night that The Love missed. It was a long but a lovely day.

Friday 20th February - Back to Back

It was a busy day (again) with two meetings back to back first of all, and then I spent some time this afternoon compiling a report that I needed to do as part of my project work package. I think overall it was good to get the time spent getting things done, but also notable in a way too that because of the fact we were so down with staff due to illnesses and holidays, that we were really struggling, so I stayed in the office to write the report. It did mean other interruptions of course, but it was a compromise that I had to make in order to be able to be around.

I eventually headed off for home but the traffic was somewhat horrendous, as it took almost half an hour to progress one mile down one of the roads that the bus takes. When I eventually got to the main A6 road, I could see the problem: at one set of lights traffic was turning left on to the outer ring road A6010, but that was snarled with traffic, so no one could turn left. Ironically once the bus got past that junction and headed straight down the A6 it literally pegged it down. I do have to wonder whether there needs to be a look at the timing of the lights of that junction..

Anyway, once the lovely people at Ocado had delivered my shopping, I made myself some nice steak with peppercorn sauce for tea, and that went down rather nicely it has to be said. I had some chestnut mushrooms left from when I made a stir fry, so I fried the rest of those off to have with the steak and sauce - and that was a rather good move all round it has to be said. All the Ocado shopping was looking rather lovely to eat but resisted all temptation and it was soon time for me to curl up in front of the sofa and Channel 4 was my destination of choice for the evening.

First up was the Million Pound Drop. It looked like the show wasn't live though (notable as it said copyright 2014 at the end credits.) The first contestants were a bride to be and her bridesmaids and relations, and they did really well to get to the final question with £100k intact. The last question was: which of these is the quickest world record - the men's 110m hurdles or the women's 100m hurdles? I knew the answer but the ladies put it all on the men's 110m hurdles and stopped the clock far too quickly. Of course it was wrong (women's 100m hurdles record 12.21 - set back in 1988 and still not beaten yet, men's 110m hurdles record 12.80) and that was slightly gutting for them.

Then it was the return of Gogglebox, although notably without Dom and Steph this time around (possibly because of Dom being in The Jump and the two of them doing that thing with Nigel Farage?) - what didn't change though were the scathing comments on the telly. The mockumentary about UKIP was met with some disapproval but also some notable comments, such as one of the Malone sons from Manchester stating that it was giving them a shedload of publicity. The news story about the woman from Kent wanting to go to Mars had a great comment from one of the Siddiquis: "Maybe she thought it was a competition for a lifetime's supply of Mars bars!" - haha. That was classic.

You wouldn't think watching people comment about the telly they're watching would make any viewing at all, but it's strangely compulsive. The peeping through the eyes when watching the opening scene in Basic Instinct for example was what most of us would probably do, and the "money shot" of Sharon Stone uncrossing her legs and showing what was underneath was met with either hands over eyes so as not to look, or a reference to the fact it was a classic film moment, notably in that film especially with the look on Michael Douglas' face..

Then it was The Last Leg, still for me one of the great programmes on the telly. I think Adam Hills along with Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker really almost wing it, but that makes it for me. It was a great moment seeing Russell Crowe act out a sketch with Alex, and the end having a nod to the clanger dropped in the live Eastenders episode this week.. classic stuff. In fact I wasn't sure how much Russell approved of all the Plymouth Argyle memorabilia that Josh had brought in. It was another great show, and it really does go from strength to strength at the moment.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the theme tune to The Last Leg, "Harder Than You Think" by Public Enemy. Channel 4 had used it originally for the Paralympics coverage and indeed The Last Leg when it was a part of that, but somehow it makes sense: notably the opening lyric used in the theme tune version: "Thank you for letting us be ourselves" which really resonates massively. One of these days it's got to be up for a nomination for a TV award has this show, and win it too.

Thursday 19th February - Back To The Future

It was a busy day for various reasons today, but I spent a considerable amount of time this afternoon doing some testing work for one of the projects coming up. In effect, I was going to test whatever I could in terms of a test email account, adding appointments, calendar sharing, mailbox folder sharing, everything pretty much that you'd expect a normal Outlook user to do, and document exactly what I did. Then, when we get our mail gurus to migrate that to an Office 365 account, see what actually would happen compared to a non-migrated account, ie: do the permissions work, does the category custom labelling work.

In essence, it took a fair amount of time to get the first stage documented, but I wanted to ensure that it was to a high level of standard and professionalism before moving on to the next stage (as you do). In between all that I was attempting to track down a delivery of a toner which was claimed to have been signed for, but despite it having our work address on, didn't seem to be there. I had a hunch based on the proof of delivery, and went over to another building. According to their delivery book, they had it (in fact 10 on the same delivery!) and so headed up to where our wide format consumables are kept - and there they were. I am the Gene Hunt of the workplace, I am.

I headed home later and the traffic was a bit poor to say the least, so it took some time for me to head home. Once I did, I waited for The Love In My Heart to arrive, and she had got to mine early, mainly for double Emmerdale as well. I was going to make some steak for tea but instead after a quick chat with The Love, decided that a nice Chinese takeout was going to go down well. So I left her to watch Emmerdale whilst I headed off to the local place near me: they're well priced and the food is ace.

I arrived back at the house, almost as if I had timed it for the commercial break in Emmerdale. We dished up and she snuggled by the sofa with food and wine and I had my tea too. It was for me the gorgeous crispy shredded chilli chicken in rainbow sauce - delightfully gorgeous and lots of chicken in there. The Love had the beef in schezuan sauce, which went down very well also. We both had some egg fried rice to go with that and having not had a Chinese meal for a time, really enjoyed it hugely.

It was then time to snuggle up and for us both to watch The Great British Sewing Bee. This week it was very much back to the 1950s, not just with the style of outfits (the wrapaway dress for a start) but the fact that for the first two challenges, everyone had a 1950s style Singer sewing machine, normally only capable of the flat stitch. The first challenge for the dress had varying degrees of success: lots ran out of time and failed to get the buttons on. Interestingly out of the eight left, the four men took the top four positions, something Patrick Grant as judge was very pleased about!

The second challenge was another haberdashery dash to get some ideas to customise the curtain and make it into something else, very The Sound of Music it has to be said. In fact they had the music playing from said film in parts of the background as it was carrying on. I have to say I quite like Ryan's idea of doing a bolero shirt with it, but Lorna for once came out on top and her outfit was really ace. I was a bit concerned as it wasn't the best day for Deborah (cheering her on as she lives the most local to me) but the final challenge might turn it round.

And how it did! Working with sheer material and thankfully back to normal modern day sewing machines, it was a challenge to create a nice blouse with soft sheer material. She redeemed herself hugely with a nice outfit, and in fact most of them were pretty good. Lorna's was superb though and deservedly in my view had Garment of the Week, and I suspected it was either Andrea or Neela who were going to go, and it was Neela in the end who left at the end of Week 3.

Tune of the day though has to be another tune playing during The Great British Sewing Bee - namely the fact that they were using parts of the original score from Breakfast At Tiffany's as they paraded the models with the 1950s blouses - granted they weren't quite Audrey-esque but in terms of the era, I can see the point. Checking out Henry Mancini's score later it was the title theme to the film that they were playing - and I of course had to smile at The Love and go "woooh, Audrey!!" as you do.

Wednesday 18th February - Stop Start

It was a very stop start day, perhaps illustrated by my first thing in the morning job, which was to head to Asda on the way to work to pick up some packs of Tassimo pods for the office. I got the bus towards Asda but the driver decided for no reason whatsoever to spend almost ten minutes at one of the bus stops reading the newspaper, and then deciding also to tut at the traffic which had formed since he had been at the stop. And so whose fault is that exactly I wonder?

