Dear Diary... January 2007

Wednesday 31st January - It's Seanie's Show, La La La Laa..

Ah, the halcyon days when watching Sean Hughes on the telly was compulsive stuff and how he infamously posed in NME with daffodils hanging out of his backside wearing a Morrissey t-shirt. I've been a fan since then and one of my fondest comedy gigs I remember was seeing him do a near three hour stint at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. He was utterly fantastic to say the least!

So when I found out he was playing a gig close by in March, at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool (now a comedy venue for all intents and purposes and doesn't do any music gigs, bit of a shame that) I was thinking "you know what, I should bloody well go seeing as he's finally doing stand up again". A plot was hatched: as the gig's on a Sunday, getting back to Manchester from Lime Street might not be possible depending on the end of the gig, but.. there was a Travelodge close by that had a room for a mere £26 for the night. So, go to gig, stay in Liverpool, now all of a sudden it sounded possible, very possible.

Excitedly I looked at the Royal Court website and to my utter disappointment you couldn't book on their website by debit card at the moment, credit card only. But you could ring and reserve and send a cheque in, which is what I ended up doing. Even better, I got front row of the circle, so no bobbing heads in the way and no annoying idiots. Plus the stalls have cabaret table type seats, which are usually all at floor level which makes it harder to see (plus more likely you'll have the mickey taken out of you!) so this way I get to have a good view and enjoy myself.

When I realised the date of the gig I then realised what it meant: four gigs in four days! Wow, that's something to talk about at length in March when I get out there. It's going to also mean three different cities and a fair bit of travelling by train as well, not that I mind one bit. It also gives me something to look forward to and is probably going to end up being one hell of a long weekend. I've taken the Thursday afternoon, Friday and Monday off work so I'm able to do all of that and feel relatively chilled and relaxed in between. Basically the itenary looks a bit like this:

Thursday 8th March: Howling Bells, Manchester Academy 3
Friday 9th March: Kristin Hersh, Sheffield Leadmill
Saturday 10th March: Kristin Hersh, Manchester Academy 3
Sunday 11th March: Sean Hughes, Liverpool Royal Court

Some schedule that is, isn't it? And I make no apologies for seeing Kristin Hersh twice: in fact lots of her fans are doing exactly the same thing to be honest because it's close enough. I have a spooky feeling on the train back to Manchester on Saturday there might be a few fans aboard - that would be rather cool eh?

The very last tune of the day for January simply has to be from my favourite album of 2006 and because I'm seeing them soon I'm nominating "Low Happening" by Howling Bells. I just love the chorus and the anthemic feel of the whole thing, and Juanita's vocal is fantastic on there. Good enough reason for me, methinks!

Tuesday 30th January - Elementary, Mr. Data.

Well, another day at work, and another set of new problems to solve. But I didn't actually mind them as one of them actually meant we could test a piece of software for the Macs. Basically someone had deleted some images from their iPhoto library and from the trash, and so iPhoto was really slow in displaying the library and showing blank images because the database files still referred to what was there. Not good. Anyway, first step was to try something new we'd bought: Data Rescue II by Prosoft. After waiting what seemed an age for the CD to boot, it got to the wizard and I was able to put in the serial number etc, and then go through the step by step instructions. I was able to select the Mac hard disk, and then select just file recovery only (although there's much more in depth options for a really tired out hard disk too I should add).

So, off it went doing the scan of the hard disk, and some time later it stated that there was a lot of files that could be recovered. As the person concerned wanted all the images, I was able to select anything with an image file extension quickly and easily, and whacked in my 2GB USB pen, as it stated that there was around 800MB to recover. Stick was recognised, told Data Rescue II to restore it to there, and off it went. An hour later all the files had been written to the pen drive, I plugged the drive in on the PC, and badabing! There they all were, plus lots of stuff probably not needed, but I'll leave them to sort it out.

Final step was to sort out iPhoto. Even by pressing command and option as iPhoto started up and doing a library rebuild failed. In the end, I did a bit of a brute force method: I backed up the iPhoto library folder with all the images to somewhere else on the hard disk, then erased it from its original location. When I started iPhoto again, it then asked me if I wanted to create a new library. Did that, and then added the image files to the library from the backed up folder. Seemed to work, and the new library wasn't corrupted. Phew! I've shown the person concerned what to do so that it's then just a case of them importing the images they want, and they still have them in a backup folder too. Cool beans methinks.

Seriously, if you use quite a few Apple Macs at work and you're concerned that hard drive data is going to be an issue in terms of being erased or if the hard drive goes (which happens just as much on Macs as PCs by the way, so do be warned) then Data Rescue II really is something you should definitely consider. I was thoroughly impressed with the ease of use of the wizard, and even though the bootable CD took a long while to boot it did get there and do the job impressively. Not just that, but it did recover whole files and not just parts. I'm thinking this kind of software's going to be handy for recovering data off portable hard drives, digital camera cards, that sort of thing. It's brilliant, it really is.

And yes, before you ask, I don't mind using a Mac. Far from it. Now only if Apple could get Mac OS X to run on non-Apple kit, that would be something which would encourage users to ditch Windows assuming it was the only thing they could run on their PCs. I could even have a choice of booting my rig with Mac OS X, Ubuntu Linux or Windows depending on the application I wanted to use - that sounds like I'm such a geek though doesn't it?

In other news, I noted that Manchester of all places had been awarded the first super casino in the UK, and it was going to be built on a site very close to Manchester City's ground. So if you're a Blue, you could really have a bad day at the office, watch City lose and then lose money at the casino too. I'm kind of mixed about us getting it - on the one hand it shows that people are taking the rejuvenation of Manchester very seriously and that it's going to be another sign that we are truly the second city in the UK. Mind you, I have to say that I thought Blackpool was going to get it, and for them it would have been a good choice of rejuvenating the town and giving it the kick start to upgrade the place a bit, and that would have helped enormously. As it stands now many seaside towns are being left behind by cheap flights abroad and as such they're not getting the tourism that they used to get anymore, resulting in many shops and businesses closing.

On the other hand it's also a worry that people might be enticed to come to the city for the gambling rather than anything else and as such we end up with a nation of addicted gamblers right on our doorstep. Most of us for example only usually bet on the horses once a year, and that's the Grand National. Most of us only occasionally venture into a licenced casino as part of a Christmas do and generally keep the spending down. The worrying thing, as already proven by online gambling sites, is that people rack up lots of addiction and debt and have nothing to show for it - and it's that sort of market that people end up into, thinking that the next go will change their lives forever. (When you think about it, even the National Lottery is a gamble, but most of us have one or two lines a week and that's your lot.) We shall see how it turns out, I'm sure.

Tune of the day is something that I simply had to play when I got home today because it's a tune I've had in my head all day, Frank Black's "Whatever Happened To Pong?" Don't ask me why, it's just one of those moments I have when I start inanely thinking of a song in my head and it can't leave until I play it and start humming away like mad. Also it's a perfect homage to the old days of blip blip bat and ball computer gaming as a kid (and anyone my age would have had one of those TV thingies.) Ah, memories eh?

Monday 29th January - I'm Learning To Sing Like A Star

First day back at work after a few days off, and I have to say it was pretty mad busy for most of it. Not that I mind because when you're mentally taxed and the brain is working over, it's pretty non-stop and you're able to get on with things and keep yourself on an even keel. That I certainly did - had to go and swap out a faulty monitor for a member of staff, then sort out the student account crediting station, check a few user accounts, create a new account, do some database maintenance, sort out a faulty network point, all sorts. It certainly was non-stop but in a way that was brilliant too - and even got a really nice thank you from a student as I was able to show them how to export a document out of iWork on the Mac so you could use the document on Word in our student rooms. I

For me sometimes that's just the satisfying thing of the whole job that you're able to help someone on their way and if they become successful later in life you've contributed a little bit to that. And in many ways when you've got the job that you really want to do then you put more into it because you love what you do and you're passionate about it. I think considerably more these days because of the whole fees situation we're customers of each other more than ever and it's important to note that and be polite, friendly and efficient while retaining a smile. Sometimes that can be the hardest thing to do but also the most important - eek, my years of doing customer service stuff is coming out now isn't it?

The day went quick and so after work it was off into the centre of Manchester with single mission on my mind - to get hold of the new Kristin Hersh album "Learn To Sing Like A Star". Well, would you expect anything else from me? Of course not. And it was straight into Fopp, and in the new releases section it took pride of place (unlike HMV where it was just shoved in the normal A-Z section, how rubbish is that?) so Fopp got my money and I couldn't wait to get home and play it, which is what I'm doing right now as I'm typing this missive. I'll probably end up reviewing it at some point methinks but it is nice to see David Narcizo back on the drums for some of the tracks - just works so nice with him doing stuff.

As yet, tune of the day isn't going to be a Kristin one - but that might happen later in the week - but something I heard earlier certainly made me remember the good old days of indie - and that's The Cygnet Ring's "Love Crime". Not because I love the band of course (and therefore I may be biased) but also because it reminded me of how even hype and airplay for a wonderfully catchy single didn't even make them get top 40. Makes you wonder what the listening public were force fed back then in a day before Internet fan bases and downloads counting for the single charts.

I took a look at the 6 Music covers and now the worst 10 as well as the best 40 is on there. I was really unsurprised with the number 1 choice, as Madonna's horrid version of American Pie is the worst thing she's ever done and it just sounded so syrupy, false and lacking emotion. And three of my own bottom 10 selections were in there - which says a lot about my choices too I suppose. In fact I did actually mention the Ronan Keating ruining of Fairytale of New York the other day to someone at work and so that getting number two was no surprise either. It's truly truly awful and rubbish to say the least eh?

Sunday 28th January - Today Is A Good Day

Well today was a really nice day for several reasons, one of which is a personal thing so I don't want to say too much about that at the moment - but that was the highlight of the day for me. I know I'm being mysterious but there are some things I tend to keep to myself and this is one of them.

Apart from that, it was also a good day as Manchester City decided to turn on the style in the FA Cup and make a comeback from 1-0 down to beat Southampton in the fourth round. It was great to see that we'd finally put our scoring boots on when I saw the goals on Interactive later tonight (why no Match of the Day 2? Well annoying that was) - and good to see three different scorers even if two of them were midfielders. Plus as well it means that for the fifth time in seven years we've got to the fifth round, certainly our Cup record is improving. I'd like to see my lot get a good draw and who knows, maybe even get beyond the quarter final stage where we lost to the eventual finalists West Ham. And after all the results, half the Premiership sides are out so I can imagine some Championship sides are fancying their chances.

Also it was great to watch Top Gear and see Richard Hammond (The Hamster) back on the show. Understandably after his near 300mph crash in September the series was put back to allow him to recover. And the show didn't disappoint - with the team trying to lay down one mile of new road in just 24 hours and soon realising the logistical problems that this entails - and how in reality such a task would take a lot longer to do. Not just that, but Jamie Oliver careering round the track in the wet doing a very fast time proved that cooks make the fastest drivers (Gordon Ramsay had set a best time last series!) and at the end, the footage of the crash itself. What you didn't realise was that the Hamster had done was two successful runs beforehand, and had actually clocked a mere 314mph on the second one. Makes you wonder whether you'd have stopped at that point, but I guess when your adrenaline's going, you want more, and unfortunately a tyre burst and crash to go with it.

Tune of the day was something I was thinking about in conversation - Blondie's "Heart of Glass". Not just because it was a great tune for its time (and still is) but also because it made me think of a great party I was at a couple of years back where the DJ had the right idea about playing tunes in the right way and putting on a good mix of stuff. And you simply had to admire Debbie Harry didn't you?

Saturday 27th January - Skins and Covers

After I wrote yesterday's diary entry, I settled down in the evening to watch the first episode of E4's new drama Skins, which I recorded on the Sky+ box knowing I wouldn't be back from the I'm From Barcelona gig in time to watch it on the Thursday night. With coffee in hand I watched it, and I have to say if it was shown on Channel 4 then definitely would have to be post-watershed stuff. Featuring the lives of several teenagers who live in Bristol, each with their own idiosyncracies and personas, it details their life and times usually involving drugs, alcohol, sex (well for some of them anyway) and oodles of swearing throughout.

