Dear Diary... March 2010

Wednesday 31st March - Examination

Well it was the final day of the PRINCE2 foundation course today, and after plenty of revision last night I did feel more confident about doing the exam and just hoped that it wouldn't throw me and that I would be able to pass later. Of course, it meant that we still had lots to go through today, so it was a case of finalising the themes we still needed to look at (mainly change and progress) and also the processes all the way up to closing a project. What was good was that we really did all gel well as a group of people and that we were keeping each other motivated. I decided not to jump in as much with answers and stuff today, partly because I didn't feel the need to but also because I wanted to keep all the brain energy as possible for the exam. I hadn't done an examination in absolutely ages and wanted to be sure I could do it all spot on.

The lunch was fine, then we had the last bit of work to do to finish all the manual in a nutshell later in the day and then it was on to 3pm and the examination itself. I was prepared and ready, and after filling in all the necessary details it was then a case of when prompted to look at the questions and work your way methodically through the answers. Craftily, some of the wording was changed on the questions and it was a case of making sure that you read it carefully to get an idea of how it would work in reality. I felt like the time was just about right to give me suitable time to think about the questions and put the answers down, carefully filling in the box as needed for each one. I literally finished with about three minutes' left so wanted to quickly double check the odd question or so and then that was it - exam over.

We all felt nervous in the delegate room and had a coffee and was eagerly awaiting to see if we had passed or not. I must admit I didn't think I did that well and was a bit worried that I'd failed completely, stuffing up some questions I should have got right. Mind you, it was a case of trying to take everything in plus the manual and I'm sure we all were in the same position. When the tutor came in (he provisionally marks all the papers before sending them off) he gave us the news that we'd all been waiting for - we all passed the exam. So that means now that I'm qualified in PRINCE2 foundation, and one day soon I'll have to see if I can do the practitioner level and go from there.

The certificate will arrive in a couple of weeks but until then at least I know that I managed to do it well and the mark I got was a fair way above the pass mark. What's also intriguing is that although you answer 75 questions, 5 of them count as trial questions (so that they can be tested for difficulty I suppose) and don't count towards the final mark which is then out of 70. You need 35 to pass and I did that and then some, so hurrah to me. And as a treat to my little self for Easter, I went down to CEX in the Arndale Centre and enquired if they happened to have a Guitar Hero drum set for the Wii, which they did. It needed two large carrier bags to put it in, but thankfully that meant that most of it was already assembled when I got home and didn't have to faff around too much. The only thing I did do was remove a couple of stickers that someone had stuck on - I'd rather have it "as is" thank you very much.

I did have a blast at some songs on Band Hero just to get the idea and also some downloadable content as well as stuff imported from earlier games on there too - Motorhead's "Overkill" was a classic case in point - it's pretty tough going at first to get the idea of how the structure is but when you do, it's all good. I've not ventured beyond easy as yet, but at least I managed it with a decent score so I do feel pretty pleased with myself overall. I also tried out the rather good "Honky Tonk Women" by the Rolling Stones on the game itself, and that wasn't too bad at all. I'm sure though that the harder difficulties will mean much more fun and games if I ever fancied it...

The Sauce On My Pasta came over later, and it was lovely to see her as always. I made us both some mushroom based pasta with some carbonara sauce over the top, simple but effective and tasty before seeing how we've been doing on the Everybody Votes Channel on the Wii and me also showing her a little plan I've got for a project in the future, which she gave me some very useful feedback on and that helped enormously. It was then on with Masterchef, and they really did struggle doing that lunch for the Women's Institute people. I honestly thought that Alex was poorly paired with Terry and his flustering soon had them both behind and it didn't make a good main course to be honest. No surprise after their meal with chicken that Terry was on his way, I think he knew realistically he'd come as far as possible.

It was lovely to see her as ever and we had a little game of Scrabble afterwards, as we'd not played for ages and we had the Amy Macdonald album on during it, so "Your Time Will Come" by her is tune of the day - it just seemed appropriate somehow especially after today's exam and all that. I also think it'll be great when I go and see her live tomorrow night - the perfect preparation for the Easter weekend too. And that voice is pretty distinctive isn't it?

Tuesday 30th March - Concentration

I have been a figure of concentration all day since 9am (yes, note the earlier start) during the PRINCE2 course. It's been a pretty tough day all round and I was glad of all the caffeine I could get, but I do know that it was well worth while doing so. Now some of the themes and processes have been explained in much more detail, it was good to know that I was thinking mainly alongside the right lines. I know too that I feel reassured about the exam tomorrow and that the only way to try and get better is through practice and remembering what the key principles and themes are. I've not been afraid to ask questions to be on the safe side so I am sure in my mind I know what I am doing.

The rain bucketed down as I left this afternoon and as I had some time spare I visited the usual hairdressers to get my hair chopped to bits, and they did their wonderfully brilliant job as per usual. I was glad to have got it done though as it was starting to annoy me immensely, and meant that I was able to get home later, make something to eat and get on with the ironing I've needed to do, and then crack on with the revision and the test that I needed to get done. I did pretty okay in the test and if I did that in the real examination tomorrow I would feel quite pleased with myself on the whole.

It's not always easy to devote time to study, but I was glad that I did tonight as it meant that I was able to really think about the whole process of the project and its management cycle and how it affects everything around it. It also proved that a common sense approach for the most part is the best way, especially when approaching the questions. The key thing is tying up two words that are inextricably linked and if you get them right in your head, you'll easily be able to answer a fair few of the questions and get on with things nicely. I'll see if my sort of logic works tomorrow.

As for tune of the day well I did hear a couple of songs as I was walking past CEX in Piccadilly on the way to the bus stop. I did peek in to see if they happened to have any Guitar Hero drum kits for the Wii (I can be a whole band then, woo) and they didn't have any. Mind you, they did have Sepultura's "Roots Bloody Roots" at full pelt and I didn't mind that one bit, kind of gave me something to concentrate on other than that when I got home tonight!

Monday 29th March - The Prince And The Legend

It was the first day of three for me doing the PRINCE2 foundation course at one of the external training companies that our employers use. The good thing is, that being based in the centre of Manchester, it's nice and easy for me to get to and it also means that if need be I can actually leave for there a little bit later than I would do for work. I had been reading all the manuals and training materials pretty intently for most of the weekend and making sure that I am completely "in the zone" and ready for the three days ahead. Since I last went to a course there, the company's changed name as they were taken over by another training company, so it'd be interesting to see what had changed.

As I got a coffee before the start of the course, I noticed that the old coffee perculator glass jugs had been replaced by vending machines - two of which serve coffee for free and the other two with snacks and cold drinks at a price. The coffee was instant and free but not great, but I suppose in the context of things I can't complain that much - the alternative is spending around £2 close by at any number of coffee places. One of my colleagues was also on the same course too so it was good to see he was there and we were both discussing how we'd be able to integrate the manual into the learning environment.

One criticism I have had in the past of the external company is that some of their trainers were a bit too "I know it all" and would veer off from the course content in order to give you lots of other little titbits in between. Thankfully the trainer that we've got is superb. Not only does he know the subject matter inside out, but he's also been very helpful and facilitative in the way that he's arranged the day and been on hand to answer questions and to try and make things a bit easier for everyone. Getting to grips with the whole concept is pretty difficult and in a three day event like this you really have to have your wits about you for intense learning.

The day went well and I've got plenty of homework to do, and did that later on when I went over to see The Milk In My Coffee. I'd got to hers just a few seconds before her, but it meant that I was able to read through my notes and do one of the tests we had to do before my friend came over, and we'd then be off to see Manchester City against Wigan later. After City losing the other night we really needed a win to try and keep up the pressure to get fourth place, and I knew that our record against Wigan at home wasn't exactly one that inspired me that much, but knew that whatever we had to get some sort of result.

The first half was one to forget about. It was turgid, dull, boring and any other things you want to throw at it. It seemed like there was no way through and all the attacks were being met with stubborn defending. Wigan had a couple of chances to score themselves and 0-0 at half time was about right. During half time, the Doves' version of "Blue Moon" came on (best make that one tune of the day) and then we saw Craig Bellamy warming up and that hopefully meant that he wouild be on during the second half to see if he could sort anything out.

Second half was a different proposition entirely. We went for it, and Bellamy was on fire and everywhere, really hassling the Wigan defence. Just after the hour was the turning point of the game. Gary Caldwell and Carlos Tevez went for the same ball, they both went in a bit awkwardly but the ref interpreted Caldwell's challenge as two footed and sent Caldwell straight off with a red card. The ref had been a bit rubbish all game and on closer reflection it may have been better to book both players for a clumsy challenge, but was just the break City needed and once we'd withstood some Wigan pressure with 10 men (they did at least go for it) it was a matter of time before someone scored.

What we didn't know was what would happen in a twelve minute spell of magic. The ball was played in first by Patrick Vieira and the Wigan goalie somehow missed the ball challenging with Emmanuel Adebayor. This left Tevez the simplest tap in ever, and it was 1-0. Then after a corner was cleared, Adam Johnson played the ball in, Vincent Kompany flicked it on and Tevez was like a predator at the far post to make it 2-0. The piece de resistance was still to come though: Tevez went down the right, took on a couple of Wigan players, waited for the keeper to make his mind up and dinked it past for 3-0 and a well deserved hat trick!

Undeniably he was man of the match and when we was taken off near the end everyone gave him a standing ovation - and deservedly so. The win also meant that we're two points behind Tottenham for fourth, but crucially we have to play them at home at the last home game of the season, so that game could (possibly) decide the position. Looking at the respective run ins, we have Man U at home and Arsenal away (tricky), Tottenham have Arsenal and Chelsea at home and Man U away, and Liverpool have Chelsea at home, so not all easy sailing to work out where. Of course, it's in City's hands, we win all our games, we're fourth, it's that simple.

Sunday 28th March - On The Button In Melbourne

Last year the Australian Grand Prix was eventful, and Jenson Button won in his first race for the brand new Brawn GP team. This year with the Bahrain race being a bit dull, everyone was worried that it'd be a procession. Thankfully, nothing is ever the same in Formula 1 these days, and with me having recorded it, I watched the whole race as live at a much more leisurely hour. And I was so glad I did. It was action right from the word go.

First of all, the rain had come down before the start of the race which effectively meant everyone started on the intermediate tyres. As the cars hurtled down to the first corner, Fernando Alonso tried to chop across Jenson Button but he came off worse and ploughed into the side of Michael Schumacher, who had to come in for a new front wing. Meanwhile Button was still going but being caught and ended up dropping to eighth after team mate Lewis Hamilton overtook him. At the back of the field a failure on Kamui Kobayashi's car took out his car and two others, and out came the safety car.