I got to Asda in good time and it was a case of in, get the pods, and out (three packs for £10, can't be bad) and then arrived back perfectly at the stop to catch the bus to work and be well early too. I must admit as it's a lot of half term school holidays this week you really do feel the effect on the traffic (a distinct lack of it is said). And so it was soon to work, where it was more of a stop start day too. The wireless network wasn't playing ball and I had spotted it was a possible certification issue, and that proved to be the case (as well as some new authentication servers coming online..)

It did mean thankfully I could still work fine (wired connection to laptop always in the office) and get on with some tasks for the day. One of them though was early on where I had to apply a newer licence key for SketchUp Pro for one the laptops our academics had. They had the vision to buy a three year licence and so as still well within the three years, our reseller issued an updated authorisation code and all was good to go - and that meant happy staff all round. Good stuff I reckon.

I also worked on a couple of application packaging things in the afternoon which I'd been asked to look at via one of our central teams. In effect it wasn't too difficult, just a case of having the right commands added to the per-system unattended installation, such as one which allowed you to pre-serialise and register the software as it installed. That's generally what I call a result, and so all good to go there at least. I've just got to wait for the content to hit the distribution point and then work it all from there.

It was a little more stop start on the bus home too as it seemed to take a while to get through one set of traffic lights, primarily to cars parked on the main road. When I did get home it was interesting to see a notice through the door from the Council, where they were planning a clean up near me on the Friday. There had been the odd report of fly tipping, although this seemed to be at an alleyway a few streets down and thankfully there'd been clamp downs by the council (fines to businesses and individuals - good) - the only thing is it's during the day when a lot of us are at work, or else I'd have probably done my bit really.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather excellent "War Ensemble" by Slayer, just the thing for listening to when it's been one of those days. I have blasted out the vocals to this on Guitar Hero Metallica of course and tried the drums (but my, they are so bloody hard!) and the guitar isn't any easier either. It's still a huge track though and really does show that the whole of the Seasons in the Abyss album is their finest work by some way in my view - it was fast but also melodic and bloody angry at the same time. Oooh yes.

Tuesday 17th February - Feedback and Forms

It was a day of meetings, meetings and more meetings, so the time spent on those was considerable. I do think the brain is just managing to take in most of what is needed to be done, and then work on a plan of action for the next one. Three of them were also back to back, which effectively meant that I was out of action to do anything between 10am and 1pm. I do get concerned at that sometimes because I am a doer most of the time, I do things. I don't like to just talk about things, doing is more me.

I did have some feedback this afternoon for a job I had applied for internally but didn't get an interview for. Interestingly it was good to note that for a lot of the questions with regards to the application, the answers I gave were not only the ones that were needed but helped score me highly. What let me down was the lack of management experience, and that's something I may need to work on being able to get in some way. Strangely I did feel positive in that if my application processes are pretty sound, I'm not doing too bad at them and that might bode me well for the future hopefully.

With that renewed vigour and with The Love In My Heart having a well earned rest after the long weekend and Monday night, I decided that tonight was the time to get application forms filled in. In fact I had already seen two jobs online that I had earmarked as ones to apply for, and I set about doing both of those first, with John Carpenter's "Lost Themes" album being the backdrop for my relaxation whilst writing a considerable number of paragraphs to ensure I met the person specification requirements: "Abyss" being my tune of the day in a quite odd but apt way.

It took a long time to do the two forms, primarily because some of the form content required a lot of drop down boxes selecting and filling in, and had to in one case add each and every qualification separately instead of on one page (a right pain) but once done, all looked good, and had typed up the additional answers to the specification needs in a Word document so I could spell check it for neatness and correctness before adding that to the progress of the application.

I did finish the two main ones I was doing around 11pm, so it was a long evening of doing those - however I did feel a lot better for getting those done. I had also checked a couple of other job web sites, and these also had a few positions which I was interested in, but mainly it was just a CV and covering letter job for those. Thankfully in some cases I'd already uploaded the CV and pre-prepared a considerable chunk of the work needed, so the time spent applying was also less.

It was around 12.45am by the time I'd got it all done, but I knew at the same time that what was driving me on was the knowledge that I had at least managed to do a lot of good applications, and sooner or later I'm going to not only get interviewed for a position but also get it as well, so that would be notable hopefully. I do think admittedly that there will be a time to move on in the future: and that time needs to be sooner rather than later unless there's some major changes afoot where I am. It's not been the same for me for some time and I do feel the need to be more motivated somehow...

Monday 16th February - The Night We Caught Ocean Colour Scene

After a lovely weekend away together, going back to work was a rather unwelcome distraction. I had plenty to catch up on and a few meetings to go to, including a programme committee for most of the morning. I guess that at the moment there's lots of things which all need attention, and it's becoming a difficult balancing act to say the least. The afternoon was mainly spent working on some jobs which needed to be resolved where possible, and so I eventually managed to catch up on any mail from Friday and work on what was next on the list for the week. Happy times.. sort of.

Later on after I'd made a gorgeous mushroom stir fry with black bean sauce for tea, I got myself changed and ready and off out to the city centre to meet up with The Love In My Heart, as we were seeing Ocean Colour Scene at the Bridgewater Hall. As we'd met close to the time for the support act coming on, and we fancied a drink, we headed to the pub close by and I decided to have a nice pint of the Ikley Gold - most gorgeous. The Love and I were able to catch up on our respective days, which she enjoyed a lot more as she was on leave, lucky her I say.

We headed over to the Bridgewater Hall and everyone was milling around the bar, and we headed to the loo and took our seats. They were in Row C of the stalls, but at the side, so not many people in the short row, and also meant less heads to see over (if any) so The Love would have a great view too (a deliberate ploy by me when booking the tickets in fact). I figured too that with a grand piano on stage and the set for a string quartet to join the band, it was hopefully going to be a good night all round.

And so it proved. On came Ocean Colour Scene, and they were really enjoyable. Simon, Oscar and Steve were in fine form, with both Steve and Oscar taking turns to play the piano on certain tracks, which really did add a sense of feeling to some of the songs too. The string quartet, Q-Strings, were four lovely ladies who really played with a passion and knew what they wanted things to sound like - and in a venue such as this with lovely acoustics, it helped considerably.

It was good that it wasn't necessarily a Greatest Hits set as such, but songs they and the fans liked, which made it more intimate too. There were excellent renditions of the likes of Better Day and Village Life (which Simon referred to as how it is in the village in Warwickshire he now lives in) and later on a rousing Profit In Peace, where plenty of the crowd were singing along the verses and choruses with them. That was a nice spine tingling moment and certainly was euphoric at the same time.

Sadly, one person in Row F of the stalls, who was clearly rather drunk, was shouting out in between songs and not keeping quiet during them, and being a general nuisance, standing up and getting in people's way. Security had asked him to sit down several times but he ignored them, and eventually security turfed him out after giving him more than enough chances. I don't think whoever he was with seemed very impressed, notably missing a considerable chunk of the set as well.

And it got better too - the song Weekend, based for all the Paul Weller fans out there (Simon was spotting the lookalikes in the audience), and a rousing Travellers Tune gave way then to the final song before the encore, The Circle, with everyone singing along the backing vocal parts rather nicely. Simon even slipped in a bit of the Inspiral Carpets' "This Is How It Feels" at the end, which was a really nice touch. And so off they went, and kept the audience waiting for a fair while before coming back on to do the encore.