There was so much bravado in the whole thing, from the duvet cover of the main character (you'll see what I mean if you're watching the repeat) and the attitude of the woman over the road from him, the swearing mad father (Harry Enfield is absolutely fantastic as a guest role here it has to be said), and the general balls to be able to do something so vivacious and overall wild. Whether or not it paints an accurate picture of teenage life shouldn't matter. It's drama, and very good drama at that. And if I was pushed to name my two favourite characters from one episode, the slightly geeky woolly hat wearing Sid is defintiely one - inside he's actually a really caring guy and people were beginning to see that, and Cassie - such an earth mother of a female when she's not starving herself or popping pills - the anti-heroine if you like especially compared to some of her friends. I'm not going to spoil any major plotlines in case you're watching the Sunday night or Tuesday night repeat, but do watch it if you can.

This morning I got up and whacked on the radio to 6 Music for a show I'd been looking forward to, as Liz Kershaw counts down what the 6 Music listners voted their top 40 cover versions. You can now view the full results on the 6 Music website, and as I listened to the show there were several ones that I thought "Yes! Fantastic! So glad people voted for it", not least Muse's "Feeling Good" and The Fall's seminal version of "Lost In Music" (you know, Mark E Smith is a complete music legend and quite why no one apart from the late John Peel got them is still a mystery - thank heavens enough listeners voted for them and redressed the balance a bit!). Okay, so some of the top ten may have been a bit predictable, but I don't think anyone could really argue with Johnny Cash's "Hurt" taking top spot. If Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails himself says it's the definitive version of his song, I'm not arguing with him.

Even better was that some of the bottom ten selections also matched what I would have on there, not least the Scissor Sisters ruining Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." In a word, why? Why did they bother? It just doesn't do anything good. And the Scissor Sisters are just a poor 2000s version of The Bee Gees. Listen and compare and decide for yourself. I absolutely dislike them. With a passion. And when I did my bottom 10 list the record wasn't released otherwise, it so would have been there. Atomic Kitten's murdering of the John Holt classic "The Tide Is High" also featured as one of the worst, again that defnitely made my day.

I did a quick tot up of the top 40 list, and I actually own some of them. If you look at the list, I own CDs thst feature the numbers 1, 5, 12, 21, 25, 27 and 38 - seven in all. What did impress me was the cross section of what people voted for and that reassured me a heck of a lot about the fact that people who listen to that channel generally have pretty good musical taste. My efforts to get any Kristin Hersh cover in there just weren't enough I suppose, but at least I know she's done some cracking versions of songs over the years - too many to mention here but I will mention one: her wonderful acoustic bluesy version of "When The Levee Breaks" - which is just fabulously lovely. Especially as it's one of the B-sides on the Your Ghost CD single, an excellent package all round.

So with all those lovely cover versions in my head, one of them had to be tune of the day and after me humming the song on the way to the shops earlier, The White Stripes' rather good version of "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" gets the vote, because it's so different from the original late 60s Bacharach-penned for Dusty Springfield number, but keeps the emotion in tact and those guitars just rock on there. And probably without realising it brought the original to a whole new audience, and surely that's the point isn't it?

Friday 26th January - On The Phone Hunt

The last day off work and I've not exactly been quiet really. I had a fair few things to do, not least to sort out my youngest sister's birthday present, as she's 21 next week (and that does make me feel old, let me tell you). Over Christmas she told me and my brothers and other sister that what she really wanted for us all to put together and to get her a new mobile phone of her choosing, and after some consultation we all agreed that it would be a good idea so that she would have something she really wanted. And to be honest, it's much easier doing that than getting her something she might not like.

So with money from everyone in hand, and with my sister telling me exactly what phone she wanted (the LG Chocolate KG800 in white, although pink came a very close second) it was off to Stockport one and the mobile phone shops to get it from there. The display in the shop said that it was available in black, pink and red. No mention of white though. However as the white one's a recent addition I had a quick chat with one of the store assistants who reassured me they had them in stock. The next thing he asked me was whether I was paying by card or cash, and he explained why. Basically if you pay by cash you have to buy £20 top up with the phone, but only £10 if you pay by card. I have noticed other mobile phone retailers doing that too so it's not exactly unusual to be honest - but surely you shouldn't have to buy any top-up credit at the same time if you don't want to. Bit of a swine, that. And why more for cash? That just strikes me as weird.

Still, an easy decision was made to swipe the card for the amount needed and so the top up credit was put on at the same time so it was all ready to go. I've just put it on charge so that it is going to work out of the box when my sister gets it for her birthday and she can start using it, either with the new number or what she'll most likely do is to use her SIM from her current phone with the old number in it. Either way, I was pleased that I was able to get what she wanted, and just paid all the cash from my other relations back into my bank account to cover the cost of paying by my card for it. Simple, really.

I ended up having to go into Manchester for my other bits of shopping though as the branches in Stockport didn't have what I wanted. It was a flying visit though as I didn't really want to be temped to spend any more money than I had to - so once I managed to get the things I needed it was straight back home to nice warm mug of coffee, simply had to be done. And now I'm just going to relax and spend the rest of the day curled up by the fire with some kick ass tunes on.

Tune of the day was a simple choice though, because it was something I played this morning when I woke up and made me think of how quick time passes when you don't want it to at the same time: Roy Harper's "Grown Ups Are Just Silly Children". It's just a really simplistic yet fun little song that ends side 1 of his HQ album and has lots of really ascerbic lyrics thrown in. It's just one of those songs that you don't expect, but it works.

Thursday 25th January - Stockholm Syndrome

Well it was a bit of a Swedish day today in terms of stuff during the day and during the evening. Firstly, a trip out to Ikea in Ashton-under-Lyne to get a couple of things that I wanted for the house, nothing major to be honest but I thought whilst I was there I may as well do lunch as the salmon fillet that they do is rather nice (and it's discounted for Ikea Family card holders like me). I did get tempted by a couple of duvet covers but the one I really really want is too expensive at the moment, although it's being reduced in March - might have to take a trip up when it is and get it.

I was tempted by a couple of prints, not least this rather clever mock canvas one of a frog with headphones on listening to his tunes where you fold the box yourself and then it's ready to hang. Quite neat that and it also keeps the cost down too. In the meantime, I did pick up some Tindra candles (mainly the vanilla scented ones because they're quite a neutral and gentle smell and will make the house feel that little bit more cosy if I invite people over) and also completely by surprise a mirror, which had a fitting so I could easily hook it up on the bedroom wall and so be just the right size for what I needed it for. It's basically the Enger mirror if you want to look it up for yourselves.

One pit stop later for lunch, which also included the blueberry cake slice and a soft drink, and because of all the Family Card discounts, my lunch came to a mere £3.52. Now you can't argue with that, not least as the salmon is utterly gorgeous and the soft drink includes free refills. I was sorely tempted by the Lingonberry juice but instead went for the lemon and lime instead. In case you wondered, Family Card holders get free tea, coffee and soft drinks Monday to Friday as well as considerable discounts instore on selected items. Plus they also email you exclusive offers and send you out the new catalogue as well when it comes out - so that can't be bad can it? Well worth doing methinks.

That done, I had a relatively chilled out afternoon sorting out a few things around the house, and had some classic tunes on at the same time. After listening to Frank Black doing "Wave of Multilation" on his acoustic album Christmas, I simply had to play the whole of the Pixies' seminal "Doolittle" from start to finish. It's still my favourite album of all time, and doesn't age whatsoever. When you consider the track listing and the fact that so many grunge artists ripped this off, it really does stand the test of time. And so many of you my age will have really gone for it on the indie dance floors up and down the country yelling to "Debaser". Go on, admit it.

But continuing the Swedish theme, I went to a great gig tonight with a friend - to see the band I'm From Barcelona. No, they're not from there, they're actually from Jönköping in southern Sweden. The band name, in case you wondered, is taken from a line in a Fawlty Towers sketch. That's not really a surprise as many Scandinavians are big fans of Monty Python and anything related, you know. Anyway, having heard their debut album "Let Me Introduce My Friends" I was hoping for much fun and happiness because of the way the whole thing works as a collective.

I missed the first support act, but by all accounts the last time she played Manchester she went into a strop and stormed off after two songs, so didn't miss that much. However the second support, Sonic Anaphones, weren't actually too bad. Part inspired by The Wedding Present (no bad thing in my eyes) and a bit of prog, they did a pretty good set, and half way through were handing out cake to anyone who came to the front of the stage (no, really) but that didn't detract from their playing. One of their tracks actually had all three members of the band playing the drums at the same time (very Led Zeppelin's "Moby Dick" esque, of course apart from three drummers instead of one) - and overall they weren't too bad. Oddly enough their first song in the set was "Bump" and the last one "Grind". Straight out of Hadfield into Manchester and not bad either. Although if Mike's going to look like Frank Zappa, he's almost there, just needs a bit more of a moustache really.

But after a bit of a delay, on came I'm From Barcelona to deliver. Although all 29 (yes, 29!) members of the band weren't present from what I could see, I reckoned on at least 20 plus of them so they weren't far short of a full quota, and it was pretty cosy up on the Academy 3 stage because of that. Commencing with the anthemic "Treehouse" and with lead singer Emmanuel dressed in a Spice Girls t-shirt for some strange reason, you couldn't help but have a big grin on your face as they commenced their set, with big whacking balloons being hit around the audience and back to the band.

Only minor downpoint was that for some reason they decided to do a version of Roxette's "Dressed For Success". Unfortunately they might not have got the message that Roxette suck, and many people (me included) hate them with a passion. Thank heavens it wasn't "It Must Have Been Love". However, they were soon back on track and doing stuff like "Chicken Pox" (complete with members of the audience joining the band on stage with a kazoo!) and "We're From Barcelona" which just has such a happy singalong feel that you can't help but smile and giggle away.

But that wasn't all! When it came to the encore, they did something that was a big surprise - an attempt at all the band members going crowd surfing. No, really. One by one they were having a bit of a crowd surf and then it was left to the others to carry Erik, the tuba player, all the way through the Academy 3 crowd and then down to the other end of the bar, no mean feat. Afterwards I spotted him doing some completely mad dancing with members of the audience as well, surreal, but completely funny. I honestly can't tell you how utterly mad and bonkers yet brilliant this band are live, it was sheer fun and entertiainment and with such a large cohort, impressive that they managed to keep up the vocals in time and in synch, that from a technical level was great. I have a feeling that give them a year or so and they'll either remain a cult band with a cult following, or everyone will get into them and enjoy what they do.

Tune of the day? No contest. It simply has to be I'm From Barcelona's "Treehouse". It's just so simple to sing along to, yet sung with so much feeling and joy and happiness that you simply have to appreciate what they do. And if you don't, well, you, erm, don't. But it really is one of those songs that is perfect for getting up in the morning to and thinking how good the day's going to be.

Wednesday 24th January - Bonnie Bridgewater Billy

It's been a really nice day today, and not just because I've been off work. I mellowed out quite a bit during the day but also got some of the housework done that I needed to do, and all the washing. My logic was that if I did it all then I wouldn't have to worry about it for the rest of the week, which is fair enough. I also did a bit of maintenance work on my own PC - mainly backing up stuff and also burning a couple of CDs, just rudimentary things really but stuff that we should all do from time to time.

Of course the one thing I was looking forward to most of all was seeing Will Oldham's alter ego Bonnie Prince Billy at the Bridgewater Hall. Even more nice was the fact that my friend and I were front row, which meant no bobbing heads getting in the way of your view, or for that matter no tall people sat in front of you who you couldn't see past - a simple unobstructed view, and that just had to be worth buying the tickets pretty early. I was wondering how full it would actually be as he's not a massive name in music as such but at the same time does attract a pretty cult sized following.