A couple of laps after the safety car pulled in, Button pulled off a daring decision - to come in for slicks. At first the likes of Martin Brundle were questioning it if it was too early, especially after coming off on turn three, but then as he started to light up the lap charts with low sector times and being much quicker than anyone, it was a mass entry into the pits and to change to slicks themselves. Button had two advantages - first, he wouldn't need to be safely released from the pits and so his stop was speedy anyway, and he'd already warmed the tyres nicely and so was able to get up to speed quicker than anyone else. This ended up putting him in second, a few seconds behind Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull.

Button chased Vettel hard and the gap was staying even, with Robert Kubica not that far off in third and doing a storming job for Renault. Then around half way through Vettel's car went straight on at a corner and skidded into the barriers, in what turned out to be brake disc failure. Last year Vettel was let down by reliability issues in the Red Bull, and the same might scupper his chances this year. Button took the lead and stayed there, looking after his tyres with his smooth style and keeping everyone at bay. Some drivers had decided to take some fresh tyres on, and both Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber were much faster because of it, and catching Kubica and the two Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso (who like Button were all on the same set of tyres). However, when they got there, they couldn't pass Alonso, Hamilton lost his head and was slagging off the McLaren team's decision to change tyres when he turned the corner to try and get past Alonso, and Mark Webber clouted into him and they both went off.

This race proved a few things: first, Jenson Button is a worthy world champion and today's drive, calmness under pressure and knowing when to look after the tyres but also drive smoothly was a major factor in his success along with his call to change to slicks first (reminded me of Olivier Panis at Monaco in 1996 who did a similar thing) and still be fast. Second, Lewis Hamilton can be a little too hot-headed for his own good, and despite setting a blistering pace on new tyres blamed everyone but himself for not getting past the Ferraris (it's well known that Hamilton uses his tyres far more aggressively than most drivers, so the team's call wasn't that bad). Third, Ferrari are a force to be reckoned with and the fact that both their drivers are 1-2 in the championship and they lead the constructors' proves some pundits predcitions.

The afternoon was mainly spent doing the remainder of the workbook and plenty of reading for the course tomorrow. I did feel relieved when I did finish the final exercise in there, although the questions were pretty tough and I think on the whole I managed okay. I think it'll be good tomorrow if the course tutor lets us know what chapters to concentrate on and what needs to be done in terms of the way that the principles and themes are arranged so that we can get it into the heads. I am just fearing that it might be quite difficult to achieve and I think that I'll have to be on full brain alert for the next three days.

Tune of the day is of course Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain". Where would F1 be without it? It's so good to see that the BBC have kept it for the theme tune for this year as well as last, and for me sometimes if it isn't broke, then don't attempt to muck around with it either. I wish someone would tell the BBC Snooker people that abandoning that rubbish remix of the proper theme tune would be a good idea mind you...

Saturday 27th March - Chorlton, But No Wheelies

After a morning of doing food shopping and some intense studying for the course I am on next week, it was nice to see The Milk In My Coffee and take my mind off studying for a bit. I have progressed through most of the workbook and at least it feels like I am heading towards the latter part of it now, but there's still plenty to read and lots to take in all at the same time, which isn't going to be easy. Thankfully The Milk is being very understanding and giving me some time tomorrow to get things done, which will help a fair bit. Hopefully I won't be spending forever on it, but it does mean that I've got some time allocated which I can spend on it. I did do at least a couple of hours today and so hopefully things will be starting to sink in nicely.

The Milk and I had plans for the afternoon, so it was off on the bus to Chorlton and from there to the Horse and Jockey pub in Chorlton Green for two reasons - first off, they do decent ale and good food, so we could have lunch there if we so fancied. But the second and most important reason of all is that my friend had a stall there at the craft fair that they have at the end of the month, so I wanted to head along and have a look but also say hello too. As it turned out, the fair was quite nice, lots of little quirky jewellery and vintage clothes etc, but I have to say that in terms of value for money, my friend had it pretty much nailed on. Her stall looked excellent and really did have lots of bright and colourful things to draw you in.

It was the first time that she'd also met The Milk, so it was good to introduce her and say hello and have a good chatter whilst admiring my friend's handiwork. I did eye up the really nice crochet coasters that she'd done, and after making a decision on colour (with The Milk advising me that green would be good to go with the wallpaper and it'd be nice with the coffee table) I bought a set of four, and for a fiver, they were rather good value all round. And when I got home later, they really did look the part and hold my coffee and drinks safely and keeping the heat off the table too from the cups etc. Hurrah!

That was all lovely, and so we went downstairs to the main part of the pub, and I had a really nice pint of Diamond Black (think that's what it was called) and we both had a bacon or sausage butty with some "fat chips" which really were more like wedges with skins on. The bread it came in was delicious, as was the sausages in mine and the bacon in The Milk's, too. We did notice a family complaining near us that they'd been waiting ages for food and in the end they got refunded their money and the food for free. To be honest, if they were complaining about waiting for a certain amount of time, despite the fact that the food was being done fresh, then it just makes me wonder if we've all become a nation of impatient people.

With lunch devoured and very nice it was too, it was off to St Clement's School and Church where the Green Chorlton Festival was happening. There were plenty of stalls with useful stuff being sold, a lot of it very green and recycling was a big theme everywhere you went. No bad thing in my view, and it was nice to see so many people have a look around and enjoy it. The Milk bumped into someone she knows and the two of us were happily chatting with them for a bit, and I also spotted one of my Flickr contacts too and we chatted with her for a bit whilst she was also buttering up people about biodiversity and giving away standby plugs for your telly as well.

It really did feel like a community thing with everyone coming down and enjoying themselves. The main tent outside had some music playing with live bands, and inside the church there were more stalls selling all sorts of crafts, goodies and things to help out the environment. One thing which pleased me immensely was that one local concern was recycling old PCs, chucking Ubuntu Linux on and then selling them on for a fraction of the cost of a new PC, making kit affordable and recyclable all at the same time. Good for them, I thought to myself, and that certainly was something that made me smile. I was glad we'd eaten though as tellingly everyone was queuing for the local butcher's burgers and sausages, and none for the veggie stand...

After all that it was off into the city centre on the way home to get some birthday cards, and then plenty of time to relax at home and take things easy. We hadn't got back till gone 6pm, so I started to make something for tea and ended up doing chicken tikka massala with rice, and plonked a ton of chicken in it so it wasn't all about the sauce. The Milk kindly nipped to Tesco to get some naan bread whilst it was cooking, and in the end it worked out very well as we happily munched tea together. I'd taken the New York cheescake out of the freezer earlier and so that was defrosting nicely for dessert afterwards, hurrah.

After that it was time to catch up with Masterchef, as we hadn't watched it all week and thankfully I had Sky + recorded it so we could see what had happened. The comeback contestants did pretty well and it was a close call between Elisa and Mitra who could go through, but I thought that Elisa would have fared better because she has en eye for presentation and cooking. That told in the semi final programme as eight were whittled down to six, and Mitra was one of them to go. She'd made a classic Scottish dessert but crucially messed with it too much and that disappointed the judges who expected all the classic ingredients there. Whoops!

As for tune of the day well that was pretty late in the day, as after Masterchef I did a little bit of rocking on Band Hero for the Wii, and I ended up picking Duran Duran's "Rio" as I'd not yet attempted it in career mode and I thought having some stars for the performance might have been a good idea to do. I got five stars on medium guitar although there are a couple of awkward bits as the sax solo becomes what you play in the middle and end parts. I suspect playing bass might be a bit trickier in this song though...

Friday 26th March - We're Goin' Down The Pub..

It was another hard day at the office today and it just seemed to make my mind up about what I want to do and where I want to go. I'll have to try and put some wheels in motion next week after my course and see what happens from there. That said, I do at least have the course next week so I can at least focus and concentrate on that now, which has to be something good. Maybe the change of scenery might just help to do something useful for me and give me some perspective, but I have made my mind up about a couple of things generally (I'm decisive when I want to be) so stay tuned for further developments.

Anyway, enough of that. I got home and of course Band Hero had arrived that I'd ordered the other day. It was an offer at Amazon and as I was ordering birthday presents at the same time I thought it would be too good to resist. And of course having rented it some time ago from Tesco DVD rental I knew how much fun it was, and so it was time to get playing those tunes again. I had a blast before I headed out tonight and tried to nail Devo's classic "Whip It" (make that tune of the day at the same time) and did well on hard bass, so I felt quite pleased that I was able to try and do a tune on hard. My co-ordination or lack of it means that I couldn't do them all that way but at least I felt like I'd achieved something at the same time.

It was then on the train from mine to Altrincham to meet a friend of mine, and it was good to see her as I'd not seen her for ages for one reason or another. We headed over to The Orange Tree pub and had a good natter in there for a fair while. The pub even had the Copper Dragon Golden Pippin on cask, which of course pleased me no end to have a quality pint, just the tonic after a difficult week to be honest. I also had a Deuchars in between too, so it was a good ale night for me all round.

Nothing would be good without good company though and my friend was keeping me posted on her work situation (and if I thought things were bad where I am right now, there's plenty of other places which are a lot worse off let me tell you) and after getting all that out of the system, we talked about Everton's win at City (she's an Evertonian!) as well as the fracas afterwards, and also how it's good to spend days out with our respective partners. She'd headed with her boyfriend to Yorkshire Sculpture Park and that seemed an interesting day out - might have to check that myself sometime. I did enthuse that National Trust membership might be the next thing to consider - free admission and parking in lots of places and to go round lovely big houses might be a must.

I did also mention the possibility of me heading to the Scottish Highlands and she was encouraging saying that those parts of Scotland are lovely, and the possible plan of coach and ferry trip to the Orkneys might be something well worth consideration, as she'd never been there and always fancied it. So I might have to look at that more seriously in the long run. It was a good night all round, and we even timed it well so that the bus back for me and the tram back for her were pretty much there and waiting when we got back into Altrincham, so all was well there. A good night had out and set me up lovely for the weekend.

Thursday 25th March - Dinner For Four

After a pretty tough day at the office (which we seem to be getting en masse these days) it was onward and outward and off to see The Milk In My Coffee, as we we heading to see some friends who were making dinner for us all. I knew she'd not had the best of days either judging by her text earlier and I think she needed cheering up. So on the way to the bus stop to hers I stopped in Marks and Spencer and saw this really nice bunch of flowers in this little cute basket, and it looked a very bright and colourful bunch too. I don't normally buy flowers per se, but thought it was just the right time for a little romantic gesture. She was one very happy bunny when she saw the bunch and she kept mentioning it to me during the night which made me feel all special inside. Awww..

Our friends picked us up from The Milk's place and we headed over to their place. It was good to see that a lot of the pictures they'd taken on their travels were in really nice frames and on the wall, charting their adventures but also the places they'd been and memories that they will cherish of those places too. The frames looked pretty classy and I'm sure they weren't cheap, and having the photos printed on large gloss really did enhance things rather nicely. It also justified my thought a couple of days earlier about a little project I'm doing with my pictures and getting some of my friends involved too, so that was rather nice to see.