Simon himself came back out and did Robin Hood, a huge fan favourite, and certainly one that many had been asking for in between songs - he slipped in a bit of "Live Forever" by Oasis at the end. They weren't to be disappointed and it was really good of Simon to do that. Families was also really spot on too, and then the finale which had a lot of people singing along to The Day We Caught The Train, and somehow that just worked wonderfully well on the night - tune of the day for me as it's one of my favourites of theirs too. We left later and headed homewards, but reflected on a gig which The Love thought was even better than Elbow, so there you go..

Sunday 15th February - Diverting Home

After having a rather nice breakfast in the hotel, and having a really nice sleep all round, it was time to eventually check out and head for home. I did feel rather sad in a way because we'd both had a really good time together and having a break was just the thing that we both needed. I did know though that the journey back was a bit longer: because there were planned engineering works at Watford Junction, which only got cancelled last minute because of a landslip on another train line (which would have relieved services otherwise.) By that time though tickets had been booked..

It was back to the DLR station, and heading on there to Bank, and then up the stairs to the Northern Line platform and heading along there but this time getting off at Kings Cross St Pancras, heading up two large escalators and arriving at the train station with its all new frontage. I must admit the station looks a lot nicer than its old low roof entrance which was just a horrible place to be, and the air and space it has really does make it feel a much nicer way to leave.

We were soon on the Grand Central 11:50 departure and getting off at its first stop - Doncaster - as it headed eventually to Bradford. It was nice and comfortable all round, and we sped past Arsenal's Emirates Stadium heading out of London before then going through Peterborough and Newark and arriving in Doncaster a little earlier than planned. Ace. We then waited at the same platform for the Transpennine Express departure to Manchester Airport, which was starting at Doncaster instead of its usual Cleethorpes terminus because of engineering work.

It was a speed through back to Manchester, via Sheffield, and through the Peak District, with the hills above Bamford, Hope and Edale still having some residual snow on them, before then going through the tunnels at Cowburn and Disley and heading to Stockport, and then homeward at Manchester Piccadilly. It was a longer journey, but when adding on the train delay on Friday, we were only around twenty minutes longer overall which wasn't that bad really.

I got home and later on the shopping delivery from Ocado arrived, and so I was able to make a nice chicken korma curry with some chestnut mushrooms thrown in as well. That was good, and I caught up on the giant slalom skiing from the World Championship on iPlayer too. It was an awesome second run from Ted Ligety, he just went for it and his time was that far ahead that even a determined second run from the leading Austrian Marcel Hirscher. Ace stuff that.

It's back to work tomorrow though, and sadly the reality of all that is hitting home after such a nice weekend spent away with The Love. However, for me, being away also proved that where there's love, there's lots of happiness too, so I think a nice happy song has to be the theme for Sunday, and so continuing the Dave Clark Five theme from their documentary last night (a must watch on iPlayer!) - the classic "Glad All Over" is tune of the day.

Saturday 14th February - Love in Greenwich

I should note that I had booked our weekend away many months ago, and it just happened to coincide with it being Valentine's Day today. Of course if you truly do love someone you show them all the time and not on one day (it's how The Love In My Heart and I both feel) and so we just get each other a card. Her card was lovely: a heart made of butterflies and it just said all it needed to say without any words on the outside, perfect. I didn't go over the top either and had a classy heart on mine too - and both could have been given to each other any time of year, exactly what felt right.

We had the rather lovely breakfast in the hotel's dining area: mainly self service but you could see them bringing out freshly cooked plates of eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, beans, hash browns etc, and also top up the fruit juices and so on. I had some bran flakes and then some scrambled egg, sausages, bacon and mushrooms to start the day off nicely, with toast, coffee and orange juice. The Love had the fresh fruit available instead of the bran flakes, but enjoyed it just as much and it'd keep us going for the day ahead.

We walked into the centre of Greenwich and decided to go to the market first: lots of lovely stalls selling all crafted and made items, and to be fair in a lot of cases the prices were pretty good - with some having small items for not much expense, so tempting you to get it and have your friends go "where did you get that?" - very clever marketing really. In fact we saw a really nice scarf with a print of different colours of ballet shoes on, and it looked much smarter than the price that the stallholder was charging. I bought it for The Love - only fair really - and it looked gorgeous.

In fact the many food stalls as well showed that there was a real sense of multinational flavour and also a sense of variety in what was on offer, both crafts and food. I can only imagine how busy it might get later in the day, but it was a very enjoyable walk around it has to be said. We then headed around more little shops before then taking the walk out of Greenwich to the park, and soon following the hilly path up to the Royal Observatory, where we hadn't been round before.

Overall I thought it had a few good attractions, such as the actual meridian line which you can stand on (so technically one foot East, one foot West) and seeing the Time Ball make its daily drop at 1pm, which proved to be very useful for sailors to ensure that their nautical instruments were sert correctly. However, some parts of the exhibitions of Flamsteed House were being renewed, notably the opening hall and the whole Longitude gallery, which wasn't good - you'd think that there would be a discount in price and all that.

The highlight for me might get missed by several unless you have eagle eyes: just near the end of the shop, there's a steep spiral staircase (and believe me it's steep!) and this takes you to one of the observatory domes with a nice view of the gardens. Inside though it was a large telescope and you could see where this would open at night and offer a view of the stars, and that telescope was massive. I would imagine on special nights here would be rather ace to say the least.

We then headed back down the hill through Greenwich Park and stopped off at the Greenwich Tavern pub for a well earned pint of the Hop Stuff's "Fusilers" ale, brewed literally down the road at Woolwich Arsenal. It was a really nice pint too, and as the rain started to fall outside, it was admiring the view of the park that appealed to us both from the first floor. We were stood outside this very pub on a hot day in 2013 when Andy Murray won Wimbledon, one of those real abiding memories that we both have.

Once we left there, we wandered back through Greenwich Market, and the food stalls were chocabloc with people getting their street food, takeaway burgers, curries etc and it all smelt rather nice. The queues were really busy though so nothing better to retire to another pub and have some nice lunch and ale too - this time the By The Horns' "Mick The Miller" ale, named after a very famous greyhound racer back in the day (there's a greyhound track close to the brewery as well) and that was gorgeous - must try and have that again.

We then mooched around Music and Video Exchange, so much so that in their bargain basement section, The Love got two DVDs that she was after for a mere one pound each, and also got me Paul Weller's "Heavy Soul" album (which I didn't have) for the same amount. Hard to believe that there's so many bargains to be had on that basement floor, but you could stock up plenty of indie classics and have change out of a tenner, believe it or not - and that's pretty ace that is.

We headed back to the hotel for some chill out time, and then got ourselves showered, changed and ready for the evening, as I'd booked a table at Jamie's Italian in the centre of Greenwich at 8pm. I knew that tonight of all nights, booking a table was essential - a Saturday night was going to be busy anyway, regardless of what other day it also was. And so it proved: it was very busy indeed. We did get some little freebies courtesy of our Gold Club membership though: a glass of prosecco each, which went down nicely, and some little tasters, and these were in the form of the orange sorbet for dessert.

We did have the staters and main, and I had the bread basket after the original choice I had was sold out. As it transpired they didn't have all the bread and so gave it me for no charge: and The Love's rather nice pork scratchings were pretty good too. She had the tagliatelle bolognaise and I had the sausage papardelle, which I'd had before and it was pretty good. Overall it was good, but I couldn't help thinking that the food in Gusto was actually better (the salmon and dill rigatoni - to die for). That said with the starter freebie, and even with drinks, it came in at well under £40 for the two of us, can't be bad.