On came the support, which was actually his backing singer on his recent album "The Letting Go". So Dawn McCarthy came on, did a few songs with an acoustic guitar often tapping her massive heels on the wooden stage floor in time with the music for some reason, and even did some ethnic chanting type tunes with just these sticks as percussion. Very odd to be honest, and I don't think everyone actually got it either because it was a fairly acquired taste. I have a feeling she only got the support slot because she's either seeing Will Oldham in real life or that they wanted to keep it a close knit gig.

At around 9pm all the band including Will came on, and for around an hour and three quarters (value there then) some delightful tunes were played, pretty much most if not all of the recent album plus some older stuff besides. What was nice was that all the musicians really felt the music too: the drummer Alex really went for it in terms of feeling and together with guitar player Emmett definitely set the scene rather well. Will himself was dressed in a smart suit and was having a whale of a time, bounding around the stage on one leg with other leg swinging with abandon and playing the guitar effortlessly. Dawn came back on later on to sing vocals with Will on some of the "The Letting Go" stuff and in terms of voices, the two of them do compliment each other rather well.

What I didn't expect was a four song encore which happened to include a beautifully played cover of an Everly Brothers song (the name escapes me at the moment) and for it to be so enjoyable. I think by the end everyone who was there was suitably impressed. As his voice is pretty quiet, somewhere like the Bridgewater was perfect for the acoustics so that everyone could hear him clearly (helped being at the front though admittedly) and that the overall ambience was good. All in all, no complaints from me - thoroughly enjoyable. And it'll be a complete contrast when I go to see I'm From Barcelona tomorrow night.

Tune of the day simply has to be from tonight's gig, and because it sounded a bit more electric but not losing the emotional feel, Bonnie Prince Billy's "Love Comes To Me" gets my vote. It just soudned bittersweet and Dawn's vocal with Will enhanced the feeling, rather then detract from it.

Tuesday 23rd January - Everyone's Got A Bug, I Have The Writing Bug

Well, it seems that way at the moment. Two of my friends are under the weather and have been throwing up, and they're resting in bed and having a good sleep (probably he best thing) - and another friend of mine is full of the flu and been trying to battle it off and get some sleep (if possible). If it's anything like the bug that I had during Christmas and New Year then they have my empathy. Get well soon, all of you, and I'm sure I'll see you all soon enough when you've recovered.

I was glad to get so much done at work today because it was the last day of the week for me with me having some time off. In the morning the installation that I'd prepared of Sketch Up 6 went into the PCs on the eighth floor, and we managed to successfully uninstall the previous version nice and cleanly without hassles too (my registry editing skills came in very handy for knocking up a file that cleaned out the bits we didn't need). And then this afternoon we did the roll out for the third floor. Now we could have just set the installation to roll out when the PCs were switched on (the beauty of Zenworks and SnAppshot!) but we needed to check the printer connections on each PC, and it took my colleague and I about half an hour for each room, so it wasn't that much hassle really.

I also had a meeting that took up most of the morning and there was a free lunch in there too. I'd just like to ask so many catering companies why they insist every single sandwich they make for these lunches are always full of lettuce? Some people don't like it like me and end up picking the lettuce out of it so as not to spoil the taste of the rest of the sandwich. A choice would have been nice, but no worries, it was good enough for me - especially the chicken tikka! And as for the rest of the day, I just fixed as many problems as I could, authorised invoices etc and basically tried to make it a clean break for me so I don't have stuff to go back to.

Even nicer for me tonight was that an article I wrote yesterday (not for the site) was published. Many thanks to Markus Klein for enthusing about the article and putting it online. If you're into retro computer gaming music, then you might want to have a read of my article here. If you're not, it completely won't interest you. But hey, we all have our interests and I might as well enthuse about the things I'm passionate about from time to time - that's the way I look at it. And I enthuse enough about music anyway as you know.

And so tune of the day? Well I just got home tonight and decided to whack on some tunes and chill out whilst making my tea and doing some of the household chores and all that sort of thing. In the end I realised I hadn't played something to really make me smile big time, and so without further ado I whacked on The Buzzcocks' classic "Everybody's Happy Nowadays". I am tonight, because things are going pretty well for me, and that having some time off work and time to myself is always well worth enjoying. And even after all these years, the Buzzcocks' singles are so darn under-rated.

Monday 22nd January - In Shock

Mission accomplished today. Not just in work - but that first. We basically had delivered the new licences for Sketch Up Pro 6 (eventually, we were sent the Macintosh serial numbers first) and so it was up to me to get a working installer snapshot for use with Zenworks and then create an application object which pushes down all the registry settings for the user. It's quite a modular approach but it's also much more flexible for us, which is good to do. The weird thing is, you have to install it on a test rig first anyway so that you can register the product and generate your server licence file, which you then place on an accessible part of your network server. Then you can safely run everything as you need to with all the registration intact. Add to that I was balancing that with a laptop fix problem and manning our Help Desk, and it was a fairly busy day today. So glad that I had something worthwhile to do on the way home.

So off went into the centre of Manchester, thinking that it would be a one stop job for picking up the new Kristin Hersh single on the day of release so that I could play it quite a few times tonight. Well, it would have been only for the fact that several of Manchester's record shops didn't even stock the thing. I went into Fopp first, as I'd rather give my money to an indie retailer where possible, and it wasn't on the displays or anything - rather disappointing. I then went across into Music Zone, and although closing down, they were getting new singles in, no luck there either. So I then thought "well surely HMV should have it" but no, both of them (including the massive Market Street one) was a complete no go. It was only when I eventually went into Virgin in the Arndale Centre that I was able to even see a copy on the shelves, never mind purchase it. Needless to say they got my money and off I went a relieved person.

This does beg the question though of how many record shops decide what singles to stock - and whether indeed they just stock what's popular in their stores as to try and save floor space. In truth, there's hardly any floor space given to singles these days, and for artists like Kristin who give you value for money by putting on different B-sides on every single, it's an absolute nightmare because there is no real level playing field in terms of what's in stock. While you can of course download the single as well, even indie artists don't sometimes have a level playing field (but it is getting better) there because of the slight reluctance of some of the download sites that count for the chart stocking it. And as I've mentioned in the past, there's something beautifully satisfying about taking home the CD and playing it on a decent rig - particularly the strings by the McCarricks on the single, which are just fabulous and add to the proceedings no end.

Tune of the day isn't actually the single though. I give that honour to Kristin Hersh's version of "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" which is beautifully sad and melancholy and just reeks of emotion. Her voice sounds in very fine fettle singing that and the guitars are just the right side of country-fied. Intriguingly I played that and Johnny Cash's version of the same song (from American III: Solitary Man) back to back and it's two very different but excellent renditions. Compare and contrast for yourselves if you don't believe me.

Something I also noted whilst I was in the centre of Manchester is that how many people decide to use the Tesco Metro straight after work. I had to pop in there myself to get a few bits for during the week (mainly because I'm off and I'd like a nice breakfast) and the queues were pretty mad. Mind you, I feel sorry for the woman who served me on the checkout. She was telling me that she was suffering from isomnia and running on virtually empty. Her colleague helpfully suggested a mug of Horlicks to relax her, but I don't think that went down too well to be honest.

Got home and a nice surprise was that my old tumble dryer had been collected and taken away by the council, just like they said they would. It's nice when you're able to fill out all the necessary forms online, get a confirmation email with a collection date, and then everything works as it should in terms of things being taken away. I'm sure at least this way all the bulky refuse goes somewhere to be scrapped and recycled - which has to be a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Now back to playing the Kristin Hersh single...

Sunday 21st January - Now That's Entertainment!

Well I've just watched possibly one of the games of the season between Arsenal and Man U, it has to be said. And both teams made it essential viewing, with plenty of firm tackles, a never say die attitude and finishes that show just why the Premiership is so highly regarded as the finest league out there. Of course, you could accuse me of being slightly biased by saying the result was what the title race needed, but I do think if Man U had won today it would have been all over bar the shouting to be honest.

And certainly to be fair to them they didn't come for a draw, and a good break down the left and a great cross was met by Wayne Rooney's diving header to make it 1-0, and to be honest nothing more than they deserved for keeping at it. Certainly it was Arsenal who made the changes with first Robin van Persie and then Baptista coming on. The never say die attitude came from both Tomasz Rosicky and Cesc Fabregas, who battled for the ball constantly before Rosicky was released, put the cross in, it evaded Thierry Henry but went to van Persie and whack! In it went at full blast and it was 1-1. All to play for.

What surprised me was when Cristiano Ronaldo got booked - for diving I should add - that it was his first booking of the season. Normally most midfielders don't go that long without being booked. That only fired up Arsenal a bit more though, and a peach of a cross from Emmanuel Eboue was met by Henry's head and planted firmly into the Man U net in stoppage time. As you can imagine, it wasn't just the Emirates Stadium going mental but I can imaigine every single Chelski fan (particularly after them losing at Liverpool on Saturday) was breathing an almighty sigh of relief as it kept the gap at the top down to six. That said, to be honest, it's still Man U's to lose and at the end of the day someone else has to take points off them now.

Whilst that kept me excited this afternoon, I had a really chilled out day today, I think because I know I've got a couple of concerts later this week to go to that I'd rather save the energy (and indeed the money) for those. It should be a good couple of nights in different venues and completely different bands too - namely Bonnie Prince Billy on Wednesday and I'm From Barcelona on Thursday, so quite a contrast. Luckily for me I'm off work Wednesday to Friday so it's going to be a short week at work and then plenty of time for me to do what I need to do. And at the same time I've got to try and use up my leave before Easter too, so it might be an idea taking the week off when I'm going to see Kristin Hersh, we'll see...

I've just looked outside and guess what? It's snowing! Yes, the white stuff is slowly coming down, and I don't know if it's actually sticking yet, but nonetheless I recognise it when I see it. No wonder the Sky digibox signal decided to go a little bit mental after the football. I just hope that it doesn't affect things too much when I try to go to work tomorrow, that would be fun and games trying to cross the main road near me, especially if it's icy. And the first snowfall of the year, too. I am so glad I'm inside and in the warm.

So after all that's excitement and relaxation, tune of the day is going to be something I watched the video to earlier on: Weird Al Yankovic's "White And Nerdy". It's just fabulously funny, and if you haven't seen the video to the song, you're missing out. The song itself details everything in full about being a white and nerdy guy, brilliantly written and with killer lines such as "I'm fluent in Javascript as well as Klingon" rapped by Yankovic superbly. Give that man a Grammy - in fact his album Straight Outta Lynwood is nominated for two of them (see my review here.)

Saturday 20th January - Five Leaves Left

Well, I got up early this morning and decided to venture into the city centre. It was a bit on the windy side though as I went to the post office to post a couple of small parcels, and then got the bus into Central Manchester. You could see as you went into town the damage caused by the wind - not just to buildings but to some construction sites where clearly scaffolding had taken a turn for the worse to be honest. As I walked down Market Street, there were an extraordinary number of people doing surveys and marketing, and to be honest I didn't want to face and talk to any of them - it was too early in the morning and just didn't feel in the right mood.

Anyway, I soon made my way into Fopp as I'd decided to try and track down the Nick Drake CD "Five Leaves Left" - his first album - because I'd made a conscious decision to buy it at some point this year. And I wasn't paying the ripoff HMV price of over a tenner either. No siree. Went into the basement in Fopp, and there it was in the £5 section. That's a bit more like it. I picked it up and looked inside, and what was nice was that the CD itself was printed like the centre of the original vinyl record, namely the pink with black block label that Island were using at the time (just for the record, the third generation pink with white "i" is my favourite). And... only a fiver. Excellent. Even more so when I got to the counter and saw the Manic Street Preachers' "Lifeblood" album for the mere sum of one pound, so I couldn't resist that either. It was mine too.