We had the starters of ham, melon and rocket (left the rocket though as I hate the stuff) and the main of farfalle pasta with home made bolognaise tasted really good, in fact the bowl for the four of us was pretty big and I'm sure we managed pretty well between us to scoff most of it. The Milk had made her rather lovely lemon cheesecake and even one of our friends who isn't normally a dessert person said how ace it was, which I'm sure was a good thing. I was trying not to eat too much of it and ended up having a coffee with the slice to make it feel a bit more leisurely in the long run.

It was great to chatter as well, the four of us really do get on well and I think some of us share the same sense of humour, which is really good fun. We can talk about all sorts and I think it also shows that in a social sense I've become much more relaxed in myself over the last few years, and that has to be a positive thing. The time whizzed by and it was way too soon that the two of us headed in a taxi back to The Milk's place, but it was an enjoyable time all the same. It goes to show that life is made much easier when if you're with someone you get on with both sides' friends and that you enhance the experience of a relationship that way, because you can.

Tune of the day has to come from the rather good Radio 1 Live Lounge Volume 3 CD that was being played tonight, it was just the right side of relaxing to set the mood up nicely. Dizzee Rascal doing The Ting Tings' "That's Not My Name" was my highlight though simply because it was such an unusual thing to think of, but it works, so well done him!

Wednesday 24th March - Mancini's Manic Moment

It was off with my friend tonight to see Manchester City take on Everton at the City of Manchester Stadium. Now our record against Everton recently is pretty poor - we've not won the last two home games against them and not even scored a goal, and they beat us earlier this season too. Ideally I just wish we'd have played them when it was originally scheduled as the first home game, might have given us a chance to actually win it before they started to hit their rich vein of form. That said, with three away games and seven points plundered, it can't all be bad and both of us knew it was an absolute must win game to say the least.

We popped over to see The Milk In My Coffee, and she was pretty chatty as she always is. It was good to have a warming cuppa before heading over to the stadium and of course the lovely thing is that she makes my friend very welcome and they get on great - makes life a lot easier let me tell you. I had missed her too since I last saw her on Sunday, so it was nice to actually spend a bit of time and chatter away - and sneak a quick kiss or two and have a cuddle whilst my friend was in the loo. I know, I can be cheeky sometimes but when you're in love, that's the sort of thing that you do.

We headed to the ground and the atmosphere was cranked up a fair bit as the teams came out - it seemed a decent crowd and Everton had brought loads with them. We started well enough and had a couple of chances, but the Everton defence held firm. We also saw Tevez go close but the shot was well saved by Tim Howard, and the more the game went on, the more they got into it. What didn't help was a shocking refereeing decision which led to the first goal. The ref had ruled that Gareth Barry had pushed over one of the Everton players by winning a tackle, which was a fair tackle to everyone else. The free kick was taken, the ball crossed and in went Tim Cahill to head Everton 1-0 in front. Cue mass chants of "You don't know what you're doing" to the referee and it all went a bit pear shaped from there.

Second half was frustrating in that we had chances but nothing was going in, and Everton on the break were looking dangerous and we had to be careful. Mancini even threw another attacker on but to no avail, as it was the bloody useless Roque Santa Cruz, which meant Bellamy went back to left midfield. And sure enough Everton countered, Jack Rodwell cut down the wing and the ball found Mikel Arteta to slot home for 2-0. With five minutes left most of the fans left the ground, but we stayed till the end, and boy did it kick off! The ball went out for a throw in and David Moyes was trying to get the ball back into play. Roberto Mancini saw it differently though and went over to Moyes to get the ball back, and that was it - an altercation and fracas later and both managers were sent to the stands. I reckon to be fair it was Mancini's fault, but it was good at least to see some passion in there - reminded me of the Stuart Pearce/Robbie Savage incident a few seasons back...

It was frustrating and our unbeaten home record had gone, but nothing could be done about it now - just need to bounce back when we play Wigan on Monday evening on ESPN. In the meantime it was a good chance to chat again with The Milk before we headed homewards, and it meant that we could try and put the defeat into perspective. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Born Of Frustration" by James, really does sum up what the match was like!

Tuesday 23rd March - Busy Bunny

I had a pretty busy day at work, not least as we were patching a couple of switches that had been swapped over for the network refresh. I had our temp contractor with me and in the end we had to trace a number of the switches because the socket numbers the ports corresponded to were incorrect. We soon were able to find the correct sockets accordingly and have them patched up ready to go, plus patching in all the static addresses and getting them looked at. It was then also setting up the printers and having them all ready to print out and be able to do all that too, and so was busy.

I had to stop off at the lighting shop on the way home from work as The Fruit In My Yoghurt wanted me to try and get her a light for her bathroom. They use these 4 pin 28 watt energy saving florescent tubes that aren't the easist thing to find, but the place near me is pretty good for stuff like that and so I was able to get them for a very good price. I also noticed that they had something I'd never seen in any other lighting shop - energy saving spot lights that were R80 compatible (normally ceiling spots with big pendants and an Edison screw) so I got three of them for the bedroom as well - meaning that almost all the bulbs in my house now run energy saving lights in them. It's a good thing, I think.

Later on my friend whom I'd built the PC for a couple of weeks back came to pick us up, and we had a good chatter on the way back to their place and I set everything up. It all seemed really easy and be good to go, and all the stuff was working nicely. I unpacked the monitor, and the 19" AOC widescreen one seemed really neat and polished and worked rather well, as did the keyboard and mouse (again not unpacked as mine as I didn't need to use them). They were very pleased with it all and not only paid me for the parts and all that, but offered to treat me to tea as well, so we ended up having Chinese with the family as well. It was a rather nice lemon chicken I had, easily on par with the local one near me that does it the same way.

Back at home it was then time to do some more studying of the manuals and courseware for next week, and I reckon by doing a bit at a time it'll break it all down nicely and so I'll be able to get things all nicely sorted out and be ready to rock and roll for next week. I wanted to just be able to take it easy (Cadbury's Caramel not an option for me, I'll explain why soon enough) and it was then a case of working through the questions. I did one chapter tonight that was pretty intense too so it was good to be able to get that all sorted out. Tune of the day incidentally is "Love Love" by Amy Macdonald, as that song's really grown on me in the last week or so...

Monday 22nd March - Let Study Commence

It was a fairly okay day at the office today, mainly having to show the ropes to one of our temporary contractor staff. The powers that be had decided that we needed some staff to help with network refresh and rollout, and we ended up getting someone in. He seems a good bloke though and I thought the best thing to do was show him around the place and get him used to the surroundings as well as introduce him to a few people as I went around. It only seemed fair to me somehow. It also meant that I was able to try and get a few things sorted, such as ordering of consumables and what have you.

Anyway, I was able to get all that sorted and then it was time to head over to see one of my relations, as it was a birthday today. The particular birthday person was out for the day having a good time, so I was able to drop my card and present off with one of my relatives and have a chat to them for a while as well. It turns out near where they live that the local housing association are re-doing the roofing and indeed then the windows on a lot of the houses, so they're all covered in scaffolding whilst the roofing work is taking place. Inevitably that does mean dust (and of course their cat was covered in it) but it did mean that we were able to have a good natter anyway.

I got home and after making something to eat and chatting to The Fruit In My Yoghurt, I knew it was time to settle down and start studying for my course next week. You actually get a massive manual and guide to the course and also a pre-course workbook to fill in and work through. I knew this needed no distractions so I just made myself a coffee, turned off all the music and such like and just got my head down to some serious studying. It's not something I've had to do for ages so it was important to try and get everything right and at least feel like I was working hard getting things done.

With that out of the way I felt the cathartic need to rock (as you do) so it was on with Guitar Hero 5 and on with The Sword's "Maiden, Mother and Crone" (make that tune of the day) as it meant that I was able to give that a go on medium and see how I did. I did get 99% so I'm almost there completing the song, but it's difficult enough to be a real world challenge and actually get on with things, so that's good. I also managed to even record myself playing it late at midnight so you can see the results of that over at the 365create pages if you want a peekie. It was good fun and perfect to wind down after hard studying.

Sunday 21st March - Clearout, Clothes and A Pink Limousine

After having a relaxing morning pottering around and indeed downloading Ok Go's "Here It Goes Again" for use with Guitar Hero 5 (and I managed 98% on medium at first attempt, go me) it was good to be able to have some time for rocking before going out later. The aforementioned tune is tune of the day as the video's one of those classics that when you've watched it, you know about it. The Fruit In My Yoghurt also remembered when the contestants of Big Brother had to do it for some challenge - well I believe her, I wouldn't have been watching that rubbish but I guess it would make sense to have it as a task.

It was then off to the local recycling tip to get rid of my old coffee table. The good thing is that the local tip is one of the three main recycling sites in Manchester, and I've often gone there to ditch my old stuff and at least attempt to recycle what I can. There was plenty of other former tables and furniture in that section, so if it was all able to be re-used in some way I felt that was a positive, and whenever I clear things out of the house I always have that sense of wanting to throw it into the recycling heap and make sure it's good and gone - it's purely cathartic let me tell you.

After that it was a nip into Tesco as well as I'd seen a shirt I'd quite liked for the summer but wasn't sure if it was quite me or not. A check with The Fruit and she said "get it" so I did, and as it was £8 it meant I could use some of my Clubcard vouchers and basically get it for free, bonus! So that's always good and it's nice to show that saving those up means you can treat yourself to a little something and make it worthwhile. It felt especially good because it was something I'd seen the other day and had been tempted to get, so all well worth the effort methinks.

It was then on to The Fruit's sister's place, as one of the family was having a birthday party this afternoon and she wanted everyone to be there to see the little surprise her sister had planned. Her sister had hired a big pink limousine for her daughter and twleve of her friends and it would take them around the town for a while before dropping them all off at Frankie and Benny's to have a meal for them all, whilst we would be in the pub close by having a meal together with all the adults. Of course they were all excitable when the limo arrived, and it was having fun getting into the road where they lived, but it was worth it, they all got plenty of fun and were soon being driven around as we relaxed.

We headed then to the pub to have something to eat, we'd reserved a table for the eight of us going, and it was nice to sit down and have a relaxing drink. We ordered two of the combo starters so we could all dive in and share, and that didn't work out too bad as it had chicken, wings, potato wedges, onion rings, salad and a couple of dips and was just enough for everyone to share before the main event. I had a rump steak medium and The Fruit had hers well done, and they were both spot on. I think The Fruit's Mum had the half a chicken, and it looked absolutely massive from where I could see!

We had the meal and then went over to see how they were all doing at Frankie and Benny's, and they'd had a fab time so all was good. The two of us headed back to mine for a coffee and a chat and as I'd been asked to take the camera with me to take some pictures, I made sure I got them all sorted out and burned on to some CDs so that The Fruit could hand them out. I felt sad when she had to head home but knew that at the same time she needed an early night for work tomorrow. It was another lovely day, made even more so by City's 2-1 win over Fulham away. Hurrah!

