Dear Diary... July 2003

Thursday 31st July - It's the end of the fridge as we know it, and I feel skint

Well, what a week it has been. Work's been a fair bit busy, not since all the new PCs arrived yesterday and today, so we now we have the enviable task of getting them ready for deployment out to staff and students. Joy! Actually, we did encounter a problem with one of the new PCs when trying to run Norton Ghost through it, and I found out why: every time it tried to locate the network adapter's IP address (set statically in a configuration file on the boot floppy) the onboard USB2 adapter decided to have a conflict with the network thingy, and killed it every time. Once I'd worked it out and disabled High Speed USB in the BIOS, everything worked fine. Just in case any of you folks out there hit the same problem.

Unfortunately, my fridge freezer decided to die on Monday - just after my tea I'd heard a funny noise and opening the freezer revealed a hissing sound. Turned out the gas compartment that it uses to help freeze the freezer had gone completely, and as all the gas had escaped it wouldn't work any more. Admittedly, I was given it by my folks when I moved in, and they'd had it for quite a long time, so it did have a good innings, but I could tell it was on its way out as it was frosting over a lot, really quickly and really badly. The last thing I needed though was to go out and get a new one, but that's what I had to do. And this is where the fun really starts, and a question for most electrical retailers: why the hell do you have them in the shop when you don't have them to take away? Particularly with a crucial device like a fridge freezer, where you might have food that is perishing due to one dying. I was lucky in that my folks took the freezer stuff away and put it in their chest freezer for me, thus saving the stuff inside, but I am quite sure that not many people are that lucky.

Anyway, I was considering a frost free one as a replacement, but when I saw the cost of the decent makes of frost free, I decided the extra outlay wasn't going to be worth it (plus budget was pretty tight as well). The one I was going to look at was a Candy one, but it was around £300 or so, not exactly cheap. Eventually I managed to locate somewhere where a) they were in stock, and b) you could take them away with you. I'd been there before to get both the washing machine and tumble dryer when I moved in, so I had an inkling that they might just have it. And they did, hurrah! I narrowed it down to three which would all do the job, and one of which they had boxed up ready to go (the others would have been the one in the shop, which would have also been fine, but best to have it brand new where possible). So I now have this rather tall but nice Indesit CA133, which is a fair bit bigger than my old Lec, but it has lots of nice little touches. For example, the freezer door and drawers are contoured in such a way that these two little ice box things rest in the door side, and looking at the instructions, the way it does the ice is really neat indeed. Plus, the freezer compartments are nice and large (bonus) as well as the fridge having some nice door drawers which you can stand 2 litre bottles of your favourite soft drink in. And considering it's buy one get one free on the Fanta Lemon in Kwik Save (oh yeah) a good excuse to stock it up if nothing else.

So where did I go? Miller Brothers in Stockport. If you've got one of their branches near you, do go and have a look around, the staff are nice and helpful (well they've always been with me) and they don't hassle you the moment they walk in (another plus). And they also give you a hand taking what you buy to the vehicle (my father's van in this case) which means less hassle for you. I asked the person helping me wheel it to the van how long I needed to let it stand after transit. He told me not only that, but to be sure when I switched it on to set it to 3 for a bit first before use (the instructions also tell you this too). And all that just showed how much of a change it makes to be treated like a paying customer who knows what they want rather than just be another sale. Oh, and if you go quickly, they have this ace JVC 28" widescreen prologic TV (same look as my nice black one, although this is in silver, and the one What Hi Fi likes too) for £399, reduced by £200! It's a most excellent TV too, get it!

Hopefully back to normality (and not having to count the pennies too much!) next month.

Thursday 24th July - Hopeful monsters, we all are

Excuse me, I've been overdosing on an album tonight, namely the Cygnet Ring's "Hopeful Monsters" which someone thankfully sent me a tape copy of, so I could listen to it at long last. If you don't know who I'm talking about, check here. Anyway, needless to say I've really enjoyed listening to it. You don't often get an album where you can just leave the CD on play and that's it, but this is a rare occurrence. Shame it was mail order only back in 1992 after the band were dropped by Warners. Their loss.