We then headed over to The Mitre for a drink, and the Doom Bar was on fine form. There was also a live guitarist really churning out all sorts, including his version of "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd as well (not a patch on the orignal, but then what is?) - and then doing a bit of an indie medley with both Blur and Oasis featured, and one group a little bit older than us showing some embarassing dancing and singing along - quite fun to watch though!

We then headed back to the hotel and snuggled up watching a realy good documentary on The Dave Clark Five, and showed how much of an influence the band really were on a lot of good artists. When you hear Bruce Springsteen and members of the E-Street band wax lyrical about how good they were, Tom Hanks inducting them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame showing how much of a fan he was, and the likes of Paul McCartney, Elton John, Gene Simmons of Kiss etc all featuring, it proves a lot. Tune of the day is a classic of theirs for that reason "Bits and Pieces" - which is effectively for me one of the finest pop singles of the 1960s. It's that simple.

Friday 13th February - London Calling

It was off to Manchester Piccadilly station this morning and meeting up with The Love In My Heart, as we were going to be off to London for the weekend (well, Greenwich actually.) Absolutely ages ago, back in late June, I'd booked a special offer via the Mercure hotels website, where you could get overnight stays with 40% off their normal rates, and breakfast as well. We'd actually stayed at the Mercure in Greenwich a while back and really liked it, so the opportunity to stay there and have breakfast for an even lower price? Result.

As we boarded the 1055 departure from Manchester Piccadilly, the train manager informed us that there were signalling delays at Watford Junction (ahead of what would have been planned engineering work that as it turned out got moved anyway) and then as we got through the Midlands, there were also some track issues close to Wembley and so we'd have to use the slow track for a bit. It wasn't a real pain, we'd got our Boots Meal Deal lunch and I had the Hudl playing iPlayer programmes offline, so all good there.

We did arrive into Euston 32 minutes late becuase of the signalling failures etc, but I thought "Delay Repay" straight away and so would do the claim online when I got home. To be fair to Virgin Trains, both The Love and I had spotted they had staff on hand to inform passengers that they were entitled for a claim and to visit their desk to get a claim form if they needed a paper one - very fair of them that I thought, and it's very true that not everyone knows about it.

From there we charged up the Oyster cards (no one was using the card machines at Euston, all queuing to pay cash, so it was a doddle). It also made me wonder how many people know you can use contactless cards now as well? Anyway, we soon were heading on the Northern Line (Bank branch) to Bank, before then changing there and down two sets of stairs to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) platform and to take the DLR out from there towards Lewisham, heading through Canary Wharf and Greenwich Cutty Sark before alightling at Deptford Bridge, round the corner from the hotel.

We checked in, and as I'm now a Club AccorHotels Silver member, we were also entitled to a welcome drink. Sadly for The Love it wasn't alcoholic, but a coffee was just nice after a long journey (other soft drinks also available too). Our room was similar to one we stayed in last time: almost in mirror image, with comfy bed, bottled water, big shower and nice bathroom, iron and ironing board, hairdryer etc, and pretty much all we needed. It looked out on to the little gardens next to the hotel and so was a peaceful quiet view too.

We soon had unpacked and so were setting off for Central London, and therefore back on the DLR but this time getting off at Canary Wharf, walking through the shopping centre there and then getting on the Jubilee Line to Bond Street, which worked out well for us as we headed out to Oxford Street, and the two shops she had gift cards for and wanted to go in were both close by. Woohoo! In fact in House of Fraser we'd spotted several nice tops she liked, and in the end plumped for a really lovely Biba one with a cowl neck back, and even better, her gift vouchers covered it. Rock and roll.

We also looked in a few other shops along Oxford Street as well including John Lewis et al, before we decided that having some tea was a good idea. Now my cousin had very kindly got us a gift card for Pizza Express for Christmas, which I'd saved for this trip, and I'd redeemed an email offer on the trusty Hudl for two courses for £11.95 too. In the end we walked up Great Portland Street from Oxford Circus, not realising that the branch was at the other end of the street close to Great Portland Street tube! Still, it was nice and quiet which was good, so in we went.

It was a nice relaxed meal with plenty of nice background music being played, and they seemed to want to turn on the 80s revival in some cases with some of the music selection, but that was all good. We elected for the garlic bread, and then I had the La Reine pizza whilst The Love had the American, which also looked good. I even elected for one of their little desserts with a latte too, so that was one little sweet bite without having to overdo it, which made perfect sense. The rain was hammering it down outside for most of the meal and we were thankful that it had stopped as we left and headed for the tube station.

We then took the journey from Great Portland Street along the Metropolitan Line to Moorgate, where parts of the station seemed rather unwell kept and unfinished still - it definitely evoked The Jam's "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight" in me, so that's my tune of the day. From there it was down to the Northern Line and one stop to Bank, before getting on the DLR and this time alighting at Cutty Sark, so we could walk around the centre of Greenwich, stopping off at the rather nice The Mitre pub on the way back.

Naturally, a good ale just had to be devoured, and for me it was the Ubu Purity whilst The Love had a Pinot Grigio, and getting a comfy seat and being able to chat with a live female acoustic guitarist providing some nice Friday night chilled out vibes was pretty good. It felt good just to take it easy and before long we were walking back down Greenwich High Road and back to the hotel, where we snuggled up with some Graham Norton on the telly before, like Bagpuss, settling down to sleep.

Thursday 12th February - Down to the Last

It was a case today of doing what I could to get everything done that I needed to do in the space of a day and make sure that whatever was happening tomorrow whilst I was going to be off was going to pass off without incident in any way shape or form. To this end my colleague and I headed over with an iMac to one of the buildings we look after, and set it up so it could print to one of our new test devices that we were going to hook up with our print system. The printer itself is pretty massive, but it requires a different driver than normal, so snagged it, installed it, sent a print to the queue, that all worked. However, the swipe card didn't because it was looking for an account that didn't exist. Ah...

We did though head over to one of the wide format printer and do a complete roll change on the thing - not easy as you think because there's four rolls, they're all pretty heavy, and you have to adjust the media guides on the printer's control panel to know it's the new media that you need to accept, and then give it a restart before loading the media. Of course it makes perfect sense to do this when no one is actually printing, and so it was a good time to get it all sorted there and then. Happy days, really.

It was therefore good to then work on an email I needed to send which I finished at home which explained, at length, the detail of a licencing agreement that has been slightly changed in terms of some of the software that we use, and so it was good to get that all written down and at least be able to offer that forward for the next day's worth of work for someone to take up. If there's one thing that I do like to do, it's to be comprehensive and to make sure bases are covered.

After having some tea at home later and a good chat with The Love In My Heart, it was time to settle in for the night in between packing my little weekend case for a break away from tomorrow, and therefore watch The Great British Sewing Bee. I do adore Claudia Winkleman of course (as if you couldn't guess!) but it was fascinating to see them take on kids' clothes and see who would adapt best. I have to say I completely agreed with the garment of the week - Paul's elephant outfit was well made and massive fun, and the little girl model who wore it was a very happy little one that's for sure.

I did though guess straight off that the lack of finishing on time was going to account against people, and Alex's lack of timekeeping on two counts cost her, and out she went. It was the right decision for me, and I think after seeing Matt fail against Deborah in the battle of the peacock outfits (as Deborah lives locally-ish, had to root for her of course) I think he was lucky that only one was being eliminated or else he would have gone as well to be honest. Still, all good fun though and sets up nicely the 1950s themed week (even down to the old sewing machines!) next week.