Saturday 20th March - An Evening In Cheadle Hulme

I had a pretty relaxing sort of day today. I got up relatively late and simply spent time sorting out some of the washing and ironing that needed to be done before heading to the local Boots to get some more credit on my phone, which I pretty much needed rather quickly. Once that was done I went over to see Mum for a bit and had a cuppa and a chat with her. I mentioned about the coffee table and she said she was after one herself for the front room and so what I suggested might just fit the bill nicely for her. It was good to see her anyway and have a chat and she told me also how much she enjoyed last Saturday, so it was nice to hear that.

It was then on and into town just to have a quick look at some of the record shops but also to see if any of the games shops had the Guitar Hero standalone drum kit. I just fancy trying to drum now after spending a fair chunk of time on guitars and vocals on some of the games, and it would be a nice full band thing going on if I could possibly play drums as well as friends play guitar. Anyway, it was a case of no one having the separate drum kit, it was either getting the full band kit in Band Hero or even the Beatles Rock Band (problem is that the drums won't work with earlier Guitar Hero games before 5, and I do want to try and be Lars Ulrich on Guitar Hero Metallica, so..) and that's the same reason I'd discounted the Rock Band drum kit even though I've seen it in the local Blockbuster for not much dosh..

Anyway, I got myself all ready later and cleaned the house, and then dived into the shower to get ready for the impending visit of The Fruit In My Yoghurt as we were heading out for a nice meal later. I put on a nice pair of trousers and a shirt and she looked gorgeous in her dress and boots, really gorgeous. It's great when someone you love really does make the effort to look fantastic and I felt like I was the luckiest person in the world. We had a coffee and a chat at mine before heading out, and it was to the local train station to get the train to Cheadle Hulme, where we were going to eat at The Olive Press for the evening, having booked it online the other night.

It wasn't a far walk from the station to the restaurant and we were soon in there being sat down and having a nice rustic table and chairs to relax at and chatter away to. What was nice was that you didn't feel rushed in any way and you were allowed to take your time and pick what you'd like. They even had real ale in bottled form so I went for one of them - the Bowland Brewery's "Headless Peg" which even came in a matching glass. However a minus point I need to mention - the beer was cold. Real ale should be at room temperature really, but no matter, at least they had it which was something good I guess.

As for the meal itself, all lovely. We had the slashed garlic bread with cheese to share for a starter, and I had the chicken and mushroom penne for main, which had a gorgeous cream sauce, lots of mushrooms, plenty of chicken and a really nice soft penne pasta thrown in. I also had the scoops of ice cream for dessert and the pistachio and vanilla flavours were spot on. The Fruit had a really nice club sandwich with some fries for the main and I have to say that looked rather good too, and it was just a nice relaxing ambience in there all round. If the beer wasn't almost four pounds a bottle I'd have been tempted to stay in there for more drinks.

However, we walked up the road a little bit back towards the station and headed in The Cheadle Hulme pub, a good decision all round. First off, it was 20% off the special guest ales that they had, which included the Lightning Holt one, so that cost a mere £1.77 for a pint, and it was gorgeous, so much so that it had sold out before I could order another pint. The Fruit was going to order a large glass of wine and the woman at the bar said if she ordered two she'd get the rest of the bottle free, so why the hell not? That all sorted, we sat down and chatted for ages and I even had a pint of Mild later on before we left and headed to the train station to head back home, but it was all lovely.

I had a really nice night and as we snuggled up later on I just thought to myself how lucky I am and indeed how good life is outside of work (note the key phrase there). Tune of the day is the summery sounding "Happy Place" by the Icicles, as it's just so sugary sweet and yet at the same time so full of happiness. In fact the whole of Cheadle Hulme was a happy place for us tonight, it felt special and it was good to be out on a night out after having a few Saturday nights in. As the song goes "who knows what will happen next?" but I am determined to enjoy all I can.

Friday 19th March - Thank Heavens For The Weekend

It's been a very very busy and manic day at the office, and I've been able to sort out a few problems but also have plenty on my plate as everyone's been really busy in the office and have also been helping out lots of people along the way. I have to say though that it's just so much time being taken up by some things that it's hard to keep on top of everything and try and resolve it all. I'm just concerned to be honest that the resources we have are being stretched a tad too far and in some cases it's going to break for someone. I hope it doesn't happen but I can see it doing so unless we take some drastic action in the next few weeks.

I got home and it was then off to Tesco to do some food shopping - I went to the large one as I wanted to see if they had any discounted Rock Band 2 or Band Hero for the Wii - as I was going to use my Clubcard vouchers towards purchasing them. No such luck there and I went around merrily getting all that I needed before timing my walk to the bus stop perfectly to get home, just in time as it happened for Sport Relief which would be the main watching for the evening.

I have to say that it was pretty good all round, but two of my favourite parts came much later on. They had a special Ashes to Ashes sketch with all the main cast doing their thing, including of course Philip Glenister as DCI Gene Hunt (who else?). The plot was that the Ryder Cup was stolen and someone had taken it and it was up to them to locate it. It also meant plenty of sporting people making a cameo, including Steve Cram, Daley Thompson, Sam Torrance, and of course celebrities of the time including Tony Hadley (his scene with Shazza was classic, she was so awestruck!), Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, and Michael Parkinson thrown in to boot. It was good fun and I have to say that showed just how good the series is anyway, can't wait for the final series.

Mock The Week also had their little moment too which was the Scenes We'd Like To See round based on "unlikely things to hear during a charity TV event". It was great to see Ed Byrne with Russell Howard and Andy Parsons, and they really did deliver some ace lines, as did Chris Addison on Hugh Dennis' team. I think the best ones were said by Andy: "We desperately need your money. We're Portsmouth football club!" and also "We sent Nick Knowles to a poverty-stricken village in Africa. My god, haven't these people suffered enough?" I agreed with that one and laughed massively and shows just how Andy is actually funnier than people think.

It's been good to see that so much has been raised too and I'm sure that it's a great effort from all involved. You always feel more involved with Sport Relief somehow, because of the activities that take place such as the Mile runs on Sunday, to the fact that often sports people have a good sense of humour and determination too. Why else would Lineker, Hansen and Lawrenson put themselves through Masterchef? (although they had much less to do than normally, I dread to think of them in a pro kitchen) And from a celebrity point of view, indeed why else would Christine Bleakley go across the Channel in waterskis? (although she went on and on about it!)

Tune of the day in the meantime is Deep Purple's classic "Smoke On The Water" which I've been playing on medium guitar on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits. I did okay earlier in the day and in the evening nailed a much better score, only missing out on two notes and pretty much getting a good streak going. One day I'm going to 100% the song on medium and that would be pretty good going all round I think. I just love the song anyway, it has a classic riff that we all love, and it's actually based on a true story while they were recording their album (which not everyone knows) so it all rocks.

Thursday 18th March - From Cheadle To Marazion

After a fairly intense day at work, which included sorting out all of the new network stuff for one building and ensuring that everyone could print to the printers afterwards (that in itself took a fair while to do) it was nice to get home and take some time to myself to relax a bit before I had the pleasure of the company of The Love In My Heart for the evening. I had reserved the coffee table from John Lewis and so it was then a case of us heading to the nearest branch in Cheadle and collecting it from the collection point. The traffic wasn't too bad and it was soon a case of getting there and finding the collection point, and once there sorting out the fine details of the collection. It actually came in a very large plastic wrapper to keep the rain off, and wasn't as heavy as I thought it would be.

With that safely stowed it was time to head to Sainsbury's next door to get some little desserts for after tea, and The Love wanted some wine to have with the food and also to relax with later - fair enough I thought. They even had three real ales for four pounds, so the likes of Fursty Ferret and Old Thumper were mine to try out, and I'm sure they'd be lovely. We got back and first of all we had something to eat for tea - namely tagliatelle carbonara - with fresh pasta and fresh sauce. Didn't take us too long to make that and we both enjoyed it, just meant that it was nice to have something different and indeed it tasted good - felt much better for it.

Then it was a case of assembling the table and it was dead easy. The main top had some brackets underneath which were already in place (unlike my Ikea dining table where you had to put them in yourself) and it was a case of screwing the legs to the brackets with the screws, provided Allen key, and some washers too to stop it getting a little too tight. Didn't take us long to do (especially as I had some spare keys from previous Ikea builds for example) and within minutes we unveiled the new table. The Love agreed with me that it was nicer than it looked online, and it was good to see that it had a good finish and looked very clean and elegant, and of course real wood!

We relaxed later with Masterchef, and of course found out that the quarter final would be on Monday because of Sport Relief on Friday, and as Corrie was on at the same time I recorded that on Sky Plus and allowed her to watch that afterwards to give her a bit of her time. I checked out The Olive Press' Cheadle Hulme branch online as we were planning to eat there on Saturday, and the menu looked good so I booked it online (woo!) so that was rather nice to do. In fact, I also checked out some possibilties for having a few days away in August on my own too - maybe somewhere around Inverness would be quite nice to do, possibly?

It was then watching the Sport Relief cycling that they'd done - the Million Pound Bike Ride as they went from John O'Groats to Lands' End in four days as a cycle relay with each one doing a two hour stint or so. It was intriguing to see parts of the country that I'd been to before as they made their merry way down the country but also to see just how much of the beauty in the UK that I still had to explore. Of course as they got nearer to Cornwall we both recognised some of the places, and as they headed through Marazion, we were both like "they should look left!" as of course they'd see St Michael's Mount on the left hand side, so pretty handy for them to do methinks. And Dawn French meeting them at Lands' End - bless! I suspect she might have been in her place in Fowey and headed down the road...

It was just nice to relax and with a nice coffee table too, so that made me feel happy. Tune of the day in the meantime is "Bicycle Race" by Queen as certainly when they were doing their Sport Relief cycling challenge I kept thinking of that song and how it was such a twee song back then, but now it'd be pretty appropriate. And if they were in France I am sure a certain song by a certain German band might have just sprung to mind for some strange and inexplicable reason!

Wednesday 17th March - From Masterchef To Nightmare

Well you know how I mentioned coffee tables last night? I had a look around online first thing this morning and spotted some, but of course the ones with real wood were a bit on the expensive side, as you might well expect. I did want something with proper wood though as I felt it would last longer but also be much prettier in the long term. Just when I thought it was all going to be way pricey, I spotted one really good table in John Lewis' website that ticked all the boxes and at a good price too. I sent a text to The Love In My Heart to get her to take a peek and see what she thought, and her comments were basically "get it", so I've ordered it for collection at their Cheadle branch tomorrow night. Hurrah!