Anyhow, I managed to find another pinball machine near me. I was just venturing out into Stockport (actually, I had planned to go to B&Q for some paint but I'd realised that I actually had some spare in the shed for an odd job I needed to do) so I thought I'd head around the pubs and see if there was any pinball. And yes! Found one, in the Nelson Tavern on Wellington Road South. As it's opposite Stockport College, it's probably full of studenty types during term, but this visit wasn't during, so got meself a pint of Theakston's, waited my turn on Medieval Madness and started playing. Didn't do that well, but did get too free games thanks to the score match at the end. Pretty generous, but when it's £1 for 3 games (I'd put £2 in), not bad to get an average of four for the price of three, is it? I think what people don't realise is how much fun pinball can be when played for fun or against a mate. The halcyon days me and me mate Dan would venture into one of the arcades in town and pump some coins into Theatre of Magic. Ah, we made £2 last a very long way back in the days as we were both good (except when that stupid voice comes on and says "you must concentrate!" Aaargh, the foxxers..

Had a thought (yes, shock horror) about the novel (and no I haven't forgotten about it). Of course the plan is to set it in Manchester, as that's an easy place to think imaginatively for me. But I also have this inkling in my head that I should set it so that one of the characters doesn't come from Manchester originally, just to give the story a break while he/she occasionally visits their home town as well. I have a few places in mind I've been to quite a lot, so it shouldn't be too bad I guess. The other thing I also have to bear in mind is that if I really want to be taken seriously in the writing world, you have to cut your teeth first with other works, which is why I guess I've written more poetry, had it published in different places (well it will when A6 Poets get off their backside - hint) and also done the odd short story, quite handy for practice purposes actually as the methodology of writing is the same. I'd do a life story but that would be far, far too upsetting and dark and realistic for most people to take. I'm not kidding either.

Enough of that. Maybe what I'll also have to consider is people I can trust to send me useful feedback as I'm writing it as well, so that I can gradually progress and test out stuff as I go along to make sure it works like it should do, there's not too many potential holes to be picked in the story line, the pace is right, and above all, you feel related to one of the characters at the minimum. If you look at the classic TV series that was This Life, you could relate to the characters in some way and have one you were closest to. Mine was Egg (even with the writer's stumbling block, ouch) and I think most of us fancied at least one of the women, I was torn between Milly and Anna, but Milly got too whingy where Anna had some balls as well as Daniela Nardini (who played her) being feisty in other stuff she's done since, so that won. Mind you, I also liked Kira as well (probably in a minority there) but since then Luisa Bradshaw-White has done pretty nicely in other series too. But you get the idea - the characters made the show and you made believe you were one of them. I have to aim the same way...

Tuesday 22nd July - Aquaholic Congratulations

Sunday saw me in Blackpool for the day - primarily to see if it's changed much since last time I went, and also on the hunt for pinball machines to play while I'm at it. And to my surprise, it hasn't changed much. In fact, if anything, it's got even tackier than ever. Every single gift shop does a nice little section of really tacky sex items, especially uniforms for some reason. When you consider the amount of recovering groups of people staggering down the promenade after a bit too much to drink on their hen and stag dos you can understand just why they all stay in business. It's geared up for anything you might have forgotten and the tackiness suits in with those nights really.

Not just that either - everything seems to have taken a price hike. For example, at the Pleasure Beach, some of the rides are up to 5 ride tickets, now as a book of them costs you a fair bit, it works out at almost £5 for some rides, not much value for your dosh when some of them last up to three minutes maximum. The only real mileage therefore is getting an unlimited wristband so you can go on all the rides as often as you want, and then it starts to become more worth it, just about. The queues were plentiful though, especially for Valhalla and The Big One, yet surely the two most rickiest and unsafe rides of all, the original Big Dipper and the Wild Mouse, were practically empty. Even inside the Pleasure Beach little games like the classic Kentucky Derby (you know, you roll the balls down into holes to move the horse etc) are a rip off, £2 for 3 games compared to £1 for 3 games in some of arcades up the promenade. You pays your money, you take your choice.