After a quick stop in Argos to get their new catalogue it was homeward bound for me as the wind was just getting a bit up again. As I'm typing this all I can hear outside is the howling of the wind and it's certainly not the weather to be out in if you can help it. So I stayed in this afternoon and watched Liverpool deservedly beat Chelsea 2-0. To be honest Chelsea look lost, especially without John Terry, and their title hopes are rapidly fading, and as much as I don't want to say it, they're giving the title to Man U on a plate. Especially if a result happens at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow against Arsenal.

Tune of the day is not what you thought it'd might be. I went for a cover version instead, namely Teenage Fanclub's excellent rendition of "Like A Virgin" because it sounds so much better than Madonna's original, especially done in a real grungy guitar way. Honestly, you need to listen to it - it's fantastic! Interestingly, BBC 6 Music are doing a rundown of Top 40 cover versions on Liz Kershaw's show next week, which you can vote for. For me it'd be interesting to see if any of my own top 10 selections make it there, or indeed if any of my worst choices are the worst one named.

Friday 19th January - It Is Time For Stormy Weather

Well I certainly was woken up in the night by the howling winds, which were still blowing around rather furiously to say the least. I have to say that I didn't get that much sleep as such but tried to nod off in between being woken up so that I'd feel freshened up a bit by this morning. And it sort of worked as I left home to go to work. However, the bus into work was diverted as a tree had fallen on one of the roads - and it was blocking everything off. Thankfully diversions were in place and by the look of it, no one was hurt, which is always a big relief.

Got into the office and shared horror stories of getting home the previous night. One of my colleagues lives in Wythenshawe, and she had to walk all the way home from work there. It took her ages and understandably her relations were a bit worried about her until she got home safe and sound, as you'd expect really. Quite a few of our lecturers couldn't also get home and were being put up by their colleagues somewhere, so at least it meant that the team spirit that exists here was being shown in more ways than one, which was rather good to see. Sometimes it's only in adversity that you really see how much people actually do care, but it's reassuring.

The work day went along pretty okay actually, but I must admit I was pleased that the weather had died down a little and so I was able to leave on time and go and do the food shopping. Even better was that I timed my exit so well that I could hop on the 44 and go straight to Tesco, fantastic. I whizzed round there in pretty quick time and got all the necessaries done (and in truth I didn't need that much, the fridge is pretty full these days) and was amazed by how so many people over-dress to do their shopping. No, really! Sometimes I just feel like saying to them "yes I know the supermarket is a sometimes likely place for you to meet your partner" (and there are statistics that prove this) "but honestly, just tone it down a bit will you?". I just go as me, get on with it, and then get home. Simple.

I stayed in tonight and whacked on some tunes fairly loud and that certainly helped proceedings nicely. In fact I enjoyed myself so much with one track that it just has to be tune of the day - "Stormy Weather" by the Pixies, from their Bossanova album. The whole song just has one lyric "It is time for stormy weather" (quite apt isn't it?) - and it features some great grungy guitar playing all at a relatively slow speed and then building up pace as it goes along. It works, and after Hang Wire on the CD, a great slow down.

Thursday 18th January - Cold And Wet And Winded

Well, what a long day today was! It was going pretty okay at work, with me covering the Help Desk whilst my colleague was on a course for the whole day, and helping out lots of students, including one who didn't even realise their laptop had an onboard wireless adapter and had bought another one and was using that. Still, I got them up and running on our wireless network no problem. Well, I did under a few time constraints because of the weather.

You see, the howling winds were very very bad around Manchester, and indeed one other Faculty where I work had sent all their staff home early, and we were waiting for the call from the top brass to decide what to do - as safety of us and the students was a concern I had, which I raised with our Faculty management. In the end we left pretty much normal time but the buildings shut not long after we left. And then there was the tricky issue of getting home..

Ah yes. The homeward journey. What normally is a 15 minute bus journey didn't materialise. The main roads into Manchester were completely and utterly gridlocked, not helped by the fact that all of Manchester's train stations were closed off and so people wanted to find alternative means of transport. And because of the gridlock, no buses were able to get into Manchester to pick up passengers to go back out. So I ended up walking it home from work - which wasn't that bad, apart from the wind, lots of rain, and even the odd flash of lightning. Still, I wasn't alone either - a couple of people who I see at the bus stop in the morning had the same idea too.

Got home, made something to eat and got changed out of the very wet close, and then chilled out by watching The Lake House. I loved it at the cinema and recently decided to get it myself on DVD. And it lost none of its appeal. I just love the story but most of all I love the chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves - it works superbly. And do I wish I was Keanu kissing Sandra at the end? Oh yes. I'd love to have Sandra Bullock as mine. She's always very feminine in her persona and in her look, and natural. And feminine.

Tune of the day is something which is in the soundtrack to The Lake House, namely the beautiful Nick Drake's "Time Has Told Me". It fits in perfect with the film but is also just a lovely melodic piece of music that just makes you realise how good Nick actually was, even back then.

Wednesday 17th January - Passing On My Knowledge

Had a good day at work really and managed to get quite a bit done. A fair bit of the day was spent managing to fix a few problems that may be forthcoming, and I was trying to be proactive and get things done before they happen. One happens to include an Access database which I design and look after - and it's quite an important one indeed. So when there were plans afoot elsewhere which may affect the use of it, I got into action and started to make enquiries.

Also, one thing I may take a look at at some point is a new feature of Sophos Anti-Virus 6.5 - application control. Basically what this allows you to do is that you can control from one central location which applications are allowed to be run on your network, even if they are legitimate applications. Basically therefore Sophos monitors it all and if someone tries to run an application you've not allowed, it simply won't play ball. I'm quite intrigued how this works, but the fact it can disable most Bit Torrent and messaging applications which take up lots of bandwidth at work has to be good news - it stops people hogging things for the sake of it and slowing the network down. That's the plan so hopefully my colleague in our central team can have a play with it. I just hope we have a policy that allows us!

I spent a bit of time too later in the day helping my Help Desk colleague put together all the parts that he'd bought for his own PC. I'd recommended a fairly high specification for his needs that he wanted to use it for (and also to last a considerable amount of time) and as he wanted to learn to put the PC together himself I didn't mind one bit giving him some pointers and also showing him what to do and how best to do it. Certainly I really enjoy helping people out if they're keen to learn - it shows enthusiasm and willing, which pleases me immensely it has to be said. Anyway, moment of truth came and everything came on as it should - sorted all the BIOS settings out and at some point he'll just be putting on Windows and everything else. Nonetheless though I think an Athlon 64 X2 4200 with 2GB of RAM should be a good experience, even on Windows Vista. Well okay, knowing Vista, maybe not, but still..

Tune of the day simply has to be by Kristin Hersh, namely her "In Shock" single. It comes out Monday, I can't wait, and she did a signing session and live performance at Fopp in London last night. Jealous? I certainly am. I'd have really wanted to be there and to talk to the wonderful woman, but I've found solace in that at least there's footage from the Fopp gig online that I might just have to try and get hold of. I mean, she is my honey after all!

Tuesday 16th January - Going For A Barton

Well, it was City's FA Cup replay tonight, and as it was on Sky, I did my usual family bonding thing and invited my uncle and brother around to watch the game with me. It was therefore the usual cups of tea and bag of crisps at half time (become kind of tradition now when we get together to watch the heroes) but I still had a pack of Cadbury's Fingers as well from Christmas so they were opened and duly demolished between us as we sat back and watched the game.

And was it frustrating? You bet. Three one on ones from Darius Vassell missed and late in the first half I thought we just weren't going to score. Thankfully Joey Barton had other ideas - his perfectly time run split the Sheffield Wednesday defence and then a nice easy pass for Stephen Ireland to slot home coolly. Barton's celebration was either him pointing to the City badge or taunting the Wednesday fans behind the goal with the Premier League logo - indicating the status of the club. Either way, I think he enjoyed the part he played in that one somehow!

Fair play to Wednesday though, they kept playing football and their equaliser was deserved, a great looping header from a free kick which caught everyone napping. And they still went for a winner, although in the end a few minutes later it was us that got the goal - the ball went to the bobbins Bernardo Corradi, he laid it off (well sort of) and Darius Vassell blasted it in the top corner with a very neat shot. Sod's law, the hardest shot he gets and it goes in! And spare a thought for Ireland as he almost added another in stoppage time only to have his shot cleared off the line by some excellent defending. Still, 2-1, enough for us all to go mental at and look forward to round four a week on Sunday.

But what really cheered me up was the post-match interview with Joey Barton - man of the match it has to be said. He was asked about all the transfer speculation going on and the clause in his contract, and as far as he was concerned all he wanted to do was play for City and how much he wants to be a part of it, showing respect for the manager and fans in the process. And, if rumours are true, Joey was very unhappy with his agent (the scumbag that is Willie McKay - just ask Hibs or Wigan fans, they'll tell you) and had a row with him because the agent was spewing bull to the media which Joey didn't want to be a part of. Indeed, one of the later interviews with Stuart Pearce seemed to back up that something had gone on. Either that or Psycho's told McKay to get lost - and let's face it, would you want to mess with the City manager? I wouldn't. I wonder how many times Joey said "you know" in his post match interview?

Anyway, with all things going well, tune of the day has to be something I'd not heard for a bit played at Eastlands so loud, but you could hear it full blast - Brainbug's "Nightmare". It's a really weird dark dance track, but once it gets going with all those electronics and strings it really does make the hairs stand on end. And listening to it now just reminds me of being at the stadium and wanting to cheer the lads on to another rousing victory. And let's hope we get one on Saturday against Blackburn!

Monday 15th January - Letting Go And Tumbling Around

Well, it was a bit of a different day today to say the least. First off, our Help Desk colleague was off on leave today so yours truly stepped in and did what I could to be nice and friendly and assist the students where possible. Most of them had fairly straightforward queries, although I did have to try and demonstrate to one user how to effectively work with images in Word documents, and that took some thought as well as some careful planning of some columns (they wanted newspaper type columns as well so I happily obliged). Slight snag was that I had to change the cartridge on the black and white laser printer, and whilst opening the cardboard box with the new cartridge in, I got an annoying as hell paper cut on one of my left fingers for my troubles. Ah well.

Went to see my sister after work - although it's her birthday tomorrow she did request at Christmas time that she wanted money off everyone so her and my other sister could go wild in the aisles in the sales and then she could get herself some clothes for her holiday soon. Fairly sensible and logical, and I had no qualms going to see her a day early and handing her a card and some money. Especially as it meant I got to see my lovely niece, who is growing far too quickly and becoming far too cute by half, and it's hard to believe she's over eighteen months old now - walking around everywhere like a little sweetpea and just generally being herself. Although I think whilst I was round there she was having a bit of a girly strop (the niece that is!)

Went to my mum's and my brother had arrived home, so the two of us went to Stockport to get my new tumble dryer, which I'd craftily reserved online this morning. My mode of thinking was I didn't want to get there and the one I wanted (pretty much the same as the old one) was out of stock. Not a hassle at all. Did the reservation (site even worked in Firefox, woohoo!) and printed out everything to take with me - went to the store and to the collection point, paid for it, and within five minutes my brother's van was being loaded with said purchase. Got home and tested it - and worked without hassle. Now I've just got a couple of bundles of washing to really give it a good testing!

Also when I arrived back home, I had a very nice little package waiting for me, and something I figured I needed to get before a week on Wednesday. You see, I'm going to the Bridgewater Hall to see Bonnie Prince Billy in concert (the acoustics in there should serve him well) and I figured I'd need to at least know some of the stuff off his recent album "The Letting Go" so as not to be completely a musical virgin. I'm going with a friend, who's quite into him (and we're front row too!) and having heard some of the album at their place (they have the limited 2CD edition, well rare apparently) I thought I'd get it. I actually noticed there was a DVD-Audio version of it and of course for an audiophile like me there was only one option - and so a quick order at HMV later, job done.