After a very very long day at work which included pretty much all the necessary changes to not just one building's networking but also having two of our senior network guys have to trace multiple instances of bad fibre optic cable runs and replacing them urgently, it meant that we were on track and on schedule so it felt like a relief when it was time to head out of the office and I could head home, but not before a slight detour. I had originally booked a ticket for Slayer's original date in November, it got rescheduled to March which was fine, but it's now been rescheduled to the end of May, and that's a date that I couldn't make. I'd enquired a while ago at the Academy box office and they said a refund would be fine, so I went over there and the lovely staff at the box office did it all for me. In a day when rip off prices are the norm especially for booking fees for gigs, isn't it so nice when you get a customer friendly box office instead? Kudos to them I say.

It was then home and to dismantle the old Ikea coffee table, which didn't take so long, and then get some washing and ironing done before settling down to watch Masterchef. There were some great cooks and not so great cooks - the one from Jersey who still had bones in the fish and a raw aubergine had to go, simple as that - it just wasn't up to standard whatsoever and it made me wonder if any of them had gone through any qualifying beforehand to get on the telly. Still, there were some outstanding dishes which made me think that if you put your mind to it, you can cook as well as the next person.

Then it was over to Channel 4 and to Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares USA. You thought that some of the places to eat in this country were in pretty bad shape? Some of the American ones are worse. One was tonight's example, Fleming's, a former Danish restaurant where they were still doing attempts at Danish recipes that were bland, lifeless and just not very healthy. And not to mention that with no direction the hygeine and standards went down the tubes. Of course Gordon saw straight away what the problem was, worked on it and then saw that once the restaurant was changed around, it was still a case of classic mistakes being made. I mean, Caesar salad with vegetables in it? Come on!

As for tune of the day, well I keep seeing the Visa advert for winning tickets to the World Cup (oh how I wish that was the case) and as the person goes from the telly and through countries of the world to the football pitch to score a goal, a very familiar tune I could hear - namely "Isla de Encanta" by the Pixies from their "Come On Pilgrim" mini-album. Quite why a song that has Hispanic vocals would be related to the World Cup is beyond me, but hey, if that means that one of the classic indie bands of all times gets exposure then that can't be a good thing can it?

Tuesday 16th March - Chuck Out That Old Stuff And Bring In The New

It was a fairly busy and chaotic day in the office and a fair bit of it was about preparation for tomorrow's network refresh stuff going on, making sure that we could do all we can to have it all sorted out. I took on a fair chunk of tasks to be able to sort out problems and be able to get on with things, and that also meant that we were able to at least narrow down a few issues that people had been having with logins, passwords but also one where an email share wasn't actually working as it should. We soon rectified that as well and as I headed out of the office I felt like a good day's job done all round.

It was then having a bit of time walking around the city centre before meeting up with The Love In My Heart later on, so I had a peekie in HMV and got tempted by some of the sale stuff, or correction, I would have been tempted if I didn't already have it. Guitar Hero Metallica and guitar for the Wii for a mere £30, bargain that, but already have a Guitar Hero guitar and game, and also DJ Hero for £50, way down from its original price, and some of the Guitar Hero games I already had discounted too. Darn, why no Rock Band 2 or Band Hero discounted so I can get those I wondered?

After a very nice coffee in Costa something irked me a little bit. Some people seemed to be going in Costa just to meet up with their friends, not to have coffee or anything from in there. One group of four teenagers were even having the cheek to eat their own crisps in there. Quite rightly one of the staff told them that they needed to leave but they seemed to ignore his advice. They were still there when I left, and as I saw a couple needing a table I told them that I was about to leave and that they could have my place so they could cosy up together. They appreciated it but I noticed the glaring look that they gave the four on the table opposite. Just how selfish can someone be I wonder?

With that all sorted out, it was time to meet The Love and head homewards to her place with her. It's always nice to see her and give her a cuddle, you know, because things like that mean something. We'd planned to head to Ikea to get some bits and bobs (she needed some stuff for work and I wanted to have a look around) and so once we got to hers, and she got changed it was time to head over there. I knew what she wanted but the thing is that in there there is always temptation around every corner, and so it proved. I had been thinking about a new coffee table to spruce up the front room for ages as my old Ikea one was looking a bit aged and not so good. I did see one reduced but on closer examination the wood was chipped badly and didn't look so good.

Mind you, we did have some tea in there beforehand and I had the meatballs which were as lovely as ever, and The Love's haddock didn't look so bad either. We had also had some ideas about storage and something for her kitchen too, but in the end she settled on some nice vanilla candles, and for work some place mats and some storage containers which would help make things a nicer place. I though did spot something that looked the part, a bedside cabinet/table which I could replace my old one with. The old one was from Index and although it wasn't bad, it was showing its age and to refresh it with something new didn't sound such a bad idea to be honest.

So eventually, with the warnings of the store closing in our ears (it now closes at 9pm) it was time to head out with our goodies and first stop at the Sheldon Arms for a well earned drink together. It was nice just to relax a bit and be able to chat and catch up and the Dragon's Fire guest ale was rather lovely. Made me feel all wholesome inside having a good pint. And we headed back to mine, we put the new bedside furniture up, and that was all rather good. It looked the part and far more classy now - just need to see what can be done about the coffee table..

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather nice "Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac, partly because we both like the song and I've even rocked out to it on Guitar Hero World Tour, but also because it pretty much sums up how I am sometimes - I just go my own way with things and can be independent. It's lovely to have someone who'll be helpful and can advise but also knows when to take a step back too. I also think every house should have a copy of "Rumours" though, it's one of those albums that has everything. There. I Said it.

Monday 15th March - A Curious Thing

It was definitely the day of being curious, that's for sure. And I was also curious why everyone seemed to be bringing in laptops left right and centre today of all days. Mind you, one user did almost have theirs stolen out of their hands and it did drop, but thankfully it looked like only some cosmetic damage occurred which meant I was able to sort out some of it (such as the hard drive cover being prised a bit and I simply had to screw it back into place correctly) so that was a relief. I was also working on the replacement laptop for one of our senior staff, and I was able to transfer the data from the old to the new using the Apple Migration Wizard.

Mind you, migration didn't quite copy over some of the applications quite right - namely Quark XPress 6. I did a bit of reading up though and if you did a migration like this, within the Quark folder there's a "For System" folder with installer, which installs some files into your system folder, and once that's done, it all works a treat again. I also noted that Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004 didn't like Mac OS 10.5 either, so it was a simple choice of installing the next version, Studio 8 (which we thankfully have a licence for) and that seemed to sort everything out very nicely indeed. And in addition it meant that all the hard work I'd done putting the image down first meant that all the other software was left intact, hurrah!

I got home later on and it was a case of taking some time out to relax, so I did that by watching some classic F1 from the Sky Plus box (I recorded some old British Grand Prix ages ago, well worth it) and then made some tea and settled in for the evening with a bit of Guitar Hero Greatest Hits. I've been playing medium bass to see how I do, and infact I've handled it pretty well, nailing Motley Crue's "Shout At The Devil" on 100% FC. I tried it on hard and only got three stars out of the five, but managed to do it nonetheless, so maybe it's not beyond me one day to get it nailed a bit more.

In case you're wondering, what also arrived in the post today was the 2CD edition of Amy Macdonald's new album "A Curious Thing". I thought seeing as I'm off to see her two weeks on Friday at Manchester Academy 1, thought I'd better get to know some of the songs beforehand. It might be me, but there's some of the immediacy gone that was present in her debut album so it might take more time to grow on me. Mind you, the legend that is Paul Weller plays on some of the tracks (and that's no coincidence - Amy's played with Steve Craddock on live shows, and he of course plays with Weller these days, so put two and two together) and I'm sure that'll help out nicely. Mind you, "Your Time Will Come" sounds as good as it did when I saw her live back in 2008, so that one for me is tune of the day. I just hope that it does grow on me.

Sunday 14th March - Stoppage Time Salvation

It was a day of sport today for me, and The View From My Window was all rather lovely as she gave me a massive hug as she headed home later. I do miss her when she's not with me, but in a good way it means that when we do get together, the time we have is more special, so it works out rather well all round. It also meant she could have a relaxing day chilled out and I could concentrate on the sporting action of the day. First off, the Bahrain Grand Prix, and of course as soon as I heard the iconic "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac belting out of the telly, I knew we were back in business. Tune of the day easily really.

The race itself, despite all the new regulations, was good but nothing too special. Sebastian Vettel was leading easily in the Red Bull, everyone made their single stop so both tyres were used, and then it was a case of managing tyres till the end of the race and making sure no one ran out of fuel. The main drama was that in the end it proved that one faulty spark plug could cost you as Vettel lost speed with fifteen laps or so to go and the Ferraris were all over him like a rash. In the end Fernando Alonso scored a superb win with Felipe Massa second and Vettel ended up fourth behind Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren. Jenson Button finished seventh but wasn't as good as he should have been in my view.

Then it was with my uncle and brother and law watching Man City at Sunderland. After yesterday's results, a win would see us challenging for fourth place again, but we needed to be sure that we could play with the same intensity that we did in the second half against Chelski. And signs didn't look good. Frankly we were bobbins in the first half and Kenwyne Jones' opener eight minutes in is what Sunderland deserved to be honest, they were all over us and we had no ideas.

Whatever was said at half time certainly rubbed off on the players and with Sunderland having to substitute Jones, City took some initiative and it was only the goalkeeping of Craig Gordon that prevented Carlos Tevez equalising from close range, and stopping a shot from Craig Bellamy and also another chance that Joleon Lescott failed to convert. It wasn't looking too good and as the time ticked on we saw this as another opportunity badly missed all round. But then hope - we got a corner, and it was stoppage time. The corner came over and was only partly cleared to sub Adam Johnson, and he curled a beauty right into the top corner to make it 1-1! We were a bit happier and at least it meant that we'd got something out of it.

After all that later on I headed back on to Rock Band 2 on the Wii and managed at last to get to the point to be able to do Jethro Tull's "Aqualung" and so did a pretty good attempt at nailing almost all of that. It's pretty lengthy of course to do but as I know the song quite well it meant I could understand the structure of the piece well and even sing along (without the mic but hey, I didn't mind). It also goes to show that sometimes the older songs are the best and that they can't be topped by today's young upstarts. Hehe.

Saturday 13th March - Mothering Saturday

I spent a fair bit of time cleaning the house today. My Mum was coming over later as I was making her and The View From My Window a three course meal later on, and so I wanted to be sure that everything was all tidy, spick and span. I posted off my nephew's birthday present and got some cleaning products on the way back, as I needed some bathroom cleaner spray and some toilet bleach, having run out of both, which wasn't good. It then meant I could give the bathroom a good clean, followed by all of upstairs, dusting down first and vacuuming up afterwards. I also then did the kitchen and got that spot on before turning my attention to the other downstairs rooms, getting rid of anything not needed and also recycling plenty of paper and card along the way - honestly, having a handy recycle bin close to the front door is excellent.