And as for the pinball? Bah. What a nightmare. Hardly any arcades do have pinball anymore (the big ones like Coral Island and Funland should hang their heads in shame here) and those that do don't maintain the machines well. One of them wasn't set up properly, and hence any time you used the flipper, the machine would say you tilted it and it was ball over. Good job I only put one credit's worth of change in that one or I'd feel thoroughly ripped off. Two others I came across had the lock mechanisms failing, which meant that you couldn't get a multiball whatsoever. Utter bobbins. Thankfully I found a couple of good ones, Playboy and Rescue 911, which were playable and pretty good fun, and also an Addams Family one in Warwick's Amusements, right near Blackpool North train station. I even got high scores 2, 3 and 5 on Rescue 911 and got three games for the price of one as I hit the continue score in successive games. Rock on! The full sorry saga has been reported by me as I updated Pinformer with all the information. In short, if you want to play a decent pinball machine, for a resort of its size Blackpool is severely lacking, and that's an understatement.

I got home anyway and watched both the F1 and the final of Full Metal Challenge that I'd recorded. As for the F1 - yes, there was overtaking and everything, and quite why Bernie Ecclestone continually slags off Silverstone when it puts on a superb show and has a track that the drivers like driving on, a track you can overtake on if you're man enough, and a track that the pundits also love in their droves. We don't want it to be sanitised like Hockenheim now sadly is, we've made improvements. It seems there's definitely an alterior motive to get Silverstone off the F1 calendar, despite most of the teams being based here in England. I sincerely hope we don't lose the event, as it really does show how good we are at engineering..

.. and if that didn't prove it, the final of Full Metal Challenge certainly did! What a superb final it was. I really wish Channel 4 had treated the programme fairly and not continually messed about with the scheduling (making it hard to keep track) which means ultimately there won't be a second series. An absolute shame, as FMC's been the best thing on the telly for ages and is testament to skilled drivers and engineers from around the world. The three finalists were all so deserving, Desert Pumas from Chile with their Marabunta (and a driver nicknamed Little Schumacher!), Snow Diggers from Canada with their Steel Survivor, and the Aquaholics from England with the rather nifty yet odd looking Octopush. The final really did the show justice, with an excellent close race in the first event, Grand International, as Marabunta crashed on its head and ploughed into Octopush, and at the restart it was neck and neck for almost all the two laps till Steel Survivor went through to win. Pitball was amazingly close too, and Octopush just edged Marabunta to the first goal of the day, then the Chileans kept their head (remembering not to go over the goal line with the ball!) and got second. Rollercoaster was an exhibition in superb driving skills as Steel Survivor defied expectations and slashed its best time, but was no match for the course record holder Octopush. Marabunta's penalties meant that it finished last and so it was down to Steel Survivor versus Octopush for Sumo. Unfortunately Steel Survivor failed to work for most of the event so it was an easy win for Octopush, but hey, who cares? We Brits kicked ass and won the title!

I'm gutted it's not coming back on, as the presenters Cathy Rogers and Henry Rollins really put their all into their presenting, complimenting each other perfectly and being a pillar of support for all the teams. The teams themselves were infectious, and you couldn't help like them and their efforts in engineering and driving like a madman round some tortuous courses. And what's more, it was fun. Sure, it wasn't perfect and there is room for improvement, but with a second series that could have happened. Alas in this cut throat world of television, C4 didn't want to take any chances. Yet they did with Scrapheap Challenge (called Junkyard Wars in the USA) and look at it now! One final thing: Incidentally, if you were watching the Open Golf at the weekend and saw an old power station in the distance across Sandwich bay, that was the very same disused power station used to film FMC! Small world, eh?