I packed the case and it was pretty much all ready to go by the end of the evening, with the rather nice John Carpenter album "Lost Themes" playing in the background as I was getting it all sorted. The rather sinister "Obsidian" is lengthy and epic, and that certainly was my tune of the day as I was making sure that I had got everything washed, ironed and ready for the trip ahead tomorrow. Not superstitious at all about travelling on Friday the 13th, not one bit...

Wednesday 11th February - Cold and Crammed In

It was a bit on the cold side outside, but yet rather warm in the office, where there seems to be two temperatures of heating: either cold, or boiling hot, and nothing much in between. Of course it makes more sense when the weather is nippy outside to have it warm and cosy when you're in and all, but I have a feeling that it's also not helping me concentrate somewhat. I just feel like the brain is trying to cram in too much and that it's swimming against the tide somewhat.

I had to attend a meeting this afternoon: what I didn't know was that lunch was provided, with all sorts of artisan bread, cold meats etc. I had already eaten prior to the meeting so didn't really want to have anything more, but thought that it was pretty impressive nonetheless. I did have a coffee and had to make sure that anything related to us was fed back adequately. I also have to be sure that it's well engaged as well with the subject matter: always good to make the most use of the time but be efficient.

I did also have to sort out a jam with a printer later in the day: and it wasn't that easy to find. Not only was there a sheet underneath where the toner cartridge lived, but also one where the duplexer was and it had concertinaed in there - trying to get that out resulted in a lot of patience overall. I did manage pretty well overall and got it sorted but it's always a case of these things taking time. I guess with me I'm just patient and am able to sort things out.

I also was keeping an eye and ear to the football tonight: Manchester City were away at Stoke City in game that from my point of view we just had to win to ensure we didn't lose any further ground on Chelsea. We'd started off not so great, but from a James Milner clearance, the ball went to Sergio Agüero. He got up despite being fouled, ran down the right and slotted it home gorgeously. Peter Crouch did equaliser later on and it was shocking defending, and at half time it was 1-1.

I must admit as the second half started I was worried, but after Agüero had had a penalty shout waved away, the ball went forward down the right, David Silva and Samir Nasri combined and the ball was crossed gorgeously for James Milner to score a perfect header in the bottom corner. Milner's been superb this game as well, and judging by the chants from the fans, it showed that the City fans want to keep him, as does the manager. I really do like his effort, work rate and never say die attitude as well as the skill he has too.

It got better though, as David Silva had a really good battle on the left side, got forward and clear of the defender, and was fouled for a penalty, which Agüero finished off nicely. And add to that a cracking Samir Nasri strike from outside the area as well, and 4-1 it was. It seems as ever at the moment that playing away from home seems to be a lot better for us, and the way we brushed Stoke aside was how we were playing before our rubbish run post Christmas. If we can keep it like this, I'll be most pleased.

So with the game done, only one thing to really listen to, the old 1972 Manchester City club song, and a classic still heard on match days even now: "The Boys In Blue". It's a little oompah in places I grant you, but where else are you going to have the words of "City! Manchester City. We are the lads who are playing to win. City! The boys in blue wll never give in. Tune of the day obviously, and title race at least still very much on for the time being.

Tuesday 10th February - Lusso and Quake

It was nice to see The Love In My Heart tonight after a long day at work, and before the evening had started, I had made a transfer in my Fantasy League team, putting in Harry Kane up front and swapping out Saido Berahino of West Brom. It was a calculated move which I hoped was going to pay off, and it did, notably with a rather good strike from him in the game against Liverpool. Even though they lost 3-2, it was still some valuable points for me, so no complaints there really.

The Love settled in and I had already put in the tea in the oven as it was going to take some time to cook: some pork shoulder with honey and garlic marinade, and some parmentier potatoes to go with that. It came out rather nicely with the pork well cooked and the marinade rather nice - although The Love did say that it was a little on the dry side. I enjoyed it and had a really nice pint of the Flying Scotsman ale to go with it, which I needed to consume in the next few weeks anyway before its sell by date.

We then watched Alex Polizzi in The Fixer as she headed to Wakefield, to see a family run business for entertainment and table setting for posh parties and weddings. Unfortunately they were now holding stock in two shipping containers in the garden and having a showroom in the house, and it was a bit disorganised. I wasn't also convinced by the name either - Baloonin Marvellous, that to me just said el cheapo balloons and not much more. They did though get the stock sorted, and with some assistance and advice from a leading London florist arranger, they set about getting on trend.

And wow, did they ever. It was of course great to see Castle Howard, and some of the displays and photos looked very classy and stunning at the same time, and it showed off what they could do. In fact once they had visited a marketing and web agency in Manchester, and had got themselves rebranded as Lusso Styling (Lusso is Italian for stylish I think) it made more sense, with a really nice presence, and looked a lot more classy. The owners scrubbed up well for their presentation and it's looked like from their site that they've definitely gone up in the world - even before the programme was transmitted!

I put on Swing Out Sister, and their debut album at that, so the likes of "Fooled By a Smile" are on there (make that tune of the day) and then on with the Scrabble. A good game this time around, with The Love coming up well with ZIT (triple letter on the Z, natually) and then later on CRAVE on triple word for 30 as well. My best move was pretty good though: QUAKE with the Q on double letter and also the E on double word (blank used as A) for 54 points. Sometimes those double doubles really do help massively with your score it has to be said..

Monday 9th February - Jump To It

Another busy day all told really, and I think at the moment even attempting to stop and think for a short space of time is becoming more difficult. I did though however manage to at least put forward some useful ideas at one of the meetings I had this morning, so that was pretty useful to do. I did though spend a considerable amount of time during the day working on a few documents for one of the projects, and detailing all of the site visits that we'd undertaken as of late with one project. I decided that the best way to do this was to blitz things as much as I could during the afternoon.

I headed homewards later on and it was good just to sit back and take things relatively easy on the whole. I think sometimes it's easy to note just how you can feel mentally drained from the day in general, and that for me is something I've spotted over time. Physically I'm all good, and that's not too bad, especially with the continuing weight loss in the right direction as well (although that might go on hold this weekend I have to admit). It's therefore good just to slow it all down where you can.

I made myself some rather nice chicken balti with some mushrooms, a Lloyd Grossman sauce (had to kind of fish out the green peppers though ;) and some nice rice to go with that. It was the perfect preparation to warm up and then watch the very cold looking final of The Jump from Innsbruck in Austria. It was down to the final six, and first off it was two races of ski cross, where Mike Tindall won first off, followed by Louise Hazel in the second one. The four losers raced again: Louise Thompson won that. The last three had to do the air jump, Joey Essex survived and it was therefore the four finalists decided.

Then it was the first ski jump of the evening for them all: in fact Joey's first of the series as he had avoided the elimination in all the events thus far. This first jump saw Louise Thompson go out and she admitted her jump wasn't that good: and so to the final. Louise Hazel went from the big K40 but didn't get very far, Mike Tindall beat that from the K24, and then Joey Essex, amazingly, beat that as well and won. It was a bit unexpected maybe but it showed that although he had clowned around sometimes, when it was race day it was game face on and competing - his ski cross win against Louise Hazel by a whisker at the back end of last week was ace, as was Louise Thompson's close run against Mike Tindall in the parallel slalom (Tindall won by 0.03 seconds!)

I think despite it being a bit cheesy on the whole, the fact that there's people competing in winter sports, and having the Paralympic cyclist Jon-Allan Butterworth as the first above elbow amputee to attempt (and do well!) at skeleton was truly ground breaking stuff, and positives like that shouldn't be underestimated really. I don't know if it'll be back next year as it was kind of critically panned, but yet the viewers were around 3 million, so something must have worked out somewhere. And if Channel 5 can keep showing the lame Celebrity Big Brother, anything is possible.