With all the housework done I could settle down to see Soccer Saturday later and keep an eye on the scores and indeed I had some time to spend on Rock Band 2 on the Wii. The band Skunk Wombats did their thing and I nailed pretty well AC/DC's "Let There Be Rock", so that's tune of the day. I just wish all the tunes were unlocked from the start like Guitar Hero 5 instead of having to play through the game and unlock them that way. If I did buy the game though I would probably play the tunes in career mode once so they'd be unlocked in quick play. I just want to get to the likes of "Painkiller" by Judas Priest, I do. But hey ho, you can't win them all. I also did a blast of Guitar Hero 5 on vocals and nailed Pixies' "Debaser" meaning my vocals are currently ranked number 4 on the Wii. Go me eh?

With all that done, I started some prep work on the evening meal. I was going to get some chicken breast with cheese and bacon but had to rule that out last night because the cheese had mozzarella in it, which my Mum can't have as it makes her poorly. So instead I got some fresh chicken fillets and some Parma ham, and simply wrapped the ham around the chicken before putting it in to cook. It then meant whilst that was in the oven I could get on with doing the minestrone soup for starters with the triangle multigrain rolls I'd got too, and they were a perfect accompaniment to the soup. Mum loved the soup (I got a fresh one) and she really raved about it. The main went down well too, the chicken was spot on and the potatoes and veg were cooked well by me, I felt pretty chuffed to bits!

The View had brought over her own lemon cheesecake which she'd made with her own fair hands. I had constantly told Mum how lovely it was, and when Mum had it herself later she was definitely sharing my opinon that it was very very nice indeed. What made me smile though was that the two of them were happy chatting and drinking wine and enjoying their little selves. I allowed Mum to open my little Mother's day present (I got her a voucher that she wanted as the main present) and the little present was this small mirror with embroidery on the other side, and she loved it. Hurrah for small quirky gift shops! I think what was lovely was that she really was pleased to see I'd made the effort and that she appreciated my cooking skills too.

It was then on with the Wii for most of the evening and after a quick blast of TV Show King 2, which was unlucky when The View spun the wheel and just lost out on playing in the final duel , but I won the final one against the computer. Hehe. We then tried out Who Wants To Be A Millionaire 2nd Edition, and Mum agreed with us that the questions were rock hard, and she was soon back to £1,000 a few times that she tried it. I also showed her Big Brain Academy and she got the hang of some of the games, although the ordering one where the remote talks to you and lets you take your orders really was the best bit for me.

It was on with Guitar Hero World Tour and I played guitar on Hotel California by the Eagles whilst Mum sang - she did a good job but was having a little difficulty reading the words on screen, but sung it well nonetheless, yaay Mum! She was a bit gutted that most of the songs were rock and not really her era, and I explained that Band Hero might have more poppy stuff she might like. That said, Mum was never into the likes of Hendrix or the Stones, who are present and correct on such games. And even Rock Band 2 doesn't have a proper Monkees song in their downloadable content to please her either, or else I might have had to check that out!

Mind you, Mum did thrash us all at the bowling on Wii Sports Resort, scoring a highly creditable 212. Her key was pretty straight and hitting just off centre, knocking pins down in the process along the way, even getting a turkey which meant I couldn't keep up whatsoever! She is demon and maybe one day we'll have to take her proper bowling to see how she does - the balls might be a touch heavier and it'd be good fun I think. Anyway, tried the table tennis returning game as well, and also the frisbee golf, and Mum was pretty good on that (she's good on frisbee dog, and the golf form wasn't at all bad either). She had had a great time and that was lovely to see, and that we'd made her evening as such. I reflected on a job well done as I headed to sleep later.

Friday 12th March - Preparation Is Everything

I needed to head into the city centre after work as I needed to get a birthday present for my nephew, who is three next week. One of the presents I'd ordered online but the other one I ordered wasn't going to come in time, so I cancelled the order and therefore went to see if I could get it in the shops instead and for a similar price. After heading in a couple of shops, I went in one that had what I wanted and at a price that was right, much less than what the others were charging. Got that and a nice card and all was well with the world before I headed off home and then to Tesco to do some food shopping.

I am cooking tomorrow night, so had an idea about what I was doing. However, I had to change the plan slightly when I saw the ingredients of one of the things on my shopping list - it has something that one of us is allergic to, and I didn't want to take the risk. Therefore instead I had a brain wave and got all the ingredients to make a similar dish, but minus the one thing I didn't need to have. With pretty much everything else purchased I was able to head back home and feel satisfied that everything was prepared and ready for tomorrow evening.

It was then on to Masterchef and the quarter final was possibly for me the easiest one to declare a winner in. He was the only one who really got the recipe test spot on and was able to carry out his one course dish with aplomb, merging lots of flavours and getting the combinations right. Every one else made mistakes and crumbled under the pressure, so it was easy for me to be able to sort out the wheat from the chaff, and most likely easier for John and Gregg as well. I wonder if the stakes will be upped a bit next year to make it even more difficult?

After that it was back on Rock Band 2, and my band Skunk Wombats (love the name don't you think?) were rocking the place with myself on lead guitar. It was good to get to open up more gigs after winning the plane in Stockholm and heading over the good old US of A. And then it was time for AC/DC'S "Let There Be Rock" which did seem tricky but actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, which definitely made me feel good. I also then blitzed the 2008 version of "Ace of Spades" by Motorhead, which reminded me of Guitar Hero Metallica where you actually play as Lemmy. Of course, that song's still a classic, not least when the band were on The Young Ones, so it's tune of the day right there.

Thursday 11th March - It's All Going Right

Myself and one of my colleagues was seeing to a call from one of the senior staff in that since all the network stuff had changed over, they weren't able to print to any of the printers in the office. We both thought that was a bit of a strange one, and upon checking the printers themselves they seemed okay, and indeed all the other members of staff who used the printers were able to print. We soon found out it was the one member of staff who wasn't able to send anything. After some testing, I found out that the print spooler service in Windows was crashing constantly, and the culprit? Well, I think it was a corrupted Novell iPrint client, that you have to have to print to any iPrint printers.

So it was then a case of uninstalling the client, restarting, installing a fresh one and then restarting again and adding all the relevant printers that were needed, and they all printed first go. That cheered me up and made my day big time, so it was then a case of heading over to another job to look at a large colour laser printer. That seemed to me like there was a duff cyan cartridge which was causing the printer to detect a density failure, and after some trawling on the web, we managed to find out the same thing out too - so that was a relief!

Heading home later meant I was able to relax a bit and then cook something gorgeous for The View From My Window. I did a pasta bake for us both as I needed to use the cheese up and also meant that I was able to make something warm and hearty for us both. Once we'd scoffed that it was time to watch Masterchef, and it was a real contrast between the two heats tonight. In one of them, two got through equally to the quarter finals, and that was pretty good, but in the second one all three completely fluffed their two course meal and Gregg and John had no choice in my view but to put none of them through, making it five overall for the quarter final tomorrow which could be tasty. Makes me wonder though if it's just too much pressure on some of the contestants now that enter..

Anyway later on we relaxed and just cuddled up in front of the telly, which was rather nice to do. None of the music channels had anything decent on so I put on Rock Band 2 (on current rental from Tesco) for a short while and had a go at some of the songs on there. On the one hand it's quite frustrating that you have to play X amount of setlists just to get to more songs and indeed they're not unlocked in quickplay till you do, but on the other I guess there'a a longetivity factor reason for it. Maybe it's me but I'd much rather do what was done in Guitar Hero 5 where all the songs are unlocked from the start, so if you want to dive in and play, it's not a problem - and that's what for me makes me play that quite a bit too.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather short but sweet "Hello There" by Cheap Trick, which really does do the job of starting you rocking if you're doing a long set list or if you just want to try something at a level which suits you. It's less than two minutes long but also allows you to see if you can get the hang of the game without having to faff around with a nine minute effort of a song without you realising. It also means you can get on with much more difficult setlists later on if you fancy a challenge as you'll have built up the stars!

Wednesday 10th March - Can I Build It? Yes I Can!

I feel rather good tonight actually. First of all, when I woke up this morning and checked my email, I noticed a little post-it note left on the PC screen by The Notes In My Notebook, which just said "I love you lots." Awww. It was sneaky of her to put that there (probably last night sometime) but it was also rather lovely to wake up to and know that it was nice to be appreciated and loved. It makes you realise sometimes that it's a great thing when your relationship is a two way thing and that you both feel the same about each other too, and I so do.

I then finally solved a problem at work we'd had with a multifunction scanner that had been through the network refresh work. As it turned out, when scanning over the network it emails you the document so you can then work on it, but to do that you have to make sure that your email's SMTP server is set. What had happened was that the network address of the email server over at another site had changed, and that was the one which it was using. I finally got the admin password for it and was then able to change it over and set all the settings accordingly. I rang the member of staff up, they tested it and it all works wonderfully well, so they were really pleased with themselves.

It was then off to one of the local computer shops on the way home to pick up some parts, as I'd been asked to build a PC for a friend of mine. It was good of them to ask me and I'd specced up the parts for them, which including necessary Windows licence and monitor came to a pretty good price. It was pretty empty in the shop too, they had everything in stock that I needed, so it was a case of then heading home and opening boxes to start working on the build. Took out the nice new motherboard, put in the processor and added the heatsink and fan easily. That's the great thing about AMD processors, their heatsink and fan solutions are dead easy to install. I added the RAM and put the whole thing in the case, added the DVD drive and the hard drive, cabled it all together and neatly cable tied it all for good circulation.

I powered it all on later and all seemed well, the LED lights worked, the power button had a nice blue glow to it, and I was soon installing Windows on it, and once that and all the drivers were on, it was pretty quick. It wasn't even the highest spec PC in the world, but the AMD Athlon II dual-core processor did clock up nicely, and the hard drive was going full pelt at fast SATA2 speed, so between the two it was a very quick process to get everything fired up once Windows was installed, and I've added the usual stuff that you'd add such as AVG Antivirus, Firefox, all the web browser plugins and of course OpenOffice (well it's free, so why not?)

Tune of the day in the meantime is something from Swing Out Sister, as I was reminiscing about their excellent concert at the Bush Hall in Shepherd's Bush the other week that myself and The Notes went to. I decided to play "It's Better To Travel" in its entirety and the lovely "Fooled By A Smile" still cuts it for me, it's sophisticated pop goodness and could still cut it today as a great pop song, which shows just how sometimes a good song can cut boundaries and sound timeless years after release. Hurrah!

Tuesday 9th March - Well Who'd Have Thought It?

It was another pretty busy day in the office (as they all seem to be at the moment) and I've been able to get plenty done. One good thing was that I was able to image one of the new iMacs that we've had for a member of staff and finally have the time to look at it. To be honest it's a case of firefighting but also being able to sort out quite a few things with regards to the Network Refresh moves and all the pollava that comes with it. I did though manage one quite useful thing as well, and that was to be able to reconfigure one of the printers in advance of the move!