Saturday 19th July - Pound shop mania

Well, another week, and a new pound shop has opened not too far from my house. The building it's in used to be a furniture place but they closed down, and not long after, the yellow paint went up, as did the sign, and last week it opened. I went in the other day to get some bits for the house, and found all I needed - at a pound each. Marvellous. In case those of you who aren't familiar haven't worked out yet, a pound shop is just that - everything in there retails at one pound. In some cases this means three of one item for a pound, four of one item for a pound etc, but the basic ethic is that. In economic sense, it's actually very good: no carrying pennies for the shopkeeper or yourself, so less trips to the bank for him to exchange all the shrapnel, the stuff's mostly okay and even if it isn't, you don't begrudge losing a pound, and often you can locate some decent bargains. I noticed they had lots of Dove cream shower stuff, now this is normally quite expensive cos of the name, yet here, all a pound. This new place is starting to give Levenshulme Bargain Store (my current favourite) a run for its money..

The heat in the opening part of the week was just too much for me - it was almost boil in the bag time. Especially when I had to document the servers (although thankfully the servers had the serial number label on the front instead of the back, saving me lots of time and energy) and also on the way home from work. For some unexplained reason, the bus driver seemed to think it was funny going very slow indeed so that there was no air coming through the windows, meaning we all had lots of fun (ahem, not) going home. Ah well. At least it's not Virgin Trains where the aircon broke down and everyone really suffered. I feel sorry for them as I've been in one of their trains where the aircon was wonderful, kept you at a nice temperature with clean air.

And I managed to play some pinball today - yeehah! I took a look at Pinformer, and there were sightings of pinball machines at Affleck's Palace. I'd taken a peek yesterday after getting my hair cut (excellent job as usual by Barry in Maximum Headroom - go there if you want a good cut!) and on the first floor, there they were - two pinball machines! No Good Gofers, and Creature from the Black Lagoon, just like it said. So today while I was doing a bit of shopping (I needed this canvas and pine wardrobe for the spare bedroom - more on that later) I popped into Affleck's and put a pound coin in for three games of CftBL. Only there wasn't three games - there were six. Someone must have left a pound's credit in the machines - so I wasn't saying no to that was I? Not only that but I even managed the replay score twice, so I ended up getting eight games for a pound. Value for money or what? I was so happy it was untrue. I'd not played a table for something like three years, and this one was in pretty good nick, apart from the left flipper being a bit stiff and one of the things which kicks the ball out of the lock and up this ramp above it not having enough power, so I've got home and documented it on Pinformer just in case anyone is planning to have a go. It's still playable enough and I attained a decent score on it, so that was nice to see.

Anyway, back to the wardrobe. I got it as I needed one for the spare room, that wasn't going to break the bank and match with the decor etc. I found the one I wanted in Argos and good job I got it, as there was only one left! I got it home, and with it being flat-packed, it was time to get out the instructions and start work on it. Thankfully, the bolts and alun keys did their job, as did the screws to put together the top piece (apart from one troublesome piece where I had to just chip out a bit of the hole, but nothing drastic per se. The only thing that was missing was a couple of the screws to hold the top piece assembly together (standard going for flat pack stuff I think - always something missing!!), but I soon found some screws in my little box of tools and stuff that matched perfectly and so did the job. Must admit it looks really nice up actually, and isn't bad value at all for the price (one of my main constraints in its selection, even with just being paid this month, I know the mortgage payments etc ocme out soon) Plus as there's lots of yellow and blue in the spare room, it works well. Even found some blue coathangers at one of the pound shops in town to finish the job. All I need now is a nice matching blue duvet cover, and I've seen the one I'd like cheap too.

Sunday 13th July - This heat's unreasonable

It's boiling hot outside (touching 30 degrees) which means doing anything in this weather's going to make me completely uncomfortable. Being fair skinned, I burn very easily and also my body doesn't take to the heatwaves too well. Not looking forward to having to document the servers at work in one of our server rooms. It's a sun-trap and even in winter it feels around 30 degrees. Imagine going on the tube in this sort of weather and you're almost there. Mind you, if function rooms of pubs etc are anything to go by, they relish the heat so that they sell more drinks and make profit. That's my somewhat cynical view, and confirmed last night at my uncle's 40th bash (it was his birthday on the Thursday). The room was a nice enough size with a private bar and all that, but the heat was just something else. There was no air circulating around and the ceiling fan was just pumping out more heat, and some of us had to escape outside where with it being around 10pm, the weather was a bit cooler and gave us a chance to recuperate a bit. before munching lots of food and stuff. I was just glad for me uncle that lots of people turned up and had a good time, that was the main thing.