I had a good listen to the whole album and certainly in the advanced resolution surround the quality was simply gorgeous. The acoustic guitars flow and breathe like no other, and the voice of Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy is an alter ego) and occasionally the backing singer just are so beautiful together, it just works nicely. Interestingly, there's two extra tracks on the DVD-Audio disc that aren't mentioned anywhere on the sleeve - namely "Ebb Tide" and "Signyfing Wolf" which is quite scary. Nice to have them nonetheless though.

So with the gorgeousness of said album fresh in my mind, I'm going to pick Bonnie Prince Billy's "Cold And Wet" as tune of the day - it's simple and short yet it just happens to be so melodic and slightly downtrodden, and a nice acoustic soundscape entwines you and draws you in, yet never uncomfortable. If this live is half as good as on record, I am so going to enjoy myself sometime soon!

Sunday 14th January - Comeback Day

So why have I named this entry Comeback Day? Well first off, I had a really nice time this afternoon with a friend of mine - did lunch and then settled down in the pub to watch a couple of live football games as well. First up, Everton came back from a goal down to draw 1-1 against Reading, and it looked like one of those games where Everton would have done everything except score. I've seen City do that on so many occasions it's untrue, so to be honest it's reassuring it's not just us. And after that, and a quick decision later, and we stayed in there for the Tottenham-Newcastle game. And that was some game too - Newcastle were 1-0 and then 2-1 down, but scored twice within 90 seconds to go 3-2 up and win. And in terms of contrast, I think they had four shots on goal and three of them were goals, where Tottenham had countless chances. Whilst watching the games the two of us chilled out, put the world to rights and had a general catch up as well - which was lovely to do.

Then I got home and settled down for the darts final. And wow! What a game that was! At first, Martin Adams was dominating proceedings and every chance he had at hitting a double, he made it - and at the interval, leading 6-0, surely everything was all over? But no! Phill Nixon didn't just come back and win one set, he kept battling and he just played like he had nothing to lose and relax. Adams missed a couple of chances for the match and Nixon kept his nerve, and before you know it - 6-6 and a deciding set to really set things going. It was there that Adams eventually showed his experience and won the final set 3-0 to take the title, but it had been a rollercoaster ride, and both players really did give their all - as a final should be. It was great entertainment and you have to say sport at its finest - drama, passion and above all else two players at the top of their game giving it everything.

Thank heavens I get paid tomorrow as well - the month has really dragged plus as well to top all that, my tumble dryer decided to take a turn for the worse and just fail to do anything. To be honest, the motor and electronics inside it haven't been 100% for a few months, and when you try to dry stuff and you can hear a real grinding noise plus the condenser not collecting any water at all, you wonder where it's all gone to and realise that in reality it's time to get a replacement. So it's off to the electrical outlets tomorrow after work to get one. Not exactly what I need to do, as it'll really leave me a bit short moneywise this month, but it's a necessity for me and so it has to be done. I'm just going to have to be a bit careful and not do too much now.

Mind you, spare a thought for Kylie Minogue as she performed at the Manchester Evening News Arena only to be able to do around half a set because of her flu. Although you can see why she battled on and tried to do what she could, reports suggest that really she wasn't up to it and it was probably better if she didn't perform at all - I guess credit for trying though, and if ticket holders get a replacement show like it looks, then it's not all bad and you have to admire the guts to try. As it stands she's had to cancel two more Manchester dates - a sensible decision if she's really under the weather to be honest. There has been a big flu bug going around, which I myself have only just about got rid of, and it's probably best to get some rest and recuperation to make sure she's fully ready to take the stage. I'm sure that those who went would probably agree that to try and give it your best was a brave move.

Anyway, with all the drama today going on in sport and stuff, what could I possibly choose as tune of the day? Well after a bit of thought I've gone for something which sums up my mode of optimism in life at the moment - namely "Nothing Less Than Brilliant" by Sandie Shaw. It is her finest vocal performance on record - ever, it's so uplifting and the harmonica by Chrissie Hynde on there just adds to the beauty of the whole thing. "I know how rare you are" Sandie sings "and you're nothing less than brilliant in my eyes." It's just inspiring and I'm sure many sportsmen would agree with those sentiments when they're not 100% to have someone tell them that they are still brilliant, and sparkle and glow. Right now I'm glowing with contentment, and that just feels so positive to be honest.

Saturday 13th January - Ladies and Gentlemen, Let's Play Darts!

After getting home from my friend's place, I had a quick look at how many views my videos were getting on the Zaw Towers Youtube channel (see the 11th entry for more info.) Anyway, it seemed that adverts 9 to 12 for ITV Digital were the ones getting the most hits (probably because they're not available anywhere else within Youtube at the moment) and also a couple of favourable comments and reviews, which is nice. I'm trawling my archives at the moment to see what stuff I have which could add a bit more to the channel, so it'll be interesting to see what I can come up with. Looking through my sizeable VHS recordings of stuff I've taped off the telly over the years, there's plenty which I could well try and capture - including old TV appearances on Saturday morning kids' shows by indie bands of the day. I could swear I've got Jesus Jones on Going Live! for a start, ah those were the days.

Watched both semi finals of the World Darts Championships today. (And for the pedants, I know it's the BDO one, but they were here first and are still considered my many including me to be the proper championships) - and what a two contrasting games. First off, an absolute classic between Martin Adams and Mervyn King. A couple of times King hit two 180s in a leg and had a chance of a magical nine dart finish, shame it didn't happen as that would have been great to watch. However, I did want Adams to win and after a wobble at 5-2 where King fought back rather well to make it 5-5, Adams held his own in the deciding set and crucially broke the throw to grab a hard earned victory and justify his number one seeding.

In the other, it was more a battle of nerves than high scoring, especially as Phil Nixon seemed to want to lose not win by being so nervous and spoiling quite a few chances at doubles to win the match 6-2 and then 6-3. By the time it was the tenth set though, Niels de Ruiter too was showing signs of nerves and I think the occasion got to the two of them and they were both really having difficulties finishing the doubles. However in the tenth set, Nixon pulled off a great 121 finish and not by conventional means either, he went treble 20, 25 and then double 18, which worked really well. (Normally you'd go treble 20, treble 11, double 14, because if you hit single 11, you can still go for the bull to win - it's quite logical you see.) And for contrast it's going to be an interesting final tomorrow - although both Adams and Nixon are 50 years old. What that says about the fact that you can play this sport for years speaks volumes - experience can and does count.

Caught the end of Soapstar Superstar tonight. I've not been watching any of it (kind of don't like reality TV singing things - I deliberately missed the second series of Just The Two of Us for the same reason) but the final two were on right at the end and so whilst channel flicking I noticed that Anthony Cotton, the one who plays Shaun the camp hairdresser blokey in Coronation Street won. And was he camping it up for some of his tunes? Oh, you bet, especially his version of Barry Manilow's Cococabana. It made me wonder too whether in real life he's quite like his character as some of his personality traits did seem quite similar. Mind you that's two wins out of two for Corrie on that after Richard Fleeschman's win last year. Of course what we'd really want to see is the Ken and Deidre duet - how laughably hilariously bad would that be. Even get Penny Smith to give them singing lessons - or maybe not. But as I said, in reality I'd rather see Saturday nights given to entertainment that's actually had a bit of thought put into it.

With the darts being on, there's only one contender for tune of the day and it's Doug Wood's "Cranes". You won't be hearing it these days on the modern darts coverage (the BBC use a combination of Skunk Anansie and ABC) but it used to be the darts theme. It's very simple, with just a main sweeping synth bassline and some piano which sounds a bit like it was played down the pub - but it worked, for years. Especially as the end drums would tie in with the graphic of the darts hitting the board, sheer genius to whoever did the titles back in the day.

Friday 12th January - Not Going Wild In The Aisles

Well, the end of what seems a very long working week. In reality it actually wasn't that bad, I think it's mainly because I've had time off and getting back into the swing of things which is more to do with it. Getting up in the mornings has also proved a little on the tricky side because admittedly I did have a couple of lie-ins last week, although I always managed to get in on time. Mind you, when you also have to deal with queries that you shouldn't really need to do, that's fun and games.

Allow me to explain this one. A user rung me up and said that their computer wouldn't come on. Fair enough, I thought. Because of the PC that they have I know the power saving can kick in and place it in standby, so I asked them to hold down the power button for five seconds so it should shut off, then switch back on and see what happens. Still nothing. So I went up to their room, only to discover that not only had the monitor been switched off (not the base unit) but also that the power cable had come loose out of the monitor and providing it with no power. Needless to say once that was done everything was fine and working again - and cue slight shades of embarrassment from the user concerned.

I also noticed something when doing my food shopping last night. Why the hell do people dawdle in the aisles for ages? I was on a bit of a timed visit becuase of timing the bus back home, and so I needed to get round in pretty sharpish time picking up what I needed plus a couple of extras. On two or three occasions the aisles were blocked by people parking their trollies across the aisle while spending a ridiculous amount of time trying to decide what to have. In one case it was what tea bags to get, and whilst I could understand if it was flavoured or herbal tea (because some of them are great but some are utterly foul) it was picking between two makes of tea bag and which size packet to get. I mean, come on! Just pick one and move on. I could imagine these sort of people are the ones who spend two hours out shopping just for a basket full of food. That'd never do.

Enough of that rant - I had a really nice time tonight catching up with a friend of mine - had something nice to eat (always a good thing) as well as these really nice strawberry and mango smoothies which were just delicious. And then I noticed which blender the restaurant was using. Yes, it's the infamous Blendtec blender, made famous in the Will It Blend? website. I couldn't see any of the staff being Tom Dickson fans though so I didn't really want to ask them to try to blend some loose change in there, hehe. But it was good to catch up and have plenty of good conversation, and later on listen to some really relaxing tunes as well.

One of those tunes quite simply has to be tune of the day - and that's Richard Hawley's "Cole's Corner" the title track to said album. I think more so because that it's just a very nice relaxing song to listen to, but also because it sets the tone wonderfully well. By all accounts his homecoming gig at Sheffield City Hall in December was one to really go to, not least for the atmosphere and the special CD he made for it (which is now doing the rounds on eBay). On a more serious note, I must get round to getting that album myself.

Thursday 11th January - Announcing The Zaw Towers Youtube Channel

I informed my subscribers of this a couple of days ago, but now the stuff I have uploaded is now properly searchable for the whole world, I'd just like to announce that Zaw Towers now has a channel on Youtube. I know what you're thinking: videos? of you? Isn't that going to be boring as hell? Well folks, it's not about me rambling on about stuff (although I may be tempted to recite my short stories Jackanory style one day) - it's more about me sharing things with the world that people might not have seen, or stuff that you just can't find anymore. And at least this way it'll be semi-permanently archived rather than be lost forever on CDs or hard disks of mine. And isn't that supposed to be a good thing?

As I was browsing said site the other night, I soon realised that as Johnny Vegas (As the character Al) and his sidekick Monkey were making a comeback on British TV screens with the new PG Tips advert (which you can view here if you wish to do so) then not everyone may have seen or remembered the classic adverts for ITV Digital which our two characters did many years ago. Luckily I have all twelve of them archived here at the Towers, and four of them weren't even on Youtube - at all, something that I needed to do something about so that people could see them and bring back memories of when everyone wanted a soft toy monkey (including me, it has to be said).

So, one account sign up, and several uploads later, and I was done. It normally takes a couple of days for what you upload to be searchable, which meant that subscribers to my website updates were sent all the channel information first so that they could view stuff there and then if they wanted to. In fact, uploading was made a lot easier by the fact all the stuff I was uploading was already in MPEG-1 format, and perfect screen size for what you get displayed, and that worked really well. I'll have to remember to possibly re-code stuff using Nero Vision Express before any further uploads, but there's some great stuff that I have somewhere (including some on VHS tape) that I really need to capture using my graphics card and share with people. I've got old appearances of old indie bands that are just so obscure now - for example. In any case I think that it'll be a worthwhile experiment and adding something a little extra to my interests now and then.