I got home later and there was a nice surprise waiting for me - the two Duke Special albums that I'd pledged online via the official site. To ensure that enough funds were raised to press the project, he invited fans to pledge and get the likes of signed CDs in return. I decided to do that for "The Silent World of Hector Mann" and ".. Presents The Songs From Mother Courage and Her Children" and both of the CDs I got were signed and numbered (pretty low number too). Those along with the "Huckleberry Finn" EP have been released as a 3-CD set too, called "The Stage, A Book and The Silver Screen" so if you want the lot in one go, that's most likely for you.

I saved playing them until The Notes In My Notebook arrived later as I wanted her to hear them too, not least of course because we were going to head and see Duke Special in May (and the tickets have arrived too, so that's us dead excited). Out of the two, and like my friend at work who's also a Duke fan, I have to say we preferred "The Silent World of Hector Mann" as it's somehow more like what you'd hear Duke do. In fact, tune of the day is one we've heard him do live: "Wanda, Darling of the Jockey Club" which sounds just like it could be from a silent movie soundtrack of the 1930s. That's the great thing about Duke Special, he can turn his hands to this sort of thing and make it sound contemporary and classic all at the same time.

We did have a couple of games of Scrabble later on simply because there was nothing on telly and we wanted to exercise the brain cells a tad. I'm quite sure that The Notes loves the fact we got a proper Scrabble dictionary, because quite a few words which she's played have been in there, including her opening move of JESUS, which actually counts not for religious reasons but because it's also a French unit of paper size measurement (true) - and as such with double letter on the J, it meant a massive 40 points to start with. Also, OXO is also allowed. It's not a brand name of stock cubes, oh no, it's actually an acid that contains oxygen. So there you go, who would have thought it?

Monday 8th March - Maiden, Monday and Crone

Well it was back to the ranch for me today, and the start of our massive network refresh hardware changeover. Other sites had gone through it and now it was our turn. In essence, all the network switches are being changed over from old to new, and they also now do dynamic DHCP rather than assign it to an IP address in a table. Amongst other things this also means that we have to ensure that all the switches are wired in the same way as before, and on top of that, they then have to be checked for any equipment that can't run full speed and knock it down accordingly. It's all pretty manic.

I was able to stay at base and be able to deal with the day to day support stuff. Mainly this was down to one user seemingly caught out by a fake antivirus warning that had somehow tried to infect a machine. However, this is the exact proof why you restrict people to be limited users - the attempted infection only got to their user account, and I was able to back up any uninfected data they'd saved to the desktop, delete the user account so it got recreated and then did some antivirus and antimalware checks to be sure any infection had gone away, which it now had. Phew. The member of staff was appreciative of us coming over which did cheer me up a fair bit, sometimes it's a thankless task.

Anyway, it was time to head home later and once I'd got home I realised I needed to return the DVD to Tesco DVD Rental, as we'd seen it and that was all good. In fact, I remembered that earlier today it had won an Oscar for Best Costume, which is thoroughly deserved in my view. Although why Nick Park didn't win with Wallace and Gromit was a little bit meh in comparison, if you ask me. Anyway, managing to return it before the last post means that they'll get it tomorrow and issue out the next disc for me to arrive hopefully on Wednesday, so it all works out well when the plan comes together.

I also cancelled Friday off work too. I didn't need it off now because originally I'd planned a weekend with my friends, but that's now being rescheduled for various reasons. I know that when we go get together later in the year, it'll be really good, and the days will be lighter too, meaning more fun for us and of course it won't be as cold, also another bonus. I know that when the four of us get together it's usually excellent and if it means we postpone it to get everyone together then so be it.

Tune of the day is the rather fab "Maiden Mother and Crone" by The Sword. I have managed this on hard bass on Guitar Hero 5, but their songs have kicked backside in Guitar Hero 2 and Greatest Hits (Freya) and Metallica (The Black River) so hearing this from their second full length album in there was essential. They remind me of how metal used to be in the 1970s and definitely it's full of great rocking. As you'll see from the official video below, they rock!

Sunday 7th March - Anyone For Coffee?

It was nice just to take things leisurely today with The Frets On My Guitar in tow. I got up and we had breakfast together, and just sauntered around for a bit whilst I did a little bit of rocking on Guitar Hero 5 just to keep me in the mood for some rock. I think I've rediscovered it a bit lately as well because of the fact that some of the tracks are ones I've listened to for real, and it gives me an incentive to get playing and see how I do. I did manage "Never Miss A Beat" by Kaiser Chiefs on hard bass, I might have to try expert later on and see if I can manage that too - so that's tune of the day for me that one.

We headed back to The Frets' place later on so we could check on things at her place and relax with a coffee before heading over to Asda. I needed to get a couple of things including a birthday card for my brother, as it's his birthday later in the week. That done, it was then us heading over to see one of our friends who lives to the North of the city. His partner was away for a few weeks and it was good to keep him company for a while and we chatted over coffee and caught up about everything. He asked us about our trip to Paris and we explained about how nice everything was and how the two of them should go - which he agreed.

He also said that the two of them should head to Cornwall, so we put on the laptop and had a look at the apartments that The Frets and I stayed at last year, and he was like "they're very nice" and we assured him that they were, and well worth the cost. Not least because of the convenience of being so close to everything and being able to travel everywhere. He quite liked the Eden Project and it wasn't quite finished when he went, so it'd be good for him to head back and see it complete. Having been, I was able to say how good it was, and we also showed him the Lost Gardens of Heligan too. The sounds of the birds from the laptop speakers as you went round the website made us think it was the telly that was doing it!

Later on I was sorting out an issue on the laptop where a Works file that they did was massive and needed to be made to PDF. Even though Open Office does have PDF export on the fly, you couldn't export the Works document to Word and open it in OpenOffice, because the exporter crashed Works. Meh. So I used the freeware PDF creator and did a "print to PDF" that way which got it sorted in works. In the future though they'll probably use OpenOffice, which is free and works just as well, and he was happy for me to have got that all sorted. In the meantime, The Frets had popped back to hers, got a couple of pizzas and we had them for tea along with more chatter.

It was a great day out and good to see our friend too, and he seemed happy that we'd come over. Later on after saying a sad farewell to The Frets (and it's always sad when she goes home) I geared up with my uncle for an online game of Tiger Woods 09, playing the tricky Sun City course. I did well to get one under, and it was pretty even apart from one par three where my uncle hit the water twice on the tee shot and ended up taking a few too many. It was really that and a couple of other holes, but we were evenly matched for the most part and it was a great game, so well done him!

Saturday 6th March - On A Secret Birthday Mission

Today I was on a bit of a secret mission, and that was to get all the birthday presents sorted out for The Frets On My Guitar. It's her birthday soon and I wanted to be sure that I could get the presents I wanted to get her without her seeing what I was going to get. I did have plenty of ideas in my head what to get for her and as ever, I'm always tempted to spend a shed load. However, we're both being very sensible and have agreed that we stick to a budget when buying for birthdays and Christmas, because we both have families and friends to buy for and it's usually quite a few people - this way we can still get everyone something nice and not feel like we have to go overboard. Besides, if you have love, isn't that the best present you could ever want?

I did though know exactly what I wanted to get for her, and where to get it - so it was off this morning to take the transport necessary to get where I needed to go, visit the shops that I needed to visit, and in total I managed to get all the presents, some nice gift wrap and indeed the birthday card to go with it. As it happened the card shops also had a very nice Mother's Day card too, and as that's not too far away either (a week on Sunday in fact) I felt it best to get that sorted at the same time. I spoke to Mum later on and she told me what she'd like for Mother's Day, so I can get that all sorted out in the week.

I did feel pleased when I arrived home later on that I'd managed to get all the presents all sorted out. I know that she will love them and appreciate the thought that I've put into it, and I do feel genuinely excited about her opening them and seeing just what she's got from me. I know it's always better to give than to receive, which is why it thrills me so much making someone happy, not least someone very special. I'm being deliberately sketchy about everything because I know that The Frets will read the diary, and I don't want to give the game away beforehand, it'd kind of spoil it. Not that she might try and get that information out of me before then!

I had a quick watch of Soccer Saturday later and as City weren't playing it was good to se how everyone else was doing. For once Jeff Stelling could smile as his beloved Hartlepool were winning 3-0 at home, and a hat trick to boot, not by James Brown though or else he'd have got the doll out I suspect! Arsenal were winning though which meant the title race was closer (and later on Man U would win 1-0 at Wolves to go back top, so it's all change up there at the moment) and it gave me chance to relax and contemplate just what that'd mean for City later on.

It was lovely as ever to see The Frets later on though and I decided that making us a three course meal was the plan of action - it'd also give me an idea of what I'd need to do next Saturday night, as I'm cooking for my Mum as a Mother's Day little treat of mine. I did us a nice minestrone soup for starter followed by some tortellini in carbonara sauce for the main with garlic bread, and I'd bought this New York cheescake which had defrosted nicely all afternoon and tasted divine - it was full of lovely vanilla and with some cream it was spot on, it really was. Gorgeous!

We did see some of that lottery quiz show with the annoying as hell Nick Knowles, and one of the questions to win £50,000 was that the two winners had to name fifteen of the British Olympic medallists at the 2008 Beijing games. To be fair, they did really well and got fifteen easily and won shed loads of dosh. I must admit I'd have probably done alright in that and got fifteen as well - maybe not the same as the ones that were given, but thinking back to how well we did, you'd have thought of the cyclists, the sailors and indeed Sarah Stevenson in the taekwondo, because of the rubbish judging error that robbed her of getting through the quarters in the first place.

I then put on The Young Victoria which I'd rented out on Tesco DVD Rental. We'd seen it at the cinema and loved the lavish style of all the costumes, as well as it being an excellent historical drama, with Emily Blunt most excellent as Victoria. It was also good to see that on the DVD release, the surround was really well used, from the doors shutting in what seemed big cavernous corridors to the gentle nuances of the classical music that would be danced to by Victoria. And Jim Broadbent doing his excellent stuff as the father figure, being a really idiosycrantic just like only he can really. It's won Baftas for costume, and we both loved it seeing it second time around.

Anyway, we had a nice little game of Scrabble later, and I even managed to put down an eight letter word and use all my letters, forming EQUATION (the N already in play, blank used as T) which scored a massive 84 points overall as I used all the letters. It's also one of the shortest words to use all five vowels as well, you know. Unless you happen to know of any shorter than that? But still, all good fun and with the lovely second album from The Icicles on in the background (best make "Crazy" tune of the day because it's such a sunny and happy album opener that you can't help smile) and all was very well in my world.