I was going to watch the final of Full Metal Challenge on Channel 4 today but C4 have switched it to next Sunday, because they have some live pop concert from a beach in Great Yarmouth on instead! Do they not realise that if you want a series to get a good amount of viewers, you give it a timeslot and stick to it? I wouldn't mind, but it's that sort of moving around of programmes that lowers the audiences and gives the execs the excuse to dump it. It's a real shame because I really like FMC - it's a different angle on building cars than say, Scrapheap Challenge, and designed for different games - Rollercoaster has to be my favourite because it really feels like that for the drivers - especially those large teeters and the adverse cambered bends etc. Also, the pace of the action in FMC is right, and with Cathy Rogers and Henry Rollins being perfectly matched as presenters you are genuinely entertained. Classic moment last week when the US team The Law Dawgs came last and they sent their vehicle to the Chimney of Doom and had Rollins kick ass, saying "Watch what happens when I step away from the vehicle!"

Talking of Rollins for a second, I filled a bit of a gap in my CD collection by managing to get hold of the limited edition CD of Rollins Band's "Nice" really cheap - in Virgin of all places! I just spotted it as I was going through the metal section, and there it was with its rather risque cover. The limited edition has two extra tracks (which subsequently were also on the CD "A Nicer Shade of Red" - that had lots of quality extra tracks from the recording sessions of that album) - and the video for "Your Number Is One", so that was rather good. The limited version also is in this really nice digipack with some quality pics of the band and Rollins, well, looking like he's going to kick ass right now. Incidentally, if you have played Tony Hawk 3 on the PC or Playstation 2, you'll have noted that the track "What's The Matter Man?" is used in the game, so if you like the game, buy the CD! I promise that you won't regret it one bit if you're into proper rock music and not some manufactured boy band bobbins.

Thursday 10th July - You wait ages for someone good to tour, then they all come at once!

Over the last few months I've really felt aggrieved that no one has come to Manchester to do a tour I really want to go and see. Sure, there's the Move festival on this weekend, but I always find that seeing a band in a nice small venue is a much better atmosphere. Plus, as anyone who's actually been to Old Trafford will tell you, the acoustics for a gig there are not that great, it gets lost in the great expanse of open seating. Anyway, back to what I was saying. After finding out recently that the mighty Fun Lovin' Criminals are playing Manchester on 19th September (having seen them four times already would account for me liking them just a tad), which will be good, even better news arrived today - Frank Black and the Cathlolics are playing Manchester on 1st October! YES YES YES! :) Seriously folks, you don't know how happy this makes me feel. I've always loved the Pixies when he used to be called Black Francis, and when he went solo as Frank Black (the Catholics band joined up later on) he kept his rockingness around as well as making the odd more mellow song too. Now, last time I saw Frank Black and the Catholics at Manchester University Main Debating Hall (now Manchester Academy 2) it was one of the best gigs ever. Not only did he churn out a great array of his songs, but much to everyone's utter delight, started playing stuff from the Pixies' back catalogue. The jaws around the place dropped when he played classics like Nimrod's Son (with the whole audience joining in the immortal line "You are the son of a motherf............"), Gouge Away, and even the all-time classic of all-time, Monkey Gone To Heaven. I just can't wait to go, honest I can't. Now all I need is for Morrissey to tour this autumn and that makes everything pretty much complete.