Away from all that technological wizardry, my it is bloody windy today! I went out for lunch with my work colleagues and wind was extremely violent. In fact on the way in to work this morning I saw several people with good umbrellas have them turned inside out by the wind, that's how bad it was. Also, the Woodhead pass between Manchester and Sheffield was closed off for high sided vehicles for a bit today and that definitely told me it was a bit wet and wild out there to say the least. Over in Ireland, one storm hit the Bank of Ireland's computer centre so badly that all their cashpoints went down simultaneously. Not good if you're short of cash to be honest.

And I read too that there's planned talks for, of all people, Morrissey to do this year's Eurovision Song Contest. How's that going to work then, I wonder? I mean, will he write his own song and perform it and be up against the other contenders for the Eurovision entry, or will he just write the tune and have others do it? The mind boggles but to see him on stage in Helsinki in May would be a different experience (well put it this way, I'd actually watch Eurovision!) - and imagine if some of fans tried to get on stage to shake the man's hand, as is their wont, during the contest? That would certainly be different. At the same time it could also be commercial suicide - after all for years his friend Sandie Shaw got lumbered with that after she won with Puppet On A String, a song she now dislikes to this day.

So after all that, what's tune of the day? Well, as my colleague was looking at booking a holiday for his family, I got home and immediately plumped for "Holiday" - no, not the one by Madonna, but by indie band Pullover. The song is basically everything about the British seaside holiday in three minutes, including a wonderfully guitar driven chorus of "I want to find out who I am in a caravan" which is just so fab. It just exudes all the right feeling, even with the sampled ice cream van jingle belting out "Happy Days Are Here Again" at the end. You might have difficulty finding the song mind you, but do search for it - I promise you'll love it!

Wednesday 10th January - The Wind Blows Away The Chelski Sails

I had a really quiet evening tonight after a hard day's graft. Also, I didn't sleep too well the night before so I must admit I was feeling slightly lethargic and just wanted to relax in the front room just chilled out and with the live football on later in the evening as Chelsea travelled to Wycombe in the Carling Cup semifinal. Last night I saw the delayed quarter final between Liverpool and Arsenal and my, wasn't that a game and a half! A 6-3 win to Arsenal at Anfield and some brilliantly flowing attacking football from both sides - a pelasure to watch to be honest.

I'd had a busy day anyway as I'd been setting up a few things and also attempting to fix a faulty PC, which as it turned out was a faulty motherboard that was making it crash intermittently - I'll have to see if we have anything in we can replace it with - either that or swap the hard disk into another PC, and I know we're collecting one to be returned from a member of staff who now has a laptop, so here's hoping. As it was freezing, I even indulged myself at lunch time and had a hot chocolate in Sandbar, which warmed me up a treat despite all the wind and rain around, and it's been a bit mad!

So after reading part of Murray Walker's autobiography "Unless I'm Very Much Mistaken" with some CDs to server as perfect background (and my tune of the day's in there too) I then settled down to watch the live game, and you know what? Chelsea weren't that good! Wycombe certainly gave their all and really closed Chelsea down a lot, didn't give them too much room to play with, and their left back played Shaun Wright-Phillips out of the game, he was that good, so much so that Shaun was the first substitution later on. How his career has fallen spectactularly since he left Manchester City, eh? That'll teach him not to listen to his money-grabbing agents in future.

Even though Chelsea went ahead through a very brave Wayne Bridge lob over the keeper (both he and the Wycombe keeper clashed heads as they went for the ball, not that nice for them!) at half time it was still 1-0, and gradually Wycombe came back into it and scored a deserved equaliser, and really played for the shirt as if their lives depended on it. And in this competition, no fluke either - they'd already despatched two Premiership teams in previous rounds so the belief was there already. And how they fought. If I was a fan, I'd be very very proud of their performance, it was really good. Okay, so at Stamford Bridge in the second leg it might be a different proposition but even so, you never know. And you can tell that these constant draws are frustrating the Chelsea manager, as must the constant chants from Wycombe of "Sit Down, Mourinho", hehe. Actually someone needs to start singing Sit Down by James for that chant, something like this would do it:

Oh sit down, oh sit down, oh sit down, sit down Mourinho
Sit down, down, down, down, down.. Mourinho...

And as a Man City fan I lay claim to just have invented that one, so there you have it. Okay, not earth shattering it may be, but sometimes the simplest hook lines are the best. That's why when that Baha Men song was in the charts, up pops the City fans with "Who let the Goat out? Who? Who? Who? Who?" (etc), and of course when Pet Shop Boys did "Go West" Arsenal then started singing "1-0 to the Arsenal" and so on. And since then every club's got a chant to that song, usually "1-0 and you still don't sing" if the home fans are a bit quiet..

Tune of the day comes from one of the CDs I had on as background music whilst reading the Murray Walker book I mentioned earlier, and it simply has to be Johnny Cash's "Nobody" from his "American III: Solitary Man" album. It's just very simple to pick up, but his heartfelt ramblings about who's gonna be there with the answer of nobody is just a perfect riposte for all us single people out there. It's tragic, it's almost comedic, but it's just very from the heart. And if you haven't got any of the "American Recordings" series he did, you should really start with this one, or the fourth one "The Man Comes Around". It's just brilliant.

Tuesday 9th January - Up And Down Inside The Beast Box

Been a bit of an up and down day really. Up because I managed to salvage lots of data off a faulty laptop. Turns out the external power supply had died, meaning the battery wasn't charged, and once the battery had run out, the laptop wouldn't start. And worse than that, it sounded as if the external brick was faulty and causing a nasty smell to the laptop innards. And I had to try and get the data off it - thankfully an easier task than I thought, because not only was it a 2.5" Serial ATA hard drive with normal Serial ATA connectors, but also undo one screw and take off the cover on the bottom of the laptop, and there's your hard drive. I simply daisychained it to another PC so it recognised it as another drive, and used 5 DVDs and 1 CD to back up over 20GB of data and documents off it. Might teach someone a lesson out there, if in doubt, backup, backup, backup!

Down because I got home tonight and just didn't feel myself. Whether or not that's because of the last remnants of this virus leaving me or not, I'm not sure. I actually just felt really upset inside about a few things (not least the fact that the animator who drew Scooby Doo died today, rest in peace Iwao Takamoto) and in this case there's only one prescribed cure - playing lots of tunes very loudly and singing along to them very loudly. It's kind of a catharsis for me in a way, but there you are. Everyone has different ways of dealing with life and sometimes it's just how it happens for me. Thank heavens my next door neighbour also plays their music loud for a similar reason - it's a controlled volume though so it doesn't upset anyone, and there's no problem with it either.

Amongst some of the music I played were things I hadn't spun on the player for a while and decided to have a contrast of some acoustic and then some rock - worked really well actually. Almost like the quiet bit loud bit in songs that made the Pixies famous and Nirvana rip them off, so to speak - but different. But amongst them was an absolute hidden gem which definitely just has to be tune of the day - "The Beast Box Is Dreaming" by Luxuria. In case you wondered who they were, it was basically Howard Devoto (formerly of Magazine) and instrumentalist Noko, who'd later be one of the founder members of Apollo 440. This track is wonderfully dark and emotive, and Goth-sounding that it just seemed perfect for the rather dark and windy night outside, and the whole album Beast Box is well worth a hunt down if you want something different. Ah, the halcyon days of KFM Stockport where Jon Ronson no less would play said track on a Saturday evening whilst I was lying in bed thinking of some new poems to write.. my gosh, that was so early 1990s..!

Monday 8th January - Manic Monday and Miss Potter

Well, after I wrote yesterday's diary entry, and after I had Internet radio on so I could hear the Man City game (and a 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday which means a replay a week on Wednesday, tickets are dead cheap so it might be a good trip out for me and a few relations) I decided to head out to the cinema, partially because it's quieter on a Sunday night but also because it'd be a nice end to the two weeks off and to see what the film actually was like. After all, I'd been really wanting to go see it.

I ended up for a change taking the train and getting off at Deansgate station - straight run from near my house, and then that way it's a short walk (and it was raining after all) to the AMC, which is usually where I tend to go if I want to see a film. The seats are comfortable and they have very handy drinks holders, plus you can place the arms up if you want to snuggle with someone you love (not that I have that opportunity mind you, but the thought's at least there which is lovely isn't it?). Anyway, loads of seats left for the 7.10pm showing, and that's me done. Went up and grabbed a Sprite for during the film too, as I always get a little bit dehydrated due to the aircon systems in place. If it wasn't so wet, I'd have gone to the Tesco Metro and got a bottle of mineral water and took that in with me instead - not least as it's cheaper, but I digress.

So what did I think of it? It was utterly enchanting. It not only served its purpose as an excellent piece of period drama based on a true story, but the chemistry between Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor was perfect for the film - and both of them were really charming together. It also helped to cement the romanticism of their relationship both as publisher/author but also as people, and that was lovely. Renee's English accent was absolutely spot on, and obviously having a dialogue coach did help her enormously, but she displayed the right amount of charm and feisty independence to carry the lead role brilliantly. In fact, I'd be perfectly happy to see this film again, I really really enjoyed it. No wonder Renee's actually been nominated for a Golden Globe for her role - and deservedly so.

Credit where it's due though and it must go to Barbara Flynn who plays her mother. For those of you who remembered her from the likes of The Beiderbecke Affair and so on, she really does play the evil mother here and it's a real surprise to see her on screen again. I had flashbacks to said Beiderbecke series on ITV that I used to love. Thankfully you can get them all on DVD now so if I really wanted to get nostalgic it wouldn't be too hard I think.

So back to work today, and to say it was a manic Monday (cue Bangles classic) was a bit of an understatement to say the least. We figured there'd be quite a few deadlines but we didn't know there'd be so many students running around in a blind panic. Mind you, who sets their deadlines first day of term, that's what kind of got us a bit. All the printers were on the go all day (especially our A1 colour plotters we have) and I'm sure that they'll still be printing out a backlog of work now. Still, it got me into the swing of things and I managed to get a few things sorted today that I knew I had to do - so that was good.

Incidentally, today is also David Bowie's 60th birthday, which when I think about it is actually not a surprise as such. I mean, he's been making music for pretty much two thirds plus of his life, and he still manages to sound pretty relevant and fresh with his recent stuff (Heathen, for example, is a fantastic album - well worth checking out) and his musical interests are normally spot on. I mean, he liked the Pixies when it wasn't fashionable to - and one of his current favourites are Arcade Fire. Can't fault him for that, actually. One of the 60 facts the BBC put up about him mentioned that as well - and they even mentioned the name drop in Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express" lyrics. As I own said album, I knew that, but for those that don't - buy that album. It's very different.

Tune of the day therefore has to be something David Bowie, and after hearing it being played full blast in HMV Stockport on Saturday and on the radio and on the telly today (at work and at home) then there could only be one choice, and that's "Heroes". The track just inspires me for some reason, I think it's because it's really defiant and uplifting as it progresses and in a way that can often reflect my mood. Plus it's at the time of his more experimental and creative side in the mid 70s Berlin era where he really was pushing his own boundaries, and I like that.

Sunday 7th January - I Know It's Over (My Break, That Is)

I admit it, I'm sad. I checked my work email today. However, not without good reason. Part of the reason for me doing that is because I needed to see if there's anything I need to do tomorrow morning as well as note anything that might have happened during the week which I can be ready for. As it turned out, it was a wise move. First off, it looks like the impending student deadlines have meant lots of requests for A1 print outs, and so one of my colleagues have ordered some more A1 rolls of plotter paper (always a sign of it being busy, that). Also, there's a couple of new starters who are joining us so I need to find out where they're based and then create accounts for them, so at least if I do that everything will be up and ready as soon as possible for them. I'm good like that you know.