Friday 5th March - I Wanna Rock

I'd had a long day at work and I just wanted to go home, so when it was time to head homeward, I felt relieved. It had not been an easy week at all and to be perfectly honest, I just wanted to sit in front of the telly and veg out. I did though head to Tesco first to do the food shopping, as I needed to get some things in for tomorrow night when I shall be cooking for The Frets On My Guitar, only seemed right that I make the effort and make a nice meal for her. I think she'll be pleasantly surprised at what I'm trying out, but let's see what happens and go from there eh?

I then settled in and watched back the recording of the V8 Supercars that I'd recorded last night late on, it was a re-run of the two opening round races from Abu Dhabi. It did seem a little unnerving at first seeing Team Vodafone driving round in Holdens instead of Fords (the team switched manufacturer late 2009) but they were still quick, and with Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes getting a 1-2 on the first race, that couldn't be bad. In fact Whincup went on to win race two with Lowndes in fifth, so no complaints there either in terms of performance. It was pretty exciting racing all round though and definitely much more of an exciting series this time methinks.

It was then on to some rocking on Guitar Hero Greatest Hits, this time giving some of the guitar tracks a blast on medium. I did pretty well on Rage Against The Machine's "Killing In The Name" on medium bass, even hitting most of the open notes and getting 99%, so no arguments there really. I even tried Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' "I Love Rock And Roll" on hard guitar and managed it with four stars, so that wasn't too bad either to be honest. It's just worth trying to see if I can push myself occasionally.

After doing all the pesky ironing, it was time to watch the BBC Four documentary "Heavy Metal Britannia" which detailed some of the history of heavy metal and hard rock with plenty of its protagonists being interviewed, the likes of Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward from Black Sabbath, Rob Halford and Glenn Tipton from Judas Priest, Lemmy from Motorhead, Ian Gillan and Jon Lord from Deep Purple, and so on. It was good to see that the history included just why some of the bands had their influences and how they wanted to break away from the peace and love of the late sixties. That in itself was fascinating to see.

Of course though it's all about the music, and it was intriguing to hear how Black Sabbath got their name and how the title track of their opener deals with the feelings inspired by the Boris Karloff film. It was also intriguing to see just how many people liked it now compared to how critics hated it back then. It also showed how Ian Gillan could scream a high note (a clip from "Child In Time" came to the fore to demonstrate this) and later on plenty on Judas Priest and how they inspired the whole leather and studs look into metal. And yes, it did play "Breaking The Law" later on, so make that tune of the day shall we?

Thursday 4th March - Master or Disaster?

Had a pretty good day all round at the office, sorting a few problems out and even getting to the bottom of why things wouldn't send to external addresses via the email, eventually narrowing down the problem to a rule someone had set up by accident. It was good to see what was happening and to get it all sorted out and indeed it unknowingly gave me some experience of being able to see what you could do to administer things on a server as well, so sometimes when you have to get things done under a tight timescale you need to know where to go and what to do. It's certainly been an experience.

I did spend some time when I got home playing Guitar Hero World Tour as well. I've been wanting to try out more songs on bass and so did REM's "The One I Love" on that instrument, almost getting all the notes (I think I missed one) and then later on did lead guitar on "Hotel California" by The Eagles on medium, and did every single note correctly, thus 100% FCing it (as they say) so got to make that tune of the day as it makes me the master of that tune. I just can't grasp the fifth note all the time on hard, so maybe one day I'll manage it, but I'm pleased that I'm at least able to make some progress that way.

Later on The Frets On My Guitar arrived and I was able to make us some pasta (spinach and ricotta tortelloni) with some sauce for tea, and followed that by a couple of rather nice and light raspberry turnovers too, which was good to enjoy actually. I felt as if I needed the sugar rush and wanted to enjoy every moment thoroughly. It was then a case of us relaxing and watching Masterchef. It was quite a shock in the second episode as in the first round everyone went for the pork and did something with it in some way as one of the ingredients, but some of them were pretty poor efforts. So poor in fact that for about the first time ever only two out of the six instead of three managed to get to the bit where they have to cook in a pro kitchen.

It was nice though to cuddle up later and just relax a fair bit too. I think sometimes that you know that you need to take things easy and just be together and not have to worry about anything else in the world, and that's how I certainly feel at times. It was good to do that actually and just not think about anything but what we'd done, where we'd been and what adventure we'd be getting up to at some point in time, and I felt quite philosophical about it all.

Wednesday 3rd March - All Along The Watchtower, Fighting Off The Flak

It seems like today was a constant battle with fighting flak from a few people regarding some necessary changes that we've had to make to some of the systems. It's always difficult when you have to do actions that won't make you popular, but of course you still do have to suffer the consequencs slightly when you have people who are asking plenty of questions and wanting you to deal with everything there and then. I do think though that it's a pretty tough call all round: sometimes you have to make the decisions and bite the bullet a bit while everyone's getting used to it all.

Anyway, I switched off as soon as I left work and headed home via Micro Direct. I had a PC to repair for a friend of mine and I'd soon worked out last night what it was - the power supply was duff. I therefore scootled up to Micro Direct and got a good 400W one with all the necessary connectors for not that much money, and soon swapped all the cables over, cable tied it neatly inside, powered up and all was well with the world. Well, almost. I needed to do a chkdsk as well as for some reason the PC was complaining about the boot device (Windows 2000 Pro was anyway) and once that was done and any issues fixed with the volume, it was fine since. Maybe the power supply had gone in the middle of something and not shut down properly, I was thinking.

It was then time for some rocking to really unwind nicely and let off some steam in the right way. I had Guitar Hero Metallica and did Master of Puppets on medium guitar, which was pretty hard, lots of tricky solos and riffs everywhere to try and trip you up. I also managed "War Ensemble" by Slayer on medium guitar, almost getting thrown off the stage but surviving and then really getting into it nicely. I tried it on bass too, and there were plenty of open notes to hit (where you just strum it) as well as the rest, so that proved quite good fun and did better on it as a result.

However, it was back to Guitar Hero 5 and I tried some songs on there on bass just to experiment a bit, and managed nicely to get four or five stars with solid performances, that made me feel good. What did make my day though was that a while back I'd tried Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" on hard guitar, and did it with three stars and a low score. I did it again and got the hang of all the riffs throughout, mainly holding two buttons at the same time for most of it, even being able to whack on star power too. In fact I got 96% and five stars, which is possibly one of my best ever performances on hard. Tune of the day it has to be, and go me eh? I just felt positive about it all.

And then there was England against Egypt. Rubbish in the first half, and the turnaround with Peter Crouch and Shaun Wright-Phillips in the second was great stuff. It showed that a) Frank Lampard is bobbins when playing for England as he was taken off, b) Steven Gerrard might be a good captain given time and c) maybe Crouch should be on the plane as a striker after all? His record of twenty in thirty nine is not that bad is it? I'm sure that the height scared the Egyptian defenders somewhat (although both goals were neat finishes with his feet) and with the pace being provided by Shaunie, all was well in that world. People might say "it's only Egypt" but you have to remember they are the current African Cup of Nations champions, so not to be sniffed at really.

Tuesday 2nd March - An Arcane Day

It was another busy day at work and I was glad to get home and not do much, to be honest. I did though put on Guitar Hero 5 and was about to tackle Arctic Monkeys' "Brainstorm" when a nice surprise knock came to the door, and it was The Love In My Heart, who had arrived early (I knew she was coming to visit) and that was lovely. I did play through the track and did reasonably well, but then my attention was fully focussed on her and I started to make us some tea. I had changed plan from my original thought yesterday and instead decided to do a chicken dinner. So, it was on with the chicken, and I did some new potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and gravy with it. All I needed were some stuffing balls and roasties too, but I'll save those for next time.

It was good to indulge her a little with Emmerdale on the background as we had tea, and then we sat and watched Friday's Sky Plus recording of Masterchef. Of course we were seeing Swing Out Sister when it was on and so it made perfect sense for us to catch up together. We both weren't surprised by the week's winner overall - she had passion and flair but also a deft touch, even with her sixties-style barnet that she seemed to have so really well looked after. I must admit though the main that she cooked put my relatively average cooking skills to complete shame, ah well.

I put on Beth Rowley's lovely "Little Dreamer" album and played Scrabble, which seemed a nice time and moment to just wind down and relax a fair bit. I love the album too and I know that The Love absolutely adores it, and dropped unsubtle hints to me that she might like it herself. Anyway, I'll make "So Sublime" tune of the day for us both, because it's just lovely. One of the words of the day I played in Scrabble though was ARCANE (the latter four letters already there) on triple word for 24. It was good to see that it was in the dictionary (already proving to be a good buy, that one) and it was something to remember to play in future.

It was Duke Special on later too, and it reminded me that on Friday tickets go on sale for a gig he's doing at a church in Salford, that's apparently hosting some gigs during this year. It would seem surreal seeing him there but I can well imagine the acoustics to be good, and for a performer like him I can pretty much go with that. I've seen some gigs in very different venues over the years and I think that would most likely be the most obscure venue, maybe apart from Wereneth Park in Oldham many years ago when Dodgy were headlining on a Sunday evening, that might take some beating though!

Monday 1st March - The Ides of March

It's the first day of a new month, and also a phrase that used to get bandied around is "Beware the Ides of March". When I used to read Adrian Mole books when I was younger, it was also something that Adrian's relatives would go on to him about, much to the amusement of the reader. For me though it had a real meaning today, I was making changes to the staff email system to make us fall in line with everyone else and indeed to ensure we're prepared for the rather large issue of the email changeover to an Exchange-based system later this year (oh joy, that means I have to use (ugh) Outlook!)

Anyway, the changes were made and we did have a few queries from staff, but on the whole they understood the need for change and got about their business without much of an issue, so that felt good. However what made me feel even better was helping my colleague get over a stumbling block with the way that Vectorworks on the Mac would issue its licences via the licence dongle. Normally you could run the licence manager on one Mac, and the others on the same network would see the dongle and all be good to go. However, it didn't work and wasn't playing ball whatsoever.

After a bit of research I found the answer: like the Windows version, you could specify the location of the licence server and the connection methods in a file called nethasp.ini. In Windows, you have to place this in the same folder as Vectorworks is installed and tell it where to go. On the Mac, it's different, you have to go to the hidden etc folder (Do a Go To Folder from Finder). Once there, you can copy and paste your nethasp.ini file but you need to do it as a user with sufficient rights to be able to get it copied. We then ran it, and it picked up the running licence server first go, and allowed you go across vLans as well thrown in to the bargain! It worked well, we documented how we did it and my colleague was well chuffed.

I would love this cold to go away and leave me though, it's been bugging me all day and I've felt really congested. When I've blown my nose, plenty has come out (a good thing) but my ears felt badly blocked till later today, when I heard a squeak as I blew, and all did become slightly clearer. I think it might be the last remnants of what bad infection I had previously too, so if it is leaving me, then that could well be a good thing. Tune of the day in the meantime is "On A Day Like This" by the brilliant Baskery, which shows just how much you can have happen and how to reflect on it well.