Anyhow, I went past City's new stadium last night, and another good excuse for the jaw to drop. It looks so awesome, even the blinds around the ground open to let the light on to the pitch, the ReebokCity shop looks well kitted out and ready, the parking looks sorted, and the whole aura of the place just takes on a bigger dimension every time that I go past it now. Only a month today and I'll hopefully be there watching us play Barcelona in a most fitting fixture to open the new stadium with. One thing that also caught my eye about it is how much it dominates the East Manchester skyline. When I was coming back from Hollingworth Lake on the train on Saturday, it really took on a new dimension as I could see it from the train coming in to Manchester and the stature just looked something else even from that distance. I know for sure I'll be thinking of the happy memories I had seeing the athletics at the Commonwealth Games last year and thinking "wow, this is going to be our stadium soon!" as well as seeing England do the business, of course.

In my part time search and quest to play a decent pinball machine again, a quick search around with good old Google came across this excellent site - Pinformer. (No, it's not the comeback single by Snow, in case you wondered ;) Pinformer is contributor-based, and the contributors send the site information as to any sightings of a pinball machine around the UK, what condition it's in, how much it costs, and so on. You can search by town or by machine and so you can easily locate the machine of your choice if you're taking a summer day out to one of the seaside resorts. Damn though: no one near me has one of my two favourite pinball machines of all time, namely Star Trek: The Next Generation and Theatre of Magic (cue classic voice sample of "you must concentrate") so I might just have to submit some information the site out the next time I head either to Blackpool or the North Wales Coast on a day out or something. What's also nice is that you can also submit your high scores, see who's selling a pinball machine and who wants one, and all sorts of stuff like that. There's even a space to put your three letter high score initial on, so if you leave it on a pinball machine people can look at the site and know that it's you. Pretty cool. I have to say the person who runs the site does an excellent job, and I would urge anyone who's ever played and liked pinball to go and check it out, and even help them out with sightings of pinball machines if you can - I know I'd appreciate it. The only thing is, it makes me want to go and hunt down a pinball machine now just so I can play it!

Oh, how about the novel, you may ask? Well, I've now decided on the names of most of the main characters and the descriptions to go with them, so that's a start. I think character building takes longer than you think, because it really needs you to set their stall out and tell it exactly like it is about them, what they like, what they don't like, any phobias, anything that you can relate to in any small way later in the story. Of course, events and moments that happen around you are always a good thing to bear in mind as well as you can maybe recycle them cleverly in a different setting, you know? I do know though that the characters are going to all live in my home city of Manchester (it makes it much easier as you can relate to surroundings you know about), they're all going to be thirty-something (again, the voice of experience maybe?) and there will be three main characters, two male and one female. As I'm sure you'll appreciate, I don't want to give away too much, but be assured that over the last month I've felt really inspired to get writing (when not doing updates for you dear readers that is) and I may even do another short story for the site as well. More on that as I do it...

Saturday 5th July - Bournemouth, bunged up and blue water

First off, many congratulations to my cousin Alison and her husband John who tied the knot last weekend, it was a lovely wedding too. They had the whole day in this really nice and posh hotel in Ferndown, just outside Bournemouth, and the whole place just was quality throughout. The service was really nice, the food during the wedding breakfast was great (and a lovely touch too, they served the children their main meals first) and the evening reception was a nice chance to chill out, relax and eat from a barbecue as well, marvellous stuff! Everyone who was there had a great time, and the song they chose as the traditional newly-wed's first dance song was Travis' excellent "Flowers in the Window". They chose it for personal reasons, and it's a really nice and sweet song too. Maybe if you're getting married to your loved one, one to check out and consider - it certainly makes a change from the usual over-soppy dross we get.

As I'd got down to Bournemouth on the Saturday and planned to make a weekend of it, with Murray Walker's autobiography "Unless I'm Making Very Much Mistaken" making the five hour Virgin Trains journey seem a lot less (if that's possible), I headed into the centre to have a nice long mooch during the late afternoon and evening, passing the Pavillion, having a game of crazy golf and achieiving my best ever score of 42 (not too bad, and I even got a hole in one on the 16th hole!) The crazy golf course was pretty hard too, but fair - some of them involved leaping a small river by whacking the ball up a huge ramp, certainly very nicely designed and kudos to them for that and not for making it a rip off price-wise either. I walked down the beach a fair bit, checked out the arcades and stuff like that, before heading down the pub and also to Gino's - the finest Italian restaurant in that area. Good job I headed there earlier than planned so I could get a table and munch down the lovely tagliatelle carbonara and the best tiramisu you'll have this side of that side, absolutely delicious! The fact that it's almost full every night and that many many tables are reserved says it all, I think.