I also caught up with CSI from Saturday night as well, and it was an intriguing possible outbreak of some virus that had both Greg and Sara in quarantine hoping that whatever they had they'd survive. As it was, the airbone strain resolved itself after two hours, so they eventually found out they were safe. Cracking episode though, and it was nice to see a close moment for Greg and Sara (I think she's closest to him especially since she's left Grissom now) too. Tune of the day is "Raining Blood" by Slayer, almost appropriate considering the episode involved lots of the stuff..

Sunday 8th February - Click, Collect and Quin

The Love In My Heart had a well deserved lie in this morning whilst yours truly was up and about, and after making a coffee for myself, it was on with BBC iPlayer and this time watching the men's downhill from the Skiing World Championship at Beaver Creek, Colorado. The course is quite popular with the skiers anyway because of its test, the drop, traverses, turns and jumps all named after birds of prey, and so I was expecting a close run thing.

And so it proved too: in fact it was an American leading the way for quite some time as Steven Nyman had produced a great run, notably on the top section. However even though he was behind at the top splits, the speed in the bottom section meant Beat Feuz of Switzerland was closing in, and getting closer with each split. He eventually took the lead by 0.03 seconds and so with seven more top ranked skiers to go, it was close stuff. In fact Guillermo Fayed of France ended up very close behind, and so it was a case of making no mistakes if you wanted to win.

And indeed that's what Patrick Keung did, not only did he have speed at the middle of the course, with almost 120km/h through one part, but at the bottom with the final two jumps approaching he carried the speed in and out, and so ended up lowering the leading time by 0.31 to take the lead. Travis Ganong of the USA was in number 22, and he was close to being up most of the way, but ended up second and 0.24 behind Keung. And despite a late effort by number 35 starter Andrew Weinbrecht, who was up till the second last timing mark and finished eighth, it was a Swiss 1-3 with Ganong second, and he had desposed Nyman to fourth, so bitter sweet for the USA there.

Later on The Love and I headed off to Argos in Hulme, as I had ordered some items from eBay the other night for her, and we'd chosen click and collect to pick up from there. We knew what had been ordered were ready to collect, and had all the printed receipts ready to show them. It took them some time to locate them and then we realised that the two eBay sellers concerned had put all their items into one bag each rather than separate - but the bar codes we'd been emailed didn't match what they had. One of their managers got on the phone to eBay and it was all sorted.

We then headed over to The Greenfinch in West Didsbury for a spot of Sunday lunch: they had a deal on where you could get two Sunday roasts and two desserts for a mere £15, not arguing with that whatsoever. We both had the roast beef first and that was rather nice, and then I had the New York Chesecake and The Love had the mocha tiramisu, both of those were good too. I also got to try the "Sweet Chariot" ale from Marstons, I suspect timed for the Six Nations rugby and all that.

It was back at mine later and with John Carpenter's impressive "Lost Themes" album on (I'll make "Mystery" tune of the day as the second part is rather eerie but nice) and out with the Scrabble. I was impressed by The Love's spotting of being able to play QUIN down the bottom of the board, so double word on the Q, triple word score and a massive 69 points, possibly the highest move she's played for some time. In fact she was pulling out some cracking moves all round including DYE (also making WAXY) for 38 too in the bottom left corner. Go girl!

Saturday 7th February - Draws and Bees

I had cleaned up the house in the morning, took delivery of the rather nice grocery shopping from the lovely people at Ocado (it even came early again!) and then once I'd got things sorted, it was off out into the city centre as I wanted to get a couple of things: one being a Valentine's card for The Love In My Heart (we just do the cards, not the whole over the top thing) and the other was a trip into HMV where the new John Carpenter album "Lost Themes" (technically his first solo album, not a soundtrack) was out. I'd heard it in HMV last week and thought "I need to get it" and so they had some copies, and it was therefore mine.

I played the album in full when I got back and admired the pictures from my film camera that had been developed by the nice people at DS Colour Labs. The album is stoming, it sounds like it could actually be from a film and had plenty of elements of suspense and cracking use of instruments throughout. The nine tracks really do go together well but perhaps my favourite is "Domain" which appears to have three distinct parts in the six minutes or so, and perfect soundtrack material, tune of the day without question.

It was off later to the Etihad Stadium with my friend and to see if Manchester City could end their run of winless form with a supposedly winnable game against Hull City. In truth, I know the form of late hadn't been too good and notably at home we appeared to be struggling for some reason: almost trying too hard to walk the ball into the net instead of hitting teams with pace, strength and some passion. And the same continued today, with the defence also looking rather shaky to say the least. It was expected almost that Hull City would take the lead and after some defensive howlers from Joe Hart, a shot cannoned back off the post and David Meyler was first to the ball, and it was 1-0.

For the boys in blue, it was a frustrating afternoon, with some fans choosing to boo the team off at half time, possibly out of frustration at the lack of penetration. We did keep cheering them on though but did wonder why after excellent displays by Jesús Navas and James Milner last week why neither of them were starting. They both came on in the second half and Milner particularly changed the game: he was more direct, he got stuck in, he was getting the crowd behind the team with some tasty tackles and wanted to be part of the action.

So into stoppage time, and Sergio Agüero is fouled some twenty five yards out. James Milner gets the ball with a firm look of "I'm taking this" on his face. Not only does he take the free kick, but curves it gorgeously around the wall and inside the post for the equaliser. A cracking effort, and his name was rightfully sung by the City fans who had chosen to stay till the end (so for those who left early, ha ha ha ha ha, you missed the late goal) and with Chelsea winning 2-1, not good enough from City really. I am sure the Hull City fans were gutted by the equaliser but they'd have settled for a point beforehand.

Later on The Love In My Heart and me were back at mine, and I made us some lovely tea whilst she watched The Voice - I did some mushroom soup with some petits pains, and then a nice main of chicken in tarragon sauce with hasselback potatoes and some fresh carrots. It did feel nice and healthy too, and we enjoyed that before watching the National Lottery game show Win Your Wish List, where the Welsh couple on did just that pretty much - and were demon on the final music round.

Then it was on with BBC iPlayer and on with The Great British Sewing Bee, which we'd missed on Thursday with us being out seeing Elbow. I have to say that Claudia Winkleman looked gorgeous as ever, and she was the usual fun and wittiness self with the contestants. One of the contestants incidentally lives quite close to me and I often see her taking the same bus to work in the morning, so I do hope she does well. It was all about cotton this week though, so making some trousers, amending some jeans and then making a cotton summer dress were the challenges.

I have to say that Neil did really well, and the spotted dress he made where all the spots, even with the seams and joins, lined up perfectly, was a real triumph. The Love was very impressed saying that she would more than happily wear that herself, and indeed a fair number of them were really good. We both pretty much guessed that Annie would be first to leave: she got very flustered a lot of the time with the time constraints and that effectively meant she wasn't at her best, which did show..

Friday 6th February - Verve and Gusto

It was another night out for me tonight, as The Love In My Heart and I were meeting up with some friends in the city centre, and I'd booked us a table for four at Gusto on Lloyd Street. Ever since the former Olive Press had become Olive and then was refurbished last Summer to become Gusto, it's always had lovely food in there, and it's been having rave reviews by people as of late. I wanted to find out for myself and thought tonight was a good opportunity, especially with 20% off the food as well (ah, the benefits of Living Ventures dining club memberships.. )

The four of us met in the Albert Square Chop House first of all, as I knew it was a place close to the restaurant, they would have decent real ale, and the atmosphere is normally pretty good in there. And so it proved to be, even with a TV screen at one end about to show the rugby union game between England and Wales. They had the Chorlton Pale Ale brewed by the Bootleg Brewery (which is inside the Horse and Jockey in Chorlton in case anyone wondered) and it was a rather nice pint, a good session ale and one which definitely quenched the thirst rather nicely too.