I'm excited in a way about going back to work - as strange as it may sound. Our Help Desk person is on a course tomorrow and so I'll probably end up covering that for a wee while. Not that I mind - it's always good to interact with the students and you get so much more from talking to them and about what things they're up to and what they have to do. When I used to be on there a lot back in the day, you'd have quite a few people pop in to say hello as well as need assistance - so much so that one of them is now one of our lecturers and she's really warm and friendly still. Plus she always puts in a good word for the likes of us because of the help we gave her when she was a student, which is nice to know that you're appreciated. Especially with the uncertain times ahead due to numerous restructures and the small matter of HERA, which as any of you who work in HE know, is an absolute pain in the bottom.

I just hope that Man City can keep up the magic of the Cup and beat Sheffield Wednesday away today. It brings back happy memories of the last time I saw City away there, as unfortunately tickets were sold out for this game so I couldn't go. Anyway, not to dwell on that, last time I went there, City only went and won 6-2 with Ali Bernarbia running the show and Shaun Goater scoring a couple. Of course though with it being the FA Cup anything can and will happen. I just hope that the lads put in a professional performance and do the business. Certainly our cup run last year got all us fans excited (not least as well that infamous Micah Richards interview after his equaliser at Aston Villa of course - just classic, that was). So later on I'll have my ears to Radio 5 Live or any other local station that's broadcasting the game and go from there - it's not on telly so I may have to make do with the highlights later (that's of course assuming we actually win.)

I've also been reading up on the latest updates to CSI in the US (I love the original Vegas show, in case you ever wondered). It seems really annoying though that we Brits have to wait months for Channel Five to start showing the new series, and in the US they're already eleven episodes in - and add to that Grissom taking a sabbatical. In real life of course that's actually because he's been doing some theatre work and so wanted to concentrate on that, so a quite nice plot line to tie in with that. His apparent unease with women - well apparently when he says to Sara he's gonna miss her anyway - is something that makes him human and fallible as a character. I guess they all are and that's why I like the series, it's not just about crime solving and forensics, but also about the human nature of the very people who do the job. I can't stand Miami (David Caruso just doesn't work) and New York's okay, but it's a symptom of too much franchising not enough quality to spread itself. Even Quentin Tarantino would probably agree - don't forget he directed the Grave Danger episodes at the end of Series 5.

And I'm off to see Miss Potter at the cinema later - should be good. I'm intrigued to see what happens with Renee Zelwegger and Ewan McGregor both trying to do more quintessential English accents though - not least because of the way Ewan sort of failed in Little Voice (and if you've never seen that film you really need to do so - Jane Horrocks is fabulous) but also because it'll feature the Lake District a lot and that's got to be gorgeous and picturesque. Plus I used to read all the Beatrix Potter stuff as a kid too - so that has to be something. I'll let you readers know what I think of it probably tomorrow.

So what's my tune of the day then? Well, no contest really. As my bus ride to work passes the Holy Name church, it has to be (and because this song mentions said church) The Smiths' "Vicar In A Tutu". It's typically Morrissey-esque in its lyrical content, and Marr's tuneworthiness just adds to its general nice quirky nature. "I was minding my business ripping the lead off the roof of the Holy Name Church" so the song says. And yet it's never reached the same iconic status as Salford Lads' Club for some reason. Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.

Saturday 6th January - The Magic Of The Cup Is Back (Okay, Well, Sort Of..)

If there's one thing that you always know when New Year hits, it's when it's this weekend and it's the third round of the FA Cup. And whilst my lot aren't playing till Sunday (away at Sheffield Wednesday) it was interesting to keep my eyes on the other scores and indeed watch the live games. I settled down with a nice cajun chicken burger for lunch (rather yummy especially as they were on offer in Tesco, woohoo) and then saw the Tamworth-Norwich game on BBC1. Hilariously some of the Tamworth fans had scarves and banners saying "Norwich - let's be 'avin you!" after Delia Smith's infamous outburst (see my 29th December diary entry for more information on that) which made me giggle, as well as even one of them wearing a Delia mask. Scary.

Unfortunately for Tamworth, once Norwich scored twice before the break it was all over. Not least as Dion Dublin was in hot form (wonder how many clubs he's played for over the years - that's a trivia question for you) and even at 37 still scoring without any problems. Ex-Man City man Darren Huckerby weighed in with a couple himself (in fact there were three ex-City players in the Norwich team yesterday, the others being Dickson Etuhu and Lee Croft) and the third and fourth Norwich goals were down to some rather rubbish defending, it has to be said. Tamworth's consolation was worth watching though as it was a great strike from twenty five yards, but definitely a case of too little too late. So any anticipation of a shock there went down the window.

Rather craftily I'd done my shopping in the morning, I only needed a couple of things really. As both my sisters have their birthdays soon I thought I'll get the cards now so everything's done and it's ready for me to add their presents to and pop round to see them. As it turned out, I got two nice Forever Friends ones, and as my youngest sister is 21 early next month (that makes me feel really old you know) I even found a nice 21 card for her too. Thing is, they know it'll be from me cos I usually get them a nice card from said range - well it's cute isn't it? I also then ventured into Matalan because I needed another pair of black jeans, and they do a really nice fitting pair for the bargain price of £8, and they're really black. Plus, importantly, they don't fade in the wash either - which is always good. I've had three pairs of them and they've always been spot on, so to get another one was excellent. Their sales were so geared up towards the womenswear though, so much of their stuff discounted but the menswear wasn't that much in terms of bargains, although that said I did manage to get this nice dark green shirt for a fiver which I can wear either for work or for casual going out.

Anyway, I rang up my friend and I thought it'd be a nice idea to go over and see him and watch the Liverpool-Arsenal game later on. So off I went and got the 370 bus from Stockort which drops me off right near his house - so much easier when you can do that. His wife (and my friend too!) made us a lovely cup of tea and that just set the tone nicely to be relaxed and chilled out. In the end, Arsenal won quite easily 3-1 and it was a couple of super strikes from Thomas Rosicky that really set the game up - the second before half time being the really crucial one that for me at least killed the game off.

I have to applaud the Liverpool fans though. They had a protest going on about Hillsborough and how there's still no justice for the 96 people that died on the day of this awful disaster. Their protest meant the whole of the Kop managed to have people holding up a banner which said "the truth" and for the first six minutes of the game all you could hear was the Kop as one singing "Justice for the 96" which really could be heard loud and proud. John Motson commentating for the BBC picked up on it and remarked how much passion was felt. And Thierry Henry, Arsenal's third goalscorer and footballing legend said "I have such respect for this ground and these supporters. What a place this is to play football." Say no more really. I would read here and understand the reasons behind it - and why I fully back up the Liverpool fans in their protest.

After the game my friend asked me to give him a hand with something he'd purchased at Christmas - a dartboard! And no cheap and nasty paper coil effort either - a proper one. And with the proper World Championships being shown live on the BBC starting today, a perfect opportunity to get into the swing of things and try in vain to ever get a 180. As it turned out, the wall mounting instructions weren't that clear, but I soon got the gist of what I had to do, so got all the things placed into the back of the board, and then the wall mounting bracket. As such there was already a hole in the door from where a previous tenant of my friend's flat would have probably put something similar, so I used that, made another hole for the other wall mounting screw, screwed them in, positioned the countersunk screw from the back of the board itself in there and - badabing! Absolutely rock steady board ready for a bit of darts.

Needless to say the two of us had a go, and it was good fun. I ended up trying to do like Bullseye and score 101 or more with six darts, and in true non-dart player tradition, I'd fluked treble 19 on the second dart therefore making the 101 actually pretty easy to do, hehe. The board played really well though and the darts my friend had were damn fine quality, I could feel the difference as the aim usually ended up where I wanted them to be. Okay, I'm no pro, but the fact I could consistently aim my darts around the 20 when I wanted said enough for me. Cue Martin Fitzmaurice: "Are you ready? Ladies and gentlemen, let's play darts!" - hehe. So a good time had by all really and definitely my friend will feel the benefit when a couple of relations go to his place to watch the Man U game on Sunday - they can have a bit of a Bully-fest!

And because the FA Cup means Match of the Day (live and highlights) there really only could be one song for my tune of the day and that's the fantastic Frank Sidebottom's "Guess Who's Been on Match Of The Day?" for fairly obvious reasons. It's still a live favourite of his now and the last time I saw him, he performed it with so much gusto - and of course when asked the question, everyone obviously replied "You have, in your big shorts" - as it should be done. In any case, an abridged version of said tune is on the compilation CD "ABC&D" which has 42 fantastic Frank tracks. You know it does, it really does. Thank you.

Friday 5th January - Bunged Up And Backache

Well I woke up this morning (in true blues song tradition) and felt a slight pain in my back. I can only think that I might have slept on it a little funny last night when going to sleep, or that when I woke up I also felt a little bunged up and so maybe it was to do with me coughing in the night a bit too violently? Anyway, as I needed to do the food shopping this morning it was a worthwhile and quick trip to the local Tesco, and also it meant I could stock up on all forms of decongestants and medicines etc to try and get me at least fighting fit for when I got back to work on Monday.

I've not really completely shifted that feeling I've had since just before Christmas really where I've been a little under the weather first with the throat and then with the bunged up feeling. It's like I have two temperatures at the moment: boiling or freezing and nothing in between. I've managed to stay warm to a point where I'm comfortable and not too stuffy and have been taking lots of hot drinks to try and stave things off. So far at least it seems to be working (well, sort of).

I also woke up to discover that the England cricket team had been well and truly thrashed and whitewashed 5-0 in the Ashes series. Our performance on the last day was pitiful - the England batsmen capitulated spectacularly and only giving the Aussies 46 to win was never enough, and so it proved. Okay so we didn't get panned by an innings this time around but nonethless it was fairly humiliating and so many questions have to be answered about the preparation, the fact that the team are mollycoddled too much and in fact that really since the Ashes win in 2005 it's all gone a bit downhill and pear-shaped for them. I see pattern emerging here similar to the rugby union team - let's hope I'm wrong. Credit though does have to be given to the Aussies who were ruthless and basically wanted it more than England did - and what a way for the greats like Shane Warne to retire - in style and with 700 wickets under his belt, and playing a major role in regaining the Ashes. Fair play to the guy: he deserves the accolades as he always performs, like our overpampered so called stars. This needs to be a wake up call to English cricket in that we need a reshuffle, and soon.

So with all the slight bunged up ness in my head, I needed some soothing music to relax to today whilst consuming lots of hot drinks - and so what better than my tune of the day - namely "Dawn Bird" by Loscoe State Opera, the title track of their first album. It's almost impossible to get hold of now, but it's very reminiscent of Jethro Tull and other flute-led music. It's just a great tune and one that really deserves a hunt down. Commodore 64 fans amongst you reading this may of course know that it features a certain Ben Daglish on flute and vocal...

Thursday 4th January - Walking It

I decided today that I was going to get out and about and get in some fresh air and brave the weather a bit. As it was hammering it down with rain yesterday afternoon I thought I'd make up for it today and go to Hollingworth Lake after all. But more of that later on. First off, off I went to my local train station and got one of those all day rail ranger tickets that allows you unlimited travel on all trains within Greater Manchester for one day. For £3, it's just essential - and it allows you cross-city transfer on the Metrolink, handy if you need to go from Piccadilly to Victoria and so on.

So got into Piccadilly and then had a flash of inspiration, getting the train to Marple. Got off there and walked down the hill from the station into Marple Bridge, and followed the road which led you to the village of Mellor. And what a walk up the road it is. It's virtually all uphill on a gradual slope for some two and a half miles, and when you actually get to the highest point of the village, turning back and looking at the view down yonder was something really to behold, even with the wind howling at a ferocious pace (thank heavens I had my fleece on). As it turned out by the time I'd walked to the very top of the hill on this road you actually crossed the border into Derbyshire.

At this point, I had a bit of a quandry. I could walk further and eventually get to New Mills and spend time there before getting a bus back to Marple. However, there was the 375 bus due to Marple and Stockport in around five minutes, and as they were only one an hour, it was a case of making the decision as soon as possible. With the wind howling and the clouds darkening, I felt it best to wait for the bus and do that. And what a wise decision it was! Within minutes of me getting on, the rain came and absolutely started lashing it down. Okay, so it wasn't that much of a lengthy downpour but I certainly wouldn't have wanted to get so cold out there...