A couple of things that have to be answered though: first, why is it that hardly any seaside resort has any good pinball machines anymore? Looking around the various arcades I came across, a lot of them didn't even know what pinball was, and the only half-decent arcade had three pinball machines. One of which was The Simpsons, which was pretty good on the whole (played it before, it's good fun and uses a lot of the real voices from the series). I had no chance in finding the holy grails of Theatre of Magic or Star Trek TNG machines then. The second thing was the immense number of hen nights going on. Even considering it's a Saturday night and summer is the season of weddings, I must have counted around a dozen plus, if not more, hen nights that evening. Most of them involved copious amounts of alcohol of course, and almost now the standard de rigeur wear for the bride to be - the learner driver plate on the back of the outfit, together with maybe a veil too. Oh, and for some reason singing really badly to Hey Baby (the DJ Otzi appalling cover version, of course) in the pub, making everyone look at them in total embarrassment or something.

Unfortunately coming back on the train Monday afternoon I developed a flu bug coming on. I'd felt a little stuffy nosed Sunday night as I crashed out in the Travel Inn I was staying at, and Monday morning was pretty buggy, but thought it was due to the heat in the TI. Sadly, not the case. By the time I'd got home all I wanted to do was rest with some paracetemol and go to bed, and how I got through the working week unscathed was down to me concentrating really hard. As I was really tired by the time I'd got home most nights, I decided not to do any site updates (hence this delayed entry). It was amazing though how bunged up you get when you do feel bad, I really woke up Tuesday and thankfully got rid of a lot of bug then judging by what I coughed up. I've taken precautionary measures as much as I can and hopefully I'll be 100% by Monday, but right now I'm about 85% or so.

In order to alleviate the flu a bit, I thought fresh air might be a good thing, so I headed off to Hollingworth Lake this afternoon just to chill out and basically get the nice clean air up there. Because the whole country park is high up from Rochdale on the way to Littleborough, and you can see the M62 from the lake sweeping through the moorside higher up, it's pretty clean. As is the lake, the water is so nice and clean that it's a real natural beauty to behold. Walking up to the lake from Smithy Bridge train station (around half a mile) is all uphill, but it's a nice walk up and the train's only 20 minutes from Manchester Victoria, so not too bad really. The walk around the lake is two miles, and all around you can take in really nice views of the surrounding countryside. Half way around there's some benches to sit on overlooking the lake so you can collect your thoughts a bit, and there's a shop open during the day if you need any drinks or ice cream - a bit too cold for those today though. I sat by the lake side, and collected the thoughts of the week. It was nice to be able to escape and also try and get rid of the cold at the same time, and certainly I felt relaxed. So nice to see that all around people were riding their horses (and they were so well looked after) as well as children with their parents feeding the ducks by the lakeside, and just having a nice day out. In a time when people complain of nothing to do for their children, it just shows what you can do if you're prepared to make a day of it and venture out a little. One sight which really was nice was the father and the son riding their cycles around the lake together single file, talking as they went round. When I'd got to half way, they were there sat on a bench eating an ice cream - the son had been rewarded for being well behaved and they were both relaxing and getting ready for the rest of the ride. So there you go.

Oh, one last thing: as I was walking past the sports shops on the way back from Victoria to home, I passed a shop that had a display with the new Manchester City kit on. Aaaargh - it reminds me of the old Philips/Saab sponsored kit in the 1980s with the two shades of sky blue in stripes down the front. I didn't realise we'd gone for 1980s retro somehow, and of course don't even get me started on the fact we're not changing our shirt sponsor to someone a bit more decent and non-bankrupt like First Advice are - double aaargh. Still, the new stadium looks awesome judging by the new pics on City's website, so I can't wait till August 10th. Roll on then!