It was a short walk down Lloyd Street and to the new entrance to Gusto which was closer to Deansgate, and that threw one of our friends who had to check with the lovely front of house staff if it was the same place, and indeed it was: in fact a chunk of what was the dining space of what was Olive was now the kitchen, and being able to expand meant much more seating, including some round booths which we were going to be sat at, and they were rather comfortable all round too - plus it meant easier conversation as well.

The only difficult decision was what to have to eat, and in the end one of our friends and I decided to share the rosemary and sea salt garlic bread, which was beautiful - not too heavy, but the right amount of herbs and salt on for the taste. The Love had the bruschetta and there were no complaints there either - it looked rather nice with the beetroot and onions etc on that it was served with. In fact the waitress we had (Felicity) was really friendly, polite and bubbly at the same time - and that really helped the evening go along rather nicely.

The main courses were no disappointment either: in fact I'm going out on a limb and say that the salmon and dill rigatoni that I had is definitely something that I want to have again, and very soon if at all possible: it was stunningly nice, lots of salmon, plenty of nice sauce with some peas and the pasta was cooked spot on. The Love's spaghetti bolognaise was rather nice too, and the prawn, garlic and chilli tagliatelle one of our friends had was also really lovely too - in fact I could see just how many prawns were in there - again plentiful with that.

It was a lovely meal all round and I can highly recommend the place to anyone if they would like a nice meal out with friends, partners or even on business. It had a really nice atmosphere in there, all the staff we encountered were first class, and there was a real sense of pride in the place and rightly so. When somewhere gets it right, it's important to note that as well as places that get it wrong too, so well done them. All I've got to do now is convince The Love to go for just the two of us..

We ended up back at the Albert Square Chop House and the Chorlton Pale Ale had ran out, so we had the Albert's own Ale instead, still pretty nice though. They did have some ace tunes being played though including Dinasour Jr's classic "Freak Scene", the great version of "Hard To Handle" by The Black Crowes, but most surprisingly of all, "Debaser" by Pixies. I love the track anyway with it being off one of my favourite albums ever, but my, it took me back to when indie clubs weren't far from this pub and I'd be on the dancefloor to that along with everyone else yelling "I am un chien andalusia!" at full pelt, tune of the day it simply has to be.

Thursday 5th February - One Night Like This

I was heading home on time tonight, as I had the first gig of this year to go to, and a pretty special one at that, as The Love In My Heart and I were off to the Manchester O2 Apollo to see Elbow. Now normally because they're a very well established band and more so because it's the closest gig to their home town (Bury), it'd be a much bigger venue, so seeing a band in a more intimate setting was going to be rather nice all round. Not least too because it was the first of four dates being played on consecutive nights at the venue as well.

The Love got to mine and it's pretty easy from mine to head down on the bus and get off at the Apollo itself, and so less hassle rather than attempting to find a parking spot or a side street or whatever. Indeed, because we'd left it a little while there were no queues to get in and so we were straight into the venue itself, and although pretty busy we'd got ourselves a good space with the slope meaning we could see above people's head, and indeed the support act had just begun.

So first off was Joseph Lofthouse, the first of a different support act for each of the four nights at the Apollo. I quite liked him and his band, they were good musicians and they seemed not overawed by playing there either, some lovely acoustics and a real nice feeling within the songs. Definitely worth checking out his debut EP "The Four and Two" sometime. Shame then that so many people decided to talk most of the way through the set, was not very happy about that.

I got us both a drink and the anticipation and crowd increased, and before long on came Elbow. It was to be a set of just over two hours, and a really good mix of the old and the new, to keep not just the newer fans happy, but the diehards who proudly bought "Asleep in the Back" many years ago happy too. Good move all round. Opening with "This Blue World" was a nice step to get everyone warmed up before going straight into "Any Day Now" and making it sound rather epic. I was most pleased with that selection it had to be said.

Later on we had the rather anthemic "One Day Like This" which had everyone singing almost choir-like and with different harmonies too to the rousing chorus, which was a spine tingling moment. The Love made a point that they could have done that as the encore (and kept the crowd in suspense a bit) but their back catalogue is that good that next was the wonderful "Powder Blue" which had a really nice sense of feeling to it - the blue lighting also was gentle enough to give it that extra bit of something. Gorgeous, and for me tune of the day for that reason.

We had "Grounds For Divorce" with the crowd doing the whole "whoooah ohh" sections rather wonderfully at the same time and the band rocking out to it of course, and the ace "Lippy Kids" to follow that which was good to hear. They also played for the very first time live the title track of their most recent album "The Take Off and Landing of Everything" which was a nice surprise to hear, and to close the main set, the epic "Newborn" which really did have the diehard fans have a big smile on their faces, and it was played really well too, so that was also for me another lovely moment.

They weren't done though and even though at times I thought Guy Garvey was getting a little too over-indulgent, he decided for "The Birds" to say "let's just play the song!" and it was massively epic clocking in at nine minutes plus (the album version is around eight and a bit) - pretty brave to do really. Last of all was a track from their recent album, "My Sad Captains" which was another one to go down hugely with the fans too. It was good to see that they were really playing with verve, with gusto, and a sense of feeling together with its audience, a cracking gig all round.

Wednesday 4th February - Over The Border

It was a day of two halves at work today, that was for sure. In the morning, I spent some time sorting out a fair few jobs and had reduced quite a number of outstanding calls to say the least, and had also gone to the first of the next round of programme committee meetings as well - and one I'd attended the last time around. That made it easier as I knew everyone there and was able to rattle through any bits that we needed to in order to take things into consideration.

It was then off to Piccadilly station with a colleague at lunch time, heading over on the train over the Pennines, through the long Standedge tunnel and passing past Marsden and Slaithwaite (pronounce it Sla'wit if you want to be proper Yorkshire mind you) before arriving at Huddersfield. It's not that long a walk from there through the town centre and towards the A62 ring road, crossing over for the University there, where we were meeting a member of staff and seeing their wide format printing provision.

It went pretty well: it was good to note the devices that they had, what worked well for them and what didn't, and seeing their own architecture department and their printer gave us some food for thought - the students and staff there were really friendly overall. I think too it was worth noting that there's different ways of handling things and it's something to try and learn from - everyone does things differently but there are some interesting constants in there which will be notable.

We headed back to the train station and in good time to get the train back to Manchester Piccadilly, and so headed home rather pleased. I had a good chat with The Love In My Heart later on and we both seemed to have productive days and that really did help massively, and thought of a plan for a future gig that we're going to later this year, and may be taking someone along with us as well. Should be good all round, and with us heading off to see Elbow at the Apollo tomorrow, that'll be the first of what I hope to be many gigs this time around.

Later on I settled in to watch The Jump on Channel 4, and have to say that the parallel slalom was a good event - quite a few close races (notably Louise Thompson v Mike Tindall) and if you did come out the loser of those races, it wasn't because you were that far away from winning either. Five faced the jump and in the end Stacey Solomon went, although I half do think that Steve O, formerly from MTV's Jackass, quite has a liking for her in a big way..

Tune of the day in the meantime is the opening track from the debut EP Stranger Than Paradise from Tim Muddiman and The Strange - (Tim is the guitarist with Pop Will Eat Itself and Gary Numan too, I should add), entitled "In The Drink". There's some really nice Industrial sounding elements in there inspired from both bands, and it has a guitar element that really kicks in the backing well. It shows some good promise and I can imagine this live would be pretty ace.