Got back into Marple and got the train back to Manchester Piccadilly. The weather was brightening up now so it was fairly easy to see that I had enough time to do my other walk. So I hopped on the tram to Victoria and then the train to Smithy Bridge, and not before too long I was at Hollingworth Lake and taking my usual lap of the lakeside path. That's another two miles or so at least, plus it's around half a mile each way from Smithy Bridge station to the lake itself.

I did pause around half way round and take in the view over the lake, which despite being overcast, was as stunning as ever. It's just nice to be able to take everything in and relax and get your head around a few thoughts that you might have. And certainly I've been thinking that life is too short and that I should get out there and enjoy my life for what I have - and as long as the mortgage and all the bills are paid so I have my house and that I have my freedom, then that's the important thing. And to be honest I didn't spend that much today, I just got out there and walked as I needed to without too much hassle, which has to be a good thing. Lots of fresh air also did me the world of good.

Interestingly whilst walking through Mellor I also noticed that quite a few of the local residents (and that's an understatement) had posters up in their front windows campaiging with the slogan "No masts in Mellor". Apparently from what I could make out on some of the local lamp post signs and so on, certain mobile phone companies want to erect masts in the village, which to be honest would look very unsightly and certainly would spoil the peaceful tranquility of the place. And considering I took a call from one of my work colleagues whilst in the village itself, certainly reception doesn't seem to be a problem around here. So why the need for a mast is beyond me. Can't find a campaign website for this cause, but I'll publically back them here and now.

So, what's my tune of the day then? Well, with all the peace and quiet I had today, John Cale's "4'33" was a contender. But instead, something I had on this morning before I left which gave me the get up and go that I needed, and that's "A la claire fontaine" by MC Solaar. You may remember a while back that said tune was used in a Kronenbourg 1664 advert where the bloke buys the girl a drink, only to find out that she's hanging out with her girlfriend. D'oh! It's also very funky, very French and laid back, and extremely gorgeous. Shame all his albums are long deleted, "Prose Combat" which is where it's from sells for shedloads on Amazon now!

Wednesday 3rd January 2007 - Plus Ten

Well of course I watched This Life Plus 10 last night, and despite the very negative reviews in the UK press today (and they are unbelievably so) I was rivetted to the screen for the eighty minutes it was on. The key thing for me at least was that the facets of all the main characters came to the fore: Anna still said what she thought and was unbelievably direct, Miles was as arrogant but to the women as sexy as ever, Egg, even though being a novelist was still a big kid at heart (witness the fake screenshot of Pro Evoultion Soccer on his Apple Mac - yes I noticed it), Warren was still insecure and felt alone and left out, and Milly? Well, the control freak is back and my wasn't she just with her son as well?

Anyway, it really was like a blast from the past, but with added twist along the way. People probably who didn't enjoy the series originally won't get it or won't understand just why it was hailed back then - particularly in an age where political correctness is all the rage and so on. However for me it was just a really nice way to see them all back together and as soon as the old faults surfaced you could tell it was going to be a ding dong along the way somewhere. I'm not going to spoil the plot too much for you, but let's just say that there's still that old destructive chemistry between Anna and Miles, but how that comes about? I'm not telling.

I think though realistically that it wouldn't have mattered either way if they'd have made this one off special or not - although I'm glad that they did - what mattered was the chemistry between the main characters and indeed the fact that they all gelled so well together. Of course as Andrew Lincoln and Jack Davenport are generally very good mates off screen anyway, that always helps. And for me, I'm biased, but it was so brilliant to see Daniela Nardini back on the screen again, and did she look hot or what folks?

Anyway today I needed to get a couple of things in the centre of town and just managed to get what I needed without any hassle. I deliberately avoided other shops because I don't really want to spend any more money to be honest - Christmas is quite expensive as it is already and having had a bit of a wild in the aisles session at Next last week I didn't really want to go over the top. I was going to go to Hollingworth Lake but the weather looks a bit dodgy and it's going to chuck it down. Not the ideal place to be in the middle of a rainstorm, particularly as you're quite high up and blown and battered by the elements. If the weather does hold tomorrow though I might end up going either to Buxton or to Castleton for the day - either should be rather nice. But see what happens.

I spent a fair bit of time as well today sorting out all the folders with the bills and statements etc to make sure I knew where everything was. I'm normally very well organised like that anyway but good to get stuff sorted out. I also realised that in the rack of magazines etc by the phone there were loads of old holiday brochures for last year that to be honest needed chucking to save space and clutter. Must admit I felt a fair bit better doing that and getting everything all shipshape and sorted out. People call me a neatness freak but I'd much rather be tidy and organised than have a house full of crap and clutter if you know what I mean.

And if you read my earlier diary entries, you'll know how much I rave about Will It Blend? - where all sorts of unusual items get put through the legendary Blendtec blending machine. I had a look today and there's four new things attempted to be blended - some old TDK D90 cassette tapes, light bulbs, an entire golf club (a driver at that) and a full can of tomato soup, can included. Hmmm, taste that alumminium eh? It's still hilarious seeing the straight look on Tom Dickson's face as he tries to blend more stuff. Bonkers, but great. Remember kids: will it blend? That is the question.

So, what's my tune of the day? Well, because of the sheer hell of it, I've gone for something that I heard last night during This Life +10 and a tune I really like: "Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll" by The Killers. It's really catchy and has a rocking powerful chorus. It also really just defines the whole kind of modern indie-esque scene in one track and is perfect to play nice and loud. And it just was the right sort of thing to blast out during This Life +10 to keep up with the original's programme's roots. Go forth and buy their album "Hot Fuss" now and play that track loud and proud. Like, now.

Tuesday 2nd January 2007 - Chuck Out That Chintz (Okay, Maybe Not..)

Well I decided to make the use of the time I have off work today, and so up I got, got myself ready and got the bus to Ashton-under-Lyne. After walking through the main shopping centre and having a general mooch round, it was gone 10am and that only meant one thing - time to hit Ikea. I'd planned to go there at some point over this period because I needed an extra shelf for one of my Billy bookcases so I can fit more stuff by having an extra shelf. I also thought at the same time I may as well stock up on some meatballs because a) they're yummy b) they go really well with pasta and sauce for a simple meal, c) I could also do them with roastie potatoes and use the proper sauce and be just like the store itself, d) I'm there anyway so I may as well, and e) they're yummy.

First things first, and after a pit stop for a coffee (ah, the joy of free refills) and then a wander round the second floor, I saw that the Vork rugs were on offer again, half price. I realised that the chair in my office room isn't doing the carpet no good, and the rug would be a perfect size to fit the chair and be rather useful anyway. So I grabbed one of them and soon realised that the yellow bags you get don't really accomodate them - so I ditched the yellow bag, rolled it up and put it under the arm. It was at this point I noticed a thing Ikea are doing - the Ikea family card. Basically on certain items you get discount as a card holder, and Monday to Fridays you also get free tea and coffee in the restaurant bit too - which is quite nice. Darn! I wish I'd have filled one of the forms and got the card earlier, duh.

Anyway, went to the first floor and noticed a couple of nice prints that I might get next time, one of them is a jazz musician in blue and I know just where that'd go good in the house, so I made a mental note. I then hit the ground floor and thought I'd take a look at the Ingo pine dining table in the warehouse bit just to see how heavy it was. And it wasn't that light, really I'll prob need someone to take me there if I'm going to get that plus the Ivar chairs to go with it. That'd be a new dining table and chairs for around £75, and it'll freshen the place up a bit. Just got to wait till I get paid, really.

I managed to find the right Billy shelf that I needed too (in beech, to go with the case of the same colour) and so headed for the tills and got them paid for. The Swedish store is straight after the tills so off I headed and got two packs of meatballs (should last me a fair bit now) as well as a couple of packs of the thins biscuits (one ginger, one orange, contrasts eh?), as well as a couple of cans of that alcohol free pear cider that they do, which is nice. Plus you can get the normally alcholic one for much less than your local Wetherspoons charge you for a bottle of the same stuff (top tip if you like it, methinks). So with that done, time to head home, put the rug down (does the job lovely) and then sort the shelf out, which was easy. Thankfully I have a very good little pair of pliers which work wonders at getting out those little shelf studs you have to hammer in. Tools for the job and all that.

Last night I had a nice time too: my uncle rang me up and said that there was a bit of a get together happening at their place and if I was back from my friends' do, come along. That was very nice of them and as it's only round the corner from me, no excuse really. So off I went and had a nice time. My brother brought along his Playstation 3 (the lucky so and so got one on import from the company he does online work for - flukey so and so!) and so we had a bit of a blast with Ridge Racer 7. Of course my brother beat all comers but yours truly was the best of the rest - nice to know I hadn't quite lost it yet. The food was also delicious, a lovely spread of sandwiches, meats, snacks, sausage rolls and even some crispy duck rolls which were gorgeous. I've got to hand it to me uncle and auntie - they do very nice food. It was good to see the family and wish them all Happy New Year and also to see a couple of partners who I didn't see over Christmas and have a good chat with them.

So, something for you to set the video and Sky Plus boxes for - This Life Plus 10 tonight. I can't wait. I really can't. So much so that there can be only one contender for tune of the day - and that's "This Life Theme" performed by The Way Out. You could actually source this on the This Life soundtrack CD, a pretty good purchase all round because it has a great mix of 90s indie classics, except the CD has been long deleted and is really difficult to get hold of. Nonetheless the theme tune was simple enough but nice indie-esque guitars and, key thing was, it worked for the series. And that's what soundtracks should do, shouldn't they?

Monday 1st January 2007 - Let's Get It Started!

Happy New Year everyone! And so it proved for me. I saw the new year in at a friend's house, and there were just a few of us there to see in the midnight passing and just generally chill out and have a good time. And that's what is good. No need to pay ridiculous prices for drinks in the centre of Manchester, waiting for double priced taxis or anything like that, and indeed no having to brave the freezing weather. That in itself made everything worth it and I definitely had a great time with those that are close to me and those who are my friends. And considering that most New Years haven't been that great (the 1999/2000 Manics gig excepted, cos that was awesome) certainly it's got me off to a cracking start.

I didn't sleep well the night before though, so by the time it got around to 1am I was feeling really tired - like the energy had been drained out of me! I eventually crashed on the sofa around 1.30am so at least the New Year had been seen in - and there were lots and lots of fireworks going off everywhere. So much so that it was probably better than Bonfire Night's displays to be honest. At least of course people were able to celebrate here though - lots of celebrations in some cities were called off because of the foul weather. And just hearing the winds here last night was bad enough - I dread to think what it would have been like to be out in it. And with 80mph winds hitting Edinburgh, really there was no choice but to cancel the festivities there that had been planned. Thank heavens my trip there was in October, as I had considered seeing the New Year in there. Would have been gutted, to be honest.

I'm back at home now after getting the bus into Manchester and then the train home (handy thing about living where I do - the transport links are excellent) and so I'm nicely chilled out and ready for what the New Year has to bring. Actually one of our relations is having a bit of a do later so I'm going to pop round there (five minutes' walk too, rock on!) which should be nice. It also means I don't have to cook, and with me taking the rest of the week off work it should be nice to get a few things done and generally relax and chill out. And that's exactly how it should be shouldn't it?

Tune of the day is a new feature of the diary for 2007, and every entry where possible's going to have one. So the tune for today just has to be The Gossip's "Standing In The Way of Control" because it's so bloody anthemic and also it's a rebellious call against some US states that outlaw same sex marriages because they're deemed "wrong". It's also got a killer guitar riff and Beth Ditto's voice is just in tip top condition. Also it's a perfectly rousing tune for letting off excess energy to and rocking it big time. Certainly if I was doing an indie mix CD for last night this would have been on there. Cos it rocks!

May I wish everyone all the best for this year, and hope that whatever happens to you, that you make the most of life and be contented. And be you!