Tuesday 3rd February - Time For Tea

It was a quite productive day, but again more meetings - two of them to be precise. Both of the meetings were actually related to the same project that at some point I will need to do a chunk of work on, but it's good to have an overview of what's going on and how things are progressing. Indeed in the afternoon I was then able to have another meeting with my manager and one of the other staff on the project and thrash out some useful ideas. I must admit though time is of the essence at the moment and any time spare is really useful.

I got a call from The Love In My Heart on the way home - she was actually at one of the other places of work and quite close to mine, so she thought it'd be nicer if she could pick me up on the way back to hers, and we'd have tea at hers and then relax - meaning she could also get an earlier night instead of driving back from mine. I had no issue with that really and it meant I was able to see her earlier, so all good there and a massive hug was saved for her when she got to my place.

To save time and money we took what I was going to make for tea at mine back to hers - some fresh spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread and some pasta sauce, something nice and quick and simple. It worked out really nice too as The Love grated some cheese so we could put that all on top and it added something to the taste as well. Must say though I was impressed with the flavour of the Essential Waitrose meatballs I'd got thanks to Ocado - all lovely.

We snuggled up for a while and with the two cats just relaxed close by too - for some reason they wanted to keep sniffing around and snuggling up my leg. Whether they wanted to smell something on my jeans or not I'm not quite sure, but they were more than happy to pay me lots of attention. Whatever it was I need to make sure I do the same again to find favour with the two of them. They were then watching the telly with us as we saw some of the Alex Polizzi - The Fixer programme.

I'd also ordered The Love something from eBay as well, and this time around I used the option to click and collect via one of the local Argos stores. I'd definitely be interested to see how that all works out - and if it's any easier than having a parcel not arrive at mine and then me heading off to the local sorting office. We shall see. In any case The Love had to nip to Piccadilly Station later to collect a relative, and so dropped me off at the same time to get the bus back (made perfect sense really).

Back at home I spent the rest of the night listening to some music, and notably some of the samples from the John Carpenter album "Lost Themes" which I think I might have to look at purchasing over the weekend. It certainly sounds like it could be from a horror movie soundtrack, maybe by the likes of Goblin (Profondo Rosso, Suspiria etc) - and so "Domain" from said album is ace - tune of the day it definitely is. I can only hope HMV still have a copy when I visit at the weekend..

Monday 2nd February - In A Fix

It's been plenty of time today spent fixing issues and problems, and I guess my analytic brain kicked into overdrive in some instances. For example, one of our kiosks where people credit their print accounts wasn't accepting notes, and my hunch was that there was a note stuck in the back of the note acceptor. My hunch was right: it was a really badly torn £5 note at that. I also had an another good hunch when it came to locating a jammed piece of paper inside the printer and got that sorted out too - all in a day's work.

I think though that I had to make some tough decisions today: one was to pull out of the application process for a job I applied for. At the time it didn't state what the salary was and after being selected for a telephone interview later this week I thought to myself "let's see if the job spec got an update" and it did - and the salary was not as good as I thought, so in my view it would be better if the company concerned were able to find someone who would more suit them instead of me.

I did get home in good time to watch Pointless tonight and I would have done rather well on some of the questions - the first round had songs with a word missing and the second board had Travis, Ash and Franz Ferdinand with their songs Why Does It Always Rain On me, Shining Light and Take Me Out respectively - all apart from the first one scoring pretty low, so good on me. The second round was any of the top 100 golfers and I had two pointless answers in one tweet: Francesco Molianari and Dustin Johnson. I know my sport on occasions I do.

After making some tea I decided to revisit some of the back catalogue of Kraftwerk and listen to the German language version of their "Computer World" album, called "Computerwelt". Interestingly the closing track "It's More Fun To Compute" (make that tune of the day) is in English even on the German version, primarily because the slogan is taken from a old pinball machine saying "It's more fun to compete" and so it would make more sense to be played that way. Live these days they tend to play "Nummern" ("Numbers") and "Computerwelt" back to back which does make a lot of sense, as on the album the former would segue into "Computerwelt 2".

And talking of more fun to compute and all that, you may have seen that the Raspberry Pi 2 got a launch today. Having owned the original Pi and used it for all sorts (including an XBMC media centre as well) I'm sure with the increased processing power, and the connectivity on top, it's going to be just as much of a hit as the original one. And.. Windows 10 is going to be available for it for free as well, bit of a scoop that is to say the least. Well done them for making that effort.

Sunday 1st February - Looping Around Styal

I got up at a reasonable hour on the Sunday morning, leaving The Love In My Heart to have a sleep and lie in whilst I watched the Australian Open tennis final. It was a close call for the first two sets between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, with both of them going to a tiebreak and with Murray winning the second one to go to one set all. He then went 2-0 up in the third but that was about as good as it got - for some reason he seemed to lose it, lost his temperament because of it and the fact that Djokovic won 12 out of the next 13 games to take the match 7-6 6-7 6-3 6-0 tells its own story. Brutal from Djokovic, that was.

After some breakfast and working out what we were going to do for the afternoon, The Live and I headed off to Quarry Bank Mill in Styal. The gardens were closed but instead we were going to head for a walk along the path via the Southern Woods and coming back via country path which would lead us back to the car park where we'd set off from. Considering not much was open it was pretty busy all round, and on the high ground there were still plenty of signs of snow around the place too, which made it seem even more pretty.

We got past the shop and café and headed along the Southern Woods walk, heading past the pond and then gradually climbing up towards one of the bridges, then following the River Bollin along most of its path. In the shaded areas the ground was very saturated and muddy - I was glad we'd both changed our footwear before we set off for the walk, that's for sure. Once we'd cleared through the Willow Ground Wood, the path veered left and we could join a path up a pretty steep hill, but then this became level at a decent height as we skirted along fields and back to the car park.

You could also see the snow in a lot of places on the higher ground: even though some of it was exposed to the afternoon sun it was still reasonably cold enough with the wind chill to stick around for a bit longer: you can only imagine it elsewhere. I also had the Nikon F80 film camera with me and so was attempting to take some nice shots with that in and around the walk and also walking back from the mill itself up to and past the Apprentice House on the way back to The Love's car.

We also stopped off on the way back for a spot of Sunday lunch at The Ashlea in Cheadle: we'd not been in there for ages and had managed to get a spot by the window. They even had their own ale now: Pride of Cheadle, which was a very nice session ale to say the least. I had the chicken and pancetta pie which was stunningly nice because a) it was a proper pie, b) the sauce in the pie was a nice creamy taste and perfect with the chicken and c) home made mash and gravy to go with that as well. I was a happy man let me tell you.

We also then in the afternoon played some Scrabble when we got back, with some decent scoring all round and the first time we'd actually played this year (I know, what are we like eh?) - and then The Love headed off home and I settled into watch The Jump on Channel 4, with the eight male contestants giving the skeleton a go. Who would have thought Louie Spence would beat Mike Tindall? Mind you, when it came to the ski jumping afterwards Tindall excelled and did the furthest jump of anyone.

I also listened to my new CDs later on that I got yesterday and still can't get most of the Viet Cong album out of my head: it's a really good listen and well worth a purchase in my view. I think it'll grow on me more as the time wears on, but definitely "Silhouettes" from that album is also rather cracking - so tune of the day for me that shall be. Somehow late in the evening, playing it loud, it just works on so many levels. And amazing how quick that the weekend has gone, too.